Monday, September 1, 2008

Arundhati Roy on India's Military Occupation of Kashmir


Arundhati Roy asks what would independence mean to the people of Kashmir?
This article appeared in the Guardian on Friday August 22 2008 on p6 of the Comment & features section. It was last updated at 10:09 on August 22 2008.

For the past 60 days or so, since about the end of June, the people of Kashmir have been free. Free in the most profound sense. They have shrugged off the terror of living their lives in the gun-sights of half a million heavily armed soldiers, in the most densely militarized zone in the world.

After 18 years of administering a military occupation, the Indian government's worst nightmare has come true. Having declared that the militant movement has been crushed, it is now faced with a non-violent mass protest, but not the kind it knows how to manage. This one is nourished by people's memory of years of repression in which tens of thousands have been killed, thousands have been "disappeared", hundreds of thousands tortured, injured, and humiliated. That kind of rage, once it finds utterance, cannot easily be tamed, rebottled and sent back to where it came from.

A sudden twist of fate, an ill-conceived move over the transfer of 100 acres of state forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board (which manages the annual Hindu pilgrimage to a cave deep in the Kashmir Himalayas) suddenly became the equivalent of tossing a lit match into a barrel of petrol. Until 1989 the Amarnath pilgrimage used to attract about 20,000 people who travelled to the Amarnath cave over a period of about two weeks. In 1990, when the overtly Islamist militant uprising in the valley coincided with the spread of virulent Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) in the Indian plains, the number of pilgrims began to increase exponentially. By 2008 more than 500,000 pilgrims visited the Amarnath cave, in large groups, their passage often sponsored by Indian business houses. To many people in the valley this dramatic increase in numbers was seen as an aggressive political statement by an increasingly Hindu-fundamentalist Indian state. Rightly or wrongly, the land transfer was viewed as the thin edge of the wedge. It triggered an apprehension that it was the beginning of an elaborate plan to build Israeli-style settlements, and change the demography of the valley.

Days of massive protest forced the valley to shut down completely. Within hours the protests spread from the cities to villages. Young stone pelters took to the streets and faced armed police who fired straight at them, killing several. For people as well as the government, it resurrected memories of the uprising in the early 90s. Throughout the weeks of protest, hartal (strikes) and police firing, while the Hindutva publicity machine charged Kashmiris with committing every kind of communal excess, the 500,000 Amarnath pilgrims completed their pilgrimage, not just unhurt, but touched by the hospitality they had been shown by local people.

Eventually, taken completely by surprise at the ferocity of the response, the government revoked the land transfer. But by then the land-transfer had become what Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the most senior and also the most overtly Islamist separatist leader, called a "non-issue".

Massive protests against the revocation erupted in Jammu. There, too, the issue snowballed into something much bigger. Hindus began to raise issues of neglect and discrimination by the Indian state. (For some odd reason they blamed Kashmiris for that neglect.) The protests led to the blockading of the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only functional road-link between Kashmir and India. Truckloads of perishable fresh fruit and valley produce began to rot.

The blockade demonstrated in no uncertain terms to people in Kashmir that they lived on sufferance, and that if they didn't behave themselves they could be put under siege, starved, deprived of essential commodities and medical supplies.

To expect matters to end there was of course absurd. Hadn't anybody noticed that in Kashmir even minor protests about civic issues like water and electricity inevitably turned into demands for azadi, freedom? To threaten them with mass starvation amounted to committing political suicide.

Not surprisingly, the voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Raised in a playground of army camps, checkpoints, and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, represent themselves. For them it is nothing short of an epiphany. Not even the fear of death seems to hold them back. And once that fear has gone, of what use is the largest or second largest army in the world?

There have been mass rallies in the past, but none in recent memory that have been so sustained and widespread. The mainstream political parties of Kashmir - National Conference and People's Democratic party - appear dutifully for debates in New Delhi's TV studios, but can't muster the courage to appear on the streets of Kashmir. The armed militants who, through the worst years of repression were seen as the only ones carrying the torch of azadi forward, if they are around at all, seem content to take a back seat and let people do the fighting for a change.

The separatist leaders who do appear and speak at the rallies are not leaders so much as followers, being guided by the phenomenal spontaneous energy of a caged, enraged people that has exploded on Kashmir's streets. Day after day, hundreds of thousands of people swarm around places that hold terrible memories for them. They demolish bunkers, break through cordons of concertina wire and stare straight down the barrels of soldiers' machine guns, saying what very few in India want to hear. Hum Kya Chahtey? Azadi! (We want freedom.) And, it has to be said, in equal numbers and with equal intensity: Jeevey jeevey Pakistan. (Long live Pakistan.)

That sound reverberates through the valley like the drumbeat of steady rain on a tin roof, like the roll of thunder during an electric storm.


On August 15, India's independence day, Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of Srinagar, was taken over by thousands of people who hoisted the Pakistani flag and wished each other "happy belated independence day" (Pakistan celebrates independence on August 14) and "happy slavery day". Humour obviously, has survived India's many torture centres and Abu Ghraibs in Kashmir.

On August 16 more than 300,000 people marched to Pampore, to the village of the Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who was shot down in cold blood five days earlier.

On the night of August 17 the police sealed the city. Streets were barricaded, thousands of armed police manned the barriers. The roads leading into Srinagar were blocked. On the morning of August 18, people began pouring into Srinagar from villages and towns across the valley. In trucks, tempos, jeeps, buses and on foot. Once again, barriers were broken and people reclaimed their city. The police were faced with a choice of either stepping aside or executing a massacre. They stepped aside. Not a single bullet was fired.

The city floated on a sea of smiles. There was ecstasy in the air. Everyone had a banner; houseboat owners, traders, students, lawyers, doctors. One said: "We are all prisoners, set us free." Another said: "Democracy without freedom is demon-crazy." Demon-crazy. That was a good one. Perhaps he was referring to the insanity that permits the world's largest democracy to administer the world's largest military occupation and continue to call itself a democracy.

