Kashmir: A Time for Freedom

— Angana Chatterji

“#8220;FREEDOM” REPRESENTS MANY things across rural and urban spaces in India-ruled Kashmir. These divergent meanings are steadfastly united on one point: freedom always signifies an end to India’s authoritarian governance.

In the administration of brutality, India, the postcolony, has proven itself coequal to its former colonial masters. Governing Kashmir is about India’s coming of age as a power, its ability to disburse violence, to manipulate and dominate. Kashmir is about nostalgia, about resources, and buffer zones. The possession of Kashmir by India renders an imaginary past real, emblematic of India’s triumphal unification as a nation-state.

Controlling Kashmir requires that Kashmiri demands for justice be depicted as threatening to India’s integrity. India’s contrived enemy in Kashmir is a plausible one — the Muslim “#8220;Other,” India’s historically manufactured nemesis.

What Is at Stake?

Between June 11 and September 22 of 2010, Kashmir witnessed the execution of 109 youth, men, and women by India’s police, paramilitary and military. Indian forces opened fire on crowds, tortured children, detained elders without explanation, and coerced false confessions. Since June 7, there have been 73 days of curfew and 75 days of strikes and agitation. On September 11, the day of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrating the end of Ramadan, the violence continued. The paramilitary and police verbally abused and physically attacked civil society dissenters.

Summer 2010 was not unprecedented. Kashmir has been subjected to much, much worse. The use of public and summary execution for civic torture has been held necessary to Kashmir’s subjugation by the Indian state. Militarization has asserted vigilante jurisdiction over space and politics. The violence is staged, ritualistic, and performative, used to re-assert India’s power over Kashmir’s body.

The military’s fabrications — fake encounters, escalating perceptions of cross-border threat — function as the truth-making apparatus of the nation. We are witness to the paradox of history, as calibrated punishment — the lynching of the Muslim body, the object of criminality — enforces submission of a stateless nation (Kashmir) to the once-subaltern postcolony (India).

Kashmir is about the spectacle. The Indian state’s violence functions as an intervention, to discipline and punish, to provoke and dominate. The summer of 2010 evidenced India’s maneuvering against Kashmir’s determination to decide its future. The use of violence by the Indian forces was deliberate, their tactics cruel and precise, amidst the groundswell of public dissent in this third summer, since 2008, of indefatigable civil society uprisings for “#8220;Azaadi” (freedom).

What is the Indian state hoping to achieve? One, that Kashmiris would submit to domination, forsaking their claim to separation from India (to be an independent state or, for some, to be assimilated with Pakistan), or their demand for full autonomy. Or, that provoked, grief-stricken and weary, Kashmiris would take up arms once again, giving India the opportunity to fortify its propaganda that Kashmiri civil society dissent against Indian rule is nurtured and endorsed today by external forces and groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If the latter transpires, India will manipulate this to neutralize Kashmiri demands for de-militarization and conflict resolution, to extend its annexation of Kashmir, and further normalize civic and legal “#8220;states of exception” (i.e. repression). If India succeeds in both provoking local armed struggle and linking Kashmiri resistance to foreign terror, it will acquire international sanction to continue its government of Kashmir on grounds of “#8220;national security,” and “#8220;have proof” that Kashmiris are not authentically debating India’s government of them, but are pressured into it by external forces.

India can then reinforce its armed forces in Kashmir, presently 671,000 strong, to prolong the killing spree. Such provocation as policy is a mistake. Such legitimation of military rule will produce intractable conflict and violence. All indications are that Kashmiri civil society dissent will not abate: It is not externally motivated, but historically compelled.

Dominant nation-states overlook that freedom struggles are not adherent to the moralities of violence versus nonviolence, but reflect a desire to be free. Dominant nation-states forget that the greater the oppression, the more fervent is resistance. The greater the violence, the more likely is the provocation to counter-violence.

Whether dissent in Kashmir turns into organized armed struggle or continues as mass-based peaceful resistance is dependent upon India’s political decisions. If India’s subjugation persists, it is conceivable that the movement for nonviolent dissent, mobilized since 2004, will erode. Signs indicate that it is already slightly threadbare. It is conceivable that India’s brutality will induce Kashmiri youth to close the distance between stones and petrol bombs, or more.

If India fails to act, if Pakistan acts only in its self-interest, and if the international community does not insist on an equitable resolution to the Kashmir dispute, it is conceivable, that, forsaken by the world, Kashmiris will be compelled to take up arms again.

Misogynist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba [fundamentalist Pakistani group — ed.], al-Qaeda or the Taliban are mercenaries looking for takers in Kashmir. By the Indian state’s record, there are between 500-700 militants in the Kashmir Valley today. These groups have not been successful because Kashmiris have been disinterested in alliances with them, not because the Indian army is successful in controlling them. This time, an armed mobilization by Kashmiris would include an even stronger mass movement than that which occurred between 1990 and 2004/2007, led by youth whose lives have been shaped by the two-decade long violence of militarization.

