Kashmir’s Abu Gharaib?

Two days ago, I noticed a video posted by somebody on my facebook page. It was yet another video from Kashmir. It was tagged ‘brothers please watch, sisters please do not watch’. In later incarnations of the video, posted repeatedly on Facebook sites, Youtube channels and on blogs. it was tagged ‘Indian Security Forces Kashmiri Youth to Walk Naked on Road’ or ‘Kashmir – India’s Abu Gharib (sic)’.

The video was available on Youtube on the night of 8th/9th September, 2010, before being taken down.

Notwithstanding the misspelling of Abu Gharaib in these tags, there was something compellingly accurate in the designation. What I saw, and what i have seen unfold subsequently as a response by the Indian state to the circulation of this video, makes Abu Gharaib look like child’s play. Welcome to the virtual, viral, televisual reality of the nightmare of Kashmir.

For the past several weeks, I have been watching, and forwarding, several videos uploaded on to Youtube and facebook from Kashmir. Every video that I have seen contains evidence of the brutality of the Indian state’s footprint on the Kashmir valley, and of the steadfast yet resilient courage of its people, and of the innovative use they have been making of the internet to bear witness to their oppression.

See for instance – Innocent Man being Beaten in Kashmir.

I have seen paramilitary and police personnel open fire on unarmed or stone pelting crowds, mercilessly beat up young people and children, attack doctors, patients and nurses in hospitals, smash windows of homes, steal chickens and livestock and hurl the most vulgar invectives at ordinary people. I have watched the armed might of the Indian state retreat in the face of the moral courage of the opposition it encounters on the streets of Kashmir. It doesn’t take much to find these videos. Run a search with ‘Kashmir, Stone Pelting. indian Occupation’ on Youtube. Of follow the links and uploads on the growing cluster of Facebook pages from and about Kashmir.

But nothing prepared me for what I saw when I clicked on the video that said ‘brothers watch, sisters don’t watch’. I am a person who works with moving images. I think about moving images, about video. I watch all kinds of things. Not all of which are prettly, or edifying. But the sheer extent of humiliation that was visible in this video was not something that I was prepared to see, not even from Kashmir.

The video, not more than three minutes long, is a piece of uncut, unedited footage, in all probability (judging from the quality and resolution of the image) taken from a cell phone. It shows four young Kashmiri men, walking, across what appears to be freshly harvested fields (so it could be October-November, or, March-April) egged along by what appear to be paramilitary personnel and some policemen. Some of the security personnel wear khaki, some others wear olive green fatigues. One wears the black bandanna of a commando. Others wear helmets and caps. Some have bullet proof vests. The four young men they are ‘escorting’ are naked. They hold their clothes in their hands. From what one can make out in the video, their faces, reveal their acute shame, distress and embarassment. The paramilitaries and policemen taunt them as they walk. The main voice is that of a person who seems to be holding the device that is capturing the image. We hear him speak in perfectly legible colloquial Hindi.

“Move, Move, Move, Keep moving, sisterfuckers.”

“Raise your hands, I’ll hit you otherwise.”

“Your shoes are very good. Sisterfucker, (then we hear another, more muffled voice say what seems to be – “why are your shoes so dirty”)

“Fold your clothes, collect them, hold up the clothes” (so that the genitals are not covered.)

“The sisterfuckers have been making us run after them since the morning.”

“The police station is where we need to take them.”

The video does not appear to have been taken in the recent weeks. The fields have been harvested. It has to be either autumn or spring. But it has not been taken that long ago either. It has to be from after cellphones were allowed to be used in Kashmir, and after cellphones capable of shooting video became cheap, and popular, which places the incident, and it’s recording, roughly within the last two to three years. In some of the official and media responses that are beginning to trickle in, this business of ‘the video is not recent’ is getting some milage. As if somehow, the reality that the video portrays needs to be distanced from the current meltdown in Kashmir. Assuming that is the case, the implications of what the video shows become even more disturbing. It proves that a systematic humiliation of the Kashmiri population is part of the standard operating procedure of the security establishment of the Indian state in Kashmir.This is neither anything new, nor associated with the current wave of unrest. It has been in operation for several years now.

The banal violence of the scene is in some ways far more distressing than the images gun battles and blood on the streets that we have become accustomed to harvesting from the past few months in Kashmir. At least in the pitched street battles, we see, adversaries, albeit unequal adversaries, policemen, paramilitaries, soldiers one one side and the angry tide of stone pelters on the other.

Here, there are no adversaries. Prisoners are not in a position to be adversarial when they are surrounded by heavily armed men in uniform. What we see instead are unarmed captives, people who are in no position to threaten or endanger the security forces. That such people should be made to undergo a humiliation such as this is proof of the extent to which the forces of the Indian state in Kashmir have become bruatlized by the experience of serving in Kashmir.

