Jammu & Kashmir: The Real Side of the Story

 By Kanchana Ramanujam
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Jammu & Kashmir: The Real Side of the Story

“In 1979, we had introduced religious militancy in Afghanistan to benefit Pakistan, and to push the Soviets out of the country. We brought Mujahideen from all over the world, we trained them and supplied weapons to them. We trained the Taliban, sent them in. They were our heroes. Haqqani was our hero. Osama bin Laden was our hero. Ayman al-Zawahiri was our hero. Then the global environment changed. The world started viewing things differently. Our heroes were turned into villains.”

– Pervez Musharraf (former President of Pakistan and former Chief of the Pakistani Army)

The write-up ‘150 Days – The Kashmir Lockdown,’ published on January 3, 2020 by the Jinnah Institute, seems characterised by blissful ignorance and wanton oversight. It presents a completely lop-sided, false view of the situation in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Improving Situation in J&K

Infrastructure development, education, and other developmental initiatives have received impetus in J&K. Kids have started attending schools and markets are registering brisk business.[i] Despite this, the author talks about how “mosques remain closed, schools empty, businesses shut”. This was certainly the case initially as terrorists – aided, abetted, and sponsored by the Pakistani State – threatened traders against opening shops and parents against sending their kids to school by putting up warning posters.[ii] In fact, Ghulam Mohammed, a shopkeeper from Parimpora area of Srinagar, was killed by these very terrorists for defying the diktats.[iii]

In fact, sensing improvement in the overall situation, the 72 companies of the Indian Central Armed Police Forces were reverted “to their respective locations”.[iv] This is something which the author himself acknowledges, but goes factually wrong when he says that they were sent to “bolster police forces in Assam and UP”!

The youth of J&K have reposed their faith in the country as is evident in fact that more than 88 per cent of students from Jammu & Kashmir got admission under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme in the 2019-2020 academic year. That is an increase of 39 per cent from the previous year.[v]Recently, there has been an overwhelming response to the recruitment-rallies for joining the army and armed police forces, in J&K. Apart from education and employment, medical camps and other polyclinics set up by the government and the Armed Forces  is another area which has been highly patronised by the people of J&K. The government has sanctioned Rs 325 crore for a new medical college in Handwara.[vi]

Pakistan’s Duplicity Exposed

Before pointing fingers at other countries, Pakistan should introspect. It is a country where Army officers have been caught paying protestors![vii]It is a country where, for obtaining/renewing passports, its citizens have to sign a declaration stating that the followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani (the Ahmadiyyas) are non-Muslim! It is a country where journalist Daniel Pearl was abducted and beheaded in the most gruesome way. It is a country where censorship is nothing new or rare. It has routinely blocked Wikipedia, Twitter, YouTube, etc. citing national security and/or blasphemous content as reasons. Pakistani news channels have experienced censorship and black-outs. Some, such as Geo News, have been forced to go off air. TV channels broadcast live programmes with a delay of ten seconds so that content found objectionable by the authorities could be muted! The author goes on to mention how India “barred” foreign diplomats and media from visiting J&K. The fact, however, is that since Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a ‘protected area’, foreign journalists are required to take necessary clearance before visiting the place, and foreign journalists like Mathilde Cusin and Nicholas Bertand have been given the same. 9th January, 2020, was the second time a foreign delegation visited J&K.[viii] The first one was in October, 2019. The very fact that news channels such as the BBC are reporting on J&K establish that there is no lack of access as far as J&K is concerned. With a track record of expelling journalists such as Declan Walsh, it is a bit rich for Pakistan to be commenting on other countries.

The shut-down of internet services would have caused a lot of inconvenience to the people of J&K. All Indians are acutely aware of it and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their brethren in J&K in their requirement for digital connectivity.  The shut-down of internet services for some duration was necessitated due to the security environment. What is amusing is that while India is working towards full restoration of internet services to its citizens despite the volatile security situation, the author feels that the undertaking holding the head of office responsible for any misuse of the internet service is a “draconian measure”! The dictionary definition of “draconian” measures can be found in Pakistan – the Ordinance XX of the Pakistani Constitution, the blasphemy laws, Pakistan Protection Ordinance, etc. In fact, Pakistan denial of communication services to its own people has no parallel in the world. It is no secret that communication services are frequently shut down during Muharram, and in places such as Balochistan and FATA. What is shocking is that Pakistan had suspended access to communication services like internet and mobile phones in the South Waziristan region for 6 long years! It was restored in 2018 after an improvement in law and order situation was sensed.[ix] In fact, While India is racing ahead in providing cellular connectivity to its people with a GSMA Mobile Connectivity Index of 55.6, Pakistan is at a distant 39.8.[x]

In the article, the author makes a mention of how introduction of Hindi in J&K would “hit deep into the cultural and social fabric of the Kashmiri people”! The author is perhaps unaware of the fact that Hindi is spoken by the Gujjar, Pandit, and Sikh communities of Kashmir. In fact, Pakistan has no locus standi on the issue as, unlike India, it has a national language despite its linguistic diversity. In fact, the author should elaborate on what steps the supposed ‘Kashmir-loving’ Pakistani State has taken to promote Balti, Shina, Dogri, Kashmiri, and/or revive the Sharada script.

The author keeps bringing up the 370 and 35A without comprehensive understanding of either. The author would do well to realise that it was Pakistan which first revoked the ‘special status’ of J&K by abolishing the State Subject Rule in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) in 1974. This resulted in Pakistanis from outside G-B purchasing land in G-B and changing its demographic profile (originally Shia) and bringing in Punjabi and Urdu influence. In fact, the so-called ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ High Court had declared G-B a part of the so-called ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ in 1993! This decision was, however, overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In 2018, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gave an in-principle approval to accord the status of a ‘provisional’ province to G-B, in line with the recommendations given by the Sartaj Aziz Committee. This made the administrative affairs of G-B more Pakistani Prime Minister-centric.

While Pakistan has maintained a deafening silence on the issue of Uighurs and accused India ad nauseam of excesses in Kashmir, the Uighurs in J&K state that their counterparts in Xinjiang craved for the “freedom” the former have in India.[xi]

The author also suggests that Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) could be used to effect a demographic change in J&K. It is almost facetious to suggest that out of all places in India, the migrants would go and settle in one of the most volatile states in India – a place even the sons of the soil haven’t been able to return to!

In view of the repeated mention of 370, 35A, change of “demography” of Kashmir, etc., the following points merit attention –

  • Does the author realise that Article 35A condemned a group of people – the Valmikis – to the job of safai karamcharis (sanitation workers) failing which, they would have lost their permanent resident (PR) status in J&K?
  • Does the author realise that due to Article 370 and 35A, progressive legislations pertaining to women’s rights, minorities, etc. could not be introduced in J&K?
  • Does the author realise that using the powers granted by 370 and 35A, Uighurs from Xinjiang and Tibetan Muslim families have been settled in J&K with full citizenship rights, while the PR status had not been granted to refugees from Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir or Indian citizens from other states?
  • Does the author realise that the demographics of J&K changed when Pak-sponsored terrorism resulted in the exodus of millions of Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs?

While the author keeps ranting about the imagined excesses by India, there is deafening silence on the plight of four lakh Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs, who were intimidated and forced to move out of Kashmir Valley in 1990 owing to Pakistan’s sponsorship of cross-border jihad. A number of them were killed, and girls and women were subjected to physical and mental abuse. While they fled for their lives, the author does not make any mention of their psycho-socio-economic- trauma of over three decades.

About Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities, the less said the better. Pakistani citizen, Asia Bibi, had to run away to Canada to save her life even after being acquitted in the blasphemy case! According to Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of the Parliament of Pakistan, the population of non-Muslims in Pakistan has declined from “23 percent” in 1947 to “approximately 3 percent” in 2013.[xii] It is country where abduction, conversion, rape, and other crimes against minorities are rampant.

150 Days: Factual Inaccuracies, Cherry-picking& Misrepresentation of Facts

  • Presenting allegations as facts, the author states that according to “reports in the New Yorker, New York Times, The Guardian and Al Jazeera, young men are regularly picked up by Indian paramilitary and subjected to electrocution, sodomy and beatings.” This is plain mischievous. The actual text from Al Jazeera reads “Abuses alleged by rights groups since 1989 have included rape, sodomy, waterboarding, electric shocks to the genitals, burns and sleep deprivation.”[xiii](emphasis mine).
  • Without factoring in the violence and volatility of the situation, the author claims that “men, women and children” were put under “arbitrary arrest”. While those who break the law and indulge in stone-pelting and other violent activities will, as always, be dealt with according to the provisions of the law, the juveniles, who were released at the earliest, were apprehended in their own interest, failing which, they would have been exposed to grave physical and psychological danger presented by the unruly and violent mob.
  • The author confuses ‘curfew’ with ‘section 144’ (prohibition of the gathering of four or more people in a specified area – ‘unlawful assembly’) whilst stating that “…Assam and UP, where curfew remains in place”. While the curfew has long been lifted, it is section 144 that remains in place as a precautionary measure. Such precautionary measures are inbuilt systems of the State for the protection of people and property.
  • Displaying malicious intent of communal propaganda, the article singles out the examples of Jamia Masjid,  Hazrabtal Shrine, Hazrat Naqshband Sahib, etc, conveniently failing to acknowledge the fact that restrictions were in place all over Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Delhi. Moreover, as areas of mass congregation serve as attractive centres to carry out propaganda and fuel unrest, it was prudent on the part of the security forces to enforce these restrictions.
  • When the author states that the CAA is designed to “exclude Muslims in India”, it is not just factually incorrect, but reeks of malicious intent too. CAA seeks to provide expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities already in India, i.e., it accelerates the process of gaining Indian citizenship for communities which qualify as minorities by the yardstick of the countries to which they belong. It is not exclusionist, but minority-inclusive. The usual avenues for applying for Indian citizenship is open to everyone, using which Pakistani, Muslim women such as Khatija Praveen and Hasina Ben acquired Indian citizenship in December, 2019.[xiv], [xv]    

Conclusion

This write-up has one striking similarity with Pakistan’s economy – both are weak in fundamentals.

Before eyeing Indian territories, Pakistan should get its own house in order. With a sinking economy, depreciating Pakistani rupee, mounting external debts, and a balance of payment crisis, grey-listing by FATF, internal conflicts in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, and G-B, India does not need to fire missiles/guns to watch Pakistan raise the white flag.

One part where the author may be right is where he says that “developments along the Line of Control will determine in large part the future trajectory of bilateral relations”. Yes, bilateral relations will improve if Pakistan stops proxy-war-cum-state-sponsored terrorism in J&K and the hinterland of India. The author rightly points out that the citizens of J&K have been “stripped of normalcy in their daily lives”. This is all due to Pakistan’s indulgence in cross-border terrorism and support to jihadist proxies. But now India and the awaam of J&K have reached a tipping-point. The entire nation of India will make sure that our brethren in J&K grow and develop to their full potential.

Given its internal fault-lines and economic instability, Pakistan should prioritise its own survival over terrorist interference in the neighbourhood.

References:

[i] Haq, S. (2019). Schools, shops reopen after over 100 days of restrictions in Kashmir. [online] India Today. Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kashmir-shops-open-schools-transport-buses-normal-restrictions-1620604-2019-11-19  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[ii] Tripathi, R. and Gurung, S. (2019). Many Pakistan terrorists in J&K; posters threaten Kashmiris. [online] The Economic Times. Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/many-pak-terrorists-in-jk-posters-threaten-kashmiris/articleshow/70918504.cms  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[iii] India Today. (2019). Terrorist threats against opening schools, shops in Kashmir: Army. [online] Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/terrorist-threats-schools-shops-kashmir-army-1593725-2019-08-31  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[iv] News18. (2019). Govt Orders Immediate Withdrawal of Over 7,000 Paramilitary Troops from Kashmir Valley: Officials. [online] Available at: https://www.news18.com/news/india/govt-likely-to-recall-over-70-companies-of-paramilitary-troops-from-kashmir-valley-sources-2435393.html  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[v] Bhat, R. (2020). 88% JK students avail PM’s scholarship in 2019-20. [online] Rising Kashmir. Available at: http://risingkashmir.com/news/88-jk-students-avail-pms-scholarship-in-2019-20  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[vi] India Today. (2019). J&K: Rs 325 crore sectioned by Centre for new medical college in Kashmir’s Handwara. [online] Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/news/story/j-k-rs-325-crore-sectioned-by-centre-for-new-medical-college-in-kashmir-s-handwara-1624611-2019-12-03  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[vii]Khan, I. (2017). Why was the general giving money to protesters?. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42149535  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[viii] Ddnews.gov.in. (2020). Envoys from 16 countries in Srinagar on a two-day visit Kashmir. [online] Available at: http://ddnews.gov.in/national/envoys-16-countries-srinagar-two-day-visit-kashmir  [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].

[ix] Jamal, S. (2018). After 6 years, phone services restored in restive Waziristan. [online] Gulfnews.com. Available at: https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/after-6-years-phone-services-restored-in-restive-waziristan-1.2216789  [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020]

[x] See, http://www.mobileconnectivityindex.com/#year=2018

[xi] Ramanujam, K. (2019). People, Politics, Propaganda – The Way Ahead in J&K. [online] Claws.in. Available at: https://www.claws.in/people-politics-propaganda-the-way-ahead-in-jk/  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[xii] Ispahani, F. (2013). Cleansing Pakistan of Minorities. [online] Hudson.org. Available at: https://www.hudson.org/research/9781-cleansing-pakistan-of-minorities   [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].

[xiii] Aljazeera.com. (2019). ‘Electric shocks, beatings’: Kashmiris allege abuse by India army. [online] Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/shocks-beatings-kashmiris-allege-abuse-india-army-190910114145774.html  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[xiv] Bhat, S. (2019). Pakistani Muslim woman gets Indian citizenship in Kashmir, thanks govt. [online] India Today. Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pakistani-muslim-woman-gets-indian-citizenship-in-kashmir-thanks-govt-1631262-2019-12-24  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[xv] NDTV.com. (2019). Woman Who Settled In Pak Post Marriage Returns To India, Gets Citizenship. [online] Available at: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/woman-who-settled-in-pak-post-marriage-returns-to-india-gets-citizenship-2151305  [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].