Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Business Recorder editorial Aug 24, 2016

IHK continues to bleed The wave of unbridled repression let loose by the Indian troops in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) since the July 8 killing of militant commander Burhanuddin Wani and the consequent mass youth uprising shows no signs of abating. On August 23, Indian troops opened fire on protestors demanding an end to Indian rule in the southern Shopian and northern Bandipore areas, wounding at least 14 people to add to the mounting casualty toll in the troubled state. In Shopian, police claimed the troops fired after villagers pelted them with stones while they were clearing roadblocks set up by protestors in about half a dozen villages. Local residents however, said the clashes erupted after troops fired tear gas indiscriminately to intimidate the villagers while moving through their area. The agitated villagers retaliated with rocks, and were met by a hail of bullets and shotgun pellets. Clashes were also reported from at least two locations in the Bandipore area, where a woman was injured. This has become a pattern since the largest protests in IHK since the 2010 intifada broke out after July 8. Unarmed civilian protestors throwing stones and rocks or whatever is at hand are brutally killed and wounded by bullets and shotgun pellets fired directly at the defenceless crowds. At least 65 protestors have been killed and thousands wounded in this manner. Two policemen have been killed and hundreds of security personnel injured in the clashes. These figures are alarming enough, not to mention the horror of unrestricted use of live ammunition and pellets against unarmed protestors. The shotgun pellets fired indiscriminately at crowds and even passersby have resulted in thousands losing their eyesight or suffering horrendous wounds to the face and eyes. The Modi government seems to believe it can indefinitely keep up these atrocities in a continuing attempt to forcibly retain the people of Kashmir within India’s fold with the liberal use of the knout and at the point of a bayonet. History may not be on Modi’s side in this unremitting cruelty, but until it delivers its final verdict, the pain inflicted on the long suffering people of Kashmir has attained unprecedented heights. Not only is IHK continuing to bleed at the hands of Modi’s butchers, constant curfews and harassment of citizens going about their daily business, not to mention the gagging of the media in IHK, has made the life of IHK’s denizens miserable (the rest of the Indian media, with a few honourable exceptions, continues its long standing practice of turning a blind eye to the atrocities being perpetuated on defenceless people or toeing New Delhi’s line of denying the problem is indigenous and dumping it all in the basket of ‘terrorism’ or militancy allegedly being ‘exported’ from Pakistan). Regrettably, the voices of dissent in India from this cruel policy are still all too few and far between, the increasing disquiet and criticism of India’s opposition parties notwithstanding. Brave individuals such as writer and activist Arundhati Roy are charged with sedition for daring to challenge India’s officially certified truth in IHK. An Indian movie actor and onetime Congress MP Ms Ramya is similarly charged for contradicting Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s description of Pakistan as ‘hell’, based on her recent visit to our country. Even respected human rights watchdog Amnesty International is roped into the sedition fold for critiquing the bloodshed. Sadly, neither the UN nor the international community has shed even a crocodile tear for the blood of innocent youth being butchered without mercy in IHK. One fruit of New Delhi’s attempts to pin the blame for the troubles in IHK on Pakistan is the impact on bilateral and South Asian relations. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has skipped the SAARC finance ministers’ meeting in Islamabad, sending the finance secretary in his place. In the current climate, the chances of Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry’s invitation to his Indian counterpart to discuss Kashmir seems unlikely to bear fruit. The Modi government is playing with fire by brutally suppressing the people of IHK and stubbornly refusing to engage in a dialogue with Pakistan or the people of IHK. Perhaps they need to heed the words of Arundhati Roy, whose subtextual meaning is that no people can be free if it oppresses another people. The clampdown on dissent over Modi’s IHK policy is living proof of that wisdom.

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