India buries dissent in Kashmir

…and its pretensions to democracy

By Anil Choudhary

The Harvard Law Record

International Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir Mass graves found in Kashmir in 2008. 2,600 fresh graves were discovered last year.

Nearly 2,600 bodies have been discovered in single, unmarked graves and in mass graves throughout mountainous Indian-controlled Kashmir. The International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPTHJ), an Indian Kashmir-based human rights organization, claimed that they found the graves in 55 villages during a three-year survey that concluded in November. Out of the 2,600 graves discovered by IPTHJ, they claim that 177 graves held more than one body. This report is one of the most damning pieces of evidence of the ‘crime against humanity’ perpetrated by the Indian armed forces in their occupation of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Indian policemen clash with Kashmiri protesters during a protest in Srinagar - Indian Occupied Kashmir

The Muslim-dominated region of Kashmir has been a disputed territory right from the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 and has been the source of conflict for more than half a century. While both countries claim the region, it is the civilian population of Kashmir that has paid the price of the conflict. In contested claims, more than 68,000 people have lost their lives in Indian-occupied Kashmir in the past two decades alone and have witnessed three conventional wars.

The latest report, if accurate, only goes to prove the brutalities encountered by the Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian armed forces. The Indian occupation of Kashmir casts a dark shadow over India’s shining image as the largest democracy in the world. Indian democracy prides itself on freedom of speech and expression and the right of its people to dissent. But the manner in which the dissent of the Kashmiri population has been crushed illustrates that India still has a long way to go to be a real functional democracy. Over the past couple of decades, it has been alleged by various human rights groups that the Indian military has killed a large number of Kashmiri youth in “fake encounters”, dubbing them “Pakistani terrorists”. In April, 2008, Amnesty International appealed to the Indian government to investigate hundreds of unidentified graves — believed to contain victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses — to no avail.

The starkest feature of these recent findings is that there was no coverage of the report by the Indian media. Having stumbled upon this shocking report in the New York Times when sitting in the U.S., I sought the perspective of the Indian media. To my disbelief and horror, there was not even a single mention about this report in all the leading Indian dailies and news channels, while all of the major international media groups had covered the story.

So what does this tell about Indian democracy? The truth of brutalities in Kashmir have always been kept a secret to the nation. The Indian state has, for decades, been suppressing the largely non-violent dissent of Kashmiri people against the militarization of Kashmir. The Indian state has used the divisive propaganda of militancy and religion as tools to suppress any kind of dissent against its forced occupation of the region. The Indian state has tried to keep not only the international community in the dark about its hostilities toward Kashmiris but also the local Indian population, by controlling media reports of the real situation on the ground in Indian occupied Kashmir.

A democracy which suppresses dissent by means of violence is the most vulgar form of democracy, if at all it can be called ‘democracy’. The successful attempt by the Indian state to keep the Indian populace in the dark about such damning reports questions the validity of its claim to be the largest functional, pluralistic democracy.

See the charred bodies of Indian Muslims burned alive by Hindu mobs in 2002, in the 21st century’s first genocide. There is a distinct lobby in United States and Britain that played a criminal role in fostering Indian terrorism. It did this by covering up Hindu terrorism against Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and low-caste Indians. Have you seen picture like this published by any American or British newspaper or news service?

Kashmir is not the only place where the Indian government has responded with violence in the wake of dissent. The rising tide of the left-wing Indian Maoists group (termed “Naxalites”), predominant in East India, have constantly faced violent retaliations for their dissent against the capitalist regime of the Indian state. The people of neglected regions of northeastern India have been the subject of torture by the Indian military forces for decades for their demand of more autonomy for the region.

Unfortunately, the resort to violence against any kind of dissent is not a new phenomenon for the Indian state, either. The princely states of Junagadh and Hyderabad were annexed by the Indian state by use of force when these states declined to be part of the newly formed independent Indian state.

But India’s use of violence to vitiate dissent has long been kept under the wraps of propagandist theories of a functional pluralistic democracy. India has projected itself, not only to the international community, but also to its citizens, as being a soft, liberal state. But events, past and present, prove otherwise.


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Why Pakistan Armed Forces are Indo-centric?

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Sultan M Hali:

India has never accepted Pakistan’s existence and always considered the division of Bharat a cardinal sin. The members of the Indian Congress had initially agreed to the partition with the understanding that the fledgling nation would barely survive a few weeks. Enough impediments had been placed in its path to ensure its destruction. The mass exodus of Muslims from India headed towards Pakistan and freedom but was set upon by marauding hordes of extremist Hindus and Sikhs, who looted raped and massacred the refugees. Pakistan’s share of the assets both in terms of finances, machinery and weapons was not handed over to the new state.

To tighten the screw on Pakistan, Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh and other Muslim states were annexed through forceful occupation. In all this turmoil, one institution remained a thorn in India’s side and that was the Pakistan Army. Bedraggled and under-equipped, the Pakistan Army mostly comprised stragglers, who had themselves barely escaped from the mad frenzy of the communal rioters. It goes to the credit of Pakistan’s founding fathers, Quaid-e-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan, who thwarted the machination of the Indian Congress, which wanted the Indian armed forces to remain undivided under one on Commander-in-Chief after the departure of the British. The duo of Quaid and Liaquat saw through the macabre Congress stratagem since it would have left Pakistan undefended and at the mercy of the Indian malevolence.

Congress did not want Pakistan to have separate defence because it wanted Pakistan to crumble and beg to be taken back into the fold of united India or failing which, India would gobble up the fledgling Pakistan. After Independence, our founding fathers organized the Armed Forces and deputed them to protect the incoming refugee caravans. The first test for the army and air transport elements of the air force came when India occupied Kashmir. It was baptism under fire but Pakistani Armed Forces despite being outnumbered and ill equipped and devoid of directions from their British Commanders, did well to liberate a sizable portion of Kashmir from the clutches of Indian occupation and would have unshackled the rest of the Valley if India did not approach UN for a ceasefire and agreed to the UN Resolution calling for a plebiscite to settle the Kashmir issue. Pakistan Armed Forces went to war twice more in 1965 and 1971 and nearly in 1999 at Kargil but the Kashmir issue remains unresolved.

Pakistan Army may have committed the folly of upsetting the applecart of democracy by usurping power four times, for which they are answerable to the people of Pakistan and the current dispensation in the Army is trying to make amends. As far as India is concerned, it partly realized its dream of dismembering Pakistan, when it stage-managed the turmoil in 1971 and ultimately severed our eastern wing from us. It has tried similar tactics in the western wing too. Operation Meghdoot (1984) to capture Siachen; Operation Brasstacks (November 1986-March 1987) in which General Sunderji had grand designs of dismembering Pakistan at its narrowest belt opposite Rajasthan; Operation Parakram (December 13, 2001 – June 10, 2002) when belligerent India amassed its troops on its borders with Pakistan; following 26/11 Mumbai attacks, India contemplated surgical strikes. These Indian adventurisms were thwarted by the vigilant Pakistani Armed Forces, backed by a credible nuclear arsenal. Ultimately, in December 2009, Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor croaked that India has developed, modified and tested the Cold Start Strategy to take on Pakistan with conventional weapons before the nuclear weapons can be deployed or launched.

If anyone still has doubts why Pakistan’s Armed Forces are Indo-Centric, they should listen to Indian Army’s musings. Its 19th Chief of Army Staff, General Ved Parakash Malik, who in his Observer Research Foundation discourse of January 2010k titled ‘India’s Strategic Culture and Security Challenges’ spills the beans: “We must realize that our enemy is not Pakistan or its civil society. It is the Pakistan Army.” He qualifies his conclusion by claiming that “Our major security problem with Pakistan currently is terrorism. Experts in India and abroad have no doubt that the 26/11 Mumbai incident originated in Pakistan, and like most such incidents in the past, it was encouraged and supported by the ISI, which works under the Pakistan Army. Even Dr Manmohan Singh said, there is enough evidence to show that, given the sophistication and military precision of the attack, it must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan.” Dr. Manmohan Singh would be better advised to look for the sophistication and military precision provided by agencies closer to home.
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