Tapan Kumar Bose


The entire valley of Kashmir is under curfew since August 24, 2008. Curfew is a weapon in the hands of the state to prevent people from exercising their right to democratic dissent. On August 11, the state had imposed curfew to prevent the Kashmiris from marching towards Muzaffarabad. The armed forces opened fire on unarmed civilians and killed people, including Sheikh Aziz, a leader of the Hurriyat. Later, the armed forces insinuated that Sheikh Aziz was killed by militants hiding in the crowd of marchers and not by the army.


Curfew was re-imposed from the morning of August 24 with the express purpose of preventing a ‘dharna’ a ‘sit-in’ at Lal Chowk in the middle of Srinagar. On the previous day there was a massive mass meeting at the Idgah. The meeting was peaceful. The ‘dharna’ at Lal Chowk was announced at the Idgah. There was no reason to expect any violence at Lal Chowk. Yet the state decided to impose curfew thereby deliberately creating a situation of confrontation. In a repeat of what was done in 1989, the security forces clamped down on the local media, beat up demonstrators and journalists, broke into the homes of local residents and intimidated them.


According to a report prepared by a team of human rights activists of Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) there were several rounds of firing on the demonstrators by the CRPF and JK and police between August 11 and 14. According to the PUDR report, ‘The actual death toll is estimated to be above 30. The findings show a clear pattern: (a) the firings were aimed to kill. This was evident from eye witness accounts which showed that the firings were indiscriminate and aimed directly at the crowd. At Paribal, near Bandipura town on 12th August the RR and JK police fired on the crowd from above the hill where the 15 RR camp is located. (b) A large number of deaths resulted from injuries in the abdomen, chest, head or upper or lower back. The same was confirmed by hospital records. (c) In some cases, as at Lasjen on 12 August, protesters were deceived into by an assurance of allowing peaceful procession and then resorting to firing. Three people were killed including one 50 year old woman and six others received bullet injuries.’


On August 11 and 12, the SHMS hospital where more than 500 injured persons were being treated, was attacked by the security forces. They fired tear gas shells and fired at the emergency ward of the hospital. Ambulances have been stopped and fired upon by the CRPF and the Special Task Force (STF) of the JK police in several places. The health department has threatened to withdraw ambulance services as the drivers and attendants have received injuries. According to reports, on August 23, the CRPF and the army had instructed the village Chowkidars and Numberdars to prevent the villagers from going to Lal Chowk.


This is the picture of Kashmir today. Some of us, who visited Kashmir in 1989 and 1990, see very little difference between the attitude of the state then and now. The national media is also repeating the same role by either ignoring or under reporting the actual happenings in Kashmir valley. Unfortunately a section of the national media, which was known for their secular stand, has started singing the VHP tune – the mass movement in Kashmir is Islamist and separatists. They even claim that the BJP-VHP led Jammu protesters did not impose an economic blockade against Kashmir valley.


Clearly the battle lines are drawn. Some of the popular columnists have said that after all these years of being pampered and mollycoddled when the Kashmiris have remained anti-India, we should let them go where ever they want to. Others, and not just the RSS, BJP and the VHP lot, many secular nationalists are also of the opinion that Kashmir must remain a part of India. While the Hindu nationalists claim that national boundaries can not be redrawn, the secular lot claim that we can not afford another religion based partition as it will destroy the very idea of India.


Both the Hindu right wing and the secular nationalists forget that national boundary was redrawn on the subcontinent since 1947. In 1971, East Pakistan was separated from Pakistan and emerged as an independent nation state. And, those who talk of secularism of India, I would like to ask how much of  our secularism has survived after the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. It is time to ask any Indian Muslim or an Indian Christian, how safe do they feel in India.


All people have the right to self determination. We as Indians and Pakistanis exercised it in 1947. Maharaj Hari Singh, the descendent of the Hindu fortune hunter, Gulab Singh to whom the British imperialists had sold Kashmir, had acceded to India by Afridi and Pathan raiders. The Dogra Rajput rulers of Kashmir had established a Hindu kingdom in Kashmir. The Muslims lived under Hindu rules. By all accounts, the Muslims of Kashmir were treated as second class or even third class subjects. It was only in the mid thirties that sections educated Muslims of the valley started agitating for their rights. This was opposed not only by the rulers but also by the minority Kashmiri Pandit community, who realized that with the rise of educated Muslims, they would lose their absolute stranglehold over the machinery of the state. Let us face it; the rosy picture of Hindu-Muslim amity of Kashmir is as much a fiction as is Indian secularism.


For the past sixty years the Kashmiri Muslims have remained divided. Not the Hindus of Jammu and Kashmir as almost the entire Hindu and the Sikh population of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir had migrated to the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir.  For sixty years we have denied the Kashmiri Muslims the right to family re-union, their freedom f movement and their freedom of trade. We have given them only one road connection to the rest of the world.


It is time that India and Pakistan realized that that they can not keep a people divided in the name of national security. For India and Pakistan the Line of Control (LoC) may be a sacred, but for the Kashmiris it a line drawn in blood – line that divides them. It is the Berlin wall.  This line, the barbed wire fencing, the electrification and the landmines must go. Let Kashmiris move across the LoC without hindrance.  As Kashmiris will be united with heir families, trade freely with each other, the militancy and Jihad will become irrelevant. India and Pakistan can resolve the Kashmir conflict without the so-balled redrawing of borders. The question is do they have the political wisdom and the will to do so? 

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