From Caravan Magazine: “The Dogs of War“
IN THE SUMMER OF 1995, six trekkers were abducted by armed gunmen in the mountains of Kashmir, a few hours walk from the tourist town of Pahalgam. Just days after the kidnapping, one of the men, an American, had managed a daring solo escape, raising hope all around. Five weeks later, it all took a grotesque turn when the headless torso of Hans Christian Ostrø, a young Norwegian, turned up in a forest glade, the words “al-Faran” carved on his chest in letters 10 inches high. The search for the other four carried on for most of a year, but the two Britons, the American and the German were never found.
From the start, this was a story that gripped the imagination of the Western press. This shocking—and rare—brutality against foreign tourists played a critical part in shaping the international perception that Kashmir was in the grip of ‘Islamic terrorism’, a broad brushstroke that would soon be deployed to smear a range of diverse, complex issues.
From Mazameen: A Question for NC and PDP
I would like to ask just one question to Kashmir’s two main pro-India political parties. The question is rhetorical but also instructive. It is rhetorical because the answer to the question is already known to everyone, and, I concede, it is simply meant to put these parties in a spot. I don’t have a problem at this stage in asking rhetorical questions, for these parties never worry about landing themselves in ‘spots’, and because I have come to believe that much of their fumbling politics and thoughtlessness is deliberately cultivated to evade serious engagement with the people they claim to represent. Their unscrupulous opportunism and the impunity with which they grossly misinform their constituents has in a perverse way made these parties resilient and innovative, enough to turn each embarrassment they face into an opportunity to curry favor in Delhi. They act victims in Delhi, and helpless in Kashmir. Nevertheless, I believe my question is instructive as it might teach us a few things about how certain political minds function when faced with basic questions of reasoning.
Before I ask the question, which by the way is in every Kashmiri mind, I must give a small illustration of this last point. In Spring 2009, when I was teaching for a year in a university in Kashmir, N. N. Vohra, the India governor of Kashmir, was visiting the university. Amidst the dust storm that his chopper raised on the tiny hillside campus, a selected few of us were seated around a long table with the governor at its head. The vice-chancellor gave his brief introduction to what the university was doing and planning to do, which was followed by the governor’s fifteen-minute speech. (more…)
From Greater Kashmir: “Surankote Massacre circa 1998”
Sailan (Surankote), Oct 2: Before tears would overwhelm him, Muhammad Shabir Sheikh lit a cigarette. We were told that he always puffs a cigarette when he narrates the horrors of the August 3, 1998 night. On that night his father, mother, four sisters, two uncles, an aunt, nine cousins and a sister-in-law were slaughtered in his uncle’s house, some hacked with a rusting axe and some mowed down with bullets. The dead included 13 women.
Shabir, 24, had seen the killers coming. He fled to a nearby maize field and fixed his eyes on the house as the marauders barged in. He heard the shrieks and “save us” cries of his kin.
“In less than 10 minutes all of them were silenced. In the morning when I went to the house I slipped over on the blood-splattered floors of uncle’s house. Father’s left wrist had been sliced off his arm; mother’s face had been axed; uncle and aunt had been hacked with an axe. I just ran away,” Shabir, then 16, recalls. (more…)
These short comments are taken from responses to an essay by Mohamad Junaid and Balmurli Natarajan in Samar Magazine December, 2011.
Thank you for this thought provoking article. Three questions. I could not agree more with you about the “original sin” of South Asia. No one can deny that the question of nationalism in South Asia remains unresolved, and not just in Kashmir. No one could disagree that nationalist identities in South Asia have been shaped by imperialism, just that it is in incomplete statement, because they are also shaped by other historical factors such as anti-colonial movements, religion-based identities, linguistic (more…)
From Mazameen: On “Moving On” and “Happy Valley”
‘Perception management’ has been one of the mainstays of the counter-insurgency warfare. The logic goes like this: if you don’t want the political reality of, and hence your power over, the people you control to change, then you must at least change how those people perceive their reality. If you tell a different story of violence, the pain and suffering will be felt differently. There is nothing novel in this. The foundation of the advertisement industry from its inception lay in the supposed dichotomy between images and reality, in which reality is firmly grounded in the logic of profit, while images are infinitely plastic, infinitely malleable. This means reality will change only when the interests of the dominant powers shift, but images can be manipulated endlessly and at will—the more the images shift the better (something which in counter-insurgency manuals has acquired the dubious name ‘pluralizing the discourses’). There are two further presumptions involved: one, the people you control don’t have the capacity to really see through the thicket of images and discover their real situation; and, second, all politics is a play of images, and the winner is one who ultimately has control over the means of production of images. (more…)