Posts Tagged ‘Line of Control’

With two years remaining for Assembly elections in the state, Abdullah said he will approach the Centre again and make a case for partial withdrawal of the AFSPA

J&K CM Omar Abdullah hands a cheque to a worker in Srinagar. PTI photo

Jammu (PTI): Pushing for partial lifting of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Monday 7 January asked all stakeholders concerned to shed rigidity to help take a decision based on the ground situation and for the benefit of people of the state.

“It’s surprising that whenever we have talked about lifting of AFSPA, certain vested interests have been working overtime and making projections as if we want it to be removed from the entire state whereas we want it to be lifted from certain parts only,” Omar, who completed four years as the head of the National Conference-Congress coalition government Sunday, said.

With two years remaining for Assembly elections in the state, 42-year-old Omar said he will again approach the Centre and make a case for partial withdrawal of the AFSPA.

“It was never a political issue or an emotional argument from us. Our stand has always been based on sound logic and a realistic assessment of the ground situation,” he said.

Questioning the claims of ‘vested interests’ that partial withdrawal of AFSPA will see a rise in militancy, the chief minister asked “whom are they trying to fool? This is an insult to the Army and other security agencies who are manning the border. Those propagating such an idea indirectly mean that Army is doing nothing. This is an absolute misinformation campaign launched to demoralise the Army, CRPF and state police.”

“First and foremost I never advocated lifting it from areas close to the Line of Control or so. I have suggested that it could be lifted from areas like Srinagar and Jammu cities,” Omar said in reply to a question about apprehensions that the areas, where the AFSPA will be withdrawn, would become a safe haven for terrorists.

Asked about the response for his attempts so far on the AFSPA issue, the Chief Minister said, “We have not been successful but this does not mean that we should not try. We are trying and I know for sure that something positive will emerge.”

 

 

