Threat to Indian Constitution is more serious from the Executive arm of Government having scant respect for law


By Irfan Engineer

It is not in dispute that Afzal Guru was a surrendered cadre of JKLF. He was dissatisfied about the situation in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and he surrendered to the Border Security Force. Once a person surrenders to security forces, he takes a calculated risk of displeasing and even facing threat to life from other gun wielding cadres. Gun wielding fighters fear that the surrendered cadre would give crucial information about them and their organization and also want to make an example of the surrendered persons to deter others from surrendering. Afzal Guru might have calculated the risk he runs and still decided to surrender. A person surrenders when he loses hope of success of the mission of the organization he was working with or realizes that the mission was not worthy after all. It is also not in dispute that Guru after his surrender did odd jobs and completed his graduation.

The police version and Afzal Guru’s version thereafter differ. Police version broadly is that Guru met one Tariq, who introduced him to Ghazi Baba and who in turn motivated him to arrange safe hideout for those who had planned to attack Indian Parliament. Afzal Guru was paraded by police before the electronic media and his “confession” was broadcasted. Supreme Court frowned on such practices and did not rely on the “confession” under the circumstances.

Guru, on the other hand, in his further statement under S. 313 of the Cr.P.C. before the trial court, and in his letter to the Home Minister states that he was introduced to those who later attacked the Indian Parliament by DSP Dalvinder Singh and coerced to arrange for their stay in Delhi, and while in Delhi, he constantly received calls from Dalvinder Singh. The call records were never investigated and never verified. Guru writes that he could not present his side and contest the evidence being adduced in the trial court as his family was under threat.

The Apex Court also accepts that Guru did not get a lawyer to represent his case. Supreme Court is on record stating that Guru’s conviction is based on circumstantial evidence. The death sentence was awarded to satisfy the collective conscience of the nation. The persons who attacked the Parliament were killed in the operation and Ghazi Baba was never arrested.

National Human Rights Commission has stated that it was violation of human rights of the family members of Afzal Guru to have executed him without even intimating the family before his execution and for not permitting his family members to meet Afzal Guru for one last time before his execution. It is violation of fundamental right to practice one’s own religion by not allowing the family to perform last rites of the departed according to their religion and not to hand over the body to the family.

Kashmir has been gagged since the morning Guru was executed. Kashmiris cannot express themselves – their anger or appreciation. Their children have no milk. News and internet access, SMSs all were blocked. No democracy, no trust and no freedom for Kashmiris. Only the CM of Kashmir was allowed to talk to the media. All because a Kashmiri was accused of waging or abetting waging of war with Government of India, tried on circumstantial evidence and executed without informing his family before his execution to satisfy the conscience of the nation as voiced by Hindutva brigade. The only other person executed in this manner after promulgation of Constitution of India was a Pakistani National – Ajmal Kasab. The Britishers allowed parents of Bhagat Singh to meet him for one last time before his execution, even though he was also considered by them a terrorist waging war on the Colonial rule.

Threat to the Government of India and the Indian Constitution is not serious enough from terrorists – as they can be handled by security forces having far more superior force and superior organization and power of public opinion of law abiding Indian citizens. Threat to Institutions of democracy, Indian Constitution and the rule of law is far more serious from the executive having scant respect for the rule of law clothed with unaccountable authority and from ideologies that purport to be majoritarian nationalism having scant respect for justice.

The Issue of Justice:

Revenge and the urge for blood was medieval notion of justice. Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth is not justice. Instilling fear and creating awe for those in power has not deterred crimes. For those deprived or those nurturing a sense of injustice or experiencing occupation fight regardless of consequences and with whatever means they can command. Colonial power did not deter Indian freedom fighters and they were ready to pay any price – even their lives. It is the structures and institutions that we build which are fair and just towards all and accountable to the citizenry that help reduce crimes in the society.