Who wants that? Can the South Asian Subcontinent, already nuclearized, survive that? India is accountable to keep this from happening — not through the use of unmitigated force, but through listening to the demands for change made by Kashmiris.

Will to Power

This summer, India’s violence on Kashmir was threaded through with strategic calculation. The police, military and paramilitary, without provocation, brutalized widespread peaceable protests across Kashmir that were opposing the suppression of civil society. Hostile Indian forces acted with the knowledge and sanction of the government of India and the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

The repeated repression by state forces provoked civilians, whose political means of expression and demands have been systematically denied, to engage in stone pelting. The conditions of militarization prompted them to be in non-compliance with declared, undeclared, and unremitting curfews. In instances, civilians engaged in acts of violence, including arson.

Each instance of civilian violence was provoked by the unmitigated and first use of force on civilians and/or extrajudicial killings on the part of Indian forces. Peaceable civilian demonstrations by women and men protested the actions of Indian forces. Individuals caught in the midst of the unrest, or mourning the death of a civilian, were fired upon by Indian forces, leading to other killings by Indian forces, more civilian protests, greater use of force by the police and paramilitary, use of torture in certain instances by Indian forces, more killings by Indian forces, larger, even violent, civilian protests, and further state repression.

In Summer 2010, dominant discourse focused on the use of stone pelting and on the instances of violence by youth in Kashmir as the reason for armed action on the part of the state. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh focused on the need for efficient tactics in “#8220;crowd control.” India’s elite intelligentsia, inculcated into “#8220;rational” conduct, and no longer outraged by suffering, assessed the costs and benefits of militaristic violence.

Civil society demonstrations in Kashmir are not a law-and- order problem, as they have been reported. Stone pelting, and incidents of arson and violence, are not causal to the violence that is routine in Kashmir today. Stone pelting does not seek to kill, and has not resulted in death. Pro-freedom leaders (termed “#8220;separatists” by the Indian state) have emphasized nonviolent civil disobedience, and have appealed to civil society not to engage in violent protests in reaction to the violence and killings by Indian forces.

Indian rulers disregard that suppression acts to catalyze the resistance movement in Kashmir. The Government of India continues to monitor the resistance movement, shifting the boundaries of acceptable practice of civil liberties. Kashmiris are allowed to protest in New Delhi, while in Kashmir sloganeering (“#8220;Go, India, Go Back,” “#8220;Indian Dogs Go Home,” “#8220;Quit Kashmir”) is met with force. When Masarat Alam Bhat, a rising pro-freedom leader, issued an appeal to Indian soldiers in July to “#8220;Quit Kashmir,” Indian authorities banned its circulation.

Acts of violence by protesting civilians increased as military violence continued into September. On September 13, crowds in Kashmir torched a Christian missionary school and some government offices while protesting the call to desecrate the Qur’an by Florida Pastor Terry Jones. On September 13, 18 civilians were killed by the Indian forces in Kashmir (a police officer also died).

Provocation is easy in a context of sustained brutality. Provoking Kashmiri dissenters to violence serves to confirm the dominant story of Muslims as “#8220;violent.” Yet again, several pro-freedom leaders condemned the attack on the Christian school and renewed their call for nonviolent dissent.

On September 13, the Government of India stated its willingness to engage with Kashmiri groups that reject violence. New Delhi did not apply the same precondition to itself. Nor did it acknowledge that pro-freedom groups have repeatedly opposed the use of violence in recent years.

The Kashmiri Muslim is caricatured as violent by India’s dominant political and media apparatus. There is a refusal to recognize the inequitable historical-political power relations at play between Muslim-prevalent Kashmir’s governance by Hindu-dominant India. The racialization of the Muslim, as “#8220;Other” and barbaric, reveals the xenophobia of the Indian state. Distinctions in method and power, between stone pelter and armed soldier, between “#8220;terrorist” and “#8220;freedom fighter,” are inconvenient.

The Indian state’s discourse is animated by the prejudice that Kashmiri inclinations to violence are subsidized by Pakistan. Such misconceptions ignore that while Kashmiris did travel to Pakistan to seek arms training, such activity was largely confined to the early days of the armed militancy, circa late 1980s through the mid-1990s. Pathologies of “#8220;violent Muslims” legitimate the discursive and physical violence of the Indian “#8220;security” forces, which is presented as necessary protection for the maintenance of the Hindu majoritarian Indian nation.


I have spent considerable time between July 2006 and July 2010 learning about Kashmir, working in Kashmir. In undertaking the work of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir, I have travelled across Kashmir’s cities and countryside, from Srinagar to Kupwara, through Shopian and Islamabad (Anantnag), with Parvez Imroz, Zahir-Ud-Din, and Khurram Parvez.

I have witnessed the violence that is perpetrated on Kashmiris by India’s military, paramilitary and police. I have walked through the graveyards that hold Kashmir’s dead, and have met with grieving families. I have sat with witnesses, young men, who described how Indian forces chased down and executed their friends for participating in civil disobedience. I have met women whose sons were disappeared. I have met with “#8220;half-widows” [women whose husbands have been “#8220;disappeared” — ed.]

