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Kashmir’s regular shutdowns: What do Kashmiris gain?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap]hy don’t India help Kashmiris lead a normal life at par with Hindus in India? Perpetual murders and fake encounters from Indian forces occupying Jammu Kashmir and curfews called for by the freedom groups have been a regular feature of Kashmir valley, weakening the nation’s infrastructural strength and affecting life of common locals.

Although Indian regime is under global stress and pressure to allow freedoms to Kashmiris, Indian occupational forces in Kashmir valley is least bothered about any peaceful situation in Kashmir that has negatively impacted the freedom groups to go for shut downs and express their anger over occupational crimes by India.

Success or defeat of a freedom struggle cannot explained what they got but how far they have been able to push forward the straggle, and how does the government view the impact of the struggle on the nation and how the people view it.

How does India view the latest edition of turmoil in occupied (Jammu) Kashmir? Does India feel any real worries and concerns?

Endless curfews harm Kashmiris

Kashmiris suffer from militaryphobia as military forces keep targeting Muslims who oppose Indian brutality and occupation. Muslims are being killed on a regular basis in order to sustain the occupation. .

Kashmir today is essentially a police and garrison state where military misuses its extra powers to kick the Kashmiris, While Indian media in general dutifully supports all military crimes in Kashmir, media in Kashmir does not function as the vanguard of the democracy but not essentially in Kashmir where everything is decided by the New Delhi. India has always behaved as a military hegemony in Kashmir but presented itself in the image of victim. is one of essential survival tactics in the conflict zone like Kashmir. What has not been vindicated in Kashmir under the camouflage of ‘national interests and threat to security of India’ by the Indian media be it fake encounters, rapes innocent murders and virtually everything from sky to earth.

Indian government has been, for quite some time, since the new wave of protests began in Kashmir, trying hard to put an end to the crisis and give a message to world that everything is “normal” in Kashmir. Having burnt its fingers India would now feel better that the JK government, now controlled jointly by the strange bed fellows BJP and PDP, has lifted the perpetual curfew in Kashmir at least temporally, letting Kashmiris breathe freely..

The almost daily anti-government protests, the curfew and near-total shutdowns, and a host of other restrictions sparked by the July 8 killing of a young militant enters its 100th day on Monday. With no respite in sight, both the separatists and authorities seem to be looking to ‘Time’ to resolve matters — one way or the other. The separatist leaders spearheading the agitation — every single one of them in jail or under detention in their houses — have set the agenda for the stone-pelting protests through weekly calendars. And the authorities seem to be working with the limited aim of containing these with minimal damage.

Reports of shutdown were received from all parts of the Valley. Protests were also reported from parts of Budgam district while massive clashes raged at Baramulla Old Town and Palhallan hamlet. A protest was reported from Ajas area of Bandipora district.The joint resistance leadership has asked people to stage protests on Friday against the killings but the call for shutdown was only for today.

Shutdown, clashes across Kashmir against civilian killings. True, both the government and the freedom groups haven’t quite succeeded in their pet projects. .

The curfew, which was imposed in the Valley for the last 79 days, was lifted from all parts of Kashmir on September 25 but restrictions on an assembly of people remained in force in most areas as a precautionary measure. Yes, busy markets, traffic jams and crowds area back in Kashmir after so many days of unrest. However, off and on curfews re-imposed and relifted in some areas.

Entire Kashmir has been in turmoil for quite some time. Thousands attend multiple funerals of Hizb militant at Kulgam Srinagar: Amid simmering tensions, Kashmir Valley observed a complete shutdown against killing of three civilians and one militant by Indian forces at Chadoora area of Budgam district during which clashes and protests erupted across the vale while thousands attended multiple funerals of the insurgent at Kulgam district.

Kashmir national protest

The complete strike was observed in all parts of the Kashmir against killing of three civilians identified as Ishfaq Ahmad Zahid Rashid and Saqib Ahmad and also against the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Tauseef Ahmad at Chadoora during 10-hour long firefight. The call for shutdown was given by joint resistance leadership.

While Indian military forces have high precision terror goods made in India and abroad, including in Israel, the freedom groups have none of them. The youth resort so stone peddling tactics as the only available source of self defense. Stone-pelting clashes broke out at Rawalpora, Bagh-e-Mehtab, Zampa Kadal, Batamaloo, Habba Kadal, Safa Kadal, HMT, Parimpora and other areas of the city. The clashes were also reported from several old city areas including Rainawari. Police used teargas shells to disperse the protesters. One civilian was injured during clashes at Rawalpora and he was shifted to hospital.