Author: Saadut
•7:46 PM
Ye kamsund’oo naad, kusu aallav divaan?
Ye’ kamsind’e dupmm’phit tchoupi’ seeth aalam dazaan?
3.30 am is just between midnight and early morning when the night is still in transit and sleep still grips you tight. It was at this time in the late autumns of late 1990’s when piercing decibels from the Masjid loudspeaker announced an Army crackdown in the locality, ordering all males to assemble in the abandoned barren orchard that lay by high ground almost 900 meters away from my home.  A repeat of these announcements for the next 30 minutes or so seemed to drive more fear inside us, more of dread. In sleep deprived eyes mother was seen frantically looking for a safe place for her valuables, many crackdowns had been known to magically disappear many savings and valuables from households. By 4.15 am a half asleep habitation, now rubbing eyes and shaking heads was being herded in fading dark towards the high ground, that suddenly seemed so faraway today. Children in long pherans, tripped over each other, adults gripping their hands unsuccessfully tying to make them walk at an adult pace. Whispers were exchanged, whereabouts of extended families sought in this crowd. The autumn changeover to winter had just begun and most of us were already in our winter ‘astronaut’ dresses, spare for some deep sleepers who wore pheran draped over night trousers in their forced hurry to join the crowd.  The crowd grew by every lane, every turn; I never knew so many people lived in this habitation. These crackdowns were one social leveler; all classes, all levels of society were pushed and herded here like cattle by the security forces. As the peeping sunrays over the eastern hills created extended shadows of the breaking morning, crowds merged into the abandoned orchard. Like crowded packs of domestic animals let out in confined grazing grounds, security men were seen shouting and driving us to close in, on one side of the orchard slant which descended to the middle ground. On the opposite side of this orchard slant were rows of army vehicles, the whole orchard ringed by lines of uniformed men, looking down upon in stern glaze and finger on trigger at ‘helpless us’, as if in jeer and mock. And if the setting winter chill had not already set in our bones, the chilly stare and tone of these uniformed completed the freeze. We had nothing to beat this chill with; kangris for the day in Kashmiri homes are only prepared early morning, not in the middle of the night and there were clear instructions by the herders to assemble without any of these firepots. The overnight dew having inundated the barren orchard, all of us sat still on our knees; the vapor of our whispers mingling with the cold morning air. The shame of watching your elders and teachers being paraded the same way as you, forced on knees before gun trotting and stick wielding uniformed men, pushed and heckled like animals, is unexplained.  Showkat the tailor was holding his 7 year old son in the lap, juggling between his own balance and the cold wet grass; a stick wields, a blow comes his way, Showkat is unbalanced and his son falls from the lap, forcing them to sit separate. Soon such herding became the norm, as we were made spectators to our own shame.
By 10 Am that ‘CAT’ was already in the Gypsy, people were driven in extended queues to slow identification lines before the vehicle. In most likeliness an informer or a renegade, the ‘Cat’ lay firmly seated in the front of the vehicle, hooded and identity less deciding the life and death fate of people. It was no fancy act to walk past the ‘Cat’ even if you have had not even the remotest connection with militancy. Many a times these ‘Cats’ were known to have settled personal scores or dislikes in identification parades; his one hint would have the commoner bundled in or bundled out. Renegades were known to have created personal fiefdoms with the help of security forces in Kashmir where ‘God’ like aura was self assumed by them deciding the face of lesser mortals. While here our fate was being decided by ‘faceless hoods’ behind armed escorts, we were also worried about the ‘search operation’ by the uniformed forces back home, where only female folk had been retained.
A lean and tall boy with patches of a beard, in an old worn pheran and slippers was marked, pushed out of queue and segregated as he came in front of the ‘cat’. The quiet boy dragged, lay stone faced as he was taken behind the line of armored vehicles. After a brief jolt, the queue continued to trod, the masked hood continued to decide. It looked like an eternity at the barren orchard, the noon sun passed its peak, and dew absorbed some by the sun rest by the restless people who sat on it. Masterji (that is how we called him, was a retired teacher in his 80’s; flowing beard, a lifetime of humble reputation and lots of respect) was sitting by Dad’s side, felt restless for want of water. He dared standup and approach the herding uniformed soldier close by “where to drink some water”, the soldier raised his stick, frowned and pointed towards a muddy water cesspool that lay by a depression. Masterji quietly sat down, my Dad holding his hand. By afternoon there were already more than 8 boys marked by the ‘cat’, who lay bundled to behind the line of armored vehicles, fate unknown.
Zain, my cousin had recently returned from the US, his once in a lifetime holiday to Kashmir. We had in fact been in touch for long and decided that both of us would come to Kashmir on holidays at the same time.  His morning excitement of experiencing his first crackdown in Kashmir had already evaporated by the noon, now overtaken by a griping fear, the shake and trembles visible on his face. My own fears making me numb, I extended my arm on Zain just to soothe him, but he could see the blankness on my face, the brave mask that I was trying to put on failed. I tried to look up Dad sitting next to me, but failed to meet his eye, that was visualizing what we could not comprehend.
