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Sunday, 11 July 2010

India: Preaching Sri Lanka on Minority Tamil Rights, Practising Cruelty on Minority Muslims in Kashmir.

Part 01: The Reality of Indian Democracy & Indian Democracy in Crisis


Part 02; Indian Democracy in Crisis, by Arundhati Roy of India


It is time that our big brother India practises towards its own minority of around 150 million Muslims throughout the country in general and Kashmir in particular what it preaches to Sri Lanka on minority rights.

Time and again Indian government officials from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to other top officials insist Sri Lankan government of the need to find a solution to Tamil problem though the minority problem in Sri Lanka is not confined to Tamils alone. It should be a comprehensive solution taking into consideration the grievances of Tamils, Muslims and all others.

However seldom we hear of Indian officials speaking of the need to solve the problem of the island’s Muslim minority. The question is whether this is an extension of India’s overall indifference towards its own minority Muslims who were regarded as outcasts ever since the partition of Indian subcontinent in august 1947.

More than six decades after the independence the plight of the Indian Muslim community is worse than that of untouchables as revealed by the report of the Sachar committee appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government.

Meanwhile the situation in Kashmir is nightmare for the Muslims there.

Kashmir Muslims have been regarded as some of the most peaceful people in the world. They endured with great patience the waves of unprecedented terror and cruelty inflicted upon them by successive Hindu Maharajas ever since the British sold Kashmir to Raja Gulab Singh, a Hindu warlord of the Dogra family in Jammu, for 7.5 million rupees (750,000 pounds) under the 1846 Treaty of Amritsar.

The question is how come such peace loving people rose up against Indian government.

It was the political manoeuvrings of the central government in Delhi, the rigging of elections in 1987 and later in 1996, years of political frustrations, economic problems and poverty, combined with many other factors, led to the 1989 uprising which became a crucial turning point in the Kashmiri Muslims’ freedom struggle.

Since then, according to figures were released in the March 2010 issue of All Parties Hurriyet Conference Azad and Jammu Kashmir, 93,142 people were killed, 105,832 houses and shops destroyed, 107,326 orphaned, 9901 women molested and 22,719 widowed.

Their slogan since the beginning of the uprisings in 1989 has been” We are for peaceful and permanent settlement of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. This slogan remains the same today”.

Instead of seeking peaceful means Indian governments responded by unleashing its military might to crush the uprising and the atrocities committed made former Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Muhammad Shah to state that “ India is committing the gravest human rights violations in the occupied Kashmir where its heavily deployed army is acting like terrorists”.

Raping women became a daily occurrence to break the spirit and soul of Kashmiri Muslims. The exact number of rapes will never be known as Kashmiri women who prefer death to dishonour, refuse to speak about their shameful ordeal and suffer the indignity in silence. Yet cases of rape, including those in front of family members and children by Indian forces were documented by many human rights organisations. One such document was The Rape of Kashmiri Women by Shabnam Qayyum. According to these reports men were herded into nearby fields for questioning while women at home were raped at will. Severe crackdown and atrocities intensified anti-Indian feelings, triggering off anti-India demonstrations and the State was brought under direct Indian Presidential rule.

India often use terms such as “fundamentalists” and “terrorists” to exploit the fear associated with this phenomenon to divert attention from its crimes.

Summing up the situation one writer said “hell has been let loose on Kashmiris and what happens in Kashmir is not made known to the Indian people by national dailies and government owned media which distort events”. Besides the common feeling of being betrayed by India of its promises to hold a plebiscite the arbitrary arrests, regular and systematic use of torture in interrogation camps, indiscriminate and extra judicial killings, brutal search operations, ransacking of homes and even raping women in the presence of family members and children added fuel to their anger.

Highlighting the atrocities the Weekend Guardian, London, reported as early as 4 August 1991 that “after a visit to Kashmir in 1991 the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said at a press conference in New Delhi that ‘the brutalities of the Indian army and the Central Reserve Police meant that India may have lost Kashmir’”. Curfews preventing routine movements in the streets and even at homes and ruthless crackdowns had been two of the most deadly strategies adopted by India. It was often said that barbarism inflicted, often demonstrated the hatred and intolerance towards Kashmiri Muslims. .

Amnesty International stated that the “brutality of torture defies belief and has left people mutilated and disabled for life. The severity of torture meted out by the Indian security forces in Kashmir has been the main reason for the appalling numbers of death in custody”.

Almost every Kashmiri has a tale to tell of a family member being grabbed by security forces, not to be seen again. Besides being subjected to crackdowns and cross firing, Kashmiris have also been deprived of their livelihood, as the on going uprising and the atrocities of the armed forces resulted in the abrupt drop in the number of tourist arrivals. As a result, houseboat owners, the Hanjios, who for generations managed these houseboats, hotel owners and those who depend on tourism to sell their traditional handicrafts, trishaw wallahs, tonga drivers, taxi drivers and hundreds of thousands of others have lost their only source of income.

Muslims were excluded from key jobs and Kashmiris feel that there was a general onslaught on Muslim culture and identity through the education curriculum and, socially, the standards of education have deteriorated considerably as children find it difficult to go to school. Most schools in rural areas have been occupied by security forces and some of them converted into interrogation centres. In this sickening environment, health services too have declined as hospitals are not only deprived of facilities, equipment and medicines, but doctors too have fled the area in fear of their lives after some of them were killed. Besides other related ailments, psychiatric cases continue to record a remarkable increase and the weeping relatives and onlookers standing by has become all too common near graves of the ever-increasing number of martyrs’ cemeteries.

