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“Will Not Comment on Recent Events in Jammu & Kashmir”: Detainees Being Released Sign Gov’t Form

Sputnik | January 12, 2020

Thousands were detained under India’s Public Safety Act, a law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial, in Jammu and Kashmir before the Narendra Modi-led government revoked Articles 370 of the Constitution, stripping the state of its special status on 5 August.

The detained people, who are being released after five months of imprisonment, have to sign a bond where they say they will not make any comment or statement on the “recent events” in Jammu and Kashmir.

The bond, signed under Section 117 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), includes Section 107, which states that the executive magistrate has the power to apprehend any individual for not more than a year on information that a person is likely to disturb peace and public tranquillity.

“I undertake that in case of release from the detention, I will not make any comment(s) or statement(s) or make public speech(s), (or) hold or participate in public assembly(s) related to the recent events in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, at the present time, since it has the potential of endangering the peace and tranquillity and law and order in the State or any part thereof for a period of one year,” section two of the bond reads.

Nearly 4,000 people were arrested and some political leaders were detained after the revocation of Article 370, over fears of outbreaks of unrest and “most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity”, news agency AFP had quoted an official as saying.

The government bifurcated the state into two federally-administered territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The union territory then imposed a communications clampdown as new charges for mobile phone services were imposed. Postpaid mobile calling and messaging services along with broadband internet have been resumed, but internet services remain suspended. India’s apex court has termed the restrictions unconstitutional.

A delegation of envoys from 15 countries such as the United States, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Maldives, Morocco, Fiji, Norway, Philippines, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Guyana visited the Jammu and Kashmir on 9 January.

January 12, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Blocks State-run Radio Pakistan’s Live Streaming for Highlighting Kashmir Issue

Sputnik – December 30, 2019

For four months, the Pakistani government has been accusing Twitter of suspending hundreds of accounts of Pakistanis for raising issue related to Indian-administered part of Kashmir. The communication blockade entered its 148th day in Kashmir since the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by Modi’s government.

Pakistan’s government has criticised the American social media giant Facebook for blocking the live streaming of news bulletins run by state-run Radio Pakistan, terming it a violation of basic human rights.

Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Ministry Firdous Ashiq Awan said that government will “make efforts for the restoration of the live streaming of Radio Pakistan’s news on Facebook”.

The minister said every time the state-run radio service tries to highlight “human rights violations” in Kashmir on social media platforms, “the accounts are suspended”.Earlier in the day, Radio Pakistan said its live streaming service of news bulletins was blocked for highlighting “Indian atrocities in Kashmir”.

The news coverage exposing “continued atrocities, curfew and military lockdown” led to the blockage, the statement read.

Radio Pakistan has also shared a screenshot message reportedly sent by Facebook in which the American firm claimed that “your post goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organisations”.

A huge number of Pakistani nationals have been venting their ire on social media since the Indian parliament revoked the decades-old temporary special status of Jammu and Kashmir State on 5 August and bifurcated it later into two federally-administered Union Territories.

A number of accounts of Pakistani journalists, activists and even some of government officials were suspended in August, triggering outrage among the people.

The Kashmir region has been a bone of contention for India and Pakistan. Both the nuclear-armed neighbours claim Kashmir in full but rule only part of the region.

December 30, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi Arabia reads the riot act to Imran Khan

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | December 17, 2019

The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 hosted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on December 18-21 was originally conceived as a landmark event in the politics of the Muslim world. It still is, albeit on a wet wicket struggling to tackle a nasty googly that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan threw at the event at the last minute.  

To recap, the idea of the KL Summit was born out of a trilateral pow-vow between Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed and Pakistan’s Imran Khan in September on the sidelines of the UN GA session in New York.

The common perception of the three countries was that the Muslim World failed to react forcefully enough to the emergent situation affecting the Kashmiri Muslims. Pakistan actively promoted the perception that the leadership of the ummah was not reacting forcefully enough over Muslim issues such as Kashmir.

On November 23, while announcing his decision to host the KL Summit, Mahathir said that the new platform hoped to bring together Islamic leaders, scholars and clerics who would propose solutions to the many problems facing the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims. He disclosed that dignitaries attending the KL Summit would include Erdogan, the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and Imran Khan.

The role of politics in development, food security, preserving national identity, and redistributing wealth were listed as other topics to be discussed, alongside the expulsion of Muslims from their homelands and the categorisation of Islam as the “religion of terrorism”.

In poignant remarks, Mahathir bemoaned that no Muslim country was fully developed, and that some Islamic nations were “failed states”. He said,

“Why is there this problem? There must be a reason behind this. We can only know the reason if we get the thinkers, the scholars, and the leaders to give their observations and viewpoints.

“Perhaps we can take that first step … to help Muslims recover their past glories, or at least to help them avoid the kind of humiliation and oppression that we see around the world today.”

Importantly, Mahathir described the summit as a meeting of minds that had the “same perception of Islam and the problems faced by the Muslims”.

From among the list of invitees, it now turns out that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will be attending tomorrow’s summit, but King Salman of Saudi Arabia has regretted that the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) is being bypassed.

Mahathir disclosed that King Salman  conveyed to him in a phone conversation that it was better that the Muslim issues were discussed in a full-fledged OIC meeting. Mahathir said laconically,

“He (King Salman) wanted to tell me the reasons why he couldn’t make it. He’s afraid that something not good will happen to the Muslims. He has a different opinion from us. He feels that matters like these (Muslim issues) shouldn’t just be discussed by two or three countries, and there should be an OIC meeting and I agreed with him.”

The testy exchange signalled that the Saudi regime sees the KL Summit as a calculated challenge to its leadership of the ummah and as an initiative about laying the foundations for an Islamic alliance.

Mahathir is outspoken but what is less noticed is that his positions actually align closely with those of Turkey and Pakistan. These include the Palestinian question, the situation in Jammu & Kashmir and the persecution of the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

According to the Malaysian news agency Bernama, the KL Summit “aims to revive Islamic civilization, deliberate (over) and find new and workable solutions for problems afflicting the Muslim world, contribute (to) the improvement of the state of affairs among Muslims and Muslim nations, and form a global network between Islamic leaders, intellectuals, scholars, and thinkers.”

In sheer brain power, Saudi Arabia cannot match such an agenda. A sense of frustration has been building up over the past decade or so among the Muslim countries that the OIC is reduced to an appendage of the Saudi foreign policies. Saudi Arabia’s rift with Qatar, its rivalries with Iran, the brutal war in Yemen, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, etc.  also seriously dented Riyadh’s image in the most recent years.

Of course, Saudis hold a big purse and that still translates as influence but the new Islamic forum is poised to move in a direction that is progressive and far more inspiring, with plans to pursue joint projects, including, eventually, the introduction of a common currency.

