Tag Archives: Kashmir azadi

On Indian Exceptionalism and Kashmir: Dia Da Costa

This is a guest post by Dia Da Costa

‘If Trump is elected, I will move to Canada,’ many Americans noted in passing, in jest, and then in all seriousness once the results were out.

If it has taken this election result to make people recognize the pervasive racism in the US, that is because of the success of US exceptionalism and its ability to deflect attention from its ongoing colonization of indigenous land, relentless imperialism, Islamophobia, and ongoing brutalities against black people in the aftermath of abolition and the civil rights movement. If it has taken this election result to make people really want to move to Canada, that too is because of the success of Canadian multicultural exceptionalism. Apparently, Canadian exceptionalism is still able to pass as not-as-racist by deflecting attention from its ongoing colonization of indigenous land, relentless participation in imperialism cloaked all too often as humanitarian development, growing Islamophobia, and its self-congratulatory representation of itself as having no history of slavery even as its anti-Black violence pervades cities and small towns alike.

For those of us who can recognize these forms of exceptionalism, I want to ask if we acknowledge Indian exceptionalism, and its specific relation to Kashmir? ‘If Trump is elected, I will move back to India’, I saw many Indians say on social media. If it has taken this US election result to make Indians really want to move back to India, that is not just because of the apparent success of US exceptionalism among Indians, who could see racism but could ultimately deal with, and even love life in the US. It is also because of Indian exceptionalism. To be sure, Indian exceptionalism is nurtured by the caste and class privilege that allows some Indians to declare that they will simply up and leave when the going gets tough (whether it is in India or in the US), or joke about the same.

But there is more to it. Indian exceptionalism is a state projected discourse turned commonsense perception of India as a complicated and diverse nation that is ultimately unified against all odds by the absolute commitment of its people to democracy. Whether we believe it at face value or we critique the many excesses of the Indian state, ultimately something draws us to this idea of India as the world’s largest democracy. Continue reading On Indian Exceptionalism and Kashmir: Dia Da Costa

When the lid will burst: Fahad Shah

This is an excerpt from the introduction to the anthology Of Occupation and Resistance: Writings from Kashmir, edited by FAHAD SHAH

Once militancy took root in the Valley, it continued unabated, with a few exceptions in the years to come. The sentiment of the resistance movement prevailed across Jammu and Kashmir. At one point in time, blasts and encounters occurred almost every day. The first few years of the 1990s were the most brutal in the history of the conflicted Valley. After the 1996 assembly elections, when people were forced to vote at gunpoint, the National Conference Party and counter-insurgent groups ruled the state. People lived with trauma and threat – treating the injured, mourning for the dead and searching for those who had disappeared.

This was the story for more than a decade. A shift in the nature of resistance has been seen in the past few years; the generation that was born during the start of the war has been able to glean the nuances of the homeland’s political situation. Most of the youngsters from this generation, born between the late 80s and early 90s, choose stones over guns. Continue reading When the lid will burst: Fahad Shah

Eleven things India must do in Kashmir: Justin Podur

Indian Army soldiers at an encounter site with militants in Kashmir on Friday. AP photo

Guest post by JUSTIN PODUR: I spent a week in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, at the end of April 2013, talking to people among whom there was a wide range of opinion. While almost everyone supports freedom, some are resigned to India never letting Kashmir go, others believe that the struggle will go on and take different forms, some are just trying to survive. It seemed to me, at the end of a calm week during tourist season, that India is bringing about all of the things that it fears: Pakistani influence, violence,  radicalisation of youth, political Islam, and hatred of India. Continue reading Eleven things India must do in Kashmir: Justin Podur

Is the Hurriyat divorcing democracy and freedom?: Gowhar Geelani

Guest post by GOWHAR GEELANI

By any stretch of imagination, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC] has ceased to be an amalgam of ‘all parties’. It seems that this conglomerate of several pro-freedom political, social and religious parties is actually being run by a chosen few in a dictatorial manner. It is no secret now that the fissures in the Hurriyat ‘M’, the one led by the popular head-priest based in Srinagar, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, run neck deep.

The APHC was formed on 10 March 1993 to find a political solution to Kashmir dispute after a large-scale armed rebellion since 1989 had successfully highlighted the need for a resolution to the long-standing dispute. Essentially, this conglomerate was formed with the clear aim of achieving the “right to self-determination” for Kashmiris in accordance with the United Nations’ Security Council Resolutions vis-à-vis Kashmir.

But all is not well with the Hurriyat (M). One of its prominent leaders, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat has openly challenged group’s constitution by declaring that the UN resolutions on Kashmir have become “irrelevant”.

