AFSPA & Kashmir

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Kashmir is in the news again for wrong reasons. Political leaders and parties are engaged in questioning each other’s intentions regarding their stand on Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The issue gained importance when J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah voiced his intention to revoke AFSPA from certain parts of AFSPA. It did not take long for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-winged groups associated with saffron brigade to strongly oppose this stand of Abdullah. Congress has also expressed its reservations on Abdullah’s views. Considering that Abdullah heads the J&K government with support of Congress, it has been expressed that before taking any decision on this issue, he needs to hold discussions and take opinion of Congress also. Subsequently, Abdullah indicated that the issue will be taken up by his cabinet after November 7, when the J&K government shifts to its winter capital, which is Jammu.

Clearly, Abdullah has not yet given the impression of having backtracked from his stand on withdrawing AFSPA from certain parts of J&K. At the same time, the political furore raised over the issue also suggests that he probably expressed his own personal opinion on AFSPA without consulting others in his government. There is also the possibility of his having deliberately expressed his stand on AFSPA only to gain an idea of various political opinions regarding the same. Considering that Abdullah is well-aware that withdrawal of AFSPA from any one or more parts of J&K is not in his hands alone, he probably deliberately voiced his intention primarily for some publicity and win over Kashmiris’ support on emotional lines. In other words, withdrawal of AFSPA actually from certain parts of J&K is not his immediate agenda. This point is proved by his decision to take up the issue at the state cabinet meeting after Eid-ul-Zuha. If the issue is taken up, it shall be followed by meetings, discussions, countering opposition and consultations with the central government, which are least likely to be completed in a short period. 

Against this backdrop, it is pertinent to analyze the AFSPA from another angle. Why has it been assumed that Kashmiris are against it? Basically, AFSPA is not confined to J&K alone. In fact, before J&K was covered by it, the armed forces were conferred special powers, as per AFSPA, in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The AFSPA was brought in force in these states soon after the act was passed by the Indian Parliament on September 11, 1958. It was extended to J&K in July 1990. 

Legally, in areas proclaimed as “disturbed,” an officer of armed forces has powers to “fire upon,” “use force, even to the causing of death,” against any person “acting in contravention of any law,” “assembly of five or more persons” and/or “possession of deadly weapons.” The act also allows arrest without a warrant, with use of force against any person who has committed a certain offence or is suspected of the same. The act authorizes the officers to enter and search any premise to make arrests.

The AFSPA also gives army officers legal immunity for their actions. The legal immunity, however, prevails for actions taken as per the AFPSA. This also implies that if army officers falsely justify their acts as per the power granted to them by AFPSA, they can be subject to prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding. Against this backdrop, it is relevant to probe a little into how AFSPA has been understood, rather misunderstood, where J&K is concerned. It may be noted, situations in J&K have usually escalated to stage of crisis due to a confrontation between unarmed civilians and the police. In recent past, the involvement of forces and the militants has not been responsible for any major disturbance in the region. The affected Kashmiris have not yet recovered fully from last year’s tension between the civilians and the state-police. More than 100 people, including school children, fell victim to state-controlled bullets last year. Among the first to fall victim was a student Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. He was hit by a teargas shell fired by the police on June 11, 2010. The police was chasing a crowd of stone pelters at Rajouri Kadal. Mattoo was not a part of the crowd. To this day, his family members are waiting for justice. As per AFSPA or any other law, neither the army nor the state police can “legitimize” use of force that led to death of Mattoo. Not surprisingly, Mattoo’s death triggered protests throughout J&K. It is the death of Mattoo and other innocent civilians, who are targeted by state-controlled bullets that raises the question as to why has strict action not been taken against those responsible for these killings.

The army and police, it may be pointed out, fall under two different departments. Understandably, though AFSPA grants armed forces certain special powers in disturbed areas, it does not grant the same to the police. Also, as mentioned earlier, even soldiers are not granted legal immunity if their actions are not as per the norms laid out by AFSPA.

