Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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

 

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Kashmiri film bags award at Canada International Film Festival 

In a major accolade for regional cinema, a Kashmiri feature film has won an award at the Canada International Film Festival 2013, a first for any local movie.

Partav , meaning influence, won the Award of Excellence in the feature film category.

It is the first Kashmiri film shot entirely in 35mm digital format. It is the story of a professor who forsakes everything in his life to devote himself to his literary pursuits.

The film revolves around the ideology that “a life lived for others is a life worth living”. In fact, this Albert Einstein quote is the catch-line of the one-hour-and-fifty-minute film, which became the first Kashmiri film to receive any international recognition.

“It is a big achievement and not only for us, but for the people of Kashmir as well,” the director of the film, Dilnawaz Muntazir said.

The filmmaker said the recognition means “a lot to the team behind the film” and described it as an achievement for cinema in Kashmir in particular and to Kashmiri language in general.

Muntazir (35) has been invited to attend the award ceremony in Vancouver. He expressed hope that the film and the recognition it got, will revive the “otherwise non-existent” cinema in the Valley and would inspire many youngsters to take up filmmaking.

Filmmakers here are very much apprehensive about making films in Kashmiri and the potential of the language [to attract global audience]. It will change that and encourage them and many youngsters to be optimistic and help revive the film culture here,” Muntazir, a dental surgeon by profession, said.

However, the filmmaker says “all is not well” here when it comes to filmmaking. He said, the young team faced a lot of problems and neglect during the production and post-production of the film.

“The film was made on a budget of Rs. 75 lakh. We arranged about 25 lakh ourselves and raised the rest through loans and other sources. We approached many people and business houses here, but to no avail. Even the Cultural Academy did not help us in any way… There was no support,” he said.

The Canada International Film Festival, held each year in the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, brings the very best of world cinema to Canada from over 90 countries around the world.

The 2013 edition will be held April 5th to 6th, 2013 at Edgewater Casino in downtown Vancouver. This year’s Festival Programme will showcase a wide variety of North American and International Feature Films to thought-provoking Shorts, Documentaries, Music Videos, Animations, Experimental Films, Student Films, a Screenplay Competition, and more.

Listed at number six in the 2013 Award of Excellence Winners – Feature Competition category, ‘Partav’ has made proud not only its makers, but the whole community here. PTI

 

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.

Newredindian

In the summer of 2010, protests erupted throughout Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim part of what India claims to be its northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmiris have always asserted their independence from India).  Throngs of young men and women defiantly hurled rocks at Indian security forces and set tires on fire to prevent armored vehicles from entering into neighborhoods.  Their chants were bold—“Go, India, Go!” and “Azadi (Independence) for Kashmir” and “Quit Kashmir” (the last being a reference to the slogan of the Indian movement against British colonialism: Quit India).  The rare media outfits that did cover the protests began calling the movement, the Kashmiri Intifada, drawing explicit comparison to the other longstanding occupation in Palestine.  For fear of having international opinion turned against it, the Indian government quickly clamped down on all media coverage of the resistance in Kashmir and opened its playbook to its favorite page: the rock-throwers in Kashmir were quickly dubbed Islamic terrorists.

At the same time, the repression in Kashmir against the population was brutal.  Protests were met with shootings, lathi (baton) charges, the firing of tear gas, curfews, mass arrests, shootings, disappearances, and torture.  The viciousness of the crackdown has its basis in the suspension of any legal oversight or consequence for the Indian security apparatus; since 1990, Kashmir has come under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows, among other things, any soldier or officer to fire upon any group of five or more people or anyone suspected of having a weapon, arrest anyone without a warrant and conduct home invasions. It also gives military personnel full immunity from prosecution for their actions.  Additionally, Kashmir is also one of the most heavily policed and militarized places in the world, with estimates of Indian security forces in the region at well over 700,000 (the Government of India refuses to release official numbers).  It bears underlining that the population of Kashmir is approximately 5.5 million, which means that there is one security personnel for every eight Kashmiris, a ratio which beggars Mubarak’s Egypt.  The carte blanche given to the police and military and the constant rhetoric of Islamic insurgency have proven to be a deadly and humiliating mix for ordinary Kashmiri civilians.  In one shocking video that was uploaded to youtube, Indian soldiers were seen parading young Kashmiri men naked through their village en route to a military camp.

Kashmir: The Case for Freedom, with contributions by Tariq Ali, Hilal Bhatt, Angana Chatterji, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy and selections of poems by the 16th-century Kashmiri poet, Habbah Khatun, comes at an important time, as new political and economic realities put the resistance of the Kashmiri people back on the map of global protest.  The book is essentially a handbook for human rights activists across the world, who have seen the protest movement in Kashmir grow but who have been left confused by the obfuscations which pass for journalism and the lies which are official politics in India, Pakistan, and the United States.  The overwhelming conclusion that any reader can come to after reading the book is the simple and straightforward one that Arundhati Roy arrives at: “Does any government have the right to take away people’s liberty with military force?  India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much—if not more—than Kashmir needsazadi from India.”

