Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Over 8,000 Men Disappeared in Kashmir Since 1989

Kashmir women protest, demanding information and responsibility for missing husbands and children, who were disappeared by the Indian security forces and presumably killed –  June 24, 13 


Over 8,000 Men Disappeared in Kashmir Since 1989SHAHANA BUTT, PRODUCER: Asia’s nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, since their independence from British rule in 1947, have always remained at dispute over issues related to a territory called Kashmir. The two traditional neighboring rivals have fought each other thrice, and two out of the three wars over the disputed Kashmir. Both claim the entire territory but rule it in parts. And it remains at the heart of their enmity. An armed revolt against the Indian rule that started in 1989 in Kashmir has claimed over 60,000 lives and left almost no aspect of life in the area untouched. The armed groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir are perceived to be backed by Pakistan. Each side claims itself to be right. India insists succession of Kashmir to India as final and complete, and hence Kashmir is an integral part of India, key to highlighting the secular nature of Hindu-majority Asian nation, and that all would be well in Kashmir if Pakistan stops crossborder terrorism. On the other hand, Pakistan insists Kashmir is a disputed territory, unresolved, and it is merely providing moral and diplomatic support for an indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir.Presently, the human rights issues top the concern list for the people living here. Among the worst sufferers of human rights violations in Kashmir are those whose husbands and sons have gone missing after their arrests by security forces. Each month, hundreds of women, young and old, gather in the sprawling fields of the Himalayan territory controlled by India. These women seek information about their loved ones that went missing years ago now, after they were taken away by government forces during the past two decades of bloody turmoil in the region, which claimed lives of tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians. Parveena Ahanger is a founder of the Association of Parents of Disappeared People, supported by lawyers and human rights activists in Kashmir. APDP is a union of the relatives of victims of enforced disappearance in Jammu and Kashmir. Back in early 90’s Parveena’s son Javaid Ahangar was abducted by Indian security forces and was never heard from again. Today, 22 years have passed, but she never fails to attend this solidarity meeting on the 10th day of each month.

PARVEENA AHANGER, FOUNDER, ASSOC. OF PARENTS OF DISAPPEARED PEOPLE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): It’s not a joke. People do not understand the pain we are going through. But our efforts will make sure none else in this region gets missing. The government tried its best to offer us perks, but money can’t buy us our beloved sons. Our children have been taken by Indian security forces, and we will continue to ask India where our children are. If they have killed them, we at least need to know where they have buried them. As long as they don’t give us proofs of their death, how will we accept they are dead?

 BUTT: Parveena says a large number of disappearance cases remain undocumented for many reasons, including fear of reprisal by the security forces. Also, no reparations or recourse are offered for these disappearances.

AHANGER: They have been using all sorts of pressure tactics to shut our mouths, but we haven’t given up so far. We know the culprits. Why doesn’t the government book them and punish them? My case is languishing in the Indian Home Ministry since 1997, and it has a clear mention of culprit. India is giving its forces a free hand in Kashmir. But as long as I live, I will make sure to knock each door of justice to seeking our children.

BUTT: Rights groups have estimated that there are more than 8,000 men that have disappeared in Kashmir after being taken away by state authorities. But the government has always denied the accusations, saying these men might have crossed over to Pakistan for arms trainings.

KHURRAM PARVAIZ, RIGHTS ACTIVIST: These disappearances are of four kinds of disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir. One of those–and that’s the most number of people. These are those people who have been arrested by the Armed Forces, the Indian Armed Forces. And after their arrests, their arrests were denied and their whereabouts have not been ascertained. They have perhaps disappeared in the custody. So there are clear-cut evidences against Armed Forces in these cases. Then there are other number of people who disappeared mysteriously, where we don’t know–they left in the morning–where we don’t know what happened to them. Situation was a conflict situation, situation was bad here. We don’t know what happened to them. Then we have a third kind of disappearance here, where militants were involved in disappearing people for political reasons or for being informers. And then there is a fourth kind of disappearance, where militants themselves have disappeared while crossing over to the Pakistani-administered Kashmir or coming back to Jammu and Kashmir after getting the arms training. So they were either arrested or killed in encounters, sometimes fake encounters, sometimes legitimate encounters. But their bodies were not handed over to their families. Their families do not know whether they have died or whether they’re alive.

