Study: Kashmir Mass Graves Hold Thousands

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Lydia Polgreen

Kashmir-ProtestsNEW DELHI — Thousands of bullet-riddled bodies are buried in dozens of unmarked graves across Kashmir, a state human rights commission inquiry has concluded, many of them likely to be those of civilians who disappeared more than a decade ago in a brutal insurgency.

The inquiry, the result of three years of investigative work by senior police officers working for the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission, brings the first official acknowledgment that civilians might have been buried in mass graves in Kashmir, a region claimed by both India and Pakistan where insurgents waged a bloody battle for independence in the early 1990s. The report sheds new light on a grim chapter in the history of the troubled region and confirms a 2008 report by a Kashmiri human rights organization that found hundreds of bodies buried in the Kashmir Valley.

Tens of thousands of people died in the insurgency, which began in 1989 and was partly fueled by weapons, cash and training from Pakistan.

According to the report, the bodies of hundreds of men described as unidentified militants were buried in unmarked graves. But of the more than 2,000 bodies, 574 were identified as local residents.
“There is every probability that these unidentified dead bodies buried in various unmarked graves at 38 places of North Kashmir may contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances,” the report said.

The report catalogs 2,156 bodies found in graves in four districts of Kashmir that had been at the heart of the insurgency. It called for a thorough inquiry and a collection of DNA evidence to identify the dead, and, for the future, proper identification of anyone killed by security forces in Kashmir to avoid abuse of special laws shielding the military from prosecution there.

Thousands of people, mostly young men, have disappeared in Kashmir.

Some went to be trained as militants in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir and were killed in the fighting. Many others were detained by Indian security forces. The wives they left behind are known as half-widows, because the fates of their husbands are unknown. Parents keep vigil for sons who were arrested two decades ago.

Parveena Ahanger’s son Javed was taken away by the police on Aug. 18, 1990, and never seen again. An investigation found that he had been killed by security forces, but they have not been prosecuted, she said.

“I never got any response from the government,” she said. “I never got his dead body.”

After years of fighting in the courts to find out what happened to Javed, Ms. Ahanger was skeptical that the human rights report would get her son’s body back, or bring her justice.
“If the high court doesn’t give any justice on this issue, what will the state human rights commission do?” she said.

Zahoor Wani, an activist who works with the families of people who disappeared during the insurgency, said that the report was a welcome first step but that the government must identify the dead and allow families to bury their relatives.

“It is a very good thing that they acknowledge it,” Mr. Wani said.

“These families have been living in a hope to see these people again.

“They are neither dead nor alive,” he said. “We need to move them to one pole or the other.”

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

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UPSC Topper Faesal Creates History For Kashmir

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI:  Kashmir is in news again, with its resident Dr. Shah Faesal (27) having topped the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Examination. With Faesal being the first Kashmiri to have topped the all-India elite services examination, the state is delighted – celebrating his success as their own. Enthusiastic Kashmiris burst crackers, beat drums and shouted slogans welcoming Faesal when he returned to Srinagar on Friday (May 7), a day after the results were declared. “Kashmir ka sitara, Faesal hamara (Kashmir’s star, our Faisal),” hailed the delighted Kashmiris. Faesal ranks first among the 875 candidates declared successful in the civil services examination. He reached the top in his maiden attempt, putting behind him around 409,110 candidates who had applied for the examination in 2009.

Crediting his success to God and his family’s support, Faesal said: “I am humbled. I had faith in my hard work, Allah’s grace and the blessings of my family. My mother, brother and sister equally share the honor as they supported me like a rock when I decided to sit for the most coveted exams in the country.”

Faesal’s father Ghulam Rasool Shah was killed by militants in 2002. But rather than be cowed down or feel defeated, Faesal and his family moved on to face the challenges lying ahead. Within days of his father’s murder, the first test that Faesal appeared for was the professional entrance examination for MBBS. He cleared it. But he was not satisfied by being just a medical doctor and decided to take the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examination. “I saw patients who had no money to purchase medicines, a large number of them. I wanted to make differences for them. I thought IAS will help me to contribute in a different way,” he said.

Crediting his late father, a respected schoolteacher, for his success, Faesal said: “Many things that my father taught me for my class XI helped me in the exams.” If only his father were also around to share his joy, as Faesal said: “I am missing him today.”

Faesal hails from a remote village in frontier Kupwara district, more than 90 km from Srinagar. Soon after his father’s death, sense of insecurity gripped his family. “Such was the level of fear that I had not visited my home for eight years,” Faesal said. His mother Mubeena Begum migrated to Srinagar with her three children. She worked here as a schoolteacher to help her children live a better life. For her, Faesal’s success is “like a new birth.”

Though he has always been an achiever, his mother and Faesal himself had not imagined his being a topper. Faesal had expected to be in the first 50. Jubilant at being the topper, Faesal said: “There was nothing in my background that would make anybody think that I can achieve this. But I did it. So can thousands of other students with similar difficult backgrounds.” Faesal feels that his “success” is not just his “own.” “I feel I have broken the jinx that Kashmiri students cannot reach the top. I am the first from Jammu and Kashmir to top this examination and I am sure my story will become a model for our students who fear to dream big. I am an orphan with a scarred childhood. There was a tragedy in my family, my father was killed. I was raised by my mother who is a schoolteacher. I belong to a far-flung village and I studied in a government school.”

Faesal prepared for the examinations “normally.” “I did not find it difficult. I studied normally and passed my prelims without coaching. It was after qualifying for the mains that I decided to go for coaching,” Faesal said. The three-phase examination requires passing the preliminary test. Those who clear the prelims have to appear for the main written examinations, after passing which they face the final stage – the interview. Faesal selected Public Administration and Urdu Literature for the mains. He opted for Urdu as he is “emotionally attached to the language.” He received coaching at the Jamia Hamdard Study Center, New Delhi. Among the first to congratulate him in Delhi on his success were senior officers, including the Jamia Chancellor and many students.

Endless streams of people continued streaming in at his residence in Srinagar and the phone there did not stop ringing. J&K Governor N.N. Vohra congratulated Faesal and invited him and his mother to Raj Bhawan for felicitation. Among others, who congratulated Faesal were J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and leader of opposition in State Assembly, Mehbooba Mufti.

Back home, his villagers burst crackers and began preparations to celebrate Faesal’s success. Describing it as a great event for the entire Kashmir Valley, Mir Fayaz, a lecturer said: “We are proud of his success. He will be a role model for the youngsters and a source of inspiration too.”

Faesal’s success proves that Kashmiri talent was “unmatched,” according to Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “Wherever Kashmiris have worked, they have excelled. I am proud of Faesal, who hails from a remote village. He has worked so hard and made us real proud,” he said.

Faesal is confident that his success will “change the mindset of ordinary Kashmiris.” If they work hard enough, “nothing is impossible,” Faesal said. Though he is ready to be posted anywhere, Faesal is keen to serve his community. “I want to contribute in my small way to peace of Kashmir,” he said. “If Kashmiris need anything – it is peace, since the people have lot of expectations from the government as an agent of change and guarantor of peace, and myself being a part of the government, I’ll definitely be trying my bit on that regard,” he said.

The Right to Information (RTI) Act is another area that is extremely close to Faesal’s heart. He has been an RTI activist since his college days. In his opinion: “The RTI act is a harbinger of change. We can make a difference if we know how to use it.”

Two other Kashmiris have succeeded in civil services examination. They are Rayees Mohammad Bhat (rank 124) and Showkat Ahmad Parray (256). Faesal, Bhat and Parray are three of the 20 Muslims who have passed this competitive examination. Headlines are focused on Kashmir for a change on news that has nothing to do with conflict. Faesal has created history by bringing Kashmir in limelight by being the UPSC topper! 

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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.

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