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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London forum discarded India’s ‘greater’ Afghan role: Qureshi

* World accepts Islamabad’s stance that ‘Af-Pak’ policy not applicable to Pakistan
* Must engage elements willing to disarm

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi

LONDON: Afghanistan’s six immediate neighbours, as well as China and Russia (six-plus-two), feel no need for a “greater Indian role” in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Thursday.

Addressing a news conference at the Pakistan High Commission, Qureshi said the international community participating in the London Conference on Afghanistan had accepted Islamabad’s stance that a joint Pak-Afghan policy was no longer applicable to Pakistan, as both countries had their own distinct outlooks.He said the conference addressed Pakistan’s concerns regarding Afghanistan.

Af-Pak policy: “So this Af-Pak terminology was a mistake. We are two different countries with different levels of development. Our institutions and their capacities are different and today there was a clear departure from Af-Pak,” the foreign minister said. He said the conference also rejected new regional structure as advocated by certain elements.

Pakistan, Qureshi said, was of the opinion that the existing mechanisms in place were adequate and working well, and there was no need for new regional architecture. The foreign minister said as India had no border with Afghanistan, it did not fit into the scheme of things though it may continue to play a role in assisting development in Afghanistan. “We conveyed our point of view to Turkey in the trilateral and regional meetings held recently, we made our point loud and clear. In our interaction with various countries, we expressed our concern and today our point of view was understood and incorporated. The Afghan president and other important countries were of the view that there was no need for the new structure in the region.”

Engagement: Qureshi said Pakistan had been advocating that the international community would have to engage with elements willing to lay down arms and willing to shun violence. The international community, he added, endorsed this point of view. Qureshi said the Pakistani government had been pursuing a policy of dialogue, deterrence and development and the international community supported the point of view.

“So in many ways this conference was productive from Pakistan’s point of view,” he stressed. To a question, the foreign minister said Pakistan wanted the reconciliation and reintegration process to be “Afghan­owned and Afghan-led”, adding that President Hamid Karzai had asked Pakistan to help facilitate the reconciliation process with the Taliban.

“It is for the Afghans to take the lead and tell us what they want from us. We feel that stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan,” he said. Regarding the Saudi King Abdullah’s role in the reconciliation process, Qureshi said Saudi Arabia had historic links with Afghanistan and was an important country that could play a productive role in this regard. He mentioned that during his meetings with his counterparts from Malaysia and Indonesia, it was agreed that Muslim countries could a play a proactive role in Afghanistan along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Qureshi said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had stood by Pakistan at the London Conference. app

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Kashmiris, Nagas and Sikhs demand end to Indian Imperialism

LONDON, (APP)- On the occasion of India’s Republic Day, a powerful joint appeal Tuesday to the international community by key Kashmiri, Naga and Sikh leaders has highlighted the fundamental conflicts and contradictions at the heart of the Indian state, as well as the unwavering intent of their nations to secure freedom in accordance with their right to self-determination as enshrined in international law.

They issued a call to the international community to play a constructive role in dismantling India’s unlawful hold on their territories, which has been maintained purely by military means at the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives since 1947, and to restore fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law in the most volatile region of the world.

The leaders included Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Chair of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir, Naga leader Th. Muivah, General Secretary of the NSCN-IM and Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa in Punjab.

Their message was endorsed by leading organisations based in the respective Diaspora communities which held demonstrations outside the Indian High Commission in London and elsewhere to once again publicly reject the Indian constitution as being applicable to their territories.

Rubbishing India’s claims to be a democratic, secular, peaceable state which complies with its international obligations, they pointed to the reality of a belligerent, militaristic state which oppresses the minorities and nations under its control, which has become a serial violator of international law and human rights.

They said Indian armed forces chief Deepak Kapoor’s recent public comments about bringing both China and Pakistan to their knees within 96 hours of a war betrays the dangerous  and aggressive mindset of the Indian establishment which has already conducted undeclared wars on the Naga, Sikh, Kashmiri and other nations using brutal means, systematically violating basic human rights, as routinely pointed out by the world’s leading human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international.

Pending India’s compliance with the international standards the Naga, Kashmiri and Sikh leadership urged the international community to robustly dismiss India’s pretensions to a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

“It would be the height of folly indeed to reward a serial violator of basic international norms by giving it the means to frustrate the one international body that can hold it to account,” they observed.

They pledged to work together, along with their friends in the region and beyond, in order to promote a peaceful transition from the current unjust framework of Indian colonialism to a new order in South Asia where freedom, peace and security and justice would prevail.

The withdrawal of Indian forces from these occupied territories would be a pre-requisite for that transformation. Instead of indulging itself in Republic Day posturing, India would do better to reflect on the crimes it has committed and its own inherent contradictions.

Threatening its neighbours and inhumanly oppressing minorities may have become the raison d’etre for ‘Hindutva,’ but these policies offend the very notion of religion and will surely ultimately prove suicidal for  the Indian state.

It demanded ejecting India from all the UN’s humanitarian bodies until it improves its appalling record of mistreating its religious minorities.

In August 2009, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedoms put India on its ‘watch list’ of states that fail to protect such groups.

In the UK, Muhammad Ghalib, Chair of the All Party Kashmir Co-ordination Committee,  Amrik Singh Sahota , President of the Council of Khalistan, and the Naga Support Centre all pledged to continue their campaign to enlist international support for the peaceable implementation of their national rights.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair of ‘Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination’, the cross party group at the Westminster parliament which promotes national self-determination, endorsed these demands.

Having been recently denied a visa to visit India specifically because of his support for these causes, he castigated the ongoing oppression of these freedom loving nations and urged the international community to hold India to account for its crimes.      Reflecting on India’s refusal to grant him a visa, he noted the move was consistent with India’s attempts to conceal its record by denying human rights groups, UN officials and independent observers access to conflict zones.

He remarked that all this was futile with the true picture is becoming ever more apparent to the global community which will be forced to act sooner or later.

Can US Strategy Stabilise Afghanistan

Sequel to the policy speech on Afghan strategy, various opinions and comments have appeared in the US press indicating that Pakistan needs to expand war against terrorists and extremists to other areas in Pakistan. The New York Times reported in its edition of 8 December that the US has warned Pakistan that its forces would chase Taliban forces in Pakistan if Islamabad does not Then there have been other reports with some acknowledgments of the Pakistani Army’s efforts in confronting the Talibans in South Waziristan. All the reports tantamount to increasing US pressure on Pakistan to expand its efforts against terrorism and extremism elsewhere in Pakistan also.

The proponents of US military venture into Pakistan lack foresight in calculating grave risks that such a venture would pose for both Pakistan and the United States from all angles and that the bilateral relationship might never be able to resurrect itself again. Last time when the US committed such mistake to raid a village inside Pakistan where they thought that the militants were hiding, there was such a political furore in Pakistan that the US was forced to promise never to use boots on ground in Pakistan again. Pakistan Army is very much capable of tackling head on impediments that threaten its sovereignty and security and as such is successfully battling the insurgents in Waziristan and Swat. While doing so, it has the complete backing of its people who sustained numerous merciless bomb killings as Taliban retaliated. Read more of this post

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