Basharat Peer

From The Guardian, “8-Year-Old Kashmiri Went Out to Play. He Came Home Dead

“A few days back I travelled to Batamaloo neighbourhood in Srinagar, the capital city of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Coils of barbed wire blocked the desolate roads; thousands of Indian soldiers patrolled the streets to enforce a strict military curfew. I couldn’t reach the man I wanted to meet and finally managed to speak to him on the phone.

On 2 August Fayaz Rah, a 39-year-old fruit vendor from Batamaloo, had lunch with his wife and three children. Outside, Indian troops enforced the curfew. Yet the children would find a clearing or a courtyard to play cricket or imitate the adults and raise a slogan for Kashmir’s independence from India. His youngest son, eight-year-old Sameer, took two rupees for pocket money from his father and stepped out to join his friends near his uncle’s house.

Young Sameer walked into a lane and impulsively shouted a few slogans for Kashmir’s independence. He didn’t realise a group of Indian paramilitaries was around. They caught the eight-year-old and beat him with bamboo sticks, some blows striking his head. They then threw the boy into a clump of poison ivy bushes, but a crowd gathered. The paramilitaries called a police truck, which drove Sameer to the nearby hospital. Meanwhile, police and paramilitaries teargassed the crowd.

‘Someone told me that a child has been killed,’ said Fayaz. He called a friend in the local police and mentioned that his son, who had left home wearing a yellow T-shirt, had not returned. His friend arrived at his door with an ambulance. ‘I saw my boy on the ventilator,’ Fayaz sighed. Doctors tried for hours to revive him, but couldn’t save Sameer. ‘There is no justice in Kashmir,’ Fayaz told me. ‘Now the police claim my son died in a stampede.’

After several high-profile meetings last week, Singh’s government rejected even moderate demands such as repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act – even though a committee set up by Singh four years ago recommended doing so. Scaling back troops from residential areas wasn’t even discussed.

The Indian government did, however, despatch a delegation of parliamentarians to Kashmir for a fact-finding mission. The group arrived at Geelani’s Srinagar home on Monday afternoon, accompanied by scores of television crews. The Kashmiri leader enumerated his preconditions for peace talks: New Delhi should accept Kashmir as a dispute, free Kashmiri political prisoners, and withdraw its troops. Soldiers guilty of civilian killings must be punished, and their blanket protection withdrawn. India is not willing to concede any of these demands…

What the Singh government does next will be its big test. Various analysts and political figures have suggested unconditional, result-oriented talks with the Kashmiris and a revival of the dialogue with Pakistan. It may well be the only way to save Kashmir – and India itself – from future calamities.”

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2 comments

  1. Please change the name of this website to Kashmiri Muslim Solidarity. None of the information pertains to a truly objective analysis of the situation from a non-muslim perspective. While you have much just cause for anger and frustration, in order to find a truly effective solution, please don’t pretend that this is about Kashmiris. It is about a separate and independent nation of Kashmiri Muslims. There should be open and genuine dialogue for peaceful release of Jammu which already contains many exiled KPs as well as other hindus who have no desire to part of an “independent” muslim country. Hindus, Sikhs and Buddists make up one third of the population of the state. Since partition, the number of muslims in Jammu has grown while HIndus in the valley are practically non-existent. Much of the reason for the presence of military is that fact and events perpetrated by militants. These are now used as an excuse to torture innocent muslims. Where was “Kashmiri Solidarity” when lakhs of KPs left the valley. You should also be realistic about separatists leading kids into fighting instead of finding realistic solutions, none of which can involve a separate country. Since this is a non-starter for India, by insisting on this they ensure ongoing violence and opression of all people. You need to be objective and honest about revealing this.

  2. @Pandit American: What is the “non-Muslim’ or Muslim perspective that you speak about? Jammu city, Kathua, and Leh is free to decide what they want to do. It is the Kashmir and other regions of J&K who have been denied the right to decide their political future. The view point of Pandits, who together constitute 3 percent of the population of Kashmir, should be taken into consideration but they can’t deny that 97 percent of the other Kashmiris want nothing to do with India. They want Independence. Jammu is free to go but there must be a resettlement of close to 500,000 Muslims who were thrown out of Jammu by Hindu militants, while justice must be done to family members of between 100,000 and 200,000 Muslims were murdered in July and August 1947 in Jammu. Similarly Indian forces responsible for the murder of 80,000 Kashmiris must be held to account. Justice must be done to 209 Pandits who have been murdered in the last 20 years in Kashmir, while 160,000 of them must be resettled. There are 10000 Kashmiris who are still disappeared. There are close to 200,000 people injured or maimed in Kashmir. Who will account for them? We just need a human perspective, not some sectarian one. Kashmir needs independence from cruel Indian rule. Free Kashmir is the only solution.

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