Azaadi—Freedom from Indian Oppression
Kashmiri Muslims have suffered 27 years of military rule, all kinds of atrocities by India’s security forces.
The bitter cold in the Kashmir Valley cuts through the bones, but yet it fails to chill the public’s spirit. Right through the winter, when hundreds of Indian security forces come to a locality to kill less than a handful of militants taking shelter in a house, the local population come out in support of the militants to prevent the security forces from conducting their operations, at times even managing to help the militants escape. For the security forces, of course, the local population supporting the militants are “anti-national” and they have no qualms in dealing severely with the civilians.
The fact is that many in the local population readily risk their very lives to save the militants. The killing of every militant—and they are all Kashmiris, mostly from East Kashmir, administered by India, with a few from West Kashmir, administered by Pakistan—is deeply resented. Each “encounter” killing of a militant or militants, and especially when civilians are killed, sparks public protests, despite the bitter cold outside. And when such protests gain momentum, the security forces fire into the crowds, triggering a wave of further protests.
The Kashmiri people have now faced what is akin to military rule for 27 years; practically the whole area is claimed to have remained “disturbed,” with the armed forces enjoying immunity from prosecution for harm done to civilians, whether of rape, torture, disappearance, or killing. According to a statement dated 10 January 2017 of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), in the ongoing uprising from 8 July last year, more than a hundred civilians have so far been killed. More than one thousand civilians have either been blinded or have sustained serious eye injuries as a result of the firing of pellets by the security forces. There have been mass arrests and detentions under the draconian Public Safety Act, 1978. Official government figures put the number of arrests under different criminal charges at around 8,000. Prolonged curfews, media and internet blackouts, suspension of the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression and of peaceful assembly, have been the order of the day.
Indeed, one can sense the agony of the parents and other loved ones of the disappeared persons. For the period from 1989 onwards, the APDP has estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 Kashmiris—the earlier Omar Abdullah-headed Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government had admitted to a figure of 3,744 in the J&K legislative assembly—were subjected to enforced disappearance and subsequently killed in fake encounters. But the Indian state and the establishment have been in a state of denial of the enforced disappearances and subsequent killings, blaming the very victims of the violence for the violence. On the 10th of every month, the APDP stages silent sit-in protests against the enforced disappearances in J&K, and has been bringing out a memory calendar. It has taken on the “responsibility of not allowing the memories of the sufferings of (the) families (of the disappeared persons) to pass into oblivion.” Indeed, the callousness of successive state governments in J&K is also evident in the fact that the state assembly is yet to pass a law on protection from enforced disappearances. Successive central governments have also been utterly insensitive in not ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Basically for 27 years, India has been using military force against the people of the Kashmir Valley many of whom do not want to be part of India. New Delhi justifies all of this in the name of “territorial integrity” and “secularism.” It blames Pakistan for what is happening in the Kashmir Valley—all the mass protests and the militancy are supposed to be “Pakistan-sponsored.” Yet, the nationalism of the present union government is not even all-Indian; it is a communal Hindutvavadi nationalism representing a section of the Indian population. The Hindutvavadi nationalists in power currently have no qualms in forcing their rule on the Kashmiri Muslims in the name of secularism. Needless to say, the Congress version of nationalism was no less in this respect. Not that Pakistani nationalism is any better. Now the Hindutvavadi nationalists, clearly not out of any real solidarity, have claimed that they support the Balochi national liberation movement in Pakistan; the Pakistani nationalists, on their part, claim that they are for Kashmiri azaadi from India, even as they have made of Azad Kashmir a virtual colony. But given New Delhi’s use of military force in the Kashmir Valley over the last 27 years, Kashmiri azaadi is, indeed, among other things, principally a cry from the heart of the Kashmiri people for freedom from Indian oppression.
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