From: The Economist

From The Economist: “Kashmir’s Troubles: Shaking the Mountains

“GROUP of special Indian police barged into a white-painted, single-storey house on the crisp morning of October 27th. They let their lathis do the talking. The wooden batons were first rammed through all the windows, furniture and a television. When the grey-haired owners protested, the rods were turned on them. The police broke the husband’s leg and beat his wife’s flesh a sickly purple. Before leaving, the officers added an insult, hurling religious books, including a Koran, to the floor.

Such intrusions are common in Palhallan, a hillside settlement in the north of Indian-run Kashmir. It looks like an idyllic rural spot, where bushels of red chilies hang from the eves of steep-roofed wooden houses and hay wains jostle with shepherds in narrow streets. But the village has been caught up in months of violent protests that have roiled Kashmir. In 2010 an uprising led by youthful Kashmiri separatists left over 110 people dead and thousands injured. Youngsters daub anti-India slogans on walls, yell at Indian police and soldiers to “go home”, and hurl stones.

In turn its residents have taken a beating. A young man lifts his hand to his head, showing a zip-like scar running from the crown of his skull to his neck. It is the result, he says, of a police battering. His lament is typical: “I am an unpolitical person, but they treat me like a terrorist.” Locals say they suffer collective punishment. Enraged officers usually fail to catch stone-lobbers, so lash out instead at families and residents nearby, accusing them, usually unfairly, of collusion.

As a military helicopter buzzes overhead, a resident counts eight people killed and many more hurt in the area in the previous three months. Bitterness deepens with each injury and funeral. “The police,” he says, “they want to start a war.” A return to war, or widespread armed insurgency, is unlikely for the moment. But fury has spread, spurring some young Kashmiris to demand a more violent, more bloody response than mere strikes and stones.

On November 10th three men in Pattan, a small town a few minutes’ drive down the hill from Palhallan, took matters into their own hands. Hidden in the crowd of a bustling market they marched up to a pair of police constables, shot them at close range, snatched their rifles and fled. Both the policemen died. The Kashmiris have aped Palestinian methods, mobbing India’s ill-trained, sometimes panicky, police, by raining stones and broken bricks on them.

The police—more in the habit of using sticks and bamboo shields—have struggled, fighting back with huge quantities of tear-gas (tens of thousands of canisters were fired in 2010) and then bullets. They have reckoned that any protesters who die have themselves to blame. Officials in Delhi bristle at any comparison between the year’s events and Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland or the unrest in neighbouring Tibet. Kashmiris, they insist, have their own land and state, enjoy religious freedom, are by no means the poorest in India and take part in elections, most notably in 2008.

But there are severe limits to their democracy. Peaceful protests are prevented, jails are crammed with political detainees, detention without charge is common, phones are partially blocked, the press censored and reporters beaten, broadcasters muffled and curfews imposed. Those who complain too fiercely online are locked away. The authorities in Kashmir and Delhi say these measures are temporary. They say that to prevent abuses, the police are now being trained and re-equipped. (Soldiers, for the most part, have been kept away from street clashes.) Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Kashmir, says that police officers may even be prosecuted for misdeeds. But the repression persists, and risks causing ever greater resentment and instability”… To Continue reading click on the link above.

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