BUTT: Kashmir, dotted with security camps, is perhaps today the most militarized zone in the world. Besides thousands of troops who are guarding a military control line that divides Kashmir between South Asian neighbors, armed personnels are deployed in streets, towns, villages, and hamlets surrounded by lofty snowy Himalayan peaks. International rights groups have accused Indian troops of grave human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir and have asked India for investigations. However, little has been done by India in this direction so far.

AHANGER: We are demanding an independent commission. If India thinks it’s not responsible for the crimes, why isn’t it allowing investigations? Let’s have free trial. All the major right groups have been asking India for investigations why it isn’t giving access to them. This is clear evidence that India is responsible for all sorts of human rights violations. We had hopes international community might intervene, but to maintain its economic ties with India, human lives have no value.

BUTT: The turmoil of past two decades in this region gave birth to a new group in a society commonly known as “half-widows”. These are the women whose husbands have disappeared over a period of time, and because of the Islamic law, these women couldn’t remarry, thus are facing the burden of being a single parent.PARVAIZ: The story of half-widows is a story of honor, the story of resilience. And in Jammu and Kashmir, though so far our estimates are there are 1,500 women, but you would see most of these women are suffering in a very bad way, and there are very few organizations who are focused in supporting them, because normally you have to prove yourself to be a widow to receive support from a humanitarian organization. Unfortunately, the children of these half-widows, they were the worst affected because of the psychological trauma they had to face, and also their education suffered.

BUTT: Once such woman we met who is taking care of her three sons for the past ten years now. Tahira’s husband was a contractor who once left home for some work and never returned.

TAHIRA BANU, WIFE OF DISAPPEARED: It’s not easy to be a single parent. I have faced the worst since he is not there. Two of my sons are in the orphanage, and the youngest lives with me. Earlier, people used to give me charity, but now I work here in this beauty clinic to make my living. I could not get support of my in-laws, because my husband married me without their consent. And I know I’m not the only struggling. There are hundreds of women like me. We are just telling the government to help us locate our missing men. But they are not paying any attention to our demands. This clearly hints that government has some stakes in their disappearances. BUTT: Indian authorities deny any systematic rights violations and say they investigate all the cases and punish those found guilty. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights established the working group in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. India signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in February 2007; however, it failed to ratify the convention. Observers say such seething protest against human rights violations will endanger the world peace and there can be no lasting political settlement in Kashmir unless human rights abuses which have fueled the insurgency are addressed. 

For The Real News Network, this is Shahana Butt in Indian administered Kashmir.

  1. Praful Bidwai
    June 07, 2013 ,

    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.


School children running for cover during a protest in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on Apr. 28, 2011.Dar Yasin/Associated PressSchool children running for cover during a protest in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on Apr. 28, 2011.

NEW DELHI – In October 2011, a Kashmiri boy who was throwing stones in a protest against Indian security forces found out very quickly that what it was like to be treated as an adult by the local police.

He recalled that after he was arrested in downtown Srinagar, officers removed his shirt and pants at the police station. His wrists were then struck with a scale and trampled on by officers wearing boots.

The boy, 14 at the time he was interviewed last fall and who asked to remain anonymous because he feared retaliation by the police, recalled that he sang Pakistan’s national anthem after being beaten all night. “I knew it would hurt them more than anything,” he said.

Growing pressure from human rights groups, which have documented similar cases of police brutality against minors, prompted Jammu and Kashmir lawmakers to pass a comprehensive bill in March that raises the age of juvenile jurisdiction in the state to 18 years, from 16.

