India & Kashmir: Breaking the silence

27 April 2013

In Kashmir, the scale of human rights violations—from collective punishment and assassinations, to custodial deaths and disappearances—is staggering. Yet little of what goes on in that Himalayan region reaches the outside. Those who resist Indian rule, the Indian government tells the world, are fundamentalist jihadis backed by Pakistan. But the reality is quite different. Kashmir is an unsettled issue, dating back to the disastrous 1947 British partition plan to divide the subcontinent in two: a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority Pakistan. Today, Kashmir is one of the most volatile places on the planet.

Pankaj Mishra writes for the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, and the Guardian. He is the author of Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, An End to Suffering, Temptations of the West, and From the Ruins of Empire.

ISR regular contributor David Barsamian, host and founder of Alternative radio (www.alternativeradio.org), spoke with Mishra in Boulder, Colorado.


David Barsamian: In your introduction to a collection of essays Kashmir: The Case for Freedom, you wrote: “Once known for its extraordinary beauty, the Valley of Kashmir now hosts the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world. With more than 80,000 people dead in an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan, the killing fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet.

In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curfews, raids, and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers, the Valley’s 4 million Muslims are exposed to extrajudicial execution, rape and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into penises.”

And then you proceed to ask the logical next question: “Why, then, does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination?”

Pankaj Mishra: There are several reasons for this, particularly in the last decade or so, there has been this idea of India emerging as a great economic power and also as a strategic ally of the United States. There has been a lot of bad news coming out of India that’s not been reported internationally, certainly not in the Western press. I think the government also places very heavy restrictions on reporting out of Kashmir, even on foreign correspondents.

Many of them start their tenure by going to Kashmir and being shocked and appalled, because nothing has prepared them for what they see there, so they go and do these anguished reports about this horrific situation. Very soon the government cracks down on them, and they are told to stay within their limits. And for the next of their three or four years in India , they observe those limits, because the price is you might have to leave your job or it might become harder for your newspaper to maintain a bureau or an office there. So there isn’t really enough reporting happening of the kind that happens, for instance, in Tibet. Even though the Chinese government does not allow journalists to go there, still reports filter out all the time. And when there is a massive event there, like the riots in Lhasa back in 20 08 09, it’s on the front pages and in the headlines for days on end. Continue reading

How Occupied Kashmiris “Celebrate” Freedom

Jashn-e-Azadi (How We celebrate Freedom)

a film by Sanjay Kak (2008)

Synopsis

It’s 15th August, India’s Independence day, and the Indian flag ritually goes up at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar, Kashmir. The normally bustling square is eerily empty – a handful of soldiers on parade, some more guarding them, and except for the attendant media crews, no Kashmiris.

For more than a decade, such sullen acts of protest have marked 15th August in Kashmir, and this is the point from where JASHN-E-AZADI begins to explore the many meanings of Freedom – of Azadi – in Kashmir.

In India, the real contours of the conflict in Kashmir are invariably buried under the facile depiction of an innocent population, trapped between the Terrorist’s Gun and the Army’s Boot. But after 18 years of a bloody armed struggle, after 60,000 civilians dead (and almost 7,000 enforced disappearances), what really is contained in the sentiment for Azadi, for freedom? Continue reading

Indian Govt should restore ‘civil and political rights’ of Geelani Sahib immediately: Dal Khalsa

 Amritsar (Punjab)
 25 Feb 2013
CHAIRMAN HURRIYAT CONFERENCE (G) JANAB SYED ALI SHAH GEELANI

Chairman of Hurriyat Conference  Syed Ali Shah Geelani

Condemning his continued house arrest in New Delhi, the Dal Khalsa has urged the Government of India to release chairman of Hurriyat (G) Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani immediately.

In a statement party head H S Dhami termed the detention of Geelani Sahib ever since the hanging of Afzal Guru on Feb 9 as ‘illegal and unjust’. Taking a dig at Indian civil society and eminent human rights activists based in the capital for their stoic silence, he said the government has stooped too low to gag the voice of Kashmiri people.

Urging the civil society to speak up against state’s highhandedness, he urged the officials of UNHRC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to intervene and take stock of the ground situation vis-à-vis rights violations.

He said the government was highly mistaken that by detaining Geelani Sahib it could break his resolve for carrying forward the struggle for Kashmir’s self-determination.

Accusing the Union Home Minister for his flip-flop position on “Saffron terror and RSS sponsored terrorism”, Mr Dhami urged Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde to restore the civil, political and human rights of Geelani Sahib immediately and allow him to be with his people and family members.

Arundhati Roy on Indian-Pakistani war clouds and the ‘secret’ hanging of Afzal Guru

Does Your Bomb-Proof Basement Have An Attached Toilet?

