Kashmir Crisis: In-front of us but Still Unseen, Unnoticed
Liah Qureshi in Srinagar
Srinagar is virtually cut off from the rest of the world. From the curfewed capital of Jammu and Kashmir, a young journalist takes us through an unprecedented journey
To understand the Kashmir situation, let us first shed our pseudo skin – the Skin of nationalism, religion, patriotism, and terms like that.
Okay, now that we are human, just human and completely human, let me take you on a journey, a journey to a place once called paradise on earth.
What is happening in Kashmir since the evening of July 8th 2016
It was a busy day like any other normal day in Kashmir, everybody working through the day making their living and moving towards their homes in the evening.
It was evening; I was still in the office, working on some articles, some news touchups, and some journalism stuff.
A phone beep and everything changed
A message on WhatsApp, and update on Facebook, that is all it took and in a flash Kashmir knew that Burhan MuzzaffarWani was dead. The news spread like wild fire.
Burhan was a freedom fighter for Kashmiris; Indian media calls him a terrorist. The New York Times calls him a charismatic separatist.
Let’s see, technically speaking, a terrorist is a person who terrorizes people, the masses and damages, destroys, and disturbs the normal way of living, by threatening or harming the people living in the society.
Did Burhan do that?
And if your answer is yes, then why were there more than 5 lakh people on his funeral. Those 5 lakh people were not paid by some agency, or some country or whatever the national media says. They were the people who mourned Burhan’s death as for them, a hero was gone.
They Buried Burhan, not Knowing he was a Seed
Burhan was dead, long gone. Now what?
During his funeral, CRPF started to disperse the mourners, rubbing salt on wounds or what?
Dispersing the protester and mourners with lathi charge you must think, but no. Lathi charge has never been used as a way of dispersing the mob in Kashmir. They cannot use lathis, they have guns and it’s against their honor to use lathis when they have full authority to open fire on any mob (peaceful protesters or Stone pelters) and they have AFSPA to back them.
And it was done. They open fired, they showered bullets and pellets, killing unarmed civilians. It didn’t make to the Indian TV sets and newspapers.
The Communication Gag
Within a day, all the 2G and 3G data services were snapped, the pre-paid and post-paid mobile networks were disabled, except the BSNL post-paid service as the people in government use the BSNL network.
Only the BSNL Post-paid service, landlines and the connected broadband worked, which makes up to 5% of the Kashmiri population having access to internet. Pushing Kashmiris into the Stone Age and yes, hyping their anger and miseries. It is worth mentioning here, that according to International Laws, the Internet and Communication Gag is a form of Human Rights Violation.
The Media Gag
After a couple of weeks after Burhan’s death, it was a no newspaper morning that people woke up to. In the wee hours, the police raided the newspaper offices, locked down the press, seized the newspaper copies and stopped the circulation of the newspapers as it was the only way to keep a note of the things happening around us. The media gag continued for a week minus a day or two. The government never accepted that they had approved of the media gag, excusing by saying the Chief Minister was not aware of what police did.
And thus ‘the house arrested’ became ‘the disconnected, the house arrested’ civilians of Kashmir.
Attacks on Ambulances and Hospitals
The injured were shifted from the district hospitals to the main city hospital for advanced treatment but no one knew what more Indian Armed Forces had in store for the injured, they stopped the ambulances mid-way, drag the injured out of the ambulances and beat them to the pulp, many of who succumb to injuries, they would not even leave the drivers of the ambulances, asking them to stop ferrying injured to the hospital.
They not only attacked ambulances, they didn’t leave a stone unturned tohumiliate and harass the injured patients,the attendants and the doctors, they damaged the hospital infrastructure as well, they shot pellets inside hospitals, knowing that they won’t be tried for their crimes, and it will never make to national media.
The Ruthless Nocturnal raids
The days became long and tiring, the only sound echoing around was either the pro-freedom slogans, or the bullets, pellets and tear gas shells and pepper gas being shot, which followed by the siren of ambulances, mourns and cries of mothers. It was the night that did some favor to the people already in pain, but this was soon to end with the nocturnal raids. The Indian Forces Started raiding houses at midnight, harassed the women, damaged the property, dragged the youth out, beat them to the pulp and arrested them under the PSA (Public Safety Act). The mid-night raids spread though out the valley, terrorizing people to the core.
Increase in the number of Army Companies in Kashmir
The Armed forces bought to Kashmir are not the forces that should be dealing with the mob directly. If we go as per law, CRPF has to abide by the orders of JKP to take any action even if AFSPA is to be considered. Pumping 31 Companies of Armed forces into the Valley in between the people has worsened the situation even more.
The Vandalizing of Property
The increase in their number of companies present in the valley has given the Armed Indian Forces the push they needed to do What they want, there is no one to ask them about anything, they vandalize property, they break Windowpanes, they shoot pellets into the houses through windows, they enter the houses and shoot pellets on people without any reason. And they laugh about it.
The Pellet Story
The use of pellets is thought to be non-lethal, the pellet guns are considered non-lethal weapons but what defines the limit to its usage and on which part of body should it target.