While last rites of three civilians were held yesterday only, thousands of people today turned up for the funeral prayers of Tauseef at his ancestral Kanjkul village of Yaripora area of Kulgam district. Reports said several rounds of funerals for the slain were held due to presence of thousands of people.

Soon after the funeral of the Kashmiri youth leader, the slain was laid to rest amid sobs and tears. The burial followed by massive clashes at Kanjkul and Yaripora where youth resorted to heavy stone pelting on government forces. Scores of youth and eight cops including SHO Yaripora Athar Samad were injured in clashes at Yaripora. Several youths were also detained during clashes at Yaripora. In Srinagar, a complete shutdown was observed since morning. All the shops, commercial outlets and educational institutes were closed. The public transport on the roads was off while private vehicles in less numbers were plying. The train service from Banihal to Baramulla was suspended owing to law and order problem in Budgam.

Militants attack police party in south Kashmir

Indian media reporting and analyses make Muslims in Kashmir the problem. Media barons don’t dare to show the reality and true picture for it is sure to strike the sympathetic chord with the Kashmiri people. The role of Indian media in Kashmir is to defend the status quo. Indian media is seemingly independent but essentially extended arm of Indian state as it is being bankrolled by the political economy of subsidies of state and huge government advertisements industry. Therefore it is essential to dance on the tunes of government if the media barons wish to survive, as largesse’s can be shifted if loyalties are subverted and diverted.

State killing and other forms of atrocities in Muslim dominated Kashmir valley are so common that Kashmiris have taken it their fate to to be ready t get killed by Indian forces. Normal life remained affected in the Valley for the 78th consecutive day before it was finally lifted. Curfews are very regular in Kashmir as Kashmiris refuse to stop demanding sovereignty from India, stop protesting state arrogance.

Lone, according to his family and witnesses, was killed after Indian forces may be for satisfying sadistic pleasure, opened “unprovoked” fire on him while he was harvesting crops in his fields at Nadihal area of Rafiabad. Local hospital authorities said a bullet had hit Lone on his back and pierced through his heart, resulting in his death. “The bullet had damaged his heart, causing his instant death,” said Dr Masood, Medical Superintendent of District Hospital Baramulla.

The JK authorities imposed curfew in Handwara and snapped mobile services across North Kashmir apparently to stop protests aftermath of the killing of a young boy in Forces firing at Nadihal Rafiabad in Baramulla district on Friday evening. Thousands of people, who attended the funeral prayers of Waseem Ahmad Lone killed in forces’ firing, were in tears as his body was lowered into a grave at his ancestral village of Bunpora in Nadihal area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The prayers were led by his father Nazir Ahmad Lone at a school ground in the locality.

Earlier thousands of people assembled on Baramulla-Kupwara highway with the body of Lone to take part in a peace march. Amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, the body of Lone was then marched to the school ground for last rites. The mourners chanted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. Curfew was imposed. Due to shutdown, curbs and curfew life was completely disrupted across Kashmir. A police official told CNS that curfew was imposed in Handwara town of Kupwara district, while it remained in force in three police station areas of downtown Srinagar. He said the curbs on the movement of people remained in force in Nowhatta, Khanyar and Mahraj Ganj police station areas of the summer capital of the state. The official said restrictions on the assembly of people under Section 144 CrPc also remained in force in the rest of the Valley.

People from various localities of North, South and Central Kashmir accused forces of damaging property during nocturnal raids. A private restaurant-cum-guest house was damaged allegedly by police and CRPF men on late Friday night. Muhammad Amin Shaikh, owner of Hotel Blue Spring, Verinag said a forces party raided his restaurant around 10 PM last night and threw stones and damaged the doors, windows and furniture of the hotel. He said that Forces could not enter the hotel as it was locked but they damaged property worth lakhs of rupees. Locals from the same area accused forces of damaging private property. They held protests against the “atrocities” done by forces.

At least four civilians were injured when police and CRPF men fired tear gas canisters and fired pellets to foil a pro-freedom rally in South Kashmir’s Islamabad district on Saturday. Reports said that people of Shangus and its adjoining areas had planned a pro-freedom rally in the premises of Markaz-i-Jamia Masjid Shangus. “The locals said that three injured civilians were rushed to PHC Nowgam. However, a doctor at the health facility said that they received only one person who was hit by pellets on his back. The locals further said that the forces damaged a 100 KV electricity transformer. “While leaving the village forces damages several residential houses and made a few arrests made,” the local said adding that people erupted in protests seeking immediate release of the arrested civilians

Nazir Ahmad Mir, the owner of Sonatraders, a gas distribution agency, said that he has turned to a new routine following the strike calendar issued by the separatists after the killing of Burhan Wani, Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander. He wakes up before 4 am to oversee the supply of gas cylinders from his godowns at Bemina and Karanagar in Srinagar city and ensures that the delivery is done before 6 am. In the evening, he brings the staff from different parts of Srinagar to his Karan Nagar office who works late into the night to sell the gas cylinders. Mir has turned to this new routine of working in the evening instead of day, after the strike call given by the Hurriyat Conference.