Afzal Guru

Afzal Guru

An execution carried out to thundering war clouds

What are the political consequences of the secret and sudden hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru, prime accused in the 2001 Parliament attack, going to be? Does anybody know? The memo, in callous bureaucratese, with every name insultingly misspelt, sent by the Superintendent of Central Jail No. 3, Tihar, New Delhi, to “Mrs Tabassum w/o Sh Afjal Guru” reads:

“The mercy petition of Sh Mohd Afjal Guru s/o Habibillah has been rejected by Hon’ble President of India. Hence the execution of Mohd Afjal Guru s/o Habibillah has been fixed for 09/02/2013 at 8 am in Central Jail No-3.

This is for your information and for further necessary action.”

The mailing of the memo was deliberately timed to get to Tabassum only after the execution, denying her one last legal chanc­e—the right to challenge the rejection of the mercy petition. Both Afzal and his family, separately, had that right. Both were thwarted. Even though it is mandat­ory in law, the memo to Tabassum ascribed no reason for the president’s rejection of the mercy petition. If no reason is given, on what basis do you appeal? All the other prisoners on death row in India have been given that last chance.

Since Tabassum was not allowed to meet her husband before he was hanged, since her son was not allowed to get a few last words of advice from his father, since she was not given his body to bury, and since there can be no funeral, what “further necessary action” does the jail manual prescribe? Anger? Wild, irreparable grief? Unquestioning acc­eptance? Complete integration?

After the hanging, there have been unseemly celebrations. The bereaved wives of the people who were killed in the attack on Parliament were displayed on TV, with M.S. Bitta, chairman of the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, and his ferocious moustaches playing the CEO of their sad little company. Will anybody tell them that the men who shot their husbands were killed at the same time, in the same place? And that those who planned the attack will never be brought to justice because we still don’t know who they are. Continue reading

The hanging of Afzal Guru is a stain on India’s democracy

Despite gaping holes in the case against Afzal Guru, all India’s institutions played a part in putting a Kashmiri ‘terrorist’ to death

The Guardian, Sunday 10 February 2013

Police bring Afzal Guru to court in Delhi in 2002

Indian police bring Afzal Guru to court in Delhi in 2002. Photograph: Aman Sharma/AP

Spring announced itself in Delhi on Saturday. The sun was out, and the law took its course. Just before breakfast, the government of India secretly hanged Afzal Guru, prime accused in the attack on parliament in December 2001, and interred his body in Delhi’s Tihar jail where he had been in solitary confinement for 12 years. Guru’s wife and son were not informed. “The authorities intimated the family through speed post and registered post,” the home secretary told the press, “the director general of the Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] police has been told to check whether they got it or not”. No big deal, they’re only the family of yet another Kashmiri terrorist.

In a moment of rare unity the Indian nation, or at least its major political parties – Congress, the Bharatiya Janata party and the Communist party of India (Marxist) – came together as one (barring a few squabbles about “delay” and “timing”) to celebrate the triumph of the rule of law. Live broadcasts from TV studios, with their usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts, crowed about the “victory of democracy”. Rightwing Hindu nationalists distributed sweets to celebrate the hanging, and beat up Kashmiris (paying special attention to the girls) who had gathered in Delhi to protest. Even though Guru was dead and gone, the commentators in the studios and the thugs on the streets seemed, like cowards who hunt in packs, to need each other to keep their courage up. Perhaps because, deep inside, themselves they knew they had colluded in doing something terribly wrong. Continue reading

India: “The jails are full of Soni Soris”

The Hindu, April 3, 2012

by Divya Trivedi

SISTERHOOD: Women narrate their stories. Photo: Divya Trivedi
[SISTERHOOD: Women narrate their stories. Photo: Divya Trivedi]

Women prisoners reveal the shocking conditions of their confinement –custodial violence, which has no sanction under law, is a part and parcel of the system

Following a minor altercation with the warden in Ward No. 8 of Tihar Jail, Zohara Baratali received severe blows on her lower abdomen that made her bleed for a full month before she succumbed to her injuries. That was a decade ago.

Last year, unable to bear the trauma of being stripped, beaten and sexually assaulted by three policemen inside Pratap Nagar Police Station in Jaipur, Seema Singh tried to end her life by jumping in front of a train. She did not die, but became a paraplegic for life. That did not deter the authorities from arresting her. Last week, the hearing for her bail application was adjourned, yet again.