I have spoken with youth, women and men, who are enraged. I have also spoken with persons who were violated by militants in the 1990s. People’s experiences with the reprehensible atrocities of militancy do not imply the abdication of their desires for self-determination. The Indian state deliberately conflates militancy with the people’s mass movement for liberation.

I have met with torture survivors, non-militants and former militants, who testified to the sadism of the forces. Men who had petrol injected through the anus. Water-boarding, mutilation, being paraded naked; rape of women, children and men; starvation, humiliation, psychological torture. An eagle tattoo on the arm of a man was reportedly identified by an army officer as a symbol of Pakistan-held Azad Kashmir, even as the man clarified the tattoo was from his childhood. The skin containing it was burned. The officer said, the man recalled: “#8220;When you look at this, think of Azaadi.”

A mother, reportedly asked to watch her daughter’s rape by army personnel, pleaded for her release. They refused. She then pleaded that she could not watch, asking to be sent out of the room or be killed. The soldier pointed a gun to her forehead, stating he would grant her wish, and shot her dead before they proceeded to rape the daughter.

Who are the Indian forces? Disenfranchised caste and other groups, Assamese, Nagas, Sikhs, Dalits (erstwhile “#8220;untouchable” peoples), and Muslims from Kashmir, are being used to combat Kashmiris. Why did 34 soldiers commit suicide in Kashmir in 2008, and 52 fratricidal killings take place between January 21, 2004 and July 14, 2009? Why did 16 soldiers commit suicide and two die in fratricidal killings between January and early August in 2010?

Laws authorize soldiers to question, raid houses, detain and arrest without bringing charges, and to prolong incarceration without due process. They blur distinctions between military/paramilitary, “#8220;legality”/“#8220;illegality.” Citing “#8220;national security,” Indian forces in Kashmir shoot and kill on uncorroborated suspicion, with impunity from prosecution.

Yet revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, for example, will not stop the horror in Kashmir. India’s laws are not the primary contention. India’s political and military existence in Kashmir is the issue. Legal impunity is the cover for the moral impunity of Indian rule. Human rights violations in Kashmir will not stop without removing the military. The military cannot be removed without surgically rupturing India’s will to power over Kashmir.

Is the military willing to withdraw from Kashmir? Since 2002, the Government of India has procured five billion U.S. dollars in weaponry from the Israeli state — a colossal sum for India, where 38% of the world’s poor reside and where eight of the country’s poorest states are more impoverished than the 26 poorest countries of the African continent. Five billion dollars, in addition to the other monies and resources invested in the militarization of Kashmir, do not evidence an intent to withdraw.

Inflexible Diplomacy

Yet India needs to make the “#8220;Kashmir problem” disappear. India’s diplomacy is directed toward assuming a role as a world power, a world market, and a world negotiator in global politics. India is also seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

What constitutes India’s dialogue with Kashmiris in conditions of extreme subjugation? The Government of India has scheduled a hurried time frame in propelling Track II diplomacy into success, to secure a proposal for resolution that is acceptable to India and Pakistan and, ostensibly, to Kashmiris. The terms of reference set by New Delhi exclude discussions of self-determination or heightened autonomy, boundary negotiations, the Siachen glacier and critical water resources, and renegotiations of the Line of Control.

New Delhi and Islamabad appear to be in collusion. If Pakistan overlooks India’s annexation of Jammu and Kashmir, India would be willing to forget Pakistan’s occupation of another fragment of Kashmir. For the Government of Pakistan, however, Afghanistan is the current priority, not Kashmir. Conversations on the phased withdrawal of troops by India and Pakistan at the border, local self-government, and the creation of a joint supervision mechanism in Jammu and Kashmir, involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir, are at an impasse.

The Government in New Delhi is looking to neutralize Kashmir’s demand for self-determination or unabridged autonomy, pushing forward a diluted “#8220;autonomy,” seeking to assimilate Kashmir with finality into the Indian nation-state. New Delhi is seeking buy-in, which it hopes to push through using the collaborator coterie in Srinagar. Local self-government would be New Delhi’s compromise — a weak autonomy — with a joint supervisory apparatus constituted of India, Pakistan, and Kashmir.

New Delhi hopes that the Kashmiri leadership, including pro-freedom groups, can be restrained for a price, and weakened through infighting. Certain segments of the pro-freedom leadership, throughout history, have lacked vision, honesty, and the ability to prioritize collaboration for justice and peace in Kashmir. Certain segments of the religious and political leadership have been unable to collaborate meaningfully with civil society, with observant Muslims and those irreligious, and with non-Muslims.

The spiritual commitment to justice in Islamic tradition has receded as religious determinations embrace instrumental political rationality. The determination of what “#8220;freedom” is has been deferred since 1931; instead there has been a focus on immediate and small political gains. This has plagued and rendered ineffectual segments of the complex Hurriyat (Freedom) alliance in the present, which is often unable to capitalize on the exuberant people’s movement on the streets and pathways of Kashmir.

