A rare interview of Afzal Guru in Tihar Jail – And I was condemned to death #deathpenalty #Kashmir


The media constantly played the tape.The police officers received awards.

Hear the other side too. In 2006, Vinod K. Jose met Afzal Guru inside Tihar jail for a rare interview. These are the edited excerpts…

Posted On Sunday, February 10, 2013 , Mumbai Mirror cover story

A rusted table, and behind it, a well-built man in uniform holding a spoon in his hand. Visitors, all of them looked habituated to the procedure, queued up to open their plastic bags containing food, allowing it to be smelled, sometimes even tasted. The security man’s spoon swam through curries thick with floating grease – malai kofta, shahi paneer, aalu baingan, and mixed vegetables.

As the visitors opened tiny bags of curries, the spoon separated each piece of vegetable from the other mechanically. After ‘frisking’ the food of a middle-aged woman, the spoon was dipped in water in a steel bowl nearby. It then moved to the plastic bags of the next person in the queue, a boy in his early teens.

By this time, the water in the steel bowl had acquired all kinds of colours, the floating oil setting off rainbow hues in the light of the winter afternoon.

Around 4.30 pm, it was my turn. The man left the spoon on the table and frisked my body, top to bottom, thrice, thoroughly. When the metal detector made a noise, I had to remove my belt, steel watch, and keys.

The man on duty bearing the badge of the Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) looked satisfied. I was allowed to enter now. This was the fourth security drill I had to go through to get into the High Risk Ward of Prison No. 3 in Tihar Central Prison. I was on my way to meet Mohammad Afzal, one of the most talked about men in contemporary times.

I entered a room with many tiny cubicles. Visitors and inmates were separated by a thick glass and iron grills. They were connected through microphones and speakers fixed on the wall. But the audibility was poor, and people on either sides of the glass strained their ears, touching them to the wall to listen to each other. Mohammad Afzal was already at the other side of the cubicle.

His face gave me an impression of unfathomable dignity and calmness. He was a slight, short man in his mid-thirties, wearing a white kurta-pyjama, with a Reynolds pen in his pocket. A very clear voice welcomed me with the utmost politeness.

“How are you, sir?”

I said I was fine. Was I to return the same question to a man on deathrow? I was apprehensive for a second, but I did. “Very fine. Thank you sir,” he answered with warmth. The conversation went on for close to an hour, and continued a fortnight later with a second mulakat. Both of us were in a hurry to answer and ask whatever we could in the time we had. I continuously scribbled in my tiny pocket book. He seemed to be a person who wanted to say a lot of things to the world. But he often reiterated his helplessness to reach people from the current stature of ‘condemned for life’. Excerpts of the interview.

There are so many contradicting images of Afzal. Which Afzal am I meeting? Is it? But as far as I’m concerned there is only one Afzal. That is me. Who is that Afzal?

(A moment’s silence.)

Afzal is a young, enthusiastic, intelligent, idealistic young man. Afzal, a Kashmiri influenced, like many thousands in the Kashmir Valley, in the political climate of early 1990s.

Who was a JKLF member and crossed over to the other side of Kashmir, but in a matter of weeks got disillusioned and came back and tried to live a normal life, but was never allowed to do so by the security agencies, who inordinate times picked me up, tortured the pulp out of me, electrocuted me, dipped in petrol, smoked in chillies you name it.

And falsely implicated in a case, with no lawyer, no fair trial, finally condemned to death. The lies the police told was propagated by you in the media. And that perhaps created what the Supreme Court referred to as “collective conscience of the nation”. And to satisfy that “collective conscience”, I’m condemned to death. That is the Mohammad Afzal you are meeting.

(After a moment’s silence, he continued.)

But I wonder whether the outside world knows anything about this.

Can we begin with your life? Your life before the case…

It was a turbulent political period in Kashmir when I was growing up. Maqbool Bhatt was hanged. The situation was volatile. The people of Kashmir decided to fight an electoral battle once again to resolve the Kashmir issue through peaceful means. Muslim United Front (MUF) was formed to represent the sentiments of Kashmiri Muslims for the final settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Administration at Delhi was alarmed by the kind of support that MUF was gaining, and in the consequence, we saw rigging in the election on an unprecedented scale.

And the leaders who took part in the election and won by a huge majority were arrested, humiliated and put behind bars. It is only after this that the same leaders gave the call for armed resistance. In response, thousands of youth took to armed revolt. I dropped out from my MBBS studies in Jhelum Valley Medical College, Srinagar.

I was also one of those who crossed to the other side of Kashmir as a JKLF member, but was disillusioned after seeing Pakistani politicians acting the same as the Indian politicians in dealing with Kashmiris.

I returned after few weeks. I surrendered to the security forces, and you know, I was even given a BSF certificate as a surrendered militant. I began to start life anew. I could not become a doctor but I became a dealer of medicines and surgical instruments on commission basis. (Laughs.)

With the meagre income, I even bought a scooter and also got married. But never a day passed by without the scare of Rashtriya Rifles and STF men harassing me. If there was a militant attack somewhere in Kashmir, they would round up civilians, torture them to pulp. The situation was even worse for a surrendered militant like me. They detained us for several weeks, and threatened to implicate us in false cases and we were let free only if we paid huge bribes…

Once, I had to bribe the security men with all that I had to escape from the Humhama STF torture camp. DSP Vinay Gupta and DSP Davinder Singh supervised the torture. One of their torture experts, Inspector Shanti Singh, electrocuted me for three hours until I agreed to pay Rs 1 lakh as bribe. My wife sold her jewelry and for the remaining amount, they sold my scooter.

I left the camp broken, both financially and mentally. For six months I could not go outside home because my body was in such a bad shape. I could not even share the bed with my wife as my penile organ had been electrocuted. I had to take medical treatment to regain potency…

If you could come to the case, what were the incidents that led to the Parliament attack case?

After all the lessons I learned in STF camps, which is either you and your family members get harassed constantly for resisting, or cooperate with the STF blindly, I had hardly any options left, when DSP Davinder Singh asked me to do a small job for him. That is what he told, “a small job”. He told me that I had to take one man to Delhi.

I was supposed to find a rented house for him in Delhi. I was seeing the man first time, but since he did not speak Kashmiri, I suspected he was an outsider. He told his name was Mohammad (Mohammad is identified by the police as the man who led the five gunmen who attacked Parliament. All of them were killed by the security men in the attack).

When we were in Delhi, Mohammad and I used to get phone calls from Davinder Singh. I had also noticed that Mohammad used to visit many people in Delhi. After he purchased a car, he told me now I could go back and gave me Rs 35,000 saying it was a gift. And I left for Kashmir for Eid.

When I was about to leave to Sopore from Srinagar bus stand, I was arrested and taken to Parimpora police station. They tortured me and took me to STF headquarters, and from there brought me to Delhi.

In the torture chamber of the Delhi Police Special Cell, I told them everything I knew about Mohammad. But they insisted that I should say that my cousin Showkat, his wife Navjot, S A R Geelani and I were the people behind the Parliament attack.