It may take months, even years before AFSPA is lifted from certain areas of J&K. The issue may remain confined to debates and discussions. In this context, rather than indulge only in deliberations and debates on whether AFSPA should be lifted or not, it is imperative to examine carefully whether the act is being strictly adhered to by the army officers and whether police too are taking shelter under AFSPA for their crimes. Omar Abdullah should ensure that strict action is taken against those accused of violating/abusing AFSPA.

13-45

Peace Eludes Kashmir: Who Is At Fault?

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The brief phase of apparent peace in Jammu and Kashmir has been shattered once again by what has been described by critics as “state-terrorism.” The recent weeks have been marked by several suspect-terrorists having been killed in what have been labelled as “fake encounters” and the custodial death of Nasin Rashid (28) in Sopore district, Baramulla district. Rashid’s death provoked Kashmiris to take to streets demanding justice and prompted several Kashmiri leaders to strongly voice their protest against it. 

The Indian troops claimed to have killed five suspect militants, three of whom were killed at Rajwar in Handwara and two in Surankote area of Poonch. They were, according to Indian troops, killed as they tried to cross the Line-of-Control. The Kashmiri leaders have, however, blamed the troops for having “martyred” the five in an act of “state-terrorism.” Even before this issue has settled down, an actual “fake-encounter” has raised questions on credibility of the earlier claims made by Indian troops. A preliminary probe has reportedly revealed that a man killed in an alleged 12-hour gun battle with an army unit was not a suspect militant, but a mentally unstable civilian.

Initially, a high-ranking officer had briefed the media (Aug 7) that the “militant” killed was Abdu Usman, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s “divisional commander.” The officer also claimed recovery of a pistol and other materials from his possession. Ironically, before this “news” had created any waves, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah accepted that the “encounter” in which the individual was killed may not have been real.

“We are still enquiring into the exact circumstances as to what happened. Preliminary information suggests to us that a local Territorial Army fellow and an SPO (Special Police Officer) had conspired to inform the local army unit about the presence of the foreign militant in Pooch,” Abdullah said. “Subsequently, information came to light that that the person is not who (that is a ‘suspect militant’) the Territorial Army and the SPO claimed him to be,” he said.

The “accused,” according to Abdullah, “have been charged under section 302 amounting to murder and we will ensure that the law follows its own course.” The accused, include SPO Abdul Majid and Territorial Army soldier Noor Hussain. While the SPO’s intention, through this “encounter,” was to be regularized as a constable, the soldier wanted a cash reward of Rs 200,000.

Amazingly, this is one of the rarest of rare “fake encounters,” which on the basis of a preliminary probe has been promptly acknowledged as one, with the state chief minister himself saying so. Over the past three years, at least 14 cases of fake encounter in Kashmir have been reported and registered by India’s National Human Rights Commission. And this raises the pertinent question: Who is to be blamed for grievances afflicting Indian Kashmiris?

Speaking at a seminar in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra said: “A major problem facing the country today is the nexus between political hierarchy, mafia and bureaucracy. All elements of government are tainted and now fingers are being pointed towards the armed forces.” Taking note that the Police Act was 150 years old, Vohra said: “We need to reform every part and parcel of the government including police for providing justice to the people.”

Vohra’s tacit acceptance that people were being denied justice was referred to from a different angle by former Chief Justice of Orissa High Court Justice Bilal Nazki at the seminar (Aug 8). He raised the question: “In Kashmir there are many cases of alleged excesses committed by the police and at the same time police is investigating them. How can anybody expect fair investigation from the accused?” “Once the crime takes place there should be no business of police to meddle in investigations. Police cannot handle everything from law and order to security to the investigation,” Nazki said.

Undeniably, Kashmiris have suffered for long at the hands of law and order system in their terrain. The army and police are expected to ensure security for the Kashmiris. But instead, they have been trigger-free while targeting Kashmiris, particularly Muslims. In recent years, thanks to communication revolution, “reports” on fake encounters accusing Kashmiris (particularly Muslims) as “terrorists” have started hitting headlines. The Indian media has also woken up to not easily accepting claims made by officers about several “terrorists” being killed in certain encounters. Earlier, their prevailed the tendency to virtually accept whatever was said at press conferences, after such “encounters” as the final word, without examining the credibility of such claims and not considering the option of giving “suspect terrorists” a chance to prove their innocence.

Despite the media and people having woken up to the hard reality that “peace” and “security” continues to elude Kashmiris as innocent persons are still being targeted by state-controlled bullets, the concerned authorities have not yet taken any major step to solve this problem. Irrespective of whatever claims that India makes about its commitment to the Kashmir-issue, peace shall elude problem-ridden region, till adequate attention is paid to address grievances faced by Kashmiris!

13-33

Mumbai and Kashmir

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

INDIA/

A student lifts a placard as he and others line up to take part in a march for peace in Mumbai July 20, 2011. Students from the Antonio Da Silva high school marched through the streets of Mumbai to condemn the recent bomb attacks in the city. 

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

San Pablo (California)–The explosions in Mumbai last week (the 12th) killed twenty-one with over a hundred wounded in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.  This event should have especial pithiness to Muslims in North America and elsewhere because, although still an overall minority, Delhi’s realm has the second largest Islamic population in the world whereas neighboring Pakistan is overwhelming Muslim.

Of course, the attack upon the Indian Parliament during the first year of this century by non-State actors with the ensuing near-nuclear confrontation that resulted was eventually diffused by the Pakistani Chief Executive despite the far right-wing Hindu chauvinist Government in the Indian Metropole.   Fortunately, at the time of the 2008 attacks upon Mumbai, India had a much more rational Centrist administration; so, the consternation within Bharat in 2008 was resolved more diplomatically than in 2001 over the issues arising around the State non-actors.

In 2008, it became evident that the roots of the attacks lay in the injustices within the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J. & K.).   Whether terrorism is the proper way to conduct insurgency is debatable because it targets civilian rather than military targets, but it is a tactic of asymmetrical warfare wherein the counter-insurgents have an advantage over their irregular opponents, and the rebels believe that terror equalizes the battlefield, and can even bring their fight deep within the Metropolis of the their oppressor, and away from their peripheral homeland.

There is chauvinism within India – and to a lesser extent – within Pakistan that an attack within the border of either is instigated in the capitol of the other.  This often ignores the considerable home-grown discontent within their very boundaries.  It is true that rogue elements within Rawalpindi’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) agency conduct aggressive foreign policy on their own initiative rather than in consultation with Islamabad.  Besides non-State actors, they have had allied out-of-control sub-State players in league with them in the 2001 and 2008 incidents, and might linger in the current incident, but it has not been Pakistani governmental policies to initiate these assaults!  Unfortunately, today Pakistan has a weak Government and is less likely to contain those elements than with their then strong Executive after the diffusion of the crisis in 2002.

Because of the “radical” right-wing and with their Indian media (those that are) sensationalist along with the Pakistani Center’s inability to contain their reprobate elements has caused a very dangerous bi-State situation.  Added to this, the “mercenary” Arab (especially Al’Quaeda’s) entrance into the Kashmiri cause for independence from the Af-Pak region, which has done more harm than good to the Kashmiris themselves, the greater area has become more explosive.

What happened last week is very dangerous indeed.  The Indians have taken a fortunate restraint until they can claim to have determined the guilty party and who – if any – were responsible for supporting them. 

I, personally, am most worried this will cause the fall of the rational (Indian) Congress ascendancy, and the subsequent  ascendance of the fascist-like BJP (the Bhartiya Janata Party), the political wing of the Hindu fundamentalist/casteist RSS (Rashtiya Swamsevak Sangh) who brought the world the assassination of M.K. Gandhi during his fast to end the slaughter ensuing the Partition of British India between the Muslims and Hindus, etc. just after the Independence of Pakistan and the Indian Union in the late 1940s.

I have many friends and colleagues on both sides of the LoC (Line of Control, the de facto frontier between the two South Asian neighbors in Kashmir).  During the last fortnight, I have been daily on my phone to the Gulf and Subcontinent to get my learned acquaintances perspectives.

