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 police arrest Kashmiri teacher for giving out exam questioning crackdown on protests for “azadi” (freedom)

By AIJAZ HUSSAIN
The Associated Press
Friday, December 10, 2010

SRINAGAR — Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir arrested a college lecturer Friday on charges he gave his students an English exam filled with questions attacking India’s crackdown on demonstrations in the disputed region.

India considers it illegal to question the country’s claim to the region. For five months this summer, tens of thousands of residents took to the streets and threw stones at troops, demanding an end to Indian rule. At least 111 people – mostly teenage boys and young men – were killed in clashes with government forces, and hundreds more arrested.

The exam written by Noor Mohammed Bhat and administered to students across the region Wednesday included questions such as, “Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.”

It also asked students to translate this Urdu-language text into English: “Kashmir is burning once again. The warm blood of youth is being spilled like water. Police and soldiers are beating even small children to death. Bullets are being pumped into the chests of even girls and women. People in villages and towns are crying in pain. Rulers continue to be in a deep slumber. It appears they’ve turned dumb, deaf and blind.”

Police arrested Bhat on accusations of “spreading disaffection against the state,” said Shiv Murari Sahai, a top police officer. He was also accused of promoting secession. The charges carry a seven year prison sentence.

Students were perplexed by the exam. Continue reading

Kashmir Press on Strike to Lift Restrictions

Journalists protesting censorship in Srinagar, capital of Kashmir

Srinagar, July 10, KONS: In a major development during a highly volatile situation in the valley, Srinagar newspapers on Saturday suspended publication indefinitely to protest against “draconian” government measures which, according them, have “made it impossible for journalists to cover news stories and bring out newspapers.”

Media associations in Kashmir, which met for the second day on Saturday after announcing a one-day strike yesterday, extended their stir indefinitely saying that publications would not be resumed until concrete measures were taken to “restore the complete freedom of the media in Kashmir.”

Kashmir’s media professionals, both print and electronic, held an angry protest demonstration at the Press Enclave here, coming down heavily on the state government for its curbs and restrictions. Having gagged themselves with black bands, the journalists carried placards demanding lifting the “undeclared ban on newspapers” and the ‘curfew on news.” Continue reading