Posts Tagged ‘Valley’

Screening of film on Valley violence stalled in Kashmir University

A documentary depicting violence against women in the restive valley was stopped from being screened at the University of Kashmir on Saturday despite being cleared by the censor board.

The authorities, who seemed to fear trouble, forced the cancellation of Ocean of Tears just an hour before it was to hit the screen in the University Convocation Complex.  Sponsored by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), the 27-minute film dealt with eye opening and spine chilling facts about crimes against women in Kashmir valley.

“The film reveals victims’ experiences in the struggle against all forms of violence inflicted on them. It showcases how they learn to deal with their past and the coming year of further battle against the power structures”, said Bilal Jan, director of Ocean of Tears.

The film has focused on controversial subjects including the alleged mass rape of over two dozen women of Kunan Poshpora village allegedly by the troops, during the intervening night of February 23 and 24, 1991. Interviews with the victims encapsulates the horror of that night and the subsequent stigma that the girls had to undergo.

The last moment cancellation created a flutter among the audience. “They gave foolish reasons for the cancellation. I had booked the Convocation Complex and even paid Rs20,000. There were hundreds of people who had come from far flung areas to watch the screening”, said Jan. Registrar of Kashmir University Zafar Reshi said two people are laying claims to the same piece of work, which Jan rubbished.

“We asked them whether they have a written complaint and they said somebody had ‘verbally’ complained. These are childish reasons aimed at stalling the screening”, he said.




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.
28th September, 2012 ; 19:44 PM

For more on  real picture of Kashmir

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


By Anuradha Bhasin in Kindle Magazine June 2012


Kashmir is observing the third anniversary of the Shopian double rapes and murders, which have become a test case in the vast tapestry of human rights abuse in Jammu and Kashmir. The incident symbolises brutality, travesty of justice, a systemic pattern of abuse of power by the security forces that goes beyond unjustifi ed laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in a Valley that already stands psychologically alienated from the rest of the country.

On May 29, 2009, two women, Asiya and Neelofar went missing from their orchard around 7.00pm in Shopian. Th eir bodies were found in the wee hours next morning in the Rambiara nallah, a small trickle of a stream, between their home and their orchard. The area is ensconced between three security camps, all of which have a commanding view from their watch towers over the spot where the bodies were found. The two women were alleged to have been raped and murdered by men in uniform. But till date there has been no justice, not even a fair investigation that would unravel the truth.

The Shopian incident was followed by an unprecedented campaign for justice launched by the people of Shopian under the banner of Majlis-e-Mashawarat and the Shopian Bar Association. It was totally peaceful and apolitical. The government response to the same during this period was marked by lies and deception. This trajectory of deceit is what makes the tragedy of Shopian graver.

After the two bodies were found, two post-mortem reports confirmed sexual assault and ruled out death by drowning. Their deaths sparked anger and protests, culminating in a two-month-long shutdown in Shopian and sporadic incidents of violence and hartals in the rest of the Valley. The anger was fuelled by the police’s deliberate bid to tamper with evidence and the government’s total refusal in acknowledging the wrongs. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s ill-advised press conference four days after the incident, acted as an agent provocateur. Omar admonished journalists for using the word ‘rape’ and not ‘alleged rape,’ informed that preliminary findings said that the two women had drowned but in the same breath announced a one-man commission headed by retired high court judge, Justice Muzaff ar Jan to probe the incident. Two parallel investigations by the police’s Special Investigation Team and the Justice Jan Commission of Inquiry began. The first made precious little effort, besides sprucing up the entire controversy with rumours, fed mostly through willing sections of the media. The second came up with a report within a month, confirming rape and murder and also indicting police officers for tampering with evidence and maintaining that this was deliberate. However, it did not name any culprits. Based on these findings, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court stepped in and sought the arrest of the indicted policemen, observing that they either knew who had done it or they themselves were the culprits. The court also asked the SIT to complete investigations. Anger in Shopian continued to build because the SIT was simply dragging its feet over the probe, coupled with reports of DNA samples of the victims being fudged. The government, instead of ensuring that the SIT began some investigation, decided to call in the CBI to investigate the entire case.