Hunger and thirst pangs had overtaken when our turn in joining the queue came must have been already 5 PM. I tried of be ahead of Dad and Zain but a violent push by the soldier entrenched me behind Dad and Zain. The serpentine queue moved so slow, while I lost pace of my own thumping heart beat, “get over with it damn it, will you” I kept repeating. We kept tracing steps of the earlier queues in slow motion, as if novices walking on a tight rope between two cliffs. The first cliff was our fear, the second being our fate, in between the two we were hung as if by a slender thread. The queue moved like a snail and so did our fate.
Dad stood composed facing the ‘cat’, there was no reaction from the vehicle, “move on” shouted the officer standing next to the vehicle. When Zain faced the ‘cat’ next, his shoulders had dropped dead and his ‘always cool’ composure was all gone. As white as cold marble, his face stared into a windshield, the officer signaled to move on and I heaved a sense of relief for him, my own fate yet unknown. I extended my step towards the precipice, heart galloping when I heard voices ‘wapas aao’ (come back); Zain had been marked, called back and hastily dragged to behind the line of these armored vehicles. I froze, everything became blurred in front of me and I wanted to cry out loud but could not. Suddenly I head noises, somebody pushed me and suddenly I realized a soldier was kicking me to move one ‘aage chalo’.  Dad had lost his composure on the other side, all my life I never saw him so pence, as clueless as on that day. Zain had been our responsibility in Kashmir, my responsibility, and now the unimaginable had happened.
The queues kept passing by the ‘hooded marker’ and by late evening as the process had been completed a few more boys had been ‘marked’ by the ‘cat’, only to be bundled up into the unknown. By 9.00 PM the cordon had been lifted and people were heading back home. Our standing at the same spot yielded no results, no amount of pleading with the officers helped. The boys had all been taken away in armed vehicles to the forces camp, destination we knew nothing of.
Back home, Mom had been successful in salvaging her valuables but our rice storages (Kashmiris store rice for long winters) had been all scattered from the store into the backyard; while in our rooms wardrobes were so disheveled, belongings ravaged as if relics of a war. By 10.00 PM Dad was ringing anybody he could lay his call on, his friends in the bureaucracy, acquaintances and a trunk call to an ‘connected’ uncle who lived in Delhi. Desperation was transmitted via the landline; whereabouts of the army camp (and Zain) were sought. Tears, sobs were heard from the kitchen, neighbors sat with us through the night consoling, assuring. The night never seems to end, I must have moved out in the garden barefooted unmindful of the winter chill, just wanting to grab the dawn and end this night as soon as I could. Morning Fajr prayers brought with them a telephone call from one of Dad’s friends who had traced the camp and Zain there.  Prayers done, we set out for the camp; I drove, shivered, rattled and lost. Over potholes and clayey paths, these undone roads seemed to never finish.
Dad’s bureaucrat friend had already talked to the camp commander, and only Dad was allowed to get inside the camp to meet him. I and my younger uncle waited seemingly in eternity outside the camp, the obnoxious fortifications standing like a monster before us.  When at around 9.00 Am Dad came out, seemed after ages he had gone inside the camp, he took my younger uncle to one side and all I could hear was ‘saas’ (thousands) to which uncle nodded and pointed to his bulging waist coat pockets (from the sides of his shawl) and both went inside the camp again.
It took another 30 minutes for Dad and uncle to come out of the camp along with Zain, who looked drained zombie like and limping bare footed like a recovered corpse. If you had seen Zain in better times, you would not believe this was the same Zain coming out of the army camp, being supported by Dad and uncle. I offered him my shoes, but he kept quiet, with a lowered gaze he hardly spoke in the car, a silence that made me feel the culprit for his condition. I felt wretched, had I not insisted on his Kashmir visit with me, he would not have gone thru this suffering. Back home Zain withdrew into recovery and reclusiveness for some days, recovering gradually from his shock and wounds; one reality of Kashmir had touched him very hard. But why had Zain been picked up in the first instance, why had he been called back by the ‘cat’? During the course of our conversations later it dawned that while Zain stood before the ‘cat’ (Zain was sans a Kashmiri pheran) on that fateful day, it was his ‘New Balance’ sneakers that had attracted the attention of the ‘cat’. And it was only when Zain had been asked to move on, did the ‘cat’ have an afterthought and signaled him to be retained; the American stuff had done him in. His sneakers, watch had been relieved of, he had been made to sit on a bare floor all night, despairing. And when he started hearing tormenting cries of torture in the room close by all night, he seemed to living close to his brutal nightmares. Close to midnight he himself had been caned, abused, beaten in this cell; his legs had been run over by jackboots, torture that had shattered him. Dad never told us about the ‘saas’ (thousands) bargain he had to undertake to free Zain, we never asked.
Some of the boys picked up on that fateful day were released within days, some detained longer. I could only guess if the ‘saas’ (thousands) tradeoff had helped any. The lean and tall boy with patches of a beard, in an old worn pheran and slippers who had been taken on that fateful day never came back home. Later found that he was the mansions son, who worked real hard through his school, did well in studies and had been preparing for a professional career. The poor boy used to support his studies by working as a laborer on odd days and later as a Mansion apprentice along with his Dad. The only son of his father, he was used as a conflict fodder by those in uniform, his erasure lost to decades of state denial. His crackdown never ended.
Along years, thousands of such poor, lean and hapless young men were to fall prey to state forced erasure, exhausting and depleting their improvised families of life and hope. Such people may have been lost to denial, but such stories live in our memory till eternity.
Saadut
28th September, 2012 ; 19:44 PM