Justice does not lie in retribution and inflicting same or more pain or loss to what a person has inflicted upon others and deriving satisfaction from the pain that that person is suffering. It is an inhuman instinct. Justice lies in restoration of the victim of crime back, expressing solidarity, and as far as possible, normalizing the life of the victim and helping her to come to terms with the wrong done to her, and ensuring that the wrong would not be repeated.  Family members of the five security personnel, a parliamentary guard and a gardener who died during the attack on the Parliament may derive satisfaction from killing of persons involved in the attack (with sufficient degree of certainty). However, those attacking the Parliament were seeking their own revenge (certainly an abominable and condemnable action) for somebody else, and so on! Kashmiris might perceive injustice in the manner in which the trial was held and the entire execution was dealt with and all of them were made to suffer house arrest for days following Guru’s execution. Retribution is a never ending cycle and does not bring closure. Every closure for one is point of revenge for another for the perceived injustice.

Closure for the relatives of those killed during Parliament attack would be more meaningful if their economic lives had been restored by the nation and helped them to come to terms with the questions disturbing their minds like, “why my near and dear one?”, “whose fault?”, “where did things go wrong?”, “why did the attack happen?”, “what motivated the attacker to target my near and dear one?”, and mitigated loss of their near and dear ones as much as possible. Closure for Priyanka Gandhi for her father’s assassination was not sending S Nalini Sriharan to gallows but meeting her in prison and seeking answers to these questions and finally forgiving her. Nalini was spared death row.

But Justice also means restoration of the perpetrator of the crime back to normalcy and to help the person repent and reform and till the time there is genuine repentance on the part of the perpetrator, putting such restrictions and taking such measures which would restore the perpetrator as a socially useful human being. If there is no repentance then society ought to be protected from the perpetrator by isolating the perpetrator.

Subjectivity in death penalty:

Others also attacked Constitutional Institutions and functionaries, including Nalini and Rajoana who killed the then Chief Minister of the Punjab. Those vociferously demanding Guru’s execution are silent on speedy execution of sentence to Rajoana and Nalini. There is no demand that Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kondnani convicted for brutal rapes and murder of many in which even foetus was not spared the brutality be awarded death sentence. Death sentence therefore is not a demand for justice, but a political demand to garner votes, to overawe a community or a section and demonstrate the power and patriarchal values of might, strength and masculinity of the state power and those who wield power. Masculinity, military might and notion of power come with the ideology of ‘might is right’. But there are limits to ‘might is right’ arrogance. The notions of crusades invoked by the then US President after attack on twin towers on 9/11 in which 3000 people (who were citizens of various countries) were killed, led the US to war with Afghanistan and Iraq killing over 6 lakh people and injuring millions. The war has not been won as yet by the mighty and will never be won until justice is done.

The march of history has been from more brutal and violent societies to more humane, inclusive and less violent societies; and from authoritarian to democratic states. The objective of punishment awarded by the society to the delinquents and non-conformists too has evolved from that of retribution to deterrence and reformation of the delinquent. With the strengthening of democracies, there is increasing culture of tolerating dissent and differences. Sanctity of life is increasingly accepted and believed that society does not have the right to take away anyone’s life. Disproportionate number of people from marginalized sections of the society – poor, ethnic and religious minorities and lower castes are handed down death penalty. For example, 41% of death row inmates and 34% of those executed in US are African Americans though they constitute 12% of US population. There is only one remedy – neat burial of death sentence as a punishment.

 

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.

 

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.

Maimed by the state, quietly #Torture #Censorship #Kashmir


Amidst a culture of silence and media inattention, torture is easy to find in the security hot zones of India. A new film bares the ugly truth. Freny Manecksha reports. 

“Soldiers got on top of me. One of them chopped my feet with a knife. I could see blood flowing and my feet twitching. … They cut the flesh of my waist. They made me eat all this …”“They pulled my nails out completely and rubbed chilli powder into the wounds.”

“They set the bottom of my legs alight and the fabric stuck to my skin …”

Truly horrific. Macabre descriptions, taken not from some archives of a medieval torture chamber, but from Channel Four’s film – Kashmir: the Torture Trail – that was aired last month. Directed by BAFTA award winner Jezza Neumann and produced by Brian Woods, the film follows Kashmir’s noted human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz, who is documenting torture testimonials of victims at the hands of Indian security forces and police, for the first comprehensive report on use of torture as a repressive weapon in Kashmir.

Recording statements and providing graphic visual images of victims ranging from Firoze, detained under PSA with a head wound, to a girl who was raped by troops, to the shepherd Kalendu Khatana, whose feet were cut off by the Border Security Forces, the film buttresses its point of institutionalised torture, by verification from the government’s own human rights organisation or statements by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or the United Nations.


India has signed but not yet ratified the UN Convention against Torture. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has been denied permission to visit India. 

The State Human Rights Commission, which has probed Khatana’s claims, found them not only to be true but made the damning observation that it was one of clusters where Indian security forces had hacked away at limbs of suspects so badly that amputation was inevitable. Twenty years after his feet were cut off, Khatana’s wounds fester, as does his claim for compensation.

The film’s promotional video calls it India’s best kept secret, but torture, like the presence of the unmarked graves, has long been an accepted fact in Kashmir – one that has been difficult to document, however.

Parvez Imroz, who has been actively involved with the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, and who worked along with the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir on Buried Evidence – the extensive report on unidentified and mass graves, has been speaking out against torture. In the film he declares, “Some people must stand up and say ‘No this is not acceptable. We will campaign against it.”

It was the publication of the WikiLeaks cable last year that brought to light concerns by the international community over the extensive use of torture in India. The dispatches reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which said that out of the 1296 detainees it visited in Kashmir, 681 said they were tortured.

The film also looks at the way the draconian Public Safety Act or preventive detention is used to detain hundreds without trial, and the way in which young street protesters and stone pelters continue to be rounded up and tortured.

Mohamad Junaid, currently studying anthropology in New York and specialising on issues of militarisation and violence , grew up in Kashmir in the nineties. He witnessed and has written about the humiliation of crackdowns, arrests and protest marches. He believes the state uses torture not so much to extract information, but to send messages to the “larger oppressed nation through broken and defiled bodies, to break their national will and determination. This psycho-somatic warfare against Kashmiris is an unconscionable blind spot in the discourses about human rights and justice in the international arena.”

Channel Four’s film comes close on the heel of a campaign by Indian rights activists protesting the use of torture against political prisoners and for reforms on issues related to torture.

Two weeks ago Amnesty International launched its petition urging the Indian government to stop the use of torture, noting that disadvantaged, marginalised groups including women, dalits, adivasis and suspected members of armed opposition groups are those most commonly abused. The petition begins with an appeal by Nazir Ahmad Sheikh, a Kashmiri from Handwara who was forced by members of 14th Dogra regiment to walk barefoot in the snow and whose feet were also later burnt with a stove.

India has signed but not yet ratified the UN Convention against Torture. At the UN Human Rights meet in Geneva this year India claimed it had a prevention of torture bill pending in Parliament. Activists say it does not comply with standards laid down by the UN Convention. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has been denied permission to visit India.

Noted documentary film maker Sanjay Kak who made a film on Kashmir, Jashn-e Azadi(How We Celebrate Freedom) believes that the institutionalisation of torture is because of growing militarisation of ever greater swathes of the country and the general public’s ability to stonily accept its terrible consequences. “At its root is a crisis in the sphere of politics where the art of persuading those who disagree has been replaced by the brutal science of torture.”

The media’s compliance in hiding the story has meant “we have managed to block out the use of torture and custodial killings in Nagaland and Manipur, glossed over its use in Punjab and managed to do that in Kashmir for over two decades. But the rot is beginning to come out in the open.”

The film has evoked strong reactions abroad. Mirza Waheed, whose book The Collaborator fictionalised torture and extra-judicial killings, said online, “Devastating, damning evidence of widespread torture by Indian forces. A sad sad night.”

But in India itself it has been met by and large with a deafening silence. Earlier this year too, there was very little public outcry when adivasi teacher Soni Sori, held in Chhatisgarh on grounds of being a Maoist sympathiser, charged the police of torturing her by pushing stones up her vagina. The case is in the Supreme Court even as a gallantry award was conferred on the police officer concerned. It is only “an overworked set of activists who are trying to keep the hard questions on use of torture alive,” adds Kak.

“The business of torture has become like a contagious disease with the state,” says Kak. “You may initially use it against those you call terrorists, and do it with the implicit and unthinking approval of ordinary people. But then you start using it against those you call separatists, then on Maoists, and then on their sympathisers and next on innocents like Soni Sori who happened to be caught in the crossfire. People will wake up only when one works towards uncovering the endemic and casual use of torture in our police stations and lock ups – against dalits for example who neither want to secede or overthrow the state.”

So can documentaries and films make some kind of impact? Kak, whose Jashn-e Azadifaced hostility and threats says that since the Indian state has to present itself to the world as a democracy – the world’s largest at that – shaming it for its widespread use of torture will work. “The state wears a thick skin, but even the thickest folds of skin have a chink where a needle can make its way through and make the beast jump.”
Freny Manecksha 

13 Aug 2012

Good news-1,925 Kashmiri Pandit migrants get jobs in Valley


A Kashmiri pandit lady, photograph by Fred Bre...

Image via Wikipedia

By News Desk
Updated Sunday, 11 March 2012 1
JAMMU: The Jammu and Kashmir government has given jobs t

1,925 Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) migrants under the Prime Minister’s Relief and Rehabilitation Package announced in 2008.
Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Raman Bhalla informed the state legislative assembly Saturday that out of 3,000 posts reserved for Kashmiri migrants, the Service Selection Board has made selection of 1,925 candidates for different category of posts.
He said: “Orders have already been issued in favour of 1,922 candidates, of which, 1,287 candidates have so far joined their duties in the Valley.” He added that the matter for selection against 800 posts under reserved categories is under active consideration of the government.
He said: “Transit accommodation has been constructed at various places in Kashmir, adding that 140 units have been constructed in Vessu (Anantnag district), 65 in Hawl (Pulwama district) and 130 in Baramulla out of a total 495 units to be constructed in the valley. This accommodation is presently being utilized by the employees who have been recently appointed under the Prime Minister’s Package.”
The minister said that the state government has taken up the issue of enhancement of monthly cash assistance to Kashmiri migrants with the Union government several times and migrant relief has been enhanced by the Centre from time to time. “In April, 1990 the Kashmiri migrants were getting Rs.500 per family as monthly cash assistance, and at present due to enhancement from time to time, these migrants get a monthly Rs.5,000 per family,” he said.
About 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits had migrated from the Kashmir valley in 1990 when secessionist militancy erupted there. They were initially lodged in tented accommodations around Jammu and gradually shifted to tenements.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in 2008 announced a Rs.1,618 crore Relief and Rehabilitation package including the return of Pandit youth to Kashmir. (IANS)

Kashmir Women lead suicidal tendencies


Casualties of war: Kashmiri women suffer most from mental health issues

Feb 1, 2012-Srinagar, Khurram Rasool

With the state of conflict still fresh in the backdrop of their minds and increase in the cases of domestic violence, females in Kashmir are reportedly said to be more prone to suicides than ever before.

A study conducted by a prominent sociologist at the University of Kashmir, Dr. B A Dabla reveals that in Kashmir while the female suicide rates are increasing immensely, it is men who have more suicidal tendencies in the rest of India.

“Contrary to Kashmir, in the rest of the country, men are found to be more suicidal especially in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh (UP) where maximum number of farmer suicides has taken place”, Dr. Dabla told The Kashmir Monitor.

As per Dr. Dabla, the conflict situation has given rise to such social tendencies among females which directly or indirectly leads them to suicide. “As compared to the other societies elsewhere in India, female suicide cases have seen an alarming rise here in the valley. The main reason could be that females being more physically weak towards handling stress, fail to resolve the problem”, added Dr Dabla.

Interestingly, Dr. Dabla reveals that literate and educated people being very sensitive are more prone to committing suicides. Twenty eight year old Shazia Majeed who put an end to her life on November 9 last year by hanging herself from a ceiling fan was educated and employed at the Islamic University of Science and Technology as a librarian. This illustrates Dabla’s statement.

Shazia’s family still believes their daughter’s death to be a pure case of domestic violence. Experts claim that Domestic violence and family disputes play a vital role in making the females take the extreme step.

Moreover, two age groups among females between 17-35 and 35-50 are said to have more suicidal tendencies than others. Feroz Ahmed Malla, a counsellor at an NGO that works for mental healthcare, Kashmir Lifeline said, “Owing to the day today stress and personal life crisis, more youngsters are seen committing suicides and females have surely outnumbered the males”.

As per reports, the two premier hospitals of the valley Sher-i- Kashmir institute of medical sciences (SKIMS) and Shri maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital registered 1029 cases of attempt to suicide in the previous year.

Source- http://www.kashmirdispatch.com/

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,233 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,766,078 hits

Archives

November 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  
%d bloggers like this: