Author: Saadut
•11:30 PM

Delhi police claims of having arrested a ‘dreaded Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Syed Liyaqat Shah, who has been reportedly ‘planning a fidayeen attack during coming festivals’, raises more questions than it answers. As per Delhi police claims they managed to track down Syed Liyaqat while he was moving in a bus in Uttar Pradesh, heading towards New Delhi. Delhi Police further claim that in January this year ‘a meeting was held to plan attacks for avenging Afzal Guru's hanging’ and that Liyaqat had been directed by a ‘senior commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen to execute terror attacks’ in New Delhi. Delhi Police also claimed that Liyaqat was a ‘wanted militant’ and that on March 19, it received an intelligence alert that a terror attack was being planned in New Delhi during the coming festival season.

However all these claims of Delhi Police have gaping holes pointing to colossal inconsistencies in their statements. How would Hizb-ul-Mujahideen know beforehand in January that Afzal was to be hanged by Indian authorities in February so as to plan for an attack in March? 

According to reports, the return of Syed Liyaqat was already known to J&K police, who had vetted his return under governments ‘militant rehabilitation policy’ and that Syed Liyaqat’s family in Kashmir had already applied for his return under this policy. How did Delhi police then justify its ‘intelligence inputs’ for a return of which the state police and administration were already aware of? Syed Liyaqat was returning with family (including wife and young daughter) from this predefined route to surrender before the J&K authorities and resume normal life in Kashmir. Why would he return with his family, under communication to the state authorities, if he really wanted to be involved in a terror attack? Reports emerging also suggest that Syed Liyaqat and his family on arrival informed the border guards on the Indo Nepal border, the SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal), about their intended travel to India and it was here that instead of allowing them to travel further, the SSB guards arrested them and handed over to Delhi Police. How does Delhi Police then claim of having arrested him from a moving bus in Uttar Pradesh?   

Pertinently the return of ex militants who have given up arms are not only monitored by the state police but are also subject to great scrutiny by state and central agencies before being allowed to return, and in this case too names were cleared by all of these. While Syed Liyaqat had reportedly crossed over to Pakistan from Kashmir in 1997 for arms training, he had never been involved in any militant action and wanted to give up arms, like hundreds of men who had given up arms and returned using the same route during the past year. Does then Delhi police work as an independent unit superseding all these agencies, which have been monitoring such cases under an announced policy, to create cases from thin air? 

Delhi Police special cell has been known for arresting Muslims (mostly Kashmiri), framing them in fake cases and planting seizures on them. Although many of these fake arrests and planted cases stand exposed, still government of India has not acted against this ‘cell’, nor have they taken any action against officers involved in abuse of power and position here, leaving them free to repeat such theatre again.

In the infamous ‘fake encounter of 2005’ by Delhi Police, 7 ‘claimed terrorists’ nabbed by them were proven to be falsely implicated only later to be acquitted by Delhi High Court in August, 2012. The precious years lost by these framed youth and the tag of ‘terrorism’ ensured that their lives were damaged irreparably. In November 2006, Delhi Police Special cell arrested a Kashmiri aeronautical engineer Imran Kirmani and presented him as a ‘Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist’, claiming to be planning a ‘9/11 type strike in New Delhi’. After having spent five years in Tihar Jail, he was acquitted by the courts as the frame up of Delhi Police fell flat.  The four and half lac rupees recovered by Delhi Police from Kirmani were never returned, which his father claimed was the money to buy him a one bedroom flat while he was working in Delhi. Even after acquittal he was condemned to a lost career. In the Lajpat Nagar blast case too, two of the Kashmiris arrested and charge sheeted by Delhi Police, earlier on death sentence, were later acquitted by courts, but only after having spent a lifetime behind bars. These fake cases are easy for Delhi Police to execute, playing with the ‘Muslim and Kashmiri tag’ to the hilt.

It was found, in response to an RTI application, that between 2005 and 2010 Delhi Police had ‘wrongfully arrested’ 47,545 individuals, who were later acquitted by courts. For the Delhi Police Special Cell, between 2005 and 2010, nearly 70% of the accused were acquitted by courts for want of credible cases or evidence. And these cases were more of framing of innocents than of shoddy investigations by this ‘special cell’.  