For more on  real picture of Kashmir http://saadut.blogspot.in/

Let your footprints be your thoughts, let your wealth be your deeds

 

Harud director on a film thats taken nine years to come to a theatre near you

Dhamini.Ratnam @timesgroup.com

Harud,Persian for autumn,is actor Aamir Bashirs first directorial venture,but it lacks the tentativeness of a first offering.The 100-minute film tells the story of Rafiq (played with remarkable stillness by Shahnawaz Bhat),a 19-year-old Srinagar resident whose brother has disappeared like thousands of other Kashmiri men.It seems to ask a simple question what effect does the ever-present spectre of death have on psyches made brittle by years of violence and very real oppression
Bashir,who left Kashmir in 1990 to study in New Delhi,felt the need to tell the story of Kashmir to right a wrong.Commercial cinema,says the actor of A Wednesday and Peepli (Live),has traditionally seen Kashmir as a location,but not as a receptacle of stories of people.I wanted to tell the story of those caught in the crossfire (of idealogues); those who dont have a choice, he says.
Bashir began thinking of this film in 2003,and finally shot it in 2009.It releases today under PVR Directors Cut,two years after it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.

EXCERPTS OF THE INTERVIEW:

 

This story is unlike anything wed expect from an actor of commercial Hindi cinema.Was this intended

Absolutely.This film is an act of resistance against commercial cinema.Wherever we felt the film could be made more accessible,say a scene where we could have heightened the emotional quotient by adding a background score,we decided not to do it.We have grown to expect certain things from commercial Hindi cinema,and while making this film,we took an aesthetic decision to thwart all expectations of the audience.We wanted them to feel the same hopelessness and disappointment that the protagonist faces every day.This film was not made for the audience to understand the Kashmiri problem.I also wanted to tell a story that doesnt get told of people who know that they are not heroes,but dont have the choice to leave.

How long did it take for you to get a censor certificate

Three months.Thats how long it takes for you to get a visa if you are flagged.The examining committee said they didnt want to give it any certificate U,A,U/A given its topic.The revising committee suggested a few cuts in areas where they thought the film was promoting azaadi (independence),and then gave it a U/A certificate,after some back and forth.But the real problem this film faced was that of distribution.Harud doesnt fit into any label indie,crossover,parallel cinema.Of course,its a different thing that these labels are not well defined.For instance,how does Dhobi Ghat,financed by one of the most powerful people,get to be called indie cinema

What cuts were you asked to make

At the start of the film,weve used archival news footage of a demonstration.The board asked us to delete the slogan,Bharat se lenge azaadi,but it was okay with the English slogan,We want our freedom. At a later stage however,we were asked to delete that line too.They werent happy with hypothetical references to azaadi,either.

The mindscape is a central part of your film,too.

In Kashmir,if youve suffered violence once,the chances of facing it again are very high.The unfortunate thing is that no one pays attention to how it has affected people mentally.According to a survey conducted by the Medecins Sans Frontieres,nearly 40 per cent of the people in Kashmir are clinically depressed.My next film looks into this.Its about a mentally unstable woman,whose husband is a militant.

Harud will play at select PVR cinemas across the city from July 27 to August 2

AP
Grief behind Photos are all that remain of Kashmir’s missing


Are the mass graves of Kashmir less heinous because they are the handiwork of a democracy?

