Editorial: The question remains unanswered

On January 30, 2008, Indian army blasts a residential house where suspected Kashmiri militants fighting troops were holed up, in Batpora village some 60 kilometers south of Srinagar. Photo: Javed Dar

For decades Indian-held-Kashmir has been going through a turbulent time. Once people were fighting the Dogra rulers for their rights and then after the partition of British India people had to live in an atmosphere where they had no power over their land. The princely state Jammu and Kashmir shared borders with Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and China. After 1947 war between India-Pakistan the demography changed. The lust of land in its neighbours divided it into three parts. India holds about 45 percent and Pakistan controls 35 percent, China occupies about 20 percent of the territory (including Aksai Chin and the Sakshgam Valley ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963).

The Indian side of Kashmir has been under rule of India since 1947. A political struggle was started by Kashmiris since then till 1987 to hold a plebiscite as guaranteed by the United Nations resolutions which were never implemented. As per the resolution the people of the state would be given a choice to choose India or Pakistan. In 1987 assembly elections the Kashmiri leadership participated but the elections were rigged and almost all of them lost. This became the catalyst for an armed rebellion in the state, started by the youth.

The state has the special status under the Article 370 of the Indian constitution but that has been abused every passing day. When the rebellion started in 1988 the number of Indian forces increased here and that was the beginning of an era of bloodshed.  Draconian laws like Disturbed areas act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Public Safety act became the tools for the Indian establishment to use against the rebellious population of the state.

Nearly 70,000 civilians have been killed since 1988 and millions are injured. Human rights organizations say around 10000 persons are disappeared in Kashmir and there are thousands of orphans and widows.  The disappearance of men gave birth to a term “Half-widow”- means husband of the woman is disappeared and she doesn’t know whether he is dead or alive. To know whereabouts of their kins people have been fighting for more than two decades now.

This doesn’t stop here. In these years, to crush the rebellion India used extreme ways of torture. Men and women too were arrested and tortured for days. Several torture centers were set up to interrogate arrested people.

This history of bloodshed included fake-encounters too. People were taken from their homes, work places, roadside and were killed in cold blood, only to claim that militants were killed. To show the presence of militancy in Kashmir, at times, agencies used counter-insurgents to plant blasts or hold a fake gun battle.

Last year, thousands of unmarked graves surfaced in Kashmir. Gravediggers say that Indian forces used to come with dead bodies of young boys and order us to bury them. “Mostly the bodies were impossible to identify,” a gravedigger said.

Majority of people come out on roads to protest against the Indian rule. The larger sentiment of the populace is to give them self-determination. People want to choose their right to live. Since 2008 Amarnath Land row when a large portion of land was illegally transferred to a religious body, the face of protests changed. People didn’t have guns. Millions of people came out to hold peaceful protests. State forces reacted with fierce force. More than 75 people, mostly young were killed. Then in 2009 the state erupted again after the double-rape-murder in Shopian. The state government called for a probe and a commission was formed to investigate but surprisingly there was no justice. After a year, in 2010 there were the largest protest rallies in the history of Kashmir. Around a million people gathered in Eidgah grounds on Eid and expressed their aspirations. The ground echoed with the slogans of “We want freedom”.

More than 120 people were killed by forces in just four months of these protests and not a single person was prosecuted for these murders. People express their resentment against the state rule but all the mediums of expression were filtered or gagged. Media was gaged in 2010 like never before. Curfew passes issued by the administration were tore into pieces and journalists were beaten up.

This has been an era of bloodshed in Kashmir valley. People expected justice but they never had it. Justice was always delayed and delay led to denial. With Indian forces enjoying the impunity in this region, they could hardly be prosecuted in fake-encounters, molestations, cold blood murders, or rapes.

Now the militancy has declined in the region. There are a few militants as per the state but still there are more than 700000 Indian troops in this region which makes it world’s largest militarized place. Civilians live under a threat. Children have seen only one colour in Kashmir’s rainbow, the red colour of blood.  Faces are blank; only a piece of paper called ID card has value. But with every passing year the generation changed. A new generation, born in this conflict grew up. They replaced guns with stones. Stone became message of protest. Peaceful mass protests erupted in last three years but rather than respecting the sentiments of the people, the state once again used their war weapons on unarmed people of Kashmir.

Today the Indian state has its roots in the state. They have investment. They get to know what even “separatists” do. Meetings are held in the capital of India. Back channel talks are always going on, with no results.

People are left in a state where they think twice before expressing their views. One has no power to talk freely, to write freely, and to think freely- the whole atmosphere is filled with a thick mist of suspicion. Once called separatists are now moderates. One who is now often seen talking moderately is called hawkish. They are called moderates who talk about human rights issues and the core issue has to be avoided. Some of them discuss fighting elections. Once there was a separatist leader, heading his party, is now a mainstream politician who lost elections in 2009. Some of them want more men of Indian forces to secure them. From whom?! That always remains a question.

Kashmir has become a question in itself which has no answers yet. People express their aspirations. State crushes their every right. World watches their every plight. The question remains unanswered.


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