Press Statement – PUCL Bangalore | Violence in Kashmir

August 11, 2016 by
Filed under: Human Rights, Press Releases, Uncategorized 

Dated: August 5, 2016

Press Statement of People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Bangalore Chapter

Violence in Kashmir

Since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 8 2016 by Indian armed forces, the Kashmir Valley has entered another and heightened phase of a war-like conflict. The people of Kashmir who wanted to grieve the loss of someone they held in high regard were barred from doing so by the Indian state, which mobilised its forces in the Valley and rushed reinforcements from India. In the ensuing days the response of the Indian state has stoked a major escalation of many decades long struggle for self-determination in Kashmir.
Indian authorities and the forces they have unleashed in Kashmir have persisted in quashing resistance mounted by unarmed civilians there who have been hurling stones and raising slogans, seeing them as fronts of terrorist organisations, passing them off as youth who have been waylaid by Islamist and Pakistani propaganda. The Kashmiri people’s unarmed struggle is being met with by bullets and pellets both of which have proven to be lethal.
The Indian State which in 1990 extended to Kashmir the infamous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – originally meant to subjugate the peoples of Assam and Manipur and smother their thwarted aspirations for self-determination – of 1958 has lain siege to Kashmir by creating roadblocks that have even prevented the injured from reaching hospitals, launching inhuman attacks on health infrastructure and ambulances. Casualties including deaths have resulted from such dastardly action. Communication links are being sundered, with mobile internet and SMS being targeted first and then shutting down all phone services except that of state-owned BSNL. In eight days, 42 (need to UPDATE in final version) civilians have been killed and thousands injured by the dangerous pellet guns which launch up to 400-500 small ball bearings at a time.
Over the past few days, the Indian media has been reducing its reporting on Kashmir. On 16th July, the offices of several newspapers in Kashmir, such as Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Times, Rising Kashmir, Kashmir Reader and Kashmir Observer were attacked and copies of the newspaper seized. Not only is the volatile situation being reported most inadequately and partially with selective and biased approaches, but there is also an excessive focus on the Islamic nature of the conflict. This has led to polarisation at different levels:
Within the Valley between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits and in India through the projection of the Kashmir issue as one that is entirely Islamic and therefore in opposition to the increasingly Hindu India that has emerged.
Unfortunately, what the Indian media is wilfully myopic about is how the situation and issues on the ground in Kashmir – as they depict them – have moved from one of self-determination to a struggle of one community’s claim over a region versus another’s. In fact, if there has been increased Islamic radicalisation in the Valley, then it has also been so as a response to the onslaught of Hindu right-wing forces in the region. This has been done sometimes with tacit support of the State as in the recent attempts of the RSS to spread Ekal Vidyalayas in the Valley, presence of Hindu temples in army cantonments and others. Or by consciously facilitating the ingress of large numbers of Hindus into Kashmir by promoting State-sponsored Yatras such as the Amarnath Yatra, Buddha Amarnath Yatra and the pilgrimage to Kauser Nag. The most recent cases of such under-the-radar initiatives are the pilgrimage to Abhinav Gupta’s cave and the Maha Kumbh, Saidipora at Ganderbal.
In other words, the Kashmiri Pandit issue is also part of the Hindutva supremacist machinery’s larger project to lay claim to the lands of Kashmir, while trying to wipe out its people at the same time. Even in the current situation, it has been reported that some Kashmiri Pandit families have left their villages and moved to Jammu fearing that they would be attacked. However, there have been no reports of actual attacks or even of attempts being made to harm Kashmiri Pandits. On the contrary, there have been many reports in even the Indian media of how yatris to Amarnath have been saved after they met with serious accidents by Kashmiris who defied the curfew.
To be sure, Kashmir has long been home to Kashmiri Muslims as well Pandits and they have shared public spaces. Kashmiri Pandits have maintained their identity as Kashmiris, rather than as Hindus. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s has to be studied and articulated more objectively than is being done in popular media right now. For example while there might have been episodes of violence against Kashmiri Pandits, it is also true that investigations into some of the reports of attacks of them have not been able to prove the role of Kashmiris or separatists. For instance, in the Nadimarg massacre of 2003, when 24 Kashmiri Pandits were killed, it is believed that the renegades (fringe groups of the armed forces) were the ones who carried out the killings. The Indian state has played to the saffron gallery even on this issue.
Even in the current interregnum, Kashmiri Muslims have been welcoming the return of Kashmiri Pandits. However, even here, the attitude of the State to politicise this issue by trying to settle them in separate colonies on the lines of similar attempts by Israeli authorities in Gaza and Jerusalem is objectionable and reeks of keeping the communities separated. The Indian state has also effectively victimised Kashmiri Pandits who chose not to leave the valley by reserving government jobs and college or university seats for only those Kashmiri Pandits who left the valley.
A response to these developments has of course been the rise of Islamisation and Islamic fundamentalism in the Valley with active support from Pakistan. India and Pakistan have played their religious games to communalise what was once a struggle for self-determination and independence.
