Kashmir Beyond Article 370 & AFSPA

Kashmir Beyond Article 370 & AFSPA

Adfar Shah Obviously a new hope for the return of normalcy seems there in Kashmir but not before the government is formed. Although until 2005 the peace deficit valley witnessed a slow decline in the culture of violence however it picked up later and by the time 2014 ended, the magnitude of support from Pakistan, the intensity of cross border infiltration, the presence of uncertainty in valley, the number of violent attacks and even the type of targets that extremists usually executed, has softened to a great extent minus the growing radicalization of vulnerable youth. In between the years 2008 to 2010, there were many aberrations in the march towards peace; however, when the disturbances are seen from the democratic prism, political defiance or intifada are very well justified. Had it not been for the significant loss of one hundred and twenty lives as a result of actions by security forces, these events could have been taken merely as expressions of disappointment against hope or desire for reaping the fruits of normalcy. I always say let us institutionalize the earlier peace ideas and actions but the fact remains the security apparatus has not been able to institutionalize good will in a sense it should have been despite doing a range of peace efforts or programmes. The Security forces too, on their part, exhibited some sense of restraint except some recent and inhuman mishandlings like Chatergam killings. While incidents kept happening sporadically such as Kunan–Poshpora, Machhil, Shopian and Chhatergam, which posed serious questions against the ability of the security forces to operate as professionals in fourth generation warfare, the leadership, particularly that of the military has increasingly exhibited a rising sense of empathy towards the common people and their sufferings in the conflict zone but it can be safely argued that there is much more to do to be mass sensitive and professional enough. Though Chatergam emerged as a game changer when army for the first took the blame and apologized in time but again it derailed the peace project and disappointed people. In a nutshell, in terms of security, while the Forces graduated towards genuine commitment to the dictums of “Zero HR Violations” and...

Kashmir’s Killing Floods-Playground for Journalists

Kashmir’s Killing Floods-Playground for Journalists

Adfar Shah Ferocious Floods that recently hit Kashmir through continuous rains spread over a period of seven days sequentially inundating South, Central and North Kashmir. Fourteen breaches on the bunds of Jhelum River filled the areas starting from Pantha Chowk to Bemina with areas such as Batwara, Indra Nagar, Sanwar, Rajbag, Jawahar Nagar, Dalgate, Lal Chowk, Press Colony, Gogji Bag and so on. Civil administration was so foxed and paralyzed that except for holding meetings, the Chief Minister and his government handed over the situation to Army and other rescue agencies while the CM personally acted as a brave volunteer and worked day and night for rescue of masses. His personal efforts despite the tragic communication breakdown is worthy of a salute. His Excellency Shri N.N.Vohra, the Governor of the State too worked hard for mass rescue and even tuned his residence into a full-fledged rescue camp besides taking care of food items to be made available to community kitchens and other camps. The opposition brigade had not much role to play except creating space for themselves. Also every one especially J&K students In Delhi, Aligrah, Bangalore and other parts of the country were in constant touch and making their all out efforts for rescue and relief in Kashmir. I saw students fundraising and collecting clothes, baby food, medicines, etc, to be supplied to badly hit areas. I salute them all. Having said that, Kashmir Floods became a perfect narrative for a typical television story. Visuals to drive anyone in pain and dismay were shown continuously. So literally September 4, onwards here it was – Kashmir Floods becoming the Play Ground for Delhi Breed of Journalists. The who’s Who of all Television Channels was desperate to be seen in Srinagar at least. Unfortunately, the local media was itself submerged under the deluge – some had printing press under water, some had lost entire office set up, while others had their houses washed away. This vacuum was filled but so brutally by a large number of media representatives from Delhi. From non-entities to most prominent, from raw reporters to absolute professionals, from interest groups to unbiased,  there were all shades of reporters and journalists in...