Recently, I came across the work of Slovenian poet Tomaz Salamun and found myself unexpectedly distressed, even outraged, after reading his short poem Not the War. In the words “Not the murder, silence brings one back to the scene of the crime”, Salamun is perhaps talking of love. But I am thinking war, and am transported back home, to Kashmir, to scenes of nameless burials and sites of extra-judicial killings.

I was angry at the silence of the Indian State, and more crucially perhaps, the hushedness of the country’s vibrant civil society, at the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves in troubled Jammu & Kashmir. It has been nearly a year since the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), a human rights body appointed by the state government, released an extensive report on the presence of 2,156 bullet-ridden bodies in unmarked graves in the border districts. It confirmed what a local rights group, the International People’s Tribunal of Kashmir, had revealed in a landmark investigation in 2008. Hundreds of the bodies were of men described as “unidentified militants”, killed in fighting with the armed forces during the armed insurrection of the 1990s. But, according to the report, at least 574 of them were of those “identified as local Kashmiri residents”.

Like many Kashmiris and Indians, I waited for something to happen—international outrage perhaps, a furore, a commission of inquiry and, one might be forgiven for thinking, even the possibility of justice—for the State cannot exonerate itself from its responsibility of delivering justice with a mere investigation. (Surely, one doesn’t hear too often of mass graves these days, except perhaps those of the Balkan conflict of the 1990s or of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq!) But, apart from news reports in the Indian and the international press, and the local administration’s vague talk of a truth and reconciliation commission—I wonder how one can reconcile in the absence of truth—nothing significant has happened.

Kashmiris have, of course, always known that the hundreds of Kashmiri men who disappeared, mostly in the 1990s, but also in subsequent years, did not vanish into thin air—they were buried, unaccounted and unrecorded, in nameless graves in the Himalayan tracks near the LoC. We have also known that not all of them were combatants killed in fighting with the armed forces. Many of them were victims of fake encounters and extra-judicial killings, as has been revealed in the many cases of men previously described as “dreaded militants” found to be innocents killed for medals or money. In one appalling instance of wilful perversion of justice—the Pathribal fake encounter of March 2000, around the time US president Bill Clinton was to visit India—the Indian State has so far refused to prosecute army officers involved in the premeditated murder of five innocent men portrayed as terrorists who had massacred 35 Sikhs of Kashmir. This, when the Central Bureau of Investigation has submitted evidence that the men were “killed in cold blood”. Many in Kashmir have reconciled to the idea that justice may never be done, the guilty may never be punished and grieving relatives may be condemned to Sisyphean waiting.

The publication of the SHRC report last year, confirming the presence of unmarked graves at 38 sites near the mountains of Kashmir, while reopening old wounds also gave fresh hope to the kin of those who had disappeared—that there may be some closure after all; that the Indian State may, in a rare moral turn, address one of the darkest chapters of the 22-year-old uprising against its rule in Kashmir; that it may finally be willing to listen to what rights groups, journalists and the parents of the missing have been saying for years.

Surely one does not hear of mass graves too often these days, unless they are those of Saddam’s iraq or the Balkan conflict? So why the silence over those found in a Democracy’s garden?

The report came out last August, and the same commission subsequently ordered a further probe, citing the presence of nearly 3,000 more graves in the remote districts of Poonch and Rajouri—some allegedly with multiple bodies in them. But apart from one impassioned editorial expressing shame, a couple of speciously-framed TV shows attempting, among other things, equivalence between the all-powerful state and a beleaguered people, the media, while running the story, largely ignored the issue. “There is every probability that these unidentified dead bodies buried in various unmarked graves at 38 places of north Kashmir may contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances,” the SHRC report had said. How can we not, then, express outrage over what could potentially constitute evidence of crimes against humanity? We’d do that if, say, the graves were made in Tripoli, under a dictatorship, wouldn’t we? Somehow, and for reasons unknown, unmarked graves (some with only heads in them) found in the disputed backyard of the world’s largest democracy have been deemed not heinous enough. Are we to assume mass graves made in a democracy are somehow more humane?Does not such a discovery merit even a customary response from the Indian State? As far as I remember, there has been no official comment by the Central government in Delhi, so deeply entrenched is India’s policy of indifference and denial on Kashmir. And what of its intellectual classes who were on site, and rightly so, when India signed the UN resolution against Sri Lanka for its atrocities against Tamil civilians during the campaign against the ltte? If the conscience of a nation is not stirred by the discovery of thousands of nameless burials in what it claims as an integral part, the claim not only rings hollow, it was and will only ever remain a claim.

