Sunday, June 20, 2010

Davos in Kashmir

Naseer A Ganai
In this conference on inter-regional dialogue two speakers had agreement on various issues. That there should be opening of road links. That there should be more and more trade between regions within the State. That there is need to increase items in Cross LoC trade and it should be hassle free. One speaker was representing Chamber of Commerce of Jammu and another Chamber of Commerce Kashmir. They both being from trade bodies understand much better that people of different regions are for having trade with each other. It seems once there is interaction and trade between the regions in peaceful environment, then sky is limit for us.

Noted economist and columnist of the Times of India Swaminathan Ayar wrote an article in July 2005: Get Ready for Davos 2035: It was a welcome address to guests who would come to attend world economic forum meeting in Gulmarg in the autonomous Jammu and Kashmir in 2035.
Interestingly in August 17, 2008 he wrote: “On August 15 India celebrated independence from British Raj. But Kashmir staged a bandh demanding independence from India. A day symbolizing the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolizing Indian colonialism in valley… British insisted for a long time that India was an integral part of the empire, the jewel in the crown and would never be given up. Imperialist Blimps remained in denial for decades. I fear we are in similar denial in Kashmir.”
The question is can it be possible to have world economic forum meeting in Gulmarg of autonomous Jammu and Kashmir. I think it is possible. Like Mr Ayair let us acknowledge the problem first. That Kashmir is not the jewel in the crown of India. It is an occupied territory. Then throw a solution.
Instead we are in denial of everything including occupation and regional differences.
Inter-regional cooperation will only succeed once we acknowledge the problem first. There is no denial of the fact that there are different perceptions in different regions of the state. Why it is so? I think it is because of the lack of people to people contact and trade between the regions within the State.

For 60 years Mughal road has not been allowed to construct. If the State has not allowed people of Pir Panchal region of Jammu to interact and above all trade with people of valley, is it not denial of fundamental right? Why people to people contact should be restricted between 'intellectuals' of India and Pakistan and why within the State of Jammu and Kashmir it is being denied by the State to ordinary people. Doda Desa Kapran road, Smithan road linking Chenab valley of Jammu with Kashmir is closed for five decades and no on raises voice on these issues.
If Jammu and Kashmir State is one, then why it is not being allowed to be one? Let the roads open. Let people meet. Let us understand each other. Why New Delhi is afraid of people to people contact in Jammu and Kashmir and why it throws up theories of inter regional discard when it is denying people of Jammu and Kashmir State right to interact with each other. A united voice from all regions must be raised against this denial of fundamental right.
The State has sown the seeds of regional discard by trying to make Kashmir issue as religious dispute. Like by extending Amarnath yatra to 2 months from 15 days despite it being against religious scriptures of Hindus or by making Sindhu Darshan as annual ritual. And it seems Indian State believes once a political dispute is turned religious dispute, it becomes so complicated that even gods will be afraid of solving it.
These attempts of the State to make Kashmir dispute a religious issue must be confronted by civil society of three regions. Because it is volatile region where Americans are moving out of Afghanistan and in such scenario you can imagine danger of keeping Kashmir lingering and making it religious dispute.
Besides, it is to be naïve to think that once political dispute like Kashmir is made religious or its demography is changed, as is perception, the dispute will be over. Kashmir dispute started in 1947 between Pakistan and India and as long as these two States exist dispute will remain there. By annihilating Kashmiris, killing their youth will not end Kashmir dispute. This must be understood.
Apart from roads, water is other issue which can bring us together. It is our water which is being denied to us with successive Central Governments refusing to give even counter grantees to State Government to establish hydal projects.
The roads belong to Jammu and Kashmir , water belong to the Jammu and Kashmir and if people of different regions of the Jammu and Kashmir raise voices against exploitation of our water resources by Central Government and seeks for opening road links between different regions, it will improve political climate to an extend that we will not have to wait for 2035 for having world economic forum meeting in Gulmarg. It is unfortunate that Chenab Valley Development Corporation was established and there was not a murmur in Kashmir in general and Jammu in particular about this organized loot of our waters.