So, far I have been receiving replies of little concern over the recent incident within that region.   Whatever, the Kashmir “problem” is the second most dangerous conflict that could lead to lead to a larger conflagration, must be solved!   I only hope my resident friends there are right and the (nuclearized) State-level danger will subside with calm heads prevailing.

If it does not, I will be following this further.

13-30

PM’s Kashmir Visit: “Productive & Fruitful?”

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: Ironically, just when it seemed that Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was taking the right steps to win over Kashmiris in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the week ended with quite a few questioning the government’s intentions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Kashmir last week (October 28-29), accompanied by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee, Health & Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and New & Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah. Singh inaugurated the 12-km-long Anantnag-Qazigund rail link in south Kashmir. Besides, he reviewed the development efforts being taken by state government led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Singh also held discussions with major political parties in the state.

Briefing media, after concluding his two-day visit, Singh described it as “productive and fruitful.” During their talks, he and Abdullah “took stock of the development efforts in various sectors and discussed ways and means of expediting the implementation of various central projects,” Singh said. In his discussions with other political leaders and various sections of civil society, Singh made an “appeal” for dialogue, which he hopes “will be reciprocated in the spirit in which it was made.” “We have to carry all stakeholders with us to achieve a permanent and peaceful reconciliation in Jammu & Kashmir so that we can concentrate on an ambitious development agenda that will lead to a full economic revival and reconstruction and create lot more jobs for the young people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Singh stated that he was returning to Delhi “fully satisfied” with his visit. “I believe that a new chapter is opening in the peace process in the state and we are turning a corner. We will extend full support to the efforts of the state government to fulfill the high expectations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir,” he said.
During his address, at the inauguration of the rail-link, Singh pointed out that his government has taken a number of steps for the state’s development. These include, Singh said, the “bold step of reviving the movement of goods and people across the Line of Control on the Srinagar – Muzaffarabad road and on the Poonch – Rawalakot road.” Accepting that a lot more needed to be done, he said: “We have to speed up the pace of development in the state. We have to reverse the brain drain that has denuded the state of many of its teachers, doctors, engineers and intellectuals. We have to create the conditions for them to return and to be the instruments of change and development. We want to strengthen the hands of the state government so that they can implement an ambitious development agenda.”

Singh outlined the central government’s to involve the state’s youth under the “Skill Development to Employment” program, directed towards training them as tourist escorts, developing Information Technology sector in J&K and setting up two central universities in the state- one in Jammu and one in Kashmir.

“The era of violence and terrorism is coming to an end. The public sentiment is for peace and for a peaceful resolution of all problems,” Singh pointed out. He laid stress that his government is “committed to having unconditional dialogue with whoever abjures violence.” On talks India has held with Pakistan, Singh said: “We had the most fruitful and productive discussions ever with the Government of Pakistan during the period 2004-07 when militancy and violence began to decline.” “For the first time in 60 years, people were able to travel by road across the LoC. Divided families were re-united at the border. Trade between the two sides of Kashmir began. In fact, our overall trade with Pakistan increased three times during 2004-07. The number of visas that we issued to Pakistanis doubled during the same period. An additional rail link was re-established. These are not small achievements given the history of our troubled relationship with Pakistan. Inside the valley, as militancy declined, trade, business and tourism began to pick up. We were moving in the right direction,” Singh said.

When there was a “feeling among the people that a durable and final peace was around the corner,” Singh said: “All the progress that we achieved has been repeatedly thwarted by acts of terrorism. The terrorists want permanent enmity to prevail between the two countries. The terrorists have misused the name of a peaceful and benevolent religion.” Before concluding his address, Singh appealed to the Pakistan government that the “hand of friendship that we have extended should be carried forward” in “interest of people of India and Pakistan.”

Undeniably, Singh’s Kashmir-visit suggests that his government is leaving no stone unturned for peace and development of the state. But the Kashmiris started questioning the same moves as the center decided a day later to stop pre-paid mobiles in J&K from November 1. An official release from the home ministry stated that the decision was taken because of “serious security concerns” which had risen as “proper verification” was not being done while providing pre-paid mobile connections (October 30).

Criticizing and questioning the sudden decision taken by the center, the Kashmiris asked as to why should they all suffer for “wrong doings” of a few militants. “Are all users of pre-paid mobile services being viewed as terrorists?” asked a Kashmiri student. Mehboob Beigh, a legislator of National Conference (NC), which heads the state government, said: “It is unwise to do this at a time when the PM has stressed on creating an atmosphere for peace.” Opposition leader, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti described the situation as “unfortunate” and sought the PM’s personal intervention to restore the service. The move negates the statements made by PM in his Kashmir visit, she said. On the one hand, she said, the “union government was claiming that the situation has improved in the state and on the other residents of this state have been denied facilities like mobile services in the name of security threats.”

“What kind of a message is being conveyed to industrialists and prospective investors across the country? That Kashmir is a state where terrorism is as high as before the mobile services were launched in the state in 2003?” asked a businessman. In the opinion of some, it would not have much of an impact, as people are likely to lobby and convert the existing pre-paid connections into post-paid ones.

11-46

J&K Elections: Voters’ Message Beyond The Ballot vs. Bullet Fight

December 31, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2008-12-31T121210Z_01_SRI09_RTRMDNP_3_KASHMIR-LEADER

Omar Abdullah (L), president of the National Conference (NC) party, waves to supporters as Ali Mohammed Sagar (R), a senior NC leader, looks on during a rally in Srinagar December 31, 2008. Thousands of strife weary Kashmiris gave their new leader, Omar Abdullah, a rousing welcome when he arrived home on Wednesday after he was named to lead a new coalition government in the disputed Himalayan region. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli

NEW DELHI: Despite the Jammu and Kashmir elections having thrown a hung assembly, ruling out prospects of single-party government in the India-occupied state, unlike the previous ones, these polls carry a different message. Though the elections were held with terrorism, as has been the routine in the past, bringing Indo-Pak diplomacy to the stage of tension, this time the issue of militancy in J&K was pushed to the backstage. It was overshadowed by excessive noise made in the subcontinent and elsewhere over terror-strikes in Mumbai, with India blaming Pakistan-based groups as responsible for these. The reported casualty in these elections was 12 civilian and five security personnel, compared to 220 civilian and 148 security personnel killed in the 2002 polls. This suggests a fall of 86 percent in militancy related incidents in 2008 polls against that in 2002.

Equally noteworthy is the large turnout of voters, 63.21 percent while that in 2002 was 44 percent. “In the last one year, there has been a reduction in militancy-related incidents and hence the fear factor was not there. The real success is wherever there was low percentage in the last elections, there was higher turnout this time and it showed that people wanted to participate in the democratic process in a big way,” according to Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami.

Notwithstanding the tensed Indo-Pak ties, marked by war-hysteria in certain political circles as well as media, amazingly these did not have any negative impact on the atmosphere in the J&K. Trade across the much-disputed Line-of-Control continued despite Indo-Pak animosity reaching a new height over Mumbai terror strikes. The cross-border trade, which began from October 21, continued amid the hype raised about India and Pakistan being near a war-like stage. For instance, earlier this month, as expressed by sources in Jammu: “A trader from Pakistan has sent a truckload of 150 boxes of oranges and 100 boxes of pomegranates besides 252 pairs of special Peshawari sandals to a business firm in Poonch.” The Indian firm had sent a consignment of 2,200 kg of tomatoes on December 23 as demanded by the Pakistan trader, they said.

Opening of LoC for trade between the two sides apparently has had a major influence on pulling Kashmiris towards the ballot box. This has assumed a yet greater importance in view of the weeks before the polls spelling tension within the state over Amarnath-issue. The three-month long tension, also marked by economic blockade of the Valley by extremist Hindu groups in Jammu, at one point even raised speculation whether the elections would be held in time. Amid this backdrop, the opening of the LoC for trade certainly carried a new meaning for Kashmiris (primarily Muslims) in the Valley. Even though trade across LoC has yet to reach substantial proportions, that it has begun, certainly signals a new importance being given to their economic concerns. The beginning of cross-border trade at LoC at least signals that Indo-Pak dispute over Kashmir has been – at least now – pushed to the background, with economic concerns of Kashmiris being given greater importance. This is indeed a major move for average Kashmiris, who till the last elections, only seemed to be caught needlessly between the bullet and the ballot, with neither spelling a solution to their socio-economic problems.