They wanted me to say this convincingly in front of the media. I resisted. But I had no option than to yield when they told me my family was in their custody and threatened to kill them. I was made to sign many blank pages and was forced to talk to the media and claim responsibility for the attack by repeating what the police told me to say…

Rajbeer Singh allowed me to talk to my wife the next day. After the call, he told me if I wanted to see them alive I had to cooperate. Accepting the charges was the only option in front of me if I wanted to see my family alive, and the Special Cell officers promised they would make my case weak so I would be released after sometime. Then they took me to various places and showed me the markets where Mohammad had purchased different things. Thus they made the evidence for the case.

The police made me a scapegoat in order to mask their failure to find the mastermind of the Parliament attack. They have fooled the people. People still don’t know whose idea it was to attack Parliament. I was entrapped into the case by Special Task Force (STF) of Kashmir and implicated by the Delhi Police Special Cell.

The media constantly played the tape. The police officers received awards. And I was condemned to death.

Why didn’t you find legal defence?

I had no one to turn to. I did not even see my family until six months into the trial. And when I saw them, it was only for a short time in the Patiala House Court. There was no one to arrange a lawyer for me. As legal aid is a fundamental right in this country, I named four lawyers whom I wished to have defended me. But the judge, SN Dhingra, said all four refused to do the case.

The lawyer whom the court chose for me began by admitting some of the most crucial documents without even asking me what the truth of the matter was. She was not doing the job properly, and finally she moved to defend another fellow accused. Then the Court appointed an amicus curie, not to defend me, but to assist court in the matter. He never met me. And he was very hostile and communal. That is my case, completely unrepresented at the crucial trial stage.

What is the condition in jail?

I’m lodged in solitary confinement in the high risk cell. I’m taken out from my cell only for a short period during noon. No radio, no television. Even the newspaper I subscribe to reaches me torn. If there is a news item about me, they tear that portion apart and give me the rest.

Apart from the uncertainty about your future, what else concerns you the most?

…Global developments. I took to the news of the execution of Saddam Hussain with utmost sadness. Injustice, so openly and shamelessly done. Iraq, the land of Mesopotamia, the world’s richest civilisation, that taught us mathematics, to use a 60-minute clock, 24-hour day, 360-degree circle, is thrashed to dust by the Americans…

Which books are you reading now?

I finished reading Arundhati Roy. Now I’m reading Sartre’s work on existentialism. You see, it is a poor library in the jail. So I will have to request the visiting Society for the Protection of Detainees and Prisoners Rights (SPDPR) members for books.

There is a campaign in defence for you…

I am really moved and obliged by the thousands of people who came forward saying injustice is done to me. The lawyers, students, writers, intellectuals, and all those people are doing something great by speaking against injustice. The situation was such at the beginning, in 2001, and initial days of the case that it was impossible for justice-loving people to come forward.

When the High Court acquitted SAR Geelani, people started questioning the police theory. And when more and more people became aware of the case details and facts and started seeing things beyond the lies, they began speaking up.

Members of your family have conflicting opinions on your case?

My wife has been consistently saying that I was wrongly framed. She has seen how the STF tortured me and did not allow me to live a normal life. She also knew how they implicated me in the case. She wants me to see our son, Ghalib, growing up. I have also an elder brother who apparently is speaking against me under duress from the STF. It is unfortunate what he does, that’s what I can say.

See, it is a reality in Kashmir now, what you call the counter insurgency operations take any dirty shape – that they field brother against brother, neighbour against neighbour. You are breaking a society with your dirty tricks.

What comes to your mind when you think of your wife, Tabassum, and son, Ghalib?

This year is the tenth anniversary of our wedding. Over half that period I spent in jail. And prior to that, many a time I was detained and tortured by Indian security forces in Kashmir. Tabassum witnessed both my physical and mental wounds. Many times I returned from the torture camp, unable to stand, all kinds of torture… She gave me hope to live. We did not have a day of peaceful living. It is the story of many Kashmiri couples…

What do you want him to grow up as?

Professionally, if you are asking, a doctor. Because that is my incomplete dream. But most importantly, I want  him to grow without fear. I want him to speak against injustice. That I am sure he will be. Who else knows the story of injustice better than my wife and son?

(While Afzal continued talking about his wife and son, I could not help but recollect what Tabassum told me when I met her outside the Supreme Court in 2005, during the case’s appeal stage. While Afzal’s family members remained in Kashmir, Tabassum dared to come to Delhi with her son, Ghalib, to organise defence for Afzal.

Outside the Supreme Court New Lawyers chamber, at the tiny tea stall on the roadside, she chatted in detail about Afzal. While sipping and complaining about the excess sugar in the tea, she talked about how Afzal enjoyed cooking.

One picture she painted struck me. It was one of the few precious private moments in their lives: when Afzal would not allow her to enter the kitchen, but would make her sit on the chair nearby and he would cook, holding a book in one hand, a ladle in the other and read out stories for her.)

If I may ask you about the Kashmir issue, how do you think it can be solved?

First, let the government be sincere to the people of Kashmir. And let them initiate talk with the real representatives of Kashmir. Trust me, the real representatives of Kashmir can solve the problem. But if the government considers the peace process as a tactic of counter insurgency, then the issue is not going to be solved. It is time some sincerity is shown.

Who are the real people?

Find out from the sentiments of the people of Kashmir. I am not going to name x, y or z. And I have an appeal to the Indian media; stop acting as a propaganda tool. Let them report the truth. With their smartly worded and politically loaded news reports, they distort facts, make incomplete reports, build hardliners, terrorists et al. They easily fall for the games of the intelligence agencies…

Also, you tell me how are you going to develop real trust among Kashmiris when you send out the message that India has a justice system that hangs people without giving them a lawyer, without a fair trial?

Nine security men were killed in the Parliament attack. What is it that you have to tell their relatives?

In fact, I share the pain of the family members who lost their dear ones in the attack. But I feel sad that they are misled to believe that hanging an innocent person like me would satisfy them. They are used as pawns in a completely distorted cause of nationalism…

(An ear-splitting electric bell rang. I could hear hurried conversations from the neighbouring cubicles. This was my last question to Afzal.)

What do you want to be known as?

(He thought for a minute, and answered)

As Afzal, as Mohammad Afzal. I am Afzal for Kashmiris, and I am Afzal for Indians as well, but the two groups have an entirely conflicting perception of my being. I would naturally trust the judgment of Kashmiri people, not only because I am one among them, but also because they are well aware of the reality I have been through, and they cannot be misled into believing any distorted version of either a history or an incident.

I was confused by this last statement of Mohammad Afzal, but on further reflection, I began to understand what he meant. This was a time before clear accounts of the strife had begun to emerge from Kashmiri voices; the source of knowledge on Kashmir for most Indians were textbooks and media reports. To hear about the history of Kashmir and incidents in the state from a Kashmiri was usually a shock to most Indians – as it was to me as I listened to Afzal.

Two more bells. It was time to end the mulakat. But people were still busy conversing. The microphone was put off. The sounds from the speaker stopped. But if you strained your ear, and watched his lip movements, you could still hear him. The guards made rough round-ups, asking everyone to leave. As they found visitors reluctant to leave, they put the lights off. The mulakat room turned dark.

In the long walk out from Jail No 3 of the Tihar jail compound to the main road, I found myself in the company of people in clusters of twos and threes, moving out silently – mother, wife and daughter; or brother, sister and wife; or friend and brother; or someone else. Every cluster had two things in common.

They carried an empty cotton bag back with them. Those bags had stains of malai kofta, shahi paneer and mixed vegetables, many caused by the spills from the rash frisking of the TSP man’s spoon. The second thing in common, I observed, was that they all wore inexpensive winter clothes, torn shoes, and outside Gate No 3 they waited for Bus No 588, the Tilak Nagar-Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium bus, that perhaps took them to Dhaula Kuan main junction – they were the poor citizens of this country.

I remembered former president Abdul Kalam’s musing on how poor people were the awardees of capital punishments. My interviewee was also one. When I had asked him how many ‘tokens’ (the form of currency allowed in the jail) he had, he said “enough to survive”.

The writer, now the Executive Editor of The Caravan magazine conducted this interview when he was the India reporter for the US public radio, Pacifica

► DSP Davinder Singh asked me to do a small job for him. I had to take one man to Delhi, rent a house for him

► I am Afzal for Kashmiris, and I am Afzal for Indians as well, but both have an entirely conflicting perception of my being

 

 

A Collaborator in Kashmir #Afzalguru #mustread


  • By: Amitava Kumar
  • PUBLISHED ON MARCH 23, 2010,

“A Collaborator in Kashmir” appears in PEN America 10: Fear Itself.

After flights from Delhi to Jammu and then on to Srinagar, I rode north in a taxi to Sopore, closer to the Pakistan border. I’d come to Kashmir to meet Tabassum Guru, whose husband is on death row in Delhi. But when I stood before her, Tabassum waved me away. She had no desire to meet with journalists.

For his role in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, Mohammad Afzal Guru was sentenced to death by hanging. Another defendant was condemned to ten years in prison; two others were acquitted. Afzal Guru’s hanging, scheduled for October 20, 2006, was stayed after a mercy petition was filed with the President. In its judgment on his appeal, the Supreme Court had recognized that the evidence against Afzal was circumstantial and that the police had not followed legal procedures. Nevertheless, the judgment stated, the attack on the Indian Parliament had “shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”

In response, a group of Kashmiri leaders passed a resolution that read, in part, “We the people of Kashmir ask why the collective conscience of the Indians is not shaken by the fact that a Kashmiri has been sentenced to death without a fair trial, without a chance to represent himself?”

Afzal’s family could not afford a lawyer, and the court-appointed lawyer never appeared. A second lawyer was appointed, but she wouldn’t take instructions from her client and agreed to the admission of documents without proof. Afzal then gave the court four names of senior advocates, but they refused to represent him. The court chose another lawyer; this one said he did not want to appear for Afzal, and Afzal expressed a lack of confidence in him. But the court insisted—which is why the Kashmiri leaders asked whether it was Afzal’s fault that Indian lawyers thought it “more patriotic” to allow a Kashmiri to die than to ensure that he received a fair trial.

Only the naïve assume that the conflict in Kashmir is between fanatical militants and valiant soldiers. The real picture is darker and more complicated. In a system where the conventional economic nodes no longer function, and all resource lines intersect at some level with the security-state, there is a sense of enormous, often inescapable, dependency on those who are clearly seen as oppressors. This has bred complex schizophrenia. The writer Arundhati Roy has written, “Kashmir is a valley awash with militants, renegades, security forces, double-crossers, informers, spooks, blackmailers, blackmailees, extortionists, spies, both Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies, human rights activists, NGOs, and unimaginable amounts of unaccounted-for money and weapons….It’s not easy to tell who is working for whom.”

Tabassum Guru illuminated this murky landscape in the night-flare of a statement she wrote for The Kashmir Times in 1994. “A Wife’s Appeal for Justice” is anguished and unafraid. It tells the story of how the police and the armed forces have turned Kashmiris into collaborators; although the statement is no more than fifteen hundred words long, it starkly demonstrates the costs of military occupation. She begins with her husband’s story.

In 1990, like thousands of other Kashmiri youths, Afzal Guru joined the movement for liberation. He had been studying to be a doctor, but instead went to Pakistan for training. He returned three months later, disillusioned. The Border Security Force gave him a certificate stating that he was a surrendered militant. His dream of becoming a doctor was now lost; instead, he started a small business dealing in medical supplies and surgical instruments. The following year, in 1997, he got married. Afzal was twenty-eight, and Tabassum eighteen.

After his surrender, Afzal was often harassed and asked to spy on other Kashmiris suspected of being militants. (Sartre, writing more than fifty years ago: “The purpose of torture is not only to make a person talk, but to make him betray others. The victim must turn himself by his screams and by his submission into a lower animal, in the eyes of all and in his own eyes.”) One night, members of a counterinsurgency unit, the Special Task Force, took Afzal away. He was tortured at an STF camp.

Dravinder Singh, one of the officers mentioned in Tabassum’s appeal, has been frank about the necessity of torture in his line of work. He has stated that torture is the only deterrent to terrorism. Singh spoke to a journalist about Afzal Guru in a recorded interview: “I did interrogate and torture him at my camp. And we never recorded his arrest in the books anywhere. His description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his arse and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him. He did not reveal anything to me despite our hardest possible interrogation.” Azfal’s torturers demanded that he pay one lakh rupees, and Tabassum sold everything she had, including the little gold she had received when she married.

In the statement she wrote in 2004, Tabassum Guru sees her suffering in the light of what other Kashmiris have experienced: “You will think that Afzal must be involved in some militant activities that is why the security forces were torturing him to extract information. But you must understand the situation in Kashmir, every man, woman and child has some information on the movement even if they are not involved. By making people into informers they turn brother against brother, wife against husband and children against parents.”

After his release from the camp, where his interrogators had attached electrodes to his penis, Afzal needed medical treatment. Six months later, he moved to Delhi. He had decided that he would soon bring Tabassum and their little son, Ghalib, to a place he had rented. But while in Delhi, Afzal received a call from STF’s Dravinder Singh, his former torturer. Singh said that he needed Afzal to do a small job for him. He was to take a man named Mohammad from Kashmir to Delhi, which he did, and he also accompanied the same Mohammad to a shop where he bought a car. The car was used in the attack on the Parliament, and Mohammad was identified as one of the attackers.