Protest calendar

In a fresh protest calendar, issued by the freedom groups recently, have asked the people to observe the shutdown. Besides marking a new way of life in Kashmir, the ongoing protests have also united the two factions of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who are issuing a common calendar now. The people are also following the calendar to observe different modes of protests. Youth and elderly are seen rolling out mats on the roads to offer prayers and even turn to the cleaning of lanes and drains.

Around 6 pm shopkeepers are seen opening the shutters and vendors lay wares on the footpath and roads are cleared of blockades. Barbers shops remain filled with people as they wait for their turn for the haircut while people jostle to fill their vehicles at petrol pumps. On Sunday, after 2 pm almost every shop was open in Chanapora and Jawahar Nagar. Traffic police had a tough time regulating the jams in Srinagar as people had parked the vehicles outside the shops in Lal Chowk due to which the pedestrian movement was also affected. There was a total gridlock in the city and it took hours for people to reach the Lal Chowk.

At a famous handicrafts shop, Amirudin and Sons, salesman Aijaz Ahmad, said that they have been footing losses of between seven to eight thousands on a daily basis. He, however, said that Kashmir issue should be resolved soon so that people can live peacefully. The owner of Sonatraders, Mir, said that he has to also bring the staff to the office due to the protests. “I have adjusted to a new routine of life after the protest calendars were issued by the Hurriyat Conference. The internet services remain suspended here due to which we are not able to make the online bookings for home delivery. It is due to this that I have to ferry the staff to the office during the relaxation in the shutdown announced,” he said.

President of the Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Mohammad Ashraf Mir, said that the industries have not benefitted from the protest calendar. “Due to the incidents of stone pelting we are not able to carry the truckloads of material to the industrial estates. However, there are only a few industries which are functional like the two medical oxygen supply plants. We are footing a loss of Rs 100 crore daily, but we are continuing with the protests as more than the business’ loss it is the loss of daily lives that matters for us. The government should hold dialogue with separatists to end the current unrest.” But government does not seem interested in solutions.

Regular violence and shut downs cost Kashmiris dearly

The response to the violent protests that spontaneously erupted after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani has so far left over several people dead and more than 12,000 injured. Most depressingly, over 100 of the people hit by pellets fired from pump-action guns by the security forces are facing the grim prospect of permanent blindness.

As news of the protests slipped from prime time to lesser slots on TV and from the front pages to the inside pages of the national media, Kashmiris of all hues, including the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, seem to believe that sheer fatigue will finally bring things back to normal.

100 days of violence and near-continuous curfew has dealt an almost death-blow to every public institution in the Kashmir Valley. Crippled the economy of Kashmir, slashed the income of Kashmiris.

The mainstream politicians, especially those in power and enjoy the courtship of central government with money and permissions for foreign trips,etc , believe the futility of endless violence will dawn on its perpetrators with the passage of time.

The ruling PDP-BJP duo makes fun of freedom fighting Kashmiris groups and do everything possible to get them killed or terrorized in their own homes under house-arrests . “How long can they (separatists) keep telling people — and expect them to believe — that Azadi is waiting on the other side of the Jhelum river,” a mainstream politician belonging to the ruling PDP-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance laughingly tell the media lords

Interestingly, the mainstream politicians and the freedom groups led by Syed Geelani have sustained their constituencies too long on abstract promises — and even veiled confessions would mean further trouble for them. As both sides wait for time to heal, or throw up solutions, the worst sufferer of the 100-day strife — the average Kashmiri struggling to earn a daily living — is fast coming to terms with a “new normal” marked by acute scarcity, sky-high prices, closed educational and other institutions, and the emergence of organised crime that seems to have stepped into the vacuum created by the absence of law and order.

All public institutions have suffered to an extent that might take years to recover, but the greatest loss has been to the education of children. All schools, colleges and universities have been closed since the violence erupted.

