Repression in Kashmir

Dawn Editorial
Wednesday, 15 Sep, 2010
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Kashmiri women shout anti-Indian slogans during a clash with Indian policemen in Srinagar.—AFP
Kashmiri women shout anti-Indian slogans during a clash with Indian policemen in Srinagar.—AFP
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Fifteen more deaths in Indian-held Kashmir on Monday testify to the continuation of the Kashmiri desire for freedom and the brutal government response to it.


The killing of the protesters, mostly urban youths, comes within a week of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s plea to his security forces to use humane methods to deal with the demonstrators.


Even though the immediate cause for the protesters’ anger was the burning of the Holy Quran by an individual in America, the protests — recognised worldwide as indigenous — are a continuation of the anti-India demonstrations that have rocked the valley since June 11, leading to at least 85 deaths, mostly civilian.

The choice is now before New Delhi: will it handle the situation politically or will it intensify its repressive measures that are bound to be counterproductive?


Last week, a Bharatiya Janata Party delegation that included super hawk L.K. Advani called on Dr Singh and asked him not to “surrender” to Kashmiri protesters.


Will the Singh government succumb to such pressure and try to crush the Kashmiri movement by force or will it listen to reason and try by all means possible to handle the explosive and deteriorating situation in the valley using political means?


Before it decides to take the former course, it should know that such a move would not only lead to greater violence and more fatalities, it would also sideline the moderate Kashmiri leadership and drive what is basically a nationalist movement into Islamist hands.

The security forces have been armed with draconian powers by the Armed Forces’ Special Powers’ Act, which has been in existence for two decades but has failed to deliver.


Even though there have been calls from Indian rights’ groups and a section of the media for revisiting this act, the Indian government has turned a deaf ear to their pleas. This has made the jackboots trigger-happy.


In a recent interview, Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal, the Indian general on the spot, defended the powers he had under AFSPA and said such laws were “imperative” for carrying out “smooth operations”. Going by the blood that is flowing in Indian-held Kashmir, what Gen Jaswal’s men are carrying out are anything but “smooth operations”.


The choice ultimately is New Delhi’s — whether it listens to civilian and military hawks or decides to go for a political solution.


While at it, we can only feel astonished at the lack of a response by the international community to the killings in Indian-held Kashmir. The silence of the world to the rights violations in the valley is a reflection on Pakistan’s diplomacy.