The Indian forces have mostly targeted the eyes of kids and the youth with these pellets. The result is that Kashmir has more than 400 pellet blinds being treated at different hospitals of the valley, amongst are the kids and youth that have lost the sight in one or both the eyes.
The pellets when shot from a very close range damage the vital organs of a person, but that didn’t stop the forces to use the pellet. The main City Hospital (SMHS), is filled with such critical cases, where pellets are shot from a very close range and have hit the vital organs of people.
The youngest of the pellet victims is 1-year-old.
The Night Killings
Not being answerable to anyone gives them the ultimate power and they make full use of it, they hunt for innocent Civilians who are on the move at night, because hey, wasn’t it supposed to be more feasible to travel at night than at day as to protect yourself from the wrath of both the protesters and the Indian Armed Forces. But least did the civilians know that the Armed forces were on an unofficial mission to catch and kill. They fulfill their desire to feel powerful by killing innocent civilians who are traveling at night.
No Government onboard
With Armed forced taking things in their own hands, the government seemed to have faded away from the dictionaries. Mehbooba Mufti, the Chief Minister is so over taken by the lust of power, that she prefers to stay mute than to do what is right. It seems like she has forgotten her days as the opposition, when she stood against the then ruling government, when she showed her sympathy for the civilians who were mercilessly killed in 2010.
It feels like déjà vu except for the roles of the ruling party and the opposition, have somehow been reversed.
Army took over (unofficially)
If the human in you is crying out for help and wrenching in pain, hold it still because the worse has not come yet, it wasn’t long till one-day people woke to announcements made by the army vans that asked the people to stay inside. The government does not confirm it officially, what has been going on in Sopore and adjacent areas, speaks of its own. The Army began to show presence on the Highways and villages.
India’s Independence day- Broadband Snapped
And then came August 13, the preparation of The India’s I-Day was on its peak. It was 6:30 pm and they snapped the broadband Service too. Except for the Press Enclave and some choicest places, the BSNL broadband Service was snapped throughout the valley. Leaving the people more under stress.
The night curfew and stopping of essential commodities
To counter the Hurriyat protest calendar, the government kept on changing their options to haunt the civilians, the days for us were already under curfew and now they changed our nights too. The forces imposed night curfew in Srinagar and many other districts. No one was allowed to move at night, they kept a check on every lane and every street, not even the people with medical emergency were allowed and that does take a toll on the patients’ health.
The milk and vegetable vendors who usually did their work of distributing essentials in the wee hours were also stopped and all the essentials were seized. The goal was to starve the people.
Stopping of fuel distribution in Kashmir
Day 41 of Kashmir crisis; and the fuel companies have stopped the distribution of fuel to the fuel dealers of the valley, for reasons unknown. When contacted some excused by saying that it was the Raksha Bandhan holiday and some said they have technical issues.
Meanwhile, Divisional Commissioner said that there won’t be any fuel blockade and rubbished the may be/may be not rumors.
Thrashing, Abusing and Using Journalist as Human Shield
If this would have been the case anywhere else in the world, it would have made to the top headlines, but because it happens in Kashmir, people don’t know anything about it. The journalists of the valley have not faced this behavior at the hands of Indian Forces for the first time, and it certainly is not the last. Forces attack, thrash and abuse journalists, just to vent out their anger.
Army does it Again
On the fateful night of August 17, Army men of 50 Rashtriya Rifles camp raided the Shar Shali Khrew area of Pampore town. These men carrying axes and hammers with them broke the door of the houses. Thrashed and Interrogated the people, they destroyed everything and looted the valuables. Women were caged in a room and men were dragged out of their houses, some of them were whisked away while some were left to die in the area.The injured who were shifted to SMHS hospital are the eye witness.
In this incident a 30-year-old youth got killed, Shabir Ahmad was a Ph.D. Scholar, a lecturer at Amar Singh College. He was not shot with guns or pellets; He was beaten to death. A case has been registered on this behalf as well.
The atrocities of Indian Forces in Kashmir do not stop here; they won’t stop until and unless AFSPA is revoked.
Firing on the Ambulance Driver
The evening of Day 41, an ambulance carrying patients from Wussan area of District Kangan was stopped at Safakadal, the ambulance driver was shot in the arm by the Indian Forces for no crime he had committed. The brave heart pulled the ambulance and drove with one hand till he reached the main City hospital along with the patients he was carrying, where he was operated upon.
Pumping in BSF
With already 7 lac CRPF and other Armed forces in Kashmir, they had added 31 more companies of CRPF. Then they added SSB battalions, plus the Army. The Indian and the State government were not sure if this much was still enough to control the protests. They pumped in the BSF.
BSF (Boarder Security Force) was in charge of the operations going on in Kashmir, till 2005. They had been replaced by the CRPF later. The BSF is known as much more brutal when compared to the CRPF in Kashmir.
BSF takes over schools and college
BSF reentered Kashmir after a decade. With all the bunkers already filled in with CRPF, SSB and the Army. The government could not find any other suitable place for them other than schools and colleges of the valley.
At one end it was the Education Minister of J&K, Mr. Naeem Akhtar, who was asking the people of Kashmir not to compromise the education of their children and send them to schools, and on the other end the schools are being occupied by the Armed Forces. Is it the government contradicting itself or is it just us feeling so?
Rajnath’s second visit to Kashmir
After a delegation of J&K opposition parties as a whole went to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister and other parties so as to hold talks on what should be done and how the situation can be fixed in Kashmir, Delhi decided to send in Rajnath to Kashmir for the second time after July 8th. But to the utter disappointment of the opposition parties of J&K and mainly to Umar Abdullah, Rajnath almost repeated the same words that he has said on his first visit. The main highlight of his visit nevertheless was his joint press conference with Mehbooba Mufti. It wasn’t Rajnath who stole the show; it was Mehbooba Mufti, who spoke a totally different language that no Kashmiri has ever saw her speaking.
ITBP rushed into Kashmir
Yes, you thought it right, enough is enough, how much force India needs to contain the “law and order situation”, yes these are the exact words they use for the Kashmir uprising, the law and order situation.
Kashmir entered 50th day of its curfew and with more paramilitary forces from Indo Tibetan Border Police being rushed in, normalcy is still a far cry.
Kashmir’s longest curfew lifted on day 52, only to be re-imposed again
Day 51, the government thought of testing the water in Kashmir; maybe you never know the result can come out positive for you, so, on day 51 i.e; 28th August, the police announced that they will lift curfew on 29th August, from the valley except from three volatile areas- Pulwama, Nowhatta, and MR Gunjh.
On 29th August, the first few hours of the days made us believe that may be things are getting better but as the clock tower in Lal Chowk struck 1 O’clock; things started changing their course. Slowly with every passing minute the whole valley echoed with the freedom slogans. The “Law and Order” situation was getting out of control again and thus the curfew was re-imposed.
Kids turn Wi-Fi Hackers
With no internet service available, and no playgrounds to play, the kids of Kashmir have turned Wi-Fi hackers. At this young age, you cannot bound these young souls in their house for long enough, they need to vent their energy on one thing or the other. What better option is there than to vent it out on social media. But to do that they need internet connection.
But the government has barred the Data Services since July 9, 2016. The only option left with these kids is to hack into Wi-Fi networks of those people who have a broadband connection. And thus it is done.
These young boys are seen around houses that have Wi-Fi connection, trying to hack into the network with least security protocol active .
BSF withdrawn, replaced by CRPF
BSF was withdrawn from the Valley after a week of their deployment, but the actual news was 25 fresh companies of CRPF were sent to Kashmir for maintaining the “LAW & ORDER” situation.
Death dancing; Situation worsening
The rise in death would have been stopped if the force would have restrained from showing off their AFSPA power. One after another, young people of Kashmir are falling prey of the inhumane, barbaric, Armed forces- be it CRPF, SSB, ITBP, Army or BSF, they are same for the Kashmiris.
People angrier than before, you would be too if you were a part of the society undergoing such torture and trauma, and now that you know what is happening, let’s just hope you will stop believing the mainstream media and start researching the internet.
More and more people took to roads, protesting the killing of civilians, not knowing that they are about to join the List of Dead Unarmed Civilians of Kashmir. The death toll rising like never before, and after 54 days, we have almost 85 dead, more than 10,000 injured, more than 400 blinded by pellets. The dead and injured are mostly between the age group of 12-25.
The continuous curfew and communication gag has affected the society in many ways than visible, for those who need to go for medical checkups on regular basis; the Indian forces do not let the patients visit the clinics and hospitals even after showing the doctor’s prescription.
The CRPF informed the court that since July 9 to August 11, it has fired over ‘3000’ pellet cartridges (1.6 million pellets) each containing 450 metallic balls. 3765 cartridges of 9 numbers have been fired from the pump action guns.
Even now, as I type this article I hear pro-freedom slogans and Forces showering teargas shells and pellets on the protesters.
“Kashmir na mange Hindustan,
Kashmir na mange Pakistan,
Toh Hindustan aur Pakistan ne milke
Kashmir ko bana diya Kabristan”
Those who say, development are the answer to Kashmir; they are wide off the mark. The problem of Kashmir is political and development can never be the answer. You cannot force development on someone who is not allowed to breathe freely. Development takes a back seat when basic human rights are at stake.
Silencing people won’t put the Kashmir issue at rest forever, the people may get silenced for some time, but it will be a temporary phase. Soon something else will trigger the anger caused by the anguish at the hands of Indian forces.
The Kashmir issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible, so that the people of India, Pakistan and Kashmir may live in peace, and work on the betterment of their nations.
The only way possible way to resolve this issue seems to be the most sidelined option- the promised plebiscite.
Liah Qureshi, is a journalist and editor based in Srinagar. She also works as a Voice Artist, a Counselor, a Blogger and an Emcee. The views expressed here are personal.