Kashmiris Under The Knife
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Muslim Kashmiris in Indian held Kashmir (IHK) were quietly undergoing the injustices and high-handedness of India’s handpicked Kashmiri leaders and atrocities of Indian security forces for over four decades. Their patience broke down when state elections in 1987 were blatantly rigged. It triggered mass agitation and within two years street protests turned into armed resistance. India pumped in 700,000 regular and paramilitary forces in the valley of Kashmir to quell the uprising but failed to do so. When terrorism became the chief concern of USA and the west in the aftermath of 9/11, it gave an opportunity to India to paint Kashmir freedom movement as terrorism duly abetted by Pakistan. Under pressure from the US and India, Gen Musharraf withdrew Pakistan’s moral, diplomatic and political support to the Jihadis in occupied Kashmir and in Azad Kashmir under the misplaced hope that the Kashmir dispute would be resolved through composite dialogue. Pakistan’s laidback approach towards Kashmir diluted the movement to quite an extent, which greatly disillusioned the Kashmiris, particularly the youth.
After a lull of few years, the Amarnath Shrine Board dispute in the summer of 2008 gave a reason to the Kashmiri youth in occupied Kashmir to give vent to their pent up rage. The situation became so explosive that RAW had to engineer Mumbai attacks in November 2008 to divert the attention of the world from IHK. After putting Pakistan in a tight corner, Kashmir State Assembly elections were held in December 2008, which had a higher voter turnout and led to pro-India J&K National Conference led by Omar Abdullah forming the government. It encouraged New Delhi to claim that people of Kashmir had endorsed Indian rule in the state. Indian leaders propagated that movement in Kashmir was entirely Pakistan supported and since movement of foreign militants across the Line of Control had been blocked with the help of fencing, mining and other means, terrorist movement had been successfully quashed. Despite the relative calm, India didn’t deem it fit to reduce its extraordinary heavy military presence in Kashmir and didn’t let go its brutal policies against hapless Kashmiris aimed at stifling their voices by force.
The second round of unarmed movement in IHK took place in 2009, which upturned the claims made by India that Kashmiri movement had been effectively quelled. The third wave of protests in the summer of 2010 which got converted into a mass movement spread over the entire valley including Muslim majority parts of Jammu. These protests were led by teenagers with stones in their hands. These children belonged to the third generation that had grown up amidst violence and have no jobs or future as long as they are ruled by India. So high was their morale and level of motivation that they didn’t care for the bullets and tear gas shells rained by occupation forces. No amount of savagery committed by security forces frightened or intimidated them. They braved the bullets and hardships boldly without caring for their lives. Each day they saw several of their comrades dying or getting severely injured as a result of bursts fired by soldiers and police. But so high was their level of motivation and commitment to the cause that they were not prepared to give in. Each fatality further fueled their anger and animus against India and they chanted slogans of ‘go India go’, quit Jammu & Kashmir’, and ‘we want freedom’ more vociferously.
Finding the baton holders of largest civilian unrest since 1989 in no mood to listen to age-old tricky offers of talks and incentives, Indian Home Minister Chindabaram led an All-Party mission to IHK on 20 September 2010 and tried to placate them. He got a shock when APHC leaders in keeping with the aspirations of the people refused to meet the visitors. He then came forward with an eight-point formula to defuse the popular revolt demanding separation from India. He offered sustained dialogue and agreed to include representation of the youth in the dialogue process. Having said that, whatever little goodwill he demonstrated was washed away by SM Krishna when he repeated the old stance in New York that Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is an internal matter of India and that Pakistan is in illegal occupation of some parts of Kashmir. Sending of a delegation to IHK was seen by him as a huge step towards addressing grievances of Kashmiris.
Srinagar in particular became a barricaded city where check points were established in hundreds and soldiers roamed the roads in armored cars fitted with loaded heavy guns routinely. Standing soldiers in moving vehicles had their fingers on the trigger ready to press at slightest provocation. Police and CPRF laced with automatics and grenades were seen in every street. All pedestrians, cyclists and others moving on the roads were subjected to long and humiliating search at each check point and on slightest suspicion the suspects were forcibly pushed into a waiting van and taken to unknown destination. Those taken away seldom returned since they were bumped off in stage-managed encounters. Thousands have been killed in fake encounters. Those returning home after prolonged illegal custody in dungeons are mostly disabled or mental wrecks.
