Nationalismis slowly losing its emancipatory value as the progressive inclusion of minority groups in public policy decision making has become a myth in itself. I have always maintained that the politics and carnage of minorities, especially Muslim identity in India, goes beyond the constructed rationalization of religiously prescriptive and deconstructed narrative of legislative Islamic discourse. It is, by its normative birth, focus on the knotty issue of electoral manifestation, and the violence on both, the psyche and body of the minorities has become an active semiotic territory of political narrative, which, when aggravated, creates a ‘psycho-political ripple effect.’ This article will elucidate the ripple effect created by the deeply ingrained inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injustice and trauma transmuted within and among Kashmiris, because of the ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)’; a policy that provides complete impunity to the armed forces in Kashmir, and how diplomatic empathy can work as a successful catalyst in neutralizing the surge in insurgency and civil unrest in Kashmir.
Armed Forces Special Powers Act
The history of breeding insurgency in Kashmir goes back to the 1980’s, and since then, Jammu and Kashmir have been a propagating ground of separatist ambitions, demanding either complete independence or seeking ascension and amalgamation with Pakistan. Often called ‘Kashmir Intifada’, this insurgent group is a manifestation of the failure of Indian governance and inter-state diplomacy at the root of the initial disaffection and the coercive policies imposed on Kashmiris. Today, with more than 6 lakh security personnel (Army, Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed in J&K hinterlands, Kashmir has become the most militarized zone in the world, surpassing the combined presence of Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza strip and West Bank alone. The Indian security personnel have been implicated in multiple reports for torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of thousands of Kashmiris, and rape and sexual abuse of women in the valley with absolute impunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); a policy that provides impunity to any member of the armed forces without the permission of the central government. This act legitimizes and normalizes routine violence on Kashmiris, while parturiating victims with dissipating subjective agency and no legal mechanism to seek justice.
Countless incidents of extrajudicial killings have been reported, and multiple unmarked graves have been witnessed; all with absolute impunity given to military personals involved. For example, a State Human Rights Commission inquiry in 2011 had confirmed that there were thousands of bullet-ridden corpses buried in unmarked graves in Kashmir. Of the 2,730 bodies uncovered, 574 bodies were identified as missing locals, in contrast to the Indian government’s confirmation that all the graves belonged to foreign militants. In the most haunting military violence imposed on Kashmiris, personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army were involved in gang rape of at least 40 women in Kunan and Poshpora villages in north Kashmir(February 1991), as they conducted an anti-insurgency operation in the region. Although the Press Council of India committee led by BG Verghese and K Vikram Raovisited the villages post the violence, but gave a clean chit to the soldiers, and the countless consecutive mass rapes by Indian soldiers followed – Chak Saidpora (1992), Wurwun (1995), Bihota (2000), Gujjardara-Manzgam (2011) etc. Post the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019; the situation has worsened.
The Psycho-political Ripple Effect – Violence with absolute impunity begets violence with stern liability
“You lock us up during the day. You lock us up at night,” a middle-aged man shouts angrily, wagging his finger. As the policeman ordered the man to go inside his house as Kashmir was under the longest lockdown of a union territory in the history of the Indian constitution, the diminutive old man stands his ground and challenges him again. “This is my only son. He’s too small now, but I will prepare him to pick up a gun too,” he said. This man belonged from Khanyar, a local town in the heart of Srinagar, which is famous for protests against military violence and Indian hegemonic rule in Kashmir. In the same report, Mr. Malik, a Kashmiri native, predicts that every Kashmiri will join them. “It was said that in every family one brother is with the separatists and the other is with the [Indian] mainstream. The Indian government has united the two.” To understand the unwavering commitment of locals – who are teachers, vegetable vendors, workers in local manufacturing outlets, fruit sellers, etc., and their determination to prepare their future generations to become insurgents, is mandatory. This is a direct result of the internalized trauma and feeling of injustice that has transmuted in and within Kashmiris– both inter-regional and inter-generational. But, what has caused this transmutation? To know this, it becomes imperative to explore the phenomenon of ‘psycho-political ripple effect’.
