Posts Tagged ‘Kashmiri’

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013, 7:54 IST | Agency: DNA Yolande D’Mello

Kashmiri rappers have been forced underground thanks to their music that authorities have labelled ‘anti-government’. But has that stopped them? Yolande D’Mello finds out.

What does it take to ensure that people can hear your voice?

For a few Kashmiri and Palestinian youth, it takes a rap song or two.
While growing up in Srinagar, Zubair Magray was dismayed to see the way the mainstream media overlooked various human rights violations in the name of national security. Magray took to rapping and is now one of the many rappers from Kashmir who rap under stage names about the ‘real’ situation in the state.

The songs that Magray aka Haze Kay sings touch upon issues surrounding the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) but also include his personal story-telling. The music is part of a new wave of protest that takes a cue from similar protests in Palestine.

Another Kashmiri rapper Kasim Hyder aka MC Youngblood says his songs are just an attempt to give people the real picture of what happens in Kashmir. The songs are a reaction against what they see as one-sided reporting by news channels. “News channels are not telling the entire story… They just show protesting Kashmiri stone throwers but not the violence that led to it.”

Both Hyder, a student in Srinagar, and Magray, who is now studying engineering in Pune, choose to rap in English to reach out to a larger audience.

The Kashmiri youth incidentally have company in West Asia, where a Palestinian hip-hop band Da Arabian MC’s (DAM) also uses hip-hop artillery to fight a lone battle.

“Most governments and media agencies are pro-Israeli so our music was a way to tell the other side of the story,” said DAM’s Tamer Nafar.

DAM is currently touring the US. When they started out, they rapped in Arabic. Their first album with English songs is set to release in December.

It started with the second Infitada in 2000 when Suhell Nafar, Mahmoud Jreri and Tamer came together to rap. “Israeli troops would fire at Palestinian crowds but when Palestinian civilians revolted — suddenly the news channels would show up. I didn’t understand politics but I knew it was unfair,” says Nafar.

It’s the unfairness of it all that provoked Magray too. A peaceful protest in Kashmir is usually met with firing from police, he says. Following this, phone lines and Internet services are jammed so that no news can go out. “Can you imagine this happening in Mumbai?” asks Magray.

In 2010, his music was declared anti-government and the authorities started raiding recording studios he used. His friends also suggested he remove the songs he uploaded on YouTube to protect himself. The song was called Azadi.
These songs are popular among Kashmiri youth who connect with singers and their shared history.

It’s now impossible to find studios willing to record rap music in Kashmir, says Hyder. “They are scared and I don’t blame them,” he says.

But despite the clampdown, the music has not stopped thanks to technology that rappers can use to record at home. The songs are uploaded on YouTube and spread via social networking sites. Haze Kay’s latest upload was Burn the Dice last Sunday.

Hyder calls his songs a cog in the machinery to creating a noise on social media platforms online. “Who else can write about the strikes, random arrests, rape, disappearances… It is first hand information,” he says.

Young rappers also see their work as a creative expression for their angst. However, Hyder doesn’t consider himself political. He loves his music and is planning a collaboration with a few international artists. But Magray is more direct. “Music will also be a hobby.” But he wants to be able to go back and work in his hometown.

But no revolution is complete without martyrs. The rappers are often threatened with the PSA that they often refer to in their songs. This Act is used to ‘detain’ political leaders and activists, suspected members of armed opposition groups, lawyers, journalists and protesters.

Amnesty International, a global movement against human rights violations, has said that authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are using the PSA to detain individuals without sufficient evidence for a trial in order to ‘keep them out of circulation’.

 

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A court order has pulled the infamous Kunan-Poshpora rape case out of the cold storage.

Riyaz Wani meets the people who made it possible

Riyaz Wani Riyaz Wani 2013-07-20 , Issue 29 Volume 10

Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes

 

Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes. Photo: Faisal Khan When the armymen took my husband away that night, I was left alone in the house with my two toddlers. The soldiers snatched my younger son from my lap, tore off my clothes and pushed me onto the ground… while my son was watching and crying. I didn’t know where they had kept my other son. They didn’t let me go for the entire night despite my pleadings.” As Sara (name changed) broke down while recalling the horror from that night in 1991, the audience at the press conference in Srinagar on 22 June, was overwhelmed with emotion. Sara, who was 24 when the incident happened, had given up hope until 50 women from the Valley came together this May to revive the fight for justice in the alleged mass rape by the army at the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora, located 100 km from Srinagar, in north Kashmir. It’s considered the largest case of mass sexual violence in India. In June, the women’s efforts prompted a local court to direct the government to reopen the case to “further investigate to unravel the identity of the perpetrators”.

It was on that night of 23 February 1991 when soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles allegedly raped around 40 women during a search operation in Kunan-Poshpora. According to the villagers, the army cordoned off the village and ordered the men to assemble at an identified place outside the village. The women who were left inside the houses were then allegedly sexually assaulted. Two days later, the then District Magistrate SM Yasin visited Kunan-Poshpora. He commented later that the accused soldiers had “behaved like violent beasts”. The local police filed an fir on 18 March 1991, but the Director, Prosecutions, threw the case out a month later, saying it was “unfit for launching a criminal prosecution”.

Eight months later, the police closed the case without a trial. Following the incident, a Press Council of India committee led by senior journalist BG Verghese visited the Valley and gave a “clean chit to the soldiers”. Verghese didn’t even visit the village but the committee members stayed at the quarters of the army brigade alleged to have committed the crime. The committee report termed the allegations against the army “totally unproven and completely untrue… a dirty trick to frame the army and get it to lay off Kunan-Poshpora”. The then Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who called for a fresh investigation in his report, recently said the government deleted his recommendation for an upgraded probe. His report also said that he “found the allegations of mass rape exaggerated because the women of the entire village were saying they were raped”. This is where the 50 women who call themselves the Support Group for the Victims of Kunan-Poshpora took over.