Khalid Hassan, a native Kashmiri, in his well documented book, AZADI, said that “for more than half a century, mythologies have been woven around this conflict and the frontier between fact and fiction easily crossed. Simple truths have been blurred, causing confusion even in the minds of policymakers. As long as the Kashmir dispute remains unresolved, the agenda of the independence of the South Asian subcontinent remains unfinished”.

The people of Kashmir have made it clear that their grievances must be heard and their wishes ascertained through their legitimate representatives. Kashmiri Muslims, who do not see themselves as Indian citizens, point out that the Indian claim that Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian union is unilateral, unrecognised and untenable in law and logic. They continue to hold the view that the accession of Kashmir to India cannot be considered as valid under international law and the issue cannot be side tracked as proved by history that time has only aggravated and not healed the conflict.

They ask “how can we live under an Indian government after all what its security forces have done, and are still doing, to destroy our lives. India described the uprising as “secessionist” or “separatist” to cover crimes committed by its army and paramilitary forces in Kashmir, where the people continued to ask “how can a people secede from what they never acceded to and separate from what they never joined?”

Kashmiri Muslims, treated as second class citizens, feel that a plebiscite is the only and time honoured way out. Unless Kashmiris are given the opportunity to decide their fate, the state is bound to burn for generations to come. As one Kashmiri said “if the present generation is silenced through oppressive measures, then the next will learn not only about the plebiscite, but also the oppression of their fathers and seek, perhaps, through more sophisticated armed struggle to regain their freedom what their forefathers too fought for”.

The late Bertrand Russel, the world renowned philosopher once said, “When one observes that the high idealism of the Indian government in international matters breaking down completely with the question of Kashmir, it is difficult to avoid a feeling of despair”.

India has had more than half a century to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiri Muslims, but has failed miserably due to Hindu communalism within some of its ranks and its firm belief that it was Pakistan which instigated Kashmir Muslims to rise up. The Then Defence Minister George Fernandez once remarked in 1990 “I do not believe that any foreign hand engineered the Kashmir problem. The problem was created by us”.

In fact India agreed to respect the views of Kashmiris, despite the Maharaja’s accession to Kashmir, and hold a plebiscite. In a letter to then Pakistan Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, the Indian Prime Minister Nehru assured that ‘Kashmir’s accession to India is subject to reference to the people of the state for their decision’. He added that ‘Kashmir’s accession has been accepted on condition that as soon as law and order situations have been restored’ the people of Kashmir would themselves decide the question of accession. He added that “our assurance regarding the future of the state to the people of the state is not merely a pledge to your government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world”.

Repeating the same undertaking in a radio broadcast, Pundit Nehru said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people....We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared, when peace is restored, to hold a referendum under international auspices like the United Nations. We want it to be a just and fair reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict”.

The need for a political solution was highlighted by eve the former Indian army chief General V.P.Malik stated that “ultimately Kashmir has to have a political solution and deployment of huge army is not a solution of this dispute”.

Meanwhile according to 1-15 July 2010 issue of New Delhi based The Millie Gazette the All Partiers Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook had stated on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kashmir that former National Security Advisor M.K.Narayanan now the West Bengal Governor, killed the Kashmir solution in 2007 with his stance that former Pakistani President Pervaiz Musharraf could not trusted killed.

With no solution in sight, violence broke out once again and the army was called in to crush the uprising.

As concerned Indian citizens some of whom played a role in solving the Amarnath-related crisis two years back, we are seriously worried at the fast deteriorating situation in the Valley of Kashmir which has witnessed the senseless killing of over two dozen innocent youth by the security forces in as many days. The army has now been directly deployed in many areas of the Valley in a shameful attempt to cover up for the utter political failure of both the central and state governments. This is evident in both the Omar Abdullah government’s inability to handle the situation and the central government’s lack of ideas and initiatives. The Prime Minister’s recent visit to the Valley only underlined the visionless policy of protecting the status quo at any cost.

With all emphasis at our command, we urge the central government to at once send the army back to the barracks and out of all inhabited areas in the Valley, release all arrested political leaders, activists and protesters, repeal the black AFPSA which has allowed the army to kill with impunity, and urgently start a real dialogue with both the stakeholders in the Valley as well as with Pakistan to solve this vexed issue once and for all. We believe the situation in Kashmir demands a political, not a military, solution. We hope the UPA-II will not leave this issue burning for another generation to solve it.

Dr JK Jain (Chairman, Jain TV),Syed Shahabuddin (President, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat),Prem Shankar Jha (columnist), Prof. Ram Puniyani (All India Secular Forum),N.D. Pancholi (People's Union of Civil Liberties),Manisha Sethi (Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association),Yugal Kishor Saran Shastri (Ayodhya),Prof. Nirmalangshu Mukherji ( Delhi University ),Dr. Shamsul Islam ( Delhi University ), Neelima Sharma (Theatre Person),Zafar Mahmood (President, Interfaith Coalition),
Kamal Faruqui (Ex-Chairman, Minorities Commission Delhi ),Navaid Hamid (Member, National Integration Council)Dr. M.H. Jawahirullah (President, Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam),Lateef Mohammad Khan (Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee),Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan (Editor, The Milli Gazette).   

Suggested Link and Read more on: Democracy Review Forum of SLTT-UK

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