Continue reading Is the Hurriyat divorcing democracy and freedom?: Gowhar Geelani

A Brief Summary of the Interlocutors’ Report on Kashmir: Shoaib Rafiq

This guest post by SHOAIB RAFIQ is an analysis of the Home Ministry-appointed group of interlocutors’ report on Kashmir 

We swear by the fundamentals of absurdism
of that all we have learned
our solutions will mimic the ludicrousness
that we employ in our education, research, and other related shit. Continue reading A Brief Summary of the Interlocutors’ Report on Kashmir: Shoaib Rafiq

Z for Zalim: Semiotics and the Occupation of Kashmir

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip. – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

A for Apple and Z for Zebra. Children are taught the alphabet with the help of images. And the association of images with sound. It helps them associate the sound of A with the sound of Apple, and associate that in turn with the image of an apple. The alphabet book depends on images that may be familiar to children. The word Apple is a signifier, and the apple itself is the signified. This is, most simply, what semiotics or the study of signs and sign processes.

In a future world, if there are no zebras, alphabet books may have to replace the last entry with something else. What could it be? Zebra crossing? Zimbabwe?

Last week, the Jammu and Kashmir Police registered a case of sedition, defamation and criminal conspiracy against six officials of BoSE, the government’s very own Board of School Education, for this:

This is a page from a book called Baharistaan-e-Urdu. This attempt to teach Kashmiri children the Urdu alphabet (note to self: this is what I need to learn Nastaliq!) makes them say, “Zoi se Zalim,” Z for Zalim, meaning cruel. That is only one of four examples. The other two are: zaroof (utensils), zahir (visible) and zarf (ornamental cup holder).

Continue reading Z for Zalim: Semiotics and the Occupation of Kashmir

Merry Christmas, Rev. Khanna: Thinking about Freedom and Intolerance in Kashmir

I want to begin writing this by wishing a very happy Christmas to Reverend C.M. Khanna, a Protestant presbyter in the All Saint’s Church, Srinagar, Indian held Jammu & Kashmir, who has been facing a situation that no free man should ever have to countenance. He has had to face an arrest (though, thankfully now he is out on bail) and social ostracism for doing nothing that can be construed as criminal or harmful to any individual or society at large. I write this in solidarity with him and his family, and with all those who have been harassed for their faith, or for their lack of faith, anywhere.

(Please follow this link for a comprehensive report on Rev. Khanna’s situation, in the form of a press note submitted by John Dayal)

I know that many people in Kashmir continue to be in prison for reasons of conscience, because they want to be free of the occupation. And this Christmas, my greetings are to them and to their families too. I know that Reverend Khanna is out on bail now, and that many others are not. And I hope that they too will see freedom soon. I am writing about Reverend Khanna not because I value his freedom more than that of others incarcerated in Kashmir, but because if we value freedom, we should not have to measure its value, or calculate its worth depending on who happens to get bail, and who happens to rot in jail. Continue reading Merry Christmas, Rev. Khanna: Thinking about Freedom and Intolerance in Kashmir

Rain, Eid and Geelani: Sameer Bhat

Guest post by SAMEER BHAT

A fine rain was falling as I disembarked the aircraft. Srinagar was shivering at 7 degrees centigrade. Rams and ewes, all set for slaughter on Eid, looked forlorn. Meat-market persons in untidy pherans haggled with locals for rates. Half the male population, I noticed, had not seen a shaving blade for weeks, a very Kashmiri trait most noticeable in winters. While it continued to drizzle, queues outside ATM machines got fretful. At least three people entered the cashpoint at one time to witness your transaction. The invasion of financial privacy has a very harmless ring to it, which is very indigenous. Continue reading Rain, Eid and Geelani: Sameer Bhat

Thinking Truth and Reconciliation in Kashmir: Shuja Malik

Guest post by SHUJA MALIK

“Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)” is a recent addition in the lexicon of the Kashmir conflict/dispute. IT gained currency after recent confirmation of reports about presence of unmarked, unidentified and mass graves in Kashmir. The idea of a TRC for Kashmir raises questions about its relevance and context, especially unidentified graves and enforced disappearances.

Truth and reconciliation commissions have been established in the past with varied powers and purposes, usually at points where the parties involved are ‘emerging out of conflict’ or are at ‘transitional stage’, and after modalities have been established for conflict resolution.

Continue reading Thinking Truth and Reconciliation in Kashmir: Shuja Malik

Assaulting Prashant Bhushan only proves the moral strength of his argument

Threatening people whose views you don’t like with violence is a sure-shot way of letting the world know who is right and whose argument is morally superior. To those who attacked Prashant Bhushan today for the comments he made in this video below, thank you for bringing more attention to them!

This is how “integral” a part of India Kashmir is – so integral that voices that doubt it must be silenced with vigilante force!

See also: a recent interview he gave to Kashmir Life in Srinagar

A rape in Kulgam; the dishonouring of India continues

Imagine there had been a rape in Delhi. Imagine the headlines in the papers. They would have been loud and angry. As they are, and as they must be. Do you think any of the papers would have said that the woman in question has ‘accused’ or ‘alleged’ who the perpetrator was? But there has been a rape in Kashmir and your media wants you to know that a woman has ‘accused’ an army jawan of having done so. Journalistic restrain and caution are good things when they are useful. After all, let an inquiry establish this is the truth.

Continue reading A rape in Kulgam; the dishonouring of India continues

Martyrs’ Days: Memorializing 13 July 1931 in Kashmir: Mridu Rai

Guest post by Mridu Rai

It is widely believed that the Kashmir conflict has its roots in the Partition of India in August 1947. This view perpetuates the understanding of the conflict as one between India and Pakistan. However, recognising that the roots of the conflict lie in an earlier history – indeed, that there was a history before August 1947 – changes our understanding of the ‘intractable’ conflict in Kashmir. This guest post by MRIDU RAI, author of the book, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights and the History of Kashmir (2004), discusses the salience of the events in Srinagar on this day, exactly 80 years ago.

While "separatists" were placed under house arrest to prevent commemorative mass gatherings, policemen took part in Kashmir Martyrs' Day ceremonies at the Martyrs' graveyard in Srinagar, July 13, 2011. Photo credit: Reuters

Continue reading Martyrs’ Days: Memorializing 13 July 1931 in Kashmir: Mridu Rai

Goodbye UN, Hello Sarpanch: Jahangir Rana

Guest post by JAHANGIR RANA

It has now become an established trend for the Indian political establishment to beat the drums of ‘victory’ after every electoral process in Kashmir. Almost invariably, prior to an election, this establishment maintains that the issue of resolution is not linked to elections in the disputed state. However, as soon as the electoral process is over, the same establishment is out to cash the participation in elections as an implicit approval for the status quo.

In an interview last week, senior Congress politician Mani Shanker Aiyer went as far as claiming that Azadi can be attained through Panchayat, pointing at the recent participation in Panchayat elections. These bombastic claims are now bordering on the absurd. To assume that the twenty-year resistance in Kashmir has been about devolution of power and development at grass roots, Aiyar and his colleagues within the establishment continue to live in denial. Continue reading Goodbye UN, Hello Sarpanch: Jahangir Rana

The Mountains Are Coming Closer

(This article by me has appeared in the Sunday Guardian, Delhi, and the Friday Times, Lahore.)

The voices that reverberate in your head after a visit to Kashmir leave you numb, making you sadder the more you think about them. You know that it is going to be worse when you visit next year. The mountains that you see faintly from over the bridges on the Jhelum river in downtown Srinagar, a thousand-year-old settlement, you know they are coming closer.

An old man you see on the road wants your attention. No, not here. Let’s get inside a parked car. You wonder what secrets are to be passed on. From inside his pheran he takes out a bundle of papers. Both his sons were picked up from Kathmandu in Nepal in 2000, where they were eking out a living. Had they been militants why would they have … look, look, this paper, certificate of registration of Indian nationals in Nepal? The last he heard of his sons some years ago was that Indian intelligence had detained him in Delhi. He is coming to Delhi next month. Could you help? All he wants to know is what happened to his sons, which prison are they in, could he see them once? Read more…

Noor Sahab in Horror Land: Gowhar Fazili

Guest post by GOWHAR FAZILI

Some old memories came to mind when Noor Mohammed Bhat, a college lecturer in Kashmir got arrested for asking in an examination, “Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.”