It is an assorted group of students, activists, doctors, government employees and housewives from all over the Valley. On 10 June this year, they signed a petition demanding a fresh probe into the case by a Special Investigation Team headed by an officer of the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP). On 18 June, Kupwara Chief Judicial Magistrate JA Jeelani issued an order to the government to conduct a probe led by an SSP rank officer within three months. Though this was an achievement, the women, whose cause was also boosted by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid’s recent apology, have no illusions about the “drawn and uncertain” nature of their struggle. “This struggle is important not only because we demand justice but also for our future,” says Samreena, 25, an activist, who is part of the support group. “We can’t and shouldn’t forget this crime. If we forget, we will be sending a message to the armed forces that they can go scotfree, encouraging them to repeat the misdeed.

This incident may happen again if we don’t fight. The fear that it can happen with us is much more than the fear of being let down by the State agencies.” Adds Ifra Mushtaq, 20, a student and member of the support group, “The victims had lost hope and the urge to fight. We persuaded them to join the campaign and assured them of our unstinted support. At first, they were sceptical because they had been let down by the State agencies who had promised justice. But we were able to convince them of our group’s genuineness.” Ifra’s mother Parveena Akhter, 48, actively supports her endeavour. Akhter, a housewife, is not only a signatory to the petition but also a member of the support group. “I have two daughters and understand the agony of the women of Kunan-Poshpora,” she says. “I volunteered for this campaign and will stick with it till we achieve our goal.”

Meanwhile, some victims have questioned the irony of people terming the Kashmiri youth killed by security forces as ‘martyrs’ while the gangrape victims suffer stigma and neglect. “When someone is killed by soldiers in Kashmir, his parents feel proud of him and his ‘martyrdom’. People give the family respect,” says Aisha (name changed). “The army snatched our honour by raping us. We were attacked for the same reason they target the youth. But see the irony; we, the 40 women from Kunan-Poshpora, who were gangraped by the army, feel stigmatised. No one feels proud of us.” In Kunan-Poshpora, that fateful night has become etched in the collective memory. A new generation has grown up since, living with the stigma of the rape of their “mothers and sisters”. The people here talk of their daughters being looked down upon in the neighbouring villages and their sons dropping out of schools and colleges following taunts by their classmates and even teachers. The memory remains raw and painful even today. “Every year, on 23 February, our village plunges into mourning. We hardly cook that day,” Zeba, 55, told TEHELKA. Members of the support group plan to help the villagers deal with the psychological scars. Their road to justice is primarily legal: the group hopes the court order will force the government to set up a fresh investigation. Once the probe begins, they want to monitor it. “We will not allow any agency probing the case to get away with shoddy work or be compromised,” warns Samreena. Besides, the group plan to hold protests, media interactions and launch public awareness programmes.

What is more, their fight has a larger purpose too. Hope Floats After Two Decades A court order has pulled the infamous Kunan-Poshpora rape case out of the cold storage. Riyaz Wani meets the people who made it possible Riyaz Wani Riyaz Wani 2013-07-20 , Issue 29 Volume 10 Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes. Photo: Faisal Khan When the armymen took my husband away that night, I was left alone in the house with my two toddlers. The soldiers snatched my younger son from my lap, tore off my clothes and pushed me onto the ground… while my son was watching and crying. I didn’t know where they had kept my other son. They didn’t let me go for the entire night despite my pleadings.” As Sara (name changed) broke down while recalling the horror from that night in 1991, the audience at the press conference in Srinagar on 22 June, was overwhelmed with emotion. Sara, who was 24 when the incident happened, had given up hope until 50 women from the Valley came together this May to revive the fight for justice in the alleged mass rape by the army at the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora, located 100 km from Srinagar, in north Kashmir. It’s considered the largest case of mass sexual violence in India. In June, the women’s efforts prompted a local court to direct the government to reopen the case to “further investigate to unravel the identity of the perpetrators”. It was on that night of 23 February 1991 when soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles allegedly raped around 40 women during a search operation in Kunan-Poshpora. According to the villagers, the army cordoned off the village and ordered the men to assemble at an identified place outside the village. The women who were left inside the houses were then allegedly sexually assaulted.

Two days later, the then District Magistrate SM Yasin visited Kunan-Poshpora. He commented later that the accused soldiers had “behaved like violent beasts”. The local police filed an fir on 18 March 1991, but the Director, Prosecutions, threw the case out a month later, saying it was “unfit for launching a criminal prosecution”. Eight months later, the police closed the case without a trial. Following the incident, a Press Council of India committee led by senior journalist BG Verghese visited the Valley and gave a “clean chit to the soldiers”. Verghese didn’t even visit the village but the committee members stayed at the quarters of the army brigade alleged to have committed the crime.

The committee report termed the allegations against the army “totally unproven and completely untrue… a dirty trick to frame the army and get it to lay off Kunan-Poshpora”. The then Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who called for a fresh investigation in his report, recently said the government deleted his recommendation for an upgraded probe. His report also said that he “found the allegations of mass rape exaggerated because the women of the entire village were saying they were raped”. This is where the 50 women who call themselves the Support Group for the Victims of Kunan-Poshpora took over. It is an assorted group of students, activists, doctors, government employees and housewives from all over the Valley.

