By Shahid Lone
When NATO unleashed its so-called Global war on terror, many innocent people, usually Muslims, were picked up from Muslim countries, held and tortured in the fiercest prison of the world known as Guantanamo bay. The cases, later, proved to be false and fabricated and consequently many detainees were freed but not after having been deprived of essential years of their life. When disturbing pictures of the prison surfaced and detainees narrated their ordeals, activists and human right champions described Guantanamo as “Hell on earth” and rallied around for its closure. Such was the intensity of rallying that it made front-line headlines in print media and appeared as speed news in electronic media.
This is genuinely a grave issue and the world must pay attention to it, but when it comes to my part of the world (Kashmir), why do we see double standards and blind eyes from the so-called textured activists and human rights bishops?
The stories of innocent Kashmiris emanating from different Indian jails is equally pathetic and coloured in distress and the magnitude of trauma being unfathomable. Their condition “from arrest to prison and court to acquittal” (albeit, acquittal of Kashmiris is a rarest of the rare case) is no different, then why don’t they make headlines in print or electronic media? Why does the twitterati world sleep on injustice, oppression, and occupation in Kashmir? Why don’t we witness human rights priests hurling sermons in different parts of world and India about innocent Kashmiris being jailed or held incommunicado?
Hypocrisy is absurd but when absurdity is accepted as truth, those hoards of celebrity sycophants, doing politics under the guise of “human rights” should hang their heads in mortifying shame not because they don’t speak for Kashmiris but because they allow injustice marry power and eventually succumb to its impulses.
When justice becomes a tradable commodity for states in the world, then the very idea of the state is a question mark. If justice has to unite with power then what’s wrong with jungles? At least, the court of natural law takes precedence in jungles all the time. As Jonathan Israel puts it ‘Injustice is the first step of the ladder which leads to oppression’ and hence the famous saying ‘when oppression becomes the law resistance becomes the duty’. The same holds true for Kashmiris.
Why are Kashmiris framed? This question has many contours. One thing which is conspicuous is that Kashmiris by and large are seen with suspicion in Kashmir and in India, unless you are a collaborator which status will qualify you to enjoy all the perks and privileges from Indian government and its client regime in Kashmir. Therefore, Kashmiris become easy targets for Indian security agencies and judiciary as well.
It’s well known that security agencies are tasked to show results within the stipulated duration. And as an institution it’s growth, efficiency and credibility is at stake if results are not provided, come what may. The easy way out for them is scapegoating either of the two: Indian Muslims and Kashmirs. There have been various studies on how Indian Muslims are falsely implicated, a recent one being “framed, damned and acquitted” by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA). The book depicts how cases are fabricated and how years of innocents pass between judgments after judgments.
It’s hard to find any studies about Kashmiris languishing in Indian jails. Moreover, as all Kashmiris are posited by the Indian state as deemed terrorists, Kashmiris suffice as easy pieces of meat for the hunters. Given that Kashmir is the world’s largest military garrison and every Kashmiri held under the barrel of the gun by the Indian state, the life of every and any Kashmiri is at stake all the time. Kashmiris know it and many Indians are not oblivious of this reality either.
So the Indian state-managed structures of violence play a crucial role in fabricating and filing baseless charges against Kashmiris. They are picked up in broad day light and taken to interrogation centers and flown to New Delhi, from where they are transferred to various jails. And if the information is initially leaked to any media house, then the forth horseman of Indian democracy, the media, knows very well how to trade Kashmiris and play to the media galleries.
This nefarious design of projecting innocent Kashmiris as dreadful terrorists by large sections of Indian media came into fore during the popular armed uprising of 1990s and particularly in parliament attack investigations. Lion’s share goes to Indian media for satisfying India’s national conscience by extra-judicially hanging Afzal Guru in the case. Since then bashing Kashmiris in primetime TV debates has become a norm.
India spends heavily in Kashmir on its security establishment to maintain control and also election campaigns in the country to sustain a perception of it, it frames Kashmir as an “important region for national security”. If the Indian version of so-called national security is accepted for the sake of an argument then it logically means “there is an imminent threat to the safety and wellbeing of Kashmiris” and Indian forces are there to eliminate that very threat. And when historical records on violence and countless anecdotes are verified, a contrary assertion turns out to be true, i.e. presence of Indian security force is a direct threat to Kashmiris for which there is documented evidence which proves that Indian security forces have killed tens of thousands of Kashmiris since 1990.
So, to support their claim of national security and to manufacture consent among Indian citizens, “Kashmiris are picked up from colleges, universities both in Kashmir and across India, framed particularly in Terror Related Cases, subjected to extreme torture and finally sent to gallows and then the post script of state-managed drama is concluded by Indian media by afflicting the oppressed.
Recently, a Kashmiri, Mohammad Rafiq was acquitted by an Indian court after 12 years. His world plunged into darkness when he was picked up by Indian forces while pursuing his postgraduation in Kashmir University. A spell of sorrow may have ended for the person and his family but not for the Kashmiri nation because there are many Kashmiris who are behind bars in different Indian jails and their families back home continue to yearn for their return. With tearful eyes, Rafiq says, “I was forced to drink urine, kept naked and sexually abused, rats were put in my trousers and my religious sentiments were constantly hurt. I am being victimised only because I am a Kashmiri Muslim.”
There are many painful ordeals of Kashmiris from Indian Guantanamo Bays and Abu Ghraibs, waiting to emanate for us to know what injustice, oppression, and occupation means. This is not NATO but India, and it’s not war on terror but the war on Kashmiris. Kashmir is a battleground of truth and falsehood and falsehood by its very nature is bound to perish. Kashmir is not a human rights issue, so no more human rights hypocrisy.
—The writer is a doctoral candidate in Political Economy at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org