There was a green flag on every lamp post, every roof, every bus stop and on the top of chinar trees. A big one fluttered outside the All India Radio building. Road signs were painted over. Rawalpindi they said. Or simply Pakistan. It would be a mistake to assume that the public expression of affection for Pakistan automatically translates into a desire to accede to Pakistan. Some of it has to do with gratitude for the support - cynical or otherwise - for what Kashmiris see as their freedom struggle, and the Indian state sees as a terrorist campaign. It also has to do with mischief. With saying and doing what galls India most of all. (It's easy to scoff at the idea of a "freedom struggle" that wishes to distance itself from a country that is supposed to be a democracy and align itself with another that has, for the most part been ruled by military dictators. A country whose army has committed genocide in what is now Bangladesh. A country that is even now being torn apart by its own ethnic war. These are important questions, but right now perhaps it's more useful to wonder what this so-called democracy did in Kashmir to make people hate it so?)

Everywhere there were Pakistani flags, everywhere the cry Pakistan se rishta kya? La illaha illallah. (What is our bond with Pakistan? There is no god but Allah.) Azadi ka matlab kya? La illaha illallah. (What does freedom mean? There is no god but Allah.)

For somebody like myself, who is not Muslim, that interpretation of freedom is hard - if not impossible - to understand. I asked a young woman whether freedom for Kashmir would not mean less freedom for her, as a woman. She shrugged and said "What kind of freedom do we have now? The freedom to be raped by Indian soldiers?" Her reply silenced me.

Surrounded by a sea of green flags, it was impossible to doubt or ignore the deeply Islamic fervour of the uprising taking place around me. It was equally impossible to label it a vicious, terrorist jihad. For Kashmiris it was a catharsis. A historical moment in a long and complicated struggle for freedom with all the imperfections, cruelties and confusions that freedom struggles have. This one cannot by any means call itself pristine, and will always be stigmatised by, and will some day, I hope, have to account for, among other things, the brutal killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the early years of the uprising, culminating in the exodus of almost the entire Hindu community from the Kashmir valley.

As the crowd continued to swell I listened carefully to the slogans, because rhetoric often holds the key to all kinds of understanding. There were plenty of insults and humiliation for India: Ay jabiron ay zalimon, Kashmir hamara chhod do (Oh oppressors, Oh wicked ones, Get out of our Kashmir.) The slogan that cut through me like a knife and clean broke my heart was this one: Nanga bhookha Hindustan, jaan se pyaara Pakistan. (Naked, starving India, More precious than life itself - Pakistan.)

Why was it so galling, so painful to listen to this? I tried to work it out and settled on three reasons. First, because we all know that the first part of the slogan is the embarrassing and unadorned truth about India, the emerging superpower. Second, because all Indians who are not nanga or bhooka are and have been complicit in complex and historical ways with the elaborate cultural and economic systems that make Indian society so cruel, so vulgarly unequal. And third, because it was painful to listen to people who have suffered so much themselves mock others who suffer, in different ways, but no less intensely, under the same oppressor. In that slogan I saw the seeds of how easily victims can become perpetrators.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani began his address with a recitation from the Qur'an. He then said what he has said before, on hundreds of occasions. The only way for the struggle to succeed, he said, was to turn to the Qur'an for guidance. He said Islam would guide the struggle and that it was a complete social and moral code that would govern the people of a free Kashmir. He said Pakistan had been created as the home of Islam, and that that goal should never be subverted. He said just as Pakistan belonged to Kashmir, Kashmir belonged to Pakistan. He said minority communities would have full rights and their places of worship would be safe. Each point he made was applauded.

I imagined myself standing in the heart of a Hindu nationalist rally being addressed by the Bharatiya Janata party's (BJP) LK Advani. Replace the word Islam with the word Hindutva, replace the word Pakistan with Hindustan, replace the green flags with saffron ones and we would have the BJP's nightmare vision of an ideal India.

Is that what we should accept as our future? Monolithic religious states handing down a complete social and moral code, "a complete way of life"? Millions of us in India reject the Hindutva project. Our rejection springs from love, from passion, from a kind of idealism, from having enormous emotional stakes in the society in which we live. What our neighbours do, how they choose to handle their affairs does not affect our argument, it only strengthens it.

Arguments that spring from love are also fraught with danger. It is for the people of Kashmir to agree or disagree with the Islamist project (which is as contested, in equally complex ways, all over the world by Muslims, as Hindutva is contested by Hindus). Perhaps now that the threat of violence has receded and there is some space in which to debate views and air ideas, it is time for those who are part of the struggle to outline a vision for what kind of society they are fighting for. Perhaps it is time to offer people something more than martyrs, slogans and vague generalisations. Those who wish to turn to the Qur'an for guidance will no doubt find guidance there. But what of those who do not wish to do that, or for whom the Qur'an does not make place? Do the Hindus of Jammu and other minorities also have the right to self-determination? Will the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits living in exile, many of them in terrible poverty, have the right to return? Will they be paid reparations for the terrible losses they have suffered? Or will a free Kashmir do to its minorities what India has done to Kashmiris for 61 years? What will happen to homosexuals and adulterers and blasphemers? What of thieves and lafangas and writers who do not agree with the "complete social and moral code"? Will we be put to death as we are in Saudi Arabia? Will the cycle of death, repression and bloodshed continue? History offers many models for Kashmir's thinkers and intellectuals and politicians to study. What will the Kashmir of their dreams look like? Algeria? Iran? South Africa? Switzerland? Pakistan?

At a crucial time like this, few things are more important than dreams. A lazy utopia and a flawed sense of justice will have consequences that do not bear thinking about. This is not the time for intellectual sloth or a reluctance to assess a situation clearly and honestly.