If these issues unite us, other larger goals like demilitarization of the State will follow. Economic considerations override all other considerations. The State will flourish once there is investment in peace. And there is need to invest in peace keeping the situation in the region in mind.
World Economic Forum meeting is only possible in peaceful Jammu and Kashmir. And investment in peace in the State of Jammu and Kashmir has to be made by New Delhi. It must be told that 6 lakh Army is not deployed to counter 600 militants. It is what Arundhati Roy rightly says not war against 600 militants but against people of Jammu and Kashmir. It must be told that by closing road links between two regions of the State and by creating hassles in LoC trade it is denying economic prospects to youth and throwing them to other extremes. It must be told that water resources should be restored to us. People of three regions if get united on issues like roads, water and trade then they can force the Government of India to invest in peace by going for demilitarization and this will improve political climate to an extent we have real Davos in Kashmir much earlier than what Saminathan Ayiar had imagined.
(The paper was read in a seminar in Srinagar on Inter-Regional Cooperation)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Blood trade in Kashmir

Time to say Enough is Enough
Naseer A Ganai
The Government of India constantly accuses Pakistan of exporting terrorism. It also lays condition for the talks: That Pakistan should dismantle infrastructure of terror. After Mumbai incident the Government of India and civil society in India raised the issue of terrorism and said India is victim of terrorism. They raised their voice in unison and the World was forced to acknowledge it.
However, over the years despite being subjected to worst acts of terrorism, Kashmiri civil society has failed to project Kashmiri as victim.
On May 28 three youth from Baramulla district were lured by men who work with Army to border district Kupwara. They were promised handsome money. They needed the money. They readily agreed to work as porters with the Army. They were sold to Army at Rs 50,000 each by the blood traders. The Army killed them in gun fight projecting them as infiltrators. Unidentified infiltrators. They were buried in graveyard in Klaroos Kupwara. In the graveyard there are scores of unidentified graves. There is no need to guess who are buried in those graves. Their blood will too speak some day. Jo Chup Rahain Gi Zubani Khanjar-Lahoon Pukaray Ga Asteen Ka.
The three bodies were exhumed. They were not unidentified. Their parents identified them. They had all names: Riyaz Ahmad Lone, 19. Riyaz was sole bread earner of his family. He has aged father, four sisters and one brother. Eight years ago he has started construction of his house. Eight years on it is still without windows and without proper roof.
Muhammad Shafi 19. He has three sisters and brother. His mother said he went out on April 28. “I thought after an hour he will back and go for work in the fields. I never knew he has been buried on border.”
Shahazad, 25. He has 21 year old wife and 4 year old son. And aged parents. He along with two were working as labourers looking for jobs to feed their families. They were promised Rs 2000.
This is not first incident of its kind. There are scores of incidents on record. In the Courts of valley and Muslim dominated areas of Jammu you can find the similar cases. The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has scores such examples.
In 2001 Patheribal South Kashmir Army claimed to have killed five terrorists involved in the killing Chittisingpora massacre in which 36 sikhs were killed. The bodies of the terrorists were charred. They later turned out to be local residents of Barai Anang. Same happened in Ganderbal fake encounter case in which people were taken from South Kashmir and killed in Ganderbal.
In Doodhipora in February 2006 four cricket playing boys were killed and projected as foreign militants. The list is quite long.
Where on earth it happens that “you trade blood of human beings to get rewards and promotion.” Naseema the mother of Riyaz said had they demanded money from us we would have sold our land, we would have given them everything.
It is unacceptable. In 2010 different kind of human trafficking is taking place in Kashmir. It is worse than human trafficking. Here they promise poor labourers jobs and good money and then trade their blood. Has life so cheap in Kashmir?
The civil society in Kashmir must rise now and demand end of this human trafficking of Kshmiris. You can’t justify Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Public Safety Act, huge presence of force here in the name of “this infiltration” which means taking people from different places and killing them on line of control. No way. Time has come when we should too say- Enough is Enough.
Last month M.A Chowdary Principal District and Sessions judge Bandpora while hearing fake emcounter case had this to say: “Picking up of an innocent petty vendor on 2.3.2006 from a market of Srinagar City confining him for more than 12 days in police custody and then killing him before wee hours on 14th of March in a fake encounter which was described by the forces as “Bazipora Operation” and then dubbing him a militant from Muzaffarabad PoK cannot be said to be a reasonable connection between the act and the duties of the accused.”
“In the facts and circumstances of the case when a poor hawker was murdered in cold blood in a fake encounter “Bazipora Operation” for petty gains of receiving rewards, appreciation and to retain the postings of their choice can in no way be said to be within the authority of the accused-petitioners as the authority to use force even to the causing of death as provided under section 4 of the Armed Force Special Powers Act 1990 was permissible only in grave situation.”
There are disappearances in Kashmir. There are mass graves in Kashmir. Our oppressors know us by our scars and chains. They must now be forced acknowledge the crimes. The civil society of India is equally partner in the crimes committed by the State in Kashmir. Their reticence in the larger nation interest has emboldened the State. They must be told that we have had enough them as well. This can’t go on and on. They must be told that supporters of blood trade have no right to give lessons to Kashmiris on peace and reconciliation.