The All India Meet on Women Prisoners & Custodial Violence held in Delhi on the weekend threw light on the plight of women prisoners in the country. Custodial violence, which is illegal and has no sanction under law, is a part and parcel of the system, with Soni Sori’s case having brought it into the forefront. The speakers shared their concern over the use of women’s sexuality to torture and criminalize them, with police reports usually mentioning these women as those with ‘low’ character. According to them around 99.9 per cent of women prisoners in the country belong to the backward Dalit, Adivasi and minority communities.

Trade Union activist Anu said, “The class divide runs deep in jails. If you are dressed well and look affluent, you won’t be asked to do a lot of the work. But others have to be on their feet all the time, even an 80 year old woman is not spared.” Speaking of her days in Tihar Jail, Anu said that the moment one enters the jail, even as an under trial, the perception is that the person is a criminal and an atmosphere of fear is created. Violence and abuses are a part of that fear psychosis. Continue reading

India: “Third Maoist letter to Odisha CM; Abducted MLA requests CM to release tribals jailed on fabricated charges”

Odisha Diary, Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Report by Manoranjan Routray; Koraput : The media in Koraput today received a third letter from the CPI (Maoist) Party regarding release of kidnapped BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka. The letter, addressed to media persons, lashes out at the Naveen Patnaik Government for deliberate inaction on demands stated by CPI (Maoist) Party in exchange of the release of the captive BJD MLA. CPI (Maoist) Party has criticized Government for repeatedly sending requests for appointing negotiators despite the Party’s clear statement that they do not want any mediators and expect the Government to use mediapersons to convey their willingness to act on demands released by the Party to the media ten days ago.

It may be recalled that leader of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) Narayanpatna Nachika Linga had already given a statement in media that their organisation has nothing to do with kidnapping of the BJD MLA. In this context the Party letter asks why then is the Government repeatedly asking for the mediation of CMAS in the matter of release of the captive BJD MLA ? The Party therefore concludes that the Government is trying to buy time by deliberately delaying decision on mediation and action on the stated demands. The letter asks media to reflect whether Government, which is repeatedly asking the CPI (Maoist) Party to abjure violence, is itself bound to this principle ? And whether or not the State is indulging in violence by launching combing operations ? Continue reading

Srinagar, Kashmir-bound US broadcaster is deported from New Delhi

[In yet another move to stem the growing tide of support and solidarity for the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, the Indian government has deported (upon arrival) the US writer, journalist, and radio show host David Barsamian.  Such attempts to censor and block the international flow of information and solidarity must be condemned by people everywhere.  This attempt to block the flow of information about the occupation of Kashmir and the struggles of the Kashmiri people, is too late:  the word is out.  This deportation will not protect the Indian government and its occupation--indeed, it only exhibits the repressive and undemocratic character of the Indian State for all to see, and denounce. -- Frontlines ed.]
by Suanshu Khurana, Bashaarat Masood, expressindia.com, kashmirlive.com
 September 24, 2011

David Barsamian, author and Alternative Radio host

David Barsamian was deported on arrival from the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Srinagar, New Delhi –  United States-based broadcaster and author David Barsamian, known for his trenchant criticism of US foreign policy, was deported on arrival from the Indira Gandhi International Airport early this morning.

Officials said he was deported for allegedly violating the terms of his visa during his last visit. He had published reports on his visit — which needs a journalist’s visa — while he was on a “tourist visa,” they said. This time, too, he had a tourist visa.

Barsamian was scheduled to travel to Srinagar next week, said Khurram Parvez, coordinator of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), in connection with the report by a state human rights probe panel on the over 2000 unmarked graves in north Kashmir.

“He had delivered lecturers here in December 2008 and then again came in February earlier this year,’’ said Parvez. “We were planning to take him to visit the unmarked grave sites. He has done several interviews on Kashmir earlier.” Continue reading

Stone pelters on bikes attack Kashmir police station

SRINAGAR: Over 300 motorcycle-borne stone pelters attacked a police station in this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, injuring six policemen. Over 70 attackers were arrested and 10 bikes were seized during the clashes, which lasted for five hours, police said Sunday.

As Muslims throughout the Kashmir Valley prayed in mosques to observe ‘Shab-e-Qadr’ — the holiest night according to the Muslim calendar — the stone pelters attacked a police station Saturday night, trying to re-enact the unrest witnessed here last year.

As security forces were busy facilitating the smooth conduct of prayers at various mosques in the city, the men attacked the old city’s Nowhatta police station, a police statement said here. Continue reading

Kashmir police arrested in deadly misconduct cases

(AFP) – 8/7/11

SRINAGAR, India — Three policemen and an army officer have been arrested in Indian Kashmir as part of separate investigations into the death of a man in custody and an allegedly faked gunbattle, officials said Monday.

Last month, Nazim Rashid, a 28-year-old shopkeeper, died after being detained by counter-insurgency police in the northern town of Sopore in connection with an unsolved murder.