Already the spectre of partition has reared its head. Hindutva networks are alive with rumours about Hindus in the valley being attacked and forced to flee. In response, phone calls from Jammu reported that an armed Hindu militia was threatening a massacre and that Muslims from the two Hindu majority districts were preparing to flee. Memories of the bloodbath that ensued and claimed the lives of more than a million people when India and Pakistan were partitioned have come flooding back. That nightmare will haunt all of us forever.

However, none of these fears of what the future holds can justify the continued military occupation of a nation and a people. No more than the old colonial argument about how the natives were not ready for freedom justified the colonial project.

Of course there are many ways for the Indian state to continue to hold on to Kashmir. It could do what it does best. Wait. And hope the people's energy will dissipate in the absence of a concrete plan. It could try and fracture the fragile coalition that is emerging. It could extinguish this non-violent uprising and re-invite armed militancy. It could increase the number of troops from half a million to a whole million. A few strategic massacres, a couple of targeted assassinations, some disappearances and a massive round of arrests should do the trick for a few more years.

The unimaginable sums of public money that are needed to keep the military occupation of Kashmir going is money that ought by right to be spent on schools and hospitals and food for an impoverished, malnutritioned population in India. What kind of government can possibly believe that it has the right to spend it on more weapons, more concertina wire and more prisons in Kashmir?

The Indian military occupation of Kashmir makes monsters of us all. It allows Hindu chauvinists to target and victimize Muslims in India by holding them hostage to the freedom struggle being waged by Muslims in Kashmir.

India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much as - if not more than - Kashmir needs azadi from India.

· Arundhati Roy, 2008. A longer version of this article is available at outlookindia.com.

Here is a comprehensive video on the origins and the positions of various parties involved in the Kashmir dispute presented by Pakistani Peace Activist Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy:



Related Links:

Prognosis for Kashmir

Musharraf's Kashmir Offer

Missed Opportunities in Kashmir

21 comments:

libertarian said...

Riaz, this reader is sorely disappointed that you would give space to someone like Arundhati Roy. Her writing makes out like she's on the Indian side and her heart just "breaks" when she hears anti-Indian slogans. Truth is she's a calculating left-wing not-so-loonie who's not averse to running over the rights of the people she pretends to champion. She and her husband (2nd one) built a home on tribal land and hoped to get away with it. She'd like to be cast as a loony-left, idealistic anarchist. In reality she is anything but.

We've already discussed Kashmir, so I won't go there. But Ms Roy has a tendency to show up in all hot spots (Narmada Valley, Kashmir) like a zit that won't quit. She's a media whore who cannot get enough of herself. Publishing her inane comments verbatim hurts your credibility. She's no bleeding-heart liberal - she's just a (minor) Goddess of Small Intrigues.

Riaz Haq said...

Libertarian,
I believe Roy is an independent thinker and a gadfly who refuses to toe the Indian government's or the mainstream Indian media's propaganda line. There are very few people like her in Pakistan (e.g. Pervez Hoodbhoy) but I really wish Pakistan had more independent thinkers and gadflies like her to challenge the conventional views and thinking in Pakistan.

You may agree or disagree with her views but she is presenting the facts as she has recently seen them in Kashmir.

I am disappointed that, instead of disputing the facts or rebutting her, you chose to just dismiss her out of hand and attack her in a very personal way.

I believe the latest mass protests are a groundswell from within Kashmir and represents a genuine desire of ordinary Kashmiris for separation from India. Blaming it on external factors would prove to be big folly.

Jaydev said...

she is a attention crazy person..
nobody gives a dime for what she thinks..
of course she could be given a booker for articulation and imagination but not for intellect. She gives a damn for Narmada,Kashmir or Gujarat riots or anything for that matter. Definitely she is entitled to her views.
Jammu vs Kashmir issue is virtually solved with land allocation issue resolved.If Srinagar population wants to dig their grave by shouting out investment and tourists, by self-defeating azadi protests, its their choice. Pak surprisingly isnt doing much in Kashmir except pushing some terrorists for some massacres.
If you can observe it, there is a deafening silence about Kashmir from West and you know why. They dont want another Al-Queda academy in any part of the world. They surely have learnt their lessons.

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed to see the usage of terms like 'mdeia whore' by libertarian. Riaz - you are guilty of earning her that title..hah.

She can easily do what Salman Rushdi or many other right wingers have done to get the media attention..but..why is she siding with people who are themselves a victim of a media bias. Its not a question of who is right and who is wrong, its a question of defeating our own bias and our own prejudice and do it right by the people.

Riaz Haq said...

Anonymous,
I couldn't agree with you more.
But let's give some credit to the Indian system that tolerates iconoclasts like Roy. Other than Hoodbhoy, I don't see any examples in Pakistan.

libertarian said...

Riaz, I feel compelled to respond, even though presenting a case against Ms Roy is akin to dredging sludge from a sewer.

For the past 60 days or so, since about the end of June, the people of Kashmir have been free. Free in the most profound sense.

*yawn* - usual hyperbole from someone who makes a living off of it.

Having declared that the militant movement has been crushed, it is now faced with a non-violent mass protest, but not the kind it knows how to manage.

Actually, as incompetent as successive Indian governments have been, they've managed to blunt violent and non-violent secessionist movements quite successfully. Tamil Nadu in the 1960s is a great example. Kashmir would have been the same were it not for Pakistan's "moral support" and Saudi money.

That kind of rage, once it finds utterance, cannot easily be tamed, rebottled and sent back to where it came from.

On the contrary. The rage is manufactured to a large extent. The Hurriyat is deadly scared of elections scheduled in 2 months - more irrelevance for them - so the Amarnath fiasco was a gift from the bumblers in Srinagar.

It triggered an apprehension that it was the beginning of an elaborate plan to build Israeli-style settlements, and change the demography of the valley.

Umm yes of course. Anyone who buys that line can also be sold the Brooklyn Bridge. Amarnath is a icy wasteland. If the intent resettlement why target the middle of nowhere - move the pilgrims right into Srinagar or Anantnag, no?

Throughout the weeks of protest, hartal (strikes) and police firing, while the Hindutva publicity machine charged Kashmiris with committing every kind of communal excess, the 500,000 Amarnath pilgrims completed their pilgrimage, not just unhurt, but touched by the hospitality they had been shown by local people.

And who's word do we have for that? Oh yes - Ms Roy. Ha ha. A kid from Anantnag (who I employed) told me that they've been stoning Amarnath pilgrims for years now. So much for hospitality.

But by then the land-transfer had become what Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the most senior and also the most overtly Islamist separatist leader, called a "non-issue".

Of course. All that latent hatred came bubbling out. Sounds suspiciously similar to the "spontaneous protests" by Shiv Sainiks when Bal Thackeray was hauled into the courts for the 1993 Mumbai riots. Even the Mirwaiz, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah were pi$$ed off with Geelani for trying to hijack the "movement".

Not surprisingly, the voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar.

Ms Roy is the choir here. According to Masarat Alam - Geelani's right-hand man - the people of Srinagar needed time to recharge so they could come out with another show of force. Sounds like manufactured rage to this observer. Also points to a very real fear of azadi fatigue among the population.

Raised in a playground of army camps, checkpoints, and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack ...

Stick to the facts Ms Roy - gp easy on the drama.

On August 16 more than 300,000 people marched to Pampore, to the village of the Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who was shot down in cold blood five days earlier.

Ha! Luckily for her she did not assert it was the Indian security forces that did it (though she clearly implied it). Turns out this dude was shot in the back (while facing the security forces) and had a terribly hasty burial. Nice going Hurriyat - manufacture a shaheed for the occasion.

It is for the people of Kashmir to agree or disagree with the Islamist project ...

Convenient of Ms Roy to forget about the 35% of J&K which is non-Muslim and will have nothing to do with Islamism. And that does count the several hundred thousand Kashmiri Pandits who do not live in J&K through no choice of their own.

India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much as - if not more than - Kashmir needs azadi from India.

India needs azadi from wack-jobs like Ms Roy. Her contribution to any discourse is usually to throw a spanner in the works. Arriving at a lasting solution is not in her interest - she cannot write her vicious lyrical prose about dead issues. She'd have serious withdrawal symptoms if Kashmir were actually solved. Putting her in the same boat as Hoodbhoy is an insult to the rational Hoodbhoy.

Anonymous said...

Well said libertarian..(though u spend a lot of energy on ppl looking for "objectivity" like..india-israel caused tsunami and stuff..)
She desperately needs a invitation to speak on some international forums.
If riaz needs "objectivity" you can also check out teesta setvald,painter hussain,tehelka.com or N.Ram's "Hindu" newspaper..(one of his piece gatecrashed into syllabus of chinese "re-education camps"..i hav absolutely no idea why it is termed as "hindu" paper..its called "People's Daily" in intelligence circles)..
Even "the nation.com.pk", saudinews or for that matter an al-jazeera can't match objectivity of some indian observers. I am personally not against other opinions..but when an op-ed bends "facts" to an such an extent..and inserts whimsical "truths"..you got to respond..though its serves no purpose and convinces none..

Anonymous said...

As a soldier who served in Kashmir, Ms Roy's statements are truly galling.

After painting us all as vicious murderers, rapists and thieves she talks about peaceful protests. Were we the vicious sadists she claims us to be would those police have stepped aside? Would those soldiers at the roadblocks and checkpoints have allowed the protesters to so blatantly shout slogans for the enemy?

War is war and during the years of the insurgency (which still claim the lives of my brothers) many awful things were done on all sides.

If Kashmir ever get the Pakistani notion of 'azadi' that Ms Roy wants I think all the bleeding heart liberals will be in for quite a shock when the Lashkar-e-Toiba and their ilk descend to enact the 'Islamic' ideals that Kashmiri independence merits.

Anonymous said...

Arundati roy is the Indian loony left's equivalent of Ann Coulter. You can't ignore her, but is difficult to take her seriously. she says non-violent protests are un-manageable. Hillarious. Civil disobedience only works when the Govt depends on the people to contribute to the economy. If the people stop work, then the economy & the civil structure grounds to a stand-still.

That's not the case with Kasmir. In India we're happy to see that the counter insurgency of the our military has worked well, starved the separtists of financial & military support from across the LOC. Now they resort to Gandhi's way. What a sham... But atleast they are coming to their senses. Azadi has been given a quite burial. The rest of the country can now get on with the normal business.

Riaz Haq said...

From The Daily Times today....


Why not have a joint Kashmir?’

* PDP president calls for having ‘dual currency’ to encourage trade
* Says LoC should be made ‘irrelevant’

NEW DELHI: The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Indian-held Kashmir has called for unifying both Kashmirs and having a “dual currency” to encourage trade.

Speaking at an Indo-Pak conference on Sunday, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said, “Can’t there be any joint mechanism between the two Kashmirs? Why can’t we have a joint council consisting of representatives from both sides?”

LoC: She said the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir should be made “irrelevant”. She said the recent militancy-related incidents in IHK should not influence New Delhi’s decision to withdraw troops from the disputed territory. “We know that the aim of any terror attack is to sabotage the dialogue process. The Lal Chowk attack should not influence the intention of the Indian government to withdraw forces [from IHK],” she said. The PDP leader said wars between India and Pakistan had only resulted in accumulation of security forces in IHK. Mehbooba said the peace process should be de-linked from terror incidents, adding that resumption of composite dialogue between India and Pakistan was the need of the hour.