Segments of the pro-freedom leadership have focused on New Delhi rather than Kashmir civil society. New Delhi has fixated on enabling this dynamic, using vast resources to create a collaborator class in Srinagar that undermines the will of the Kashmiri people. And while Pakistan’s politicians have pointed to India’s injustices, they have not reciprocally addressed issues in the management of Pakistan-held Kashmir, including the deflation of movements for the unification of Kashmir.

The crisis of state in Pakistan, and the role of its ruling elite in vitiating people’s democratic processes, remains a pitfall for regional security. The logic that Muslim-prevalent Kashmir must either stay with secular India or join Muslim-dominated Pakistan is configured by India’s and Pakistan’s internal ideological needs and identitarian politics. Neither is inevitable. Neither speak to the foremost aspiration of Kashmiris.

The Government of India’s “#8220;inclusive dialogue” this summer has systematically disregarded Kashmiri civil society demands, thrusting a violent peace brokered by New Delhi’s agents of change. New Delhi has invited various Kashmiri stakeholders from civil society as well. Their articulations, however, have not shifted the agenda, even as bringing people to the table is used to legitimate India’s visage of inclusivity.

What Kashmiris Want

What do a majority of Kashmiris want? First, to secure a good-faith agreement with New Delhi and Islamabad regarding the right of Kashmiris to determine the course of their future, set a time frame, and define the interim conditions necessary to proceed.

Following this, civil society and political leaders would put in motion processes to educate, debate and consult with society, including minority groups, in sketching the terms of reference for a resolution, prior to negotiations with India and Pakistan.

Significantly, pro-freedom leader Syeed Ali Geelani’s statement of August 31 sought to shift the terms of engagement, not requiring the precondition of self-determination or the engagement of Pakistan. Unless New Delhi responds, the protests in Kashmir will continue. Geelani’s statement, supported by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, testifies to this. The mood in the streets testifies to this.

New Delhi’s current approach repudiates what Kashmiris want. The Government of India’s “#8220;inclusive dialogue” this summer does not recognize Kashmir as an international dispute. Nor does it include: an immediate halt to, and moratorium on, extrajudicial killings by the Indian military, paramilitary and police; an immediate halt to, and moratorium on, the use of torture, kidnapping, enforced disappearance and gendered violence by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police; a plan for the release of political prisoners, the return of those exiled, and contending with the issue of displacement; agreements on an immediate “#8220;soft border” policy between Kashmir, India and Pakistan, to enable the resurgence of Kashmir’s economy; agreements to non-interference in the exercise of civil liberties of Kashmiris, including the right to civil disobedience, and freedom of speech, assembly, religion, movement and travel.

New Delhi has refused to acknowledge the extent of human rights violations, and how they are integral to maintaining dominion. New Delhi has not explained why militarization in Kashmir has been disproportionately used to brutalize Kashmiris, when ostensibly the Indian forces are in Kashmir to secure the border zones.

India’s “#8220;inclusive dialogue” does not include a plan for the proactive demilitarization and the immediate revocation of all authoritarian laws. Nor does it include: a plan for the transparent identification and dismantling of detention and torture centers, including in army camps; a plan for installing a Truth and Justice Commission for calculating loss and for political and psychosocial reparation; a plan for international and transparent investigations into unknown and mass graves constituting crimes against humanity committed by the Indian military, paramilitary and police. Such omissions are a travesty of any process promising “#8220;resolution.”

Islamophobia and India’s Crisis

Kashmir’s claims are historically unique and bona fide. But history — the United Nations Resolutions of 1948, the promise by India’s first Prime Minister Nehru for a plebiscite (to rethink the temporary Accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India by the Hindu-descent Maharaja, Hari Singh), Article 370 of the Indian Constitution [which gave Kashmir the right to live under its own laws — ed.] has been jettisoned by an amnesic India. Its official nationalism seeks to rewrite history, affixing Kashmir to India, to overwrite memory. Within the battlefields of knowledge/power, official “#8220;truth” becomes the contagion sustaining cultures of repression and mass atrocity, creating cultures of grief.

New Delhi has been the self-appointed arbitrator in determining the justifications of Kashmir’s claims to freedom. The Indian state is apprehensive that any change in the status quo in Kashmir would foster internal crises of gigantic proportion in India. Across the nation there is considerable discontent, as dreams and difference are mortgaged to the idea of India fabricated by the elite. Kashmir cannot remain India’s excuse to avoid dealing with its own internal matters.

Adivasis (indigenous peoples), Dalits, disenfranchised caste groups, women, religious, ethnic and gender minorities are fatigued by the nation’s deferred promises. Forty-four million Adivasis have been displaced since 1947. Central India is torn asunder, and as Maoists are designated as the latest “#8220;national threat,” national memory forgets the systematic brutalization of peoples in the tribal belt that led to a call to arms. Then there is the Northeast, Punjab, the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, riots against Christians in Orissa, farmer suicides, the plight of peasants and Adivasis of the Narmada Valley where dams are not the “#8220;temples of India,” but its burial grounds.