On 10 June this year, they signed a petition demanding a fresh probe into the case by a Special Investigation Team headed by an officer of the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP). On 18 June, Kupwara Chief Judicial Magistrate JA Jeelani issued an order to the government to conduct a probe led by an SSP rank officer within three months. Though this was an achievement, the women, whose cause was also boosted by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid’s recent apology, have no illusions about the “drawn and uncertain” nature of their struggle. “This struggle is important not only because we demand justice but also for our future,” says Samreena, 25, an activist, who is part of the support group. “We can’t and shouldn’t forget this crime. If we forget, we will be sending a message to the armed forces that they can go scotfree, encouraging them to repeat the misdeed. This incident may happen again if we don’t fight. The fear that it can happen with us is much more than the fear of being let down by the State agencies.” Adds Ifra Mushtaq, 20, a student and member of the support group, “The victims had lost hope and the urge to fight. We persuaded them to join the campaign and assured them of our unstinted support. At first, they were sceptical because they had been let down by the State agencies who had promised justice. But we were able to convince them of our group’s genuineness.” Ifra’s mother Parveena Akhter, 48, actively supports her endeavour. Akhter, a housewife, is not only a signatory to the petition but also a member of the support group. “I have two daughters and understand the agony of the women of Kunan-Poshpora,” she says. “I volunteered for this campaign and will stick with it till we achieve our goal.” Meanwhile, some victims have questioned the irony of people terming the Kashmiri youth killed by security forces as ‘martyrs’ while the gangrape victims suffer stigma and neglect. “When someone is killed by soldiers in Kashmir, his parents feel proud of him and his ‘martyrdom’. People give the family respect,” says Aisha (name changed). “The army snatched our honour by raping us. We were attacked for the same reason they target the youth. But see the irony; we, the 40 women from Kunan-Poshpora, who were gangraped by the army, feel stigmatised. No one feels proud of us.” In Kunan-Poshpora, that fateful night has become etched in the collective memory. A new generation has grown up since, living with the stigma of the rape of their “mothers and sisters”. The people here talk of their daughters being looked down upon in the neighbouring villages and their sons dropping out of schools and colleges following taunts by their classmates and even teachers. The memory remains raw and painful even today. “Every year, on 23 February, our village plunges into mourning. We hardly cook that day,” Zeba, 55, told TEHELKA. Members of the support group plan to help the villagers deal with the psychological scars. Their road to justice is primarily legal: the group hopes the court order will force the government to set up a fresh investigation. Once the probe begins, they want to monitor it. “We will not allow any agency probing the case to get away with shoddy work or be compromised,” warns Samreena. Besides, the group plan to hold protests, media interactions and launch public awareness programmes.

What is more, their fight has a larger purpose too. “It is also about motivating our community to fight for justice. It is about developing a culture of resistance where impunity is not taken for granted,” says Samreena. “Our fight is less about outcomes and more about sending a message to the perpetrators of human rights abuse that we will perpetually pursue them.” riyaz@tehelka.com “It is also about motivating our community to fight for justice. It is about developing a culture of resistance where impunity is not taken for granted,” says Samreena. “Our fight is less about outcomes and more about sending a message to the perpetrators of human rights abuse that we will perpetually pursue them.”

riyaz@tehelka.com

 

  1. Praful Bidwai
    June 07, 2013 , Rediff.com

    Kashmir is at a crossroads. The post-2006 transition from insurgency to peaceful protests now faces a serious threat, says Praful Bidwai after a recent visit to the valley.

    The security bunkers that stood out like sore thumbs every 50 metres in Srinagar [Images ] for two decades have gone. And the oppressive presence of uniformed men bearing weapons has become less overwhelming. But the shadow of Indian security forces still hangs heavy over the social, economic and political life of the Kashmir Valley.

    During a brief visit to Srinagar, I discovered widespread popular alienation from the Indian State. For the Kashmiri people, the gun remains India’s [ Images ] main face, and coercion or deception by New Delhi [ Images ] dominates their consciousness.

    Sullen anger, discontent, hopelessness and despair lie beneath the calm and normalcy at the surface. The anger is intense among educated young people.

    I wish I were wrong, but my discussions with separatist leaders from both factions of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, mainstream politicians, intellectuals, and above all, articulate young men and women, leave me with no other conclusion. Reading recent publications from the Valley only confirms this.

    It is hard to predict what form the anger will take, and whether it will once again explode into militancy and secessionist violence, as in 1989. But Indian policymakers and the larger public would be dangerously mistaken in ignoring the simmering discontent in the Kashmir valley, or in imagining that it can be calmed or neutralised by incremental or token gestures like the announcement of yet another economic ‘package’.

    The popular alienation is the cumulative result of a number of factors culminating in Mohammed Afzal Guru‘s execution on February 9, and the widespread disgust this provoked in the valley.

    Most Kashmiris believe, like many Indians, that Guru’s trial did not establish his guilt.

    Guru, Kashmiris believe, was killed for ‘political’ reasons — because the United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] wanted to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party‘s [ Images ] charge that it is ‘soft’ on terrorists. They regard Guru’s execution in secrecy as identical with that of Ajmal KasabImages ] — and hence proof that the Indian State equates Kashmir with Pakistan, an ‘enemy’ country.

    They underline the contrast with the right to appeal granted to members of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan’s gang and to Rajiv Gandhi’s [ Images ] assassins, and believe Guru was singled out because he was a Kashmiri.

    Other factors behind the alienation are innumerable human rights abuses, including the continuing detention of more than 1,000 young people for holding peaceful protests, despite the government’s promise to pardon them; and use of the draconian Public Safety Act — which allows detention without charges for two years — against 12- and 15-year-old boys merely for pelting stones.

    No less important is the disappearance of scores of people detained by the security forces, and many unpunished killings by the army, such as that of three boys at Machil in Kupwara district in 2010.

    All this has strengthened resentment at what large numbers of Kashmiris consider as India’s military occupation of the valley, which violates their freedom and dignity.

    Compounding this is the ruling National Conference-Congress government’s failure to address growing unemployment, prevalence of massive corruption, dilution of the Right to Information Act, and police brutality, reflected in the killing of more than 100 peaceful protesters in both 2008 and 2010.

    Instead of redressing the situation, the state government has drafted the J&K Police Bill, which allows it to set up ‘special security zones’ in ‘disturbed’ areas, where the police acquire magisterial and administrative powers — and impunity for their actions.

    It also allows the creation of Salwa Judum-style militias in the form of ‘village defence committees’. This has bred further resentment.

