Focus on Kashmir amid botched military operation in Nagaland – Kashmir Media Service
This is perhaps the very first time that Kashmiri politicians have spoken aloud, focusing on the realities on the ground prevailing in and around the Kashmir Valley. Mind you, they do it in the capital, New Delhi. Earlier, their talks were along cautious tension, but not anymore. Come out of these urgently sifted declarations for the very survival and protection of Kashmiri civilians, in the context of the killings of 13 civilians by the military in Nagaland last week.
It should not be overlooked that the central government’s repeated promises of zero tolerance for rights violations have turned out to be hoaxes in Kashmir. The situation can be described as more than complex as the Kashmir region is considered to be one of the most militarized regions in the world, if not the subcontinent.
What also seems worrying is the condition of the imprisoned Kashmiris. In my second book on the Kashmir region – “Kashmir the Unending Tragedy – Reports From the Frontlines” – I focused on this particular aspect: the life of a prisoner, whether he is actually convicted or on trial, may be. -be more than tough. The misery worsens for a Muslim prisoner in Kashmir as he may have to hear not only sarcastic comments but is even mistreated and threatened due to the body of perceptions, myths and notions circulating about Muslims and people. Kashmiris. It would be useful to say that the communally overloaded political climate in the country seems to be seeping into the prisons.
Those of us who are truly concerned with understanding the details of the detainees should read important books written by senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani, My Days in Prison (Penguin), Kashmiri activist, Zamarud Habib’s, Prisoner No 100 My Nights and Days in an Indian Prison. (Zubaan), Framing Geelani by activist-lawyer Nandita Haksar, Hanging Afzal – Patriotism in The Time of Terror (South Asian Bibliophile). After reading these books, what is striking is the awareness of the grim realities of imprisonment and what it holds for the Kashmiri prisoner.
To quote Nandita Haksar from her book – “The reader will experience the horrific world that Kashmiris inhabit: the terrifying reality of illegal arrests, dark and damp prison cells, the barbarity of torture and the pain of a child waiting for his death. father be hanged. ‘ She doesn’t mince words, while focusing on how the Kashmiris can be framed to such an extent that they would find it difficult to fight the system. “The war on terror systematically weakens the democratic foundations of our country, widening the wedge between Hindu and Muslim citizens and allying India with the most hated states in the world – the United States and Israel. “
In fact, in her book âThe Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism – From the Cold War to the Presentâ (Speaking Tiger), Nandita Haksar also very skillfully webbed Afzal Guru’s letters and that includes a 10 page handwritten letter. It is relevant to point out that none of her letters tucked away in the pages of Nandita’s book contain any shocks or terrifying thoughts or feelings. On the contrary, they appear not only as philosophical, but charged with his precise opinions and points of view. To quote Nandita, âAlthough Afzal Guru lived in the closed and claustrophobic cells of Tihar Prison, his mind was open and he continued to read extensively. To quote her in this book: âAfzal fought against the ideas of religion and nationalism. In a long letter written to me on January 8, 2008, he asked: Respected Nandita, while the Naga conflict is not Christian, why the conflict in Kashmir is called Islamic. Fundamentally, it is political, social and historical in nature. Robert A Pape’s book Dying To Win gave a sophisticated analysis of 300 suicide bombings (1980-2003), 76 of which were carried out by the LTTE. The common cause, he says, is political and social injustice, the oppression and brutal policies of the political establishment and the occupying powers. ‘
And in the long 10 page handwritten letter that Afzal Guru wrote to Nandita (she received it on January 8, 2008), the feelings and thoughts contained in her letter make you sit and hang your head!
Just these last lines of his hand-written letter seem to suffice to relay the man’s broad vision and his philosophy: âIn the end, I ask you not to color or dress my words with any color or color. a robe except a purely responsible human concern for humanityâ¦ I am in the Universe in such a way that I myself am Universe – I live in space but I am less space. ‘
Prisons and detention centers
Review the condition of the detainees. Almost two decades ago, in 2002, I interviewed the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the valley – Georgios Georgantas, a Greek political scientist, who was then stationed in Srinagar as part of the ‘a team of four members. of the ICRC. Under the memorandum of understanding signed between the Indian government and the ICRC in June 1995, the latter was granted access to all detention centers and prisons in J&K. The mandate of the committee was to assess the conditions prevailing in the detention centers and to examine the treatment of prisoners.
Georgios Georgantas had told me that he and his ICRC team did not make sudden or unannounced visits to prisons and detention centers. To quote him, âLet me first clarify that we do not make sudden and unannounced visits although the visits are regular, up to 20 to 25 per month. In fact, it’s part of the MoU that we can visit a place of detention as often as possible.
I asked further: Since your visits to these places are planned and not spontaneous, wouldn’t the authorities take care to present the best possible picture of the state of prisons and detainees?
To which he replied: “Even if an authorization period of two weeks is required, I do not think that it is possible for the authorities to embellish the prisons for our visits because these can range from a week to 20 to 25 days. Under such circumstances, refreshment is simply not possible. And although there have been allegations of murders in custody and we also have reports of arrested persons missing, we cannot, according to the MoU, investigate such allegations to establish whether or not they are true. In addition, we have explained to people here what we can and cannot do so that there is no no false or exaggerated expectations on our part. We have the power to visit interrogation centers and prisons; establish a link between detainees and their families, locate those arrested, access the general conditions that prevail in prisons and the interrogation centers. And here, let me also clarify that our jurisdiction only extends to people detained because of the disturbances here and not to those arrested in common law cases. The bottom line is: we cannot interfere with the legal system. ‘
I also asked him what he thought of the general condition of the detainees, he replied: “All I can say is that there is always room for improvement … mental health of inmates is a major concern for us. In fact, we have an Irish doctor on staff here and he accompanies us whenever we visit these prisons and interrogation centers. We make suggestions to the authorities and on a few occasions they have sent the detainees to the hospital or released them earlier than expected due to our intervention. Some inmates speak, others don’t. Usually, educated people find it very difficult to cope. Rural people find it much easier to get by.
I then asked him if he had encountered any serious cases of torture during his visits to interrogation centers and prisons in the Valley, but he declined to comment.
Some efforts to preserve the very traditions, the cultureâ¦ the Kashmiri heritage!
Sadly, every time a community or region is beaten and destroyed, there is not only loss of life and livelihood, but even the arts and culture are affected if they are not tossed in. forgetting. This also applies to the Kashmir region. And with that in the background, it was refreshing to learn that the HELP Foundation (J&K Human Effort for Love and Peace) led by valley-based activist Nighat Shafi Pandit, has set up âThe Gallery & Craft Center At Bait ul Meras, Aali Kadal, downtown Srinagar. The fundamental or essential objective of this effort is to sensitize the young and future generations of Kashmiris as well as non-Kashmiris to the heritage, traditions and culture of the region.
Several of the items on display are from the personal collection of valley businessman Mubashir Kathwari and also from Nighat Shafi Pandit’s own collection, but the base is growing rapidly as more and more people become aware of their heritage. It is also planned to organize walks and conferences on heritage as well as meetings and interactive discussions. Courtesy of Clarion India
Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story. The opinions expressed here are personal of the author.