I studied at Burn Hall, a missionary school in Srinagar. In the mid-‘80s, they would make us recite the national anthem in the morning assembly on one of the week days. Interestingly, while the little kids would do as they were told, the ‘big’ ones who had just crossed their sixth grade, would for some strange reason go off tune so that Jana Gana Mana… would start sounding like “Jaaaaaanaooauea maaaoAAAonaa gaooooOOnaannNNaaaA…”, like it were a sound coming out of an audio tape that was stuck or a damaged gramophone record! This bad behaviour invited corporal punishment. Shah Sir and Mohinder Sir (P.T. Masters) used to lurk behind the assembly and surreptitiously appear and whip on our legs at lightning speed. They would lash at the whole queue in a single run and be gone before we knew it. While the tune in the queue that was being freshly hit would get restored, the queues furthest from the P.T. Masters would go really off the tune! They would keep running about madly like this from one end to another but the cycle (orchestra) would continue till the whole song was over. It used be maddening for them. Though they were quite ferocious if one were to encounter them in person, (having been used regularly to instil fear and maintain ‘discipline’) somehow as a collective, we dared them in this manner week after week and year after year. Continue reading Noor Sahab in Horror Land: Gowhar Fazili

“Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.” Hundred marks?

Noor Mohammed Bhat, a college lecturer in Srinagar, who decided to get creative with the English examination paper. Amongst his essay topics: “Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.”

It also asked students to translate this Urdu-language text into English: “Kashmir is burning once again. The warm blood of youth is being spilled like water. Police and soldiers are beating even small children to death. Bullets are being pumped into the chests of even girls and women. People in villages and towns are crying in pain. Rulers continue to be in a deep slumber. It appears they’ve turned dumb, deaf and blind.” [Associated Press]

Although the AP report linked above says he has been charged with promoting secession, it’s not clear if he’s been charged with sedition. Kashmir Dispatch reports say he’s been charged under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Ironically, the college where Bhat taught (he’s already been sacked) is named after Gandhi. Univesity spaces in Kashmir are heavily controlled to prevent political expression and student unions are banned. So much so that when Kashmiri students see campus politics at the Jawaharlal University in Delhi, they often remark that they are seeing for the first time what freedom looks like!

Meanwhile, Rohini Hensman says Kashmiris should not have azadi until they ask India and Pakistan for azadi in equal measure, or something like that.

From New York, a letter to fellow Kashmiris

Guest post by MOHAMAD JUNAID

Dear fellow Kashmiris,

I’m writing this letter from New York, a place far away, yet so close to everything. This city can make you forget, by filching reality away from you. But it also reminds you perpetually, by bringing you close to a different reality, through the pain and suffering of others. There are exiled specimens from all over the world here (yes, mostly those permitted to come to the US). There are Irish and Greeks, escapees from famines and wars. There are Jews from Germany and Germans from Russia, ones who survived persecution. There are Latinos from El Salvador, Peru, Guatemala, and Bolivia, who fled Western-backed dictatorial regimes in their countries in the 1970s and 80s. There are Africans who narrowly missed genocide in Southern Sudan. There are Kurds from Turkey, and Berber from North Africa, driven out of their lands by years of conflict. And, then there are African Americans, who were forcibly brought hundreds of years before to slave for their White masters, and who, despite recent claims of dawning of an age of “post-racial America,” are still groveling at the bottom of the socio-economic heap. Their stories tell a similar conclusion: The world is shrinking for small nationalities and powerless minorities. Continue reading From New York, a letter to fellow Kashmiris

Mohamad Junaid: What Does the Chatham House Poll in Kashmir Tell Us?

Guest post by MOHAMAD JUNAID

The Chatham House poll conducted in the autumn of 2009 in Jammu, Ladakh, Kashmir and Azad Kashmir has revealed an interesting pattern of opinions held across these regions on issues ranging from the perception of major problems people face to effective solutions to the Kashmir issue and the best means to achieve them. Robert Bradnock, under whose supervision the poll was conducted, however presented the results somewhat shoddily leading to confusion over the real import of the opinion poll. This confusion has prompted media in India and Pakistan to portray the polls selectively or in a self-serving manner, largely reflecting their nationalist stances on the Kashmir question. The poll, in reality, points to some interesting developments in Kashmir and indicates a way toward an eventual, mutually agreeable solution.

Consistent with every other poll on the issue, Chatham House poll has shown again that an overwhelming number of people (74—95 percent) in Kashmir region demand independence. This figure comes as no surprise because the support for independence for Kashmir over accession to Pakistan has been steadily growing over the last 20 years. This feeling is more concretely reflected in the fact that most Kashmiris (more than 90 percent) support withdrawal of Indian troops from Kashmir, while a similar figure (around 80 percent) want Pakistan to withdraw its troops from Azad Kashmir. Along with demilitarization, there is a clear demand for de-weaponization (more than 80 percent) and an end to militant violence (around 90 percent) in the Kashmir region. The Line of Control in its present form is uniformly rejected in both Kashmir and Azad Kashmir. Continue reading Mohamad Junaid: What Does the Chatham House Poll in Kashmir Tell Us?