    No less important is the exposure of the joint civilian-military Unified Command as a handmaiden of the army in ‘security’ matters. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah [ Images ], backed by then Union home minister P Chidambaram [ Images ], has repeatedly called for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from certain peaceful areas, but the army has contemptuously vetoed that demand — just as it sabotaged a settlement of the Siachen glacier dispute with Pakistan, favoured by New Delhi.

    Army commanders have spoken on such policy issues in gross violation of the democratic principle that only the civilian leadership can do so. They even threatened to suspend counter-insurgency operations if AFSPA is repealed.

    They strongly loath any dilution of their power under AFSPA to kill anyone merely suspected to be about to breach a prohibitory order such as Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code which bans the assembly of five or more persons.

    This only proves, say Kashmiri analysts, that the Indian State has no respect for Jammu and Kashmir’s [ Images ] elected government: Democracy is a ‘mere showpiece’ so far as Kashmir is concerned.

    Irrespective of whether this perception is right or wrong, it is widely prevalent. An important element in it is the memory of repeated rigging of J&K assembly elections and imposition of Delhi’s puppets on the state until recently.

    A watershed was the 1987 election, the manipulation of whose results spontaneously provoked fierce anger, leading to the eruption of the separatist militancy in 1989, which Pakistan cynically exploited, to disastrous effect.

    The militancy and ferocious State repression claimed more than 80,000 lives before they declined after 2002 thanks to popular exhaustion with violence. Things further changed with the 2004 Lok Sabha and the 2008 assembly elections, which saw relatively high polling such as 40 percent-plus.

    In 2011, local body elections were held for the first time in a decade, which witnessed an impressive turnout of 79 percent despite the separatists’ call to boycott them.

    Since then, Kashmir’s economy has expanded, tourism has boomed, and new enterprises have sprouted, including some in information technology, floriculture and banking. Kashmiris started taking and scored well in the all-India services examinations.

    The number of Kashmiri students in Indian colleges has multiplied four-fold over a decade, according to one estimate.

    However, this doesn’t mean that full normalcy has returned or Kashmir’s wounds have healed. Kashmiris have learnt to use the available democratic space without changing their fundamental stance vis-a-vis India.

    There has been a transition from violent to peaceful protest, which became starkly visible in the 2008 Amarnath Yatra [Images ], and again in 2010. But popular alienation hasn’t abated.

    The Indian State’s response to the protest was twofold: Shoot down peaceful agitators or arrest them on fake charges; and when the protests ebb, make conciliatory moves through committees such as the interlocutors group headed by journalist Dileep Padgaonkar.

    This group is only the latest in a series of ‘olive branch’ offers by New Delhi, including visits by Rajesh Pilot [ Images ] and S B Chavan in the 1990s, the K C Pant committee of 2001, the N N Vohra committee of 2003, several rounds of talks with the separatists, numerous economic packages, and the prime minister’s five J&K working groups set up with much fanfare in 2006. One of these, headed by present Vice-President Hamid Ansari, recommended revocation of AFSPA.

    These initiatives may have temporarily calmed tempers in the valley and even averted a deeper crisis. But none of them produced results. Their recommendations either fell short of a solution, or were rejected outright. That was the fate of the interlocutors’ report too.

    Its story not only provokes derision, but worse, further cynicism in Kashmir and convinces people that the Indian government has no intention of changing course or reforming its J&K policy.

    That was the message from the India-Pakistan back-channel talks too, based on General Pervez Musharraf’s [ Images ] four-point formula. These very nearly succeeded in 2006-2007 and could have clinched a solution which involves demilitarisation, regional autonomy and self-rule without a redrawing of the borders.

    But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] didn’t seize the moment. Soon, Musharraf’s position became untenable thanks to his confrontation with the judiciary. The moment passed.

    To return to the present, Kashmir is at a crossroads. The post-2006 transition from insurgency to peaceful protests now faces a serious threat amidst the perception that New Delhi remains as unresponsive to these as it was hostile to the militancy.

    There have been more than a dozen attacks on security forces by gunmen and suicide bombers, as well as armed encounters, in different parts of the valley in recent weeks.

    These attacks were not led or coordinated by organised groups like Hizbul Mujahideen [ Images ], but conducted by educated professionals — engineers, science postgraduates and MBAs — motivated by azaadi (freedom, autonomy, independence, nobody knows exactly which), and convinced that normal, peaceful, dignified life is impossible under Indian ‘occupation’.

    A majority of the young people I interviewed expressed sympathy for the attackers, while admitting that a heavy price would have to be paid for militancy and the State’s retaliatory response.

    Some even said that peaceful protest has exhausted its potential, and armed resistance may be necessary to highlight the cardinal truth that the Kashmir problem remains unresolved after 66 years.

    These are dangerous signs. New Delhi must heed them and correct course — even as it responds positively to Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s [ Images ] welcome offer of talks.


 

Justin Podur

MAY 28, 2013

india_kashmir_rebel_attack

Indian Army soldiers at an encounter site with militants in Kashmir on Friday. AP photo

Guest post by JUSTIN PODUR: I spent a week in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, at the end of April 2013, talking to people among whom there was a wide range of opinion. While almost everyone supports freedom, some are resigned to India never letting Kashmir go, others believe that the struggle will go on and take different forms, some are just trying to survive. It seemed to me, at the end of a calm week during tourist season, that India is bringing about all of the things that it fears: Pakistani influence, violence,  radicalisation of youth, political Islam, and hatred of India.