Kashmir : A turbulence of Article 370

Kashmir : A turbulence of Article 370

Vedchetan Patil Law is a mere puppet of politics, politics is beyond law and much beyond the horizons of politics, imbedded deep within the existence of mankind limited by its humane virtues and qualified by its own perceptions about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, moral and immoral slouch the principles of human rights, free will of people and relations between the different sections of society. Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is one such example of the product or compromise of the complications of relations of Kashmir with the entire sub-continent. Its roots are deep within history of sub-continent and is a convulsed product of hindu-muslim relations, it is a product of trembled nascent Indian State and newly born Pakistan, shudder of a indecisive Maharaja Hari Singh and dedicated Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah whose opportunism partly failed in the wake of international politics and geo-strategic location of Kashmir. Kashmir, aptly described as the paradise on earth was subjected to such conflict in which every power on this planet has either interfered to further demean the position of India or Pakistan, directly or indirectly, or has offered to resolve the issue, but to the surprise of none the issue of Kashmir remains unsolved till date. Immediately after the Transfer of Power, the Pak forces under the guise of jihadis and Azad Kashmir forces launched attack on the western and northern fronts of Kashmir and in such circumstances to protect his own interests and his state from falling to Pakistan, the then Maharaja Hari Singh signed Instrument of accession with India to seek intervention from India to stop the invading forces. Thus the accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was legal in totum both in fact and substance. Invading forces on one front, opposition of various forces within like those of Sheikh Abdullah, and indecisive approach of both Maharaja Hari Singh and Indian State, in a hasty decision a condition was put on the Indian State to allow Kashmir to retain autonomy and because the Instrument of Accession was signed in such circumstances, the Government of India assured the people of the State that an elected Constituent Assembly will frame a Constitution for the State and will determine...

Where is Kashmir’s Much Touted Normalcy?

Where is Kashmir’s Much Touted Normalcy?

Syed Ata Hasnain The challenges of conducting elections in Kashmir’s turbulent scenario are in multiples especially when many a paradox exists For some months now, the media and influential members of Delhi’s civil society have been speaking of the return of normalcy in Kashmir. In pure security terms ‘normalcy’ could be defined as the relative absence of violence, the enhanced confidence of society and the rekindling of hope.        On all three counts the situation in Kashmir, a day prior to the first polls in the Valley, does not appear to inspire too much confidence. There has been more violence than even in the Maoist areas in the run up to the elections; and the northern passes have yet to open so this violence has not been executed by fresh inductees but rather by the residual terrorists left over from previous years.     Sarpanches, the ones who still have the courage to remain in their pseudo posts are resigning, threatening to resign or making a beeline to the nearest police stations to remain secure.  A Kashmir English media publication has this to say this morning – “On the last day of election campaign on Tuesday, not a single political party managed to organize an election rally in any part of the South Kashmir except Noorabad, where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah addressed an election rally amid tight security”.       Where are we and where are we heading, I often ask. As a veteran of many an election in Kashmir I can vouch that such a situation possibly did not exist even through 1999 to 2011 when in the early period militancy was at its peak and later civil strife the order of the day. Kashmir watchers the world over, the serious ones, must have waited for this moment to ascertain the validity of their assessments or otherwise. Most had predicted continuing stability and returning normalcy based upon the age old parameters of assessment; security related statistics, residual strength of terrorists etc. They would be a mite disappointed by the events of the last week which have upset all such deductions and appear to be pointing back to the Nineties.   The situation isn’t really so bad...

Tosa Maidan: Avoiding Triggers in Kashmir

Tosa Maidan: Avoiding Triggers in Kashmir

Syed Ata Hasnain  The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) land case of 2008 is well outside public memory because Kashmir is always looked at from the ‘crisis to crisis’ point of view. Yet, we have another similar case looming on Kashmir’s landscape as the winter ebbs and spring is upon the Valley in all its finery.No one took the SASB case seriously until it hit us in the face and led to all kinds of incorrect decisions taken in the vacuum of realistic information about the Valley, the aspirations of its people and the propensity for mischief which exists from time to time. This time it is all about a faraway meadow on the very same Pir Panjal range on which exists Gulmarg; the meadow is called Tosa Maidan. It has nothing to do with shrines and gods but this time it is all about the people who live around it and the Army which uses this small tract of ground as a field firing range. Tosa Maidan, as stated before, lies on the Pir Panjal Range South East of Gulmarg. Access to it lies via the same road leading from Srinagar to Gulmarg; the drive has to be diverted from Kunzar towards Beerwah and then to Gogaldhara from where a mountain track(road) maintained by the Army takes you up the winding slopes to one of the most exhilarating landscapes in Kashmir. Since 1964 the area has been leased to the Army and the Air Force for use as a field firing range and the 50 year lease runs out on 18 April 2014. For the less informed on military detail, a field firing range is a tract of ground to be used for live firearms practice depicting battle conditions. Weapons are usually fired at optimum ranges as against the restrictive ranges in cantonments and military stations. Such ranges also provide scope for conduct of restricted tactical maneuvers in realistic settings under battle conditions. All the formations of the Army in the Kashmir Valley are dependent on this tract of land at Tosa Maidan which measures approximately 3000 kanals, to conduct their annual field firing which is a compulsory part of annual training. There is no population which is allowed to reside within the...

The Emotions of Alienation

The Emotions of Alienation

SYED ATA HASNAIN I must admit that I am a cricket buff and would miss everything else just to take in the thrills and pleasures of a hard-fought one day match involving the men in blue. In the midst of the anguish that I faced watching my favorite team lose to Pakistan in the recent Asia Cup came the nails in the coffin of defeat, delivered by the events in Meerut. A segment of 67 young students from Kashmir allegedly and admittedly cheered for Pakistan even as the negative emotions from defeat were just about eroding. On a social media discussion I initiated with a wise and mature group of people I made an opening statement. It stated that the action of the students was “akin to the famous Hindi proverb – ‘ Aa Bael Mujhe Maar’, an euphemism for harakiri. Human instinct usually ensures that when no advantage accrues to you from a certain action you desist from it. However, if you still insist on doing it then it is at the risk of your neck”. The subsequent discussion was shorn of any major emotions but one thing was clear the friends from Kashmir who were engaged in the debate displayed a surprising naivety about the reality of the situation surrounding the problem of Kashmir, the way it is viewed by people in rest of India and the emotions connected with it. I tried to explain the issue of Realism through an example. In 2011, the World Cup was approaching and the chances of Dhoni’s men lifting it were reputed to be strong. I was heading the Army in Kashmir and in the middle of an exciting experiment to change the narrative through innovative methods of outreach to the ‘Awaam’. There were daily meetings with different stake holders and suggestions were being received from all quarters. Someone suggested that cricket being a passion, a virtual ‘Diwaangi’, in Kashmir it would only be appropriate that people in way off villages and towns must get the opportunity to view the World Cup matches. In their usual innovative way the Army formations went a couple of steps beyond the normal television sets and utilized their video...

Knowing Kashmiri Women on International Women’s Day

Knowing Kashmiri Women on International Women’s Day

Kashmiri Women, Conflict Situation and the People’s Perspective of Women Empowerment   Adfar Shah Prelude If a more active role is assigned to the vital Observation technique and methodologically designed field studies are given a preference and sufficient time with proper follow-ups, the facts thus far established on Kashmir will automatically turn to half- truths! On the gender issue in Kashmir valley, though a great deal of literature has been produced but hardly any use of varied models and approaches of fact collection have been employed; rather thereseems to have been the incorporation of a unique mode though with several approaches but never juxtaposed against each other for maximum effect! Though there are ample ethnographic studies in existence as well, however there are not ethnographers but the enemies of ethnography-the methodology of direct observation. We need a deconstruction approach towards most of the gender discourses on Kashmir in order to get a fresh and realistic perspective. Introduction The world is still trying to do away with the burden of gender discrimination, gendered violence and exploitation of women besides the abhorrent issues of caste, religion, colour, class. Women are still the most disadvantaged segment of the world population, though efforts to alleviate the many ills that beset them, are on everywhere, in right earnest! However, acknowledging the fact that mainstreaming the gender and accomplishing the transformation process/achieving women’s emancipation is not a one day jo, this is an uphill task requiring immense and unswerving devotion and perseverance. This paper deals with  the question of the politics and politicization of women empowerment as a slogan and discusses the perceived empowerment as a local narrative beyond any feminist tendencies among women at the micro-level, with a special reference to Kashmiri women. The paper conceptually deliberates upon the women’s understanding of empowerment and realization of a viable social identity/identity at home against the grand theories of gender discrimination and feminism. It utilizes the people’s as well as women’s ‘thinking of being’ empowered against the labels of disempowerment and worthlessness, devoid of dignity. Amongst the myriad interpretations of empowerment, the paper discloses the never before exposed dimension of women’s sense of empowerment that is quite contrary to the conventional...

The Men in Uniform – A Class Apart

The Men in Uniform – A Class Apart

This one for all the soldiers who live dangerously to defend the nation – what trauma they personally go through is seldom realised. Editor    Adfar Shah Abstract: Forces today are beset with certain issues and challenges around the globe. The increased political instability, social rupture, widespread chaos, increased criminality, inequality shaped by disparities, structural violence, crisis and continuing public protests have undoubtedly increased the soldier’s troubles. Men in uniform, be they army or police personnel, are installed like machines to regulate everything peacefully – that too at the eleventh hour, without actually addressing the political and public issues. The soldier turns highly vulnerable and faces the public wrath every time for no of fault of his! The very same soldier also faces a plethora of negative stereotyping by the masses, is labeled in various negative stereotypes (sometimes correctly so) by the public mainly in conflict zones, as inhuman and treated like an enemy. Despite being armed, he is helpless and merely used in a manner similar to the scarecrow, to drive the public off in turbulent times. The question is, has the State forgotten the soldier and his sensitivities? Is there a need to empower the soldier (cop, commando or jawan) in the true sense to enable him to live with emotional balance and fight the challenging fourth generation war? There were many more similar questions that set aflame the questioning process in my mind while interacting with some of the men in uniform, mostly police personnel in the Kashmir Valley. This paper is based on casual interactions with men in uniform, besides the tool of observation and field experiences have been employed to analyze the soldier’s plight in conflict zones. The case of the Kashmir Valley has been taken for the researcher himself belongs to that context. Introduction My best friend belongs to the Jammu and  Kashmir Police Force. He came to meet me while I was enjoying my summer vacations at my home in the remote village of Watlar in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal District. Since Kashmir had witnessed some of the worst summer unrests since 2008,here, I enquired of him about his perception of their fighting the public (mob control/crowd management)...

Heroes of India: Sagas of Bravery

Heroes of India: Sagas of Bravery

RIFLEMAN RAIECE AHMED GANIE, SHAURYA CHAKRA  Jammu and Kashmir has been in a deadlock of relations with the once united neighbors, India and Pakistan called India prior to 1947. There has been a load of bloodshed and loss of lakhs of innocent lives due to militancy in the Valley. Nevertheless, Jammu and Kashmir has given birth to many brave hearts who have kept the fervor of patriotism running high among the people of the Valley. These sons of the nation hailing from the Valley have exhibited acts of gallantry, surpassing all human limits of bravery and courage. Many acts go unnoticed and the heroes remain unsung. One of such brave sons of the Valley who has dedicated his life for the nation and continues to serve unconditionally is Rifleman Raiece Ahmed Ganie from Anantnag district. This living legend is a disciplined soldier who remains an exemplary illustration for the youth in the present times to motivate them for patriotism. Rifleman Raiece Ahmed Ganie was born on 02 October 1983 at village Furrah, Mir Bazar, Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir. He had an inclination for Army since his childhood. He was inspired from the stories of soldiers of Indian Army who saved Kashmir from getting into aggressor’s hands in his village by the village elders. His dream came true on 05 February 2001 when he joined the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and started his military training at the Regimental Centre and then posted to one of the units. He is married to Mrs Parveena Akhtar and is blessed with a son Mr Ruman Ibne Rayees. Rifleman Raiece Ahmed Ganie was posted to a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion in December 2006. Upon posting to the RR Battalion, the dedicated and gallant soldier was posted the Ghatak Platoon at Pulwama. He displayed remarkable tactical acumen and resolute dedication in his approach to counter militancy in operations. He used to lead the team in the RR Battalion and was instrumental in collecting hard intelligence leading to a number of successful operations with minimum unavoidable or no collateral damage leading to neutralization of many foreign militants thus, contributing for peace in the valley. Being native to the Valley and having an added...

Neither Azad nor Kashmir

Neither Azad nor Kashmir

Sahil Mushtaq POK covers an area of 5134 sq miles (13,927 Sq Km) with a population of 4.5 million. The region of POK is officially known in Pakistanistan as the Azad Govt of Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K).  The state is divided into three divisions viz Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Poonch and ten administrative Districts with Muzaffarabad as the capital of the state. The Muzaffarabad division comprises of Muzaffarabad and Neelam, Rawalakot division comprises of Bagh, Poonch and Sudhniti districts and Mirpur division comprises of Mirpur, Kotli and Bhimber.  These ten districts are further divided into 32 sub divisions. The people’s participation in the political and socio – economic development is ensured through elected institutions of AJ&K Legislative Assembly comprising 41 directly with 8 indirectly elected members and the AJ&K Council with 6 elected members.  Presently, Sardar Mohd Yaqoob Khan is the President and Chaudhary Abdul Majeed is the Prime Minister of AJ&K.  Urdu is the official language while Pahari, Mirpuri, Gujjari and Punjabi are also widely spoken. Farce of Autonomy & Anger against Pakistanistan in POK Theoretically, Azad Jammu & Kashmir is a self governing state under Pakistan’s control however according to the general public opinion and sentiment in POK reflects that “although ‘azad’ means ‘free’, the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but free.  The Pakistan authorities govern Azad Kashmir with strict control on basic freedom and liberties”. It has been acknowledged by the global community as well Supreme Court of Pakistan has admonished Islamabad’s oppressive, undemocratic and colonial subjugation of the POK.  The residents of ‘Azad Kashmir’ are mostly Sunni Muslim and predominantly Punjabis, with barely 20 percent Kashmiris.  Expropriation of land and residence rights of natives in POK stands in sharp contrast to strictly adhered provisions in the Indian Constitution, disallowing non-Kashmiris to acquire property in J & K. Far from a ‘special status’ that Article 370 grants to J & K, people residing in POK lack any constitutional status whatsoever. Development wise, POK remains one of the poorest and most neglected part of Pakistan, with a minuscule per capita income of Rs 1,802 compared to J & K’s average of Rs 2,700. There is an acute shortage of electricity, water and basic amenities...

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