They (the men in uniform) do not need to strip people naked and make them walk in public. There is something utterly, lethally gratuitous in their action. There is nothing that says that arrested or detained citizens should be marched to police stations without their clothes on, in public view. No imperative of self defence, defence of the realm, public safety and security, or the Indian constitution requires them to visit this indignity on the four young people in their charge. Nowehere is it indicated that one can behave like this even with convicted criminals, captured terrorists or undertrials.That they choose to act as they do only indicates that the laughing, taunting men in uniform see the four young men, and by extension, any Kashmiri that they can lay their hands on, as sub-human beings, as animals. By doing this, they only expose the extent to which they have allowed the state to turn them (the men in uniform) into racist, colonizing brutes.

The primary voice on the video betrays a calculated, cold, cynical disregard for human dignity. You can recognize that mocking tone, even if you do not understand the language, the moment you hear it. The paramilitaries are walking casually, one wears a commando’s black bandanna, others wear fatigues, some carry sticks, others carry guns. They walk at leisure, without any urgency, as if – parading captives naked through open fields, was a perfectly normal, routine thing to be doing in Kashmir. (which suggests, horrifyingly, that it is indeed a perfectly normal, routine thing to be doing). We have all heard (from ex prisoners, human rights activists and lawyers) that sexual humiliation of young men is a routine practice during interrogations in Kashmir. That men are asked to simulate sodomy on each other, and that they are photographed in the course of doing so, and that these images are held out as means of blackmail and intimidation. Contemporary definitions of torture have expanded to include non-invasive and psychological terror methods, foremost amongst whom is sexual humiliation. The sobriety of rural Kashmiri society is not geared to deal with the spectacle of the humiliation of naked young men being made to march out in the open. Such an act is bound to leave deep scars in the consciousness of whomsoever it has been perpetrated on and whosoever was unfortunate enough to have observed it. It is designed to do so.

Why do coerced nakedness and humiliation make such a perfectly repulsive pair? Perhaps because we think of being naked only with our selves, or with someone whom we can be intimate with, or who is able to care for us. Children can be naked to their parents, lovers can be naked to each other. A patient can be naked to his or her doctor. Or, one can choose, lucidly, joyously, to be naked, (the insane do not ‘choose’ to be naked, they simply ‘are’ naked) even in public, in moments of total abandon, when all inhibitions can be thrown away in a free act of the will. In the woods, in a river, by the sea, on stage. In any instance, being naked, somehow suggests a condition of freedom, or care, or intimacy. Something we freely enter into and govern for ourselves. It is this condition of intimacy and care that is twisted and turned inside out when nakedness is coerced. Coerced nakedness takes place in contexts that are the very opposite of intimacy and care. It invariably takes place in contexts that are cold, violent, brutally impersonal but horrifyingly intimate. This is a kind of nakedness that lays bare the darkest secrets of power. That it really doesn’t care about the humanity of the person in its clutches. In its transparency, what it makes most naked, is power itself. It is no wonder therefore, that this video will now stand alongside the images of naked Jewish prisoners being made to line up in Nazi concentration camps, and the disturbing legacy of the now, all too familiar images from Abu Gharaib.

That the uniformed representatives of the Indian state should choose to wear the nakedness of their violence with such pride and aplomb says something shocking and profound about the sheer immorality of India’s ongoing military occupation of the Kashmir valley. After this, it is not necessary to give even a shred of consideration to the frayed patchwork of arguments that constitutes the indian state’s line on Kashmir. And no, this is not an exception. The uniformed men in the video do not behave as if they were performing under ‘exceptional circumstances’. It looks like a jolly outing. A stroll with a few trophies, as casual as can be.

At the tail end of the three minute video. We hear a high pitched keening voices, and then mocking echoes, and laughter. The keening voice can be heard lamenting – in Kashmiri – “Hata Khodayo” (something like ‘Oh God’ ) several times. It is not possible to determine whether these voices are of onlookers, (perhaps of women and/or older men) or of the paramilitaries themselves. What is impossible to dispute is that the lamentations/mock lamentations are in Kashmiri, proving conclusively, that the incident occured in the Kashmir valley. All attempts at suggesting that the video is ‘not from Kashmir’ fly against the face of this fact.

In any case, we soon hear, in counterpoint to these ‘laments’, such as they are. We hear a set of mocking, echoing responses that mirror the music and cadence of the lamentations exactly as a chorus would echo a soloist. The chorus is interrupted by cackling laughter. It is as if the men in the uniform of Indian security forces were not content with the mere humiliation of bodies. That in fact, they needed to pervert and mock the ways in which a people mourn their indignities in order to extract the pleasure that they felt entitled to in the course of this grotesque incident. When even the lamentations of the Kashmiri people are not safe because of the predatory presence of the occupying force, then it is time for the world to sit up and say that we have had enough of the Indian state’s mayhem in Kashmir.

Characteristically, the video was pulled down, on both Facebook and Youtube, repeatedly, in the course of last evening, night and today. There was some discussion on different Facebook pages about whether this occurred due to the ‘nudity’ in the video. I too was persuaded for a while that this might be the case. But a quick search for nude content on Youtube showed up a whole range of things from Naturist videos to medical material that featured nudity. In fact there is a whole discussion on ‘Non Sexual Nudity’ on Youtube that indicates that it is not Youtube policy. The Youtube ‘Terms’ webpage makes no mention of nudity whatsoever. It is however Facebook policy to not have nudity on facebook videos and photographs.
Notwithstanding all this, the video repeatedly disappeared shortly after being posted on Youtube. And even posts of links to it, or discussions of it, began disappearing from Facebook pages. This suggested something more than the automatic application of ‘no nudity’ rules. It suggested what has been suspected for some time, that the Indian state, or some of its ‘organs’ – ‘lean’ on platforms like Facebook and Youtube to ensure that content that it problematic for its image simply gets erased.

Through much of last night. A concerted online effort across two facebook pages by a constellation of people who did not know each other prior to this incident made sure that the video was momentarily up on Youtube. Notices went out across facebook walls to download the video from the concerned Youtube site so that the video could have a distributed, viral presence across several hundreds, if not thousands of computers,. By the morning of Thursday, the 9th of September, the effort to ‘erase’ the video from public consciousness had failed.

News of the video (and responses to it) made it to newspapers like Greater Kashmir, websites such Aalaw-Kashmirc alls.org and even the Indian Express. The Kashmir based sites carried extensive reports, quoting the shocked responses of the people who had seen the videos. These included some responses from several people who are non-Kashmiri Indian citizens. The reprt on the Aalaw-Kashmircalls.org websites explicitly quotes reactions on Facebook walls.

” The video has sent shockwaves and stirred a debate among the tens of thousands of users on Facebook. The video shared by outraged Kashmiri youth with their online friends and contacts has evoked sharp condemnation from the Facebook users across the globe, including India. Some of the users have even compared the abuse of the alleged stone pelters by the forces with the prisoners of infamous Abu Gharib jail in Iraq.

“I am daughter of an Indian army officer. I’m embarrassed and shocked,” comments, Avleen Gill, a graduate from Saint Bede’s college

“Kaptaan Singh, a resident of North India’s Punjab state comments: “After looking at this video, I feel ashamed to call myself Indian.”

[See Greater Kashmir, Aalaw Kashmir and the Indian Express.]

By the afternoon of Thursday, 9th September, the response of the state had changed. From attempts at erasure, the state moved into a state of denial, and characteristic intimidation. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram questioned the authenticity of the video on the grounds that the ‘people seen in it have not spoken up’. Leading some to say that were a mass grave of anonymous dead people to be discovered in Kashmir (as happens from time to time) , Mr.Chidambaram, would doubt the authenticity of the report on the grounds that the cadavers had not identified themselves or spoken of the circumstances of their deaths and burial.

On the other hand, a CRPF spokesman denied that such an incident could have taken place, beacuse in his opinion ‘it is difficult to keep even rapes secret in Kashmir’ (which involves the interesting tacit assumption that attempts are made, from time to time, to keep rapes secret). A spokesperson of J & K police, however, said that charges would be filed against Facebook, Youtube and all those who have uploaded and distributed the videos on the grounds of ‘maligning the forces’ by distributing such objectionable material. In the J & K police’s version, neither the authenticity nor the veracity of the video is an issue, what is offensive is the effort to circulate the material in question, because the contents of the video can ‘malign’ the forces. The varied wings of the indian state have displayed the full spectrum of ostrich like obduracy, from attempts at erasure to incredulity to denial to attempts at intimidation, but none of these efforts seem to be of any avail. It needs to be noted, that so far, the Indian state’s response to this scandal has been far short of the expectations set by international precedents. The US Army may not have come off with a shining reputation from Abu Ghraib, but the US Government realized the gravity of the situation and took action to punish at least the primary perpetrators of the outrage (even if those who dictated the policies that made the outrages occur went scot-free). The recent incident of a former Israeli conscript, a woman named Eden Aberjil who posted photographs of herself posing with blindfolded Palestininan prisoners attracted severe criticism world wide, including within Israel. Several serving Israeli women conscripts condemned Aberjil’s conduct in public and even the Israeli Army, (not an organization known for its sensitivity in human rights matters) took a stern view of the matter.

The Huffington Post report on the issue says –

“These are disgraceful photos,” said Capt. Barak Raz, an Israeli military spokesman. “Aside from matters of information security, we are talking about a serious violation of our morals and our ethical code and should this soldier be serving in active duty today, I would imagine that no doubt she would be court-martialed immediately,” he told Associated Press Television News. [Link]

Contrast these responses with the conduct of responsible officers of the Government of India, from the Union Home Minister downwards. If ever there were to be an ‘object lesson’ in how not to handle a situation like this – we will only have to turn to the conduct of Chidambaram and his minions.

As of now, the video is up, on distributed servers, in several locations and circulating, through emails, mms messages, bluetooth transfers, blog posts and facebook notices (not of the videos themselves any longer, but of descriptions and commentary). There is no way that the Indian state can any longer evade responsibility for the venality of its actions, especially as they are visible on this video.