As Afzal waited in Srinagar for a bus to Sopore, he was arrested and brought to the STF headquarters and then to Delhi. There he identified the slain terrorist Mohammad as someone whom he knew. This part of his statement was accepted by the court, but not the part where he said he was acting under the direction of the STF. Tabassum wrote, “In the High Court one human rights lawyer offered to represent Afzal and my husband accepted. But instead of defending Afzal the lawyer began by asking the court not to hang Afzal but to kill him by a lethal injection. My husband never expressed any desire to die. He has maintained that he has been entrapped by the STF.”

When I arrived in Sopore in my hired car, I noticed soldiers on the streets and on rooftops. There had been soldiers in Srinagar, too, but it was different here. We had left behind the painted roadside signs put up by the army and paramilitary units with messages like “Kashmir to Kanyakumari India is One.” In this town, there were only small, often half-finished houses and grimy stores. I got out of the car to ask about the hospital where Tabassum Guru worked.

She was at the cashier’s desk in the Inpatient Block, a tall woman in green shalwar-kameez, her head covered with a dupatta. She said she didn’t want to talk to me. I went outside to call friends in Srinagar, and learned that a week or two earlier two journalists from Delhi had done a sting. Afzal’s brothers had been collecting money for his defense but using the cash to buy property instead. The journalists had brought a spy camera and asked Tabassum if she felt that she had been betrayed by the Kashmiri leadership.

I decided to wait. I had come too far. Patients kept walking up to the entrance of the hospital, and a pony cart dropped off a sick woman. My driver, Shafi, having learned that I was visiting from New York, wanted to know where in America were the World Wrestling Federation’s matches held. We talked for a while, and then went inside the hospital again. A large crowd waited in the area marked Outpatient Block. Most people stood in the corridor, jostling against each other with a feverish energy that required good health. The few chairs were occupied and those who were sitting had adopted postures that suggested they’d been waiting for days. A sign on the wall said: UTILIZE YOUR WAITING TIME EFFECTIVELY—PLAN THINGS TO DO—MEDITATE—DO BREATHING EXERCISES—CHANT A HOLY NAME—READ BOOKS. I studied that sign for a while but felt agitated and decided to tell Tabassum that I was leaving. She nodded and half-smiled, then said goodbye.

From the road outside the hospital, lined with walnut and willow trees, I could see the snow-covered mountains. Shafi was full of ideas about how I might have persuaded Tabassum to talk to me. He said I should have told her that what I wrote would help her husband. But I had seen pictures of mobs in Delhi and elsewhere burning effigies of Mohammad Afzal; activists for the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party had exploded firecrackers on the streets outside the courthouse when he was first condemned to death; the print and television media had repeatedly described him as a terrorist mastermind. How could I have assured Tabassum that what I wrote would help?

When the journalists had interviewed her about Afzal’s brothers, Tabassum had said that she had never asked anyone for money to help in her husband’s legal case. She had said, “Mera zamir nahin kehta” (“My conscience doesn’t allow it”). I thought of that statement again when, in Delhi a week later, I watched Sanjay Kak’s filmJashn-e-Azadi (How We Celebrate Freedom), which documents the cost of violence in Kashmir. An indigent woman in a hamlet is asked whether she has received the promised financial compensation from the armed forces for the wrongful death in her family. The woman, her hands beating her breast, replies, “They have snatched my child from my bosom. I’ll eat pig’s meat but not accept compensation from the army.”

Soon after my return from Kashmir to upstate New York, where I work, I read Orhan Pamuk’s memoir, Istanbul. In his youth, Pamuk wanted to be a painter, and he still saw his city with the eyes of an artist. “To see the city in black and white,” Pamuk writes, “to see the haze that sits over it and breathe in the melancholy its inhabitants have embraced as their common fate, you need only to fly in from a rich western city and head straight to the crowded streets; if it’s winter, every man on the Galata bridge will be wearing the same pale, drab, shadowy clothes.”

Reading those words, I thought again of Srinagar. I had flown in from “a rich Western city,” and everything there looked drab to me, draped in a dirty military green. Every house that was new looked gaudy and vulgar or curiously incomplete. Many structures were shuttered, or burnt black, or simply falling down due to disrepair. Pamuk writes that those who live in Istanbul shun color because they are grieving for a city whose past aura has been tarnished by more than a hundred and fifty years of decline. I believe Pamuk was also describing plain poverty.

Jashn-e-Azadi had shown me another Srinagar. The film’s richness lay in the space it created, in the viewer’s mind, despite the violence, for thought and for color. The filmmaker had discovered again and again in the drabness of the melancholy the gleam of memory: the memory of blood on the ground, of the beauty of the hills and red poppies, of the keening voices of mothers and painted faces of village performers. Also the memory of the dead, of falling snow, of new graves everywhere, and the shining faces crying for freedom.

In a travelogue written more than four decades ago, V.S. Naipaul described how out of the “cramped yards, glimpsed through filth-runnelled alleyways, came bright colors in glorious patterns on rugs and carpets and soft shawls, patterns and colors derived from Persia, in Kashmir grown automatic, even in all their rightness and variety…” In Kak’s film, riotous color is glimpsed only when we see tourists donning traditional Kashmiri costumes for photographs, holding pots filled with plastic flowers.

When I think of the melancholy of Afzal and Tabassum Guru, it isn’t color that I seek, but a narrative to give sustenance to their lives. That is what was powerful about the story that Tabassum told: She gave coherence to what had been their experience and the ways it resonated with the experiences of other young Kashmiri couples.

As with Pamuk’s Istanbul, I found traces of Srinagar in a film about another distant place. Paradise Now, directed by Hany Abu-Assad, tells the story of two friends on the West Bank, Said and Khaled, who are recruited to carry out a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. The two young men are disguised as settlers going to a wedding. The would-be bombers get separated at the border, and the plan is called off, instigating some reflection and doubt on Khaled’s part. But Said is determined. We learn about his motivation when, in the company of Suha, a young woman who has just returned to Palestine, he goes into a watch shop, and Suha notices that videos are also available at the shop. These videos show the execution of collaborators, and Suha is shocked. She asks, “Do you think it’s normal that those videos are for sale?” Said replies, “What is normal around here?” Then he tells Suha, quietly, that his father was a collaborator. He was executed.

In Nablus, cars keep breaking down. Nothing works. The houses look either bombed or unfinished. In all of this, Nablus resembles Srinagar. Nablus is also like Srinagar in the ways in which its children are scarred by violence. I’m thinking of Ghalib, Afzal and Tabassum’s son, as well as thousands of other Kashmiris. It is horrifying but not difficult to imagine that many of them will find words to offer as testimony which are similar to those Said, sitting in an empty room, speaks to the camera just before he leaves on his suicide mission:

The crimes of occupation are endless. The worst crime of all is to exploit the people’s weaknesses and turn them into collaborators. By doing that, they not only kill the resistance, they also ruin their families, ruin their dignity and ruin an entire people. When my father was executed, I was ten years old. He was a good person. But he grew weak. For that, I hold the occupation responsible. They must understand that if they recruit collaborators they must pay the price for it. A life without dignity is worthless. Especially when it reminds you day after day of humiliation and weakness. And the world watches, cowardly and indifferent.