Mahathir is on record that this mini-Islamic conference could turn into a much grander initiative down the road. Such optimism cannot be disregarded since a growing number of Muslim-majority countries harbour great unease over the near-term prospect of the ascendancy of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the Saudi king and the next Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Saudi Arabia, anticipating the gambit being thrown down by Mahathir has reacted viciously to undercut the KL Summit. It tore into the summit’s ‘soft underbelly’ by reading the riot act to Imran Khan,  which put the fear of god into Imran Khan and how it happened we do not know, but the great cricketer panicked and has since called Mahathir to regret that he cannot attend the KL Summit.

No doubt, it is a big insult to Mahathir’s personal prestige but as the old adage says, beggars cannot be choosers and Imran Khan is left with no choice but to obey the Saudi diktat like a vassal.

With Imran Khan staying away, Mahathir is left to host his counterparts from Turkey, Iran, Qatar and Indonesia. The fizz has gone out of the KL Summit. Nonetheless, Mahathir is not the type of person to forget and forgive. His initial reaction to Imran Khan’s cowardly behaviour shows studied indifference, betraying his sense of hurt.

Pakistan is ultimately the loser here, as its credibility has been seriously dented. Imran Khan was the original promoter of the idea of the three-way axis of Turkey-Pakistan-Malaysia. But to be fair, his modest agenda was to create an exclusive India-baiting regional forum that he can use at will, whereas Mahathir turned it into an unprecedented Islamic forum that is independent of Saudi influence. Perhaps, Mahathir can only blame himself for the overreach.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

UN Security Council Meeting on Kashmir at China’s Request Postponed Indefinitely

Sputnik – December 17, 2019

A crucial closed-door meeting at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the Kashmir issue has been postponed for a month at least.

The meeting was scheduled on Tuesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Previously, a first such meeting was held in August this year in the aftermath of India’s decision to revoke the seven decades old special status of Kashmir on 5 August. However, the provisional schedule and daily meetings of the UNSC don’t mention the consultative meeting on Kashmir.

In its August programming schedule, the UNSC clearly mentioned the closed door consultation on India and Pakistan. But in December’s schedule no such meeting is planned. Two diplomats have also confirmed the development.

Currently, the decision to postpone the meeting on Kashmir came ahead of crucial boundary dispute talks between India and China.

India’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are expected to meet on 20-21 December to stabilise relations and discuss the contentious boundary issues between the two nations during Special Representatives-level talks.

The boundary discussion was stalled for months due to strained relations between the two Asian giants over Kashmir. Beijing termed the Indian decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir as unilateral and impinged upon the sovereignty of China.

The last time the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was on the UNSC agenda was during a meeting on 21 December 1971. It was followed by the adoption of a resolution calling for a durable ceasefire, the halt of all hostilities in conflict areas, and the provision of international assistance to refugees impacted by the territorial dispute.

In a related development, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has also cancelled his scheduled visit to Malaysia to participate in a meeting on Kashmir.The development comes two days after Khan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in Riyadh, during which matters related to bilateral relations were discussed.

A summit of Muslim leaders is expected to deliberate upon a shared agenda of Islamic countries and their collective challenges in a highly interconnected world.

India and Pakistan have contended for the Kashmir region, the southern part of which lies in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state (now a union territory), since the end of British rule in 1947. Despite a ceasefire being reached in 2003 following several armed conflicts, instability has continued, leading to the emergence of various extremist groups.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

The ballad of India’s Kashmir and Israel’s Palestine

Palestinian children play outside their dwelling in al-Eizariya town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank with the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim in the background.
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 29, 2019

“I believe the security situation will improve (in J&K), it will allow the refugees to go back, and in your lifetime, you will be able to go back … and you will be able to find security, because we already have a model in the world.”

“I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.” 

The above reported remarks by India’s consul-general in New York Sandeep Chakravorty while addressing an audience of Kashmiri Pandits raised some dust in the Indian media. But his job or career is no mortal danger.

For, Chakravorty must be an intelligent man and probably estimated that he was only articulating from a Track 1.5 platform the Modi government’s surreptitious policy in J&K  — following the Israeli footfalls of forcible occupation and colonisation of lands inhabited by alienated people. 

Whether the policy is doable or not is for time to tell. To my mind, the final word is not yet available whether even the brutal Israeli policy will work or not. Besides, circumstances are vastly different, and Kashmir is not an analogous situation. 

The main difference is that although the Indian state resorted to the use of force, much like Israel had done in Palestinian lands, the security situation has only deteriorated over the years, over decades. There are no two opinions that even half a million troops could not achieve anything by way of enduring results in the Kashmir valley. 

The ground realities in the valley militate against repression and state terrorism as viable policy option for a country such as India. The stark evidence of it lies in the government’s decision in August to change the status of J&K, which is an admission of failure rather than a mark of triumphant glory. 

Consul-general Chakravorty seems unaware how Israel went about systematically to prepare an external environment first by subduing the Arab countries that surrounded it and harboured sympathy, and were willing to support the Palestinian cause. Arguably, India too should begin with defeating and subduing Pakistan first? But, honestly, such an option is not available for India in our thermonuclear era, now or ever, the bravado of our ruling elite and their acolytes notwithstanding. 

Then, there is the western support for Israel, which helps it to get away with murder. The underlying factors here are complex and deep rooted in history. At its core, the western countries are constantly forced into an attitude of atonement for their anti-semitism that has a long and loathsome history dating back centuries. Remember the notorious Dreyfus affair in France — leave alone the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust, which makes Angela Merkel wobbly in the legs even today when she mentions Israel. 

Israel plays the “anti-semitic card’ very effectively. In actual practice, any criticism of Israeli state violations against Palestinians is instantly discredited as being “antisemitic”. Today, US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are in the crosshairs of the Israeli lobby for this reason. Corbyn’s sin is that he has pledged to cut military trade with Israel and move to officially recognise a Palestinian state, if elected to power. 

The well-known commentator Finian Cunningham recently wrote, “This conflation of valid criticism of the Israeli state with being “anti-Jew” is a cynical distortion which is wielded to give Israel impunity from international law. It plays on moral blackmail of critics by equating the historical persecution of Jews and in particular the Nazi holocaust with the sanctity of the modern Israeli state.” 

Unfortunately, there is a notion even amongst educated Indians (including bureaucrats in the Indian Foreign Service) that linking up with the Jewish organisations would enable India to piggy ride on the Israeli lobby in the US. The false notion largely stems from sinister claims about the influence of “Jewish money” — and, it is not of recent origin. Didn’t Brajesh Mishra, the NSA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, envisage a US-Israel-India condominium? 

The heart of the matter is that India is not Israel. Unlike Judaism, Hinduism is not an Abrahamic religion and it is not joined at the hips with the Christian world. This is one thing. Second, while large sections of Hindus too have suffered cruel persecution through centuries, it happened to be at the hands of their co-religionists. Clearly, there is no reason for atonement on the part of the West. 