In recent months, some well-meaning commentators and Kashmir experts have started talking about moving on, about the dividends of peace, about economics as opposed to politics—as though these dual aspects were congenitally detached. This is more or less consistent with the outpourings of some members of India’s new class of beat intellectuals—they move from issue to issue, or studio to studio, with equal panache—and their callousness towards the tragedy of Kashmir is matched only by their disdain for even contemporary history. Perhaps the most serious and bizarrely anti-intellectual assertion, and therefore an insidious one, seems to project the idea of peace as somehow incompatible with the idea of justice, and those who demand it as some kind of violence fetishists—as though talking about massacres stems democracy and progress.

In the Indian establishment—and indeed the political philosophy espoused in statist writing on Kashmir employs language disturbingly reminiscent of an ‘establishment project’—there has been a sudden spurt in conversations around the ‘dividends of peace’ in Kashmir. This is, of course, not possible without the buy-in of a thriving comprador class in the conflict-torn land. Translated into realpolitik, this otherwise benign phrase seems to convey to a subject population that it is time they forgot their long-held aspirations for freedom, as also about possible crimes committed by a state that has been nothing but militaristic in its dealings with them. The jackboot comes draped in a flag emblazoned with the words “Let bygones be bygones”.

As for the talk of a truth and reconciliation commission to close the story of unmarked graves, while it is unambiguously noble in its pacifist aspirations and surely the right thing to do to assuage the pain of a people, it seems ludicrously premature in a place that is run by a system of repression. (It must be noted that, for all practical purposes, the Indian State and its client elites operate without a moral system in Kashmir.) One is, again, compelled to ask some elementary questions: truth and reconciliation, yes, but on who on whose terms? Can it mean anything if the terms are set by a repressive state? One hates to suspect this, but the people who tout this as a solution may not even fully understand the import of the phrase and have perhaps forgotten that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa came into effect after the end of apartheid, not while it was in full play. Even if one were to make an attempt to attend to the views of those who preach “moving on”, a single, simple, inquiry stands in the way: How does one move on from thousands of graves in one’s front garden?


(Mirza Waheed, who lives in London, is the author of The Collaborator.), in Oulook, June 18, 2012

flag of the state of Jammu and Kashmir Русский...

flag of the state of Jammu and Kashmir Русский: Флаг Джамму и Кашмира (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Ram Puniyani

 

Time and over again while interacting with the youth from Kashmir what comes forth straight and striking is the pain and anguish of the youth, their frustration, their realization about the brutality of the system in which they live in Kashmir. Youth from Kashmir coming to different parts of India for various meetings and interactions generally display a high level of understanding of the issues involved and are vocal about the restlessness over their present and future. What have we done to be labeled as ‘terrorists, is one of the questions on their mind and lips. Why we in Kashmir have to face the torture from different quarters, including the one from Indian army. The restlessness is so much on display that one can gauge the depth of their feeling about the role of armed players, the militants and the Indian army both in different measures.

 

What are the causes of the frustration of the youth and others from Kashmir and what is the way out? Recently, (May 2012), the recommendations of the group of interlocutors, Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M.Ansari have been made public. This team has given its recommendations about which the Government is non committal at the moment, while the BJP has rejected them on the ground that it is a dilution of the accession of Kashmir to India. The separatists find it insufficient saying that there is no political settlement of the issue. Essentially while the team has rejected the return to pre 1953 position, it has also made significant recommendations which are in the direction of restoring the autonomy of Kashmir. Being close to the Pre 1953 position, the team suggests that the parliament will not make any law for Kashmir unless it relates to the security, internal and external of the state. Significantly it gives the status of ‘special’ instead of ‘temporary’ to the article 370, which is the bone of contention for the ultra nationalists like the BJP. Very correctly the team says that the proportion of officers in the state should gradually be changed to increase the weightage of the local officers. It also talks of creating regional councils with financial powers, and measures to promote cross Line of Control (LoC) cooperation while talking of resuming dialogue with Huriyat and Pakistan both.