Even if the state can set its house in order, speak in one voice, persuade the lunatics who run the army in Kashmir to see the pointlessness of making a fetish of the AFSPA, and announce some kind of tepid ‘package’ by way of an insult to the people of Kashmir on the occasion of Eid, then too, it will not succeed in fooling either the people of Kashmir, or the world. This one video, with the perfect timing of its appearance, has succeeded in pulling the fig leaf off the true character of the Indian state’s rule in Kashmir as nothing else has. It has exposed how the state acts, it has shown us that the state is ‘leaking’ information about its own misdeeds, and it has proven that the resistance in Kashmir and about Kashmir is getting increasingly sophisticated. If the state wants to prevail, it can do so only by recourse to massive armed force, or fraud and dissimulation at a hitherto unimaginable scale.

As of tonight, the mainstream Indian media has not covered this incident with the seriousness it deserves. Neither television, nor print media have tried to look beyond the state of denial that the home minister is in, vis-a-vis, this scandal. If this were any other civilized country, there would be immediate demands for his resignation. If such demands do not gather force, we will demonstrate how far we are as a nation from being civilized. The conduct of the Indian security forces in Kashmir threatens to make barbarians of all Indians in the eyes of the world.

I do hope that even all those who consider themselves to be genuinely patriotic Indians will be disgusted by what the video reveals about Indian might in Kashmir. If they hold their patriotism in the slightest regard, then, they should realize that the continuing occupation of Kashmir, which breeds perversities such as this, is only a blot of shame on what they hold dear as the fair name of their country and on their patriotism. I hope that they will find it in themselves to act with the honour that they take pride in, and refuse any longer to be complicit, willingly or unwillingly, in the nightmare that haunts the waking and sleeping hours of the people of Kashmir today.

(Apologies for cross-posting on the Reader List and Facebook.)

42 thoughts on “Kashmir’s Abu Gharaib?”

  1. Dear Mr.Sengupta
    I salute you and people like you in India,trust me my eyes are wet and my heart is deeply bruised.
    This video is new for people outside Kashmir,but for us this is a routine.This has been happening since last 20 years now almost daily basis.
    If i find you i would kiss your hands for writing truth,it is not easy being in India .
    I on behalf of my enslaved nation,on behalf of suppressed and oppressed people,on behalf of those tens of thousands of mothers who never saw their children come back after being taken by Army of largest democracy of the world.I thank you .I pray to almighty God that he makes your pen more eloquent and makes you the voice of oppressed ones.


  2. Wonderfully written. I wish people in India have their conscience alive and think and speak like you.


  3. Very sad indeed. It is really stupid to deny that this happens. It happens not only in rural Kashmir but in the “advanced” city of Bangalore also (I remember Shivajinagar police doing this in 2003-04 to a person called Tanvir, an alleged rowdy. It was a lady constable who walked behind him which was supposed to add to the humiliation. And not desolate fields either. This was in a crowded part of the city. I remember watching terrified from inside a shop). It was far far worse when the STF were hunting for Veerappan. Naked parading was a very common phenomenon. I’ve seen tabloids in tamil nadu which carry pics of police parading people they’ve arrested (admittedly never complete nudity, but only in their briefs, so as to humiliate them).
    One reaction I heard about this video was that this might be pakistan occupied kashmir and it is urdu they are speaking. There is that possibility. This video might be. But the hands of the Indian forces, be it police, army or paramilitary, are far from clean. I don’t put it past them at all.


  4. A grainy video of dubious (as of yet) validity is immediately pounced upon to proclaim (yet another) judgement on the brutality of the Indian state..References are drawn to other “images” showing the “barbaric behaviour” of the Indian police confronting “innocent, unarmed” Kashmiri civilians…

    But these images (below) somehow portray a very different picture:



    Policemen armed with semi automagtic rifles having to run for their lives, but still not drawing their weapon – example of their brutality? Masked groups with stones, sticks and firebombs attacking isolated police posts – groups of “peaceful”, spontaeneous protestors?

    Come on Shuddha, ideological imperatives apart, show some intellectual “balance”, if not honesty!


    1. @Somnath, your eyes are blind, you can’t see anything. What is your logic here to cover this shame.


  5. Wow, what a fantastic piece. I’ve been almost consumed by this video since its appearance and the ensuing outrage that has poured forth both here in Kashmir and elsewhere. I’ve especially been interested in observing officials and politicians scrambling around like cockroaches trying to defend the indefensible.

    I downloaded the video when it first appeared and saved it, knowing that it wouldn’t be long on youtube or facebook. I’m an American citizen, soon to return to the US after living in Indian Occupied Kashmir this past year and a half, and I’m making it a mission to let people in America know about this place called Kashmir and what the people here are enduring at the hands of the terrorist state of India.

    Again, bravo for a stellar piece. I’d love to copy it and post it in my Facebook notes because you spelled out so brilliantly every feeling I’ve had these past days.


    1. Terrorist state of India? So according to the comparison to Abu Gharaib wouldnt you call the USA a terrorist state too? And yet you want to make the people in America know about this? I am not supporting any of these acts but you need to stop jumping to conclusions specially without considering what has been happening there for the past 20 years.