Third, while Indian-Americans are a prosperous community relatively, their clout in the Wall Street is minimal. Unlike the “Jewish lobby”. Simply put, following the Israeli footfall on the occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian homeland or the territories illegally annexed during wars will not take India very far in regard of the J&K situation. 

The bottom line is that the western opinion on Kashmir is supportive of neither India nor Pakistan. It always rooted for the “Third Option” — an independent and sovereign state of Kashmir. The official US position, in particular, always made it a point to stress that any solution should take into account the “wishes of the Kashmiri people.” 

In the prevailing geopolitical situation in Asia, an independent Kashmir state will be a strategic asset for Washington. Surely, any colonisation of Kashmir Valley by non-Kashmiris grates against the US interests. Israel, on the contrary, is itself a western creation on the map of the Middle East and the US condones Israel’s war crimes and aggressive state policies as a matter of regional strategy. 

One would imagine that an Indian diplomat of the rank of ambassador would know that discretion is the better part of valour. Yet, he voiced maverick opinions like a run-of-the mill rabble-rouser on the Hindutva platform, which, he should be intelligent enough to grasp, would only serve to confirm Pakistani allegations regarding the Modi government’s intentions behind the change of status of J&K. The politicisation of the Foreign Service, which such sordid episodes highlight, won’t serve any good.

November 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Kashmir after India’s unilateral move: A story of fear and hopelessness

By Shahana Butt | Press TV | Nov 15, 2019

Indian-Administered Kashmir – More than 100 days have passed since India stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status and divided the state into two federally-ruled territories. The region has been observing a protest close down ever since; with shops, businesses and schools shunned by the people in protest against New Delhi’s move.

Although India has promised the return of normalcy in the region through equal rights and development; rumors are moving the other way round.

The return of check posts and eruption of new security bunkers across the Muslim majority region has pulled back the horror scenes of 1990’s in Kashmir and has all together made it more difficult for the people living in the world’s largest militarized zone.

In the past 100 plus days hundreds of bunkers have been built in addition to the existing security vigil; the prevailing circumstances have further silenced the people of Kashmir.

Press TV spoke to a cross section of people in Kashmir to know how they see this new Kashmir and what they faced in the past 100 plus days.

Since august 5 people of Kashmir are living in a controlled communication zone; with no internet facilities and limited cellular network that was provided after the intervention of India’s top court and international criticism.

In the absence of international concern and given New Delhi’s ‘not so clear’ Kashmir agenda people of Kashmir are caught in skepticism, doubt and fear.

Sooner or later so called ‘normalcy’ might return to the valley of Kashmir. But India’s unilateral move and the world’s turning a blind eye to the issue has left a deep-rooted impact on the lives of people here. This has added to the existing alienation of Kashmir, where people accuse both India and Pakistan of playing the Kashmir card for political and strategic gains.

Video Report

November 15, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

No Freedom for India’s Kashmir Valley Politicians, Jammu Counterparts Released

Sputnik – October 2, 2019

The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday released all politicians that had been held under house arrest in Jammu since India scrapped the region’s special constitutional status at the start of August.

Jammu region politicians have been released from detention ahead of local block development council elections scheduled for 24 October. Eight politicians were released from house arrest, including Devender Singh Rana, Raman Bhalla, Harshdev Singh, Chaudhary Lal Singh, Vikar Rasool, Javed Rana, Surjit Singh Slathia and Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo.

However, the state administration did not free politicians under house arrest in the Kashmir Valley as the situation there is still sensitive from a security point of view. Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah remain under house arrest.

Administration officials said the Jammu region is peaceful, and therefore, a decision was taken to release politicians detained before or on 5 August after India’s Parliament passed a law to revoke the quasi-autonomous status of the state.

The state is to be divided into two federally-administered territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from 31 October.

On 30 September, Jammu and Kashmir’s chief electoral officer announced that block development council elections would be held in October.

Meanwhile, several pleas were filed before the Supreme Court of India challenging the Central government’s 5 August decision to bifurcate the state into the federal government administered territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. On Tuesday, the top court gave the Central government a month to file its response to the pleas.

The court made it clear that if needed it would direct the government to produce all relevant documents pertaining to its decision to scrap Article 370.

It also said it will not entertain fresh petitions on the issue.

The bench said that it would allow a week for petitioners to file their replies to the Central and state governments’ counter-affidavits.

October 2, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Asian Century bypasses Modi’s India

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 1, 2019

The stunning news that India’s GDP growth rate is hitting a six-year low figure of 5 percent in the past six-year period comes as reality check. Many economists even hold the view that in actuality, take away the statistical jugglery, India’s actual GDP growth figure could be somewhere around 3 percent.

Either way, it is a dismal scenario. As mostly the case, it is the poor people who will suffer from the decline in the GDP growth rate than the rich. There is going to be a significant decline in the employment rate and the number of people below poverty line could rise. Clearly, the 5-trillion dollar economy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted about as his second term began 100 days ago, seems a pipe dream. Even to recall PM’s quote becomes a painful embarrassment.

In a Reuters poll of economists, analysts believe the slowdown could persist for two or three years while much needed structural reforms are put in place. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Thursday a big push on infrastructure spending would be needed to revive consumer demand and private investment. Structural reforms were also required to ease the path for businesses in India, it said.

What causes such profound disquiet is that all this appears to go way beyond a cyclical slowdown. The economy has lost momentum.

To be sure, the government policy approach will need to be multi-pronged. But this is also fundamentally a crisis of India’s political economy. Watch former PM Manmohan Singh’s stern warning that the looming crisis should not be underestimated, as it is a combustible mix of many elements that aren’t easy to separate — deficiency in statecraft, populist politics, political vendetta, flawed economic measures, bad economic management, lack of accountability, authoritarianism, etc.

There is a crucial foreign-policy dimension to it — India is in critical need of a peaceful external environment so that it can prioritise the economy. Plainly put, the government needs to apply itself diligently to keep down tensions in relations with Pakistan.

All that talk by senior cabinet ministers about “nuclear first use” and of “taking back” POK and Northern Areas from Pakistan is hogwash. Standing on such emaciated legs, no country can wage a war. Just throw into the dustbin all that jingoism.

Misplaced national priorities have brought the economy to a cul-de-sac. Glance through the statistics of the top ten fastest growing Asian economies today: Bangladesh (8.13%) ; Nepal (7.9%); Bhutan (7.4%); China (6.9%); Myanmar (6.8%); Philippines (6.7%);  Malaysia (5.9%) Pakistan (5.4%); Indonesia (5.1%); India – 5%

Modi becomes the first prime minister of independent India to take the country’s GDP growth rate below Pakistan’s. This should be rude awakening and should prompt honest soul-searching.

What a wasteful foreign policy our country has been saddled with, focusing on vainglorious projects that have no relevance to the “real India”! How does it help India if PM worships at the Krishna temple in Bahrain or receives the highest national award of the Emirati nation?

Alas, the diplomatic calendar of the present government since it took over in May shows that we are still focused on dream projects to boost the image of the Leader in the domestic audience and to pursue a US-centric foreign policy.

