This Summer, Last Summer and many other Summers
By Seema Duhan
Over the last 60 days of summers, the time of maximum mobility and economic activities has been sacrificed in the Kashmir Valley to the latest uprising. People poured down on the streets, not just from the areas falling under the 5 Police Stations located in the urban pockets as claimed by a senior Journalist on the basis of his agency sources, rather widespread including many semi-urban and rural centres from all the districts of Kashmir Valley demanding “Go India Go”. These angry people were answering bullets and tear gas shells targeted at them with stones. Men, women, young, old, teenagers all participate to express their protest against India – the largest democracy in the world. What can be more farcical, the same democracy which had glorified the Freedom of Speech and Expression in the Constitution – for the people, by the people, from the people, knows exceedingly well to suppress the voice of dissent?
People in the other parts of India, who form opinion based on the information served to them by the jingoistic nationalist media may argue, “Kashmiri people should exercise restraint and give peace a chance”. Huh! Who can understand the value of food, if not the one who is starving? Doesn’t a single Kashmiri want PEACE? Don’t the Kashmiris desire the situation to be ‘normalised’, when people will have employment, schools and colleges will be beaming with students’ attendance? Don’t they want proper medical treatment for a sick dear one? Don’t they wish the last journey of the dead ones to be peaceful from home to cemetery and not being blocked and beaten up by the security forces in between? Don’t the Kashmiris want to be liberated from the paranoia of being killed in any fake encounter, being raided in the night without any search warrant, women being raped or mass raped by the security personnel, children being picked on their way at any hour, never to return, being arbitararily arrested? Yes, they do crave for it, but are denied of that mirage. And I fear, the coming generation will not even have the dream of peace in their innocent eyes, because the armed uprising that began more than two decades ago has snatched the basic right of Kashmiris to live life with dignity and peace. Only violence, hate, humiliation, suspicion, breach of trust have been circumscribing them all these years. And yet Mr. Manmohan Singh asks them in his recent address (delivered for the first time since the beginning of the recent phase of unrest), any agitation – violent or otherwise obstructs the peaceful resolution of the issues, hence they should exercise restraint. Had he taken the pain to accept that any attempt of deliberate targeting of the civilians or killing them in fake encounters for the sake of promotions and medals by the security forces would attract serious actions against them since that had been the major cause of hindrance in the peace process, it would have taken Mr. Singh to the different level from his predecessors. Appallingly, he instead opted to remain below that threshold of statesmanship by not materialising this opportunity quite like his predecessors.
The metaphor of Breach of Trust has been empirically proved not just once but sincerely been practiced since the time Raja Hari Singh acceded Kashmir to India in 1947, supported by all the political factions existing in the valley under pressure of India. However, owing to constant nagging and disturbance connived by Pakistan in the garb of supporting Muslim common masses and the massacre of Muslims in the Poonch Area by the forces Sikh and Hindu forces of Raja Hari Singh on the other side, there was a wave of discontent running among the common masses who did not want Kashmir to be acceded to India. Amidst all that India went to UN for Plebiscite on the pattern of Junagarh province, whose accession India won through ballot. In the case of Kashmir though people were practically never given that right to decide for themselves under Plebiscite, whether they wanted to be – with India or Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of National Conference at that time was appointed as Prime-Minister of the Autonomous Territory (Under Article 370, that was passed in 1949, imparting special status for J&K). Then, in 1953-54, India-Pakistan, decided to agree at Line of Control (LoC) to exercise armed restraint while Abdullah procrastinated in confirming the accession of Kashmir to India. Consequently, Abdullah’s government was dismissed, he was arrested and jailed. In 1956, J&K was declared as the integral part of India through a legislation passed in the state Constituent Assembly. It was the first round of violation of the trust. That entire episode marked the beginning of a paradoxical condition where sovereignty is defined by various stakeholders in tandem with imagined geography. Thereafter, India took many devious stands and now acting underhandedly.
In 1989, when a significant number of Kashmiri Pundits was annihilated, during that time, rather than handling the situation politically, the then Governor of J&K, Mr. Jagmohan muddled the waters by letting mass Kashmiri Pundits migrate from the valley. To add to the woes of Kashmir, phase of communal division was initiated, that coincided with Hindutva ideology gaining ground in India. Subsequently, Governor’s rule was instated; army supported by paramilitary forces was directed to take in charge of the situation that was declared as “Insurgency”. Laced with legislation of AFSPA, which by then was applicable only to North Eastern States, security forces in millions barged into Kashmir. AFSPA provides blank impunity and absolute power to raid anyone’s house without any search warrant, to encounter anyone mere on suspicion. This sense of Absolute Power led to unaccounted Human Rights Violations of all kinds like custodial killings, disappearances, rapes, encounters, mass killings etc. Apparently, not a single security personnel responsible for crimes and violations have been put through trial. Looking right through the violations of the rights of People of Kashmir, Government of India has taken refuge under the pretext of upholding the morale of the security forces.
