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A Tale of Brutality

by Brig Dr Muhammad Khan

In the resolution of global and regional issues, the dialogue and political solutions are always considered as the best way partition of subcontinent into India and Pakistan was also executed through the process of dialogue and political means, though it had a long and chequered history of sacrifices by the locals against colonial rulers. Kashmir is one such issue where use of force was preferred over the dialogue and politically motivated solution. This practice was in vogue by Dogras during 19th and 20th centuries and following the same, India invaded the state militarily immediately upon its independence from British rule in October 1947. Failure to reach a politically negotiated solution, India and Pakistan have fought three wars but the issue remains unresolved till-date, which testifies that wars and conflicts do not resolve such problems.

In 1990, following the massive rigging of election process in the State, Kashmiris reminded India of its promises and UN resolutions for the solution of issues through peaceful demonstrations. Their peaceful demonstrations and political struggle for the cause of their rights was, however, responded with force, which compelled them to take up arms against the Indian occupation forces. The second Kashmiri generation of post colonial period revolted against the Indian discriminatory rule over Kashmir. This renewed struggle continues till-date.

In 2003, Kashmiri option of armed struggle and under the changed global environment, decided to opt for the political means for pursuing their rightful cause of self-determination until its attainment. Unfortunately, Indian government did not move forward and continued its tyrannical activities against the citizens of beautiful land of Kashmir.

In 2008, following the Indian brutalities and mass killings of Kashmiris, the neutral Indian scholars, writers and intellectuals advised Indian government to genuinely re-think over the human rights' violations and human miseries in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). They also emphasised Indian government to grant Kashmiris their rights as demanded by them. So much so that scholars like Kuldip Nayar wrote to the government that, "Kashmiri uprising is very much indigenous thus Indian Government will have to talk to them and redress their grievances, before it is too late". He even pointed out to the Indian Army that they could not label the charges of Pakistani support to Kashmiri fighters. In the backdrop of Kashmiris' armed struggle for their right of self- determination, this call of acumen meant a lot.

During August 2008, there was massive uprising in the IOK, following the allotment of 800 kanals of land to Amaranth shrine; a Hindu shrine; located 141 km from Srinagar in the snowcapped mountains. Apparently, this allotment was made to facilitate the logistic for the Hindu pilgrims. Kashmiris however, rightly envisioned that this was an attempt of inhabiting the Hindus population in the Valley for making subsequent demographic changes in that part of IOK. It is worth mentioning that successive Indian governments have adopted a similar approach in Jammu province of the state over the years following the mass migration of Muslims in Pakistan (between 1947-1970s). As per 1941 census in Jammu province of Kashmir state, Muslims constituted 62% of the province's total population and today it is exactly the reverse.

During the same time, Indian government re-acted strongly against the peaceful protests and resorted to brutal massacre of protestors. As killing of dozens of the protestors was not enough, Indian government, its military alongside fanatic Hindu nationalistic gangs of Bhartia Janta Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Sangh Samachar (RSS), blocked all routes of the valley, with no one allowed to exit or enter. It was an economic strangulation of the state where the supply items of daily use were also stopped for the dwellers of the valley. So much so that Kashmiri traders were stopped from selling their goods, particularly perishable items into the markets of Jammu. When the disconcerted and betrayed Kashmiri traders alternatively desired to travel to MuzafTarabad (Azad Kashmir) to sell their goods, they were countered with bullets, killings dozens including moderate Muslim political leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz. All highways were blocked and thousands of supply trucks were stopped from moving in and out of the Valley. Despite the protests against the State's law of land transfer, the Hindu shrine was given the land. This indeed was the beginning of the Jammu styled move for the settlement of Hindus in the valley for making gradual demographic changes on long-term basis.

Today, after another five years there are alarming news about the simmering problems in IOK. According to a recent report of Mr Riyaz Wani published in the weekly Tehelka; "A clutch of youth between 18 and 25 years of age, relatively well-educated and from middle-class families, are consciously joining jihad and redrawing the militant landscape of the valley. ...They don't cross the Line of Control to get training. They get a gun or snatch it from security personnel or policemen and learn to operate it,' says a police officer. 'Some of them join militancy seeking thrills and a sense of importance and belonging in their lives.' In contrast to the past few years when they preferred to lie low, militants in Kashmir are now, going on the offensive....They are technologically savvy and use Internet-based communication software that defy easy interception and surveillance technologies."

This Kashmiri youth has grown up in the shadows of Indian Military operations since 1990s and have witnessed the indescribable human rights violations through their own eyes. They have witnessed killing of their fathers and brothers by torture and raping of their mothers and sisters by ruthless Indian Army. They remained silent over their helplessness until they have grown to their youth. Their forefathers wanted to get rid of Indian rule through political means initially, but were subsequently forced to take up arms, following the Indian military operation during 1990s.