The foreign-policy priority today is to somehow “lock in” the Trump administration by buying more oil and LNG from the US even if at a much higher cost than what Iran is able to supply. By succumbing to the US diktat, India is compelled to import phosphates — a vital input for farming sector — via enterprising Emirati middlemen rather than directly from Iran, at an increased cost of 30 percent! Who cares?

The government prioritises a mega energy conference in Houston, Texas, later this month so that we can buy more energy from the US — and also, explore proposals for massive Indian investments in the American energy sector. The idea is to substantially contribute to “America First” so that Trump is somehow kept happy and the long-term “Indo-Pacific strategy” aimed at containing China can be pursued without hiccups.

Of late, the thrust of Indian diplomacy lies in warding off the Pakistani challenge on the Kashmir issue. But the more we go on that track, the more work it generates for our diplomats to “counter” the Pakistani backlash. It is all turning out to be a Catch-22 situation.

Not all the waters in the Ganges can clean the accumulating filth of the comparisons being bandied about in the world media between Modi’s India and Nazi Germany. We are going to get even more of all that when the European Parliament meets tomorrow to exchange views on the situation in J&K.

Delhi got the tip-off that the POK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider will be present at the European Parliament when it will discuss the Kashmir issue on September 2. So, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar gets through to Brussels post-haste in the weekend with tons of detergent powder to sanitise the lobby. Raja Farooq Haider versus Subrahmanyam Jaishankar: nothing could more graphically highlight the tragedy of Indian diplomacy today.

Forget about India attracting western businessmen as an investment destination in the prevailing setting. And, make no mistake, no one is yet accounting for the massive haemorrhage of resources in the deployment of a million troops in J&K till eternity. How many world economies can sustain such a futile enterprise?

Not even the US, the lone superpower. Trump has programmed his diplomats to delver on his stern demand that the American troop level in Afghanistan should be drastically reduced in immediate terms — from 14,000 troops to 8,600 troops. He thinks it is “ridiculous” and stupid that a great army trained to fight wars is deployed for police duties. Trump is pressing hard for a political solution.

Doesn’t some of all this rub on Modi when he converses with the leaders of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, the three top “Asian tigers”? Don’t they talk serious stuff when they get quality time with Modi — how well their countries are growing but how much better they still could if only India ceases to be a laggard in the neighbourhood?

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

Kashmir’s New Status: Why the West Turns a Blind Eye to Democracy Deficit in India

By Brian Cloughley | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 27, 2019

On August 23 the New York Times reported that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs “won’t say why foreign journalists continue to be blocked from setting foot in Kashmir” but managed to obtain a compelling first-hand account of one of the thousands of arrests by the authorities. In this instance “Asifa Mubeen was woken up by the sound of barking dogs as policemen began pouring into her yard. Her husband, Mubeen Shah, a wealthy Kashmiri merchant, stepped out onto their bedroom balcony in the night air. The police shouted that he was under arrest. When he asked to see a warrant, his wife said, the police told him there wouldn’t be one. ‘This is different,’ they said. ‘We have orders.’ It was the start of one of the biggest mass arrests of civilian leaders in decades carried out by India, a close American partner that bills itself as one of the world’s leading democracies…”

The appalling situation in Indian-administered Kashmir has been created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who announced on August 5 that he was annulling Article 370 of India’s Constitution, which since 1949 has given the territory (called a State by India) virtual self-government. It had its own Constitution and the most important thing was that the special status of the region allowed it to adhere to the ancient law prohibiting outsiders from buying land. The central government could not overrule the law — but with Modi’s repeal of Article 370 there is now direct rule by Delhi.

This means that the people of the territory have no say whatever in their own governance. It has also meant, thus far, the arrest and detention of some 4,000 people under the Public Safety Act which allows the authorities to jail anyone for up to two years without charge. That isn’t exactly democratic — and it is intriguing to think about how Donald Trump would regard such a law, were he aware of it.

Deficiency of democracy doesn’t stop there, because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act “grants the armed forces the power to shoot to kill in law enforcement situations, to arrest without warrant, and to detain people without time limits. The law forbids prosecution of soldiers without approval from the central government, which is rarely granted, giving them effective immunity for serious human rights abuses.”

The Public Safety and Special Powers Acts are in full swing in Indian-administered Kashmir, and the population is in effect under military occupation authorised by Modi’s ultra-right wing government in Delhi. It is, to all intents, occupied territory whose inhabitants have no say whatever in their own governance. (There were supposed to be elections this year, but with the invalidation of Article 370 these can no longer take place. It has all been carefully thought through.)

And the leaders of the US and Britain, these usually eloquent supporters of freedom for the peoples of the world, have made no critical statements about the mass arrests or cancellation of elections or total closure of means of communication, and they ignore the fact that India’s Constitution “explicitly declares that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression [Article 19(1)(a)].”

The New York Times managed to ascertain that in Kashmir, the thousands of detainees “have not been able to communicate with their families or meet with lawyers. Their whereabouts remain unknown. Most were taken in the middle of the night, witnesses said.” This smacks of dictatorship, for it is undeniable that detention and incarceration without trial is totalitarian rather than democratic.

It is barely credible that “Among the people who were rounded up were Mian Qayoom, president of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association; Mohammed Yasin Khan, chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance; Raja Muzaffar Bhat, an anticorruption crusader; Fayaz Ahmed Mir, a tractor driver and Arabic scholar; and Mehbooba Mufti, the first woman elected as Kashmir’s chief minister. Shah Faesal, another politician, was arrested at New Delhi’s international airport, bags checked, boarding pass in hand, heading for a fellowship at Harvard. Several prominent state politicians have also been put under house arrest; they told Indian news outlets they had been ordered not to engage in any ‘political activity’.”

But there hasn’t been a peep of protest from Britain’s Boris Johnson, he who showed solidarity with the protestors in Hong Kong by declaring “I do support them and I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way.”

There hasn’t been a squeak of remonstrance from Washington, either, where Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the rule of President Maduro “is undemocratic to the core” and Trump committed his country to “stand with… all Venezuelans who seek to restore democracy and the rule of law.”

If Johnson and Trump are so supportive of democracy, why do they not protest about mass arrests and detentions and cancellation of democratic elections in Indian-administered Kashmir? Why do they not take Modi to task for his excesses? It was recorded on August 23 that in Indian-administered Kashmir, “Data obtained by Reuters showed 152 people reported to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Shri Maharaj Hari Singh with injuries from pellet shots and tear gas fire between Aug 5 and Aug 21.” It is regrettable that Trump and Johnson ignored the fact that on August 22 “UN human rights experts today called on the Government of India to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests imposed in Indian-Administered Kashmir this month.” It was also stated by the UN experts, headed by Special Rapporteur David Kaye, that “The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the Government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality. The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”

The absence of any criticism by Trump and Johnson of the military rule excesses in Indian-administered Kashmir will encourage Modi and his far-right nationalist administration to extend their racist grip throughout India. Since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 there has been a most marked increase in officially-endorsed communal violence, mainly against Muslims but also involving other minority groups. These outbreaks of Hindu-supremacy barbarity are sponsored largely by a militant organisation called the Bajrang Dal which as noted in the New Yorker “has either been banned or has lurked at the margins of Indian society. But [since 2014] the militant group has been legitimized and grown exponentially more powerful. In the past seven years, according to Factchecker, an organization that tracks hate crimes, there have been a hundred and sixty-eight attacks by Hindu extremists, in the name of protecting cows, against Muslims and other religious minorities.”

