August 2016 News

Kashmir Unrest's Real Victims Speak Out

31 August 2016
Times of India
Ashali Varma

New Delhi: In any ongoing local uprising, the voices of the real victims are seldom heard. I speak of the thousands of Kashmiris who are against violence; I speak of the Kashmiri Pandits who have a longing to live in peace in a place they once called home; and I speak of the security forces that are stuck between a rock and a hard place - stoned by raging masses, their stations burnt down and their families told they are marked people and will be killed. The local police are not even allowed to be treated in the government hospitals as they are considered to be working for India. I recently spoke to a carpet and shawl seller from Kashmir now based in Delhi but with many contacts back in the valley. He was very angry with Syed Ali Shah Geelani and wanted to know why the separatists are not in jail, or in isolation, where they have no phone or wireless connections. He could not understand why the government had not done this years ago. 'Their sympathies lie with Pakistan,' he said, 'they are paid huge sums of money to keep Kashmir on the boil so the first action the government should take is put them away.' He does not think talking to them will help as they don't want peace and they are paid to create havoc. 'If they had any honour they would make their own children fight for the cause and not put other's kids in harm's way,' he said. When he talks to people in the valley and asks them why don't you stop the violence they say we are not a part of it. They fear the militants and the local self- styled commandos and they will keep shut for their own security. But in all this he could not understand why they blamed the security forces when it was their kids who started the violence. He thought the media was playing up one angle too much and feeding into the hands of the separatists. 'What do they expect but pellet wounds if they attack the police?' he asked. In Pakistan, they would be killed he said but these people are stupid enough to think that Pakistan is heaven. He blamed Arab countries too for pushing in a rigid form of Wahabi Islam and financing it to the hilt. Practically overnight the cinema halls were forcibly closed along with bars and video parlours in the early 1990s. In the Times of India on 30 August, it was reported that a police constable, Rauf Ahmed, is fighting for his life at AIIMS . There are daily reports of the army, CRPF and policemen getting killed or wounded in such battles even as Pakistani terror groups keep sending in more militants. The Pakistani establishment will not touch Hafiz Saeed or any other terror head as they want India to bleed. No one doubts that anymore. Another report in Times of India describes how Pak-based terror groups have even set up training bases in countries around India such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. From these bases they inject terror modules into India. Recently, the National Investigation Agency had summoned Geelani's son Naeem Geelani for questioning in an investigation on foreign funds that came in just about the time the valley exploded. The NIA has already examined separatist Mohammed Ashraf Sehraie for allegedly receiving and routing funds for stone-pelters. So far the NIA has discovered that 35 crores has come into two banks including the J&K bank. In this scenario where Pakistan is actively, with the support of some separatists, funding death and mayhem in the valley, what would be the point of talking to such people? Recently, I read a book written by several Kashmiri Pandit families that had been displaced. A Long Dream of Home, The Persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits, is a chilling account of how six lakh Indians were made to leave their home in a period of a few short weeks. Kashi Nath Pandita writes that first slogans were shouted in all neighbourhoods: Kashmir has become Pakistan and We want our Kashmir: without Pandits, but with their women. Then the mobs roamed around stone-pelting their homes. Suddenly, their Muslim friends stopped talking to them. At night the loudspeakers blared from mosques asking all Pandits to leave the valley or get killed. Then he describes the blatant threats: Al Safa, the Urdu newspaper of Srinagar, published the first ultimatum issued by a militant organization. The headline read: Pandits should leave Kashmir in 36 hours. One by one, the Pandits shut their shops in Amira Kadal and other places in the city. Then the most dreadful and awful incidents began to take place. Each day a Pandit was shot down by a militant. Lassa Kaul, the Director Doordarshan was gunned down outside his house Rattan Lal Kaul, Deputy Director of Food and Supplies was also killed in his office Bhushan Lal Razdhan, my next door neighbour was gunned down in his home because he happened to be the stenographer of the Governor. I came to know that his assailants were hiding in the balcony of the house of a Muslim, just opposite his house and were closely watching his movements. Then the Pandits started to leave. Lawyers, doctors and people who represented the Pandits were viciously targeted and paid with their lives. To think this happened in India under the nose of the central and state government is shocking. Why did they let this happen? Where was the security? Why wasn't the media there to highlight it? And why have the Pandits languished for 26 years in displaced peoples' camps? The situation today, is foreboding and for once the government has brought up Pakistan's human rights abuses and killings in Baluchistan and Gilgit. The world already knows that Pakistan exports terror but now India has enough clout to tell the world what Pakistan does within its own borders. As for Kashmir, I agree with my Muslim Kashmiri friend, the separatists need to be put away and all channels of funding for terror stopped. Only then peace can return to the valley and only then can the Pandits go back to their homes. The real victims of this uprising are not the stone-pelters who got shot by pellet guns but the displaced, the hounded and the security forces that are trying to maintain peace. DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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