Kashmir has long tradition of religious syncretism, cultural innovation, and political resistance, but an equally long legacy of feudal, colonial, and now sub-imperial conquest.  The crux of the contemporary problem stems from the opportunistic way that the independence and partition of the Indian subcontinent was carried out and the vicious way that those terms are enforced on the population.  When British rule was established in Kashmir in 1846, Kashmir (recently conquered by the Sikh invader Ranjit Singh in 1819) was sold off to Dogra royalty (the Hindu rulers of neighboring Jammu) for 7.5 million rupees, 6 pairs of shawl goats, and 3 shawls (under the absurd Treaty of Amritsar).  Dogra rule was economically ruinous for the population who were reduced to a condition of absurd poverty; the few young people who could, escaped to other places in India, where they were radicalized and returned to raise slogans of freedom, justice, and land reform.  Before thepartition of India, the dominant politics of the movement for Kashmiri independence, led by Sheikh Abdullah, were a heady mix of socialism and nationalism, not political Islam as is often claimed by more contemporary analysts.

When the British left India, the 565 prince states which had maintained a degree of political autonomy through treaties with the British were given the choice of acceding either to India or Pakistan or remaining independent.  Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, still hadn’t decided; leaders of the Muslim League were attempting to woo him to Pakistan, while his Hindu sympathies seemed to incline him in favor of India.  Leaders in Pakistan decided not to wait and planned an invasion.  Hari Singh, worried about being deposed militarily, quickly negotiated an accession to India in exchange for military support.  But under the terms of the agreement, Kashmir was to be allowed a referendum to determine the will of the people on the question of accession.  Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, despite publicly proclaiming his support for the plebiscite (as Arundhati Roy’s excellent collection of excerpts of his speeches shows), ultimately reneged on his promise.  The Indian army was able to repel the Pakistani invaders only up to a point; the current Line of Control which divides Kashmir more or less marks the results of that confrontation.  Since then, Kashmir has become a pawn in the cynical and deadly game between India and Pakistan.  India uses Kashmir to claim that it is a democratic society (but does so by rigging elections, importing pliable Hindu rulers, imprisoning elected leaders, brutally oppressing the population), while Pakistan claims that it is interested in Kashmiri independence (despite having flooded the Valley with guns and an intolerant variant of Islam and denying independence to its other occupied territory, Balochistan).

The book makes two important contributions to our understanding of what has happened in Kashmir since that point.  The first has to do with the form of the resistance, which has shifted over the years from secular nationalism to Islamist politics and back again.  The period between the 1940s and the early 1980s was dominated by the secular, nationalist forces in Kashmir organized under Sheikh Abdullah who initially sought some kind of compromise with the Indian state for greater autonomy within a larger federation.  When even democratic dialogue broke down and India reneged on promises, a few groups (like the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front) broke away from the dominant nationalist coalition and began waging a guerrilla struggle.  At the same time, Pakistan flush with arms and militants it was recruiting and training for the American-sponsored resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, began both recruiting Kashmir youth to jihadi outfits and began to send Islamist groups into Kashmir as well as providing weapons and training to secular groups as well (though they eventually stopped backing these groups all together).  The devastating effects of that policy on ordinary Kashmiris are documented in Hilal Bhatt’s personal essay in the collection.  But by the late 1990s, Islamist organizations had exhausted whatever appeal they may have had as their social policies came into conflict with Kashmiri ideologies and their inability to produce a military solution meant that ordinary Kashmiris were the ones suffering for the barbaric Indian crackdown that followed those terrorist activities.  The last decade of resistance has been characterized by secular, democratic opposition to the policies of the Indian state, a reality which goes against all of the mainstream propaganda that Kashmir is another front in the war on terror.

The second has to do with the staggering scale of violence that the Indian state perpetrates against the Kashmiri population (the condition of the Pakistani administered section while poor, is not nearly as bloody).  As Angana Chatterji puts it, “Kashmir is a landscape of internment, where resistance is deemed ‘insurgent’ by state institutions.”  [Chatterji and her husband, Richard Shapiro, have been targeted by the Indian government for their views on Kashmir and were both recently fired from their jobs at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in part, for their outspoken political advocacy.]  Part of the reason that Kashmir is so brutally repressed is because the Indian state is now governed by an ideology which requires the fiction of a massive security threat in order to justify exorbitant expenditures on its military and police forces.  This fiction is propped up, as Chatterji argues, by an ideology which amalgamates Hindu chauvinism, neoliberalism, and authoritarian statecraft.  The result has been the wholesale criminalization of even the mildest form of public protest.  Most recently, the police filed sedition charges against Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education for showing a man in blue carrying a stick under the Urdu letter “zoi” for “zaalim” (oppressor).  The police have charged everyone affiliated with the book with criminal conspiracy, defamation, and provocation with the intent to breach peace, since the innocuous depiction was assumed to be a police officer.  In another instance, an English professor, Noor Mohammad Bhat, was thrown in jail for administering a “provocative” examination assignment.

Despite making the case for an independent Kashmir and offering a brilliant indictment of the Indian government’s claim to being the largest democracy on the planet, the book falls short on one important point, namely in pointing out a strategy by which that independence can come about if armed struggle, mass protest, and even political compromise have all failed in turn.  The unfortunate reality in Kashmir is that it is extremely similar to Palestine, where the indigenous populations lack the necessary social force to repel the violence of occupation forces and then are forced into taking part in the opportunistic diplomacy of larger states around them.  But like Palestine, the Kashmiris have allies in both Pakistan and India who have no interest in the occupation of Kashmir, in fact whose lives would immediately be improved if both Pakistan and India were to stop spending Himalayan sums on security personnel and instead spend money on eradicating poverty.  The Indian and Pakistani working classes have common enemies—their own states—and the end to the occupation in Kashmir will only be the result of their unified struggle.  This though is only the slightest of criticisms; the spirit if not the explicit argument of the Arab Spring runs throughout this entire book.

[Special thanks to Huma Dar for suggestions and edits.]

Check the original article here