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.”