Despite the Amarnath-row signaling a clear split, marked by polarization of votes, between Jammu and Kashmir, it is not without reason that Kashmiri voters turned out in greater numbers than before to cast their vote. Thus even though the Congress party won fewer seats this time (17) than in 2002, when it won 20, the party leaders have welcomed the results. “The large turnout of voters is a vote for democracy. It is a vote for national integration. As far as who wins or who loses is a secondary issue,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. Giving emphasis to electoral results carrying little importance than people’s participation, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said: “I have been saying from the very beginning that it dose not matter who wins, what matters is that the people of the Valley, the people of Jammu, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have placed their full faith in the democratic system which is a lesson to be learnt by our neighbors.” Highlighting the holding of state elections as scheduled, Gandhi said: “I have been saying from the very beginning that elections should be held in time and I am glad that they were held in time.

Compared to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having won only a single seat in 2002, this time it has managed to win 11. While some hold the Amarnath land-row as responsible for BJP’s gain, with there being split between Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines, others hold the poll outcome as reflection of voters “regional” divide.

In the 87-member assembly, the National Conference (NC) has emerged the party winning the maximum number of seats (28), followed by People’s Democratic Party (21), Congress (17), BJP (11), National Panthers Party (3), with one each gained by Communist Party of India-Marxist, Democratic Party Nationalist, People’s Democratic Front and four won by independents.

Notwithstanding the fact that a hung assembly carries apprehension of political instability in the state, by turning out in large numbers the voters have send a strong message. They have defied the separatists’ call for boycott of polls. This may not have been possible if security measures had not been enhanced and had the trade across the LoC not been opened. Though the turnout was still less than in 1987, which was more than 70 percent, it carries a great significance. The Kashmiris have taken a major step forward to display their preference for peace in the region. For the Kashmiris and the government, the significance of 2008 elections should not be confined to their having cast their votes in large numbers. Now, it is for the center to ensure that Kashmiris’ hopes expressed through the ballot boxes are not defeated by bullets!

11-2

Open Letter Re: Humanitarian Crisis, Kashmir

August 14, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Justice Navanethem Pillay, High Commissioner
Dr. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner
Ms. Gay McDougall, Independent Expert on minority issues

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; United Nations; Palais des Nations; CH-1211 Geneva 10; Switzerland

Subject: Humanitarian Crisis in Jammu and Kashmir

August 12, 2008

Dear Justice Pillay, Dr. Kang, Ms. McDougall:

2008-08-13T055931Z_01_SRI01_RTRMDNP_3_KASHMIR-PROTEST

Kashmiri women cry during the funeral of two people shot dead by police in Srinagar August 13, 2008. Police killed at least 13 people in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday as Muslims protested an economic blockade by Hindus over a land row began to morph into independence calls, officials said. Violence swept up the neighbouring Hindu-dominated Jammu region as well, where two people were killed and several injured when thousands of Hindu and Muslim protesters clashed with each other and with police.  

REUTERS/Danish Ismail.

We write to bring to your attention the profound humanitarian crisis continuing in the Kashmir Valley due to the ongoing blockade of the Srinagar-Jammu highway by religious nationalist groups from India.

This has resulted in severe shortages in the Kashmir Valley of food and other vital provisions. We are reliably informed that petrol and essential medical rations, including blood, are in critically short supply, as well as newsprint, and that communication services and infrastructure are severely disrupted.