The bill, which was signed into the law by the governor in April, also creates a special police force for handling minors, sets up special homes for sheltering them and establishes judicial boards to exclusively hear their cases. The law won’t go into effect until the state’s social welfare ministry crafts the final rules.

A policeman holding stones to throw back at protestors in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on March 29.Dar Yasin/Associated PressA policeman holding stones to throw back at protestors in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on March 29.

Child rights activists welcomed the bill since it brings the state law in line with the national law. But they are also concerned about its implementation in the conflict-hit Kashmir Valley, where violence is seen as a legitimate response by security forces to curb unrest and previous attempts to set up legal protections for arrested minors have seen decade-long delays.

The abuses of juvenile detainees in Kashmir came into focus after the militancy of the 1990s gave way to civilian protests. Young boys took to throwing stones in mass demonstrations that rocked Kashmir Valley in 2008 and 2010.

Since then, stone pelting has become a popular way for youths to express their anger against the government, and the government has been constantly looking to stamp out any repeat of 2010. Minors who were accused of throwing stones were detained in police lockups, appeared in regular courts, sometimes in handcuffs, and lodged in jails.

“There has been a phenomenon of detention and torture of youth as young as 10 years old, particularly after the protests of 2008 and 2010 in Kashmir,” the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the United Nations said in its 2012 report.

Human rights activists say that minors are still being arrested under the state’s Public Safety Act even after it was amended in 2012 to apply only to persons over 18.

Govind Acharya, Amnesty International’s Kashmir expert, said that during a visit to Kashmir last year, the organization found three cases in which the age of minors were falsified to book them under the act. But their detentions were later thrown out by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

“If there are any security forces who have deliberately falsified ages, then they need to be held to account,” said Mr. Acharya.

Ashok Prasad, director general of police for Jammu and Kashmir, denied that the police routinely arrested children, only the “habitual offenders.”

“Children are not picked up randomly but on the basis of video footage,” he said. “We also show these videos to their parents.”

Mr. Prasad also dismissed allegations that minors were beaten in police stations. “It could only be an aberration. We have not received any specific complaint from parents or the courts,” he said.

Some provisions in the new law, like setting up of special homes and judicial boards for juveniles, were also in the current juvenile justice law, passed in 1997. But these were never implemented. The first juvenile home in Kashmir was set up only in 2011. No such facility for girls exists yet.

Following a visit to the juvenile home in June last year, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights found that not all the children were provided with a toothbrush and that they had to share a towel. “The heavy grilled gates gave a feeling that the children were kept in a jail,” the commission said in its report.

A week before the new bill passed, the Asian Centre for Human Rights released a report that said that Jammu and Kashmir state was among theworst of the 16 conflict-hit states in India in terms of providing juvenile justice.

Suhas Chakma, the center’s director, pointed out that it has taken the Jammu and Kashmir government almost 30 years to enact laws to protect juveniles. The 1997 state law, he noted, was passed 10 years after the national law for juveniles was enacted in 1986. And then it took the state government until 2007 to draft the procedural rules that brought the law into force.

Now, Mr. Chakma said, Jammu and Kashmir lawmakers passed the new bill 13 years after the central government adopted a revised national law in 2000 to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18, bringing Indian law in line with international law.

“The government in Delhi and in Srinagar have security concerns about children in a variety of protests in Kashmir,” he said. “It was a political decision not to have juvenile justice for so long.”

Arun Kumar, an official in the state’s Social Welfare Ministry, said that it would take a couple of months more to frame the rules, which would then need to be vetted by the Law Ministry. “We will try to do it as quickly as possible,” he said.

The prevailing sentiment among human rights groups and lawyers is that an overall change in attitude is necessary for the juvenile justice to be taken seriously by security forces. Many child rights activists are expecting this to be a gradual process since civil liberties have been pushed aside in the government’s fight against militants over the past two decades.

Vrinda Grover, a prominent human rights lawyer, said the first step of securing rights of minors was not legal but political. “New Delhi has to make a choice. Does it want to support the rule of law or continue to boost the morale of the police and troops?” she said.



