Andrew Buncombe in Srinagar

From The New Zealand Herald: “Kashmir burns Again

“From the end of the hospital corridor came frantic shouts, urgent voices that grew ever more desperate. A dozen men appeared, gathered around a blood-smeared trolley, rushing its occupant towards the emergency surgery room. Abdul Rashid, said his friends, had been shot in the head by police who had opened fire on a peaceful gathering. “There was no stone-pelting, nothing,” yelled one of the 25-year-old’s friends, as medics pulled shut the doors to the surgery room. “There was no curfew … They fired indiscriminately.”

And yet for all their pain, the people of Kashmir believe they are suffering alone. They say that unlike places such as Kosovo or East Timor, which both secured independence in recent years, the world is deaf to Kashmir’s demands for autonomy.

f so, then the frontlines of this uprising are the stone-littered and razor wire-strewn streets of Kashmir’s largest towns such as Srinagar and Baramulla. It is here, amid rubbish and waste that has not been cleared for weeks, that crowds of demonstrators have repeatedly ignored curfew orders and the threat of being shot on sight to protest against the authorities. Some demonstrators have hurled stones at the police as if to incite a response, and cars and government buildings have been set alight. Yet many protests have been peaceful.

The police and paramilitary forces have responded with crushing force.

Rapid Action Force arrived in Srinagar on Thursday and by yesterday afternoon they were carrying out patrols through several many of the city’s neighbourhoods. Kitted out in blue uniforms and armed with automatic weapons, riot shields and helmets, these police sat unsmiling in their vehicles while residents simmered and stared. “They just want to make us scared, but we are not scared of these forces,” declared Abdul Rehman Billoo, a 50-year-old businessman, after a convoy of police trucks clattered through the city’s Ikhwan Chowk neighbourhood. “I am involved in the protests. Everybody is involved in the protests, from 50 years to 100 years. There is no age limit.”

“The police are firing at the head and the body, not the legs. This is a against human rights,” said one senior doctor, examining a CT scan image of Mr Nabi’s brain. A female colleague, who had worked there for seven years, said the situation was worse than she had ever seen. Children and women were among the victims. “We had another shooting victim come in tonight from Sopore. He is also critical,” she added.

Most of the injured were young men but in one bed lay a woman, Munera Dobi, who had been shot in the back six days ago, also in Pulwama. The woman’s husband, Ahmed, said he was unsure if he would be able to work, now he would have to spend time nursing his wife. “We need freedom from India,” he said.

When it was reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had voiced his “concern” about the current violence, officials in Delhi described his comments as “gratuitous”.

Without a bold political gesture the loop of violence is unlikely to end. Protests will go on, young people will throw stones, the police will kill people, there will be angry funerals that lead to more protests, more stones will be thrown, the police will shoot and kill more people. Kashmir’s agony is set to continue.”

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