The situation in Jammu, where the Muslim minority is facing violence on a scale that can be described as ethnic cleansing, is alarming. The Government of India and the military and paramilitary forces have shown themselves unable and/or unwilling to take any effective action, either to end the blockade or to stop the violence against Muslims in Jammu. Meanwhile, military and paramilitary forces have opened fire on counter-demonstrators in Kashmir, using live20bullets and mortar. A communiqué from the Kashmir Valley states that:

“The situation here on ground is that essential commodities have started getting dried up, diesel is already out of stock and petrol at its verge of end. The people here are very much concerned as if the same continues for next few days there will be nothing left to eat with the people of Kashmir. And on the other side the Army is supporting the mobs who have allegedly beaten up the drivers stranded on the national highway. The drivers who were beaten up reported that they asked Army to help them but all went in despair and the Army people in return handed them over to the mobs. The target is only the Kashmiri Muslims and some sources from Jammu say that it is the outsiders who have come to Jammu and are doing such attacks on the Muslims and it is quite evident that the Hindu fundamentalist groups viz. BJP, RSS VHP, etc., are all sponsoring the planned attacks onto the Kashmiris like it was done in Gujarat. Here in Kashmir we feel the history seems to be being repeated by the Hindu fundamentalists who had earlier in 1947 killed about 250,000 Muslims in Jammu.”

On August 11, 2008, approximately 100,000 Kashmiris, including fruit growers and others gravely affected by the blockade, marched toward the Line of Control toward Pakistan markets in protest. They were met with gunfire and tear gas from the military and paramilitary forces, and Sheik Abdul Aziz, an All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader, was shot dead, inten sifying the situation. Police reports stated that three others were killed and over 200 injured, enervating health systems already low on supplies. Other sources we contacted stated that as many as 18 others may have been killed in Kashmir on August 11. By early evening of August 12, as we write you, reports stated that as many as twelve persons were killed in Kashmir on that day as armed forces fired on demonstrators. Other reports stated that civil society groups, students, and labor unions participating in non-violent civil disobedience and peaceful protests are being targeted by the forces, as curfew conditions prevail.

The Srinagar-Jammu highway is the only land route linking the Kashmir Valley to India and the sole conduit for essential supplies as well as for exporting horticultural goods, which are among the Valley’s chief products. News updates on the state of the blockade and situation can be found from leading Kashmiri newspapers, which are online at www.greaterkashmir.com; www.kashmirtimes.com; www.risingkashmir.com; www.etalaat.com/english/.

About 95-97 percent of the population of the Valley is Muslim, while Muslims are a minority in India. This has made Kashmir the target of increasingly aggressive campaigns by Hindu nationalist groups since 1947, despite guarantees of autonomy written into the Indian Constitution. The Government of India has failed to take measures to prevent these campaigns, consisting of marches and demonstrations, and culminating in the current blockade. Since 1989 there has been an armed pro-independence  struggle in Kashmir, together with other and non-violent movements for self-determination. Indian counterinsurgency operations have resulted in grave abuses of human rights with social, economic, psychological, political, and environmental consequences, which meet the definition under international law of crimes against humanity. To a population suffering the effects of nineteen years of armed conflict, the economic crisis caused by the blockade comes as the last straw.

We urge that you respond expeditiously to this situation in accordance with the mandate to uphold human rights as enshrined in the charter of the United Nations.

Recommendations:

1. The Government of India should immediately end the economic blockade and ensure that goods and services, including emergency medical and food supplies, can move in both directions along the Srinagar-Jammu border.

2. The Government of India should open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, a promise repeatedly reiterated by successive governments of India and Pakistan, though never implemented. This would ensure that the current crisis situation is not repeated as well as mark a concrete step forward in addressing injustices and the peace process.

3. Take immediate action to stop the violence against the Muslim minority in Jammu and bring those responsible to justice.

4. Put an end to ongoing human rights abuses by Indian forces and pro-India militias as repeatedly promised by the Indian Prime Minister and expected of democratic governments.

5. Take steps for a long-term resolution of the conflict by beginning talks with all sections of the Kashmiri leadership and civil society.

6. Take steps to hold the Indian state accountable under the provisions established by the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, Constitution of India, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and International Laws and Conventions.

We, the undersigned, are academics, social activists, writers, filmmakers, artists, lawyers, and concerned citizens. Our work and conscience connects us to Kashmir and its people. We hold no political affiliations. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of further use.