The Kashmir conflict has been going on for decades. When India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, both new states wanted Kashmir. The ruler of Kashmir acceded to India. India and Pakistan fought their first war over the state that year, establishing a partition of the territory into an area controlled by Pakistan and an area controlled by India. The part controlled by India includes Jammu, Ladakh, and the Kashmir valley. When Kashmir acceded to India, the Indian Constitution made a special provision to allow for Kashmir to have certain national rights, and to allow for the future of Kashmir (in India or Pakistan) to be settled by a plebiscite. The plebiscite never happened. The special autonomy provisions in the constitution have not been honoured. Today, Kashmiris have fewer rights than the rest of the Indian union and they get less respect for the rights that they do have. An insurgency in the 1990′s was brutally suppressed by the Indian army, with thousands killed, tortured, and disappeared. In 2010, a series of popular protests in the valley were also suppressed. Most recently, the government shut all communications down and imposed curfew for several days after the political hanging of Afzal Guru in February 2013. It has taken many different forms, but the conflict between the aspirations of Kashmiris and the Indian state has remained.

When a conflict seems intractable, it is because someone is benefiting from it. Those who proposesolutions to the conflict are therefore inevitably proposing to take some benefit away from someone – in this case, from those who are benefiting from it and who have the power to end it. Any proposed solution can then be dismissed as infeasible. In the case of Kashmir, this has been the most reliable way to keep the conflict going. Propose greater autonomy within India? Infeasible, India says, because the rest of India won’t tolerate it. Propose independence? Infeasible, India says, because India would never allow it. Propose demilitarising the area somewhat? Infeasible, India has security concerns.

Then, having dismissed any of the obvious solutions, we can throw up our hands in frustration and ask: But what do the Kashmiris really want?

Although the parallel has been over-used, and there are a dozen ways to break the analogy, there is an instructive comparison to Israel/Palestine. For many years, advocates for Palestine were divided into one-state and two-state advocates. The one-state advocates, who argued that Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza should all be a single state with equality for Israeli Jews and Palestinians, were accused of utopian dreaming, since Israel would never be willing to sacrifice its Jewish character and become a democratic state for all its citizens. The two-state advocates, who believed they were advocating a world consensus, had to watch Israel continue to grab more territory and tighten the noose that was suffocating Palestinian life. Every few years, Israel would massacre some Palestinians. Israel and its backers would throw up their hands and say: but what do Palestinians really want? One state, two states, an Islamic state?

In the Palestinian context, this intellectual impasse was broken by the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Inspired by the struggle against South African apartheid, one of the BDS movement’s greatest contributions was not in its selection of BDS tactics. Instead, it was the advocacy of a rights-based program, instead of a solutions-basedprogram. The argument was simple. If Palestinians have the same rights as everybody else – freedom from military occupation, equal rights to live, work, study and travel, the right to return to homes from which they have been displaced – then any solution that accommodates these rights is acceptable. Conversely, any proposed solution has to respect the rights of the people, or it is a false solution.

What if the Kashmir conflict were re-framed in the same way? What if we thought about Kashmir in a rights-based, as opposed to a solutions-based, framework? It seems to me that if India wanted to respect the rights of Kashmiris, it would have to stop doing several things immediately. Whether India thinks that territorial control is paramount (and therefore wants to keep Kashmir in the union at all costs) or decides that the democratic principle is more important (and therefore wants to give Kashmiris the space to decide for themselves) there can be no progress without respecting the rights of Kashmiris.

I am not going to suggest things that many states are incapable of doing anywhere, like ending corruption or following its own laws consistently. I am just going to suggest things that are allowed and routine in other states. So here are eleven things that India should do to protect people’s rights in Kashmir.

11. Stop using soldiers as police. Troops are for borders. If the army deployment is because Kashmir is the border with Pakistan and China, then army troops shouldn’t be seen in Srinagar or other valley towns. They should be at their border posts. Let the state police do the policing, and leave the troops at the border.

10. Stop messing with Kashmir’s communications. The refrain that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ is constantly heard. But Kashmir is not an integral part of India’s communications network. I have traveled all over India, and paid fairly low roaming fees with my Delhi-based SIM card. When I didn’t want to pay them, I got myself a local SIM card by giving my passport, visa, and a photo ID (all of which seemed excessive to me). But prepaid SIMs from outside Kashmir simply don’t work in Kashmir. And you can’t just get a SIM card the way you can elsewhere. And you can’t send SMS messages within Kashmir, much less out of Kashmir. And of course, when the Indian state does something that they know will horrify Kashmiris, like executing Afzal Guru in secret after denying him legal rights and admitting that he’s being hanged not because of evidence against him but because ‘the conscience of the nation’ demands it, the Indian state also shuts all communications down inside Kashmir.

Kashmiris have taken to Facebook and other social media to communicate, but they feel that they can be hunted down if they write things the state doesn’t like.

9. Stop suppressing student politics. One complaint I heard many times was that the Kashmir University Student Union (KUSU) was banned, while the campus Congress Party was allowed to organise. I asked a University administrator why student politics were not allowed. He told me that it was because students were vulnerable to being used by off-campus elements, and that student politics would be extremely disruptive on campus. Until the situation calms down, he said, they could not allow campus politics. And anyway, he added, there was no tradition of campus politics, unlike say, in Delhi.

I disagree. Administrations always have adversarial relationships with student movements, and if student politics were allowed, there would no doubt be times when the administration suspended students or gave academic punishments for disrupting classes, etc. – but there are ways of dealing with all of this, of negotiating it, that every other campus knows.

8. Stop banning and deporting people. Allow free movement. Arundhati Roy wrote about this in 2011. When I told people I was going to Kashmir, I was told, “Hope they don’t ban you from India like they did with David Barsamian”. A US-based activist and radio personality, Barsamian has a long connection with India and comes very often, interviewing people and doing journalism on a wide variety of topics. He was deported in 2011, supposedly for doing professional activities on a tourist visa. Richard Shapiro (see this piece where he makes the argument for demilitarisation), an American professor, was deported from Kashmir in 2010, with the same pretext. These pretexts are flimsy. There are probably millions of visitors who come on tourist visas and write things about India. I doubt anyone has been deported for writing about saris, handicrafts, or even for complaining about pollution or noise. But write about Kashmir, and suddenly you are in violation of your visa. In any case, leaving Barsamian and Shapiro aside, what visa terms do Indian citizens violate? When Gautam Navlakha, an Indian citizen, tried to enter Kashmir in 2011, he was stopped at the airport and put on the next plane back to Delhi. Effectively, he was deported, something that should not be possible from one ‘integral part of India’ to another.