  6. shameful. utterly so.
    do folks think, and to take further the comparison with abu gharaib, the video may have been shot by another armyman, as souvenir?


  7. grt job,may GOd give this vission to whole indian nation,so they know, how horrible indian terrorists are in kashmir.


  8. This is obviously a fake video probably posted by someone at ISI/Pakistan army to further their cause. Instead of wasting time on this fake video the author should find out why his handlers in Alimuddin street raped and killed so many in Nandigram which is in his home state…on orders from their handlers in Beijing?


    1. Robert, perhaps you could look at my writing on Nandigram, in Kafila, to see what I think of the people you assume are ‘my handlers’ in Alimuddin Street. It’s always a good idea to cross check what people might have sadi (in the public domain) before doling out baseless allegations. Saves you from embarrassment later.




  9. Shudda:
    I remember you from the MTW days almost four decades ago but I wish I did not.

    The so-called Indian intellectuals, tend to take their freedoms for granted. The spit at the agents of the same state which guarantees them those freedoms. The Indian state does not exist in isolation. There is a geographical context, a historical context and a strategic context.

    Our neighourhood consists of totalitarian regimes; one based on extreme Islam, another based on extreme Nationalism. The Pakistanis have eliminated most non-Muslims and are now busy eliminating the less pious Muslims. The Chinese of course censor everything and have no qualms executing tens of thousands every year. Go talk to some Tibetan people, and learn how free they are in their state, or how their lands are being colonized by ethnic Chinese.

    Have you ever wondered why there are no protests in Laddakh or Jammu? Or why Mr. Geelani calls Gujjars (who do not want azadi) as non-Muslims? How come when most other Indians are busy trying to earn a living, these suited-booted Kashmiris can come out and throw stones and burn state property? Why do so many Indian Army officers die in encounters in Kashmir? What are these people seeking “azadi” from?

    We have no idea where that tape is from. It might as well be from Pakistani occupied Kashmir, where Shia rebellions occur regularly. The soldiers are supposedly speaking Urdu which is not exactly the first choice language of Kashmiris.

    However, you are so quick to jump to conclusions and disparage the Indian state. Think of Saurabh Kalia the next time you feel the need to puke on the Indian state.


  10. Shudda, I have read part of the article your referred to, and it is enough to convince me you are not part of that brigade…so sorry. However, you have to agree that many, if not most of those pretending to be human rights campaigners and liberals, are actually puppets of these mass murderers and rapist goons camouflaging themselves to further a murderous cancerous ideology.

    They see nothing wrong when they dont want to see it. One JNU professor wrote that nothing happened there but only a few women had their ‘hands scratched’. That is a bit like declaring gujerat 2002 to be a common pub brawl…but such fake intellectuals abound in India…

    You may not be one of them, in such case, sorry again…


    1. Thank you, Robert, for bothering to check, and your graceful apology is sincerely accepted. I think the CPI(M)’s conduct on Nandigram and SIngur has been roundly condemned by most people concerned with human rights, such as organizations and platforms ike Nagarik Mancha and Sanhati in Bengal, the PUDR, APDR etc. The ‘left’, or even the ‘liberal’ constituency is very diverse, and is by no means confined to those who act as spokespersons for the CPI(M). Not even all those on the ‘left’ in JNU can be correctly described as CPI(M) supporters. Many of them take strong stands against the CPI(M). So, don’t let one what one JNU professor wrote, colour your view of the many others who are not like him. But I do agree with you, that those who are apologists for oppression in one instance should be exposed when they try and act as critics of oppression in another.


  11. “Think of Saurabh Kalia the next time you feel the need to puke on the Indian state”

    Saurabh Kalia sir? He is but one in a series of officers of the Indian Army who fought with and for that unique concept of “honour”….What about Maj Davindar Singh Jass, who got trapped in a building infested by militants, and killed by them, but his unit (the elite paracommandos, 9 Para if I am not mistaken) still did not use anything “heavier” than a Carl Gustav to minimise collateral damage…The IA does this regularly, young officers prefer to physically storm buildings with suspected militants, rather than taking the whole structure down with heavy weapons…

    But of course, our left liberalati can only see the ideologically “pure” side of the story..

    Recently, there was a tape recording conversations of various separatists on engineering protests…Megabytes of bandwidth and reams of newsprint were spent on picking holes in that tape..(including examining nuances of the Kashmiri language!)..And the outcome was declared (of course without any genuine forensic test, but let that pass) – its doctored! But this video does not have to be subjected to the same pseudo-forensic examinations – “Indian Abu Ghraib” is so much sexier in the right columns….Why pass up the opportunity?

    Photos of masked groups beating up policemen are conveniently ignored at the same time…those images are a tad too disharmonious with the “standard” narrative, isnt it?

