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Perspective From India: Understanding Kashmir Imbroglio 2016

Understanding Kashmir Imbroglio 2016

Ram Puniyani

In the din of hysteria created around the military action on LOC, which was in response to the killing of 18 Indian army jawans in Uri, the issue of anguish of people of Kashmir has been undermined. As such India-Pakistan skirmishes (September 2016) are mostly centered on the issue of Kashmir. On one side India’s claim is that Kashmir is the inseparable part of India and no power on the Earth can separate it from India. Pakistan on the other hand raises doubts about the Kashmir’s accession to India, and says that as it is a Muslim majority area and it should be part of Pakistan. The attack on Uri by terrorists killing 18 Indian soldiers has rekindled the issue once again. The whole episode actually begins with the killing of Burhan Wani, a Hijbul Mujahideen commandant who was killed in an encounter by Indian military. After his killing there were two types of reactions yet again.

Indian media presented it as a big achievement in cracking down the militancy. A section of Kashmiri people was shocked and they started coming on streets to protest. The manner of their protests has been that of stone throwing on the police-military forces. In the the painful incidents which followed nearly 80 people have been killed, over 9000 people got injured and many of those injured suffered the pellet injuries leading to the loss of their eyes and penetration of pellets into different parts of their body. Some army-police personnel have also received injuries. The resulting situation led to the imposition of curfew in the state and this curfew had been the longest curfew which was imposed in the state.

In an attempt to restore peace various efforts have been made by the state. Home minister Rajnath Sigh visited the Valley to hold discussions with the state leaders. His and the stand of Government of India has been that they will not hold talks with the separatist leaders. When all party delegation visited the Valley some of the members of the delegation like Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja tried to meet separatist leader S A S Gilani, who refused to meet them.

Curfew was lifted after nearly two months, but the situation remains tense. With the attack by the terrorists in Uri; the whole focus has shifted to the issue of terrorism. As such as for as the disturbance in Kashmir is concerned the Government is alleging that the protestors are mere 5% of the population and they are being instigated by Pakistan. Surely Pakistan has some role in keeping the Kashmir issue alive to bake its own political bread. But the discontent of the section of Kashmir people has been simmering and has reached a peak in last few years. The youth in particular are disgruntled due to the feeling of alienation. The people of Kashmir are double victims. The acts of terror are a regular nuisance to the peace in the valley. No less is the violation of the civic rights of the people from armed forces. The Armed Forces Special Powers act, which is operational in the area, gives impunity to the armed personnel leading the regular harassment of the innocent civilians in the area.

Amnesty reports emanating from Kashmir tell us the extent of such violations. Amnesty International’s report released in Bangalore begins with defining the scale of human rights violations in Kashmir that have been perpetrated by security forces personnel with glaring impunity. The report states that from 1990 to 2011, the Jammu and Kashmir state government reportedly recorded a total of over 43,000 people killed. Of those killed, 21,323 were said to be ‘militants’ 13,226 ‘civilians’ (those not directly involved in the hostilities) killed by armed groups, 5,369 security force personnel killed by armed groups, and 3,642 “civilians” killed by security forces.

The AFSPA, which gives army sweeping powers, leads to extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations. Section seven of the AFSPA makes it mandatory to seek the prior sanction of Central and State authorities in order to prosecute any security force personnel in civilian courts. Under the pretext of protecting national security, the excesses of the security forces go unchallenged. 96% of all complaints brought against the army in Jammu & Kashmir have been dismissed as “false and baseless” or “with other ulterior motives of maligning the image of Armed Forces”.

It is in under these circumstances that every incident in Kashmir acts as a flaring point and the youth in particular come to streets to protest in large number. Their deeper dissatisfaction with the state of prevailing affairs is very painful. In the civilian areas there is a practical army rule, nearly six lakh of army personnel have been deployed there for years. The people of Kashmir do not have the feel of democracy from years and this leads to a deeper dissatisfaction, it is not just a Pakistan inspired problem, while the role of Pakistan in instigating the protests is very much there.

What is the way out? The UPA II had set up the three member interlocutors committee, which in their report wanted the clauses of autonomy of Kashmir Assembly restored, they emphasized on dialogue with the dissident militants and with Pakistan. There has been a constant demand to repeal AFSPA from the region and to reduce the number of armed personnel in the area. The present coalition of PDP and BJP which is ruling the state is very ruthless as far as dealing with dissidence is concerned; their stand of not talking with dissidents has prolonged the restlessness in the area. With Pakistan’s role; the attack on Uri and before that in Pathankot has vitiated the atmosphere further. One remembers that during election campaign the BJP used to assert that with Modi in the seat of power, terrorists dare not attack! That hollow boast stands exposed. The need for peace in the area, the need to give the Kashmiri people as era of calm is needed in the urgent manner. Pakistan needs to be engaged on the matters related to Kashmir. The treaty of accession of 1948 giving autonomy to Kashmir needs to be respected. The report of interlocutors was a major and balanced approach on the issue. It needs to be brought forth and considered seriously for bringing in peace in the region.










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Blasphemy issue needs a permanent solution

The good sense has prevailed, an imminent catastrophe has receded. In a written statement issued on August 30, Geert Wilders announced "not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.” The contest was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. Meanwhile, the Netherlands government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte questioned Wilders' motive for organising the contest. Pakistan’s foreign minister congratulated the nation and Muslim Ummah on their moral victory and termed the cancellation of the contest a victory for Pakistan on the diplomatic front. Cancellation announcement came within days after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world. Condemning the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Imran Khan had blamed the recurrence of such incidents a collective failure of the Muslim world, saying he would take up the matter at the United Nations General Assembly’s upcoming session. After the publication of Salman Rushdi’s blasphemous book ‘Satanic Verses’, it has become very easy to malign Muslims in the West, the prime minister said. “And they have been successfully doing it.” If they [Western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the West how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Pakistan’s foreign office is undertaking a hectic diplomatic campaign to avert the exhibition of profane cartoons in November. Hopefully the good sense would prevail. Time and again, Western Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment. While earlier such incidents in Netherlands were an act of non-state actors, this time parliamentary permission to hold the forthcoming exhibition inside parliament premises had made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious extremism. Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, according to him, sweeping the continent. Wilders also urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and urged his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also stands for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools. Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky and thoroughly mired in populist rhetoric, where both the government and the opposition are, more often than not, competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was defeated in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Close to end of his previous tenure as Prime Minster, Rutte thought that being tough on Turkey would fetch him more votes, therefore he “happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes”. While during the electoral campaign, Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. Situation is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to articulate more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank. Pakistan had approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn had written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch Ambassador to Pakistan and the EU Ambassador, who represents 28 European countries, to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said. Pakistan’s new government had taken forth the process. During its first meeting, cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over an announcement of holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August 13, and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. “Pakistan’s ambassador in Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add. Foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi also spoke to his Dutch counterpart. Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva were directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. Though the triggering issue is behind us, OIC should not lower its guards, it should firm up an action plan if any individual or government attempts such a misadventure in future. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering. Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to find a permanent solution to this recurring issue. Matter should be persistently raised at the relevant international fora until a sustainable way is found by the international community for preventing such abhorrent acts.

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