Indian civil society decries that Kashmir is not deserving of autonomy or separation, as it, as an assumed Islamist state, would be a threat to India’s democracy. Dominant Indian (left-oriented) civil society must rethink its characterization of Kashmiri civil society as prevalently “#8220;Jamaati.” Jamaat is Arabic for assembly. “#8220;Jamaati” is used by Indian civil society to imply Islamist or fundamentalist. The reference can often be translated as Muslim = Jamaati, and Muslim-observant = fundamentalist.

To assume that a Muslim-majority state in Kashmir will be ruled by Islamist extremists in support of global terror reflects majoritarian India’s racism. Indians of Hindu descent too easily overlook that India’s democracy is infused with Hindu cultural dominance. Indian civil society assumes that Islam and democracy are incompatible, supported by the inflamed Islamophobia in the polities of the West. Importantly, India forgets that in its own history with the British, freedom fighters had noted that the oppressor cannot adjudge when a stateless people are “#8220;deserving” of freedom.

Freedom is fundamentally an experiment with risk that Kashmiris must be willing to take. The global community must support them in making such risk ethical. Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority space. The population of India-held Kashmir was recorded at approximately 6,900,000 in 2008, of which Muslims are approximately 95%. Kashmir’s future as a democratic, inclusive and pro-secular space is linked to what happens within India and Pakistan.

Kashmiris who wish to be separate from India and Pakistan must assess the difficult alliances yet to be built among Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, and among Muslims and Hindu Pandits, Dogra Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, indigenous groups and others. Then there is the question of what lies ahead between Indian-held Kashmir and Pakistan-held Kashmir. Minority groups, such as Kashmiri Pandits, must refuse the Indian state’s hyper-nationalist strategy in using the Pandit community to create opposition between Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir, as part of its strategy to religionize the issue and govern through communalization.

Where is the international community on the issue of Kashmir? In present history, Palestine, Ireland, Tibet and Kashmir share common features. In Tibet, 1.2 million died (1949-1979), and 320,000 were made refugees. In Ireland, 3,710 have died (1969-2010). For Israel, the occupation of Palestine has resulted in 10,193 dead (1987-2010), with 4.7 million refugees registered with the United Nations (1947-2010). In Kashmir, 70,000 are dead, over 8,000 have been disappeared, and 250,000 have been displaced (1989-2010).

During British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to India, he was asked to refrain from bringing up the “#8220;K” word. United States President Barack Obama’s proposed visit to New Delhi in November is already laden with prohibitions, India’s rule in Kashmir and its larger human rights record among them. As well, right-wing Hindu advocacy groups have been successful in securing the silence of many on Capitol Hill on the issue of Kashmir.

The Kashmiri diaspora has been partly effective in bringing visibility to the issue, even as the community remains ideologically and politically fragmented. International advocates have propagated an “#8220;economic” approach to “#8220;normalcy.” This avoids the fact that militarization impacts every facet of life, making economic development outside of political change impossible.

Kashmiris are caught amidst world events, regional machinations, and the unresolved histories of the Subcontinent. In 2010, as of September 23, 351 soldiers from the United States have died in Afghanistan, while the United Kingdom sustained 92 fatalities. Of paramount concern for both is bringing their forces home without compromising the principles of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) operations in the region. To accomplish this would require that Pakistan move sizeable forces from the Indo-Kashmir-Pak border to the Af-Pak frontier. This cannot be done, however, without cessation in Indo-Pak hostilities, which requires resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Kashmir’s resolution, however, cannot mean a sanction to Pakistan’s encroachment on Afghanistan, which, given the political situation in the region, remains a highly likely possibility. For the United States and India, the containment of China is another issue, also linked to Kashmir.

The Indian state’s military governance penetrates every facet of life. The sounds of war haunt mohallas [neighborhoods —ed]. The hyper-presence of militarization forms a graphic shroud over Kashmir: Detention and interrogation centers, army cantonments, abandoned buildings, bullet holes, bunkers and watchtowers, detour signs, deserted public squares, armed personnel, counter-insurgents, and vehicular and electronic espionage. Armed control regulates and governs bodies.

It has been reported that, since 1990, Kashmir’s economy has incurred a loss of more than 1,880,000 million Indian Rupees ($40.4 billion U.S.). The immensity of psychosocial losses is impossible to calculate. The conditions of everyday life are in peril. They elicit suffocating anger and despair, telling a story of the web of violence in which civil society in Kashmir is interned.

For India, constituting a coherent national collective has required multiple wars on difference. National governance determines territory and belonging, disenfranchising subaltern claims. Local struggles for self-determination are brutalized to reproduce obedient national collectives. Systemic acts of oppression chart a history, as relations of power are choreographed by nation-states in the suppression of others. Massacre, gendercide, genocide, occupation, function within a continuum of tactics in negation/annihilation.

India’s relation to Kashmir is not about Kashmir. Kashmir’s aversion to being subsumed by the Indian state is not reducible to history. If violence breaks lives, Kashmir is quite broken. If oppression produces resistance, Kashmir is profusely resilient. From Michel Foucault to the African thinker Achille Mbembe [who coined the term “#8220;postcolony,” — ed.] and so much in between, we are reminded of the myriad techniques in governance that seek to subjugate, while naming subjugation as subject formation, as protection, “#8220;security,” law and order, and progress.

