Agha Sahab ( Agha Ashraf Ali), passed away at the age of 94 on the 7th of August, 2020.
I was lucky to know Agha Sahab closely because of his intimate connection with Jamia Millia Islamia and our long standing family friendship. He would come down to Delhi in the winter and spend a lot of time at my parents home, drinking tea in the winter sun. But I got to know him as a friend when I started visiting Srinagar from 1999 onwards, for programmes being conducted being by the NGO I worked with . My trips would remain incomplete if I did not visit him.
It’s an outrage to dismiss valid concerns that doctors and medical journals are raising.
Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Indian Express
These are strange times. A state can just get ‘obliterated’ from the map of the nation. Constitutional propriety is set aside to deprive millions of citizens of their basic human rights while a significant section of the rest of the country ‘rejoices’ over it all.
A large section of the media has abandoned its role as watchdog of democracy but health professionals are coming forward to speak truth to power.
Reports have appeared that eighteen doctors from across India, including Dr Ramani Atkuri, a public health professional, have written to the BMJ, a prominent medical journal, urging the central government to “ease restrictions on communication and travel at the earliest [in Kashmir] and undertake any other measures that are required to allow patients to access health care without hindrance.”
This group of doctors has thrown crucial light on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Valley. One consequence of the crisis is “violation of the right to life and to health care.”
Economist Jean Dreze, Kavita Krishnan of the CPI(ML) and the All India Progressive Women’s Association, Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movements released the following report to the press today, 14 August 2019, after spending five days in Kashmir, meeting and talking to people.
We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.
When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops – and all police stations – were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.
Determined, defiant – not the Kashmiri women of Sanghi fantasies
Protest in Srinagar against the abrogation of Article 370 on August 11, 2019, despite the clampdown by the Indian government. Image courtesy The Wall Street Journal.
When trolls on social media started circulating photographs of young Kashmiri girls, gloating, “now we can marry them”, it was only the overt manifestation by Sanghis of the real spirit behind abrogating Article 370. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi held forth at length on development, rights to education, rights for women and for Dalits, all of which the people of J&K were deprived of because of Article 370, the truth of course, is that J&K stands in the top 10 to 15 states on different indicators ranging from life expectancy, people served per government doctor, poverty rate and infant mortality rate, to human development index.
Or as Haseeb Drabu puts it:
The level of economic empowerment is evident from the fact that more than 25% of the household earnings in J&K are from own cultivation. In “prosperous” Punjab, it is only 18%, in “vibrant” Gujarat, it is less than 16% and in “terrific” Tamil Nadu, it is only 3%. And yet, J&K is being portrayed as a “sick” state.
On the same page of the Times of India of June 28, 1958 are two news items. The one on the left is a report of how Bakrid was celebrated the day before in various cities, including Jammu, where Hindus and Sikhs offered namaz along with their Muslim brethren. On the right is another story that reports the expulsion of Ms. Mridula Sarabhai from the Congress party for her ‘anti-party activities’ in opposing the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 and the muzzling of democratic rights in Kashmir.
ऊपर से शांत दिखने वाली भीड़ का हिंसक बन जाना अब हमारे वक्त़ की पहचान बन रहा है. विडंबना यही है कि ऐसी घटनाएं इस क़दर आम हो चली हैं कि किसी को कोई हैरानी नहीं होती.
15 वर्ष का जुनैद ख़ान, जिसकी चाहत थी कि इस बार ईद पर नया कुर्ता पाजामा, नया जूता पहने और इत्र लगा कर चले, लेकिन सभी इरादे धरे के धरे रहे गए. उसे शायद ही गुमान रहा होगा कि ईद की मार्केटिंग के लिए दिल्ली की उसकी यात्रा ज़िंदगी की आख़िरी यात्रा साबित होगी. दिल्ली बल्लभगढ़ लोकल ट्रेन पर जिस तरह जुनैद तथा उसके भाइयों को भीड़ ने बुरी तरह पीटा और फिर ट्रेन के नीचे फेंक दिया, वह ख़बर सुर्ख़ियां बनी है.