The situation in IHK “has improved over the period of time and the people are turning to peaceful means to raise their grievances”, she said. Mehbooba said India and Pakistan should engage themselves in a result-oriented dialogue, adding that Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone was killed because “he wanted dialogue”. The PDP president urged the two countries to make a policy shift on Kashmir by reaching out to the people and practicing peaceful and democratic ways to build a new South Asia.

Mufti said that Kashmir would be the “first and the worst victim” if something happens to Pakistan. iftikhar gilani

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting survey of Kashmiris reported by the BBC:

A survey which a British academic says is the first systematic attempt to establish the opinions of Kashmiris has produced "striking results".

Robert Bradnock interviewed more than 3,700 people in Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to assess their views on various issues.

One of the key questions put to respondents was how they saw the future of the territory.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they wanted independence.

Another question asked for their views over the continuing insurgency.

Dr Bradnock - an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank in London - says that the survey has produced startling conclusions, especially in relation to the future of the territory.
No 'simple fixes'

It revealed that on average 44% of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43% in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"However while this is the most popular option overall, it fails to carry an overall majority on either side.

"In fact on the Indian side of the Line of Control [LoC] - which separates the two regions - opinions are heavily polarised," Dr Bradnock told the BBC.

The survey found that the "overwhelming majority" of people want a solution to the dispute, even though there are no "simple fixes".

Dr Bradnock said that in the Kashmir valley - the mainly Muslim area at the centre of the insurgency - support for independence is between 74% and 95%.

But in the predominantly Hindu Jammu division to the south, support is under 1%.

Other findings include:

* 80% of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC say that the dispute is important to them personally
* Concern over human rights abuses stands at 43% on the Indian side and 19% on the Pakistani side
* Concern over unemployment is strong across the territory - 66% on the Pakistani side and 87% on the Indian side
* Few are optimistic over peace talks - only 27% on the Pakistani side and 57% on the Indian side thought they would succeed.

Dr Bradnock said that it was "clear" that a plebiscite on the future of Kashmir - along the lines envisaged in UN resolutions of 1948-49 - is "extremely unlikely to offer a solution today".

"The results of the polls show that that there is no single proposition for the future of Kashmir which could be put to the population... and get majority support," he said.

"The poll offers no simple fixes but offers signposts - through which the political process, engaging India, Pakistan and wider Kashmiri representation - could move it towards resolution."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian report indicating Indian govt's intent to arrest and prosecute Arundhati Roy for sedition for her remarks on Kashmir:

India's home ministry is reported to have told police in Delhi that a case of sedition may be registered against Roy and the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for remarks they made at the weekend.

Under section 124A of the Indian penal code, those convicted of sedition face punishment ranging from a fine to life imprisonment.

Roy, who won the Booker in 1997 for The God of Small Things, is a controversial figure in India for her championing of politically sensitive causes. She has divided opinion by speaking out in support of the Naxalite insurgency and for casting doubt on Pakistan's involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The 48-year-old author refused to backtrack. In an email interview with the Guardian, she said: "That the government is considering charging me with sedition me has to do with its panic about many voices, even in India, being raised against what is happening in Kashmir. This is a new development, and one that must be worrisome for the government."

"Threatening me with legal action is meant to frighten the civil rights groups and young journalists into keeping quiet. But I think it will have the opposite effect. I think the government is mature enough to understand that it's too late to put the lid on now," Roy said.

Earlier the author, who is currently in Srinagar, Kashmir, said in a statement: "I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators, have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice.

"I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state."

After describing her meetings with people caught up in the Kashmir violence, she said: "Some have accused me of giving 'hate speeches', of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one.

"Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor roam free."

India's justice minister, Moodbidri Veerappa Moily, described Roy's remarks as "most unfortunate". He said: "Yes, there is freedom of speech … it can't violate the patriotic sentiments of the people."

Others were less restrained. One person posted a comment on the Indian Express newspaper website calling for the novelist to be charged with treason and executed.

Roy said she was not aware of the calls for her death, but said the comments were part of a "reasonably healthy debate in the Indian press".

"The rightwing Hindu stormtroopers are furious and say some pretty extreme things," she told the Guardian.

Roy made her original remarks on Sunday in a seminar – entitled Whither Kashmir? Freedom or Enslavement, during which she accused India of becoming a colonial power. Geelani also spoke at the seminar.

Riaz Haq said...

Amnesty International has criticized what it calls "Lawless Law" in Indian-occupied Kashmir, according to the BBC:

Rights group Amnesty International has criticised a tough Indian law which it says has been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Amnesty urged India to scrap the Public Safety Act (PSA) which allows detention for up to two years without charge.

The group also criticised the judiciary for its failure to protect human rights of the detainees.

Kashmir has been gripped by a violent separatist insurgency since 1989.

The detentions have been made since the beginning of the insurgency, the Amnesty says in a new report released in Srinagar city on Monday.

Titled Lawless Law: Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act documents how the law is used to secure long-term detention of individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial.

"The Jammu and Kashmir authorities are using PSA detentions as a revolving door to keep people they can't or won't convict through proper legal channels locked up and out of the way," said Bikramjeet Batra, Amnesty's campaigner for Asia Pacific programme in India.

"Hundreds of people are being held each year on spurious grounds, with many exposed to higher risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment," he added.

The report says the detainees include political leaders and activists, suspected members or supporters of armed opposition groups, lawyers, journalists and protesters, including children.

Often, they are initially picked up for "unofficial" interrogation during which time they have no access to a lawyer or their families.

Even minors are being held under the law, the report says.

Amnesty International called upon the government of Jammu and Kashmir to repeal the law and end the system of detentions.

It also asked the government to release all detainees or charge those suspected of committing criminal acts with recognised offences and try them fairly in a court of law.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed in full by both.