Realpolitik triumphs against a backdrop of persistent refusal. Through summer heat and winter snow, across interminable stretches of concertina wire, broken windowpanes, walls, barricades, and checkpoints, the dust settles to rise again. The agony of loss. The desecration of life. Kashmir’s spiritual fatalities are staggering. The dead are not forgotten. Remembrance and mourning are habitual practises of dissent.

“#8220;We are not free. But we know freedom,” KP tells me. “#8220;The movement is our freedom. Our dreams are our freedom. The Indian state cannot take that away. Our resistance will live.”

ATC 149, November-December 2010

Bringing up the "K" word

Submitted by Dianne on November 4, 2010 - 3:17pm.

Last month Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning author, a critic of India’s occupation of Kashmir, was threatened with being tried for sedition. She had dared to state that Kashmir had "never been an integral part of India." If convicted, she faces a minimum sentence of 10 years.

On October 31st an angry mob—reportedly members of the right-wing BJP women’s wing—surrounded her house, broke through the gate and vandalized property.

President Obama is about to visit India and on November 4th the following "Memorandum on Present Realities, Transitions, and Resolution in Kashmir" was released to speak both to President Obama and the Indian Prime Minister. It is signed by a number of human rights advocates:

We, the undersigned, write today in the aftermath of yet another summer of state repression and violence in Indian-administered Kashmir, followed by a peace process initiated by the Indian State without the consent or active participation of the Kashmiri people, and on the occasion of United States President Barak Obama’s visit to India.

We write concerned that the Indian State has implemented a deceptive "peace" plan without recognizing the dispute, formulated "resolution" without reckoning loss, and designated "post-conflict" status without halting military rule in

We ask that the United States act responsibly in seeking access to India’s markets and in attempting to reposition their role in Afghanistan. We ask that President Obama bring up the "K" word, as Kashmir has been pejoratively labelled, in his discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. We ask that in seeking stronger relations with India, the United States not compromise the rights of Kashmiri peoples or regional peace and security concerns in South Asia which act as deterrents to resolutions of past partitions and current conflicts, and which prevent the integration of South Asia into responsible global economic units.

We ask that the international community, including civil society and governments of the European Union, Organization of the Islamic Conference, China, and others support Kashmir’s demands of the United Nations (and respect the history of United Nations Resolutions on Kashmir).

We ask that the international community bring their judicious counsel to persuading the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan to initiate meaningful exchanges, engagements, and reconciliations between Kashmiri peoples across borders as a precondition to conflict resolution.

We ask that the Government of India end hostilities on Kashmiri peoples, and formally recognize the right of Kashmiris to determine their future. In an attempt to convince the global community of its ability to practise power responsibly, the Indian State must practise accountability and atonement with respect to Kashmir. The negligence, indifference, and callousness that has delayed the resolution of the Kashmir dispute continues to have serious repercussions on the everyday lives of Kashmiris, as it defers hope and prosperity, as well as Kashmiri entitlements to rights, liberties, and freedoms
that are universally recognized as inalienable.

We ask that the Government of India respect civil society and civil disobedience processes in Kashmir undertaken by diverse Kashmiri groups and peoples in preparation to moving forward.

We ask that the Government of India recognize that prior to a resolution, certain minimum preconditions must be enforced to enable transitional and transformative processes of justice, with relevant international oversight. This would lead to defining and implementing mechanisms for accountability, reckoning and reparation, and resolution.

We note that the recent protests in Kashmir do not evidence dissent to the present events alone but are indicative of civilian sentiments and responses to the sustained confinement of civil society by Indian military and paramilitary forces since 1989, the attendant cycles of violence, and the suppression of local demands for the right to self-determination since 1947. The Government of India recently called for "creative solutions" to resolve the "Kashmir problem." If we map the events inside Indian-administered Kashmir, the approach of the Indian state has been, and continues to be, neo-imperial and aggressively militaristic.

We note that while India deems Indian-administered Kashmir to be an "internal matter," refusing transparency, international scrutiny, and adherence to humanitarian laws of conflict and war, civil society in Kashmir remains "under the authority of the hostile army," whose reach and power "has been established and can be exercised," (Hague Convention, Laws and Customs of War on Land [Hague IV] Article 42, 1907).

We urge that, in order to ensure interim conditions that are facilitative of nonviolent conflict resolution, and enable ethical civil society participation, the Government of India, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, and the military, paramilitary, and police be held accountable to a minimum agenda in Kashmir inclusive of the following. We urge that the international leadership and global civil society ask that the Government of India undertake the following measures:

1. Immediate halt to, and moratorium on, the use of extrajudicial killings, torture, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, and gendered violence by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police in Kashmir.

2. Agreement to non-interference in the exercise of civil liberties of Kashmiris, including the right to civil disobedience, and freedom of speech, movement, travel, assembly, and religion.

3. Proactive demilitarization and the immediate revocation of authoritarian laws.

4. Release of political prisoners.

5. Transparent identification and dismantling of detention and torture centres, including in army camps.

6. Establishment of protective mechanisms for victims, survivors, and witnesses.

7. Instatement of a Truth and Justice Commission for political, economic, and psychosocial reparation, permitting spaces for acknowledging the culture of grief and the staggering corporeal and spiritual fatalities of the past two decades, to imagine and energize local and civil society initiatives in order to heal, and imagine a different future.

8. Support of cultural and economic initiatives and peace and reconciliation measures by disenfranchised groups, including half-widows, families of the disappeared, minority communities, displaced persons, and former militants.

9. International and transparent investigations into torture, disappearances, gendered violence, unlawful deaths, and unknown and mass graves constitutive of crimes against humanity committed by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police.

10. Open and transparent dialogue toward conflict resolution between Kashmir, India, and Pakistan, inclusive of Kashmiris as primary stakeholders.

Endorsed by:

1. Dr. Angana Chatterji, Co-convener, International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir and Professor,
Department of Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
2. Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
3. Kashmir High Court Bar Association
4. Advocate Mihir Desai, Legal Counsel, International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir and Advocate, Mumbai High Court and Supreme Court of India
5. Chamber of Commerce and Industries - Kashmir
6. Jammu Kashmir Trade Union Council
7. Kashmir Minorities Front
8. Majlis-e-Mashawarat, Shopian
9. Kashmir University Students Union
10. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons
11. Koshish
12. People’s Rights Movement
13. Jammu and Kashmir Hussainee Trust
14. VIVA Kashmir
15. Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, Scholar
16. Dr. Syeda Afshana, Scholar
17. Dr. Altaf Hussain, Author
18. Dr. Abdul Ahad, Historian
19. Parvaiz Bukhari, Journalist
20. Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, Columnist and Social-activist
21. Dr. Mubarik Ahmed, Social-activist
22. Abdul Majeed Zargar, Columnist
23. Zareef Ahmed Zareef, Poet and Social-activist
24. Zahid G. Muhammad, Columnist
25. Other names withheld for fear of reprisal


Submitted by hem raj jain (not verified) on May 15, 2013 - 9:20am.

This refers to interview published on Sunday in ‘The Dawn’ (the prominent media of Pakistan) given by Yasin Malik, the chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to Gowhar Geelani in which Yasin has shed his customary tears for Kashmir cause without giving any solution especially when faced with demoralizing fact that now Pakistan is no more interested in Kashmir issue (notwithstanding its lip service to Kashmir as was given by passing resolution in Pak National Assembly against hanging of Afzal Guru) as was complained by Yasin in this interview that “[Once the Pakistan Foreign Office used to be Kashmir-centric, but unfortunately Kashmir is missing from this election campaign]”.

Though Yasin is exceptionally perspicacious in this interview when he says that – “[people had picked up the gun but were persuaded by the diplomatic community to give up arms and then promised the issue will be resolved through negotiations. Now, the Kashmiri people have been given a clear message that ‘you have been defeated’]” and “[Having 25-year long close association with them, I have come to a discomforting conclusion, and it is my honest belief now, that the Indian state uses members of civil society as ‘firefighters in Kashmir’. It has become an unfortunate routine that in crisis time they (civil society members) come to Kashmir, accuse their own government, sell big dreams to the people of Kashmir; but as soon as the crisis is over they pack their bags]” and “[They manage the conflict through two C’s: Corruption and Coercion. These are the two weapons which India has used in Kashmir constantly since 1947]” and “[When I arrived in New Delhi, I was, as usual, manhandled by Hindu extremist forces. I have a 13-month old daughter; she has not visited Kashmir until now. My wife and family are not granted a visa to come to Kashmir. I have not been given the passport. When I went to Delhi recently for a hunger strike, you can see for yourself (alluding to the neck-collar), how I was treated there by police officers, not ordinary soldiers!]”

But one reason why Yasin has been getting frustration & humiliation all along is due to simple reason that he has not been able to understand the basic fact that even during 1947 partition no people (whether Punjabis or Bengalis) speaking same language and practicing same religion were expected to live on two sides of the border. Whereas Kashmiris speaking same language and mostly practicing same religion Islam, are forced to live on two sides of the LOC. Therefore first Yasin need to understand that only the unification of Kashmir is the Kashmir solution and loyalty for Kashmir demands that instead of wasting his time in day dreaming Yasin should primarily try (because no other person from J&K will do it as they are more interested in political power and the benefits derived from it than in solving Kashmir problem) for unification within time bound period of (say) two years and this can easily be achieved as given below:-

(1)- By this time Yasin must have understood that only India (and not Pakistan) can unify Kashmir. Here Yasin need not bother that what will happen if India tries to take POK militarily (with likely conflict between two nuclear powers) for the purpose of unifying Kashmir. Because there are people and countries (USA & its European Allies and other world powers like Russia, China etc) that will take care of its ramifications. Otherwise also the last word on India’s partition is yet to be written.

(2)- Moreover Yasin should realize his potentials & appeal and need not become another Kashmiri Pundit (KP) who are victims of huge violence and terrorism and at the same time can easily solve their problem and can get rehabilitated easily (as I have mentioned in my earlier letters) but will not do it for the reasons best known to KP only.

(3)- Similarly Yasin can easily solve Kashmir problem if he launches all India level political party and contests 2013 J&K election and 2014 Parliamentary elections which he can easily dominate if :-

(A)- His Party works for rehabilitation of KP with the help of people from rest of India (especially Hindus)

(B)- His Party shows mirror to Indian Military (through public meetings in entire J&K and in about ~ 600 districts of India) that they are showing ‘bravery’ on Indian citizens in J&K (even through Armed Forces Special Power Act) but has no courage to take POK militarily, though Pakistan 1/6 th of India’s size tried so 5 times (in 1947, 1948, 1965, 1971, during Kargil and through on-going proxy war)

(4)- Here it is needles to mention that Yasin can easily become tallest Secular leader of India (and that too from Muslim community) for the simple reason that what to talk of other parties even Congress of Sonia and Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav (which are biggest beneficiary of Muslim votes) do not have leaders from Muslim community who can muster courage to get justice to Indian Muslims regarding reservation, Babri – Masjid demolition and Gujarat 2002 massacre – (though this justice can easily be got by filing proper court cases and which Yasin party should file) and also Yasin Party should get justice to the victims of terrorism in N-E & Naxal infested areas (as all has been mentioned in my previous letters).

(5)- Apart from loyalty to Kashmir, there is one more reason that Yasin should try for Kashmir solution. Merely saying in said interview that ~ 1 Lakh people have lost lives for Kashmir solution is not enough. Because these ~ 1 Lakh killed people were his ex – colleagues (many of them were fundamentalists who got free from cold war in Afghanistan and came to Kashmir). Hence Yasin owes to his ~ 1 Lakh killed ex - colleagues too, that Kashmir solution is achieved.

(6)- It is high time Yasin comes out of his delusion as he revealed when he said in said interview that - “[I have visited many cities, universities and colleges in Pakistan. I have interacted with the cross-section of people there. My belief is that Pakistani people have a romantic attachment with the Kashmir cause and our people. Political leaders have their views. But when I talk to the common Pakistanis on the streets, I find their love for Kashmir unconditional. I have a request to them that they must not forget that Kashmiris are suffering]”.

(7)- It must be fresh in the memory of Yasin that when asked to stop terming terrorists in Kashmir as freedom fighter by USA after 9/11 these same Pakistanis (not merely politicians who always matter the most in such issues but even Pakistani people including in colleges and universities) took no time in ditching Kashmiris.

(8)- Yasin must also be knowing the condition of Kashmiris in Pakistani side of Kashmir (POK) where (on the basis of information collected from POK Election Commission and Rehabilitation Department and provided to me by Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani, the Secretary General – JKCHR), total camps established in different parts of POK are 20 in which total number of 37,774 people (7,265 families) are still living.

(9)- Moreover Indian side of Muslim Kashmiris, who are never tired of singing the necessity of Article 370 of Indian Constitution allegedly in the interest of protecting ‘Kashmiriyat’ by retaining demographic composition of Kashmir - did not utter a single word and never objected to Pakistan when in POK (where as per reports 42 terrorist camps are operating) demography has been altered hugely not only by people from other provinces of Pakistan but also from other counties (who are essential parts of these 42 terrorist camps).

(10)- Yasin should also keep one very important fact of international law in view that with separation of Bangladesh in 1971 from Pakistan every basis of India’s partition has collapsed and what to talk of J&K, India is entitled to assimilate even entire Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were carved out on the basis of two nation theory and on the basis of which Yasin and his ilk have been clamoring naively so long for independence, plebiscite, liberation, self - determination etc. If India has so far not done it (even in case of Bangladesh in 1971) then it is mainly due to reason that so long only political parties with communal mindset have ruled in Centre at Delhi which do not want Hindu overwhelming majority to be diluted in India under the pressure of Hindu communal forces (with demoralized Indian Muslim population offering no resistant to this Hindu rabid communalism) - which is at the cost of mother land and which ironically these Hindutva forces are never tired of eulogizing with high sounding words like ‘Akhand Bharat’ etc.

(11)- Therefore justice, international law and wisdom demands that Yasin should cast his lot with India thinking that if ~ 250 million Muslims can live in India (in some what demoralizing and humiliating condition which Yasin & his party can easily rectify as said above) then there is no reason why ~ 9 million Kashmiri Muslims (~ 6 million in India and ~ 3 million presently on other side of LOC) cannot live in peace, prosperity and harmony in India.

It is hoped that Yasin Malik will come out of his self-imposed, ridiculous and self-defeating exile from political field and will immediately without any further delay take plunge in politics through should-be-launched all India political party in order to shape the destiny of South Asia for the better by electrifying J&K elections 2013 and Parliamentary elections 2014, as mentioned above.

Yours truly

Hem Raj Jain

A-3, Mahavirdham, Shri Mahavirji – 322220, Rajasthan, India

Mo: 07829074704

Guidelines for freedom of Jammu and Kashmir from India.