    As I mentioned in the earlier post, intellectual honesty is at a HUGE premium with a certain section of the commentariat, and Shuddha seems to belong firmly there…Therefore I am not surprised at his inability to understand the concept of honour that drives people like Maj Jass (engineer by training, volunteered for the Army, posted to the Signals regiment, but volunteered again for the Para SF knowing fully well the dangers of the same, and didnt flinch when his calling came – he was the first to burst through the doors of that building)…..

    But for Shuddha to understand that “honour”?! Probably a tad too difficult – maybe he should have a chat with Cap Kalia’s father (he lives in Delhi, and brave man himself in many ways) – maybe, just maybe he will realise……


    1. Unfortunately, I think that when an armed forces officer is killed in the line of duty, while on active combat, it is a very different thing from when an unarmed civilian is killed by the armed forces. When someone joins the armed forces, they do so, knowing fully well that they may be felled in the line of duty. So, such deaths, though unfortunate (the unnatural and untimely death of any person is a tragedy) are not something that the person who succumbs and his family cannot have accounted for when they took the decision to choose to be a soldier. However, a young man or woman picked off the street and shot or tortured, cannot in their wildest dreams imagine that this could be a part of their fate. So the two situations cannot under any stretch of imagination be considered identical. The death of an combatant-insurgent and the death of a solider can be seen as equivalent tragedies, but not the death of a soldier and the death of a non-combatant. The number of non-combatants who have died in Kashmir run in the region of around sixty to seventy thousand in the last twenty years, that is substantially greater than the casualties suffered by the armed forces. Attempting an equivalence between these two very different kinds of fatalities is not exactly what I would call ‘intellectual honesty’, which, you, Somnath, seem to set a store by.


    2. Frankly , your reply made me laugh and sick in the guts . The value of a defense personnel’s life in your view is different from any other’s life. Just because he is part of a organization that protects us from any possible harm, its ok if he dies (he is being paid for it). And whos life are you saying is valuable. A person who has not contributed a minute of his life to the country which has given the life he is living . And dont tell me they did not have the opportunity . This year’s civil services topper is a Kashmiri . And they have more funding than many other parts of the country. Its just that, the view that a reporter can value one life differently than other is disheartening.

      As far as your article goes , well written as it may be , i agree with somnath and Aman Sethi , The video disturbing as it is may have been shot by anyone, anywhere . With today’s technology anything is possible. You say that its time line can be determined by the fields etc .. Kashmir is not the only place with fields etc etc . Gifted you may in writing ,please consider all the possibilities , before jumping to conclusions.

      And also consider the effect of the article on people who are mindlessly wasting resources for “azadi”. In one of the comments ,somebody asks us to have vision , its on your shoulders and your pen to give that vision . A vision of unity and integrity in diversity. A lot of people refer to the sufferings they have had in the last 20 years . Do they think they are the only people suffering , what of the millions try to work to get a day’s wage. What of the peoples forced out of Kashmir , and it was these very people who stood by and watched them crawl, what of their suffering.

      Sir, please consider. You can reach more people now than ever before.


  12. Thanks..

    Coming to Kashmir issue itself, it is quite clear people in Jammu and Ladakh do not want ‘independence’ or even in their nightmares a merger with terrorist, fanatic barbaric state of Pakistan.

    Coming to valley itself, there is, for sure, a large constituency that wants to be free. Again the constituency that wants to go to Pakistan is much smaller, based on most surveys.

    Politicians like Geelani that call themselves proud Pakistanis are actually manipulating the public to further their interests. If Pakistani wants self determination they can offer it to the Baloch and Pashtuns first.

    GOI should make it clear the Valley will remain with India. It is upto the misguided youth to be part of, and take advantage of the Indian growth story and also contribute to it as equal citizens.

    If they want to take to streets, then there are ways to deal with that without killing them unless they use fire-arms first. That is where training, sensitisation, non-discrimination, rotation of cadre etc., comes in. If that is done, the protests will ebb away with time.

    As Pakistan sinks into a sweage pit of its own making and gets consumed by the terrorism and fanatic barbarianism they have themselves nurtured and financed, Kashmiri youth can see the contrast and make their choice.

    The land of course, will remain India, come what may.

    If this message goes thru clearly and consistently, things will change.


  13. Shuddha:
    I have no means of knowing who created that video and unless there is a proper forensic exam there can be no judgement on that. As the Sopore rape case (sic) illustrates, it is not above the Islamists to fabricate evidence to fuel the dissent.

    However, your own transcripts of the tape states that the armed men say that we have been looking for you since morning. Then why do you think that these people were some random innocents picked off the streets, if they have been chased for quite sometime?

    You try to do an equal-equal here that the numbers of civilians killed is much larger than men in uniform. First of all, what is the basis of the number you claim? Let me guess, you buy the Islamist propaganda hook, line and sinker. How can you be so sure that it is the state and not the Jehadist who were the murders?