The region is also one of most militarised in the world with hundreds of thousands of troops present on both sides of the Line of Control - the de facto border between the two countries.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report from The Hindu on demands to bar Jethmalani, who has compared Kashmir unrest to Nazi rule, from Kashmir:

SRINAGAR: Just 10 days since human rights activist Gautam Navlakha was deported from Srinagar, the ruling National Conference has asked the Jammu and Kashmir government not to allow senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani to enter Kashmir, saying such a visit would vitiate the “peaceful atmosphere”.
The NC was reacting to Mr. Jethmalani's statement that the atrocities committed by the government in Kashmir were “unheard [of even] in the Nazi ruled in Germany.”
He also held the State government, rather than the Centre, responsible for this. After reviving the Kashmir Committee, Mr. Jethmalani, along with Ambassador V.K. Grover and journalist-activist Madhu Kishwar, visited the Valley for five days and met a cross section of political leaders.
In a hard-hitting statement, the NC expressed its dismay over the statement, terming it “frivolous, irresponsible, baseless, callous and bereft of facts.”
The party spokesman said people like Mr. Jethmalani, Arundhati Roy and Mr. Navlakha — at the behest of political mercenaries like Madhu Kishwar and the like — visit Kashmir to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the State and then return to their comfortable homes in Delhi and Bombay to be seen occasionally on television screens discussing Kashmir with the sole aim of stoking the violence and disturbance in the State.
“The government should not allow people like Ram Jethmalani to enter the State during summer. [They] do not want a solution to the Kashmir issue, and instead, come here to misguide the people, hoodwink them, and derail the process of peace in Jammu & Kashmir,” the spokesman said.
He accused Mr. Jethmalani of being “out of his mind to suggest that in J&K, Nazi-like rule is prevalent… A state where 80 per cent of the electorate is participating in panchayat elections after nearly three decades to establish a democratic system at the grassroots level can by no stretch of imagination be termed Nazi rule but, in fact, should be hailed as a great leap forward in strengthening the democratic institutions in the State and bringing accountability, transparency, as also improving the delivery mechanism.”
The party spokesman asked Mr. Jethmalani to first convince his own party, the BJP, to support the reduction of troops' presence in civilian areas as also to raise the demand for the withdrawal of the Armed Forced (Special Powers) Act, before trying to convince others.
“Omar Abdullah and his government does not need any certificate from disgruntled, frustrated and politically rejected people like Ram Jethmalani — a man who has failed to even win the Supreme Court Bar Association elections,” the spokesman said, adding, “Omar is striving hard to win the hearts and minds of the people with his untiring efforts and so, deserves the full support of all right-thinking people.”
The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, headed by Yasin Malik, also criticised Mr. Jethmalani.
“No doubt Ram Jethmalani is a famous Supreme Court lawyer, but in the political field he is but an inexperienced man. His politics has always been based on duplicity. He has always been pursuing the policy of double standards and there has always been conflict in his words and deeds,” a JKLF spokesman said in a statement.
He claimed that Mr. Jethmalani had come here bearing the agenda of some mainstream political party. “These people have lost their relevance in New Delhi and are here only to keep themselves politically floating. They are now trying to use their vile tactics to achieve this purpose.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Ananya Vajpeyi titled "Notes on Swaraj":

In my view, it is precisely because
India experiences itself as economically and militarily on the ascendant that a re-thinking of cultural, political and moral selfhood is timely. It is also
appropriate to return to Gandhi
because so much of India – its poor, its minorities, its separatist and dissenting
constituencies in Kashmir and the
Northeast – remain outside the consensus view of its superpower status. An Indian sovereignty that bans millions of citizens in zones of exception and abandons them to the most egregious forms of violence and deprivation is not consistent with the idea of swaraj.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's another piece by Ananya Vajpeyi on exceptions to Indian "constitutional democracy":

By enforcing extraordinary laws, by sending in armed forces, by granting impunity to soldiers and paramilitaries for their actions against armed or unarmed civilians, by denying citizens redress, justice or compensation, by creating a war-like situation for a population that has political, social, cultural and economic grievances possible to address without force, it is the state that sets aside the Constitution. The Indian state has done this too many times, in too many places, and for too long.

It is time for citizens in the so-called ‘normal’ parts of the country to consider how they want to defend their Constitution against such misuse and ill-treatment by the state, a procedure that leaves millions of people exposed to both everyday as well as excessive violence, and ultimately turns them against India. If the Indian Union sees any attrition to its territory in the coming years on account of separatism and civil strife (not such an unlikely scenario as hawkish policy-makers like to believe), this will have come to pass at least partly because the state allowed the cancer of exception to eat away at the body politic, and did not administer the medicine of constitutional reinstatement and restitution in time. It bears repeating that periodic exercises in the electoral process do not always prove to be a sufficient counterweight to the toxic effects of the AFSPA, even if elections are relatively free and fair (a tough challenge), and even if significant percentages of the relevant populations do turn out to vote.

The state’s reasoning for why military, paramilitary and police must replace civil agencies in the work of everyday governance, a step which can and does go horribly wrong, is that disruptive violence (from secessionist and insurgent groups) has to be met with restorative counter-violence (from the state) in order to ensure overall security for the population, and preserve the integrity of the Union of India. Defenders of the AFSPA insist that this is a sound rationale. But inevitably, questions arise: What are the limits of the immunity that such an extraordinary law grants to the armed forces, when does the justifiable control of terror become overkill, and when should a quantitative assessment about the necessary degree of force give way to a qualitative judgment about whether force is necessary at all, over and above alternative – peaceful – means of addressing the situation?

There appears to be a dire need for a system of checks-and-balances, perhaps also originating from the Constitution, to be instituted, so that the explicitly democratic mandate of the Indian republic may be strengthened against an always lurking authoritarian tendency (a legacy of the post-colonial state’s colonialist and imperialist predecessor).


http://udayprakash05.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-people-of-india-are-skeptical.html

Riaz Haq said...

The arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai signaling US shift in position to favor India on Kashmir will not change the ground realities of Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India's military occupation of Kashmir will not last, and increasing brutality and repression of the people of Kashmir will only make the situation worse. And it'll continue to make a mockery of India's claim to "democracy".

Here's a piece by Ananya Vajpeyi on exceptions to Indian "constitutional democracy":

By enforcing extraordinary laws, by sending in armed forces, by granting impunity to soldiers and paramilitaries for their actions against armed or unarmed civilians, by denying citizens redress, justice or compensation, by creating a war-like situation for a population that has political, social, cultural and economic grievances possible to address without force, it is the state that sets aside the Constitution. The Indian state has done this too many times, in too many places, and for too long.

It is time for citizens in the so-called ‘normal’ parts of the country to consider how they want to defend their Constitution against such misuse and ill-treatment by the state, a procedure that leaves millions of people exposed to both everyday as well as excessive violence, and ultimately turns them against India. If the Indian Union sees any attrition to its territory in the coming years on account of separatism and civil strife (not such an unlikely scenario as hawkish policy-makers like to believe), this will have come to pass at least partly because the state allowed the cancer of exception to eat away at the body politic, and did not administer the medicine of constitutional reinstatement and restitution in time. It bears repeating that periodic exercises in the electoral process do not always prove to be a sufficient counterweight to the toxic effects of the AFSPA, even if elections are relatively free and fair (a tough challenge), and even if significant percentages of the relevant populations do turn out to vote.

The state’s reasoning for why military, paramilitary and police must replace civil agencies in the work of everyday governance, a step which can and does go horribly wrong, is that disruptive violence (from secessionist and insurgent groups) has to be met with restorative counter-violence (from the state) in order to ensure overall security for the population, and preserve the integrity of the Union of India. Defenders of the AFSPA insist that this is a sound rationale. But inevitably, questions arise: What are the limits of the immunity that such an extraordinary law grants to the armed forces, when does the justifiable control of terror become overkill, and when should a quantitative assessment about the necessary degree of force give way to a qualitative judgment about whether force is necessary at all, over and above alternative – peaceful – means of addressing the situation?

There appears to be a dire need for a system of checks-and-balances, perhaps also originating from the Constitution, to be instituted, so that the explicitly democratic mandate of the Indian republic may be strengthened against an always lurking authoritarian tendency (a legacy of the post-colonial state’s colonialist and imperialist predecessor).

http://udayprakash05.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-people-of-india-are-skeptical.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post report on India's heavy troop presence in Kashmir in spite of peace:

SRINAGAR, India – For more than a decade it was seen as one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoints, its Himalayan valleys flooded with hundreds of thousands of Indian troops battling a separatist, Islamist insurgency backed by neighboring Pakistan.

But with relations slowly improving between South Asia’s nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, the insurgency is slowly fading away. That has left many Kashmiris wondering why quite so many Indian troops are still here — under laws that grant them vast powers.

With violence on the wane, Kashmir’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says the mainly Muslim people of his state deserve to see a “peace dividend,” in the form of a partial, limited withdrawal of the rules that allow soldiers the right to shoot to kill, with virtual immunity from prosecution.

The request would cover only two districts where the Indian army does not even conduct operations. Casualty rates due to the militancy are half of what they were last year, and under 5 percent of what they were a decade ago, officials say.

But India’s leaders have rebuffed the Kashmiri minister’s request, with the army and defense ministry insisting on maintaining broad powers.

It has left the 41-year-old Abdullah wondering whether the Indian government has the political will to achieve a lasting peace in Kashmir, where tens of thousands of people have died since 1989, and ultimately with Pakistan. The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir lies at the heart of their long enmity and has fueled two of their three wars.

“At some point in time we have to have the courage to take what appear to be risky decisions, with the belief that this is an important component of a peace process,” Abdullah said.

If New Delhi cannot even agree to this, “how are you going to resolve the overall Kashmir issue, that is going to require much tougher decisions?” he asked.
-------------
In Srinagar, 23-year-old Bilkees Mansoor knows only too well how difficult it is to find justice when the army is effectively above the law. When she was just a 13-year-old girl, she saw her father, a chemist and businessman, dragged out of their home just after midnight by dozens of soldiers, never to be seen or heard of again.

Clutching his photograph, she recounted her family’s decade-long search for her missing father and how her mother and her siblings all have stress-related health problems, and told of their desperate efforts to have the arresting officer questioned or appear in court.

The case even went to the country’s Supreme Court, she says, where the army major’s appeal to avoid questioning was rejected in July 2007. Still, he has failed to appear in court.

“Because of this law, the army is doing very evil things,” she said. “I still believe my father is alive. We have to keep positive thoughts in our minds. But if he is buried somewhere, this is my right to know.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/violence-wanes-in-kashmir-but-india-maintains-tight-military-grip/2011/11/29/gIQAlqS0YO_story_1.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Fox News report on a new book alleging Indian agents killed foreign tourists in Kashmir:

A state human rights commission said Tuesday it will review records from the 1995 kidnapping of six foreigners in Indian-controlled Kashmir after a new book alleged that Indian intelligence agents were involved in the deadly crime.

The six tourists were trekking in a Himalayan meadow when they were kidnapped by a previously unknown militant group named Al-Faran. One American escaped, but the body of a Norwegian was later found in a remote village. Another American, a German and two Britons were never located.

India said the kidnappers were backed by Pakistan, and that some disappeared after the crime while others were killed in gunbattles with Indian troops.

However, authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke suggest in a recently published book, "The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 — Where the Terror Began," that the Indian government deliberately undermined hostage negotiations and prolonged the crisis to damage Pakistan's reputation, and then used its own militants to take custody of the hostages before they were killed.

The Jammu-Kashmir State Human Rights Commission asked Tuesday for reports about the 17-year-old case from government and police authorities. Commission Secretary Tariq Ahmad Banday said it is also seeking access to two officers who were part of the original investigation.