Stones hurled by teenagers were responded by bullets by police and paramilitary forces. They got so provoked by stone-pelters that they resorted to indiscriminate firing. When the situation could still not be controlled after killing scores of tender age boys and young men, Indian Army was given the charge, which was itching to take over from police and paramilitary forces to upgrade level of cruelty. Failing to suppress the unarmed protestors through frequent curfews and excessive use of force, Indian military contemplated use of special weapons like ‘Lazer Dazzlers’ to control the mobs. These weapons cause permanent blindness and not temporary blindness as claimed by the manufacturers of the weapon. Their use will be in contravention to UN and International Red Cross regulations.
A 15-year old schoolboy Tufail Ahmad Matoo was killed on June 11, 2010 when police fired a rubber bullet at him, drilling half an inch hole in his skull. In June 2010 alone 33 civilians including four children were gunned down, 572 detained and tortured and eight women were molested. 110 innocent unarmed civilians were killed between 11 June and 26 September 2010 and thousands were injured. Twenty people were killed on 2-3 August 2010. Majority of killed and injured were children and women. 30-year old Irshad Ahmad Latoo was killed in Anantnag on 14 August. 15 year old M. Umar Dar was killed on 15 August. In Shopian, seven persons got injured as a result of indiscriminate firing by police. It had got provoked after seeing a Pakistani flag hoisted in the town. All-told, the number of martyred exceeded the figure of 1100, which included a small boy aged 8 years.
The J&K regime stood paralyzed while Chief Minister Omar Abdullah instead of coming to the rescue of victims of state terrorism sprinkled salt on their wounds by saying that stone throwers were provoking security forces and compelling them to open fire. Instead of restraining trigger happy soldiers and comforting the families who lost their sons, he blamed Kashmiri opposition leaders that they were fomenting protests. Indian leaders flabbergasted by the new wave of non-violent strikes and protests found Pakistan as a convenient scapegoat and started singing old tunes of cross border terrorism. They leveled allegations that infiltration across line of control had increased and Pakistan had a hand in riots. Even the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba was blamed for orchestrating the protests.
As long as freedom fighters were holding guns in their hands and fighting over seven lacs Indian occupation forces, it suited Indian politicians since it helped them in befooling the world that there was no freedom movement in Kashmir but a terrorist movement fully aided by Pakistan. This theme was bought by USA and western world. Protests by unarmed teenagers left the Indian propagandists speechless and dumbfounded. Their blatant lies got fully exposed prompting many Indian human right activists and intellectuals to candidly suggest to the Indian government to stop the bloodshed and to give the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir.
Pakistan’s National Assembly and Senate passed resolutions on J&K calling upon world community to take note of the oppression perpetrated upon people of IHK and urged the UN to ensure implementation of UN resolutions. It angered India and again harped on its unchanged stance that Kashmir is an internal affair of India. Pakistan was reminded of its commitment of not allowing its territory under its control to be used for terrorism. Our Foreign Affairs Ministry should have reminded India of the resolution of Indian Lok Sabha passed in March 1971 supporting the cause of Bengali rebels in former East Pakistan and a similar resolution in 1983 to support the cause of Movement of Restoration of Democracy spearheaded by PPP in Sindh.
India had again expressed its serious concerns over human rights violations against the Baloch rebels in Balochistan by counter terrorism forces in 2006 and expressed its full sympathies for the cause of the rebels. After the successful Swat operation in 2009, Indian propagandists had joined hands with western Pakistan bashers to cook up stories to malign Pak Army of gross human rights violations. Those were in reality purely internal matters but India had the audacity to meddle in our internal affairs blatantly. Dr. Wahid Baloch on whose briefing the three US Republicans moved a resolution in House of Representative in February 2012 is a regular visitor of India and is on its payroll. India is investing huge amounts to support the separatist Baloch Sardars.
With such a dismal track record, it was strange that India felt offended and termed moral and political support rendered to Kashmiris fighting for their right of self-determination as interference in India’s internal affairs, knowing full well that Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory. It is indeed most unfortunate that India doesn’t miss any opportunity to accuse Pakistan of human rights violations on issues which are entirely internal, but Pakistan somehow remains reticent in highlighting India’s excesses in occupied Kashmir and its intransigence to resolve the oldest dispute. This is bare minimum Pakistan can do for hapless Kashmiris languishing in open prison for over six decades.