 

No noble family will allow girls to become dancers: Hurriyat #Vaw #WTFnews


PTI | Feb 3, 2013, 08.13 PM IST

No noble family will allow girls to become dancers: Hurriyat
Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said in a statement that Kashmir is a place of sufis and saints and there is no room to nourish western type of culture and immoral values.
SRINAGAR: Hardline faction of HurriyatConference today expressed surprise overJammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah‘s support for the valley’s only all-girls rock band, saying there is no room to nourish western culture and immoral values in the state.”Kashmir is a place of sufis and saints and there is no room to nourish western type of culture and immoral values,” Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said in a statement.

“Though in a civilised society there is no place for coercion and force, there are some values a citizen has to adopt to safeguard the ethical and religious traditions,” he said.

“Hurriyat Conference expresses regret and surprise over the support of Omar Abdullah,” Akbar said.

“As a matter of fact no noble family will allow their girls to choose their profession as a dancer so as to be a mere thing of pleasure for strangers,” he said.

Akbar said Omar should have gone through the history of Kashmir to find out the high regard and esteem bestowed upon women in order to save them from being sold as commodity.

“It is a matter of concern for us the way Omar Abdullah backed the rock band because the dynasty he belongs to has since long disassociated itself from Islamic and ethical values,” he said.

Referring to the reported threats being given to the rock band, the spokesman termed it “not good”.

“Instead, parents should have rectified the things and provided advice to their daughters that their activities were not as per ethics of Islam, culture and our unique identity,” he said.

Omar had come out in support of the girls yesterday saying police will probe the threats.

“I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them,” he said.

The all-girls band, which came to limelight in late December last year after their performance at the annual ‘Battle of the Bands‘ competition here, had defied the convention by stepping into the male-dominated field of music.

The girls’ band has received abusive and hate messages on their Facebook page for defying convention by choosing the field of music.

 

Abuses, threats can’t silence Kashmir’s only girl band #Vaw


Valley’s all-girl rock band after online slur still detremined
Azhar Qadri
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 1
The musical journey of Kashmir’s first and only all-girl rock band has come to an abrupt end after an online hate buzz.

The brainchild of three teenagers from the Valley, ‘Pragaash’ — a Kashmiri word meaning ‘from darkness to light’ — arrived on the music scene like a whiff of fresh air in a state plagued by violence for the last two decades. The 16-years-old made their first and last public performance at the ‘Battle of Bands’ here last December where they gave bands that mostly comprise of boys a run for their money.

But days after their debut, the band decided to call it quits. The reason: a vile barrage of abuses and hate messages about them and their families on the Internet, strong enough to force the young teen into hiding and abandoning their dream.

One of the girls, who talked to The Tribune on the condition that she would not be named, said the band had “ended”, but was reluctant to give reasons for the decision. “We have closed. It just ended… we had to hear so much from society that is why… I don’t want to tell anyone the reason,” she said.

The girl’s mother said she cried through the night after reading comments about the band on a social networking site. “The girls’ pictures were uploaded on a Facebook page and opinions were sought on whether making a band was wrong or right for our girls.

Some people wrote that the girls’ families had no food, which is why they were out to earn. After reading the comments, my daughter got very upset and cried all night. She decided not to do it again,” said the girl’s mother, adding that the family tried to talk her out of her decision. According to the girl’s mother, some posts appreciated the band; others didn’t. “Our religion does not allow this, our society doesn’t allow this,” she said.

‘Pragaash’ was a milestone in Kashmir’s music history for being the first rock band where the guitarist, drummer and vocalist were all girls. Women have enjoyed success in Kashmir singing folk songs, mystic poetry and romantic songs, but what set ‘Pragaash’ apart was its genre.

Band guitarist Aneeka Khalid, however, said the band had not been disbanded.

I rubbish the claims which have been made by some people quoting us that we will quit because of the threats ‘Pragaash‘ has received.

#India-Torture upon a dalit woman suffering from PTSD in Govt hospital #WestBengal


 

To

The Chairman

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House

Copernicus Marg

New delhi-110 001

 

Respected Sir,

 

I want to draw your attention on an incident where a young woman from Schedule Caste community named; Ms. Sarathi Mondal is the victim of medical negligence, physical torture and mental harassment by the perpetrators Ms. Ashima Mistri (staff nurse), Ms. Samejan bibi and Ms. Rabeya Bibi (both midwives) and Dr. Sujoy Modak (attending doctor), all attached with Sadikhans Dearh Rural Hospital, Block- Jalangi under district Mursidabad.

 

While the victim family tried to lodge a complaint to the local police station; Jalangi, on 6.10.2012 the Officer in Charge refused to register the same. The father of the victim made similar complaint to the respective Block Medical Officer (Health). Later a meeting for settlement of the issue has been organized on 8.10.2012 where local Member of Assembly, Officer in Charge of the police station and BMOH were present, in first instance the said Officer in Charge of Jalangi police station bluntly denied the happening of the incident, though the MLA told the victim family that he will take up the issue in coming seven days but no recourse measures has been taken till date. Police of Jalangi police station refused to register the complaint as a cognizable offence.

 

I am attaching a brief account of the incident with medical documents for your easy reference and demanding for:-

 

  1. Immediate and impartial investigation of the incident
  2. The written complaint made by the father of the victim should be treated as an FIR
  3. The attending doctor, staff nurse and midwives should be booked with proper legal provisions regarding causing grievous bodily harm and intense psychological torment 
  4. The Officer in Charge of the Jalangi police station should be booked for delinquency in his official duty
  5. The victim should be duly compensated

 

 

Thanking you,

Yours truly,

 

 

 

Kirity Roy

Secretary, MASUM

&

National Convener, PACTI

 

 

Name of the victim: – Ms. Sarathi Mondal, wife of- Mr. Ratan Mondal, aged about- 22 years, residing at Village- Sabrampur, Post Office- Sabrampur, Police Station- Jalangi, District- Mursidabad.

 

Name of the perpetrators: -

  1. Doctor Sujoy Modak
  2. Ms. Ashima Mistri
  3. Ms. Samejan bibi and Ms. Rabeya Bibi
  4. Officer-in- Charge of Jalangi Police Station

 

Date and time of the incident: – On 01/10/2012 & 02/10/2012 from 8 pm to 4 am on respective dates

 

Place of the incident: – Sadikhans Dearh Rural Hospital

 

Case details: -

 

On 01/10/2012 the victim was on her labour and admitted to the said hospital by her father and mother in law. She was admitted by Dr. Sujoy Modak under his observation. But no bed was provided to her and in the early morning on 2.10.2012 she gave birth of a male child on the floor of the said health centre. After child birth she was provided a bed. After her admission on 1.10.2012 at 8 pm at the said hospital, while she was lamenting due to severe pain which was quite normal during the labour, Ms. Ashima Mistri (staff nurse) and her two midwives namely Ms. Samejan Bibi and Ms. Rabeya Bibi got furious and beaten her with fisticuffs and kicked her on her lower parts of the waist, at the presence of attending doctor; Dr. Sujoy Modak, he not even resisted the wrongdoers from their inhumane act. Irate Ms. Ashima Mistri yet attacked the victim with a pair of scissors after she gave birth of a child. Ms. Ashima Mistri caused severe cuts on her thighs and private parts with the scissor. Due to that she was unable to properly walk for a month. Physical bashing on her ears was caused a temporary deafness.    

