Pulwama: A Present Moment in the Longer Kashmir Story

The attack at Pulwama needs to be understood in context of 70 years of unrest

Pieter Friedrich

While the bodies of the 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troops who died in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on Valentine’s Day are only just now being laid to rest, unrest prevails throughout the Indian subcontinent in the wake of the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in the world’s hottest nuclear flashpoint in 30 years.

Sabers are rattling. India has stripped Pakistan of “most favored nation” status and imposed a 200 percent tariff on all Pakistani imports. The sanctions evoke the economic adage that when goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will. Various Indian television personalities are demanding war.

Neither Pakistan’s disavowal and denouncement of the attack nor the fact that the alleged attacker was a young Kashmiri who reportedly became a militant after being profiled, detained, and beaten in the streets by Indian police register as data points in India’s present dialogues.

The only people who appear to be taking into account the Kashmiri identity of the attacker are mobs who, fielded by militant Hindu nationalist organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), are attacking innocent Kashmiri Muslims throughout India.

Dehradun, a city located in the Himalayan foothills just 45 kilometers from the hippie hotspot of Rishikesh, is one notable example. Chanting “shoot the traitors,” mobs of hundreds besieged Kashmiri students who took refuge in their university hostels.

One female student said they appealed to the police for help but were told they should instead apologize to the mobs. Other students were seized and beaten. Although some of the assaults were caught on camera, and show officers standing by passively observing, police denied the occurrence of any incidents of violence. Students, said police, “are making a big deal out of nothing.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was already mobilizing to fight for BJP supremacy in the Indian General Elections later this year, urged voters in Uttar Pradesh (India’s most populous state) to back his religious nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to guarantee a “strong government” which will give “glory on the international stage.” His comments came just a day after the Pulwama attack.

The Pulwama attack set a new record, surpassing that previously set by the 2016 attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri district. Nineteen Indian Army soldiers died in the Uri attack. Then, just as now, Pakistan denied involvement.

Nevertheless, India insisted the attack was Pakistani orchestrated and claims it launched retaliatory “surgical strikes” against alleged militant bases inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan denies the strikes even occurred.

Yet the Indian narrative was etched in celluloid in the Bollywood film Uri: The Surgical Strike, which is still playing in India’s theaters after its release last month. As a columnist for The Wire.in commented, “The film’s timing will help the BJP market the surgical strike in the 2019 elections as its unique contribution to Indian security.”

What is not unique about the BJP is its commitment to continuing the conflict over Kashmir, even at the risk of provoking nuclear war with Pakistan. Clutching Kashmir tighter and closer to its chest, even as its inhabitants struggle against the unwanted attention and scream that they are being stifled, has been the approach of the Indian Central Government since 1947. Escalation rather than re-evaluation is India’s singular policy towards the region.

When the colonial British ignored all organic borders of language and ethnicity to partition the entire subcontinent into just two outsized territories, they set the stage for one of the most intractable and longest-lasting religio-political conflicts in modern history.

Demarcating Pakistan as a Muslim State, they (perhaps inadvertently) bolstered India’s burgeoning Hindu nationalist movement and its sense of self-justification in pressing for “equal treatment” by demanding a Hindu State.

Since no one not belonging to the State Religion (whether official or de facto) wanted to be stranded in that state, the partition sparked the largest mass migration in history.

The two-way migration was beset by acts of horrendous violence. No one really knows how many died, but estimates range from a few hundred thousand to two million. Jammu and Kashmir, then an independent monarchy, was among the worst affected areas.

Above the Kashmir Valley, in the hills of Jammu, cadres of the Hindu nationalist paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) joined hands with the monarch, Maharaja Hari Singh, to ethnically cleanse the region of Muslims.

The death toll was up to 100,000. On 26 October 1947, two weeks after the violence began and four days after India and Pakistan went to war with each other over the region, the Hindu Maharaja ceded control of his still Muslim majority kingdom to the freshly-formed country of India.

The territory has remained disputed ever since, and served as fuel to the fire of nationalist fervor throughout the subcontinent as the governments of both India and Pakistan treat the land as a feather which belongs in the cap of one nation alone.

Caught in the crossfire are the Kashmiri people themselves, whose lives seem subordinate to the pride of maintaining “territorial integrity.” Thus, India currently keeps a minimum of half a million troops lodged in the midst of the region’s 13 million residents.

In 1987, Jammu and Kashmir emerged from nearly a year of President’s Rule, in which the Central Government dissolves the state legislature and imposes direct governance, to hold elections. Amidst allegations that the Indian National Congress (INC) rigged the polls to defeat candidates sympathetic to independence, anger boiled over into mass street demonstrations.

On 19 January 1990, New Delhi again imposed President’s Rule. Protests increased, and on the 21st, CRPF troops cut off protesters at Gawkadal Bridge in Srinigar, the region’s largest city. Opening fire, the troops gunned down at least 50 civilians, some say over 100.

Protests again increased, with hundreds of thousands and up to a million demonstrating at a time. Many abandoned protesting for militancy. Later that year, Delhi imposed the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, granting immunity to security forces for acts committed on duty, even atrocities. As the militancy continued throughout the 1990s, the atrocities escalated.

Indian security forces massacred people, disappeared, tortured, raped, killed in custody, looted, destroyed houses, burned religious structures, desecrated religious books, and generally waged total war.

In 1995, Kashmiri human rights attorney Jalil Andrabi traveled to the United Nations in Geneva to appeal for intervention. Noting that “more than 40,000 people have been killed,” he asserted, “These atrocities being committed on the people of Kashmir are not mere aberrations. These are part of deliberate and systematic state policy.”

In March 1996, Andrabi was picked up by the Indian Army while driving with his wife near his Srinigar home. Twenty days later, his body, tied up in a sack, washed ashore on the Jhelum River. His hands were tied behind his back, eyes gouged out, facial bones crushed. He had been killed with a gunshot to the head.

As the insurgency subsided in the early 2000s, a larger pattern of state-sponsored human rights abuses began coming into light. In 2008, Amnesty International reported the discovery of mass graves, many of them concentrated in Uri district. Thousands of mass graves containing thousands of bodies have been uncovered over the years since. And mass demonstrations again grew.

Since 2010, India has resorted to “non-lethal” methods of crowd control such as pellet guns, blinding hundreds of civilians, including children. Sometimes, troops even embrace less conventional methods, as in 2017 when an Indian Army major lashed a protester to his jeep to use as a human shield.

Meanwhile, on a societal level, there are efforts to inspire Muslim flight which are, in spirit, reminiscent of the RSS collaboration with Maharaja Hari Singh in 1947.

In January 2018, with the goal of driving out a local nomadic Muslim community, several men (including at least one police officer) abducted an eight-year-old girl near Kathua, a city known as the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir. They locked her in a temple owned by one of them, and gang-raped her for days before murdering her and dumping her body.

When they were arrested, the BJP’s State Secretary organized a protest march for their release. Joining the march were two BJP State Ministers. They had, they later said, been instructed to attend by their party leadership.

In the heat of the moment, as the BJP campaigns for re-election, mobs attack Kashmiris, and pundits call for war, beating drums and rattling sabers seems to be a far more popular approach than consideration of the history that brought South Asia to this point.

Yet it’s the same stale strategy. Escalation, never reevaluation.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent. Discover more by him at pieterfriedrich.net.

From: Pieter Friedrich <pieterjfriedrich@gmail.com>
To: Harjinder Singh <harjindersinghkhalsa@yahoo.co.uk>


Dawn – National Security Committee expresses satisfaction over constitutional reforms in Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan

A meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Tuesday expressed satisfaction over the transformational reforms introduced by the government with regard to Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Sanaullah Khan

Islamabad – Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 29 May 2018. The committee observed that the mainstreaming of Fata and its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the transfer of all the powers to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who will enjoy similar rights which the people of other provinces have without any discrimination “have gone a long way in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of these regions with far-reaching outcomes for national life”.

The 24th NSC meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was attended by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, National Security Adviser retired Lt General Nasser Khan Janjua, the army chief and other senior civil and military officials.

The NSC condemned the “reign of terror unleashed by Indian occupation forces on innocent Kashmiris and resolved that Pakistan would continue to play its role in realising the right of the people of Kashmir to self-determination”.

During the meeting, the interior ministry official briefed the committee on the basic features of the new visa policy aimed at making Pakistan a tourist and business-friendly country. In view of this policy, it was agreed that the ‘visa on arrival’ facility should be initiated as a pilot project in the first instance.

Earlier this week, ousted prime minister and PML-N “supreme leader” Nawaz Sharif had appeared to draw a parallel between his own recent statement on the Mumbai attack case and the contents of a new book jointly penned by former ISI chief Lt General Asad Durrani and former RAW chief A S Dulat, and called for the National Security Council (NSC) to re-convene on the matter as it had in his (Sharif’s) case.