 

It seems the team has done quite a bit of its homework and while addressing the issue of discontent in J&K, they have also tried to register the realities which have emerged during last six decades. It seems to be a major effort around which debates for initiative needed to restore the calm in the state can be seriously discussed. Undoubtedly the people of Kashmir have suffered a severe violation of their human rights all through. The treaty of accession giving full autonomy to the J&K had come under heavy strain from the communal forces in India. Right from beginning the right wing elements, the future founder of Bhartiya Jan Sangh, the previous reincarnation of BJP, Shyama Prasad Mukerjee supported by the communal groups had initiated the move to merge it fully with India, doing away with the provisions of autonomy, which were part of the agreement between India and the Kashmir. The pressure of communal elements and the sentiments of emerging Indian Nationalism forced the Indian government to keep diluting the clauses of autonomy of Kashmir over a period of time. The culmination of this was downgrading the status of the Chief of the state, from Prime Minister to Chief Minister.

 

In the face of the communal elements showing their sharp teeth in India, in the form of murder of Mahatma Gandhi and intimidation of minorities, Sheikh Abdullah wanted to explore other options for Kashmir and he was imprisoned for 17 long years. This alienated large sections of Kashmiris, youth in particular. Equally serious was the threat posed by interference from Pakistan. Pakistan’s support to the disgruntled youth and support to the militancy in the initial phases added to the problem in no mean way. Pakistan was duly supported by the imperialist designs of United States which wanted to impose its hegemony in the region. Kashmir being a geographically strategic place US did its’ all to worsen the possibility of a peaceful solution of the issue.

 

The situation was to worsen further in the decade of 1980s, when the Al Qaeda elements and clones, started infiltrating in to Kashmir. They are the ones’ who communalized the regional problem. The issue of Kshmiriyat was converted into Jihad against Kafirs by the US trained Al Qaeda. Both the words, Jihad and Kafir, were distorted by the US supported Madrassas where these terrorists were trained. The increased militancy was matched by the suppression of democratic norms by and by and the state government was reduced to a satellite of the central government. The parallel process of Indian army being sent in large numbers to curb the militancy was to become the main problem in times to come. Military was to add to the problem as it dug its feet in the state, and the force which is meant to fight the external enemy was ruling the roost in civilian areas. The torture of the innocent Muslim youth knew no bounds. The military methods ran rampage in the state with the phenomenon of widows, half widows coming to the fore. Every youth was a suspect, ruining the lives and careers’ of many of them was passe. Somewhere along the line the communalization of the issue also led to Kashmiri Pundits feeling insecure and encouraged by Jagmohan, the then Governor of the state, left the valley in lakhs. Not to undermine the fact that a large number of Muslims also left the valley to escape the intimidation from guns of different forces.

 

Today the major obstacle to the normal growth of the state is the conversion of the civilian areas in to military barracks, army breathing down the necks of civilians all over. In India the communal forces made this as another Hindu-Muslim issue. An issue with purely regional ethnic character came to be looked at through the prism of religion, adding to the misery of the Muslim population.  Today what we need utmost is the proactive peace in the region and this peace can only begin with the internal withdrawal of military, supplemented by a process of dialogue with dissidents and Pakistan. Kashmir has been looked at as a real-estate issue by India and Pakistan both. The people of Kashmir need to be given primacy while thinking of solution to the vexed issue affecting the peace all over. What we need to keep uppermost in the mind while discussing the recommendations of interlocutors is that will these recommendations reduce the anguish of Kashmiri people in general and Kashmiri youth in particular?

