Author: Saadut
•5:37 PM

For the fleeting visitor, Kashmir may seem like a beautiful touristy canvas, a perfect picture postcard in its scintillating meadows, shikara studded lake waters and the rows of tulips in a politically rechristened garden. But what such visitors don’t get to see (or willfully ignore) are the huge expanses of a military occupation in these meadows, of the unmarked mass graves hidden behind such occupation garrisons, the tormented psyche of common Kashmiris, loss of childhood for generations, thousands of custodial disappearances and of the treachery of an occupying state. Even while Mr. Suhel Seth claims ‘I am no Kashmir expert’, he does an total volte face in the same article ‘How to make Kashmiris Indians’ (DNA 24th May 2014) by weaving tales about the Kashmir problem and presenting his myths as ‘expert analysis’. I am not here to challenge the wisdom and intellect of Mr. Seth, but there surely is a lot of imagination in his mind when it comes to Kashmir, all hollow imagination that.

Even at its peak of insurgency in Kashmir, tourists were not targeted by the militants. If you then speak of the Al-Faran case, where foreign tourists were abducted (July 1995) and then killed, much about this tragedy has been exposed in ‘The Meadow’ (by Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark). Going by the conventional wisdom of Kashmiris then, it should be the Indian forces and its renegade agents that you should have been afraid of here, not the militants. That said, it is hard to visualize what reason would militants have in attacking you, your ‘politically tradable value’ in the Kashmir conflict game being nil. Hence your ‘so what's a militant or two trying to kill you?’ could be seen no more than a self gloat.

You are very right when you say ‘The people of Kashmir are easily the most hospitable as also perhaps the most disillusioned’ except for your ‘perhaps’ doubts your own analysis. We are disillusioned with India, but we are not disillusioned to the level of giving up this struggle for our rights. ‘(since) I am no Kashmir expert I don't know (or care) about the politics of rogues like the Hurriyat’. When you do not claim to have any expertise on Kashmir nor do you ‘know (or care)’ anything about the Hurriyat, then how can you even pronounce them as rouges? Your statement sounds laden with presumptuous prejudice. Just because Hurriyat (and like groups) call for resolving Kashmir on the lines international resolutions promised and accepted by India, does it make such political formations rouge? Or just because these parties challenge the status quo of Kashmir, and you see their calling for a resolution in line with the aspirations of common Kashmiris different from your ‘let’s force Indianisation of Kashmiris’ view, you would like to label them ‘rouge’? While common Kashmiris may differ with the internal politics of the Hurriyat (s), but won’t differ with the call for resolution these parties keep asking for.  If you were a student of history, would have known how Late Sheikh Abdulla sold the dream of plebiscite to Kashmiris for decades, even while he was in power, sometimes via ‘Mahaz-e-Raishumari’ (Plebiscite Front) while other times via NC, and how the present call for resolution of Kashmir pre-dates even the claimed accession between the Dogra King and the Union of India. So who is a ‘rouge’ here; the occupier who promised a resolution as per wishes of common people yet dithers on that promise and loots the resources of this land or the occupied and oppressed commoners who keep on reminding you of that promise? Should not take much of intellect to identify the ‘rouge’ and ‘robber’ here, does it? Paradoxically the heading of your article only justifies the Hurriyat stand, when you prescribe for ‘How to make Kashmiris Indians’ clearly affirming that ‘Kashmiris are not Indians (yet)’, for one can only want to convert somebody when he is not in that desired ‘form’ yet.

Every time you visit Srinagar, you visit DPS Srinagar run by the Dhar foundation, a school which is hardly a decade old and offers you a very small and conveniently controlled window into the young minds of Kashmir. You have not dared to talk to students in the heart of Srinagar, or from older schools that have lived thru the turmoil and persecution of decades. Try driving down to old schools in downtown Srinagar or other valley towns, speaking to a wider audience and get to hear un-doctored or untutored pulse of Kashmir. 