Contact persons:

Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies, Office: 001-415.575.6119, Mobile: 001-415.640.4013, E-mail: achatterji@ciis.edu.

Dr. Haley Duschinski, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ohio University, Office: 001-740.593.0823, E-mail: duschins@ohio.edu.
Dr. Shubh Mathur, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of History, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Office: 001-347.404.2238, E-mail: Shubh.Mathur@stockton.edu.

Yours Sincerely,

Signed [Institutional information noted for affiliation purposes only]:

Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
Dr. Haley Duschinski, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ohio University
Dr. Shubh Mathur, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of History, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Dr. Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Director, Beatrice Bain Research Group, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Srimati Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies (and Anthropology), University of Kentucky
Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, Global Exchange, San Francisco, and CODEPINK
Dr. Purnima Bose, Associate Professor, Department of English, Indiana University
Dr. Jeff Brody, Professor, College of Communications, California State University Fullerton
Adem Carroll, Chair, Muslim Consultative Network, New York Disaster Interfaith Services
Dr. Lubna Nazir Chaudhry, Assistant Professor, School of Education and Human Development, State University of New York, Binghamton
Huma Dar, Doctoral student, Department of South and South East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Geraldine Forbes, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of History, State University of New York Oswego
Dr. Sidney L. Greenblatt, President, Central New York Fulbright Association
Dr. Sondra Hale, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Women’s Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Lamia Karim, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon-Eugene
Professor Ali Kazimi, Department of Film, Faculty of Fine Arts, York University
Dr. Omar Khalidi, Aga Khan Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rafique A. Khan, Community Development Planner, CRA, City of Los Angeles
Tasneem F. Khan, Kashmir Relief, Los Angeles
Dr. Amitava Kumar, Writer and Professor, Department of English, Vas sar College
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressives, Berkeley
Barbara Lubin, Executive Director, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Berkeley
Dr. Sunaina Maira, Associate Professor, Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis
Dr. Lise McKean, Senior Research Specialist, Learning Sciences Research Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago
Dr. Abdul R. JanMohamed, Professor, Department of English, University California, Berkeley
Dr. Swapna Mukhopadhyay, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, Portland State University
Dr. Richa Nagar, Professor, Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota
Dr. Vijaya Nagarajan, Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco
Annie Paradise, Doctoral student, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
Dr. David Naguib Pellow, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
Faisal Qadri, Human Rights Law Network
Dr. Mridu Rai, Associate Professor, Department of History and Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University
Dr. Cabeiri Robinson, Assistant Professor, International Studies & South Asian Studies, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, Seattle
Dr. Sabina Sawhney, Associate Professor, Department of English, Hofstra University
Dr. Simona Sawhney, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota
Dr. Kalpana Rahit a Seshadri, Associate Professor, Department of English, Boston College
Professor Richard Shapiro, Chair, Department of Social and Cultural
Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
Murtaza Shibli, Editor, Kashmir Affairs, London
Dr. Magid Shihade, Visiting Scholar, Middle East/South Asia Studies, University of California, Davis
Snehal Shingavi, Doctoral student, Department of English, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Ajay Skaria, Associate Professor, Department of History and Institute of Global Studies, University of Minnesota
Dr. Nancy Snow, Associate Professor, S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University
Dr. Rachel Sturman, Assistant Professor, Department of History & Asian Studies, Bowdoin College
Dr. Fouzieyha Towghi, Visiting Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Sandeep Vaidya, India Solidarity Group (Ireland)
Saiba Varma, Doctoral student, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University
Feroz Ahmed Wani, Social activist
David Wolfe, Human security and conflict resolution specialist
Pei Wu, Doctoral student, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
Cc:
Ms. Helene Flautre, Member, European Parliament Chair of the European Parliament’s Sub-committee on Human Rights
Mr. Geoffrey Harris Head of Human Rights Unit, European Parliament
Ambassador Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary Timothy Fitzgibbons, India Desk Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs United States Department of State
Mr. David J. Kramer Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor United States Department of State
Ms. Felice D. Gaer, Chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

10-34