By Z.G. Muhammad
Mogul emperor Shah Jahan, four and half centuries back, waxed lyrical on the sight of beautiful Kashmir valley nestled in the bosom of mighty Himalayas and called it paradise on the earth. In his wildest dreams he would not have imagined that one day this land will become more hellish than hell for its citizens. Now for for past more than six decades it is soaked in blood and tears with its every year having tales of repression, intimidation and terror to tell.
The birth of Kashmir ‘tragedy’ dates back to the birth of India and Pakistan as independent nations. The future of this state at this important juncture of history of the sub-continent had remained undecided. The dispute over this strategically located state, bordering China, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India commenced “on the morning of 27 October 1947 when units of Indian Army started landing at Srinagar Air filed” and the United Nations Security Council asked India and Pakistan for demilitarization and allowing people of the state right to self-determination. India’s military presence in the state over years has increased to 700000, making it highest militarized zone in the world. Notwithstanding massive military presence, people of the state have been asking for right to self-determination and being met with repressive force. More than half a million people have been killed in state during past six decades. Of these over one hundred thousand have died after an anti-India armed insurgency was triggered by rigged State Assembly poll in 1987. Thousands have been maimed, crippled and disabled for rest of their life and over a hundred thousand have been orphaned. The ‘killing fields’ of Kashmir wrote Pankaj Mishra, in Guardian “dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet.” Now when India has contained the armed insurgency and militant’s guns have fallen silent people have been holding peaceful rallies and demonstration in support of ‘Azadi’ (freedom).
For past three summers hundreds of thousands have been coming on the roads and streets of the capital city and other towns demanding withdrawal of troops, repealing of draconian laws giving extraordinary powers to military, prosecution of those responsible for crimes against civilians, release of political prisoners languishing in jails, accountability for seven thousand forced disappearances and a chance to determine their own political future.
This summer’s demonstrations began at a different note, with teenagers converging on the streets, raising slogans for Azadi being met with disproportionate force by the government troops. The youth, mostly born during the post 90 insurgency responded the baton charges, teargas canisters and firing by the troops with stones. The stone pelting has not only emerged as new form of resistance but as a phenomenon that has succeeded in sending tremors to New Delhi.
In Kashmir, the year 2010 had a gory start. On 8 January, Inayat Khan 16, was shot dead by Indian federal troops (CRPF) at Srinagar. On 22 January, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi 23, was killed by same force at Parahaspora, Pattan. On 31 January, Wamiq Farooq, 13, was shot dead by police. And on 31 January, Zahid Farooq, 16 years, was shot dead by Border Security Force, Srinagar. None of the killed was part of the demonstration but were students either on way to schools or homes. After massive protests in January, it was relative calm and business as usual for few months. On Fridays only after the noon prayers this deceptive calm would be punctured, with youth appearing on the streets and chanting pro-freedom slogans.
To control the restive population the government has imposed curfew and strict restrictions on people’s movement. Every town and colony wrapped up in concertina, spools of razor wires, barbwire wire, with thousands of helmeted, gun totting and baton wielding soldiers dotting every place looks like a war time garrison. For past more than seventy days more than four million people have been virtually caged. There are lots of festering and disturbing tales about the ‘curfewed’ life that hardly get reported in the press. Hundreds of thousands of students have missed their studies and confinement has been adversely affecting their psyche. Shortage of medicines has been causing complicacies in many patients. To stretch their stocks, many daily wage earners have been living on one time meal for past month or so. Scarcity of fresh vegetable has made some to live primitive life and depend upon wild vegetables in their holdings.