Indian democracy is under grave threat from racist Hindu supremacists, and the New York Times rightly considers it disquieting that Modi “seems intent on digging in, and he has the Indian public firmly behind him. Many Indians see Kashmir as an integral part of India, and this move has stirred up jingoist feelings. Indian news channels have referred to the detainees being flown out of Kashmir as ‘Pakistani terrorists’ or ‘separatist leaders,’ toeing the government line.”

The most appalling thing is that Modi’s India appears intent on eradicating Muslims and that the vast majority of Hindus are right behind him. In order for him to succeed, there has to be destruction of democracy — and that’s exactly what is happening.

August 27, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Journalism faces dire situation in Kashmir

By Shahana Butt – Press TV – August 22, 2019

Kashmir – In Indian-administered Kashmir, journalists and journalism are suffering the worst work challenges in decades. There has been a complete communication gag in the region since New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status.

This is not a usual gathering or a political meeting, these are the journalists gathered under one roof, working on Kashmir stories.

Kashmir’s administration has created a media center for journalists in the region following the criticism over the media dysfunction.

In the absence of communication facilities like the internet, mobile phones and landlines, this facilitation center created by government is the only source for journalists to send their reports out of Kashmir.

These four desktops and one cellular mobile phone have become lifeline for journalists working from Kashmir. From early morning till late evening, journalists wait in queues for their turn to come.

After New Delhi’s move of scrapping Kashmir’s autonomous status on August 5, Kashmir has witnessed a complete communication blackout. Not just international media outlets suffered, but local and regional news networks and journalists were hit the hardest.

In Indian-administered Kashmir, there are hundreds of journalists associated with more than a hundred news dailies and over 40 national and international media outlets, the communication blackout not only stopped local publications but pushed the entire Himalayan region to somewhere around stone age.

The local administration in Kashmir has no idea as to when this communication blockade will end. Journalists say the information blackout has furthered the fear among people and has created space for rumor-mongering and false news, adding to the already existing panic.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370

Photograph Source: Motohiro Sunouchi – CC BY 2.0
By Nyla Ali Khan | CounterPunch | August 20, 2019

Introduction

The recent unilateral decision of Prime Minister Modi’s government to revoke Article 370, which guaranteed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir; dismemberment of the State, and its diminishment are flagrant violations of the sovereign Constitution of India. These maneuvers jeopardize the federal structure of India. The erosion of the rights and privileges of a State is an unhealthy precedent to set in a diverse and federal country. The current curbing of political and civil rights in Jammu and Kashmir is deplorable.

Historical Perspective

On 26 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the “Instrument of Accession” to India, officially ceding to the government of India jurisdiction over defense, foreign affairs and communications. The accession of J & K to India was accepted by Lord Mountbatten with the proviso that once political stability was established in the region, a referendum would be held in which the people of the State would either validate or veto the accession. After signing the Instrument of Accession, the maharaja appointed his political adversary, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, as the head of an interim government.

On 2 November 1947, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, reiterated his government’s pledge to not only the people of Kashmir, but also to the international community, to hold a referendum in Indian and Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir under the auspices of a world body like the United Nations, in order to determine whether the populace preferred to be affiliated with India or Pakistan. Nehru emphasized this commitment several times at public forums over the next few years.

In January 1948 India referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations. Prime Minister Nehru took the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir beyond local and national boundaries by bringing it before the UN Security Council, and seeking a ratification of India’s “legal” claims over Kashmir. The UN reinforced Nehru’s pledge of holding a plebiscite in Kashmir, and in 1948 the Security Council established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to play the role of mediator in the Kashmir issue. The UNCIP adopted a resolution urging the government of Pakistan to cease the infiltration of tribal mercenaries and raiders into J & K. It also urged the government of India to demilitarize the State by “withdrawing their own forces from Jammu and Kashmir and reducing them progressively to the minimum strength required for the support of civil power in the maintenance of law and order.” The resolution proclaimed that once these conditions were fulfilled, the government of India would be obligated to hold a plebiscite in the State in order to either ratify or veto the accession of J & K to India.

In the meantime, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir negotiated with the central government to ensure that it would be allowed to function as a fully autonomous unit within the federation. Article 370 of the Constitution of India ensured that apart from defense, foreign affairs, and communications, decisions with regard to other matters would be determined with the consent of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. There was a reason that special status was guaranteed to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. On 13 July 1950, the new government of J & K, headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, made a landmark decision.

“Between 1950 and 1952, 700,000 landless peasants, mostly Muslims in the Valley but including 250,000 lower-caste Hindus in the Jammu region, became peasant-proprietors as over a million acres were directly transferred to them, while another sizeable chunk of land passed to government-run collective farms. By the early 1960s, 2.8 million acres of farmland (rice being the principal crop in the Valley) and fruit orchards were under cultivation, worked by 2.8 million smallholding peasant-proprietor households.” (Bose 2003: 27–28)

This metamorphosis of the agrarian economy had groundbreaking political consequences. This revolutionary measure, which greatly improved the human development index in the State, would not have been possible without Article 370. The political logic of autonomy and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was necessitated by the need to bring about socioeconomic transformations.

The legislative bill, which had orchestrated this transformation, won the unstinting support of thousands of erstwhile disenfranchised peasants. But displaced landlords and officials in the Dogra regime made no bones about their hatred of the political supremacy of the new class of Kashmiri Muslims. This hatred unleashed a reign of terror and brutality against the Valley’s new political class.

The “defining moment in Jammu and Kashmir’s post-Indian independence history” came in 1950 when disenfranchised peasants “were freed from the shackles of landlords through a law that gave them ownership rights on the land they tilled. . . . The sweeping land reforms under the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act passed on July 13, 1950, changed the complexion of Kashmiri society. The historical image of the emaciated local farmer in tatters, with sunken faces and listless eyes, toiling to fill the granaries of landlords changed overnight into one of a landowner who expected to benefit from the labor he had put in for generations” (Ahmed, F.). This program emphasized the necessity of abolishing exploitative landlordism without compensation and enfranchising tillers by granting them the lands they worked on. Many policy makers in the Indian subcontinent, political scientists, and economists have acknowledged the effectiveness and rigor of land reforms in Jammu and Kashmir, which benefited underprivileged farmers in all three parts of the State—Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.

In August 1952, the government of J & K reiterated the commitment of to the principles of secularism and democracy which enabled the forging of ties with the Indian nation-state: “The supreme guarantee of our relationship with India is the identity of secular and democratic aspirations, which have guided the people of India as well as those of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle for emancipation, and before which all constitutional safeguards will take a secondary position.” For the layperson, the “new Kashmir” in which the hitherto peripheralized Muslim population of the Valley and marginalized women would reinsert themselves into the language of belonging a welcome development.

But the nationalist project of the Praja Parishad had sought the subsumption of religious minorities into a centralized and authoritarian state since the 1940s. These integrative and centralist measures were met with massive opposition, which the government of India suppressed with bloody maneuvers. The volcanic nature of the protests in the Valley gave a veneer of legitimacy to its action of large-scale repression of leaders of the Plebiscite Front. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was also arrested, for the umpteenth time, under the Defense of India Rules, to further hush the voices of dissent.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah underlined in his letter to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, in February 1953,

When talking about the constitutional aspect, it is sometimes conveniently forgotten that the Praja Parishad wants that Article 370 should be expunged from the Constitution. So far as we are concerned, we have maintained that the special position accorded to the State can alone be the source of a growing unity and closer association between the State and India. The Constituent Assembly of India took note of the special circumstances obtaining in the State and made provisions accordingly.

To entertain the doubt that the Muslims of Kashmir would now give up their secular ideals would be uncharitable, although the statements and the pronouncements made by the leaders of communal parties in India from time to time and the inspiration and guidance they are providing at the moment to the Praja Parishad leadership in Jammu is, no doubt, giving them a rude shock. But let me assure you and the people of India that the Muslims in Kashmir will not falter from their ideals even if they are left alone in this great battle for secularism and human brotherhood.

As I’ve said on other forums, the Constitution of India seeks to guarantee respect for the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and the integrity of the electoral process. But time and again, provisions of the Constitution of India have been breached in Kashmir, and the ideals that it enshrines have been forgotten. In Kashmir, rights relating to life, liberty, dignity of the people, and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, embodied in the fundamental covenants and enforceable by courts of law, have been flouted. The revocation of Article 370, without consultation, makes it clear that the much lauded parliamentary democracy in India has been unable to protect a genuine democratic set-up in Kashmir.

Heads of Governments cannot avoid their ethical and moral responsibilities toward the peoples of the States in a federal country. The lives of those people cannot be torn asunder by paramilitary forces and other “upholders” of the law.

Blow to Kashmiriyat 

“Kashmiriyat” was not handed down to me as an unachievable and abstract construct. On the contrary, it was crystallized for me as the eradication of a feudal structure and its insidious ramifications. It was the right of the tiller to the land he worked on. It was the unacceptability of any political solution that did not take the aspirations and demands of the Kashmiri people into consideration. It was the right of Kashmiris to high offices in education, the bureaucracy and government; the availability of medical and educational facilities in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It was the preservation of literatures and and historical artifacts that defined an important aspect of “Kashmiriyat.” It was the formation of the Constituent Assembly of J & K to institutionalize the Constitution of the State in 1951, which was an enormous leap toward the process of democratization. It was the fundamental right of both women and men to free education up to the university level. It was, constitutionally, equal opportunities afforded to both sexes in the workplace. It was the nurturing of a contact zone in social, political and intellectual ideologies and institutions. It was pride in a cultural identity that was generated in a space created by multiple perspectives.

Trust cannot be won and unity cannot be maintained by the display of national chauvinism and erosion of Kashmiriyat.

Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Kashmir Caged: A Fact-Finding Report

Army patrol on the road | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
By Jean Drèze, Kavita Krishnan, Maimoona Mollah and Vimal Bhai | Indian Cultural Forum | August 14, 2019

We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.

When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops – and all police stations – were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.

We travelled widely, inside and outside Srinagar – far beyond the small enclave (in the centre of Srinagar) where the Indian media operates. In that small enclave, a semblance of normalcy returns from time to time, and this has enabled the Indian media to claim that life in Kashmir is back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We spent five days moving around and talking to hundreds of ordinary people in Srinagar city, as well as villages and small towns of Kashmir. We spoke to women, school and college students, shopkeepers, journalists, people who run small businesses, daily wage labourers, workers and migrants from UP, West Bengal and other states. We spoke to Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who live in the Valley, as well as Kashmiri Muslims.

Everywhere, we were cordially received, even by people who were very angry about the situation or sceptical of our purpose. Even as people expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India, they extended warmth and unstinting hospitality to us. We are deeply moved by this.

Except for the BJP spokesperson on Kashmir Affairs, we did not meet a single person who supported the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. On the contrary, most people were extremely angry, both at the abrogation of Article 370 (and 35A) and at the manner in which it had been done.

Anger and fear were the dominant emotions we encountered everywhere. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera. Anyone who speaks up is at risk of persecution from the government.

Many told us that they expected massive protests to erupt sooner or later (after restrictions were relaxed, after Eid, after 15 August, or even later), and anticipated violent repression even if the protests were peaceful.

A summary of our observations

  • There is intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done.

  • To control this anger, the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemists’ shops and police stations, most establishments are closed for now.

  • The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too at a time of the BakrEid festival that is meant for abundance and celebration.

  • People live in fear of harassment from the government, army or police. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.

  • The Indian media’s claims of a rapid return to normalcy in Kashmir are grossly misleading. They are based on selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.

  • As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later.

Reactions To The Government’s Treatment of J&K

  • When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passengers could switch on our mobiles, the entire flight (with mostly Kashmiris in it) burst into mocking laughter. “What a joke”, we could hear people say – since mobile and landline phones and internet have all been blocked since 5 August!

  • As soon as we set foot in Srinagar, we came across a few small children playacting in a park. We could hear them say ‘Iblees Modi’. ‘Iblees’ means ‘Satan’.

  • The words we heard over and over from people about the Government decisions on J&K were ‘zulm’ (oppression), ‘zyadti’ (excess/cruelty), and ‘dhokha’ (betrayal). As one man in Safakadal (downtown Srinagar) put it, “The Government has treated us Kashmiris like slaves, taking decisions about our lives and our future while we are captive. It’s like forcing something down our throats while keeping us bound and gagged, with a gun to our heads.”

  • In every lane of Srinagar city, every town, every village, that we visited, we received an extensive schooling from ordinary people, including school kids, on the history of the Kashmir dispute. They were angry and appalled at the manner in which the Indian media was whitewashing this history. Many said: “Article 370 was the contract between Kashmir’s leadership and India’s. Had that contract not been signed, Kashmir would never have acceded to India. With Article 370 gone, India no longer has any basis for its claim over Kashmir.” One man in the Jahangir Chowk area near Lal Chowk, described Article 370 as a ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) symbolising a contract (analogous to the marital contract) between Kashmir and India. (More on people’s reactions to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A below)

  • There is widespread anger against the Indian media. People are imprisoned in their homes, unable to communicate with each other, express themselves on social media, or make their voices heard in any way. In their homes, they watch Indian TV claim that Kashmir welcomes the Government decisions. They seethe with rage at the erasure of their voices. As one young man in Safakadal put it, “Kiski shaadi hai, aur kaun naach raha hai?! (It’s supposed to be our wedding, but it’s only others who are dancing!) If this move is supposed to be for our benefit and development, why not ask what we ourselves think about it?”

Reactions To The Abrogation Of Article 370 and 35A

  • A man in Guree village (Anantnag district) said: “Hamara unse rishta Article 370 aur 35A se tha. Ab unhone apne hi paer par kulhadi mar di hai. In Articles ko khatm kar diya hai. Ab to ham azad ho gaye hain.” (Our relation with them (India) was through Article 370 and Article 35A. Now they have themselves committed the folly of dissolving these Articles. So now we are free.” The same man raised slogans of “We want freedom” followed by slogans of “Restore Articles 370 and 35A.”

  • Many described Article 370 and 35A as Kashmir’s “pehchan” (identity). They felt that the abrogation of these Articles is a humiliating attack on Kashmir’s self-respect and identity.

  • Not all demanded restoration of Article 370. Many said that it was only the parliamentary parties who had asked people to have faith that India would honour the contract that was Article 370. The abrogation of Article 370 only discredited those “pro-India parties”, and vindicated those who argued for Kashmir’s “azaadi” (independence) from India, they felt. One man in Batamaloo said: “Jo india ke geet gate hain, apne bande hain, ve bhi band hain! (Those who sang praises of India, India’s own agents, they too are imprisoned!” A Kashmiri journalist observed, “Many people are happy about the treatment the mainstream parties are getting. These parties batted for the Indian State and are being humiliated now.”

  • “Modi has destroyed India’s own law, its own Constitution” was another common refrain. Those who said this, felt that Article 370 was more important to India (to legitimise its claim to Kashmir) than it was to Kashmir. But the Modi Government had not only sought to destroy Kashmir, it had destroyed a law and Constitution that was India’s own.

  • A hosiery businessman in Jahangir Chowk, Srinagar said, “Congress ne peeth mein choora bhonka tha, BJP ne saamne se choora bhonka hai.” (Congress had stabbed us from the back, BJP is stabbing us up front). He added, “They strangled their own Constitution. It’s first step towards Hindu Rashtra.”

  • In some ways, people were more concerned about the effects of the abrogation of 35A than that of 370. It is widely recognised that Article 370 retained only nominal, symbolic autonomy and had already been diluted. With 35A gone, though, people fear that “State land will be sold cheap to investors. Ambani, Patanjali etc can come in easily. Kashmir’s resources and land will be grabbed. In Kashmir as it stands now, education and employment levels are better than in the mainland. But tomorrow Kashmiris will have to compete for Government jobs with those from other states. After one generation, most Kashmiris won’t have jobs or be forced to move to the mainland.”

“Normalcy” – Or “Peace Of The Graveyard”?

Is the situation in Kashmir “normal” and “peaceful”? The answer is an emphatic NO.

  • One young man in Sopore said: “This is bandook ki khamoshi (the silence at gunpoint), kabristan ki khamoshi (the peace of the graveyard).”

  • The newspaper Greater Kashmir had one (front) page of news and a sports page at the back: the two inside pages were full of cancellation announcements of weddings or receptions!

Invitations cancelled I Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • Between 5-9 August, people had suffered for lack of food, milk, and basic needs. People had been prevented even from going to hospitals in case of sickness.

  • The Government claim is that only Section 144 has been imposed, not “curfew”. But in reality, police vans keep patrolling Srinagar warning people to “stay safe at home and not venture out during the curfew”, and tell shops to close their shutters. They demand that people display “curfew passes” to be allowed to move about.

  • All of Kashmir is under curfew. Even on Eid, the roads and bazaars were silent and desolate. All over Srinagar, mobility is restricted by concertina wires on streets, and massive paramilitary deployment. Even on Eid, this was the case. In many villages, azaan was prohibited by the paramilitary and people were forced to do namaaz prayers at home rather than collectively at the mosque as it usual on Eid.

  • In Anantnag, Shopian and Pampore (South Kashmir) on the day of Eid, we only saw very small kids dressed in Eid finery. Everyone else was in mourning. “We feel like we’re in jail”, said a woman in Guree (Anantnag). Girls in Nagbal (Shopian) said, “With our brothers in police or army custody, how can we celebrate Eid?”

  • On 11 August, on the eve of Eid, a woman at Sopore told us she had come to the bazaar during a brief respite in the curfew, to buy a few supplies for Eid. She said: “We were prisoners in our own homes for 7 days. Even today, shops are closed in my village Langet, so I came to Sopore town to shop for Eid and to check on my daughter who is a nursing student here.”

Eid in Pulwama | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • “It’s Army rule not Modi rule. There are more soldiers here than people”, said a young baker at Watpura near Bandipora. His friend added, “We’re afraid, because the army camp nearby keeps imposing impossible rules. They insist we have to return within half an hour if we leave home. If my kid isn’t well, and I have to take her to the hospital, it may take more than half an hour. If someone visits their daughter who lives in next village, they may take more than half hour to return. But if there’s any delay, they will harass us.” The CRPF paramilitary is everywhere, outside nearly every home in Kashmir. These are clearly not there to provide “security” to Kashmiris – on the contrary, their presence creates fear for the people.

  • Sheep traders and herders could be seen with unsold sheep and goats. Animals they had been rearing all year long, would not be sold. This meant they would incur a huge loss. With people unable to earn, many could not afford to buy animals for the Eid sacrifice.

  • A shopkeeper from Bijnore (UP) showed us the stacks of unsold sweets and delicacies going waste, since people could not buy them. Shops and bakeries wore a deserted look on the eve of Eid, with their perishable food items lying unsold.

  • An asthmatic auto driver in Srinagar, showed us his last remaining dose of salbutamol and asthalin. He had been trying for the past several days to buy more – but the chemists’ shops and hospitals in his area had run out of stocks. He could go to other, bigger hospitals – but CRPF would prevent him. He showed us the empty, crushed cover of one asthalin inhaler – when he told a CRPF man he needed to go further to get the medicine, the man stamped on the cover with his boot. “Why stamp on it? He hates us, that’s why”, said the auto driver.

Protests, Repression, and Brutality

  • Some 10,000 people protested in Soura (Srinagar) on 9 August. The forces responded with pellet gun fire, injuring several. We attempted to go to Soura on 10 August, but were stopped by a CRPF barricade. We did see young protestors on the road that day as well, blockading the road.

  • We met two victims of pellet gun injuries in SMHS hospital in Srinagar. The two young men (Waqar Ahmad and Wahid) had faces, arms and torso full of pellets. Their eyes were bloodshot and blinded. Waqar had a catheter in which the urine, red with blood from internal bleeding, could be seen. Their family members, weeping with grief and rage, told us that the two men had not been pelting stones. They had been peacefully protesting.

Pellet gun victim | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai
  • On 6 August, a graphic designer for the Rising Kashmir newspaper, Samir Ahmad, (in his early 20s) had remonstrated with a CRPF man near his home in the Manderbag area of Srinagar, asking him to allow an old man to pass. Later the same day, when Samir opened the door to his house, CRPF fired at him with a pellet gun, unprovoked. He got 172 pellets in his arm and face near the eyes, but his eyesight is safe. It is clear that the pellet guns are deliberately aimed at the face and eyes, and unarmed, peaceful civilians standing at their own front doors can be targets.

  • At least 600 political leaders and civil society activists are under arrest. There is no clear information on what laws are invoked to arrest them, or where they are being held.

  • A very large number of political leaders are under house arrest – it is impossible to ascertain how many. We tried to meet CPIM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami – but were refused entry into his home in Srinagar, where he is being under house arrest.

  • In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were very young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by police or army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention. We met a 11-year-old boy in Pampore who had been held in a police station between 5 August and 11 August. He had been beaten up, and he said there were boys even younger than him in custody, from nearby villages.

  • Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids. The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” – i.e killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history. As one neighbour of an arrested boy said, “There is no record of these arrests. It is illegal detention. So if the boy “disappears” – i.e is killed in custody – the police/army can just say they never had him in custody in the first place.”

  • But the protests are not likely to stop. A young man at Sopore said: “Jitna zulm karenge, utna ham ubharenge” (The more you oppress us, the more we will rise up) A familiar refrain we heard at many places was: “Never mind if leaders are arrested. We don’t need leaders. As long as even a single Kashmiri baby is alive, we will struggle.”

The Gag On Media

  • A journalist told us: “Newspapers are printing in spite of everything. Without the internet, we do not get any feed from agencies. We were reduced to reporting the J&K related developments in Parliament, from NDTV! This is undeclared censorship. If Govt is giving internet and phone connectivity to police but not to media houses what does it mean? We had some people come to our offices, speaking on behalf of Army and CRPF, asking “Why are you publishing photos of the curfew-affected streets?”

  • Kashmiri TV channels are completely closed and unable to function.

  • Kashmiri newspapers that carry the barest mention of protests (such as the one on Soura) are made to feel the heat from the authorities.

  • Foreign press reporters told us that they are facing restrictions on their movement by the authorities. Also, because of the lack of internet, they are unable to communicate with their own main offices.

  • When we visited Press Enclave in Srinagar on 13 August, we found the newspaper offices closed and the area deserted except for a few stray journalists, and some CID men. One of the journalists told us that papers could not be printed till at least 17 August, because they have run out of newsprint which comes from Delhi.

  • As mentioned above, one graphic designer working with a newspaper suffered pellet gun injuries, during a completely unprovoked attack by CRPF

A checkpoint in Srinagar | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai

Does Kashmir Lack Development?

In an op-ed in the Times Of India (August 9, 2019), former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Nirupama Rao wrote: “A young Kashmiri told this writer a few months ago her birthplace was in the “stone age”; that in terms of economic development, Kashmir was two hundred years behind the rest of India.”

We struggled to find this “backward”, “stone age” Kashmir anywhere at all.

  • It is striking how in every Kashmiri village, we found young men and women who go to college or University; speak Kashmiri, Hindi and English fluently; and are able to argue points of Constitutional and international law in relation to the Kashmir conflict with factual accuracy and erudition. All four of the team members are familiar with villages in North Indian states. This high level of education is extremely rare in any village in, say, Bihar, UP, MP, or Jharkhand.

  • The homes in rural Kashmir are all pucca constructions. We saw no shacks like the ones that are common in rural Bihar, UP, Jharkhand.

  • There are poor people in Kashmir, certainly. But the levels of destitution, starvation and abject poverty seen in many North Indian states, is simply absent in rural Kashmir.

  • We met migrant labourers from North India and West Bengal at many places. They told us that they feel safe and free from xenophobic violence that they face in, say, Maharashtra or Gujarat. Daily wage migrant labourers told us “Kashmir is our Dubai. We earn Rs 600 to Rs 800 per day here – that is three or four times what we earn in other states.”

  • We found Kashmir refreshingly free of communal tension or mob lynchings. We met Kashmiri pandits who told us they felt safe in Kashmir, and that the Kashmiris always celebrate their festivals together. “We celebrate Eid, Holi, Diwali together. That is our Kashmiriyat. It is something different, special,” said one Kashmiri Pandit young man.

  • The myth of the “backward” Kashmiri woman is perhaps the biggest lie. Kashmiri girls enjoy a high level of education. They are articulate and assertive. Of course, they face and resist patriarchy and gender discrimination in their societies. But does BJP, whose Haryana CM and Muzaffarnagar MLA speak of “getting Kashmiri brides” as though Kashmiri women are property to be looted, have any right to preach feminism to Kashmir? Kashmiri girls and women told us, “We are capable of fighting our own battles. We don’t want our oppressors to claim to liberate us!”

The BJP Spokesperson’s “Warning”

We met BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo at the office of Rising Kashmir, a Kashmir newspaper. The conversation was initially cordial. He told us he had come to Kashmir from Jammu to persuade people to support the abrogation of Article 370. His main argument was that since the BJP had won a 46% vote share in J&K and had won an unprecedented majority in Parliament, they had not only a right but a duty to keep their promise of scrapping Article 370. “46% vote share – that’s a license”, he said.

He refused to acknowledge that this 46% vote share while winning only three Lok Sabha seats (Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh) was possible only because the voter turnout in the three other LS seats (Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla) was the lowest in the whole country.

Should a Government impose an unpopular decision on people of Kashmir who have not voted for that decision, at gunpoint? Chrungoo said, “In Bihar when Nitish Kumar imposed prohibition, he didn’t ask the alcoholics for their permission or consent. It’s the same here.” His contempt for the people of Kashmir was evident from this analogy.

Towards the end of the conversation, he became increasingly edgy when confronted by facts and arguments by us. He got up and wagged a finger at Jean Dreze, saying “We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here. I am warning you.”

Conclusion

The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control. The decisions taken by the Modi Government on J&K are immoral, unconstitutional and illegal. The means being adopted by the Modi Government to hold Kashmiris captive and suppress potential protests are also immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal.

  • We demand the immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.

  • We assert that no decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.

  • We demand that communications – including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be restored with immediate effect.

  • We demand that the gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect. The people of J&K are anguished – and they must be allowed to express their protest through media, social media, public gatherings and other peaceful means.

  • We demand that the gags on journalists in J&K be lifted immediately.

Jean Drèze, economist
Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and AIPWA
Maimoona Mollah, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
Vimal Bhai, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment