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Trying to raise international awareness about Kashmir

 Indian Forces Face Broader Revolt in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Late Sunday night, after six days on life support with a bullet in his brain, Fida Nabi, a 19-year-old high school student, was unhooked from his ventilator at a hospital here.

Mr. Nabi was the 50th person to die in Kashmir’s bloody summer of rage. He had been shot in the head, his family and witnesses said, during a protest against India’s military presence in this disputed province.

For decades, India maintained hundreds of thousands of security forces in Kashmir to fight an insurgency sponsored by Pakistan, which claims this border region, too. The insurgency has been largely vanquished. But those Indian forces are still here, and today they face a threat potentially more dangerous to the world’s largest democracy: an intifada-like popular revolt against the Indian military presence that includes not just stone-throwing young men but their sisters, mothers, uncles and grandparents.

The protests, which have erupted for a third straight summer, have led India to one of its most serious internal crises in recent memory. Not just because of their ferocity and persistence, but because they signal the failure of decades of efforts to win the assent of Kashmiris using just about any tool available: money, elections and overwhelming force.

 

“We need a complete revisit of what our policies in Kashmir have been,” said Amitabh Mattoo, a professor of strategic affairs at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and a Kashmiri Hindu. “It is not about money — you have spent huge amounts of money. It is not about fair elections. It is about reaching out to a generation of Kashmiris who think India is a huge monster represented by bunkers and security forces.”

Indeed, Kashmir’s demand for self-determination is sharper today than it has been at perhaps any other time in the region’s troubled history. It comes as — and in part because — diplomatic efforts remain frozen to resolve the dispute created more than 60 years ago with the partition of mostly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. Today each nation controls part of Kashmir, whose population is mostly Muslim.

Secret negotiations in 2007, which came close to creating an autonomous region shared by the two countries, foundered as Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan’s president, lost his grip on power. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, by Pakistani militants in 2008 derailed any hope for further talks.

Not least, India has consistently rebuffed any attempt at outside mediation or diplomatic entreaties, including efforts by the United States. The intransigence has left Kashmiris empty-handed and American officials with little to offer Pakistan on its central preoccupation — India and Kashmir — as they struggle to encourage Pakistan’s help in cracking down on the Taliban and other militants in the country.

With no apparent avenue to progress, many Kashmiris are despairing that their struggle is taking place in a vacuum, and they are taking matters into their own hands.

“What we are seeing today is the complete rebound effect of 20 years of oppression,” said Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chief cleric at Srinagar’s main mosque and a moderate separatist leader. Kashmiris, he said, are “angry, humiliated and willing to face death.”

This summer there have been nearly 900 clashes between protesters and security forces, which have left more than 50 civilians dead, most of them from gunshot wounds. While more than 1,200 soldiers have been wounded by rock-throwing crowds, not one has been killed in the unrest, leading to questions about why Indian security forces are using deadly force against unarmed civilians — and why there is so little international outcry.'

“The world is silent when Kashmiris die in the streets,” said Altaf Ahmed, a 31-year-old schoolteacher.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an emotional appeal for peace.

“I can feel the pain and understand the frustration that is bringing young people out into the streets of Kashmir,” the Indian prime minister said in a televised speech. “Many of them have seen nothing but violence and conflict in their lives and have been scarred by suffering.”

Indeed, there is a palpable sense of opportunities squandered. Despite the protests of recent years, the Kashmir Valley had in the past few years been enjoying a season of peace.

The insurgency of the 1990s has mostly dried up, and elections in 2008 drew the highest percentage of voters in a generation. High expectations met the new chief minister, Omar Abdullah, a scion of Kashmir’s leading political family, whose fresh face seemed well suited to bringing better government and prosperity to Kashmir.

But election promises, like repealing laws that largely shield security forces from scrutiny and demilitarizing the state, went unfulfilled. After two summers of protests on specific grievances, this summer’s unrest has taken on a new character, one more difficult to define and mollify.

That anger has led to a cycle of violence that the Indian government seems powerless to stop. Events that unfolded last week in Pulwama, a small town 20 miles from Srinagar, illustrate how the violence feeds itself.

It began on Monday, Aug. 2, when a young man, Mohammad Yacoub Bhatt, from a village near Pulwama was shot dead during a march to protest the earlier killings of other young protesters.

Four days later, a procession set off to protest his death. Soon it swelled into the thousands. The police blocked the road and refused to let the marchers pass, worried that the crowd would burn down government buildings, as previous crowds had.

What happened next is disputed. Protesters claimed that when they tried to surge through a barricade, the police opened fire.

“We did not think they would open fire,” said Malik Shahid, 17, who had joined the march. “There was no violence. It was a peaceful protest.”

First the police fired in the air, witnesses said, then into the scattering crowd. A bullet felled Mr. Shahid’s uncle, Shabir Ahmed Malik, a 24-year-old driver, and killed him on the spot.

Mr. Shahid, a 12th grader who hopes to become an engineer, said the latest violence was evidence to him that remaining part of India was impossible.

“If India took steps against those who kill us, maybe the people of Kashmir would be willing,” he said. “But when there is no justice how can we remain with India? They are not doing anything but killing. So we will just go for freedom.”

Commandant Prabhakar Tripathy, spokesman for the Central Reserve Police Force, the main paramilitary force trying to keep order in Kashmir, declined to comment on the episode but said that the protests were not as spontaneous as they appeared.

“Militants are just mingling with the crowd, firing bullets from the crowd,” Mr. Tripathy said. “Now they are trying to raise this confrontation between the public and the security forces.”

“We are charging them with tear gas, rubber pellets, firing in the air, nothing works here,” he said. “When a crowd of thousands attacks the camp, what can you do?”

Indian officials have tried to portray Kashmir’s stone-throwing youths as illiterate pawns of jihadist forces across the Pakistan border and have suggested that economic development and jobs are the key to getting young people off the streets.

But many of the stone throwers are hardly illiterate. They organize on Facebook, creating groups with names like “I'm a Kashmiri Stone Pelter.” One young man who regularly joins protests and goes by the nom de guerre Khalid Khan has an M.B.A. and a well-paying job.

Stone pelting is a form of resistance to their acts of repression in the face of peaceful protest,” he said in an interview. “I would call it self-defense. Stones do not kill. Their bullets kill.”

Each death seems to feed the anger on the streets, creating new recruits for the revolt. Fida Nabi’s brother, Aabid, 21, watched over him as he drifted toward death this week, his head swathed in white bandages, his chest rising and falling to the ghostly rhythm of the ventilator.

Aabid thought he had his life all mapped out — making more than $200 a month as a news photographer. But since his brother was shot his priorities have changed. “I used to cover the protests,” he said. “But now I will join them.”
 



Aabid Nabi, right, sat next to his brother Fida Nabi, who was shot in the head during a protest, in a hospital in Srinagar. Mr. Nabi later died from his injury.

 


Source: The New York Times

OP: Since the article above questioned the lack of international outcry about the atrocities happening in Kashmir, I thought it would help to post it with an article by Pankaj Mishra from The Guardian.

Why silence over Kashmir speaks volumes

Bloody protests against military rule get little coverage, while India maintains its reputation

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".

The cautiousness – or timidity – of western politicians is easy to understand. Apart from appearing as a lifeline to flailing western economies, India is a counterweight, at least in the fantasies of western strategists, to China. A month before his election, Barack Obama declared that resolving the "Kashmir crisis" was among his "critical tasks". Since then, the US president hasn't uttered a word about this ur-crisis that has seeded all major conflicts in south Asia. David Cameron was advised a similar strategic public silence on his visit to India last fortnight.

Those western pundits who are always ready to assault illiberal regimes worldwide on behalf of democracy ought not to be so tongue-tied. Here is a well-educated Muslim population, heterodox and pluralist by tradition and temperament, and desperate for genuine democracy.

However, intellectuals preoccupied by transcendent, nearly mystical, battles between civilization and barbarism tend to assume that "democratic" India, a natural ally of the "liberal" west, must be doing the right thing in Kashmir, ie fighting "Islamofascism". Thus Christopher Hitchens could call upon the Bush administration to establish a military alliance with "the other great multi-ethnic democracy under attack from Muslim fascism" even as an elected Hindu nationalist government stood accused of organising a pogrom that killed more than 2,000 Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat.

Electoral democracy in multi-ethnic, multi-religious India is one of the modern era's most utopian political experiments, increasingly vulnerable to malfunction and failure, and, consequently, to militant disaffection and state terror. But then the west's new masters of humanitarian war, busy painting grand ideological struggles on broad, rolling canvases, are prone to miss the human position of suffering and injustice.

Indian writers and intellectuals, who witnessed the corrosion of India's secular democracy by Hindu supremacists, seem better acquainted with the messy realities concealed by stirring abstractions. But on Kashmir they often appear as evasive as their Chinese peers are on Tibet. They may have justifiably recoiled from the fundamentalist and brutish aspect of the revolt in the valley. But the massive non-violent protests in Kashmir since 2008 haven't released a flood of pent-up sympathy from them.

Few people are as well positioned as the much-revered Amartya Sen to provoke national introspection on Kashmir. Indeed, no one can fault Sen's commitment to justice for the poor and defenceless in India. Yet Sen relegates Kashmir to footnotes in both of his recent books: The Argumentative Indian and Identity and Violence.

Certainly, as Arundhati Roy's recent writings prove, anyone initiating a frank discussion on Kashmir risks a storm of vituperation from the Indian understudies of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. The choleric TV anchors, partisan journalists and opinion-mongers of India's corporate media routinely amplify the falsehoods and deceptions of Indian intelligence agencies in Kashmir. Blaming Pakistan or Islamic fundamentalists, as the Economist pointed out last week, has "got much harder" for the Indian government, which, has "long denied the great extent to which Kashmiris want rid of India". Nevertheless, it tries; and, as the political philosopher Pratap Bhanu Mehta, one of the few fair-minded commentators on this subject, points out, the Indian media now acts in concert with the government "to deny any legitimacy to protests in Kashmir".

This effective censorship reassures those Indians anxious not to let mutinous Kashmiris sully the currently garish notions of India as an "economic powerhouse" and "vibrant democracy" – the calling cards with which Indian elites apply for membership to the exclusive clubs of the west. In Kashmir, however, the net effect is deeper anger and alienation. As Bukhari puts it, Kashmiris hold India's journalists as responsible as its politicians for "muzzling and misinterpreting" them.

"The promise," Mehta writes, "of a liberal India is slowly dying". For Kashmiris this promise has proved as hollow as that of the fundamentalist Islam exported by Pakistan. Liberated from political deceptions, the young men on the streets of Kashmir today seem simply to want to express their hatred of the state's impersonal brutality, and to commemorate lives freshly ruined by it. 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.

Source: The Guardian

 
Tags: human rights, india, pakistan, police brutality, politics
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