7. Let Kashmir control its water resources. The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) controls the water and sells it back to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The J&K government wants several power projects returned to it, and accuses NHPC of retaining these projects illegally. In these joint ventures, the NHPC gets the power, which it then distributes according to its own logic, which includes selling some of the power back to the state. From the NHPC perspective, this is efficient allocation of resources. From Kashmir’s perspective, it is internal colonialism, and given the physical geography of the state, leaves people freezing in the dark when they have ample hydroelectric capacity. Let Kashmir control its own water resources and sell to the centre, as other states have negotiated.

6. Regulate the yatras. The Amarnath yatra brings Hindus from different parts of India to Kashmir to worship. The yatra has grown immensely over the years and, like many other religious festivals, has become politicized. In the context of Kashmir, it has also become militarized. The yatra is controlled by a board that is ultimately controlled by India. Even though the board was constituted in 2000 by the governor of J & K, the composition of the board is heavily weighted towards the Centre, effectively disenfranchising the locals in an event with an increasingly high impact. The growing size of the yatras has become a grievance. Why generate the perception that India is trying to change the demographics of Kashmir? If other yatras can be regulated on ecological grounds, why can’t the Amarnath yatra? Why can’t the board be controlled from within the state?

5. Punish crimes, not people. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) means that (as activist Vrinda Grover has argued instead of being held to a higher standard, representatives of the state have more privilege than others. This has to be repealed. Crimes are crimes, whether they are committed by security forces or citizens. Instead of punishing crimes, the government punishes people. Soldiers are immune from prosecution even for torture, murder or rape. Kashmiris who aren’t committing crimes, whether they are shouting slogans, attending demonstrations, or just are in the wrong place at the wrong time, can be punished. If the Indian state doesn’t know what a crime is, why would anyone want to be a part of it?

4. Count the dead. Hundreds of unidentified and mass graves have been uncovered throughout the state in the past few years. Families whose children have been disappeared want to know if these mass graves contain their children. But instead of testing all of the bodies and identifying them, India has demanded that the families submit to DNA tests. What should have been the Indian state apologizing and trying to make repair for ghastly violations has thus turned into a further ghastly violation, a further intelligence gathering exercise. India should do the DNA tests on the mass grave and provide the information. The denial of what everyone knows is true is insanity-inducing. Nothing good can come of it.

3. Make amnesty meaningful. India wants former militants to surrender, but surrendered militants’ lives become surreal and horrifying. Afzal Guru’s ordeal since he surrendered is perhaps the most dramatic example, but there are many others. In order to demonstrate progress in counterinsurgency, India’s military forces have used surrendered militants as ‘false positives’: men are killed and arranged to look like they were insurgents killed in encounters. Their lives are expendable, their corpses a resource. This must stop.

2. Increase connectivity. Allow people to travel. India is supposedly worried about ‘cross-border terrorism’. The phrase has two parts. The ‘cross-border’ part is not a crime in itself. Anything you can do that is a crime on one side of the border is also a crime on the other side. It is the crime that is the problem, not the border-crossing. The same goes for terrorism. The entire framework of anti-terror legislation that was enacted around the world after 9/11 was basically unnecessary. The crimes that terrorists commit – mainly murder – were defined as crimes in the law before the anti-terror laws were passed. Terrorists can be punished for crimes, and efforts to prevent violent crimes can take place, while trying to minimize disruption of people’s freedom of movement. Instead, India’s approach is to besiege the population and deny them freedom of movement unless they can prove that they are not criminals.

1. Allow separatism. One of Canada’s major provinces, Quebec, has a different official language (French) from the rest (English) and the majority of its French-speaking inhabitants want independence. It has a provincial party, the Parti Quebecois, that is devoted to independence, and a federal level party, the Bloc Quebecois, that, while seeking independence, also seeks to press Quebec’s interests at the federal level. Demographically and in terms of voting blocs, Quebec is much larger relative to Canada than Kashmir is relative to India (Quebec and J&K have about the same population, but the whole of Canada, with about 30 million people, has the population of one of India’s smaller states). But the point is that in the past few decades the Canadian state has not taken an iron fist approach to separatism, and the Canadian state has not collapsed.

Indeed, during one of the Quebec referenda (Quebec has had 3 of the plebiscites that have been denied Kashmir), a very intelligent urban thinker, Jane Jacobs, pointed out that Norway had peacefully separated from Sweden through a referendum in 1905, and the world didn’t end. Obsessed with Pakistan, the Indian establishment is looking in the wrong direction for examples. Kashmir doesn’t have to be Bangladesh. It could just as easily be Norway or Quebec.

(Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and professor at York University, and was recently a visiting professor at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi. His blog is www.killingtrain.com and twitter is twitter.com/justinpodur)

 

DNA Special: Agent’s apple growers don’t get fruit of labour

Published: Sunday, Mar 31, 2013,
By Sandeep Pai | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

You may be cursing when you pay a high price for Kashmiri apples, wondering what share of the moneyorchard owners would receive. But in reality, the apple growers wouldn’t be even knowing the price at which the fruit is sold in the mainland, leave alone reaping profits.

Then, where does the money go? Into the pockets of commission agents, who, sitting in Delhi or any of the major cities, exploit and cheat the apple growers in Kashmir of crores of rupees every year. The apple growers live only in debt and distress, thanks to these agents.

The draft report of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) on production and marketing of apple in Kashmir — a copy of it is exclusively available with DNA — blows the lid off this scam which is affecting the Rs 4,000 crore apple industry that kept the Valley alive even during the peak of militancy. The report will be submitted to the J&K government soon.

Exposing the role of commercial banks (mainly J&K Bank) in the scam, the report says they give advance to commission agents (CAs) instead of farmers. The CAs then lend the same money to apple growers at usurious rates. “In this way banks are (indirectly) contributing to survival of the old practice of ruthless, continued over-dependence of small growers of informal funding by agents,” says the report.

During 2011-12, apple growers in J&K got an advance of Rs1,200 crore (This excludes loans availed of under the ‘Apple Project’ of the J&K Bank) of which only Rs 200 crore was from banks. The amount funded by agents to the apple growers that year was Rs 1,024 crore, of which Rs 645 crore (63%) came from Delhi-based agents and Rs 207 crore (20%) from Kashmir-based CAs.

READ MORE HERE-http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_dna-special-agent-s-apple-growers-don-t-get-fruit-of-labour_1817367

 

pic courtesy- samvada
From the brother of Shaheed Tahir Sofi, Altaf Sofi:

Mr. Omar Abdullah,
My brother was killed by on the street by a bullet and this moved you to tears.
Even though 1 lakh Kashmiris have been sent to the grave so far, you have never cried in open but my brother’s death (finally) awakened your conscience so much so that you wept in openl…y in the Assembly.
Our eyes too weep, we do moan, our hearts too are broken. Our beloved has been snatched away from us. We weep for he has been taken away from us forever. We are not alone, the nation mourns with us just like it mourns Afzal’s and Mudasir’s cruel deaths.
As the Chief Minister since 2008, this is the first time you have wept the tears of repentance, which leads us believe that even stones could have hearts.
What crime had Tahir committed?
We do not understand this. We cannot still believe that he has left us all till we meet him on Day of Judgement. Tahir used to pray five times a day, his kindness and humility is not hidden from the people of Baramulla and Dehradun. He was dedicated to his studies.
Who is responsible for putting out the light from his life?
Is it the Trooper who shot him in the head? Or is it the system that condones every action and saying of these (Occupational) Forces? They send to the grave whoever they wish and send to the gallows whoever they wish. The Khaki-clad Trooper, today, is the Law, the Judiciary and the Executioner-all rolled into one.
The rulers are effeminates in front of this Khaki-Clad Trooper. So much so that a Senior Minister Ali Sagar has to publically appeal to the CRPF, “Do not use Pepper (spray) Guns, the CM has already made this clear to you.”
Mr.Omar, does anyone listen to you or to him? They won’t because (your) government itself is at the mercy of the (Occupational) Forces.

Mr. Omar, You don’t need to declare that Afzal Guru was hanged- as the Chief Justice of Indian Supreme Court already has- “to satisfy the collective conscience of the Indian Nation.”
I will not ask you: To satisfy whose “conscience” was my brother killed?
Or who called these enemies as “Tai’ran Ababeel*** and grandly welcomed them (to invade Kashmir)?
Who leads them (the Occupational Forces) in meetings of the Unified Command Committee (except you)?
Every kid in Kashmir is well aware of this.
Shedding these tears, did you ask yourself, why you shed these tears? Are these tears similar to the tears of Dr.Farooq Abdullah after he took the oath in ’96?
I leave all this to your conscience. But as a member of the bereaved family, I have the moral duty (and right) to inform you that a Minister from your government by announcing 5 Lakh Rupees (as ex-gratia relief), has rubbed salt into our wounds.
This announcement is equivalent to trampling upon our emotions.
You should know that no government can ever pay the price of the pure blood of our beloved and other Kashmiri youth. Your government tried to set a price even for the blood of Wamiq Farooq but his poor parents by rejecting this offer set an example worthy of being written in gold, though it may not appear so to your government. (Similarly), the father of Mudasir Kamran befittingly responded to your generous offer! We thank you since your generosity has finally lead to the price being set for a Kashmiri life at 5 lakh rupees! There was a time when Kashmir and Kashmiris were purchased for 75 Lakh Nanak Shahi (by the Dogras). This means that every Kashmiri life was worth just a few takkas.
Honorable Mr. Omar,
Quran and Hadeeth bear testimony that the person who aids the oprressor is equal in sin with oppressor. Who laid the foundations to the atrocities and cruelties perpetrated upon Kashmiris today?
You are well aware of this fact. I will not repeat from the dark pages of this terrible history in order not to hurt you!
Why do you take carry on this legacy of oppression and violence?
Take a guess. How many innocent lives were taken in 2008 and 2010? How many innocent and oppressed ones were left with nothing? How many parents lost their children?

How many families were destroyed? How many people were thrown into dungeons?
All this for holding on to a position that is temporary? How many burdens would you want to carry on your shoulders on the Day of Recompense? Are your shoulders strong enough (to bear these burdens)?
The intentions are but known to Allah only. Judging by your tears, it appears that your conscience is finally waking up. If indeed this true, this is the best time to free yourself from all the previous burdens (by repenting).
By kicking away this position you hold on to earlier rather than latter, abandon the ranks of the oppressors and join the crowd of the oppressed.
I am aware that politicians, in this age are not blessed enough to abandon position and power to embrace humanity. Fear of Allah and true faith in the hereafter are necessary to do this. You know quite well that many leaders have sold their honor and soul just to attain a Ministerial post. This is the reason that even when the blood of innocents is being spilt, chastity (of women) outraged, houses are set ablaze, youths are slaughtered, the politicians are not prepared to give up their addiction for power.
Giving you the benefit of the doubt is the reason, that I had the audacity to present to you my thoughts even in these moments of utter grief.
You have announced Relief of 5 lakh rupees to our family in exchange for the life of Tahir that was taken away. I will collect 6 lakh from my family and relatives, and I make the offer of presenting this amount to the Superiors of the Trooper who killed my brother with one condition alone: the trooper who killed my innocent brother, who was in a state of ritual ablution at the time, is hanged at the same spot where he bathed my brother in blood. So that my family and the Kashmiri people can get some relief from the fact that an oppressor was properly recompensed.
Honorable Mr.Umar,
Read the writing on the wall at the earliest. Assembly elections were held, then parliament elections and then Panchayat elections were held, Kashmiris couldn’t and cannot be subdued even if, God forbid, blood of many more Afzals, Mudasirs and Tahirs is shed