A ripple effect, in a simple term, refers to the indirect effect that expands out from the organic source and reaches areas or populations far positioned from its intended purpose. To understand this phenomenon in a political-social environment, one needs to deconstruct the psychological effects of the ‘initial political disturbance’ created within the system of a targeted group of civilians and how it propagated outward to disturb an increasingly larger portion of the population within the system. This ‘initial political disturbance’ is a manifestation of normalized violence by placing the Indian military under an impunity umbrella, which has methodized and regularized routine violent acts against Kashmiris, including detention of small children, curfews, extrajudicial killings, torture, gang rapes, kidnapping of civilians, etc. The trauma is no longer confined to the victims of Konan and Poshpora mass rape or restricted to the pain of the community of human rights activists like Jalil Andrabi, Zafar Mehraj, Burhan Wani and Farooq Sheikh, who were brutally killed by the military forces, or limited to the medical community who are attacked for providing medical care to the insurgents, or to the families of Kashmiris who has been a victim of extrajudicial execution or reprisal killing, alone.
The effects of this violence and the internalization of trauma has impregnated the psyche of most Kashmiris and has given birth to what I call is a ‘psycho-political ripple effect’ for future formations of popular resistance against Indian rule in Kashmir. With the institutional denial of justice, loss of subjective agency due to trauma, and erosion of indigenous Muslim culture, the mass-suffering has reshaped the response of Kashmiris towards military and political power. Here, military violence with absolute impunity is begetting violence with stern liability from the local Kashmiris, and the surge in insurgency activities is a testament of it. Apart from mass carnage and destruction like Pulwama attack (2019), Srinagar attack (2013), Amarnath Yatra attack (2017), Uri attack (2016), carried out by Islamist terrorist groups against the Indian militancy presence in Kashmir, many quasi-violence incidents has become a methodized way to confront Indian security forces. The effect of the political ripples is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of the locals that indulgence in the act of reciprocation against military force has become more imperative than the strategy to execute the ‘act’ itself. These incidents often involve collective participation of local Kashmiris demonstrating acts of resistance, which orthogonally represents assertiveness and visible symbolism rather than clandestine nature. The most common forms of this quasi-violence involve stone pelting at security forces, causing hindrance and interdiction of military operations to help the insurgents, attending insurgent funerals, etc. Although the participants are usually unarmed, the employed tactics are methodologically designed to incite, provoke, and coerce Indian security forces to dismantle the central government’s legitimacy and control over Kashmir. These quasi-violent ripple effect can be seen in Palestine as well, where Palestinians deploy the rock-throwing method as a mechanism to display resistance against IDF presence in their land. Psycho-political ripple effect can be witnessed in both of these conflict-infested geographies, where internalized trauma and feeling of injustice have transmuted among and within the native population – both inter-regional and inter-generational.
Incorporating Diplomatic Empathy to neutralize the surge in insurgency
It has been a year post the abrogation of Article 370. The surge in military brutality, human rights violations, increased unemployment, and a Rs 40,000 crore hole in the economy, has aggravated the spread of the psycho-political ripple effect. With Kashmir precariously poised between the two extremes, and an efflux of quasi-violent and strategic insurgent attacks on Indian security forces, it orthogonally points towards one thing – inter-state diplomatic failure. What diplomats and central lawmakers must consider is that the principle of “no negotiation with insurgents”, although seems logical, but fails to understand the primordial foundation of fortification of – what is terrorism? If insurgents and quasi-violent Kashmiri locals are willing to go against a robust military force and governance of BJP in power and risk the lives of self and other civilians, it only reflects that the cause of their insurgent activities is not being effectively addressed and is being alienated from mainstream political policies. The deeply ingrained inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injusticecaused due to impunity given to the Indian security forces in Kashmir has created psycho-political ripples that is manifesting into insurgent activities.