 

Nearly two generations of Kashmiri youth have suffered at the hands of military and militants. US-Pakistan nexus have also been the major players in spoiling the broth. A healthy debate around this report can be a good starting point to restore peace in the region.

May 7, 2012,

By NIDA NAJAR, India Ink
Shaheen, wounded in an earthquake, waits for medical help at Jabla village, 69 miles north of Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, Oct. 9, 2005.Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press PhotoShaheen, wounded in an earthquake, waits for medical help at Jabla village, 69 miles north of Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, Oct. 9, 2005.

Médecins Sans Frontières shut down its operations in the Kupwara district of Kashmir last month and will significantly reduce its activities in the valley as a whole, cutting a staff of 100 by more than half.

The group, known in English as Doctors Without Borders, has operated a mental health program in Kashmir since 2001, its longest-running India project, and its doctors also provide services like immunizations and postnatal care in the area. It began working in Kupwara, which is on the Indian border with Pakistan, in 2005 after an earthquake there.

“The reason that we left Kupwara district really is because of the necessary downscale in our operation,” said J.J. Fisher,  the project coordinator for MSF Holland in Kashmir, who said that the group was trying to conserve resources for medical treatment in case of an emergency. “We do see there are still needs in the area to be met.  It’s not that we’re saying that everything’s perfect in Kupwara district. But sometimes we have to make difficult decisions.”

As violence has lessened in Indian-administered Kashmir recently, the government plans to reduce security bunkers in the capital of Srinagar, there has been a push to lift an unpopular act that gives the armed forces special powers in the region, and tourists have flocked back. Local officials are making plans for new development and improvement projects.

Still, MSF’s departure leaves a vacuum in Kupwara and the Indian-administered Kashmir Valley as a whole, which is still severely in need of mental health services, experts say. Nearly one in five Kashmiris is depressed, according to the psychiatrist Mushtaq Margoob, who published a study in 2006 estimating that almost 60 percent of Kashmiris have witnessed traumatic events.

Since MSF’s departure last month, Kupwara has only one psychiatrist in the district hospital for its population of almost 900,000. Kashmir as a whole is short on psychotherapists, who are trained counselors rather than full-fledged doctors who prescribe drugs. Government hospitals have few positions for psychotherapists because drug-based psychiatry is favored.

Kupwara is a largely poor, rural district and one of the most heavily militarized areas in India-administered Kashmir, owing in part to the Border Security Forces that police the Line of Control separating the areas controlled by India and Pakistan.  The literacy level is below the national average, and one of the greatest challenges for MSF staff at first was spreading awareness of concepts like depression.

Some mental health professionals say their services are still desperately needed.

“I have absolutely no idea why they are leaving Kupwara,” said Dr. Arshad Hussain, a psychiatrist based in Srinagar who worked with MSF in Kupwara at the beginning of his career.  “There are absolutely no mental health facilities in all of Kupwara.”

Although it has closed its Kupwara activities, MSF has started a new mental health program in one of the hospitals in Baramulla and plans to expand to nearby Sopore, two towns in central Kashmir with a heavy military presence and strong separatist sentiment in the local population, which MSF says leads to a disproportionate amount of violence compared with the rest of the valley.

MSF was lauded by local physicians for educating the public as well as doctors about mental heath, and also for training staff in counseling in an area where medication is often seen as the key treatment for a traumatized population.  Before MSF entered the valley, the concept of psychotherapy was virtually nonexistent, MSF officials say.

But even trained counselors have difficulty finding jobs now that MSF has pulled out.

Zahoor Ahmad Hawar, a sociologist with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, worked for MSF for seven years and went to Holland for a psychotherapy certificate degree from the Netherlands Institute of Psychology.  He left MSF in August and now has a part-time job at a private engineering college. “Every district hospital, there should be one psychiatrist there, but there is no psychotherapist,” he said.

The large number of trained counselors with nowhere to work is the greatest loss from MSF’s departure, other doctors say. “It’s not just MSF as an aid organization that we have lost,” said Dr. Hussain.  “It’s that skilled manpower that we have lost.”