    One reason the Islamists are so successful is that have no qualms about knocking off people who try to oppose them intellectually. The father of this year’s civil service exam topper, a Kashmiri Doctor, was bumped off by the Islamists. And they spare no one. In the land of pure Islam next door, the chief of the SSG, the Pakistani Army’s elite commando group, the most martial of the martial , was knocked off, when he made some noises about the links of the ISI and some SSG top-honchos with the Jehadis. Major General Faisal Alvi, a top soldier, was too professional and intellectually honest to be tolerated by the Islamist; he is the brother-in-law of V.S. Naipaul, whose writings on the Islamists should be the first read for Indian intellectuals’ (sic) re-education camp. And let us not talk about how the Chinese deal with dissent. Forget about stone-throwers, they treat unarmed protesters with tanks.

    BTW, during the current stone-throwing campaign, more than 1500 soldiers have been hurt. A stone is a lethal weapon, it can cause death. We have seen scores of pictures of well-fed, well-dressed Kashmiris, in nice looking neighourhoods, throwing large stones without any qualms or fear of retaliation. I have seen pictures of petrol bombs being hurled, with the photographer standing right behind the culprit. Mind you, a professional photographer will not stand behind a goon who is about to make a lethal assault if he had any fear that the soldier will use lethal force (guns) to disperse the goons.

    In the US a law enforcement officer (a beat-cop) will shoot to kill if some one threatens him/her with a stone, which is considered a lethal weapon. There will no human rights wallah coming to question a cop who has the full right to defend himself when confronted with a situation where the victim could potentially endanger others’ life. There is NO concept of firing on the legs etc.; if the situation warrants the use of the firearm, the officers will typically empty their clip to make sure the job is finished. That sir is the rule of law, in the world’s greatest democracy, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    Did you ever wonder who the ordinary CRPF or army man is? Do you think he relishes the job of standing guard in a hostile territory where some one might shot or drop a petrol bomb at any moment? Do you think that as soon as they don their uniform that Indians like you and me becomes a killing machine, a human rights abuser and what not. Do you have any idea of the mental, physical and emotional stress the soldiers are in?

    It is very easy to pass judgement about the men under fire, when you never under fire yourself.Do everyone a favor. Ask someone to throw a 6 inch rock at you. You had a fairly rotund structure, and assuming you have aged well, there should be enough adipose to protect your vitals. Then ask them to throw another one. Let us see how long your patience lasts.

    The one thing common to all Islamists through the ages is perseverance. Whether it was bin Qasim or Ghori, or the modern day ISI, they continue to pursue their objective with a zeal, which can only come from blind faith. They continue to attack until they find a weakness, and finally score victory.

    It is an uneven war, where the Islamists do not permit any introspection while on the other side there are the non-Islamists whose intellectual freedom becomes a source of weakness.

    The unfortunate aspect of a war like this, is that you are forced to compromise on your ideals and values, and dragged down to the levels of your opponent. However, the constant self-loathing of intellectuals (sic) like you simply weakens our resolve to fight the Islamists. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Please do not become an agent who facilitates that.

    PS: Why do people here question the state every time an Islamist is knocked off? I remember there was a hue and cry when that woman from Gujarat was killed in an encounter. Finally it was the testimony of David Headley to the Americans, which confirmed that she indeed was an LeT operative. Will some one on kafila acknowledge that??


  14. somnath:

    I do not think this is an issue of intellectual dishonesty. It is more a question of intellectual parochialism, a result of the intellectual inbreeding which is pervasive among academic type circles in India. I have witnessed the same ostrich like head in the sand attitude in the West also, so this is not unique to Indians.

    When a major bulk of your colleagues, Phd Advisors and coworkers subscribe to one school of thought, you have to stick to it. In the case of India you have to establish your liberal, secular credentials by being critical of any action assertive action taken by the agent of the state against anti-national forces. You bury your head in the same jhola as every one else, and then indulge in self-loathing against the state which is actually paying your salary and allowing you the intellectual freedom to say what you want. Can you imagine a CCP funded academic in some center in Beijing being critical about the PLA’s action in Xianjing or Tibet?

    If you are really good at self-loathing, you will get some peanuts thrown at you by some Western agency (Commonwealth, Fulbright, xyz award), giving you the license to pontificate for the next few decades now that you have the white man’s imprimatur.

    Another thing which affects them is a COMPLETE absence of any strategic thinking. They give no consideration to the context in which any operation or incident happens or the challenges which the Indian state faces.


  15. are we all part of this – can’t finds words -cliches, self distruct mode?? Mercy-compassion . .


  16. Shuddha:

    When a person signs up to join the armed forces, they expect to follow the rules which govern engagements. They also expect their superiors, including the civilian bosses to be conscious of the risks they will take and accordingly frame the rules of engagements.

    Before you disparage the sacrifices of the Indian Armed Forces, please compare the rules of engagements they work under compared to other forces in similar circumstances. Let me give you a few examples.

    -> Pakistani forces in FATA: Under US pressure, the Pakistani Army is forced to act against some Taleban strongholds. If they faced any form of resistance, their modus operandi was to call the big guns. The Pakistani Army uses artillery, and even the F-16s to flatten entire villages which were not cooperating.

    -> USArmy in Fallujah: When confronted with another stubborn enemy, the Americans decided to go in with full force. The used their M1 Abrams, attack choppers, and even Ground attack aircraft to silence the opposition. When they were done with, half of Fallujah was in rubble.

    -> The PLA of course does not even require armed insurgents before they decide to send in their tanks.

    Contrast that with how the Indian Army operates in Kashmir. The primary reason why the number of officer casualties versus enlisted men is much higher than the norm, is that the officer lead from the front, and try their best to prevent civilian collateral damage. They first try their best to rescue civilians first, after cordoning off the area. If civilians are hostage, they lay a siege. During the entire operation, the hands of the forces are tied. Unlike the Pakistani, are the Americans, or the Chinese they can not call in artillery support, or air support to flatten the jehadis. They are at the risk of being hit by lucky-shots, while they wear out the Jehadis.

    The Rules of Engagement are among the most lop-sided compared to similar operations in the rest of the world. It is only their professionalism and their commitment to the oath they took which keeps them going.

    Everytime you write an article questioning the actions of the Indian state, you disparage the sacrifices of forces operating under one of the most unfair rules of engagements seen under similar circumstances anywhere in the world.

    Everyone, even the soldiers who wear the uniform, love life. They are willing to give up theirs in order to defend you. What have you ever done to help them???


  17. Hah, what a joke:

    Unfortunately, I think that when an armed forces officer is killed in the line of duty, while on active combat, it is a very different thing from when an unarmed civilian is killed by the armed forces.

    Of course, unarmed civilians who pelt stones at people with guns have no expectation that the people with guns might use them. Very logical. I suppose you also consider people who throw stones at dogs, and poke monkeys with sticks as being unarmed and peaceful too.


  18. Shuddha,

    Maybe unwittingly, you caught on to the wrong end of the point. Its no one’s argument that there is any equivalence between the killing of a soldier in combat vis a vis an “extra judicial” one.

    The point on “equivalence” (and intellectual honesty) is very different. Its about being equally sensitive to images of the so-called protestors beating up an armed policeman without the latter drawing his weapon…It is about being as sesitive to the You-tube video as you were to the audio tape recording the conversations of separatists…

    somehow, ideological blinkers prevent a realistic understanding of the real issues in question..

    Non-combatant deaths? How many deaths occured pre-1989? And how many were caused by the terrorists? Sweeping in one broad brush every single “statistic” under the dirty rug of the Indian state is facile analysis – makes for good copy in certain pages, but is intellectually dishonest…

    The examples of people like Maj Jass is moot – here is an army where the SOP (std operating procedure, for the uninitiated) in CI ops is for lightly armed infantry troops to physically take out militants, rather than blow up houses using heavy artillery..the “enemy” on the other hand, has no such scruples..Whether using civilians as human shields or as pawns, they are game…

    So Shuddha, take a look at that video again…Use the same level of scepticism that you displayed for the sepaartist audio…Overlay on top the image of Maj Jass – he preferred to storm that militant hideout to preserve tje lives and property of innocent Kashmiris, rather than blowing the place up with a few rockets..Your conclusions would (or should) be a bit less definitive than saying “India’s Abu Ghraib”…

    and yes, if you have a chance to, read up on the story of Cap Saurabh Kalia – gives a new dimension to “suffering”, and makes (yet another) case for the kind of “honour” that these men fight with…


  19. Dear Sengupta , you write such a long article, crying out to Indians to feel some shame for the uncivilized behaviour of their Armed Forces – based on what ? a fake video ? Where is the proof that the evil people in this video are Indian soldiers ? You come across as a liar.

    Look – I know how you feel. I know its all about the ideology that compels you and your fellow travelers / comrades to demean India, demonise Indian armed forces, work for India’s dismemberment and disintegration – but all this deliberate lying only makes your case weaker.

    You think people like you and your fellow travellers / comrades enjoy any support among Indians ? Sure some idiots in JNU / AMU will support you, and communal Kashmiri Sunni Separatists (many of who have made their way to this board) will support you – but as far as Indians are concerned – they will only hate you.

    If you dont believe me – stand for an election in any part of India , where communal Kashmiri sunni sepratists are not in a majority, and try to win with the slogan ” Evil Indian Army and Other Evil Indians Get Out Of Kashmir”.


  20. a better strategy to beat censureship could be to upload it thru some encrypted torrent client which would make it not possible to be removed since the copies once out would not be on any site as such but on the hard-disks of all who download it, and then publicise the torrent on facebook, forums etc.


  21. Nicely, wisely, and intelligently written truth about, and documented by, ugly face of Indian democracy and Indian occupation in Kashmir. This is the development India has brought to kashmir in 21st centuary. Shame for occupiers! Shame for killers of helpless innocent and armless teenagers and children! Shame for so called largest democracy on earth!


  22. Very impassioned and well reasoned piece.

    Oh BTW, just yesterday I saw a thug collecting hafta from a boiled-egg thela. The thug had this to say “Mera life tere is jyada important hai, kyonki is area ka protection mai karta hai”. I see the moral equivalence being extended to army, by the partiots here.


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