Justin Podur

MAY 28, 2013


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 and twitter is


Rakib Altaf, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, April 28, 2013

Toxic chemicals sprayed on fruit trees in Kashmir orchards is causing fatal brain cancer in the valley.

A study found that 90 percent of patients who die from malignant brain tumor in the valley is linked to orchards where pesticides, insecticides and fungicides are used. It says that the incidence is alarming.

Jammu and Kashmir has around 347223 hectares of land area under orchards and most of it is situated in the valley where apples, apricots, walnut and almonds are grown in huge quantities.


Every year until harvest season orchardists spray tens of thousands of metric tonnes of chemicals like Chlorpyriphos, Mancozeb, Captan, Dimethoate and Phosalone to prevent fruits from disease. Most of the chemicals are established carcinogenics.

The study titled ‘Pesticides and brain cancer linked in orchard farmers of Kashmir’ revealed that 389 out of 432 patients who had died of brain cancer from 2005-2008 were orchard-farm workers, residents living near orchards or simply children playing there.
The youngest of them was a female infant.

“About 31.9% (124 out of 389 who died) of these were younger than 40 years, beginning exposure at an early age,” says the study published by Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology.

“They include 23 pregnant women and 11 lactating mothers.”

The study was published in 2011, but Dr Abdul Rasheed Bhat of the neurosurgery department at SKIMS, who led the study team, told Hindustan Times that the number of brain cancer patients admitted in the hospital is rising.

“Most of the patients I operated upon had a history with orchards and pesticides. During the study we also found cases where various members of the same family were diagnosed with brain cancer,” he says.

The study, quoting data from agriculturists, says that the use of synthetic pesticides and other chemicals in Kashmir has increased drastically in the past three decades. It blames orchard farmers who often “abuse” and spray trees with more than the recommended doses.

The fatal chemicals are “directly absorbed through skin, inhalation and ingestion.”

Dr Rasheed believes the toxins also affect those who are not orchard owners, but live in the vicinity.

“The pesticides sometimes go into wells in the orchards and somebody drinks that water. Or sheep may eat grass sprayed with these chemicals. Even high winds can take the carcinogenic dust and affect those who inhale it,” he says.


Press Release

The 21 March 2013, United Nations Human Rights Council [UNHRC] resolution is a welcome initial step in the ongoing struggle to hold countries responsible for human rights violations, ranging from Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes to Enforced Disappearance, Torture, Rape and Extra-judicial executions. The watered down resolution, moved by the United States, and India’s support for the resolution, requires both commendation and severe criticism at the same time.

There can be no selective morality when it comes to standing against the commission of human rights violations by State’s. Every country must be held to the same standards, as Sri Lanka has been in the instant case, regardless of economic or geo-political concerns. In this regard, the United States and India stand accused of hypocrisy in their dealings with human rights violations in their regions or across the world. Similarly, Pakistan’s vote against the resolution raises serious questions on its own approach to human rights violations in the region or elsewhere.

India’s recognition of the atrocities arising from the Sri Lankan conflict is in direct contrast to its public and international position on Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian institutional culture of moral, political and juridical impunity in Jammu and Kashmir has resulted in, by some estimates [as of 2013], enforced and involuntary disappearance of at least 8000 persons besides more than 70,000 deaths, countless cases of torture and disclosures of more than 6000 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves. In the context of the issue of unmarked and mass graves, despite a series of recommendations by the State Human Rights Commission on 19 October 2011, and an European Parliament resolution of July 2008 urging the Government of India to hold an investigation into the alleged mass/unidentified graves in Kashmir, no action has been taken. Countless violations against the armed forces and the Jammu and Kashmir Police have been brought to the public domain.

The Indian State has evaded, denied and altogether refused to acknowledge its continuing criminal actions in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian vote for the resolution is therefore, at the same moment, both laudable
and revealing.

Adv. Parvez Imroz
President, JKCCS


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: