Stop Killing and Insulting the Protesting People of Kashmir
kashmir is once again exploding in anger. At least eleven civilians including a nine-year-old young boy was killed by paramilitary forces in the month of June. As we go to press (6 July 2010), there are reports of at least four more deaths, including a woman and a teenager, in a fresh spurt of CRPF atrocities on protesters in Srinagar. The killing of a child in police firing would evoke angry mass protests anywhere in India. But in Kashmir valley, the state is so afraid of the people and so contemptuous of any notion of democracy that the people are not allowed to protest even when they lose their near and dear ones in police firing or in fake encounters by the armed forces. The familiar cycle of killings-protests-more killings-curfew is being repeated once again all over Kashmir. Anantnag, Baramulla, Sopore, Srinagar – it is again curfew raj all over the valley.
The state government has offered some formal apologies for some of the killings and announced a couple of probes. But these measures do not really carry any credibility for Kashmir has had enough and seen them all. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah initially sought to attribute everything to instigation by his political rival in the valley, the PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti. But as the intensity of protests grew and people started comparing the mass anger to the upsurge in the valley twenty years ago or to the intifada in Palestine, Omar started singing a different tune. He now says it is up to New Delhi to come up with a political solution.
Omar is right when he says that Kashmir needs a political solution and the problem cannot be solved by economic packages or by the rhetoric of development and good governance. But what he said is only half the truth. What he did not mention was the more important residual half – that the sense of alienation among the people of Kashmir has been reinforced by brutal governance and continuing denial of democracy and that Omar’s own government is carrying forward that tradition of complicity and betrayal. The National Conference today is a pale shadow of the popular political organization that Omar’s grandfather Sheikh Abdullah had formed. Neither the NC nor the more recent PDP, the two largest regional political formations thrown up by the valley, address the agony and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
If the regional parties of Kashmir have failed the people, the rulers in Delhi have never even bothered to understand Kashmir, notwithstanding the Kashmiri origin of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the special relationship between the Abdullahs and the Nehru-Gandhi clan. The Sangh brigade is of course known for its penchant for abrogation of Article 370, but even the Congress which swears by Article 370 has historically been guilty of following an essentially militarist strategy vis-à-vis Kashmir. Any democratic upsurge of the Kashmiri people is viewed as the Congress as a “Pak-instigated disturbance”. In the present case too, even as the people of Kashmir are crying for justice and democracy, the Union Home Secretary dismisses it as “nonsense whipped up by the separatist elements” and attributes everything to Pakistani infiltration and instigation.
By and large, most sections of the mainstream Indian media which otherwise play a significant role in exposing many scams, human rights violations or policy failures and betrayals of the ruling parties and the state – Bhopal is a most recent case in point – tend to go with the Congress version of the Kashmir story, even if they stop short of endorsing the Sangh-BJP clamour for abrogation of Article 370. The voice from Kashmir has little place in the ‘national’ media. An English paper from the valley editorially questioned and decried this media bias: “matters are made worse by the motivated and manipulative coverage by mainstream Indian media whereby the Kashmiris are depicted as hostile people up against the “patient” troopers.” Kashmiri journalists and writers have rightly asked, “In which part of India “undeclared” curfew is imposed and strict “restrictions” are applied to imprison people in their homes simply because they want to protest peacefully against the excesses of forces? In which part of India mobile phone networks are ordered to suspend operations and SMS service is banned for so called “security reasons”!”
By blaming the mass protests in Kashmir on Pakistan, the Indian ruling elite is only mocking at its own claim of Kashmir being an integral part of India. If Kashmir is an integral part of India, then the protests in Kashmir must be seen as protests by a section of the Indian people, and the Union Home Secretary who dismisses the protests as “a separatist nonsense” must first be dismissed. Of late, Prime Minister has been talking of human rights in Kashmir – it is the most burning issue in Kashmir today and has to be answered here and now. A beginning can be made by immediately revoking the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act and lifting all restrictions on the Kashmiri people’s democratic right to protest. Let the powers that be in New Delhi and Srinagar show the courage to bring the perpetrators of killings to justice. Let them show the courage to talk to the angry and anguished people of Kashmir.
CPI(ML) Condemns the Killing of Azad and Hem Pandey,
The CPI(ML) strongly condemns the killing of CPI(Maoist) spokesperson Azad (Cherukuri Rajkumar) and journalist-activist Hem Pandey from Uttarakhand in a so-called ‘encounter’ in the jungles of Adilabad district near Andhra-Maharashtra border. The Andhra government’s repeated claim that the Maoists have no strike-power left in Andhra renders the police version of a prolonged gun-fight between the Maoists and the police in the jungles of Adilabad highly suspect. What makes the whole thing all the more intriguing is the CPI(Maoist) claim that Azad was carrying a confidential communication received from Swami Agnivesh in connection with a possible dialogue between the state and the Maoists. The CPI(ML) therefore demands a judicial inquiry headed by a senior judge of impeccable reputation to establish the truth before the people. Both Azad and Hem Pandey had begun as radical student activists and are fondly remembered by many of their fellow students and activists. The CPI(ML) shares the grief of the bereaved families and their friends.