दिल्ली के एम्स अस्पताल में भरती उसका भाई शाकिर बताता है कि किस तरह भीड़ ने पहले उन्हें उनके पहनावे पर छेड़ना शुरू किया, बाद में गाली गलौज करने लगे और उन्हें गोमांस भक्षक कहने लगे और बात बात में उनकी पिटाई करने लगे. विडम्बना है कि समूची ट्रेन खचाखच भरी थी, मगर चार निरपराधों के इस तरह पीटे जाने को लेकर किसी ने कुछ नहीं बोला, अपने कान गोया ऐसे बंद किए कि कुछ हुआ ही न हो.
ट्रेन जब बल्लभगढ़ स्टेशन पर पहुंची तो भीड़ में से किसी ने अपने जेब से चाकू निकाल कर उन्हें घोंप दिया और अगले स्टेशन पर उतर कर चले गए. एक चैनल से बात करते हुए हमले का शिकार रहे मोहसिन ने बताया कि उन्होंने ट्रेन की चेन भी खींची थी, मगर उनकी पुकार सुनी नहीं गई. इतना ही नहीं, रेलवे पुलिस ने भी मामले में दखल देने की उनकी गुजारिश की अनदेखी की.
विडंबना ही है कि उधर बल्लभगढ़ की यह ख़बर सुर्ख़ियां बन रही थी, उसी वक़्त कश्मीर की राजधानी श्रीनगर की मस्जिद के बाहर सादी वर्दी में तैनात पुलिस अधिकारी को आक्रामक भीड़ द्वारा मारा जा रहा था. जुनैद अगर नए कपड़ों के लिए मुंतज़िर था तो अयूब पंडित को अपनी बेटी का इंतज़ार था जो बांगलादेश से पहुंचने वाली थी.
( Read the full article here : http://thewirehindi.com/12095/mob-lynching-and-india/)
Towards the end of his presidency, Lyndon B Johnson, the 36th President of the United States of America, had been reduced to a figure of universal scorn and derision. His escalation of the Vietnam War to a point from which it became impossible to extricate the US ended up in becoming one of the defining human tragedies of twentieth century. This was war fought on the basis of pretexts that did not actually exist. The slur “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” which became an anthem of sorts for protestors eventually compelled him to forgo running for a second term in office in 1968. Those protesting against the war, those who eventually forced Lyndon Johnson to leave the political arena were Americans who were overcome with images of atrocities and the rising count of civilian deaths in a mindless war.
Violence, persistent and unending, creates an alternative reality, a festering, perverted, horrible, surreal reality. Violence, unending and unrelenting erases all memories of times past, Memories of times when another reality existed, It is this alternative reality that begins to redefine imagery, ideas, sensibilities and begins to creates a new grotesque discourse, a discourse in which the ugly face of fear and death becomes the normative. I’ll give you one example of how this works. Continue reading Alchemies of Art and Resistance in Kashmir→
I am an Indian, but a separatist too. I am hostile against Kashmiri people because I only love my fellow countrymen.
The feeling of separatism among the people of a bordering state is easily identified. But there are two types of separatism. In a state or region like Kashmir and North – Eastern states, separatism is identified in such a way that there is a group or more than one group of people who want to secede from Indian nation and they carry out “actions” to fulfill this desire. They try to galvanize public support through their “actions” and harm government machinery as well. But have we ever identified the separatism that is professed by the majority section of the society?
I belong to a Hindu family of north India. Right from the beginning, a separatist feeling against Kashmir has been cultivated within me. A survey can be conducted in entire north India to know how a relationship with Kashmir has been nurtured among the people of this region during their childhood. If I ask 100 children, they all know Kashmir only through the materials available in media. I want to repeat the story how I was introduced to Kashmir. I was born in the early years of 1960s. While going to school or returning back, I was told that Kashmir has a separate flag which is different from Indian tricolour. Like prime minister of India, it also has a prime minister. There is a separate section in Indian Constitution for it and Muslims are in majority there. Since Pakistan follows Islam, therefore loyalty of Kashmir people is also doubtful.Continue reading Separatism of Majority against Kashmir : Anil Chamadia→
Over the past 70 days, there have been over 84 deaths, hundreds have lost their eyesight to pellet wounds and thousands have been injured in Kashmir. As news reports of the death of 11 year old Nasir Shafi, son of Muhammad Shafi, a resident of New Theed Harwan in Srinagar emerge, we also hear about Showkat Ahmed Misger, a person with mental disabilities from Safa Kadal who was admitted in hospital in a critical condition with pellet wounds. Though the people of Chandpora were told by the police that Nasir Shafi was mauled by a bear, pictures of his body with pellet wounds and torture marks stand in contradiction to this official version of events. The violence unleashed by the armed forces continue unabated in Kashmir inspite of extensive social media outrage and mass protests in Indian cities like Patna, Kolkatta, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi etc.
Re: Urgent action needed to end state violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir
We are writing to you to express our concern about the situation in Indian-controlled Kashmir where the already subjected population is currently living in a state of siege due to the massive violence unleashed by the Indian forces. We appreciate your decision to create a fact-finding mission and deplore the refusal of the Indian government to allow access to UN human rights monitors (1). In the absence of such a mission, we feel it incumbent upon civil society groups to provide regular updates on the situation.
We, the Kashmir Scholars Action Group, are an interdisciplinary group of scholars of various nationalities engaged in research on the region of Kashmir. Our research on Kashmir, its history, its consequences for the region and beyond, and its possible resolution, delves into the implications for an internationally mediated political solution, and is of relevance to policy makers. Based on our long and active engagement with civil society groups in Indian-controlled Kashmir, we have undertaken to document and communicate the situation on ground since the Indian state’s violence against civilians has continued to mount from July 7th, 2016 onwards. Each of us has written about Kashmiri history, society and politics; and we are particularly concerned about the present conditions of violence. We write to you now as part of our urgent efforts to check the brutality of the state’s response to Kashmiris, scores of whom have mobilized in support of their demand for azadi (freedom). Even as we will go on to list some of the details of the humanitarian crisis, we wish to make clear that we are calling not only for the resumption of basic civil services, the rule of law, and the restoration of human rights in Kashmir, but, most importantly, for an internationally mediatedpolitical solution for this ongoing crisis. Continue reading Kashmir Scholars Action Group Letter to the UN High Commission for Human Rights on the Situation in Jammu&Kashmir: KSAG→
Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association (AUDFA) expresses serious concern and outrage about the growing spiral of violence against various marginalized communities across the country. In the last one month two states particularly have witnessed violence and protests in an extensive scale.
AUDFA condemns the continued violence against people in the Kashmir valley, where the death toll is continuously rising. The violence in Kashmir this time saw a familiar pattern as before, an (encounter) killing, a funeral where rage is vented through slogans and indiscriminate and abominable violence as a response. Kashmir valley remained under a complete blackout with all modes of communication and transport blocked and curfew imposed for several days. AUDFA urges that immediate efforts towards demilitarization of Kashmir valley must be initiated and steps must be taken towards preventing the killing and injury of civilians.
AUDFA also strongly protests against the brutal beating, flogging stripping and parading of seven dalit men in Una taluka of Gujarat. As protests against this violence, at least twelve dalit men attempted suicide. Massive protests by dalits are evidence towards the failure of the justice system which has not been able to provide redress against the high rates of caste atrocity in Gujarat. AUDFA believes that action needs to be taken against vigilante gauraksha groups (who were the perpetrators of the violence) under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Continuous violence and discrimination against Muslims and the dalits goes against the moral fabric of the Constitution and as a faculty association AUDFA expresses its anxiety over the growing everyday intolerance among and polarisation of the people in this country. We express our solidarity with protests against such ongoing violence.
Since the death of a young and charismatic separatist named Burhan Wani, Kashmir has erupted into violence and chaos. Weeks of violent protests in the Valley have resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people and over 5,000 injuries. Kashmir is not new to violent protests and civilian deaths, but this time the intensity of the protest and the passion of the protesters is unprecedented. Continue reading Not Pakistan, but Modi has pushed Kashmir on the Brink : Ashok Swain→
Sonam Mittal’s recent piece in Kafila, “Kashmir is Feminist Issue” draws upon an oft-cited gendered analogy to describe the Kashmir’s relationship with India and Pakistan. Though it makes a few pertinent points about the nexus of power and patriarchy and the urgent need for Indian feminist solidarity with the Kashmiri resistance, I found the analogy deeply problematic and strongly feel that it needs further unpacking to underline its worrying implications.
In 2011, I had written an essay on Kashmir entitled: “The Militarized Zone,”which was published in an anthology on Kashmir (Verso Books).
What was apparent then is all too real now. I reproduce an edited fragment here today, in solidarity with Kashmiris who are being asphyxiated in their land and subjected to life under conditions akin to collective internment, and their allies across India who are being intimidated to conserve the silence. Speaking up on Kashmir is inevitably accompanied by fear for many even as silence is a betrayal of humanity. Continue reading Kashmir, Summer 2016: Angana Chatterji→
Guest Post by Ashoka University Students and Alumni
Letter condemning the State Violence in Kashmir
The Govt of India. and the Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir.
We, the undersigned—current students, alumni of the Young India Fellowship, and faculty of Ashoka University—write to voice our deepest anguish and grave concern at the violent turn of events in Kashmir in the past few days. The violence perpetrated by the Indian State after the extra-judicial execution(1) of 22-year old Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani (2) is highly condemnable. The Indian Army, Kashmir Police and other task forces have reacted violently with bullets, pellets and lathis in the clashes that erupted after Burhan’s funeral. This was immediately followed by many more protests and demonstrations as part of Kashmiri resistance to the military occupation of Kashmir by the Indian State. In the violent repression of the protests which had a huge ground support (evident from the large attendance to Burhan’s funeral) , 55 civilians (3) have been killed and around 3100 people (4) were severely injured by the pellets(5), lathis and bullets, some of whom have lost their eyesight. We, unequivocally, condemn this brutal use of force by the Indian State in dealing with the protests after the killing of Burhan Wani. Continue reading Statement Against State Violence in Kashmir: Ashoka University Students and Alumni→
On behalf of JAMMU KASHMIR COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY [JKCCS]
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Juan Ernesto Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society [JKCCS]
Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir
July 16, 2016
Re.: URGENT ACTION / APPEAL regarding deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Jammu and Kashmir
With grave concern and urgency we write to you today to bring to your immediate attention the ongoing State violence and repression against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir including repeated attacks on medical services, particularly hospital ambulances, carrying the dead and critically injured civilians. Jammu and Kashmir once again faces a humanitarian crisis that requires urgent international attention and intervention.
With the presence of an estimated 7, 00,000 armed forces, Jammu and Kashmir is today the most militarized zone in the world and its civilians have faced widespread and systematic attacks at the hands of Indian State forces over the last 26 years. Thus far, the region has seen the commission of human rights violations, including war crimes that have resulted in70,000+ killings, 8000+ enforced disappearances and innumerous cases of torture and sexual violence. The armed forces, through special legislation but more importantly due to direct political support of the Indian state, enjoy total impunity and to date not a single armed forces personnel has been prosecuted for criminal actions in civilian courts of law. Continue reading URGENT ACTION / APPEAL regarding deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Jammu and Kashmir→
Two of Kashmir’s leading newspapers, Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir said that Jammu and Kashmir police raided their office on Saturday night, seized their printed copies and arrested their employees – a clear act of choking and gagging media in crisis-hit Kashmir valley. Copies of other newspapers, including Kashmir Reader and Kashmir Observer were also seized and their circulation prevented.