On the other hand, this internalization of trauma and conflict has also created a negotiating space of diplomatic activity through transmittal of empathy and the development of trust. For this reason, the traditional consultative decision-making process of negotiation from ‘top-to-bottom’ should be replaced by a ‘bottom-to-top’ diplomatic strategy where the principle of inclusion should be propagated, lessening the distance between the self and the other. Validating this, Marcus Holmes and Keren Milo (2016) writes, “Fisher and Ury’s (1983) classic work in negotiation theory notes the importance of what is now termed cognitive empathy in order to derive the interests that motivate one’s positions. Since negotiators do not have perfect information about their counterparts’ interests, those who do not try to take the other side’s perspective may fail to find rational conflict-resolution. Put another way, in order to rationally find a zone of possible agreement, both sides must understand the interests and positions of the other, including their best alternative to a negotiated agreement”.
Diplomats and lawmakers must derive a solution that not only neutralizes the surge in the insurgency, restore human rights, but also stagnate the spread of psycho-political ripple effect within the Kashmiri community to restore civil rest and prosperity. To achieve the optimum conflict-resolution that modern diplomacy seeks to attain, empathy with the interlocutor is opulent. Re-structuring the Armed Forces Special Powers Act by ensuring that security forces – the army, the Border Security Force (BSF), and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), are trained in using lawful use of force in accordance and alignment with international standards, and those who breach these parameters would legally held accountable. To gain credibility and trust among the civilians, it is crucial that a sense of justice is restored within the system, which would neutralize their inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injustice and trauma. This can be effectively achieved by the central BJP government, if they publicly commit to bring justice to all victims involved in human rights violations, which should involve legally prosecuting Indian armed forces, whether involved actively or participated in permitting the violations to be covered up.I remember reading an article about an elderly woman , who was one of the victim of Kunan Poshpora mass rape, and had died as she awaited justice to be served to her. Ghulam Mohidin, her son-in-law said, alleged that , “She died in 2010 as she was waiting for justice till her last breath, but nothing happened. The culprits are still roaming freely. Our family is still suffering ” he said. This psychologically intimate narrative reveals what I have been discussing throughout the article – the psycho-political ripple effect caused due to inter-generational and inter-regional transmutation of deeply ingrained sense of injustice and trauma, can itself become a synthesis to the initial theistic problem , which is the surge in insurgency in Kashmir ; if diplomatic empathy is tactfully and humanely deployed to neutralize these ripple effects by fortifying and preserving their human and constitutional rights. And, if diplomats and law makers fail to do so, these psycho-political ripples will multiple and increase exponentially, only to proliferate the psyche of the many generations to come by.
The World Biggest COVID-19 Crisis: Failure of India’s Vaccine Diplomacy
As over 100 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated and the world’s daily count of new cases is falling, India faces healthcare system collapse as a second coronavirus wave is devastating. In accordance with the recent statistics of the WHO, in the past week approximately 2 million new confirmed cases were reported worldwide – almost half were from India. Interestingly, India is one of the main producers and exporters of coronavirus vaccines in the world and since mid-January, the federal government has approved a British-made Oxford-AstraZeneca, and a locally developed– a national pride Covaxin (both are being produced in India) for the massive immunization drive that has set the ambitious goal of fully immunizing 300 million people, particularly healthcare workers by the end of summer. Meanwhile, India had initially been planning to set the world record for mass vaccination but they ended up with the world record coronavirus cases, surpassing 400.000 daily COVID-19 cases for the first time.
The development and deployment of an effective and safe vaccine against the coronavirus was a key pillar in the authority’s current strategy to break down the chain of transmission. However, despite a promising start of a vaccination campaign at the beginning of this year, one of the largest immunization programs across the globe, it turns out there is not a sufficient amount of vaccine supplies in a number of states across the country. As cases continue to surge, many across the country have rushed to register for shots but most states are running out of doses and a large number of vaccination centers across India turned away people due to chronic shortages or complete lack of availability of jabs. While India is one of the major producers of COVID-19 vaccines with a monthly capacity of 70 million doses, now forced to import jabs, as local manufacturing facilities are facing challenges to meet growing demand. As India’s expansion of its immunization campaign has been failing badly, it makes a disastrous situation even worse. On the other hand, the current devastation leads to a depression in global vaccine supply and consequently, it hits the low and middle-income countries, as they rely on the Indian pharmaceutical industry.
The second devastating wave was hitting the country since mid-April and apparently, India’s poorly funded public healthcare system is not capable enough to overcome the world’s largest surge in COVID cases. Health facilities overwhelmed as infection rates explode; therefore, many hospitals in the large cities already suspended admitting even the critically ill coronavirus patients as all beds were full and medical equipment, particularly oxygen concentrators, ICU beds, test kits, PPEs and ventilators in short supply, while corpses pile up at morgues and crematoriums. As a death toll rises sharply, additional crematoriums are being built in order to deal with the grim situation, especially in the hardest-hit cities and states. Furthermore, in the midst of a big surge Indian government also launched a vaccination drive for anyone over the age of 18 starting 1st of May. Ironically, along with China and Russia, India was a country that had begun exporting home-grownCOVID-19 vaccine doses to foreign countries, but only less than 3% of its population has been fully vaccinated so far. During a global pandemic, thanks to its massive production capacity, India actively donated locally produced Coronavirus vaccines to the Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern and African low and middle-income nations under the “Vaccine Friendship” program. The initiative was launched in early 2021 and it sought to promote cooperation and cement ties by distributing a dozen of jabs through the Vaccine Diplomacy. In reality, in the battle to gain political influence across the developing world, India shipped millions of doses to poorer countries before managing to secure an adequate amount of vaccines for its own people.
India’s infections keep surging due to the unavailability of medical resources and thus the crisis also affecting the global vaccine and medical supply chains, as over 40 countries, including Russia, European Union, China and the United States and numerous international charities are proactively providing a range of humanitarian aid and emergency assistance.
Many events marking religious festivals and cultural events across the world have been banned because of Coronavirus; on the contrary, despite the high risks of infection several crowded religious festivals and gatherings have been taking place in India’s various holy sites and places of worship with a thousand of unmasked pilgrims and devotees. Additionally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s total23campaign rallies that brought tens of thousands of incautious supporters together caused the spike in coronavirus cases. Hence, the federal government acted reluctantly to impose major restrictions for containing the virus by relying on local authorities to take action.
Indeed, India is the third country with over130 million doses administrated in the world, the highest figure just behind the United States and China respectively, but even the large-scale vaccination process was insufficient to prevent the second wave for a population of more than 1.3 billion people. Although international flights are being suspended to and from India by many governments, a more transmissible India COVID variant, formally known as B.1.617has already been detected in multiple countries and territories worldwide. India’s COVID -19 crisis warns that the risk of infection remains high and many countries could face a strong resurgence of COVID-19similar to India. Health experts concern that a new and more contagious strain spreads more easily and it could even evade vaccines. The current outbreak shows that every country remains vulnerable and could find itself in dire straits unless the adaptation and implementation of strict anti-pandemic measures and policies. However, strengthening the public health system, enhancing safety protocols and sanitary measures, ensuring transparency and accountability, and initiating a successful immunization campaign will be seemingly crucial to combat the pandemic, otherwise, a similar crisis could soon become a common tragedy for the entire world in the foreseeable future.
Pakistan desires dialogue and cooperation with the EU
Renew Europe, a liberal, pro-European political group of the European Parliament, presented a resolution and was passed by the EU by an overwhelming majority of 681 votes against six only. Extremist, racist groups influence the EU. No doubt, the whole world is suffering from intolerance and extremism. There are many racist movements in America and Europe too.
Pakistan being an open and democratic country, enjoys total freedom of expression to its citizen. There must be diverse voices within Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan is a parliamentary system. All matters are discussed in the parliament, which is responsible for building consensus on all crucial issues and addressing the concerns of all groups, factions, parties, minorities, etc.
Historically, Pakistan was a very tolerant and peace-loving, balanced society, but during the 1980s war in Afghanistan, Pakistan was radicalized by design. The western world deliberately promoted intolerance, religious extremist, and terrorism. Almost all intelligence agencies of the leading Western World were engaged in Pakistan for arming, training, and inspiring youth for Jihad in Afghanistan. These international intelligence agencies collected radical individuals from all over the world and concentrated them in Pakistan to launch Jihad in Afghanistan; Many terrorist organizations were created by them in the whole Muslim world, was either, Mujahideen, Taliban, Daesh, Al-Qaida, or ISIS, Boko-Haram, or any other militant group, was the creation of Western World and used for particular objectives. After achieving their goals, they banned them and kept their distance from them. And she was now blaming them for terrorism, Unfortunate!
Pakistan was a close ally of the US, NATO, and Europe (Western World), an essential front-line state in the Afghan war, and a non-NATO ally in the war on terror. Pakistan suffered extremism, intolerance, terrorism, gun culture, and drug culture, promoted by the Western world. Pakistan is a victim state.
The visionary leadership in Pakistan is very much clear about the situation and determined to establish the rit of government while staying within the democratic values of our system. The recent unrest in Pakistan was a domestic issue, just like in many parts of Europe and America. The incident of Capitol Hill, Killing of Gorge Floyd, and followed continued protests and demonstrations in America; agitations, demonstrations in many parts of Europe are witnessed often, it is believed that all governments are trying to resolve their domestic issues within their Constitution. There was no external pressure on either of these governments. It is expected that let Pakistan overcome its domestic crisis, and the capable Government of PM Imran Khan has already resolved the issue amicably.
Under this scenario, the adoption of a resolution by the EU is not appreciated and, in fact, has hurt the feeling of ordinary Pakistani. It reflects the bias of EU only. A resolution presented by the extremist group should not be the voice of the whole EU. Trust, there must be many reasonable, moderate, and unbiased members in the EU parliament who think logically and rationally. The adoption of such a resolution is totally irrational, irresponsible, and against the globalization spirit.
While Pakistan is engaged to clear the mess created by Western World and almost near to succeed entirely, there is a dire need for International support, and coercion may not be fruitful at this critical moment. It is hoped that the EU may re-consider the resolution and revert it immediately. All peace-loving parliamentarians in the EU are appealed to think rationally and logically to promote international cooperation and understanding to defeat intolerance, bais, extremist, terrorism and turn the whole world into a better place to live and gift our next generation peace, stability, harmony, and prosperity.
However, Islamophobia is an international phenomenon in recent decades all over the Western World. The Prime Minister of Pakistan mentioned it in his speech at the United Nations General assembly (UNGA) last year. A similar resolution was also passed in the OIC. The whole Muslim World is worried and unhappy over blasphemy in the few western countries. There were protests and demonstrations by Muslims all over the world, with various intensities. At the same time, Muslims respect other religions and deserve to reciprocate respect for Islam.
The federal government in Pakistan has decided to address the European Parliament’s reservations after the body had called for an appraisal of Pakistan’s GSP Plus status. The development came after Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting involving senior ministers of the cabinet. It was called in response to a resolution approved by the European Parliament a few days ago, calling for an assessment of Pakistan’s GSP Plus status. The premier stressed the government would not compromise on the laws about the finality of the Prophethood. The participants, during the meeting, decided to address the reservations of the European Union. It was also unanimously agreed that the protection of minorities in the country would be ensured. The participants believed the GSP Plus trade agreement has nothing to with blasphemy laws.
In response to the European Parliament’s resolution, the Foreign Office had expressed disappointment over the development.”The discourse in the European Parliament reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan – and the wider Muslim world. The unwarranted commentary about Pakistan’s judicial system and domestic laws are regrettable,” read a statement by the FO.
“Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy with a vibrant civil society, free media, and independent judiciary, which remains fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens without discrimination,” the Foreign Office had added.
The FO had emphasized that Pakistan is proud of its minorities who enjoy equal rights and complete protection of fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution. Judicial and administrative mechanisms and remedies are in place to guard against any human rights violations.
“Pakistan has played an active role in promoting freedom of religion or belief, tolerance, and inter-faith harmony. At a time of rising Islamophobia and populism, the international community must exhibit a common resolve to fight xenophobia, intolerance, and incitement to violence based on religion or belief and work together to strengthen peaceful co-existence.”
There exist multiple mechanisms in place between Pakistan and the EU to discuss the all-inclusive spectrum of bilateral relations, including a devoted Dialogue on Democracy, Rule of Law, Governance, and Human Rights. Pakistan would continue to remain definitely engaged with the EU on all issues of mutual interest. Pakistan believes in dialogue under the charter of the UN. Pakistan desires an early dialogue and settlement of all differences amicably. Any unilateral decision may not be fruitful to either side. It is time to strengthen our ties and mutual support. Only by collective efforts may we turn this universe into a better place to live for humankind. Pakistan assures its best possible cooperation at all times and awaits reciprocity from the EU.
Religion Freedom Index of Bangladesh: Current Developments and Government Responses
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently published its annual Religious Freedom in the World 2021 Report (RFR) that scrutinizes the situation for all major religion groups in 196 countries across the world. The report found that, over the past two years, oppression against susceptible faith communities has augmented in all but one of the 26 countries listed in the survey’s worst (‘red’) category. Bangladesh is that only country whose position on the red list of religious persecution remains unchanged.
The annual report says that religious freedom is being undermined in one out of every three countries in the world which composed two-thirds of the world population. 62 countries out of a total of 196 face severe violations of religious freedom. The situation of minorities in India and Pakistan is deteriorating further. The situation in China and Myanmar is the worst. According to the report, the situation is worse in 95 percent of the 26 countries where persecution is taking place. Nine new countries have been included in this list- seven from Africa and two from Asia.
The report on Bangladesh says that the torture of minorities has not increased in recent years but the influence of Islamic groups is increasing in the politics of Bangladesh. However, the government has been successful in subdue the influence and maintaining religious freedom. For instance, after the rise of Islam-fabric politicization leading by “Hefazat-e-Islam”, the top leaders and at least 375 people nabbed for their recent violent activities. The strict position of law enforcement agencies against the rampage of the group denotes the zero-tolerance of Bangladesh government in ensuring religious freedom and upholding “secularism” which is one of the state principals of its constitution. The argument can be evident with the recent report of the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) titled, “Bangladesh and Pakistan: acting against extremism versus making a show of acting against extremism”. Highlighting the activities of the Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam (HIB) in Bangladesh and the radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) in Pakistan, the report comments that Bangladesh government has been making “noticeable progress in dealing with the radical Islamist HIB whereas Pakistan has floundered dramatically in its inconsistent, ill-considered and ill-implemented attempts to pacify the TLP”. Besides, the initiatives of the Bangladesh government in protecting the minority rights are so much praiseworthy.
According to the 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom of US Department of State, to advocate the minority rights and to foster religious tolerance, Bangladesh government has taken a number of initiatives such as-
•Providing guidance to imams throughout the country to prevent militancy and monitoring mosques for “provocative messaging”.
•Deploying law enforcement personnel at religious sites, festivals, and events considering potential violence. The Economic Times reported that 30,000 and 31,272Durga Pujas were organized across the country in 2017 and 2018 respectively without any security issue.
•Zero-tolerance to Islamic militancy. For instance, Special Tribunal convicted and sentenced to death seven of eight defendants who were accused in the 2016 killings of 22 mostly non-Muslim individuals at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.
•Offering stipends to students from the minority groups in the primary and secondary level; and
•Providing funds for minority rituals and social activities.
Most importantly, Bangladesh ensures a level playing field in the employment sectors and a viable people-to-people contact. ‘Dhormo Jaar Jaar, Utsob Shobar,’ (Religion for own, but festivals for all” is a testimony of its secular values and communal harmony. The ACN report itself showed, in Bangladesh, where due to fear of infection, minority faith groups were incapable of offering the last rites to family members, an Islamic charity buried not only Muslim but also Hindu and Christian victims of COVID-19. Besides, reliefs were equally provided to every sector of the society regardless of their race or religion.
To conclude, Bangladesh always believes in fraternity beyond ethno-religious affiliations and practiced secularism in daily life throughout the history. But at present, due to the rise of right-wing populist politics both at regional and global level and rise of fundamentalism, religious harmony in Bangladesh is also affected. However, comparatively, Bangladesh is doing better than many regional states and the country is destined to overcome the challenges in near future due to the pro-active role of the government in this regard.
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