This new generation has added another dimension to their struggle against Indian rule. This indeed is the spirit of revenge, nurtured through the environment of hate against the Indian rule and particularly against its military over the last twenty-three years. Besides killing of over 100,000 people (as per Human Rights Watch), "thousands of people remain victims of enforced disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir. The practices of "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions violate basic human rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to a fair and public trial, as well as the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. Under international law, an enforced disappearance is a continuing crime until the disappearance is resolved."

The Indian Army deployed in IOK is continuing with the same practice of torturing the Kashmiri youth and raping their women. Very recently, on 30 June 2013, the brutal Indian Army killed two Kashmiri youth during peaceful protests. The Indian Government is aware of this simmering threat of youth, and has directed its military to go all out using all harsh means that it used during 1990s. According to Dr Maiti, a professor of political science at Rurdwa University, West Bengal, "Rape continues to be a major instrument of Indian oppression against the Kashmiri people while the majority of victims are civilians."

Earlier, International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted in its report about the rapes in Indian held Kashmir in the wordings, "Women are raped in order to humiliate, frighten and defeat the enemy 'group' to which they belong." Besides this, George Galloway, a British parliamentarian found through his research of human rights violation that, "India is using rape as a weapon of occupation in Kashmir." As per renowned Indian writer, A.G Noorani, the situation in Kashmir is not different from what it was in 1990s and Kashmiris have not reconciled.

Over the years, there has been recognition by the Indian political leadership and powerful military that there is no infiltration from across the Line of Control (LoC). This fact has a global validity now. The Indian authorities however also claim that situation in occupied Kashmir has improved and that political process is fully functional there. This claim of calmness, peace and stability in occupied Kashmir can be contested as some recent incidents have proved that the situation on ground is otherwise. On 25 June 2013, on the eve of the visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alongwith Party President Sonia Ghandi, there was a complete shutdown and strike in the valley to mark protest against the Indian rule and its occupation of the state.

Indian Premier also inaugurated the newly constructed section of railway link between Jammu and Srinagar. Nevertheless, despite these gestures and perceptible goodwill, Kashmiris have not reconciled with Indian rule and repression, its 700,000 security forces have unleashed in last two and half decades. This fact was even highlighted by incumbent Chief Minister of IOK, Omar Abdullah, during his public meetings in 2010 and 2011. He said that, "The youth of Kashmir didn't pick up the gun 21 years ago for money, but for political reasons. The cure of the Kashmir issue lies in politics; it's not about jobs, roads, bridges and governance. The centre has to find a solution through meaningful talks."

Perhaps, Omar Abdullah has correctly understood the ground realities and reached over to the conclusion that Kashmiri youth would never reconcile with the Indian rule irrespective of any number of facilities and luxuries, New Delhi decides to provide them. With reference to the use of force and military deployment, there has been no policy change in Kashmir during the Congress led UPA Government under Dr Singh in last almost nine years. Surely, Omar Abdulllah is in the office of Chief Minister but he has been overruled on every single issue; revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act; restoration of Kashmir's autonomy; return of lands grabbed by the army; rehabilitation of surrendered militants. The former Indian Army Chief, General V.K. Singh highlighted that, "I feel there is a great requirement for political initiatives which take all the people forward together." Indian Army has used all means to suppress the Kashmiri masses.

Omar Abdullah was once approached by Brad Adams, Asian Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, who advised the Chief Minister to, "Break with past practices and ensure that those who commit abuses are investigated and appropriately prosecuted for their crimes. There can be no lasting political settlement in Kashmir unless human rights abuses that have fuelled the insurgency are addressed." In the wordings of A.G Noorani, "Frustrated by repression, angered by mistreatment at the hands of the police, within as well as outside Kashmir, humiliated by the centre's apathy, Kashmir's youth seems once again to be ready to take up the gun. This time the lead is taken by the well-educated youth. If this trend continues, the leaders' movement will no longer be able to restrain and control the young."

In the pursuit for the implementation of UN resolutions, Kashmiris are struggling for their right of self-determination thus can neither be labelled as militants nor should their struggle be dubbed as terrorism, as it is mandated with over twenty-five resolution of civilised world including United States and Britain at the forum of UN.

The growing anxiety amongst Kashmiri youth is indicative of the fact that under no circumstances, the Kashmiri youth that witnessed the Indian state terrorism from their childhood will reconcile with Indian repressive rule. Thus, the new disquiet in the making in IOK has to be taken seriously by Indian Government in particular and world in general. The civilised international community has to emphasize the Indian government to grant the right of self- determination to Kashmiris at all costs. Failure to redress the Kashmiri concerns would be a ban for peace and stability in South Asia. Of course, one regional country cannot be allowed to keep the region hostage in denial of UN resolutions.

(Content from Hilal Magazine)

The writer is the Head of International Relations Department at National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. [email protected]