The NSC had unanimously termed Nawaz Sharif’s statements regarding the 2008 Mumbai attacks as incorrect and misleading.


The Hindu – What is AFSPA, and where is it in force?

Here is what you need to know about the Act that has seen a lot of controversy surrounding it

Net Desk

Op/Ed, 23 April 2018. The Centre has announced that it revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya from April 1. Here is what you need to know about the Act that has seen a lot of controversy surrounding it.

What does the AFSPA mean?

In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.

If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search a premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.

Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.

What is a “disturbed area” and who has the power to declare it?

A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.

A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette. As per Section 3 , it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act where necessary, but there have been exceptions where the Centre decided to forego its power and leave the decision to the State governments.

What’s the origin of AFSPA?

The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the Northeastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958. It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.

Which States are, or had come under this Act?

It is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Centre revoked it in Meghalaya on April 1, 2018. Earlier, the AFSPA was effective in a 20 km area along the Assam-Meghalaya border.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam.

Tripura withdrew the AFSPA in 2015. Jammu and Kashmir too has a similar Act.

How has this Act been received by the people?

It has been a controversial one, with human rights groups opposing it as being aggressive. Manipur’s Irom Sharmila has been one if its staunchest opponents, going on a hunger strike in November 2000 and continuing her vigil till August 2016. Her trigger was an incident in the town of Malom in Manipur, where ten people were killed waiting at a bus stop.


Dawn – Pakistan approaches World Bank after India builds Kishanganga on Neelum

Khaleeq Kiani

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 05 April 2018. Having confirmed that India has completed the controversial Kishanganga hydropower project, Pakistan has asked the World Bank to recognise its responsibility under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 to address its concerns over two disputed projects.

A government official told Dawn that power division of the energy ministry sent a fresh communiqué early this week to the bank’s vice president urging the international organisation to “recognise its responsibility” and play its role to ensure that India abided by the provisions of the 1960 treaty while building the projects.

The official said there was no doubt that India had completed the 330 MW Kishanganga project during the period the World Bank “paused” the process for constitution of a Court of Arbitration (COA) as requested by Pakistan in early 2016. The Pakistani request was countered by India by calling for a neutral expert.

Pakistan had called for resolution of disputes over Kishanganga project on the Neelum river and 850 MW Ratle hydropower project on the Chenab.

The official said the letter had reached the bank’s head office in Washington and had been delivered to its vice president concerned as confirmed by Pakistan’s director to the bank.

When asked what the government expected now that India had completed the Kishanganga project, the official said the authorities could not just sit back and had to take the matter to its logical conclusion.

Islamabad had received reports in August of 2017 that New Delhi had completed the Kishanganga project as per the design that had been objected to by the former.

The new letter was sent to the World Bank after a Pakistani delegation of the Indus Waters Commission was not allowed to visit various controversial projects in India, including Kishanganga and Ratle schemes.

In December 2016, the bank had announced that it had “paused” the process for either appointing a COA or a neutral expert and started mediation between the two countries on how to advance and develop consensus in the light of the treaty on the mechanism for resolution of faulty designs of the two projects.

Since then the bank has arranged two rounds of talks between the two sides but the Indians kept on building the project. On completion of the scheme, Pakistan proposed some modifications to partially address its concerns over the Kishanganga project’s design for water storage without affecting its power generation capacity, but in vain.

The last round of bank-facilitated and secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan were held in Washington in September that ended in disappointment for the latter.

In view of the inability of the parties to agree on whether a COA or a neutral expert is the way forward, the World Bank is reported to have called another round of discussions to minimise the differences but failed to bring New Delhi to the negotiating table.

Pakistan had raised a number of objections over the design of the two projects at the level of Permanent Indus Waters Commission almost eight years ago followed by secretary-level talks and then requests for arbitration through the World Bank.

Under the treaty, in case the parties fail to resolve disputes through bilateral means the aggrieved party has the option to invoke the jurisdiction of the International Court of Arbitration or the neutral expert under the auspices of the World Bank.

The jurisdiction of the court could be invoked either jointly by the two parties or by any party as envisaged under Article IX (5), (b) or (c) of the treaty for constitution of a seven-member arbitration panel.

Pakistan’s experience with both the international forums, neutral expert and CoA, has not been satisfactory for varying reasons and outcomes, partially due to domestic weaknesses including delayed decision-making.

Pakistan first challenged the Baglihar hydroelectric project before the neutral expert and then the Kishanganga and Wuller Barrage projects before the CoA.

Islamabad has been under criticism at home for losing its rights through legal battles instead of building diplomatic pressure in world capitals to stop India from carrying out “water aggression”.

Pakistan felt its water rights were being violated by India on two rivers, the Chenab and Jhelum, through faulty designs of Ratle and Kishanganga projects, respectively.

An official said the government had originally decided to take up the matter at the international forums provided for in the 1960 treaty back in December 2015 but the process was delayed for unknown reasons.

Pakistan believed that Kishanganga’s pondage should be a maximum of one million cubic metres instead of 7.5 million cubic metres, intake should be up to four metres and spillways should be raised to nine metres.

About the Ratle project, Pakistan had four objections. Freeboard should be one metre instead of two metres, pondage should be a maximum of eight million cubic metres instead of 24 million, intake level should be at 8.8 metres and spillways at the height of 20 metres.

It believes the Indian design of Ratle project would reduce Chenab flows by 40 per cent at Head Marala and cause considerable irrigation loss to crops. The Ratle dam is believed to be three times larger than the Baglihar dam.

Under the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, the waters of the eastern rivers, the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi, had been allocated to India and that of the western rivers, the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, to Pakistan except for certain non-consumptive uses.


The Nation – Kashmir: The foreign policy quagmire

Avoiding talks and boasting national pride with delusions of sheer military strength and numbers will not get India or Pakistan anywhere

Jammu & Kashmir, 05 February 2018. The voices of emancipation and freedom of Kashmiris from the empires of Indian mainland, have been echoing in the valleys of Kashmir, even before the era of Habba Khatoon and her enchanting poetry.

Kashmir, maintaining its position as the jewel of the subcontinent, through the dynasties of Shah Mir, Mughals, Durranis and finally the Sikhs, preserved its cultural integrity and uniqueness.

Sadly this jewel; ever since the advent of modern weaponry and the rhetoric of state-centered staunch realism, has turned into a 21st century nuclear flashpoint.

The global notions of expansionism and power maximisation have transformed this two lac square kilometers area into a political and military stalemate where three major powers of the world are engaged in conflict.

From the illegitimate violations of the Line of Control (LoC) to the military incursions by China in Aksai Chin and the irreprehensible excessive use of force by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the valley, Kashmiris are ever fearful and insecure even in their own beloved homeland.

The common Kashmiri boy, who sells kulchas in his small shop to make his living, is full of vigour and zest to stand up against the barrage of pellet guns and tear gas shells just to make his demand for freedom heard in the highest echelons of international decision making.

Unaware of the sorry fact that hegemons of the world are inconsiderate of their blood and busy painting rosy images of the harsh realities of this world in verbose Security Council resolutions, which find no standing ground or materialization in the realpolitik of this diplomatic realm.

Such a resolution was passed by the UN to pacify the conflict between India and Pakistan, suggesting a withdrawal of forces from the region followed by a plebiscite, without giving due regard to the level of mutual trust deficit that existed between the two countries after fighting a major war.

This insecurity and lack of trust has subsisted from the day of independence to this very day after 70 years, shaping agendas and policies of both the major stakeholders.

Over the years, foreign policies of both India and Pakistan under various types of military, conservative and even liberal governments have been unable to decide an amicable solution for Kashmir.

A look into the external policies of both the states in the past, reveals an inherent unwillingness by the Indian side to change the status quo of the Kashmiri people for the better, rather strangling the population with a more and more restrictive and authoritarian internal Kashmir policy.

Whereas as in comparison, the Pakistani side has been forthcoming in seeking any plausible and appropriate solution for the Kashmiri people, ranging from bi-lateral to multilateral forums, this fact is substantiated by the insistence of Pakistan to have bi-lateral talks the previous year on Kashmir, that met a blatant refusal by Indian counterparts to engage in any kind of talks, as former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A S Daulat in his recent interview to The Indian Express said, “I have never understood, why is India afraid to talk about Kashmir with Pakistan ?…I am sorry to say but it’s easier to talk to Pakistan than to Kashmiris”.

The Indian foreign policy with regards to Kashmir has followed a non-linear path of trends, with certain governments being very open in regard to negotiation with Pakistanis, achieving some progress like the opening of cross LoC trade with India and the initiation of Muzaffarabad-Srinagar and Rawalakot-Poonch bus services.

These along with the visits of certain Huriyat leaders in Azad Jammu and Kashmir reflect the positive trend that was observed in this overall hap hazardous relationship.

With the negative trend constituting the current Modi era in which the intra-relations between the Indian Government and the Jammu and Kashmir government as well as the international relations between India and Pakistan in regards with Kashmir, are at their all-time low.

The worst spike of this whole scenario was witnessed soon after the extra judicial killing of Burhan Wani, which led to wide spread agitation and protests all across Kashmir, as tensions between the government quarters running so high due to this indigenous mobilisation that even the Indian army with over six lac active duty personnel in the region, had to resort to tying up a Kashmiri boy in front of their armored vehicle just to save themselves from young stone pelters, protesting against this state sponsored aggression.

The current situation in Kashmir has come to the brink of a muffled civil disobedience, quoting the former RAW chief, “They are no longer hiding. School girls and women are coming out to throw stones.

The Kashmir situation has never been so bad.” Indian government is following an American foreign policy doctrine of avoiding international meddling in case of domestic unruliness, by not engaging in talks on Kashmir while the internal condition there is hanging by the thread.

The current position of Jammu and Kashmir has come to a point where the Indian government has had to appoint a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief of Kashmiri origin, Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor for talks between the Indian government and the Kashmiri people, this shows the despair of the government that is hopelessly trying to quell the Kashmiri furor against the usurpation of their fundamental human rights.

In Pakistan however, the overall strategy of dealing with India in terms of Kashmir has changed quite a lot since the days of Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the myth that Kashmir can be liberated by sole military might and armed support of the Kashmiri people has been repudiated.

This belief has however, changed considerably since the inception of the global war on terror, in which Pakistan has been on the forefront with over 30,000 lives sacrificed for this very cause.

The idea of using or facilitating non-state actors especially to sponsor the freedom struggle of Kashmiris has long eroded and almost ceased to exist in the prevailing security situation, as Senator Mushahid Ullah said in a meeting with US senators that, “There is no role for militancy in policy-making and non-state actors cannot be allowed to operate from the Pakistani territory.”

A new initiative to deal with the Kashmir scenario had been devised, implemented extensively by the previous government, extenuated by the current government, which ascertains and recognises the fact that the solution for Kashmir can only be sought in diplomatic and internationally recognised forums of arbitration.

Serious effort in this regard has been seen in the recent past with Pakistan speaking and demanding serious attention on numerous international forums for the Kashmiri cause, including the United Nations General Assembly and SAARC, SCO as well as NAM summits.

However, even after all these endeavors a possibly amicable solution for Kashmir is nowhere to be seen on the horizon.
The Kashmiri people are suffering like never before at the hands of rogue state machinery, given utmost arbitrary legal backing for this excessive use of power and aggression, through illegal injunctions like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

While completely ignoring the demands and rights of people and undermining the puppet government of CM Mehbooba Mufti that has no real control whatsoever in J&K.

The way forward for Pakistan at this point in time would be to allocate more manpower and resources to enhance its diplomatic efforts in international arena, through a tailored and comprehensive Kashmir policy keeping in consideration all tangible and non-tangible stakeholders and factors.

This can only be done by gaining the complete trust of the indigenous Kashmiri political parties like the Muslim Conference (MC) and the All Parties Huriyat Conference (APHC) moreover, taking on board the general Kashmiri population by increasing their representation in foreign delegations and establishing specialised committees of Kashmiri youth that can help in disseminating firsthand information about their movement to the international community.

Pakistan and India both have to accept and recognise that negotiations and a bi-lateral solution is the only effective and sustainable remedy to this foreign policy quagmire that has strained the relations of both the countries and pushed them into war time and again, resulting in loss of lives and significant economic blowbacks.

Avoiding talks and boasting national pride with delusions of sheer military strength and numbers will not get India or Pakistan anywhere. The precondition so that both the countries can even dream of becoming stable economic and political powers in the global front, is to first become stable at home, and that is impossible without ameliorating the contemporary public and political atmosphere of Kashmir.

Chanting the slogans of Akhand Bharat and Kashmir as the Jugular Vein of Pakistan are good for political rallies and for gathering popular opinion, but at the negotiating table these hysterical rhetoric have to be brushed aside and the greater national and public interests have to speak with utter cold-hearted rationality.