The cause of his death was not disclosed, but it resulted in a one-day strike across the Himalayan state and promises from chief minister Omar Abdullah of “swift and exemplary action”.

“Two policemen have been arrested and a few others are under the scanner,” a police officer told AFP on Monday on condition of anonymity, adding that the arrests were made at the weekend. Continue reading

On Kashmir India acts as a police state, not as a democracy

Delhi has been unwilling to solve this tragic and brutal conflict, and has scuttled any attempt at meaningful discourse

Sunday 29 May 2011

Kashmiri women confront Indian soliders during a protest over the killing of a student in Srinagar. Photograph: Farooq Khan/EPA

Many years ago, I met two journalists from India in London and we found ourselves talking about Kashmir. Mostly, they listened patiently to my impassioned tale of what goes on, but the moment I touched upon the brutal counter-insurgency methods employed by the Indian security apparatus in the disputed territory – among them notorious “catch-and-kill” operations to execute suspected militants – they looked incredulous, made a quick excuse and left. Later, I learned that at least one of them believed that Kashmiris liked to exaggerate the excesses of the Indian armed forces.

In the reaction of those two men, I had witnessed the frightening success of India’s policy of denial and misrepresentation on Kashmir. India’s decision to censor the Economist last week, following the publication of a map that shows the disputed borders of Kashmir, represents two unsurprising but ominous things: that the country’s age-old intransigence over Kashmir still runs deep; and its willingness to curb freedom of speech over what it sees as sensitive matters of national interest. On Kashmir India continues to behave as a police state, not as the champion of democracy and freedom that it intends to be. Continue reading

Separatist strike shuts much of Indian-run Kashmir

By Aijaz Hussain Associated Press / February 11, 2011

SRINAGAR, India—Shops and businesses shut and road traffic was thin Friday across the Indian portion of Kashmir in response to a strike call by separatist groups to honor a pro-independence leader executed by India more than 25 years ago.

Police and paramilitary soldiers set up road checkpoints and banned assembly of more than four people to prevent protests in the Himalayan region, said a police officer on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Thousands of armed troops patrolled streets in Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, and other towns, while most public transport also stayed off the roads and the attendance was sparse in government offices. Continue reading

Arrest of girl evokes massive protests in south Kashmir

01/07/2011

United News of India
Srinagar, January 7, 2011

People today took to the streets at Tral, about 35 km from here in south Kashmir, protesting against the arrest of a girl, believed to be the sister of a Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant.

Official sources said people, including women and children, came out on the streets despite chilling weather conditions at Tral in Pulwama district after the news spread that police arreasted a girl, believed to be sister of a Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant during the night.

Raising slogans against the Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir police and the government, the demonstrators moved towards the main town from different nearby areas. They alleged that SOG raided her house and arrested her when they failed to nab the HM militant.

Additional security forces were rushed to the area and the situation was very tense, the sources said, adding that senior civil and police officials had rushed to the area.

Kashmir rapper uses rhymes to protest Indian rule

I PROTEST by MC Kash

Kashmir Intifada Exlusive I PROTEST(RAP) BY MC KASH

November 29, 2010

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — If you ask MC Kash, he’s just speaking the truth. But Kashmir’s breakout rapper’s songs court rebellion and could land him in jail.

Kash calls himself a rebel who uses sharp rhymes and beats instead of stones or guns to protest India’s rule over the mostly Muslim region in the Himalayas.

Kash, 20, whose real name is Roushan Illahi, has won a fan base among Kashmir’s youth, whose summer uprising against Indian rule inspired his local hit “I Protest.”

The lyrics — “Tales from the dark side of a murderous regime, an endless occupation of our land an’ our dreams” — tread dangerously close to sedition in India, where questioning the country’s claim to the disputed region of Kashmir is illegal. Continue reading

WikiLeaks cables: India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir

[In one of many such news reports from Kashmir this year, it was reported: "Srinagar, Aug 29: Torture of youth by police and paramilitary CRPF (central reserve police force) is proving deadly in the current unrest in Kashmir. Among the 64 victims of past 79 days, five persons have lost their lives due to alleged custodial torture and thrashing by the forces, the youngest victim being the 9-year old Sameer of Batamaloo." Now, in the Wikileaks release of "government secrets" we find further elaboration of torture as a basic method in India's occupation of Kashmir--which the US has called "India's internal affair."--Frontlines ed.]
The Guardian (UK), 16 December 2010

Beatings and electric shocks inflicted on hundreds of civilians detained in Kashmir, US diplomats in Delhi told by ICRC

US officials had evidence of widespread torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir, according to leaked diplomatic cables released tonight.

The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees. Continue reading