The state government partners PDP and BJP have their pet projects. While PDP is eager to end NC of Omar, the bJP is bent upon make intrusion into the Kashmiri valley where only Muslims have political influence. PDP and BJP duo has sought to get educational institutions opened, but the move has been successfully resisted by others who believe that their re-opening is a backdoor attempt to bring back normalcy. In this tug-of-war, the valley is likely to see another generation of dropouts this year.

Tourism industry like exports has suffered. In last June, before the protests erupted, it had appeared a promising summer/autumn with all tourist centres reporting heavy bookings. With the protests covering the entire tourist season, hotels, guesthouses, houseboats and other tourism-related activities have come to a grinding halt. For valley’s tourist industry, it is a shutter-down situation. Horticulture is another casualty. Most of this year’s apple crop has been somehow harvested and dispatched to terminal markets for sale. But returns have been alarmingly low. “An apple box would fetch anything between Rs 700 to 800. This time our produce is being sold at Rs 400 to 450 in the terminal markets,” said Showkat Ahmad, an orchardist in south Kashmir’s Shopian district famous for high-quality Kashmir apples.

Even as thousands of Kashmiris earning a day’s meal engaged in tourism, transport or small businesses are finding it difficult to sustain families, there is a construction boom going on at places notified as green belts or at places where obtaining government permissions for constructions is next to impossible. “A truckload of sand that would cost around Rs 7,000 before the unrest is being sold at Rs 15,000. There is a huge demand for sand, cement, gravel and other construction materials in areas where construction had been banned by the government,” said a truck owner in north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

As the security forces focus on law and order, smugglers are having a field day looting forests and selling timber at throwaway prices. It is a free-for-all situation. The authority of the state government has been undermined to an extent that the field staffs of various departments turn a deaf ear to complaints of smuggling, unlawful constructions, and encroachments. With hardly a clue about how to end the misery of the people or end the current crisis, both demonstrators and the authorities are looking heavenward.

It was for the first time in last over two-and-half months that the Sunday market stayed open at Lal Chowk, Kashmir’s main market, which had usually seen deserted roads and closed shops. The footpath vendors had laid out the used clothes, shoes, and handicraft products on the charpoys as people thronged the market. People had lined up outside petrol pumps and heavy movement of vehicles during the day caused traffic jams at many places. According to the Hurriyat calendar, shops, and other business establishments stay open between 6 pm to 6 am. The protest calendar has changed the routines of the people who work in Kashmir. The working hours for many have spilled into the night and in a large number of areas of Kashmir normalcy returns in the evening after daylong clashes with the forces and the blockades on the roads are removed.

Observation

True, regular shut downs in Kashmir have badly affected the life of ordinary Kashmiris. However, Indian government presents an ugly face to tell the world that it is not bothered about the pathetic situation in Sri Nagar or elsewhere in Kashmir, as it is only interested in retaining Kashmir under its control.

Military establishment, RSS-BJP, and media lords enjoy deriving sadistic pleasure in the genocides of Muslims of Kashmir. They would very much like to kill all Kashmiri Muslims with Israeli terror goods in one big go as the Chechen Muslims, demanding freedom, were done with stock and barrel in Russia. Even China’s hate for Muslims is also an encouraging feature for New Delhi which now seeks to come closer to Beijing enjoy a sort of joint occupation of Kashmir along with Pakistan. China tries to help India by withdrawing its top female badminton players so that Indian women shutters could now fearlessly play and win games. China has been a deadly threat to Indians. That is the sport politics New Delhi seeks.

India, at least now after murdering over 1000,000 Kashmiri Muslims just like Indian cricketers hit 100, 200 etc, for entertaining the ruler sin New Delhi, will have to recognize, sooner than later, the anger of Kashmiris over Indian military brutalities and terror tactics to silence them, should realize the futility of sitting on false prestige and will have to give in to the demands of the people of Kashmir.

True, fake encounters are the favorite pass time operation of Indian military personnel who continue to occupy Kashmir brutally, enjoy special ultra laws, promotions for genocides of Muslims as key objective of Indian regime.

Thus, Kashmiris are the target of India for collective punishment for not toeing the Indian line.

Lifting of curfew brought some relief to people of Kashmir who have been suffering from all sorts of negativism of the government. Both the government and the fighting groups are making life in Kashmir intolerable. In the new protest calendar that was issued by the “separatists” in Srinagar, it was for the first time that the relaxation was given from 2 pm to 6 am. In the previous week, there was no relaxation in the strike even during Eid. Even during those two days of the Muslim festival, three people were killed as youth clashed with the forces.

Time is a greatest healer is the common refrain. But for the average Kashmiri, Time has already proven to be the greatest destroyer as New Delhi has many hidden projects in Kashmir. .

