A brave chronicler of Kashmir’s militancy- George Joseph

George Joseph’s determined reportage from J&K is testimony to the importance of a journalist’s role in a conflict situation.

Aasha Khosa  writes

My dearest husband, friend and colleague George Joseph passed away on February 27. While our daughter and I are in deep mourning, I feel compelled to narrate the story of an extraordinary journalist, with whom I shared my life with for 21 years. George had risked his life to uphold professional values. His reporting from Kashmir during the most turbulent years of militancy gave glory to the the profession of journalism; even today it is testimony to the importance of a journalist’s role in a conflict situation.

George Joseph arrived in Srinagar in the autumn of 1989 to the deathly sound of Kalashnikovs in a situation that was to soon to turn into a full-fledged insurgency. The pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen was rising as a gang of ruthless killers. The Hizb had nearly wiped out the ideologically moderate Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). In Srinagar, the word “India” was anathema to the proponents of the so-called (freedom) movement. “Hindustanikutta”(Indian dog) was the choicest abuse. However, in surcharged and communally polarised Kashmir, George’s religion and his South Indian ethnicity were seen as a neutral factor by militant supporters.

George reported extensively on the dramatic news events of that time. Be it Rubaiya Sayeed’s abduction or the Gaw Kadal massacre, he was out there covering it. In February, Lassa Kaul, Director, Doordarshan Kendra, was killed. George was shocked to realise the complicity of the people around him. “There is treachery in everything around us,” he would say later. He was aghast that no Kashmiri priest came forward to perform Kaul’s last rites. It was eventually done by an army priest. A month later, militants had killed P.L. Handoo, an assistant director in the Information Department.

That was when Governor Jagmohan advised three journalists working for national dailies — Hindustan TimesIndian Express and Times of India — to leave the Valley as he feared they would be the next targets. Overnight they had to leave for Jammu. However, George defied Jagmohan’s diktat. He returned to Srinagar, much to the dislike of those in power and even some of his colleagues.

Series of abductions

After our marriage in February 1991, I shifted to Srinagar, from where I worked for the Tribune. During our first summer, there were a number of abductions: Indian Oil executive K. Doraiswamy, Bihar MLA S.P. Sinha, REC Principal R.L. Wakhloo are some of those that I remember spent months as captives of militants. One day, militants deposited a human finger in the PTI office, which was next to George’s. That day we could feel the danger around us. If it was a finger today, tomorrow it could be a severed head.

A year later, on a cold March afternoon, we received a call from the Hizbul Mujahideen spokesperson. The caller told George that the Hizb had split. The Hizb leader, Master Ahsan Dar, had been charged with embezzlement of funds and expelled after a brief imprisonment by his own cronies. George asked him to provide proof. The caller told us that the Hizb had issued a formal press release to the local media about it a day before. However, on the advice of their Pakistani handlers, they had instructed the media to black out the news. The caller arranged to drop the original handout in our letter box. The Hizbul Mujahideen split was the turning point in the history of the insurgency, and George and I were the only ones to report it.

Read The Hindu article here


Free Waqar Now


Dear all

We had started an  e-petition  addressed to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to take up the case of this Kashmiri student, Waqar  and many like him lamguishing in priosn, at ipetition website, but our petition was pulled off with following message today

“Hello, Unfortunately, our legal department has encountered some legal issues regarding your petition (http://www.ipetitions.com/ petition/release-waqar-ahmad/). We are forced to remove your petition from our site, otherwise we are subject to legal proceedings. The petition will be disabled for at least 48 hours prior to removal, but you will have access to its database during that period. We apologize once again. Thank you for your understanding. -Alex iPetitions Support-iPetitions Support”

the important points to note in this case are

Important Points:

– The Indian State has booked Waqar under draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows the state to jail anyone for two years without trail. Waqar is not a dreaded criminal but only any other college student who asks for his rights.

– The authorities in Indian-Held Kashmir have shifted Waqar to Kothbhawal Jail, more than 300 km from his home in Srinagar. When a person is detained under preventive law, he cannot be logdged more than 300 kms away from his place of residence, thereby flouting a law pronouced by Supreme Court of India.

– The Indian State has deprived Waqar of his education and is on verge of denting his bright career. It is important to mention that he has managed to get a high score despite being in Jail securing ‘A’ grade in the Final Year exam papers he has appeared in inside Jail.

We have started our petition again at teh change.org website , pl sign and share widely

Sign the pettion here

Faking Democracy- Free waqar now




Free Waqar: A campaign for justice in Kashmir

Deutsch: Flagge des Bundesstaates Jammu und Ka...

Image via Wikipedia

Mar 14, 2012, By Dilnaz Boga | Agency: DNA

Online global campaigns to free prisoners wrongfully held have come to Kashmir. A group of youth, who call themselves Friends of Waqar have been silent for months. The fact that Waqar has been denied his basic rights has not let them have a moment of peace, one of them says, as he proceeds to show me the website (www.freewaqar.org) the group has been working on in uptown Srinagar.

The boys have decided to launch their own online protest. “We have made this website and we want people from all over the world to sign a petition to release Waqar immediately and mete out justice. This is an illegal detention,” Aslam (name changed) said.

Friends of Waqar are fighting for Waqar Ahmad Moharkan, a second year student of Bachelor’s in Commerce at Srinagar’s Islamia College of Science and Commerce. He was arrested by police of MR Gunj station on 4 October, 2011 on charges of participating in protests in Srinagar.

The court allowed his bail application on 23 October, 2011. Instead of being released, he was rebooked and moved to Central Jail under judicial remand on 15 December, 2011 suddenly slapped with the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA).

His lawyer, the head of the Bar Association in Kashmir Mia Qayoom has stated in writing that the youth was deliberately not handed a translated copy of the grounds of detention so that he would be unable to make an effective representation against the order of detention. The police passed the PSA without informing Waqar’s family, who had the legal right to challenge the act.

Thee family was informed about the PSA after the time to legally challenge the act had expired. Waqar was then illegally shifted to the Cargo Interrogation Centre for two days, one of his Friends said.

The youth in Kashmir are very articulate and aware of their rights. “We know what our rights are internationally and locally and we refuse to be denied of them. Just like Palestinian prisoners, we will ask the world to intervene… they have a moral obligation and they must fulfil it,” the young man in his early 20s added.

Waqar’s PSA order, which DNA is in possession of stated, “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 stand still.”

Read full article here

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/

Kashmir Christians voice Islamic court fear

Cathnews, January 23, 2012

Christian leaders in Kashmir say they are worried following recent directives from an Islamic court ordering the expulsion of four missioners and demanding Christian schools provide Islamic studies for all students.

Catholic Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery of JammuSrinagar said Monday that Christians in Kashmir are uneasy as they all see themselves as being targeted by the state’s Shariat court.

In recent rulings, the court found Church of North India (CNI) pastor Reverend C M Khanna and his associate Gayoor Masih guilty of “luring” and “forcing” Muslims to Christianity, and ordered their expulsion.

It also ordered the wives of the two Protestant pastors to leave.

A similar conversion charge has been laid against Catholic missioner Mill Hill Father Jim Borst.  

“The Church cannot do anything since we are minority in the state,” the Capuchin bishop said Monday.

His diocese covers the entire state.

Bishop Elampassery said he is meeting the federal Minority Commission tomorrow to urge it to take up Christian concerns with the state government.“Our institutions are serving Muslim people. We have never been involved in forced conversions or proselytizing,” he asserted.He said Islamic courts have no jurisdiction or power over Christians in the state and expressed little hope the government would take action against them.

Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in India.

Reverend Khanna, who has moved to the state’s winter capital Jammu, said the court order has put his life and those of the other three missioners in peril.

“The government has not done anything to protect us,” he said.

Kashmir comes under the CNI’s Amritsar diocese and its prelate, Bishop P K Samantaroy said the court’s order put Christians on edge and disturbed peace in the state.

“Nobody has the right to expel us from the state or country,” he asserted.

It is “unfair” to question the integrity of Christians who “have played a major role in building peace and harmony in the state,” he
said, calling on all people with goodwill to protest discriminatory actions.

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