Ironically not only do such cases pass the basic test of ‘created witness’ and ‘planted seizures’, they are also hyped by the Indian media who use these cases as a ‘barometer’ for nationalist loud speak. And it is this whipping of patriotism and nationalistic sentiments inflated by Indian media that the ‘special cell’ banks on, to display and wear their ‘anti terror operation’ medals. Such media inflated sentiments and ‘reportage of convenience’ often ensures a pre media trial for the accused, weighing heavily on popular public opinion thereby enabling further deepening of prejudices and suspicion against Kashmiri Muslims in India. For years it has become customary for Delhi Police to roundup many Kashmiris, especially pre 15th August or 26th January, from hotels or other places (most hotels even deny rooms to Kashmiris around these dates), not because Delhi Police might have any inputs but because being Kashmiri is reason enough for them. This time too right after Syed Liyaqat was ‘arrested’ many Kashmiris in New Delhi were complaining of harassment and intimidation at the hands of Delhi Police, humiliating and treating them like ‘terrorists’.

Even after acquittals, these ‘framed’ have been condemned to live a decimated life. While arrests and framing ensures that their careers and business is destroyed, it also means families are pushed to ruins of deprivation, often resulting in mental trauma and severe depression. Whatever such affected families may have of monetary savings are depleted while fighting cases and even after acquittals these ‘framed’ often find no takers in society to accept them as a work force or social units. While the government has been actively rehabilitating other ‘conflict fleeing communities’, such victims of state enforced prejudices are also always ignored and denied any rebuilding or rehabilitation support, leaving them for their own oblivion. For Kashmiris this also leads to reinforcing beliefs of Indian apathy towards them and the extremely high prejudice that India views Kashmir by. While in Kashmir, the state and its arms are well aware of common Kashmiris having become cannon fodder for such ‘special cells’ and agencies, they sit as mute spectators to all this, having themselves also been accused of similar acts back home. Not only does this fuel continued disenchantment towards India in Kashmir, it also points to efforts from various ‘security establishments’ for continuity of Kashmir conflict for reason of personal careers and benefits. A conflict industry that operates in the name of ‘anti terror’ operations cannot provide any security to a country when most cases are framed for personal benefits and to score brownie points. Remember the countless fake encounters and civilian killings that happened in Kashmir over decades too were executed in the name of ‘anti conflict operations’ but with the intent of earning laurels from this ‘conflict enterprise’. While the magnitude of damage inflicted between the acts of ‘special cells’ and ‘state arms in Kashmir’ may vary, their aim undoubtedly remains the same, of personal gain at the cost of innocent lives.

Such ‘anti terror’ operations having become an industry in itself, there are too many stakeholders in this enterprise that benefit at its continuity by targeting innocents. These stakeholders of this ‘conflict industry’ are not only from the law enforcing agencies, but also for the political and bureaucratic seats of this system, that survive on ‘conflict uncertainty’, hence their apathy and indifference. The continuity of such an ‘anti terror enterprise’ not only promotes a mass fear psychosis but also further strengthens the barriers between Indian and Kashmir.

23rd March, 2013 

Author: Saadut
•9:03 PM

The conflict in Kashmir has unfolded into a tragedy of colossal human loss. In a place which has the highest concentration of armed soldiers in the world, much more than in Afghanistan or Iraq, almost 80,000 people have been reported to been killed (even if you go by the local govt reports still the number is enormously in thousands)and thousands still missing. In a place where tragedies have touched almost everybody commoner, mourning’s have often been subject by the state and Indian media to political convenience.  Indian media and New Delhi have often used and presented tragedies and human loss in Kashmir to suit their own narratives, the ones which are blamed on the state arms conveniently forgotten and muted for, while of ‘their own’ are outraged for. Such dichotomy between ‘their people’ and ‘our people’ draws clear lines in Kashmir, between the ones that India cares for and the ones who become targets of its violence and enforced silence. 

The recent attack on a CRPF camp in Srinagar where 5 soldiers were killed (along with two militants), was followed by the killing of a civilian at EidGah in CRPF firing (which was seen as a ‘revenge killing’). The loss of life in both places was deplorable, such a precious waste of life, but the outcry from India was limited to the CRPF jawans killed, no one seemed bothered about civilians. This indifference of India towards civilian killings in Kashmir is not anything new. 24 year old Tahir Ahmed Sofi, killed on 7th March in Baramulla at point blank range by Indian army soldiers, found no outrage in India and neither were there any calls for justice there. In the one month since the hanging of Afzal Guru, more than 350 civilians have been inured and 5 civilians been killed in Kashmir, but none of this was found news worthy or worth any outrage in the Indian media. Sadly what seems to matter to the Indian state and the media is the place of its own fatalities rather than any human loss. While the Indian parliament debated at length the death of 5 CRPF jawans in the Srinagar attack, the same outrage and concern was missing when 76 CRPF personnel were killed in April 2010 in a Naxal attack in Dantewada, nor was such outrage seen when in January 2013, bodies of CRPF Jawans (who were missing in action with Naxals) had been cut open and bombs stuffed inside them. In June 2010, 26 CRPF personnel, including an Assistant Commandant, were killed by Naxals in an ambush attack in Chattisgarh yet such outrage was not seen. Should the value of life and outrage for Indian soldiers in India not be uniform for those killed in Kashmir and Naxal areas? Most importantly, should the condemnation of a human life lost (be it of a soldier or a civilian) not be on the merits of humanity than on the merits of ‘our people’ and ‘the place of incident’? 

Expressing outrage is human; making jingoism of outrage is sheer politics. And it is this convenient jingoism that has taken over the Indian state and media. Outrage should be for lives lost and not based on the political or geographic affiliations of these lives.  

In this information age, as tools of access to knowledge become common, so do the tools used by powers to manipulate the presentment of that knowledge.  On 14th March India’s home Minister Sushil Kumar Shine stated in the Indian Parliament that only 47 civilians were killed in the state during 2010 unrest. Clearly this was not a typographical error since the same numbers (and speech) was repeated twice by him. Around 120 civilians (mostly kids) were killed in the 2010 turmoil in Kashmir, the records of which are not only present with media and state agencies but have also been mentioned in an earlier PIL filed in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking, filing of FIR in these cases. The PIL also submitted that out of 117 persons killed in police and CRPF firing, FIRs were lodged in only 37 cases and charge sheet produced only in only 7 cases. So why did the Indian Home minister provide wrong figures to the Parliament? Was it a case of deliberate manipulation of numbers or sheer indifference towards the killings of civilians in Kashmir, where 47 or 120 civilians killed in Kashmir made no difference for New Delhi? 

Since in present times the availability of information is not restricted by time and location, its flow and reach is wide. And when governments fail to force denial of this information to its citizens, they use the same tools of information dissemination for manipulating of information and complicating narratives. When you cannot stop the flow and availability of information, create conditions of uncertainty where facts are compromised to suit political conveniences and then propagated on a larger scale.  When an information-disarray is forced by the governments, whatever is propagated on loud media channels is sold as truth. In the aftermath of the attack on CRPF in Srinagar, many Indian channels went berserk reporting that the CRPF officials had been forced by the state govt to abandon their weapons days before the attack, making them vulnerable, cue that was also taken by political parties in New Delhi to whip rhetoric. In fact many Indians on social media used old images of CRPF shooting with slingshots, to prove their point of denial of arms to these soldiers. What however they could not explain was the presence of loaded magazine pouches (and guns hanging behind the shoulders) in these pictures. The claims of Indian media channels about the lack of arms to these CRPF soldiers were later rebutted by none other than IG of CRPF in Kashmir. While the jingoistic media goes overboard in reporting non confirmed narratives, they conveniently ignore the facts of conflict trauma forced on commoners in Kashmir. During the 2010 turmoil in Kashmir, 45 youth permanently lost their eyesight (as per a study by the SHMS Hospital in Srinagar) while during the current turmoil (post Afzal hanging) 12 cases of youth with eyesight loss have been reported. These youth will be forced to a life of despondency, maimed by violent acts of state arms, yet for the Indian state and the Indian media they represent, like other Kashmiri’s, the ‘other people’ hence the criminally convenient silence. 

Fact is that the Indian media is not only fast becoming a platform to alter truth when it comes to Kashmir, but it also propagates a dangerous nationalistic theory, where all Kashmiris are painted black for political convenience. The Pragash controversy on some uncalled for FaceBook comments about a girls music band were not only blown out of proportions by the Indian media, but it was also used a whip to castigate Kashmir en masse. And the same media remained silent when IPTK and APDP in December 2012 released a well documented report on ‘Alleged Perpetrators – Stories of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir’ documenting hundreds of cases of human rights violations by state arms.    

When the power of technology has broken barriers for access to information and knowledge, the state and its supporting actors have been misusing their powers to alter, cloak, manipulate and misrepresent this information.  In conflicts such attempts of the state and media can be dangerous in not only forcing people to shift to alternate sources but this also widens the trust deficit between the two.  When New Delhi itself has been apathetic to the pain and agony of Kashmiris for decades, how does it then expect Kashmiris to be pathetic to the pain of its representatives in Kashmir? For its indifference and apathy, when even mourning or calls for justice become subservient to political convenience in New Delhi, India has no right to claim any moral ground in Kashmir. The human tragedies in Kashmir (both in uniform & without) should have made India to introspect and make efforts for a permanent political resolution rather than divide between ‘our people’ and ‘them Kashmiris’. By pretending to be an ostrich with its head in the sand, India is only strengthening the walls between New Delhi and Kashmir which only seem more impregnable.

19th March, 2013