 

On 02/10/2012, she was discharged from that health centre. The victim’s father and some villagers went to Jalangi Police Station on 6.10.2012 to make a complaint against Ms. Ashima Mistri and others but the said police station refused register the complaint.

 

After 6 days on 8.10.2012, a meeting was arranged in the said hospital where local MLA, Officer-in- Charge (Jalangi Police Station), BDO, BMOH with Ms. Ashima Mistri, Ms. Samejan Bibi and Ms. Rabeya Bibi were present but without any appropriate recourse for the victim.

 

In that meeting, the Officer-in- Charge told that the entire incident was false. MLA promised to go through the entire case within 7 days and told that the perpetrators would be punished. But he did not take any necessary steps against the said culprits.

 

While our psychological counselor observed the mental condition of the victim on 22.1.2012, he opined that she is still under severe fear and sense of panic over (PTSD) the incident and her physical condition is also worrying. She was examined in our medical camp, supported by UNVFVT (United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture). It is also to be noted that the victim was also treated by the on duty medical officer of Sadi Khan’s Dearh Rural Hospital on 6th October 2012 while the doctor registered that she was physically assaulted. 

Inline images 1

Ms. Sarathi Mondal

Inline images 2

Treatment sheet of Govt. hospital

Inline images 3

 


Kirity Roy
Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
(MASUM)
&
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place
Shibtala
Srirampur
Hooghly
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax – +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
e. mail : kirityroy@gmail.com
Web: www.masum.org.in

Kashmir girl bags Silver Medal in Thailand, despite fighting all odds


 

ABID KHAN, in Greater Kashmir

Srinagar, Mar 30: Fighting all odds, a Valley based martial art player has shined in the World Muaythai championship by bagging silver medal in Bangkok Thailand. The 9th WMF World Muaythai championship was held at Nibbhati Indoor Stadium Bangkok from March 14 to 23 in which Uroosa Gazi daughter of Ghulam Mohi-ud-din was lone player from JK representing India.

Before leaving for the championship Uroosa fought all odds in her home State due to the lack of sponsors for her Bangkok trip. It was only after her father was able to get instant loan from JK Bank that she was able to achieve her dream and go for the participation.
The Indian contingent comprised of 14 players and before leaving for the event all the players went through three day coaching camp at Bangalore.
In the world event Uroosa participated in under-17 category in which there were six competitors from different countries. In her semi-final match she was against Thailand player whom she defeated easily while in final her opposite number from Australia proved too strong for her. She had to settle for the silver medal.
“It was unbelievable to see myself participating at such a grand stage. In my first match I was nervous but in second I was able to cope up with that. I should have won gold but the final opponent proved too quick for me” said Uroosa who has won numerous medals in different martial events till date.
“I am concentrating now on the future events and hope to get many more opportunities in future,” Uroosa told Greater Kashmir.
She was selected for the championship on the basis of her performance in National Muaythai championship held in Hyderabad. In the event young Uroosa bagged gold medal and was adjudged as best girl fighter.
After her brilliant performance in the world event and becoming first girl from JK to win national at such grand stage Uroosa’s mother hopes that people concerning the sport will help her daughter in the future events.
 “By winning medal at world stage my daughter proved how such talent she has. I have no grudge against anyone for not helping her. I am hopeful that her performance will speak itself and people concerned with the sports will help her in future events,” said Uroosa’s mother Tahira Tabassum.

Read original article here

Free Waqar Campaign -Crusade goes cyber


Freny Manecksha | March 31, 2012, Times Crest

Kashmiri youths have, perhaps for the first time, initiated a global online campaign calling for the release of 23-year-old Waqar Ahmad Moharkan of Srinagar, currently being held under the Public Safety Act (PSA). The campaign is significant not just because the youths are directly appealing to the world but because their efforts challenge the chimera of normalcy in the Valley. Activists in Kashmir have been hankering for a repeal of PSA and for the release of Amnesty International’s report ‘A Lawless Law, Detention Under the Public Safety Act’ for a year now, but this security legislation continues to be deployed against dissenters and protesters.

The website, www. savewaqar. org, started by a group that calls itself ‘Friends of Waqar’ recounts how the final-year B. Com student of Islamia College, Srinagar, was arrested by the police on October 1, 2011 for participating in protests in Lalbazar. Even though he was granted bail on October 23 he was not released. He was immediately rebooked instead and shifted to Central Jail on November 5 under a 10-day judicial remand. A case under PSA, which allows preventive detention without trial for two years, was slapped against him. This effectively means Waqar is being denied a trial.

Waqar’s father filed a writ petition in the court last week for enforcement of legal, fundamental and constitutional rights. It states that the detention was ordered by a district magistrate on the basis of a letter by the senior superintendent of police and material on record. But when a copy of the letter and the material were demanded by the detainee, they were denied and he was not able to make an effective representation against it. Therefore, argue Friends of Waqar, the “impugned order of detention is legally invalid”.

The website says that Waqar was illegally detained for two days at the interrogation centre at Air Cargo Building near the police station Shergari.

Curiously, on November 6, a news item published in the leading Urdu daily Aftab, cited Waqar’s name as among the 30 youths who had been released and handed over to their parents on the direction of an amnesty declared by chief minister Omar Abdullah.

However, last week, the home secretariat refused to give a copy of the list to a group of youths who seeking answers. In a written reply under the Right to Information Act, the J&K home department said none of the protesters had been granted amnesty.
On December 11, Waqar’s father received a call from the concerned police station informing him that his son was being shifted to Kotbhawal Jail, 300 km away from Srinagar, making it very difficult for the family to visit him.

Waqar’s case, which has been taken up by Mian Abdul Qayoom, president of the J&K High Court Bar Association (also detained under PSA in 2010), is a copybook example of what has been well documented in Amnesty International’s report. The pattern of his arrest – failure to pursue criminal charges, subsequent application of PSA, violations of even the PSA stipulations, and illegal confinement at the infamous “cargo” – mirrors that of hundreds of others. It is precisely this pattern, which impelled Amnesty International to declare in its report that “administrative detention under the PSA continues to be used in J&K to detain individuals for years at a time without trial, depriving them of human rights protection otherwise applicable in Indian law”.

Another feature in common with other PSA detainees is that Waqar’s detention order is couched in vague language, without alluding to any specific crimes. According to the website the “baffling and ridiculous grounds of detention” cited in the order are: “You have frequently come in the adverse notice of the police for your involvement in anti-social activities aimed at disturbing the public tranquility and peace in the city. You are instrumental in mobilising the anti-social elements for creating havoc in so far as causing serious law and order problem is concerned which inevitably besides endangering human life also causes impediments in the smooth economic development of the state. Your said acts are aimed at keeping the state on boil and thereby bringing about secession of J&K from Union of India. It has also emerged that your such nefarious designs are being carried out in a well thought out manner to bring the whole Downtown area to a standstill. “

Mir Shafkat Hussain, a lawyer who has successfully challenged scores of PSA detentions in the High Court, says that the lack of specific details and charges prevents detainees from challenging the order. This happens because even the basic norms under PSA are hardly ever followed. The detention is ordered either by the divisional commissioner or the district magistrate. In practise, these authorities merely ‘rubber stamp’ the police version. Shafkat Hussain says in his career he has come across only two district magistrates who took their role seriously and scrutinised the police version, sending it back if necessary.

Human rights activists say such arbitrary interpretation of PSA is becoming more common in the state’s attempts to quell dissent, which in recent years has changed from armed militancy to unarmed street protests. A number of young protesters and stone-pelters have been booked under PSA after the police failed to pursue criminal charges against them.

The death of another young PSA detainee, 22-yearold Sajad Ahmad of Sopore, on March 22 further highlights the alleged misuse of PSA. Sajjad Ahmad‘s family says that though he was in a bad shape after interrogation by the Special Operations Group, he was denied medical attention, flouting even the court’s instructions.

In such cases the state has often claimed that the protesters are goons who have been paid to throw stones or that they are being used by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Even peaceful protests by Kashmir Students Union against the Amarnath land row and the controversy surrounding Shopian rape-murders were dealt with an iron hand. The union office on the campus was razed and a ban imposed on student activities.

The young men ask why youth elsewhere in India are treated differently. One angry student wondered how angry young men in Rajasthan or Haryana are permitted to block roads and rails in thousands. “Why are we denied any such space?” he asks.

‘Free Waqar’ online campaign- An example of Kracktivism


‘Free Waqar’ online campaign gains momentum

Amnesty International gives its stamp by recognising it as an instance of rampant police and state repression in Kashmir

 March 29 , Baba Umar 
New Delhi


Organisers of the global ‘Free Waqar’ online campaign launched from Kashmir to push for the release of a 22-year-old commerce student —Waqar Ahmad Moharkan—has won its first battle after Amnesty International (AI) termed the youth’s detention as “yet another depressing reminder of the lack of rule of law in Kashmir.” Waqar was reportedly captured by the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police on 4 October, 2011, after they raided his Lal Bazaar house in downtown Srinagar and slapped him with the notorious Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) on charges that include participating in protests against government forces “for three years”.

In an email sent to TEHELKA, AI’s Govind Acharya (India Country Specialist) said the “widespread and abusive use” of administrative detention like the PSA and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) “reinforces the deeply held perception in young people like Waqar that police and security forces are above the law”. “Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the J&K government to release all PSA detainees or to charge them with a criminal offence,” Acharya tells TEHELKA.

The campaigners of the first-of-its kind online movement have literary taken the internet by storm having covered all social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter. Besides, a website freewaqar.org, created to draw more supporters, is fast becoming a rage among the youth in Kashmir and outside. On entering the site, a message reads, “Waqar Ahmad is in Indian jail since 176 days, 12 hours, 33 minutes and 20 seconds”—the duration of his imprisonment advances with every tick of the clock that’s live. And then details of Waqar’s passing from various jails after his arrest, petitions, bail order, and PSA document forms the body of the web page. The campaign reminds Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of his promises of granting ‘amnesty’ to 1200 youth arrested during and after the 2010 civil unrest.

A newspaper article published by the campaigners on the web page too shows Waqar’s name among 29 other youths who were to be released by the police on CM’s orders. Operated solely online, the campaign already on Facebook and Twitter (#FreeWaqar) is being pushed forward through petition sites such as ipetitions.com and change.org. ipetitions.com, however, decided to take the petition down citing “legal issues” as key reason.

“Within 24 hours of posting our petition we had nearly 500 signatures. The site, however, wanted to take down the petition giving us 48 hours of time to download the data,” one campaigner wishing anonymity tells TEHELKA.

petition meant for Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch (HRW) posted on change.org, however, has already crossed the 1000 signature mark. Posted by a Mumbai-based activist, the petition (reproduced from freewaqar.org) seeks AI and HRW’s intervention to “take up the case of Waqar’s wrongful, illegal and oppressive treatment at the hands of the Indian state.”

AI’s Acharya asserted such laws are “not in line with international human rights standards” and says that “We’ve repeatedly called on the J&K government to repeal the PSA and other similar administrative detention laws.”

Campaign organisers, who wish anonymity, tell TEHELKA that the campaign aims to educate people about “how Kashmir government can lie about releasing someone without actually doing it.”

Despite the courage, the campaigners fear police reprisals.

“Our efforts are not directed against anyone. We want the state to keep its word. Omar Abdullah had agreed to release him (Waqar), but instead they re-arrested him. The state chief minister had promised release of 1200 youth which he had called ‘mass amnesty’ in one of his statements. But students like Waqar are rotting in jails. Waqar was seized in Srinagar but has been detained 300 km away in Jammu’s Kotbalwal Jail. By this they are punishing the parents as well.”

It’s for the first time that an online campaign has come up seeking release of an individual. In Kashmir, online protests became a norm during the 2008 civil unrest. Angry protesters, mostly young, who would march across the streets of Kashmir demanding Azadi from New Delhi, had taken the battle to the online world too. Thousands of amateur and raw videos flashing long marches, troops’ action and killings went viral forcing the government to pull down some of the videos from YouTube that it considered were “highly critical” in nature. The challenge was thrown once again during 2009 protests over the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian province. And then in 2010, the civil unrest leading to the killing of over 125 people, mostly youth, at the hands of government forces, re-ignited the virtual campaign in Kashmir.

In Waqar’s case, the online battle is being fought using all forms of art. For example, on goanimiate.com, an animation ‘Faking Democracy-Free Waqar Now’ posted by ‘Kracktivist’ has already drawn more than 270 views. The two-minute-long animationposted on 16 March simulates an interview of an NBA player who is a supporter of Free Waqar Campaign and explains to the interviewer the rationale behind supporting the online movement.

With such anger brewing, how are the police looking at the campaign?

“We always monitor such activities,” a top police official tells TEHELKA over phone. He claimed that Waqar, apart from pelting stones, might also have participated in updating the prominent Facebook Kashmiri Community page Aalaw (The Call)—known for its fiery pro-Kashmir and anti-government posts, which went through many unsuccessful attempts at being blocked before.

“The investigation is on. We’ve found Aalaw was run by a group of four youngsters of which Waqar might be a part. We’re not 100 per cent sure but we are waiting for further details,” he claims adding, “The new campaign could be a part of the same tirade against the state.”

Caught in the crossfire, with the online campaign on the one hand and police warnings on the other, Waqar’s parents feel any sort of “malice” will hurt their son directly or indirectly. “Our family isn’t a part of this campaign. We don’t even know who is doing it. Their intentions may be good but yes, any malice will affect my son. I only want my son free. But look at the irony… I dropped my son to the police station on the promise that he’ll be released after brief questioning. Six months have passed, he still remains in detention,” says Waqar’s father Khursheed Ahmad Moharkan.

The elder Moharkan says if Waqar was leading stone pelting for three years, then what about lakhs of youths who pelt stone on Kashmir streets even now? He also mocks the charges slapped against Waqar. “Now that he (Waqar) is jail, stone pelting still takes place in Kashmir. Who are these people? Does my son incite them from jail? The police theory falls flat here. I am begging before them (police). They (police) better stop projecting my son as Osama bin Laden.”

Waqar’s father is, in the meanwhile, looking forward to 9 April when the state government will file objections in the Srinagar high court against the petition he has filed seeking quashing of the PSA against Waqar. “Let’s see what they have to show against my son. Myane Tarfe Chu Khudah (I’ve God on my side),” he says before hanging up the phone.

Baba Umar is a Correspondent with Tehelka. 
babaumar@tehelka.com

Kashmir’s health department cracks whip on private nursing homes


Around 150-180 hysterectomies at Valley’s 40 private nursing homes every month alarms authorities

Riyaz Wani
Srinagar

Rafiqa, 50, from Qamarwari locality of Srinagar has had a massive weight gain and undergoes wild mood swings—a source of constant trouble for her family. The reason for such erratic behaviour, her doctors at the government hospital now tell her, was the hysterectomy surgery she underwent at a private nursing home six years ago. The surgery it turns out, was unnecessary. The consequent complications, she is told, will probably last for the rest of her life.

Rafiqa is not an exceptional case. Around 150-180 hysterectomies—a surgical procedure in which doctors remove the uterus—are performed at Kashmir’s 40 private nursing homes every month. The situation has alarmed the Valley’s health department, which is already battling the incidence of female foeticide in a state where the female sex ratio as per the 2011 census has plummeted to 859 females per 1000 males.

“We didn’t know that the situation is so bad. Then the complaints from the people and public quarters alarmed us,” director of health Dr Salim-ur-Rehman, who has recently taken over the functioning of the department, told TEHELKA. “We found that there was a tendency to prescribe hysterectomies as the only solution.”

According to a recent survey ordered by the health department, the total number of hysterectomies performed in the seven districts of the Valley over the past five years is 14,788. Most of them were done at private hospitals. For example, in Kulgam district, out of a total of 4,196 hysterectomies in five years, 3,546 have been done in the private sector and only 650 in the government sector. Similarly, in Baramulla district, out of a total of 280 such procedures, only one has been done at a government hospital. In Bandipore district, out of a total of 924, around 659 procedures have been performed in the private sector.

The easy recourse to the procedure in private hospitals can be gauged from the fact that a small nursing home in downtown Srinagar, according to the data of health department, has performed 28 hysterectomies in December 2011. As against this, Lal Ded, the Valley’s largest maternity hospital carried out only two hysterectomies in the same period. “The particular nursing home has only two surgeons and sees fewer patients, while Lal Ded with 66 doctors, sees more than one lakh patients at its OPD alone,” said a health official.

Rafiqa has had her hysterectomy at a private hospital in Srinagar. “I didn’t know what I was getting into. Doctors told me I would be all right and I had no choice but to believe them,” says Rafiqa. “Since the surgery, my health has become worse,” she added.

The incidence of the growing number of hysterectomies has forced the health department to crack the whip. Rehman has decided to hold the private nursing homes to account. At a meeting with the Association of Private Hospitals on 12 March, Rehman called on them to exercise a greater restraint in the prescription of the procedure and warned the cancellation of their license in case they didn’t follow the norms of medical practice. There are around 40 private nursing homes in the Valley.

Besides this, the health department is going for a more detailed survey of the incidence of hysterectomies in the Valley. “I have told chief medical officers to gather information on hysterectomies through Ashas. There is one Asha for 1000 people, so we will get a fair assessment,” assures Rehman.

The Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India in a policy statement sent to the director of health underlined that only a gynaecologist can carry out a hysterectomy. “Surgeons cannot do justice to the removal of uterus since removal of uterus is not just a surgical skill and training for the same is primarily imparted to gynaecologists,” FOGSI says in the statement. “This (hysterectomy) can be done best by gynaecologists and the surgeons can be called in the event of involvement of other organs.”

However, FOGSI president Dr PK Shah, doesn’t think that the large number of hysterectomies in a particular area means they are all unnecessary. “It is very difficult to make a judgement. If there is a reason for hysterectomy, then it is okay,” Shah tells TEHELKA. “Numbers don’t matter much, but there are no two opinions about the fact that the hysterectomy should always be the last resort.”

The Valley’s well known psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Margoob says he has seen more than many patients in distress following a hysterectomy, over the past several years. “I have seen women in their 30s who have undergone hysterectomy,” Margoob revealed adding that in most cases hysterectomy had not been recommended by a gynaecologist but by other doctors and sometimes even by quacks.

Another psychiatrist Dr Arshid Hussain said the “post-hysterectomy depression” is a familiar phenomenon. “I see a lot of these cases,” Arshid says. “Hysterectomy deprives women of hormones at a crucial stage in their life, which sends them into severe melancholic depression. There is a need for these women to keep replenishing these hormones.”

Pertinently, a study carried out by the Government Medical College has found the incidence of uterine rupture in the Valley at 0.2 per cent. The study, which carried over two years (March 2007-March 2009) studied 100 women and found that the prevalence of the uterine rupture was common in women with low socio-economic status.

Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
riyaz@tehelka.com

UN rapporteur arrives on fact-finding mission in Kashmir



The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns arrived on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmiron Monday afternoon.

This is for the first time that the special rapporteur has been allowed by the Indian government to visit the Valley.

Hayns told a news conference immediately after his arrival in SrinagarImages ] that his mandate was to visit different countries to asses the situation on right to life which is fundamental to all other human rights and report back to United Nations Human Rights Commission.

He said he will release the preliminary report in New DelhiImages ] on March 30 at the end his visit and submit the final report to the commission.

“During my stay I will be meeting government officials including those from the police, the Army, rights activists, victims and academicians etc.”

Chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Parveena Ahangar met the special rapporteur after his arrival.

Senior advocate, Zafar Shah told the media conference “Kashmiri people and civil society have been demanding for the last two decades that UN should visit Kashmir and prepare a fact based report.”

He said, “Sweeping powers such as the Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act were available to the authorities which made normal judicial remedies unavailable to those seeking judicial intervention against misuse of powers by the security forces in Kashmir.”

The coalition of civil society members also met the special rapporteur and submitted detailed reports about the human rights situation in the Valley.

He had a close door meeting with relatives of those killed in some highly controversial incidents in the Valley.

Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar, Rediff.com