The CBI coverup started with the exhumation and autopsy of the bodies, four months after they were buried and culminated in the chargesheeting of 13 persons including the doctors who confirmed sexual assault and ruled out drowning, as well as members of the Shopian Bar and a brother of Asiya. The Shopian rapes and murders were offi cially declared cases of ‘drowning’. The cops indicted with tampering with evidence have been given a clean chit. The CBI was clearly guided by a misplaced sense of justice: ignore the wrong and punish the whistleblowers. If you can’t quieten voices of resentment, intimidate them, gag them and demonise them by using a willing media. That appears to have been the inspiring tagline of the CBI during its Operation, Lies in Shopian.

‘If you can’t convince someone, you confuse them.’ That was American President, Harry S. Truman half a century ago. This is precisely how the official response to the Shopian rapes and murders (of May 29, 2009) and the campaign for justice that followed can be summed up. From the very beginning, the government response to one of the biggest controversies ever in the history of Kashmir, has been marked by inconsistency. The official investigating agencies – right from the Special Investigation Team of the Jammu and Kashmir Police to the CBI have been busier spreading canards of lies, spinning rumours and using the media as a tool to leak misinformation, rather than clearing the cobwebs.

It wasn’t just evidence that was destroyed in Shopian. It was the last remnant of people’s faith in the Indian democracy and its legal justice system that was fully destroyed. Exactly a year on from the Shopian experience, a Valley long since disenchanted by the gun and dismayed by the brazen pattern of impunity, found stones and stone pelting as its new weapon of resistance and protest but these resulted in 130 deaths during a five month long period. These killings, despite the government acknowledging that the victims were innocent boys, have not been investigated till date. Ever since, the two-year lull, replaced only by the presence of tourists, has been projected by the government as normalcy. Amarnath land row in 2008. Shopian in 2009. Summer agitation in 2010. Together these three successive summers explain the present fatigue. And, fatigue doesn’t last forever! Once it ends, anger is bound to manifest itself in one way or the other. But those in power would remain just as ‘sensitive’, inspired only by the need to protect the existing patterns of travesty of justice at any cost, happy with fairytales and blissful ignorance like the owners of birds in cages, unmindful that when caged birds lose their fatigue and begin to sing, they may not be happy, they may only be complaining.

(Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal is Executive Editor, Kashmir Times and a human rights activist. She was part of a six member Women’s Initiative for Justice in Shopian Rapes and Murders. Extracts from her previous articles published between May 2009 and May 2010 in Kashmir Times have been included in this article.)

HOMING IN: Settlements, from Vesu in Kulgam district to Hawl in Shopian, have been readied for migrant Pandits

Freny Manecksha | July 30, 2011, Times Crest

The row of spanking new modern buildings surrounded by iron railings presents an incongruous sight in the decidedly rural setting of mustard fields, apple orchards and mud and wood houses. These secured settlements, from Vesu in Kulgam district to Hawl in Shopian, have been readied by the Jammu & Kashmir government to accommodate migrant Pandit families who are slowly returning to the Valley as part of the special employment package announced by the Prime Minister.

At Mattan in Anantnag district, some of the families are already in residence but the heightened security cover – in the form of armed troops – makes it difficult to meet them. When one does manage to snatch a few lines in conversation, the mood is cautious and guarded. Some families, it is said, have already fled the “security” of these homes to stay amidst the other villagers.
Whilst the state takes credit in trying to resettle the Kashmiri Pandits through various economic and employment packages, the more significant rethink that has taken place in the Kashmiri mindset, facilitated largely by civil society, has not received the attention it deserves. This mood of accommodation and reconciliation is reflected in the old alleys of Ganpatiyar of downtown Srinagar where a handful of Pandit families continued to reside through turbulent times without any security cover, save for a bunker in the Ganesh temple.