 

By Niloofar Qureshi

Published: Wed, 13 March 2013 08:14 PM

 

 

The latest spurt of protests in the Valley, which commenced with the execution of Afzal Guru, got extended due to the mysterious death of a Kashmiri student in Hyderabad and has thereafter continued in the aftermath of a youth shot by the security forces in Baramulla. A ‘protest calendar’ was promptly issued and with people taking to the streets in large numbers, normal life came to a standstill, proving once again that the situation in Kashmir continues to be extremely volatile. Though the separatists must be congratulating themselves for having pulled off a major ‘victory’ through such widespread and prolonged protests, they must not forget that they had played no role in initiating the protests- they were just lucky to get repeated opportunities!
There is no doubt that unfolding events should be used for furthering the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’. However, events should not become the sole agency for the same. Though the widespread protests in the aftermath of the Afzal Guru execution, the mysterious death of the Kashmiri student studying in Hyderabad and the killing of a protester in Baramulla are certainly valid reasons for protesting, such incidents by themselves alone cannot be expected to usher in the change we desire. For, though these incidents do illustrate the sorry plight of Kashmiris, unfortunately, the international community perceives these as mere law and order problems.
While many nations and human rights bodies criticised New Delhi after the Afzal Guru hanging, the criticism was for India’s continuation of the death penalty and not even a single country questioned the legality of this execution or the way it was done. The Hyderabad suicide case too has not evoked any international response and is probably being viewed by the international community as the personal decision of an individual. The Baramulla killing also seems to have unfortunately fallen in the ‘common category’ of  the death of a protester who was shot by the security forces while discharging their ‘legitimate duty’ of maintaining law and order!
What our leaders fail to comprehend is that, in practice, the international community follows moral standards that are far removed from the high ethical values it publically proclaims to uphold. And in order to justify its own perverted sense of reasoning and depraved conscience, it has craftily coined euphemisms like “global war on terror,” “legitimate targets” and “unavoidable co-lateral damage’. Take the case of the American drone campaign in Pakistan– it is no secret that for every terrorist killed in drone attacks, scores of innocent men women and children are also being killed or maimed. Yet, no one seems to mind and though everyone admits that this is ‘unfortunate’, the ‘collective conscience’ of the international community is satisfied by the warped logic that it is simply a case of ‘unavoidable co-lateral damage’, which occurs when attacking a ‘legitimate target’ in the ‘global war against terror’!
That the ‘terrorism factor’ has also helped New Delhi in enforcing brute force in Kashmir too is no secret. While human right activists and even the UN have made repeated appeals for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), New Delhi has played the ‘terrorism’ card well to counter the same. And, since all those who matter are in some way connected in the ‘global war’ on terror, none are willing to seriously intervene. Their reluctance is understandable, since they are all ‘partners in crime’ and guilty of excesses against innocent civilians. While America cannot do so much since it has the blood of innocents on its hands from drone attacks, Pakistan, which openly espouses the ‘Kashmir cause’ cannot afford opening the ‘can of worms’ of its own murky dealings in the Tribal areas and Balochistan.
The separatists therefore need to introspect. As they have experienced the futility of violence and rightly committed themselves to peace, they should advise the people, especially the youth to refrain from violence. There is an urgent need to educate the youth about the immense power of peaceful protests. Stone pelting and occasional wrecking of public property may seem to be very mild forms of violence, but it nevertheless is. And once protesters resort to violence of any type, then the security forces get an excuse to retaliate and this often results in avoidable loss of life. It should be remembered that the ‘right to self determination’ will certainly not fall into our laps just by needlessly sacrificing our youth and the summer unrest of 2010 in which 122 precious lives were lost, is a grim reminder of this!
The next issue, which the separatist leadership needs to guard against, is to suggest that ‘armed resistance’ could be a viable alternative to the peaceful struggle. Unfortunately, in the recent past, at least two separatist leaders (who have themselves publically denounced the use violent means for achieving the ‘right to self determination’) have made such comments. We have had more than our share of violence and suffered untold miseries due to the same. Being mature and experienced, our leaders know very well that the era of effecting change through the force of arms is long over. Instigating the youth to take up arms would only make them ‘cannon fodder’ and bring more miseries upon our people without achieving anything. In fact, no one would be happier than New Delhi if this happens, as it will provide the AFSPA a new lease of life in Kashmir!
The next point relates to the lack of direction, which the current philosophy of the ‘right to self determination’ movement in Kashmir suffers from.  This is because rather than concentrating on evolving a comprehensive strategy to make it more meaningful and self-sustaining, the separatist leadership seems to be content with solely relying on reacting to incidents and events to carry it forward. In the process, the ideological movement for the ‘right to self determination’ has been reduced to merely a petty ‘agitation’ that erupts whenever acts of excesses against the public occurs and then, its business as usual, till the next such an incident takes place!
Lastly, a one must never forget that for the ‘right to self determination’ movement to succeed, patience and perseverance is essential. However, this will be a daunting task as the youth has become restive, as it has been ‘programmed’ to believe that ‘azadi’ is just round the corner! And this is where their leadership qualities of the separatists will play a very important part, as they have to convince the impatient public that such changes do not come overnight.  But once this is achieved, the ongoing movement will automatically acquire an enduring character and being ‘issue based’ rather than ‘event driven’, will surely gain the respect and support it rightfully deserves from the international community.
(The writer is a New Delhi based journalist and can be reached at: niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com)