India’s armed forces started occupying territories in Kashmir as far back as in 1947, but there has been a steady rise in their numbers and saturation presence was gained in 1990s thanks to the dastardly extension of the AFSPA, originally meant to subjugate the peoples to the northeast of India, to Kashmir in 1990. Needless to say, the boots on the ground, armoury and the impunity afforded by AFSPA led to breaking much of the backs of Kashmiri resistance against Indian occupation. Although the heightened phase of the conflict started to subside from the early part of the last decade, the Indian State has continued to post large numbers of its armed forces in Kashmir. These forces have used intimidation, threat, murder and rape as tools to terrorise the Kashmiris. Such stationing of the Indian armed forces in Kashmir on so large a scale is unjustified and is a clear manifestation of occupation. If the Indian state claims that it has not occupied Kashmir and is only there to protect the citizens of the valley then that is unvarnished nationalist propaganda. The resistance that has erupted time and again, violations of the Indian armed forces and excesses meted out to the Kashmiris are all manifestation of this highly disturbing trend.
Now, the AFSPA, as has already been stated above, is itself entirely abusive of human rights not only in the northeast of the subcontinent where it was meant to have been used for a short period of time while quelling peoples asserting their right to self-determination but is entirely criminal in the way it is being implemented in Kashmir over the aspirations and wishes of the people in the valley. The Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy Committee report, the Justice Santosh Hegde Commission which enquired into the way AFSPA was being enforced on the people of Manipur – neither report published by the Indian authorities in both the Congress and BJP-led dispensations to their continuing shame – as well as the Justice J.S. Verma Committee Report formed following the infamous December 16, 2012 gangrape in New Delhi and consisting of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Verma, former Delhi High Court judge, Just Leila Seth and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramaniam.
As is becoming abundantly clear over the past several days, the attitude of the Indian state is quite clearly to quash dissent in Kashmir by terming it terrorism. In fact, any dissent in not only Kashmir but even in many parts of India is seen by Indian authorities as acts of and/or supportive of terrorism. There is absolutely no free speech in Kashmir as the complete gagging of the media there has shown – an eloquent manifestation of occupation, by a cowardly colonial dispensation, pure and simple.
Finally, it is worth recalling that a Kashmiri Afzal Guru, was killed by the Indian state in secret in Tihar Jail on 9 February 2013 – his alleged complicity in the attack on the Indian parliament of 2001 never established and his death ordered by the Supreme Court of India in order to satiate the “conscience of the society” and Kashmiri freedom-fighter Muqbool Butt was nearly three decades earlier killed in Tihar jail on 11 February 1984.
And now, Burhan Wani and many such other instances exist as examples of this striking down of dissent.
There can be no democratic process with the presence of large numbers of Indian armed forces in Kashmir. Therefore, de-militarisation needs to be immediately initiated. Our specific demands are:
1. Demilitarise the Kashmir Valley, withdraw AFPSA and Public Securities Act and a host of other draconian Acts enacted in Kashmir like Enemy Agents Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, National Security Act and others. The perpetrators of the armed forces for the massive violence and human rights violations they have committed should be tried in impartial civil courts.
2. Kashmir has been in the throes of an exceedingly long standing state of a war of occupation. For the past several decades, curfews have been imposed by the Indian state disrupting normal life. Movement in the Valley is restricted with Kashmiris being randomly stopped, frisked and are made to display their identity cards. News and media bans – print, electronic and social media, bans on peaceful protests and demonstrations are some the ways extreme control and stifling of free speech are a norm. Structures of impunity in the form of armed forces bunkers and mobile vans and occupation of several structures and public spaces by the armed forces are visible all over Valley. Right of Association has also been taken away from Kashmiris – example, forming of students union has been banned in Kashmir University Campus life in Kashmir is also under constant surveillance where student unions, especially the Kashmir University Students Unions has been banned. The University also has its own IB cell which keep a track of students’ activities on social media and rights to hold different opinions is denied. Means of communication like mobile, internet and telephone, a central part of life today, especially with gagging of mainstream media, have been taken away at the mere possibility of resistance by the people of Kashmir.
In the light of this situation, where any form of civilian life and been coloured with hues of green, it is necessary that it be instated.. A road map to civilian life needs to be put in place, allowing for the people of Kashmir to reclaim their spaces which had been earlier taken over by too many organs of the Indian state, especially in the form of the occupying armed forces. This would amount to an important element of withdrawal of the Indian state from the Valley.
3. Justice is not just in terms of trying perpetrators of offences of rape or encounter, but also enforced disappearance, which should be declared an offence. India should sign UN’s International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Mass Graves should be investigated as done by forensics groups such as the Argentinian Forensic groups. This would be another way of acknowledging to Kashmiris the gruesomeness meted out to them.
4. The Indian state has continuously undermined the right of self-determination in Kashmir since the late 1940s. The voices of the common Kashmiri people have been drowned out thanks to the – from the Kashmiri peoples’ perspective – the ugly charade of an inter-state dispute between India and Pakistan with little regard to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. The universal will of the Kashmiri people has to be heard and acted upon. India needs to initiate a process for a referendum.

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