You speak of a hotel run by Taj and wonder why they have not set up a hotel management school in Srinagar. Perhaps unknown to you, there is a hotel management school in Srinagar, which churns out professionals in huge numbers. Pity is you will never wonder of what became of such professionals, when big hotels like ‘The Grand Lalit’ Srinagar (where you must have stayed many times) have made an unwritten policy of sorts to not employ locals. Ironically such properties are known to have been handed over to these Indian corporations for peanuts in Kashmir, while keeping away locals from any opportunities there. Reminds you of British India racism? And to correct you again (Oh how I hate to interrupt you in imagining!), tourism is not the backbone of Kashmir (contrary to what you claim). The projection of tourism as some ‘backbone of Kashmir economy’ is a deliberate attempt by the Indian state and its ancillary systems (read the media) to present a manufactured image of Kashmir, an image which is not only used as a psycho ops but is also instrumental in deviating attention from the mainstay economy of Kashmir, aimed at breaking any of our self sufficiency. Fact is tourism only contributes 7.93 % of the GSDP (gross domestic product) of Kashmir while providing livelihood to only about 2% of its population. The most important sector in Kashmir has been agriculture, supporting 70% of the population directly or indirectly while absorbing 49% of the total work force here. This ‘tourism is the mainstay’ psycho ops is not only aimed to make believe the local Kashmiri that if tourists don’t come to Kashmir, the local economy is going to come crashing down, it is also used by the Indian state to directly link increased tourist numbers in ‘projecting normalcy’ here. Strangely you will never hear the Indian state or its representatives in Kashmir speak of bolstering the mainstay of local economy, agriculture and horticulture sectors, reasons being evident. 

I do agree when you say ‘Nor does Kashmir need any hand-me-downs. What it needs is the basic understanding that the Kashmiri must find jobs and lead a life of dignity in Kashmir’. Kashmir has never asked for alms or hands-me-down, it has always demanded for justice. Be it economic, by way of rights over its own waters and the cessation of subjugation by NHPC like entities, often called the ‘East India Company’ in Kashmir, or political by way of allowing Kashmiris to decide their own future. It needs its rights on own power projects stolen by NHPC, its rights on vast expanses of meadows and orchards taken into occupation by the Indian military machine. When you speak of creating industry in Kashmir, you conveniently ignore the fact that many industrial estates here continue to be occupied by Indian forces, rendering many entrepreneurs and skilled workers jobless. Perhaps you also need to ask ‘your corporations’ as to why, while major portion for their profits come from Kashmir, they have put their corporate offices, C&F and distribution centers or their manufacturing units in Jammu? Why are major job opportunities shifted out of Kashmir, while they earn majorly out of Kashmir? Perhaps this too has been engineered to ‘valve control’ the supplies and services into Kashmir, as was evident during the Amarnath agitation, when Kashmir was starved for essential supplies including baby food and medication by controlling offices and gangs in Jammu. 

Your contention that ‘separatists are money machines and not ideologues’ is in total contrast to popular wisdom here. Wiki leaks reported ex US Ambassador to India Mulford stating “Corruption cuts across party lines and most Kashmiri’s take it as an article of faith that politically-connected Kashmiri’s take money from both India and Pakistan.”  This claim does not absolve India, nor does it point to Pakistan as the exclusive sponsor of murky politics in Kashmir. Later Gen V.K Singh had also claimed ‘army paid ministers in Jammu and Kashmir to “keep people together” . In spite of this ‘pay to earn loyalties’ for more than six decades India has failed to win any hearts in Kashmir.

You are right in saying that ‘the Indian state has abdicated its responsibility in many ways’ which is why Kashmiris have never identified with the Indian state, and you realize the disconnect ‘(not being) surprised when people asked me when I was going back to India’. But paradoxically you refuse to accept the genesis of this disconnect, which will never be bridged by your refusing Kashmiris their rights or by ignoring the basic reasons of this disdain and disassociation. An India which refuses to feel the pain of our kids trampled by its brutal occupation, our 'half windows' in eternal wait for their loved ones being victims of custodial disapperances, cannot and should not expect Kashmiris to identify with their state. Pathetically Mr. Seth also chose to be silent of about this, his silence becoming an alibi to such crimes. You cannot manufacture a discourse on Kashmir which is far from realities, expecting what you force as a solution shall be acceptable to us. The solution to our problems shall come only with our inclusiveness, by India returning to us our political and economic rights, by restoring all that you stole from us, by ensuring justice to all victims of this conflict. Our solution shall come when India treats us as equal partners in the resolution of Kashmir, not just a territory it only holds by military might.

Till then we shall continue to remind India of her promises and keep pointing to the colossal crimes it keeps committing against us


17:32 : 24th May, 2014

P.S Next time you come to Kashmir, try living with the locals as a local for some time and give up your touristy airs.  You will learn many facts of Kashmir.

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Author: The Speaking Chinar
•6:59 PM

“Ekk tareeqae par nahin rehta kabhi dunya ka haal, Harr kamal-e-ra zawal-o-har zawal-e-ra kamal

(In one state does not remain the condition of world, Every peak endures decline and decline every peak endures).

The past 6 decades of NC hegemony in Kashmir had forgotten this divine rule, holding to power against any genuine representative process. There are too many historical examples of rulers and leaders having fallen from grace and power as anarchy took over, yet many of the modern political figures have failed to learn from history. When Mr. Omar took over the reins of power in J&K, many people had hoped that he would be different than his predecessors and extend his mind and heart towards the sufferings of common people, but all such hopes were soon buried under an oppressive and anarchical rule. Omens of how things would shape up in his rule were visible the very day he took over power when an innocent civilian, deaf and dumb Abdur Rashid Reshi of Veer Saran Pahalgam was shot dead by Indian forces close to the gates of his palatial Gupkar residence, and Omar did nothing more than pay some lip service to this murder.

The irony of this date, 6th Jan (2009) when Omar took oath as the CM of J&K, was not lost on people in Kashmir, for it was exactly on January 6th (1993) when Indian paramilitary BSF troopers massacred 55 innocents at Sopore and set the town ablaze. Omar not wanting to learn from this recent past of Kashmir, at best pretended to be a mute spectator, at worst ensured inaction against culprits, encouraging killings and torture of civilians in the coming years. His first priority seemed to take back the Muslim Auqaf Trust just days after taking over (19th Jan 2009), which had been used by NC as a political tool for decades, even while real religious freedom was being severely curbed in the valley. Ashoora and Milaad processions banned, many pro freedom leaders barred from offering Friday prayers and the central Mosque in Srinagar, Jamia Masjid sealed off on many Fridays in the coming years of his rule. 

With every day, every week, every month of his rule came news of killings by his forces, of torture, of dispossession and oppression. Just weeks after Omar took over, Indian army shot dead 28 year old Fayaz Ahmed Mir (on 2nd Feb 2009) in Khurhama of north Kashmir Kupwara. Very next day Indian army killed Ali Muhammad in custody and tortured his old father in Dewan, Bandipora. While Omar chose to look the other way, such killings continued with impunity; 21st Feb in Bomai, 6th March in Nowhatta (Shahid Ahmad Ahangar & Shabir Ahmad Baba  shot by India forces), 18th March at Khaigam Pakeherpora 37 year old carpenter Ghulam Mohiuddin murdered by Indian forces at his home. If I were to note down the names and details of all those killed in his regime, then this article would surely run into hundreds of pages, not to speak of the thousands of civilians tortured under his rule. 

His first major test came during the Shopian double rape and murder, where all logic and leads pointed to rape and murder by forces of the state. He jumped the gun, first ‘describing it a case of drowning’, soon changing his statements to ‘Neloofar and Asiya (the two victims) 'were like his sisters' and he, as a brother, feels the pain of the tragedy that has befallen the victims' family’ but later switched to witch-hunting the victim family and denied them any justice. While adults won’t drown in ankle deep water, her ensured that the Shopian truth was buried under a state cover-up. During protests against the Shopian rape and murder, more than 400 protestors were injured at the hands of Indian forces; civilian lives lost. 

If 2009 did not burn Kashmir enough, anarchy continued in 2010 when more than 128 lives were lost at the hands of government forces, most of them young kids, sparked by the Machil fake encounter by Indian army followed by the killing of teenager Tufail Matto who was killed by police while returning from tuitions. Having grown no wiser from his mishandling of 2009, Omar continued to act as a mute spectator while his forces went on a killing rampage across Kashmir, without any sense of guilt or remorse. Not only did his government stay aloof to these events, it has since been dragging its feet in providing any justice to the victims of 2010, despite clear court orders in many cases. Morality becomes a corpse when a government remorselessly continues not only to govern after killing so many innocent kids, but also tragically continues to stall justice to all these victims. Innocent killings becoming a norm under this government, such tragedies did not end with 2010. Civilians continued to be killed by state forces in the following years; be in Uri, Rafiabad, Sopore, Shopian, Islamabad, Srinagar or Kupwara and the state government continued to look the other way. 

Such was the political arrogance of NC that when during the 2010 turmoil, Dr. Farooq Abdulla on being asked to comment on these killings commented ‘Kashmir ko goli maro’ (Let Kashmir be shot). In recent time same Dr. Farooq Abdulla claimed Kashmiri chor nahi maha chor hai’ (Kashmiris are not just petty thieves, they are biggest thieves).

While human rights were trampled mercilessly by this government, even at the governance front it fared no better than a despotic arrangement. The government not only lacked any economic vision or plan, it played as a meek slave in front of exploitative Indian corporations. While old hydro electric projects that have been for long overdue for transfer to the state were still being retained illegally by NHPC, depriving the state of badly needed resources, this government handed more projects to this ‘East India Company’, robbing Kashmir of more rights than before. Not only was this failure of taking back power projects as willful diligence, it was also a sign of the utter weakness of this government before New Delhi, trading our rights and resources for crumbs of staying in chair. On the job generation front, a total disregard of talent utilization and fair play was visible when the government not only implemented a exploitative job policy where on the one hand in the few recruitments that ever happened highly qualified youngsters were paid lesser than causal laborers, while on the other hand retired blue eyed persons were bestowed with extensions or new posts at the cost the unemployed. Corruption not only peaked under this rule, it was practiced brazenly with least regard for any accountability. State sponsored corruption was evident with its refusal to act against big sharks who survived with political connections, the land scams at prime tourist locations, the continuity of accused politicians in power and the rendering of state vigilance, accountability commissions, human rights bodies or RTI act as toothless tigers. It was this government that cloaked the truth about mass graves even when thousands were discovered across Kashmir, in many cases innocent civilians who had been earlier subject to custodial disappearance, having been identified buried in them. 

This government not only utilized draconian tools like PSA to curb dissenting voices, even jailing juveniles in adult jails under this act, it also parroted the ‘AFSPA removal’ line to fool the masses, while making no efforts to actually see it out. To its embarrassment, after Omar government had been touting the removal of AFSPA, New Delhi punctured his claims by stating that ‘no proposal had been received from Omar government for revocation of AFSPA’. So much for the theatrics of this government! 

On February 8th (2013) at 8 PM Indian Home Minister Shinde called Omar “who joh hum ne baat ki thee, who kal subah hogi’ (the thing we had talked about earlier will happen tomorrow morning). Afzal Guru was hanged early morning next day at 8 AM, without his family having either been informed or allowed for any last meeting. Even his mortal remains were never returned to his family. While Omar pretended ‘innocent’ in this political murder, Indian media reported that not only had New Delhi sought Omar’s opinion ten days before, he had even ‘told Shinde that the hanging would have greater consequences if executed in the summer months’, clearly indicating his preference for the hanging in winter. Kashmir again erupted in protests and yet again many innocent lives were lives at the hands of government forces. The enslaved meekness exhibited by this government before New Delhi is so striking and cold when put in comparison with state governments of Tamil Nadu and Punjab, who not only pushed for mercy of convicts from their state awaiting hanging but also got such convicts reprieved, even while such convicts had not been sentenced like Afzal on mere circumstantial evidence. 

Elections in Kashmir have always been the least representative political exercise of this subcontinent, with earlier decades starting with forced unopposed contests during the time of Shiekh Abdulla and Bakshi, in later years resorting to massive rigging (1987) and then forcible herding of voters (1996). Post and including 1996 it has mostly been a poll boycott which ‘decides’ who gets to rule. Even from within the little percentage of voters who do vote in Kashmir, there has been a gradual shift away from NC. According to figures available, NC polled a mere 11. 1 % votes in the recent elections compared to the 19.11 % it had reportedly ‘polled’ in 2009 parliament elections. This percentage not only takes away the ‘representative’ character of this government, it mocks at the very ‘electoral process’, with almost 90% electorate not reposing any trust in this government. While PDP must have walked away victorious in the recent election, a word of caution for them; many of the votes polled by you were not as much pro PDP as they were anti NC. To retain those votes in the next election you will need to learn and unlearn a lot from the autocratic ways of NC. Also both parties need to understand that all these votes do not make them a representative to the Kashmir dispute, such elections being only for the administration of basic governance systems here. Had elections or votes signified any representation in the resolution of Kashmir dispute, 70% of people in Kashmir would not boycott elections. 

Learning is as important a process as is unlearning. If Omar did not learn and unlearn for the past five and a half years, he will not in a few months now. Sharing of his email id to ‘learn about the reason of NC’s defeat’ in another pointer to his disconnect, when hardly 2% of the state population has internet access, and hardly a fraction of that minority who have internet connection do ever vote. If he was really unaware of the reasons for this fall, and was so disconnected from the realities on ground, did he even deserve to be in this chair in the first place?  

While there can no redemption for the colossal crimes committed against civilians during this government, Omar could at least make a start while he was at the end of his tenure.

As a part of some cosmetic measures to please the gullible pubic, this government is likely to offer some sops; like revocation of sms ban, enhancement of retirement limit or even releasing some youngsters it has imprisoned. But revoking the sms ban will not offer any justice to the kids it killed, nor will the extension of retirement age offer any hope to the hundreds of thousands highly qualified uneducated deprived of fair employment opportunities. Nor will the release of a few youth guarantee that the impunity enjoyed by oppressive state forces is lessened to any extent, an impunity that has the potential to make victims of these young anytime in the near future. If the NC government really wants to repent for its misrule and oppressive tenure, it should immediately

1)  Revoke AFSPA by ceasing DAA (disturbed area act), this lies within the domain of the state assembly.

2)  Revoke PSA, an act that the state has used mercilessly to silence opposition voices.

3) Release all political prisoners and youngsters who have minor charges against them.

4) Withdraw all new projects from NHPC, and force transfer of operations from NHPC in power projects overdue to the state.

5) Prosecute all cases lying with the state accountability commission, especially the ones against politicians and bureaucrats.  

6) Allow prosecution of all human rights cases, especially involving state armed forces.

7) Allow independent inquiry into thousands of mass graves across Kashmir and allow that commission to club its investigations with cases of custodial disappearances in Kashmir.  

8) Form an independent COI into 2009 and 2010 killings, including the Shopian double rape and murder case.

9) Ensure zero tolerance for corruption and stop blue eyed cronies’ appeasement.

Seems a tall order? Well, knowing Omar Abdulla he will do none of these; instead resort to cosmetic means of short term populism failing which he may even revert to vendetta based politics where those who criticized his working were targeted and destroyed. Politics following the ‘winner takes it all’ herd, till Omar realizes this lost opportunity, the opposition will have dented more of NC base in the next elections. 

Till then stay awake, Kashmir. 

~Speaking Chinar~
New Delhi, 20th May, 2014

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