Kalpana Pandita, a school teacher who chose to stay on, along with her husband who works in the courts, welcomes us cheerfully into her home. Unlike the reticent migrants, she is forthcoming. “We moved into this locality after our old house was burnt down in 1998, “she says. “We continue with our own traditions and have not faced hostility from the mohalla. We are invited to join the Id celebrations and weddings that take place in the neighbourhood. Yes, of course we miss the presence of our own community. I especially miss my son, but all things considered we are contented. ”

Her neighbours, Shaukat Hussain and Sharifa, affirm that the Kashmiri Pandits’ rightful place is in the Valley. “People must take heart from the fact that over the years these five families in our mohalla have continued to live without hindrance, ” says Shaukat. “Prayers are being conducted in the temple. The Ram Navami procession took place without any disruption. Since these Pandits feel secure amidst us surely larger numbers can be confident of returning. ”

Again, whilst much state and media attention has been directed towards the very vocal migrant Pandit population in Jammu and other parts of India, there has been little recognition of the aspirations and fortitude of the 3, 000-odd Pandits who chose to stay on in scattered settlements in the Valley. As civil society activist Khurram Parvez points out, there is even a lone Pandit headmaster of a local school in Kupwara, a district which has a heightened presence of militants. “He has stayed on obviously because of his own strong will and because of support of the local population, ” Parvez says.

Sanjay Kak, an independent film maker who has made a documentary on Kashmir and who is also a Pandit adds, “Without valourising them, it is important to recognise the fact that these families, too small and fragmented to be counted as a community, nevertheless survived in Kashmir after the main exodus through tenuous networks of associates and friends. It is also important to recognise the very different responses to what is going on in Kashmir, between those Pandit families who stayed on, those who are tentatively relocating and those who now live elsewhere. ”

He describes the government’s methods of resettlement as mere window dressing and says building enclaves is not the way to integrate the migrant Pandits back into Kashmiri society. One man, who believes deeply that it is the non-migrant Pandit community which kept the spirit of ‘Kashmiriyat’ (the centuriesold identity of Kashmiris as a people who did not let religious affiliations overwhelm their ethnic commonality) alive, is Sanjay K Tickoo, founder of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS). Tickoo, who stayed on along with his mother and other family members, founded the KPSS along with friends in 2005 as a social welfare organisation. Initially, its role was restricted to restoring links and keeping the community spirit alive by re-opening temples and conducting traditional rituals. Many of the temples like Puran Raj Bhairav temple in Sazgaripora and the Sheetleshwar Bhairav temple in Habba Kadal have become functional because of the support of the local Muslim population.

Later KPSS began to engage with both state and non-state players – with mainstream and pro-freedom political groups – in order to bring about a general consensus on reconciliation and other issues. Says Tickoo, “We, non- migrant Pandits have lived and experienced conditions at Ground Zero. We never shifted our loyalties to Jammu. We were threatened by Muslim fundamentalists and some Hindu fundamentalists called us traitors.

But we kept the pluralistic spirit alive. Now if the state wants to resettle the migrants it should take heed of our own example. The present Israeli solution of housing them in special camps is dangerous and can create tensions. The very presence of security troops can become a provocative reason for attacks and this will be fodder for Hindu fundamentalists to raise their voices and create more communal disharmony. ”

He adds that back in 2004 when then chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and interlocutor N M Vohra had mooted a Rs 37-crore resettlement plan in Mattan and Sheikhpora, he had vehemently opposed such isolation zones. But they still went ahead.
Tickoo and other activists believe that rather than armed troops, it is the mohalla groups and civil society that can best provide the security for migrant Pandits. “Living in such jail-like conditions and going from office to home will preclude healthy interaction with the majority Muslim population, ” he says. “If instead, they live amongst the people they can start sharing what the Muslims also experienced during the peak of the militancy. ”

He explains how the shared experience of crackdowns in the harsh winters and hours spent without food and water or the fact that both migrant Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims faced guns from both state and non-state players has initiated a spirit of reconciliation.

The process of understanding what really happened in Kashmir cannot be based solely on accusations hurled by either community but by a shared narrative. “We cannot say Pandits were not killed nor can we say that there were no custodial killings or enforced disappearances, ” says Tickoo. “If there has to be reconciliation by people on the opposite sides of the Jhelum then we have to find an angle where both sides meet. We have to bend a little. They too must bend as little. ”