A Village named Kunan Posh Pora was cordoned by approx. 10,000 Army personnel in the snowy night of February 23, 1991 and women from the age group of 13 to 100 years were raped while men and boys were beaten black and blue. Two decades have lapsed, but the crimes committed by the officials in their uniform are not even registered, justice is far to ask for. Is there any remedy to heal those wounds, not of body but of psyche? Isn’t it too arrogant an act to ask children who had witnessed and were victims of many such heinous incidents to comply with the State or to take the things ‘normally’? Ten years down the line, March 20, 2000 on the eve of the visit of former US president Bill Clinton, 35 Sikh men were killed in cold-blood in the village of Chattisinghpora, located in Anantnag district. But till date no proper investigation has been done in the case. Rather to complicate the case five days after the mishap of Chattisinghpora, on 25 March 2000, a battalion of Rashtriya Rifles encountered five Muslim men in Pathribal village of Anantnag district, claiming that they were “foreign militants” responsible for the killing of Sikhs. However, two years later, succumbing to the pressure of locals and US, Government of India had to accept that it was a fake encounter called by RR Battalion of Army, and the responsible officers were merely suspended.
Coming to the recent times, on the night of May 29, 2009, two young women disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the district Shopian. Their dead bodies in semi-nude condition were found in Rambiari Nullah which is in close proximity to CRPF, J&K Police as well as Army’s Camp. A FIR that the Police earlier refused to register was finally accounted after lot of hue and cry made by the protestors. To impair the investigation process, initial forensic evidences from the site of crime were not picked up by the police, as pointed out in the report of Independent Women Initiative for Justice. Later on, the official forensic evidences did show that one of the women was raped before being killed. Yet, no one has been arrested in the case and the matter is under suspension. These instances are mere tail of the devil of the Human Right Violations that has become an unwanted but integral part of day-today life of the people of Kashmir.
Kashmir is one live example standing to make us understand that State does not care about any Human life, what it bothers is all ‘real estate’. This is the irony of the Human Race that land – a shared natural resource is bone of contention not just between people or two nations but has been imparted more significance by the State over the people. I wonder, if the Modern Nation States can choose new set of citizens by massacring the existing ones. For instance, India, just after 63 years of its emergence as Independent Nation State is facing situation of Civil War in many regions. The level of arrogance of State is magnified to the extent of shunting out the root cause of the problem; symptoms are confused with causes and thereby resulting in cycles of violence, corrupt practices and disregard for law of land. Rights of people are suspended, irrespective of the declaration and adoption of doctrine of democracy, liberty, equality and justice for every individual.
I do not know what can be the solution of long standing political issue of Kashmir. Though, I do think that to proceed with, first thing that India should do is to accept the fact – Kashmir is a disputed territory under the occupation of India, which the successive Governments have been running away from. People should get justice which has long been denied to them. There is no way, why security forces should not be accused and put on trial for the crimes committed against people in the Uniform. Kashmir is a political issue; people cannot be wooed by lolly-pops of economic packages. To end the cycle of violence, key responsibility lies with the Indian Government. India has a long history of struggle for Independence, which gives many cues that Colonial rule one day does come to an end, however mighty it may be. Meanwhile, 64 people have lost their lives in the last 74 odd days. This is a wakeup call for the Civil Society of India to call spade as spade and stand in solidarity with the democratic rights of Kashmiris.
While coming towards the end, I am reminded of few lines from the Gauhar Raza’s couplet “Yeh Jo Bhi Hain Ajeeb Hain”:
“Yeh job hi hain ajeeb hai, mitaye mit na payenge
Yeh kul bhi hain, yeh juz bhi hain, tumhen nazar na ayenge
Yeh zid pe hain ke raushni ka har chiragh jal utthe
Yeh zid pe hain ke zindigi mein raushni bikher dein
Yeh job hi hain ajeeb hai, mitaye mit na payenge
Yeh kul bhi hain, yeh juz bhi hain, tumhen nazar na ayenge”
Seema Duhan works with a New Delhi based organization ANHAD.