Edward Hasbrouck

From The Practical Nomad: Kashmir, self-determination, and human rights

Who am I to talk about Kashmir?

I’m an activist for peace and justice, and a travel journalist. I think that part of the ethical responsibility of travellers is to speak up about what we see, not just go home and forget about the places we’ve visited – especially when we visit places with few foreign observers other than tourists. Tourists play an increasingly important role as citizen human rights observersKashmir a case for freedom

The focus of my human rights activism is the USA, although that’s not today’s topic. And I don’t claim to be a historian or an expert on current events in Kashmir.

What I can offer is a perspective on Kashmir in terms of contemporary norms of human rights, democracy, and self-determination, rather than explanations of contemporary polices rooted in what I think is irrelevant ancient history.

The big picture, about which we’ll hear more from some of tonight’s other speakers, is that since 1989, India has maintained a military occupation of the Kashmir Valley by more than half a million soldiers, police, paramilitaries, and other armed “security” forces brought in from outside Kashmir.

This occupation has had all the typical attributes of any military occupation, in unusually intense and prolonged form. For most of the last 25 years, the Kashmir Valley has been under various flavors of de facto or de jure martial law, with soldiers everywhere, army camps next to every village, checkpoints on every city block, curfews, house to house searches, legalized arrest and detention without trial, and official suspension of many of the norms of democratic governance and civil liberties. (more…)

Sanjay Kak

From Caravan Magazine: Ballot Bullet Stone

For Spring the mist was unseasonal, and visibility low on the highway that runs south from Srinagar. There was little traffic, and only men in uniform seemed able to move through the early-morning haze. In khaki, olive green, and mottled camouflage, heavily armed clusters of police, paramilitary and army personnel were everywhere. Their presence is routine in the Kashmir valley, where more than half a million Indian soldiers are stationed, making it one of the most densely militarised zones in the world

But that April morning was not routine. It was voting day in Anantnag, the constituency that covers Kashmir’s southern countryside. This was the first of three seats in the valley that people were voting for in the most recent elections to the Indian Parliament. The others were to follow at week-long intervals. That is probably the time it takes to reassemble the “security grid” for each constituency, without which the conduct of elections is impossible here. (On the day Anantnag, with its 1.3 million registered voters, held elections, 54 million voters in the southern state of Tamil Nadu cast their ballots for 39 seats.)

Kashmiris know that the members of parliament they are asked to vote for have no bearing on the masla-e-Kashmir, “the Kashmir issue,” whose central question of political self-determination has vexed the region for more than sixty years. Nor can their members of parliament significantly affect citizens’ access to roads, schools, hospitals, or even the all-important neighbourhood electricity transformer. Those are the domain of the state government, and elections for the state assembly are expected only at the end of this year. That’s probably why there were no posters or banners or flags or pennants to inform you of that day’s election. What was less easy to explain were the deserted roads, shuttered wayside shops, and the vague anxiety in the air.

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Safwat Zargar

From Himal Southasian: Housed in History

During a trip to North Kashmir’s Kupwara district in late March this year, I, along with some friends, decided to pay a visit to Shahmala Begum, who lives in the sombre village of Trehgam, some 93 kilometres away from the summer capital city of Srinagar in India-administered-Kashmir. The incessant rainfall since morning, the potholes, and puddles of water on the road compelled us to brake regularly in order to prevent drenching people walking on the road with muddy water. Excited but severely restricted by our speed, we set out to meet the aged stepmother of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat. 

Relying on directions given to us by passersby, we took a snaky road flanked by vast open fields on either side from the main town of Kupwara. At one point, the blaring speaker of the car’s stereo system was put to a sudden pause, and silence filled the car. “We are passing through Kunan-Poshpora,” my friend remarked. She works with a human-rights support group that seeks justice for the victims of the mass rape of more than 40 women in two villages, during the night of 23 February 1991, by soldiers of the battalion of the Fourth Rajputana Rifles (RR) of Indian Army stationed at Kunan-Poshpora. We passed the twin villages in silence. As if in unsaid mutual agreement, all of us knew that we were driving through one of the most haunted corridors of India’s military occupation of Jammu and Kashmir – a region disputed since the Partition of the Indian subcontinent. After crossing the villages, a short old lady huddled under a big black umbrella pointed us towards the road that meets the Kupwara-Chowkibal highway at the Trehgam taxi stand. 

To avoid getting wet in the rain, most people were lined up in front of shops, some waited it out in cars and passenger sheds, while others braved the rain openly. On reaching the taxi stand, I asked a driver, “Where is Mohammad Maqbool Bhat’s home?” “He was hanged!” I blurted out awkwardly, to provide him context.

“You mean shaheed Maqbool Bhat?”

“Yes” 

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Samreen Mushtaq

From Kindle Magazine: A Tale of the Tortured

“I don’t like enjoyment. Where one lakh people have been killed, what peace will Tulip Garden or Gulmarg give you? Can one just live in a palace and enjoy when so much blood has been spilled?” he asked me. I met him in a bakery shop at Khwajabagh, some four kilometres from the main town of Baramulla in North Kashmir. I got to know from the shopkeeper that he’d also been a victim of torture, one among thousands in the valley. I started asking him questions, and by the time he finished narrating the events from his tortured past, over an hour had passed. Yes, all this conversation was taking place inside a shop, but I had to listen. And listen I did.

He was affiliated to Muslim Janbaz Force once the armed conflict erupted in the valley. On 12 December 1991, aged 21, he was picked by the Border Security Force in Littar, Pulwama. At that time, he was working on an ad-hoc basis in the health department, earning 525 rupees per month. “I was taken to the BSF I46 Battalion camp there and tortured non-stop for six days. From being beaten with rods to being given electric shocks even in my private parts, the kind of torture I suffered was quite common among those who were picked up. They’d even call the ‘source’ in and ask him to beat me. He broke my nose and I had to be hospitalised”. He remembers every detail vividly: “Even if I am mumbling incoherently in my sleep, I am sure I’d narrate the events exactly as they happened. How can I ever forget it?

Read more on Kindle Mag.

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Nagesh Rao

From Socialist Worker.Org: Fear Clouds the Indian Elections

IN THE lead-up to India’s parliamentary elections–which began in early April and continue through mid-May–progressive intellectuals, activists and organizations sounded the alarm over the prospect of a victory for the candidate of the Hindu right, Narendra Modi.

A statement by well-known left intellectuals published in The Hindubegan, “Never before in post-independence India have political forces, which are a front for an organization committed to creating a Hindu Rashtra [Nation], made as strong a bid for power as in the coming elections.” Similarly, Salman Rushdie, Deepa Mehta and others warned that Modi’s election “would bode ill for India’s future as a country that cherishes the ideals of inclusion.”

Journalist and rights activist Praful Bidwai issued an even more forceful warning:

If Modi wins, his regime is likely to be even worse [than Indira Gandhi's imposition of emergency rule in 1975-76], with systematic attacks on civil and political rights, railroading of all legitimate opposition, despotic imposition of corporate-driven economic agendas, and further militarization and communalization of society, which will lead to harassment of conscientious citizens, and outlawing and repression of dissent.

This sense of alarm is justified. Narendra Modi is a former pracharak (literally, propagandist) for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, or National Voluntary Association), which functions as the ideological and organizational backbone of the fascist Sangh Parivar, the “family” of Hindu fundamentalist groups that includes militant cadre organizations such as the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena. (more…)

Muhammad Faysal

From Kashmir Dispatch: Why Kashmiri people back Pakistan Team

Kashmir students have been rusticated from a university in India after their alleged support of the Pakistan cricket team. The university blames the Kashmir students for showing anti-national character and rioting in the campus. Even though Kashmir students claim that they have been abused and humiliated by Indians they have been called ‘Pakistanis’ or ‘Terrorists’ by the local students for their support of Pakistan team during the nail-biting game against India on Sunday. The irony is that these 200 students are on Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship for Kashmir students. It was launched after the 2010 civil protest to contain the dissent of the Kashmir youth towards the Indian State.  I wonder if a boss, who is a Manchester United fan, will fire a Liverpool fan who is his employee just because MU lost the game against Liverpool. This is hilariously absurd.

The racist attacks on Kashmiris living in India have been rampant especially since the outbreak of armed rebellion in early 90s. These attacks stem from the ignorance of common Indians on Kashmir and the idea of accepting Kashmiris not wanting to be a part of India. There is a nationalistic sentiment which goes against Pakistan in India and everything related to it. So when Kashmiris took up arms in 90s, they were branded as ‘Pakistani Terrorists’ though they were Kashmiris fighting for Independence. Or when Kashmiris took up to the streets from 2008, they were infamously branded as ‘agitational terrorists’ by an army officer on a TV debate.  (more…)

Dean Nelson

From The TelegraphKashmiri cricket fans to be charged for cheering Pakistan

More than 60 Kashmiri Indian students are facing criminal charges and suspension from university because they cheered for Indias bitter cricket rivals Pakistan during their one-day international in Bangladesh last Sunday.

The students were watching the match on television in their hostel at Swami Vivekananda Subharti University in Meerut in a friendly atmosphere with the Kashmiris cheering Pakistan and non-Kashmiri students supporting India.

Sovereignty over divided Kashmir remains the main conflict between India and Pakistan and has been the cause of three of the four wars between the nuclear neighbours since their partition and independence in 1947 when the Maharajah opted to join India despite a Muslim majority.

Many Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control between the two halves of the state want independence from India or for their disputed state to be part of Pakistan, while the Hindu majority in Jammu wants to remain in India.

Although there was rivalry in the hostel there was no tension or violence until Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi won the match with two sixes and the Kashmiris started celebrating the victory.

Their celebrations angered their Indian compatriots and fights broke out between the two groups, which deteriorated into a pitched battle. Following the clashes, 67 of the Kashmiris were suspended from the university for shouting “anti-national and pro-Pakistan slogans” and packed onto coaches to take them to Delhi under police escort. (more…)

Gardiner Harris

From New York TimesKashmiri Students Briefly Charged With Sedition for Rooting for Wrong Cricket Team

The police in northern India briefly filed sedition charges against 67 Kashmiri students after some of them cheered for the Pakistani cricket team during a televised match with India on Sunday night.

The charges were initially filed after an official complaint was lodged against the students by Manzoor Ahmed, vice chancellor of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut, according to M. M. Baig, a Meerut police official. In addition to sedition charges, the students were charged with “instigating hate between two communities.” But after the police and local officials reviewed the case, the sedition charges were dropped on Thursday, according to local media reports.

Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, had written in several posts on Twitter that the sedition charges against the students were an overreaction.

“I believe what the students did was wrong & misguided but they certainly didn’t deserve to have charges of sedition slapped against them,” Mr. Abdullah wrote.

He said he had spoken to his counterpart in Uttar Pradesh State, where Meerut is located, “who has assured me he will personally look into the matter of the Kashmiri students in Meerut.”

Indian news media reported that a delegation of leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party, a right-of-center Hindu nationalist group that polls suggest will soon dominate India’s central government, met Mr. Ahmed and demanded stern action against the students. A group of students associated with the Hindu party also burned an effigy of Mr. Ahmed, local news media reported. Mr. Ahmed said in an interview on Wednesday that he was aware of the effigy burning. (more…)

Abhijit Dutta

From Kafila: 23 Years After Kunan Poshpora: Rethinking Kashmir

It looks like any other village in Kashmir.

You go past a wooden bridge, past open fields winter-barren and wet with rain. Past mountains with snow on their chin. Past wistful looking poplars. Past a brook with clear water. Past grumpy apple trees gnarled like a grinch.

Then the road narrows, and homes – of timber and brick – come into view. Some have fences, unpainted wood. Heaps of hay, dung cakes, piles of dried leaves left to smoke. Ditches and dykes choked with snowmelt. Leafless walnut trees and brunette willows. The chinars, wild redheads just months ago, now old and arthritic. There is a government school on the right, a madrassa on the left. A few houses of stone, fewer of concrete, tin roofs over all.

Before you walk any further, the village ends. The next village is Poshpora. Like Kunan before it, it looks like any other village in the valley. The two villages are so close that people no longer call them by their individual names. Everyone knows this two-in-one village as Kunan Poshpora.

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