The commission will discuss the case at its next meeting May 28, after being asked to look into it by a local rights group, the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice.

The group called for an inquiry into "why no action was taken on various points ... despite the authorities having knowledge of the location of the hostages, and then subsequently the burial site of the hostages."


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/17/kashmir-revisits-5-case-foreigners-abduction/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times article by journalist Waheed Mirza:

LAST September, a lawmaker in Indian-controlled Kashmir stood up in the state’s legislative assembly and spoke of a valley filled with human carcasses near his home constituency in the mountains: “In our area, there are big gorges, where there are the bones of several hundred people who were eaten by crows.”

... The assembly was debating a report on the uncovering of more than 2,000 unmarked and mass graves not far from the Line of Control that divides Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The report, by India’s government-appointed State Human Rights Commission, marked the first official acknowledgment of the presence of mass graves. More significantly, the report found that civilians, potentially the victims of extrajudicial killings, may be buried at some of the sites.

Corpses were brought in by the truckload and buried on an industrial scale. The report cataloged 2,156 bullet-riddled bodies found in mountain graves and called for an inquiry to identify them. Many were men described as “unidentified militants” killed in fighting with soldiers during the armed rebellion against Indian rule during the 1990s, but according to the report, more than 500 were local residents. “There is every probability,” the report concluded, that the graves might “contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances,” a euphemism for people who have been detained, abducted, taken away by armed forces or the police, often without charge or conviction, and never seen again.

Had the graves been found under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound in Libya or in the rubble of Homs in Syria, there surely would have been an uproar. But when over 2,000 skeletons appear in the conflict-ridden backyard of the world’s largest democracy, no one bats an eye. ........
------
In March 2000, a day before President Bill Clinton visited India, about 35 Kashmiri Sikhs were massacred by unidentified gunmen in the village of Chattisinghpora, 50 miles from the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar. Soon after, L. K. Advani, then India’s home minister, declared that the terrorists responsible for the killings had been shot dead in an “encounter” with the Indian Army. But the truth turned out to be more sinister. Under pressure from human rights groups and relatives, the bodies of the so-called terrorists were exhumed, and after a couple of botched investigations in which DNA samples were fudged, it was revealed that the dead men were innocent Kashmiris.

It took nearly 12 years — primarily because of the Indian government’s refusal to prosecute those involved in the murders — to reach the Supreme Court of India. On May 1, in a widely criticized decision, the court left it to the army to decide how to proceed, and the army has opted for a court-martial rather than a transparent civilian trial. In the eyes of Pervez Imroz, a Kashmiri lawyer and civil rights activist, the court’s decision “further emboldens the security forces” and strengthens “a process that has appeared to never favor the victims.”-------
-----------
The Indian government must do what may seem inconceivable to the hawks in the military establishment but is long overdue. Before it can even begin to contemplate negotiating a lasting political solution in consultation with Kashmiris it must act to deliver justice — for the parents of the disappeared; for the young lives brutally extinguished in 2010; for the innocent dead stealthily buried in unmarked graves in the mountains; for the Kashmiris languishing in Indian prisons without any legal recourse; for the exiled Kashmiri Hindu Pandits who fled in 1990 after some were targeted and killed by militants; and for the mother of Sameer Rah, who still doesn’t know why her young son was bludgeoned to death and his body left by a curb.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/indias-blood-stained-democracy.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian piece by Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra on India's military occupation of Kashmir:

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 killings 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 extra-judicial execution, rape and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into penises.

Why then does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination? After all, the Kashmiris demanding release from the degradations of military rule couldn't be louder and clearer. India has contained the insurgency provoked in 1989 by its rigged elections and massacres of protestors. The hundreds of thousands of demonstrators that fill the streets of Kashmir's cities today are overwhelmingly young, many in their teens, and armed with nothing more lethal than stones. Yet the Indian state seems determined to strangle their voices as it did of the old one. Already this summer, soldiers have shot dead more than 50 protestors, most of them teenagers.

The New York Times this week described the protests as a comprehensive"intifada-like popular revolt". They indeed have a broader mass base than the Green Movement does in Iran. But no colour-coded revolution is heralded in Kashmir by western commentators. The BBC and CNN don't endlessly loop clips of little children being shot in the head by Indian soldiers. Bloggers and tweeters in the west fail to keep a virtual vigil by the side of the dead and the wounded. No sooner than his office issued it last week, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, hastened to retract a feeble statement expressing concern over the situation in Kashmir.

Kashmiri Muslims are understandably bitter. As Parvaiz Bukhari, a journalist, said early this week the stones flung randomly by protestors have become "the voice of a neglected people" convinced that the world deliberately ignores their plight. The veteran Kashmiri journalist Masood Hussain confessed to the near-total futility of his painstaking auditing of atrocity over two decades. For Kashmir has turned out to be a "great suppression story".
--------
As the Kashmiri writer Basharat Peer wrote this week in a moving Letter to an Unknown Indian, Indian journalists might edit out the "faces of the murdered boys", and "their grieving fathers"; they may not show "the video of a woman in Anantnag, washing the blood of the boys who were killed outside her house". But "Kashmir sees the unedited Kashmir."

And it remembers. "Like many other Kashmiris," Peer writes, "I have been in silence, committing to memory the deed, the date." Apart from the youth on the streets, there are also those with their noses in books, or pressed against window bars. Soon this generation will make its way into the world with its private traumas. Life under political oppression has begun to yield, in the slow bitter way it does, a rich intellectual and artistic harvest: Peer's memoir Curfewed Night will be followed early next year by a novel by Waheed Mirza. There are more works to come; Kashmiris will increasingly speak for themselves. One can only hope that their voices will finally penetrate our indifference and even occasionally prick our conscience.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2010/aug/14/silence-over-kashmir-conflict