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!

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India Tones Down Aggressive Stance on Mumbai

January 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2009-01-09T133757Z_01_ISL08_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-INDIA

NEW DELHI: Though India retains its stand on involvement of Pakistan-based elements in Mumbai-terror strikes, of late there has been slight change in the diplomatically aggressive stance adopted by it earlier against Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly criticized Pakistan while addressing a daylong conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security (January 6). During his inaugural address, Singh referred to Pakistan at least nine times. “A holistic approach to our security concerns is definitely called for,” Singh emphasized. “Our problems are compounded by the fact that we have a highly unpredictable and uncertain security environment in our immediate neighborhood,” he said. Referring to Mumbai terror case, he described Pakistan’s “responses” to “various demarches” from India as suggestive of it acting in an “irresponsible fashion.” Describing terrorism as the most “serious threat” faced by India, Singh divided it into three categories: “terrorism, left-wing terrorism and insurgency in the northeast.” “Left wing extremism is primarily indigenous and home-grown,” Singh said. He blamed neighboring countries, “mainly Pakistan” for terrorism and insurgency in northeast.

“The terrorist attack in Mumbai in November last year was clearly carried out by a Pakistan-based outfit, the Lashkar-e-Taiba” with “support of some official agencies in Pakistan,” Singh said. He also blamed Pakistan for “whipping up war hysteria.” Giving stress to implementing the policy of “Zero tolerance of terrorism with total commitment,” Singh said: “We must convince the world community that States that use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, must be isolated and compelled to abandon such tactics.”

India apparently was (and perhaps still is) counting on securing influence of United States and other friendly countries to pressurize Pakistan in taking action on the dossier of evidence Delhi has given to Islamabad regarding the Mumbai-case. Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon handed over evidence to Pakistani envoy Shahid Malik (January 5). The Indian envoy simultaneously handed over the evidence to Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad. “We have handed over to Pakistan evidence of the links with elements in Pakistan of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26th November, 2008,” India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement. Describing the Mumbai-case as “an unpardonable crime,” Mukherjee stated that India is briefing all its “friendly countries” on it. “I have written to my counterparts around the world giving them details of the events in Mumbai and describing in some detail the progress that we have made in our investigations and the evidence that we have collected,” he stated.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram was subsequently scheduled to leave for US in a few days time to convince Washington about Pakistan’s role in Mumbai-strikes. The change in India’s approach in building up pressure against Pakistan at the diplomatic level is suggested by postponement of Chidambaram’s visit. “Balancing everything, it was decided three days ago that I stay back,” Chidambaram said (January 9). The decision to cancel Chidambaram may have been partly shaped by India facing internal problem over strike in petroleum sector, by the truckers and also the Satyam-fraud case. Besides, with the White House heading for a major change, criticism was voiced in various circles on what did Chidambaram expect to gain from his Washington-trip.

The decision on Chidambaram not heading for US over Mumbai case cannot be de-linked from the subtle but definite shift in aggressive posture adopted earlier by the government. India has come out more assertively than before (since the Mumbai case) in ruling out any military strike against Pakistan over Mumbai case. Rejecting option of India taking any “Israel-type” action against Pakistan over Mumbai terror strikes, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “I do not agree to that. Because this is totally wrong. The situation is not at all comparable.” “I have not gone and occupied any (of) Pakistan’s land which Israel has done (in Palestine). So, how can the situation be comparable,” he said during a television interview (January 10).

Suggesting that India is keen on exercising its diplomatic options rather than reach the war-stage, Mukherjee said: “We have not reached the end of the road.” “When I say all options are open, all options are open. There is no need of picking up option a, option b, option c, option d. No need of that. I am not responding to that. What I am responding to is options are open.” The options being considered by India at present are a response from Pakistan on “evidence” given by India regarding Mumbai-case. “We have given them (Pakistan). We expect them to act on it. If they do not act on it, then what follow up steps we will take and in what space of time it will take place, future course will decide,” Mukherjee said.

Amid the backdrop of criticism voiced against too many verbal missiles being fired in the subcontinent over the Mumbai-issue, the change in Indian government’s approach isn’t surprising. The government has no option but to tone down its aggressive posture. Besides, United States seems to believe that New Delhi should give some time to Islamabad to act on the evidence given to it. This is suggested by comments made by US envoy to India David C. Mulford over the past week. Regarding Pakistan’s approach towards “evidence” presented by India, he said: “You have, after all, a situation where there is a civilian government, a very strong military, a very strong intelligence agency and a media and other players. And I think you have to take a view that it is going to take little time to percolate to see what really is the outcome.” On how long should India should wait for Pakistan to respond, he replied: “It is not a question of time, although time is important, because to get into a situation where so much time passes, it makes them look uncooperative.” Describing it as a difficult task for Pakistan, he said: “So, frankly I think it is going to take time, it is not going to be easy, and it is not only going to take time and patience but some considerable restraint on the one hand and a continuing willingness to try to cooperate on the other.”

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