Guest Post by Greeshma Aruna Rai, with Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) & Karnataka for Kashmir Forum.
Police has revoked the permission which they had given yesterday to hold a democratic protest in solidarity with Kashmiris in Bangalore by concerned citizens and activists. This is another way in which the State shows its true colours to all Indian citizens who are against State repression and State colonialism in Kashmir.
Permission for today’s protest condemning atrocities on the people of Kashmir has been revoked by the Karnataka State Police. They have threatened us with legal action if we proceed.
As organisers we have been bombarded by the police, demanding that we withdraw this demonstration.
As we publish this message, the 11th day of curfew continues and valley remains awash with the blood of Kashmiris.
Today’s protest is postponed. We, however, refuse to be stifled by the very same state that is ravaging Kashmir. We have resolved to move against the actions of the Police. We’ll be releasing a Press Note shortly while discussing other options to challenge this.
[ Shortly after this post was uploaded, the organizers of the protest held a press conference where they released the following statement.]
Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative, Delhi Chapter
The valley of Kashmir is on the boil again. Forsaking the so-called normal routines of their lives, people are on the streets. Not just young men, but even children and women are out, challenging the military might of the Indian state. Any fear of the police and army appears to have been discarded. Police stations and even CRPF camps have been attacked. A popular upsurge, it is energised by mass fury. Forty people have lost their lives in one week at the hands of the Indian security establishment. Hundreds of others have suffered serious eye and other injuries from presumedly ‘non-lethal’ pellets used by the police. While people are out confronting the police, para-military and army, the other organs of the Indian state in Kashmir, the elected government and its bureaucracy, elected members of the legislature, panchayats, etc. are in a rathole, fearing public appearance. It is just the people of Kashmir valley versus the institutions of organised violence of the Indian state.
While the immediate cause of popular anger is the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, reasons for this anger go much deeper and have a longer history. The stifling and repression of the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination stands at the root of this conflict. This repression has taken on extreme violent forms. For twenty five years now, the Kashmir valley has been among the most militarised places in the world. More than half a million troops of Indian army and para-military forces have been stationed in the state and its border with Pakistan. Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF camps dot the land scape. Highway checkpoints and random searches are part of everyday life. Thousands of men have disappeared, been picked up by security forces, thrown in the black hole of interrogation camps, often ending up in unmarked graves. The hated AFSPA gives Indian security forces legal cover to assault basic rights of Kashmiris to live a life of elementary dignity. If an average valley resident is alienated from the normal practices of the Indian state such as elections and its administrative initiatives, s/he harbours deep resentment against the presence of Indian security forces in their homeland. This resentment has erupted in mass protests again and again.
Close to five hundred people came out in a rally yesterday, 15th July, to protest the ongoing killings and mayhem in Kashmir by the Indian State. The overwhelming majority of participants were students, but they were joined in good numbers by feminists, queer-activists, trade union activists, writers, journalists, academics, human rights activists, dalit rights activists, cultural activists, with many among them not affiliated with any organisation. Student and youth activists carrying flags and placards of PDSF (Progressive Democratic Student Federation), USDF ( United Students Democratic Front), AISA (All India Students’ Association), Progressive Youth League (PYL) and many from other student-youth organisations were present in good numbers, so were human rights activists from APDR (Association for Protection of Democratic Rights) and those from Bastar Solidarity Network (BSN). Many carried with them their own banners and posters. Like the rally in Delhi, protesters carried with them hand-written, hand-painted and printed placards with the names of civilians recently killed in Kashmir inscribed on it, and through those posters a connection of shared pain and solidarity flowed from the streets of Kolkata to the turbulent and stormy blood-stained streets in Kashmir. Those posters were reaching out to the people of Kashmir with messages that they were not alone in their hour of sorrow, anguish and mourning. Some of the protesters had written verses by the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali on their posters. One of those many posters summed up the mood of the rally, ‘Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris’.