Month: July 2010

Abir Bazaz

From “Srinagar-Sarajevo

The City is the memory of massacres. I hope words grow out of Gowkadal, Hawal, Burzalla, Zakura – cancerous, as Genet’s love of the Palestinians…

Srinagar is a city in mourning. Who remembers Srinagar in winter? The winter sky is a Hiroshima sky. The city is the martyrs’ graveyard at Eidgah. The life of Srinagar is mourning.

To recover that memory, or to forget? The brightness of the sky in Srinagar is cruel.

The midnight soldiers demand forgetting… They promised us flags of Fatah, they tantalised us with Jerusalem? But where did the Palestinians go?

I am a Kashmiri Palestinian; Srinagar Sarajevan. I no longer live in Srinagar but I see

Srinagar as the absolute present of freedom. Of Srinagar’s singularities I can never forget the terrible Beauty of the Srinagar Intifada. Srinagar’s Rivers of stones. Why talk about this revolution? It too resembles a long drawn out burial, with me following the funeral procession from afar.

Naipaul writes of Srinagar that it sleeps through winter… in the winter of 1990, Srinagar is Berlin-Budapest-Bucharest, Srinagar is Sarajevo. Naipaul’s medieval city explodes the night of January 20th 1990… on the stroke of midnight. My mother and grandmother are indifferent; they go back to sleep. I put on my phiran. I cross over to my neighbour’s; the women prepare kehava for the men while they are getting dressed. The women prepared kehava for the Sarajevans before they disappeared in the Hills. My neighbour is ecstatic.

“I take no chances. I am ready. The UN is coming. Tomorrow is Independence Day”.

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi in New Delhi

From Hindustan Times: “Congress puts Omar government on notice

“Worried over the unending cycle of violence in Kashmir, the Congress has put the Omar Abdullah government on notice and is closely monitoring the emerging situation in the strife-torn valley. The party is also upset over the “handling of the situation” by the state government, which it said has ‘failed’ in breaking the current cycle of violence.”

“A senior Congress functionary pointed out that the state administration has also “failed in containing the influence of separatists whose writ runs large” across the Kashmir valley.”

“The separatists are calling the shots. They are virtually running a parallel administration. It’s a matter of serious concern,” he said.”

“Another senior leader said the state government appeared to be a “helpless spectator to the games” played by the separatist outfits.”

“He said the Hurriyat Conference faction, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, comes out with a weekly “calendar of protests” which is not only followed by the general public but the government employees as well.”

“According to the calendar, only Saturdays and Sundays are marked as working days and on the remaining days the people are advised to come out on streets and protest.”

“This calendar is strictly followed by all. Educational institutions, banks, government offices and private establishments all comply with the directions of the separatists and the state administration has failed to check that,” the leader said.”

People defy curfew, Indian troops

From Aljazeera English: “6 killed in Kashmir renewed violence

“A teenage boy and a protester have been killed in clashes in Indian Kashmir, bringing to six the number of people shot dead by security forces in two days.

The unidentified boy was killed on Saturday in the latest bout of violence, Mohammad Usman, a doctor at a north Kashmir hospital, said without giving further details.

The latest casualties marked the deadliest 48 hours in the Muslim-majority Himalayan territory since June 11, when violence first erupted after a 17-year-old student was killed by a police tear-gas shell.

Indian security forces, so far, have been accused of killing 23 Kashmiri civilians – many of them in their teens or 20s – in less than two months.

A police officer who declined to be named said the protester killed on Saturday, a 30-year-old man, met his fate when security forces opened fire at rock-throwing protesters in northern Baramulla town.

Several other demonstrators were injured, one of them seriously, in Saturday’s firing incident in Naidkhai village, the officer told the AFP news agency.”

Krishan Dev Sethi on his political life in Kashmir

From Hard News: “Kashmiriat and the ‘illusion’ of Kashmiri independence

“I was born in Mirpur, in what is now Pakistan-administered Kashmir, in 1925. As a child I saw the terrible oppression of people in my area under the Dogra raj and I felt impelled to do something about it. So in 1940, when the National Conference (NC) held its first session in Baramulla, I went there, and that’s how I began my political journey. It was not that the formation of the NC was the first stirring of revolt against the Dogra raj in Mirpur. The Mirpuris had a long history of resistance and rebellion long before that. When the Dogra ruler, Gulab Singh, took over Mirpur, the Mirpuris, led by local rajas, staged several revolts, which were cruelly crushed. Raja Sultan Khan of Bhimber, a Chibb Rajput, was captured, brutally tortured and blinded. He died in prison. The Gakkhar Rajputs of Mirpur and the Mangral Rajputs in Kotli also rose up in revolt. So did several others. Although these local resistance movements were forcibly put down, the fires of revolt continued to simmer, as the Mirpuris regarded the Dogra rulers as oppressive foreigners and invaders and they hated them.”

“As a child, I grew up with an awareness of the cruel exploitation of the peasantry by landlords, moneylenders and the Dogra officials. They were subjected to heavy taxation and were forced into “begari” or compulsory, unpaid labour for the Dogra officials. The moneylenders in Mirpur were mainly Hindus, while the landlords were both Hindus and Muslims, the former being mostly moneylenders who had become landlords through usury. More than 90 per cent of the people in our area were Muslims.”

“This was a time of momentous political changes. Hindus and Sikhs in the part
of the state that had come under Pakistani rule were subjected to brutal murders and mass exodus, Muslims in the Jammu province faced a similar fate with several thousands of them being slaughtered by mobs led by the Sanghis — RSS and Hindu Mahasabha elements — and abetted by the maharaja’s forces. Many more were forced to flee to Pakistan. The Akhnoor, Ranbirsinghpura and lower Samba areas had a Muslim majority but they were almost completely eliminated. So, too, was Jammu town. One of the first tasks before us was to instill a sense of security among the few Muslims who remained in Jammu. For this my colleagues and I were falsely accused of being Pakistani agents, just because we tried to rehabilitate these Muslims instead of asking them to migrate to Pakistan. I was arrested on this fake charge and was released only when Sheikh Abdullah put pressure on Nehru.”

“In theory, an independent federal state seems to be the best solution. But this is easier said than done. This requires the consensus of all the nationalities, which is not easy to secure.”

“Do you think that India and Pakistan would ever agree to an independent federation of J&K?

Frankly, I don’t think both countries will. Even Pakistan, which keeps talking about freedom for J&K, is basically hostile to the idea. After all, Islamabad is only a few miles from the border of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and if J&K becomes independent, Pakistan would find the international border too close to its capital. Pakistan’s economy depends on the rivers that flow into it from the part of Kashmir that it controls. I have discovered  during my recent three trips that many people in Pakistan-administered J&K genuinely seek independence.”

Alex Stein’s prognosis of another crisis of Indian rule in Kashmir just before the 2008 protests

From Guardian: “Free Kashmir?

“My visit to Kashmir last week was overshadowed by that of a rather more illustrious visitor, the Indian president. During what was supposed to be a routine trip, President Pratibha Patil was greeted with a general strike, as well as clashes with troops in the state capital, Srinagar.”

“We want to convey to the Indian president that the Kashmiri people are against the Indian occupation of Kashmir,” said Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chief of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. While relatively low-key, these protests should serve as another warning to India not to ignore the will of the Kashmiri people, who have for too long found themselves caught in the crossfire of the two regional powers, India and Pakistan.”

“Rule from Delhi, however, has left the Kashmiris – almost to a man – singularly determined to achieve independence.”

“Because of India’s tremendous soft power in the world, the Kashmiri question (beyond the nuclear implications of the India-Pakistan stand-off) is unlikely to enter the world’s consciousness in the same way as Tibet or Palestine. This potentially makes it even more dangerous. The Indian government is making a mistake if it believes that the relative recent calm and increased prosperity in the state means that a status quo is setting in. All it takes is a cursory look to see that the vast majority of the people want independence, or at least hugely increased autonomy, not to mention a withdrawal of troops.”

“People often forget that, before the first intifada, the West Bank & Gaza experienced a greater growth in GDP than Singapore. Despite expectations to the contrary, prosperity did not dampen nationalist fervour, and it only took an accident involving a military vehicle to start the uprising. The same goes for Kashmir, which could once again prove to be India’s Palestine.”

Happymon Jacob in New Delhi

From The Hindu: “The Poverty of Politics

“The ongoing unrest in Kashmir is the result of a failure of politics, political courage, conviction and empathy. If Kashmir burns time and again, it is because politicians in New Delhi and Srinagar have failed to extend a powerful and convincing political argument to the Kashmiris. Gone are the days when a nation state could demand the undiluted loyalty of its citizens by force and coercion; today, a modern multinational state such as India can command the legitimacy of its citizens only by the power, persuasiveness and attraction of its political arguments.”

“Kashmir’s latest unrest needs to be seen in context, wherein the politics of New Delhi and Srinagar has lost favour with the Kashmiris. It is easy and convenient to blame Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), dissident parties in Kashmir and the Opposition People’s Democratic Party for the troubles. Indeed, they might have even committed their own acts to fuel the unrest. However, the fact remains that it is the National Conference-led Jammu and Kashmir government’s deplorable poverty of politics that has set Kashmir alight again.”

“In 2000, the NC pushed a resolution through the State Assembly demanding autonomy that was rejected in totality by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government in New Delhi, which termed it “anti-national.”

“The previous two years of mainstream politics in Jammu and Kashmir have been marked by a post-2008 election euphoria that has led to a misplaced sense of triumphalism in Srinagar and New Delhi regarding the victory of democracy and the defeat of dissent in the Valley.”

Aijaz Hussain reports on fresh killings

From Google News & AP: “Soldiers fire, 2 more die

“Paramilitary soldiers fired on hundreds of demonstrators in Indian Kashmir on Friday, killing two men and wounding at least 12 others, police said as protests against Indian rule spread across the disputed region.

Troops fired on nearly 1,500 protesters chanting pro-independence slogans in Sopore, a town in the northwest of Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, said a police officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with media.

The officer said the protesters had tried to damage a railway track and hurled rocks at the troops guarding the track.

However, local residents said they were holding a peaceful protest march after offering Friday prayers when the soldiers opened fire.

Three of those wounded were in critical condition, the police officer said, adding that other clashes erupted in several nearby villages after the shooting.

Protests and clashes were also reported from several other towns in the region.

Earlier Friday, violence erupted Srinagar after two men were wounded when paramilitary forces opened fire on a group of anti-India protesters.”

Seema Kazi on illegality of occupation and its desperation

From “Kashmir: cri de coeur

“India’s war in Kashmir has, of late, acquired a particularly deadly edge. During the past six months, a disproportionately large number of teenagers and young men have been shot dead on the streets by the police or CRPF.”

“There cannot be a greater folly than to attribute the deep and overflowing reservoir of collective anger and outrage against a twenty-year-old occupation to the Machiavellian powers of a fragmented and fairly discredited separatist conglomerate. In no state, least of all in one that claims to be democratic, can the act of stone-throwing or public protest legitimise a shoot-to-kill policy. As democratic channels for dissent in Kashmir remain blocked, and the institutions meant for the protection of civilians (military and paramilitary) or the enforcement of the rule of law (police) deprive citizens of the right to life, stones, slogans and mass protest are all what the Kashmiris have to oppose and resist a shameful and scandalous state of affairs.”

“…like any other oppressed people in the world, the Kashmiri Muslims have not been cowed down by force; nor have they ceased protesting India’s democratic deficit in Kashmir. Indeed, it is precisely during these moments that India’s feeble and tenuous claims to democracy and normalcy in Kashmir are forcefully exposed. The stones cast by a young, radicalised generation of Kashmiri boys today symbolise the unequal battle between truth and power in Kashmir. The truth is that the youth who throw stones and the masses of people who march with them raising ‘anti-national’ slogans wish to be rid of Indian hegemony in their contested homeland. They want the security forces withdrawn; those languishing in jails released; the extraordinary powers vested in the military curbed; public accountability for the disappeared; prosecution for those responsible for crimes against citizens; a chance to determine their own political future; a life of freedom and dignity. In short, the truth is that the Kashmiri Muslims vehemently reject their existing relationship with the Indian state.”

“Cornered and defensive, lacking the courage and conscience expected of a mature and self-confident democracy, India has no option other than digging in and playing for time. Sadly, neither time nor history is on India’s side. No people have ever surrendered to the untruth of the abuse of power. No state has ever erased a people’s history, memory or quest for justice.”

Aijaz Hussain from Srinagar

From The Canadian Press:Government forces, anti-India protestors clash

“Government forces fired warning shots and tear gas to quell protests against Indian rule that erupted Thursday in several towns in restive Kashmir, police said.

Protests broke out in several neighbourhoods in Anantnag, a town south of Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, after police detained at least eight people for participating in recent anti-India street protests, said a police officer on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse the protests, the officer said.

The mostly Muslim region, where resistance to rule by predominantly Hindu India is strong, has been under curfew for most part of the last six weeks as anti-India street protests and clashes surged. Residents say government forces have killed at least 17 people in that period, and local authorities have asked two retired judges to investigate the deaths.”