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South Asia

The Taliban-Afghanistan Dilemmas

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Source: Twitter

The Blitzkrieg winning back of Afghanistan by the Taliban with the concomitant US pullout established Taliban 2.0 in Kabul. But this has created a number of dilemmas for the stakeholding states. The latter include Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, viz. Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China in the northeast and Pakistan to the east. Russia is also affected since it considers former Central Asian Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its backyard and since Moscow has its own share of extremist-secessionist problems in Chechnya. It is also worried about Islamic fundamentalism spreading to its Muslim population concentrated around its major cities and the Caucasus.

The dilemmas are as follows:

I. If the US-led withholding of economic aid and international recognition continues in essence, then conditions– as it is they are bad enough in Afghanistan—will further deteriorate. This will lead to greater hunger, unemployment and all-round economic deprivation of the masses. Such dystopia will generate more refugees in droves as well as terrorists who will spill out to seek greener pastures beyond the country’s borders.

Such condition will in turn mean a life-threatening headache for not only Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours like Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan but also for more distant lands. The liberal democracies of Europe. Germany, France, Italy, the UK and others have already had their share of refugees—and terrorists—when waves from an unsettled Syria hit them way back in 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel even decided to act magnanimously and opened Germany’s doors to a million fleeing the civil war in Syria. Such acceptance of refugees from Asia and Africa in Europe, however, boosted right-wing parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other movements throughout that continent. As a result the easy cross-border movements within the European Union came to be partly restricted in order to keep unwanted refugees out. Calls went out for hardening the external borders of the EU against more refugee invasion. The EU also made arrangements with Turkey to absorb and manage the refugee onrush in exchange for fat amounts of the Euro.

The prospects of a second such wave of refugees desperate not only to escape the clutches of the medieval Taliban but to find a promising future and remarkably better living conditions in the advanced lands of Europe are giving nightmares to the governments of the latter countries.

There seems to be a growing consensus among many in the international community that not only purely humanitarian but also larger economic aid to the Taliban-run Afghanistan should be extended—and without delay, if only to keep a lid on refugees—and terrorists—spilling across the borders. Islamabad apparently scored a remarkable ‘victory’ over New Delhi when its protégé Taliban replaced the pro-Indian Ghani government. Nevertheless, it is worried about the spillover into its territory across the Durand Line to its west. Pakistan, hence, leads this school of thought most vociferously[i]. It fenced its border with Afghanistan to a significant extent in anticipation of more refugees pouring in.  It has been joined in the chorus by Russia, the EU, China, and others. China, for instance, has emphasized the need for releasing funds to Afghanistan at its talks with the G-20 on 23 September.[ii] However, no such stipulation is seen in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) declaration released at the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 17 September, though the document mentions explicitly the need for an “inclusive” government that includes the left-out minorities. India’s presence at the meet may have prevented the inclusion of a funds-release clause.

II. But even if the US unfreezes the $9.25 billion Afghan assets under its control, and allows the IMF and the World Bank to make available other funds and assets to the funds-starved Taliban’s Kabul, a major problem will still linger. This is the question of ‘inclusive’ government, which the Taliban had promised among other things in its February 2020 agreement with the USA at Doha. The composition of the current Taliban government shows the mighty influence of the hardliners within the Taliban, elements like the Haqqani network and the secretive hardcore Kandahar Shura—as opposed to the seemingly more moderate Pakistan-based Quetta Shura. The Prime Minister of Taliban 2.0, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, is on a UN-designated blacklist; its Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is on the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list with a multi-million dollars reward hanging over his head.  

Although the Taliban did not officially take a formal position, a member of the new government in Kabul has also defied calls from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and from other quarters for forming a more ‘inclusive’ government. That would mean more Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and women holding important positions in the government, a phenomenon markedly absent in the current governmental setup dominated by male Pashtuns. The Taliban member shot back that the current government was as much ‘inclusive’ as it was possible to make and that the Taliban did not care for others to dictate to it what kind of government would suit Afghanistan.

If Taliban 2.0 remains essentially as it is today, with the minorities ignored, this would still create unrest and insurgency in the country. A civil war in the not too distant a future cannot be ruled out. This is the reason that even Pakistan, which certainly would not like to see its protégé Taliban’s power diluted, keeps harping on the ‘inclusive’ clause along with Russia and others.

A civil war will not be confined within the boundaries of Afghanistan but will attract intervention by neighbouring states and other more distant stakeholders like the USA.  Tajikistan will continue to back the Tajiks living astride its southern border with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan will do the same with the Afghan Uzbeks. Shia Iran will  stand up for the Shia Hazaras while the Western world will, in general, wish to see ‘human rights’ and especially ‘women’s rights’ given full leeway. The Chinese seemed to have cut a deal. They would extend economic aid to Kabul in exchange for assurances that no terrorism or separatism would go out of Afghan territory.

But Taliban 2.0, despite its smooth assurances at Doha and elsewhere, shows no signs of stretching significantly from its understanding of the Sharia law, which it said it wished to uphold as a framework within which all these rights would be respected. There are reports that the US is in talks with Russia seeking a base on Russian territory or again in Tajikistan for its future ‘over-the-horizon’ operations in Afghanistan, starting with monitoring purposes.

In sum, while option I, outlined above, promises an immediate disaster for South Asia and even beyond, option II holds out  only marginally better prospects. It still has the Damocles’ sword of the probability of a civil war hanging over the head. The ideal solution would be to widen the Taliban 2.0 government to include the deprived minorities with an eye on keeping an effective lid on social instability. But the prospects for such a solution seem far-fetched, given the apparent domination of the hardliners in Taliban 2.0 and the long-standing animosity between the northern non-Pashtun Afghans and the Pashtun Taliban.. Also, the attacks by other extremist groups like the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), al Qaeda, and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and so on will unlikely cease, even if option II is fully implemented. These extra-Taliban extremist groups will only encourage the radical elements within the Taliban to opt for more aggressive actions, both within and outside Afghanistan’s borders.

The future in and around Afghanistan looks grim indeed.


[i] Incidentally, the Pashtuns living on both sides of the British-drawn Durand Line of 1893  do not recognise it, and that includes the Taliban)

[ii] Reid Standish report, gandhara.org of rfe/rl.org, 27 September 2021, accessed 14 October 2021, 09.07 Indian Standard Time (IST)… All times henceforth are in IST.

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How India utilised the AFSPA to suppress freedom movements?

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The freedom movements in the volatile north-eastern state of India predate the Partition. The Englishman realised importance of the North East as it could provide a corridor to the Japanese in World War II. India applied the Armed forces Special Powers Act first to the north eastern states of Assam and Manipur, a cauldron of unrest. The act was amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in the north eastern region of India. The states affected by the draconian law included Assam. Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, also known as the seven sisters. The forces brutally applied the AFSPA to the states. It ignored outcry by people against has mounting incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and looting. Indian government continued to extend the initial period for imposition of the law ad infinitum sometimes with ex post facto notifications. Its pleas were without AFSPA all the north eastern states will secede from India.  

Gunpoint diplomacy

A large part of the original region that constitutes the seven states of the republic of India had strong political, economic and socio-cultural links with South East Asia. The great Hindu and Muslim empires that reigned over the Indian subcontinent never extended east of the Brahmaputra River. The British colonists were the first to repress freedom movements. . In the early nineteenth century they moved in to check Burmese expansion into today’s Manipur and Assam. The British, with the help of the then Manipur king, Gambhir Singh, crushed the Burmese imperialist dream and the treaty of Yandabo was signed in 1828. Under this treaty Assam became a part of British India and the British continued to influence the political affairs of the region.

The resentment against the Englishman led to the bloody Anglo-Manipuri Conflict of 1891. The British were subdued by the fighting spirit of the local people. So, they preferred not to administer directly but only through the King.

During the Second World War, the Japanese tried to enter the Indian sub continent through this narrow corridor. But back home when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were A-bombed they retreated from the Imphal and Kohima fronts.

A buffer zone

Before leaving India, the British pondered over many proposals for post-Partition of India. The local people were however never consulted. Finally the British divided the region such that some parts went to Pakistan but the lion’s share to India.

Over the years local democratic movements erupted as the people aspired to a new social and political order. One important example is a strong popular democratic movement against feudalism and colonialism in Manipur, led by Hijam Irabot Singh.

The treacherous annexation of Manipur

The post-Partition India reconstituted the kingdom of Manipur as a constitutional monarchy by passing the Manipur Constitution Act 1947. Elections were held under the new constitution. A legislative assembly was formed. In 1949 V.P Menon, a seminar representative of Government of India, invited the king to a meeting on the pretext of discussing the deteriorating law and order situation in the state in Shillong. Upon his arrival, the king was forced to sign under duress. The agreement was never ratified in the Manipur legislative Assembly. Rather, the Assembly was dissolved and Manipur was kept under the charge of a Chief Commissioner. There were strong protests but using violent and brutal repression the Government of India suppressed the democratic movement in Manipur and has continued applying the same methods ever since.

Colonisation of Nagaland

The inhabitants of the Naga Hills, sprawling across Indo-Burmese border, formed Naga National Council (NNC) aspiring for a common homeland and self governance. During 1929, the NNC petitioned the Simon Commission for independence. The Commission was examining the feasibility of future of self governance of India.

The Naga leaders forcefully articulated the demand of self governance once the British pulled out of India. Gandhi publicly announced that Nagas had every right to be independent. Under the Hydari Agreement signed between NNC and British administration, Nagaland was granted protected status for ten years, after which the Nagas would decide whether they should stay in the Indian union or not. However, shortly after the British withdrew, the new Indian rulers colonized Nagaland and claimed it to be Indian Territory.

The Naga National Council proclaimed Nagaland’s independence in retaliation, and the Indian authorities arrested the Naga leaders. The AFSPA was used to violently suppress the democratic aspirations of the people of North East. In 1975, some Naga leaders held talks with the Government of India which resulted in the Shillong Agreement. Democratic forces of Nagaland smelt a rat in this deceptive agreement and rallied the people for national liberation of Nagas. One of the organizations which articulated the democratic demand of Naga people is National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

Mizoram

Mizo National front was a phenomenal product of a famine. In the Lushai Hills of Assam in the early sixties a famine broke out. A relief team requested for help from the Government of India. But there was little help. The relief team organised themselves into the Mizo National front (MNF) to liberate themselves from the neo-colonial occupation of India. Against the democratic aspirations of the people Indian army moved in. The rebellion was so strong, that the Indian air force had to bomb the villagers. The armed forces compelled people to leave their homes. This devastated the structure of Mizo society. In 1986, the Mizo Accord was signed between MNF and Government of India. This accord was as deceptive as the Shillong Accord made with the Nagas earlier. To promote dominance by high caste Hindus, India clubbed poor non-feudal ethnic groups with Adivasis, cheating them in the name of scheduled tribes and in the process forcing them to be marginalized and stigmatized by the upper caste ruling elites of India.

Gradually it became the neocolonial hinterland for exploitation by the Indian state, where local industries were made worthless and now the people are entirely dependent on goods and businesses owned predominantly by those from the Indo-Gangetic plains. The new Indian unscrupulous businesses pull the economic strings of this region.

Tripura

In Tripura the indigenous population has been reduced to a mere 25% of the total population of the state because of large scale immigration from the North east and Bangladesh.

A series of repressive laws were passed by the Government of India in order to deal with this rising National liberation aspiration of the people of North east. In 1953 the Assam maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous District) Regulation Act was passed. It was applicable to the then Naga Hills and Tuensang districts. It empowered the Governor to impose collective fines, prohibit public meetings, and detain anybody without a warrant. Indian atrocities from 1980 onwards include: the massacres of civilians at Heirangoi thong (Manipur) in 1984, at RIMS Manipur in 1995, at Malom (Manipur) in 2000; the horror of army torture and violence on civilians during operation Blue bird (Manipur) in 1987 and operation Rhino (Assam) in 1991. Indiscriminate firing on civilians by armed forces personnel when their own vehicle burst in the town of Kohina (Nagaland) in March 1995, the shelling and destruction of the town of Makokchung (Nagaland) in 1994, the enforced disappearances of Loken and Lokendro (Manipur) in 1996, and the rape of Miss N Sanjita (who subsequently committed suicide) (Manipur) in 2003.

Concluding remark

After the Partition, India emerged as the new-colonial power. The North East still yeans for freedom.

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South Asia

The myth of “shared values”

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PM Narendra Modi and US Vice-President Kamala Harris during a press statement. (Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia)

The Indian prime minister’s visit to the USA underlines a paradigm shift in the United States’ policy: a shift from Europe to Asia. The shift is dictated by India’s constant pressure on the US to do its part of the quid pro quo for India’s joining the Quad, a conglomerate to corner China. Like the USA, India also is embarrassed at the fall of Kabul. India wants that the Taliban would shut their eyes to the reign of terror in the occupied Kashmir. In its disappointment, the USA, like a rueful baby, is doing everything on India’s bidding to further isolate Pakistan.

Still the portents are that not everything is hunky-dory with Indo-US relations. The US wants India to cancel its deal to purchase the S-400 air defence system from Russia. The US has given India a muffled message that unless the deal is cancelled India may face sanctions. India is hopeful of getting a waiver.After all, India became a member of the nuclear club without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has been a recipient of the US favours in the past also.  In July 2003 India turned down the US request to provide 17,000 troops to shore up America’s war in Iraq. Then, India under prime minister Manmohan Singh also refused to support any US attempts to isolate or topple the Iran government. Manmohan wished Russian diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear programme would succeed.The US companies have invested $ 200 billion in China. Yet, she is perceived as the number one competitor to the US. The reason is that China may surpass the US in terms of Gross Domestic Product growth in the near future.

US ennui
To Modi’s chagrin, the US president Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris underscored the importance of democratic values in their meetings. Biden quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s message of tolerance to allude to prevailing intolerance of BJP’s government, an avatar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Harris stressed the need for democratic countries to “defend democratic principles and institutions. Her remarks amounted to a diplomatic nudge to the Indian leadership amid concerns about “democratic backsliding” in India (Freedom house and the Economist downgraded India).
Before Biden and Modi joined their delegations for bilateral talks, the US President had made opening remarks: “Our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are…. It’s rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including four million Indian Americans who make the United States stronger every single day.”
Harris said at a joint media appearance with Modi before their first in-person meeting at the White House: “As democracies around the world are under threat, it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries and around the world, and that we maintain what we must do to strengthen democracies at home.
She had earlier openly differed on Twitter with Jaishanker when he refused to attend a meeting with the House foreign affairs committee because the US legislators had rejected his request to exclude Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who had been critical of the Modi government’s Kashmir policy.
“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill,” Harris had tweeted in December 2019.
Shared values
As for “tolerance”, the US invasions of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan leave no doubt about how much the US believes in what it professes.

India’s democratic “tolerance”

Since British raj days, India’s north east had been a simmering cauldron of freedom movements. British colonists held sway over the North East at gun point. In footsteps of the British colonists India suppressed freedom movements in the volatile North East through a slew of draconian laws. The most atrocious law applied to the region was the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958. It was later extended to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state also.

The AFSPA violates the fundamental constitutional rights of right to life, liberty, freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, free movement, practice of any profession, and protection against arbitrary arrest and freedom of religion, as enshrined in Articles 21, 14, 19, 22 and 25 of the Indian Constitution.   AFSPA has been used in these regions to inflict thousands of deaths, custodial deaths and rape, torture, encirclement of the civilian population, combing operations, looting of private citizen’s property etc. Thousands of youth have simply disappeared.

Onus of proof on the accused

The AFSPA holds an accused guilty until proven innocent. This law violates legal maxim Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (“innocent until proven guilty”).

A quasi-emergency

A governor of an Indian state could through a notification declare a state to be “disturbed” without consulting the state legislature. The law gives armed forces immunity from any accountability. The law is not “in aid of civil authority” but “in place of civil authority”.

Powers of officers

Section 4 gives the following special powers to any commissioned officer, warrant officer or non commissioned officer of the armed forces in a disturbed area: (a) If in his opinion, it is necessary for maintenance for public order to fire even to the extent of causing death or otherwise use force against a person who is acting in contravention of an order prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapon. (b) If in his opinion, it is necessary to destroy any arms dump or fortified position, any shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made, and any structure used as training camp for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed gangs or absconders. (c) Arrest without warrant any person who has committed a cognizable offence and to use whatever force is necessary to affect the arrest. (d) To enter and search without warrant any premises to make an arrest or to recover any person wrongfully confined or to recover any arms, ammunition, explosive substance or suspected stolen property.

Section 2 (c) of the Act also clearly shows the close affinity between AFSPA and those laws governing the military such as the Army Act (1950). It reads, ‘All other words and expressions used herein but not defined in the Air Force Act 1950, or the Army Act 1950, shall have the meaning respectively assigned to them in those Acts’.

A war against own people

The act applies toacts that are ‘likely to be made’ or ‘about to be committed’. This presumption is characteristic of war zones. In a war situation, any officer whether he is a commissioned, junior commissioned or non-commissioned officer-leading his men in the field is the judge as well as part of the body that executes his judgments.

The AFSPA grants armed forces personnel the power to shoot to arrest, search, seize and even shoot to kill. Thus it violates the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees the right to life to all people. The AFSPA also violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). India signed the ICCPR in 1978, taking on the responsibility of securing the rights guaranteed by the Covenant to all its citizens. In particular, the Act is in contravention of Article 6 of the ICCPR guaranteeing the right to life.

Concluding remark

India is often called “the world’s largest democracy” by the West. Western notion of democracy (Westminster model) is that it is government of the people (masses, not classes), for the people and by the people.  In truth, Indian democracy is in name only, not in substance. The “shared values” are a ruse.  

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