Guest post by MOHAMAD JUNAID
Dozens of young boys have been arrested across Kashmir under draconian laws over the last few weeks. The charges that have been filed against them range from “waging war against the state” to defiling “state honor”. In recent months Indian military and police commanders have described protests in Kashmir as “agitational terrorism” and “non-violent terrorism” in order to justify violent clampdown on protests by Kashmiris.
As the headlines go, Stone-pelting an act of war: J-K gov.
In the same period around 8 people, mostly teenagers, have been either shot to death or fatally injured by indiscriminate use of tear-gas shells. Over the last two years the number of dead in shootings is more than a hundred. Meanwhile thousands of people have been injured. Many of them will be left with permanent physical disabilities. The police authorities have banned any peaceful assembly of people. Many places in downtown Srinagar and other towns have reported police brutalities. Even the villages are not being spared. Only yesterday, mourning villagers were attacked by CRPF troopers in Redwani in South Kashmir. Dozens of them were injured by CRPF’s indiscriminate firing. Most of the injuries were inflicted above the waist showing an intention to kill
India’s dirty war in Kashmir has been going on for many years now, but in the last two years it has acquired a particularly cruel dimension. The systematic nature of brutal tactics is meant to discipline and demoralize Kashmir’s struggling masses. At the same time, the Indian state has kept up the rhetoric of confidence building measures to deceive its own citizens. In this light, the move to allow Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir to return home is nothing new. This surrender policy has been there for many years, but is ceremonially dusted and brought back every few years to earn brownie points.
National Conference government which has proved its inability to function without authorization from New Delhi, and can’t even remove an erring official without Delhi’s explicit approval, has sought to play it safe: i.e. to stay in power they will go to any extent to please their masters. In photo-ops Omar Abdullah is seen begging for leniency from Chidamabaram, but at home he has reinvigorated the cruel police apparatus his father put into place in mid-1990’s. CRPF and Kashmir police has increased their level of savagery in recent months, perhaps in a bid to show that they can handle Kashmir without Indian army’s help.
Indian media has mostly blacked-out the grim news from Kashmir (apart from the few and far in between stories, like the ones below). It is time, the conscientious and rational Indian citizens form a solidarity with Kashmiris, disseminate widely the stories about Indian state’s inhuman tactics in Kashmir, and build pressure on their government to stop human rights violations in Kashmir. And to accept the fact that Kashmir is a political issue that needs to be solved, with the full involvement of Kashmiris.
There is no shortage of solutions. But the Indian government isn’t even acknowledging that Kashmir is a political issue, and they have convinced their citizens that the only issue that remains is the elimination of “terrorism” i.e. people’s resistance. The “right solutions” emerge in a democratic process of engagement in a free and fair environment. The “chosen” representatives for Kashmiris, it is clear, have no legitimacy in Kashmir, which has made it clear again that a democracy stripped of its substance cannot be forced down the throats of people to gloss over the crisis of state’s legitimacy and authority. (I somehow believe that UN, if India allows that is, can go to “each Kashmiri” to figure out how to solve the problem). The first step would be to give Kashmiris the “ownership” of their problem, that is allow them to find the right solution with a guarantee that it will be accepted.
Can we really keep telling a suffering people that they don’t exist? The first “concrete suggestions” would be the dismantling of the draconian military and police apparatus from Kashmir: i.e., 1.) remove the incredibly large and intensive build up of military and police forces from Kashmir; 2.) remove draconian laws like AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act etc, which give immunity to security agencies involved in HR abuses; 3.) Release political prisoners from jails; 4.) Allow Kashmiris to peacefully express their dissent (remove restrictions on free speech and assembly of people); 5.) Dismantle the stranglehold that the security agencies have over the everyday life of people through techniques of surveillance and proliferation of threats.
Once these steps are taken, we can move to the next ones. At least it will show that the Indian government is sincere in its efforts to solve the problem, and is not simply bidding time, hoping to tire people out.
This recent report by Peerzada Ashiq is the Hindustan Times is worth quoting in full:
Police say waging war against country, judge not impressed
Srinagar: Who is Zahoor Ahmad? shouted Masrat Jabeen, sitting on a
raised platform in 14X14 room with three rows of chairs. “Yes madam.
Present madam”, replied a boy standing among 16 jostled youth with red
cheeks and red hands because of cold.
This is no classroom but a court hearing of 16 boys arrested on Sunday
in downtown Srinagar for allegedly pelting stones at policemen. The
police presented them before the court on Monday for extending their
police remand. But after hearing the two sides, judge Jabeen sent the
boys to judicial remand for 15 days.
“How did you know all the names of the arrested youth in advance?”
judge Jabeen asked the investigation officer of the police. “Through
reliable sources,” replied the investigation officer.
“How is it possible? I don’t know anyone of these boys. Who are these
reliable sources?” asked judge Jabeen. To which the investigation
officer, looking at the floor, said: “They are active stone throwers,
and involved for the last five years.”
There was sudden commotion in the court room, when Zahid, one of the
accused, interjected saying, “This is for the first time we are in the
lock up,” adding he was just 16 year old and a school-goer, who was on
the bike when the police arrested him.
The boy, wearing a pair of jeans and jacket, started crying and are
joined by others in the room, with the lawyer, Muhammad Rafiq Joo,
requesting them to wipe tears and be mum. “Don’t worry justice will be
done,” said Joo adding since Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told the
media we are launching a crackdown against stone-pelters, the police
are picking up anyone who comes in the way.
The boys — in the age group of 15 to 22 and brought to the court in
heavy chains — are facing the charges like the waging war against
the state and insulting the national honour. The punishment includes
life imprisonment. The boys have been arrested from downtown Srinagar
and were presented before the court by the Nowhatta Police Station.
Lawyer Joo contested that the police cannot impose the waging a war
against the nation unless a magistrate has done an investigation in a
case and the police cannot do it on their own.
While the weeping boys in chains left the court room in a row, their
relatives shake their hands. The boys keep pleading their innocence:
“We were not involved. They let go who do stone pelting and arrested
us,” they said.
While a policeman shouted back: “They have snatched our peace.”
(Mohamed Junaid, a Kashmiri, is a postgraduate student at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York. This post developed from his conversations at the Sarai Reader-List.)