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GOWHAR GEELANI | 19 APRIL, 2015

Kashmir on The Boil: Where Is Mufti's 'Healing Touch' Policy?

Kashmir on edge


SRINAGAR: Once again, Kashmir is on the boil.

In the forests of Tral in South Kashmir Khalid Muzaffar, a Kashmiri youth, was killed by Indian armed forces on Monday evening, 13 April 2015. Khalid’s father told the Indian Express reporter that “I looked at every inch of his (Khalid’s) body, from toe to head, and there was no bullet mark on his body.”

Khalid’s father maintained his son was killed by torture in custody. Khalid’s was a brother of Burhan, a wanted Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander.

The Indian army said Khalid, a postgraduate in Economics, was killed in an encounter and was an OGW (Over Ground Worker) of Hizb, a theory rubbished by the J&K police, locals and family.

Khalid’s killing sparked a chain of pro-freedom protests in different parts of the Kashmir valley.

In the meantime the ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani, inarguably Kashmir’s most popular resistance leader currently, returned to the Valley after spending about three months in New Delhi.

A section of people in Kashmir warmly welcomed Geelani, amid freedom slogans. Hundreds of Geelani’s supporters escorted the octogenarian leader in a rally from Srinagar airport to his residence-cum-office in Hyderpora.

They raised slogans in favour of Kashmir’s independence, self-determination; some youths also raised pro-Pakistan slogans and hoisted Pakistani flags.

The Hurriyat gave a call for ‘Tral Chalo’ to express solidarity with the bereaved family members of slain Khalid. The government foiled Hurriyat’s plans, put most leaders, including Geelani, Masarat and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, under house arrest; sealed Tral and used disproportionate force to curb dissent.

Protests against Khalid’s killings continued.

Hoisting of Pakistani flags, chanting slogans in favour of Pakistan and Kashmir’s Azadi irked sections of the Indian media, one television channel in particular which not only claims to be India’s number one channel but also the sole custodian of Indian nationalism and national security.

Some Indian channels, especially the electronic media, began their vicious campaigns to put pressure on the Jammu and Kashmir government, which is a coalition between the regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to act tough against Masarat Alam and re-arrest him.

The coalition government finally cowed down. It succumbed to the Kangaroo-Court demands of the TRP-driven Indian electronic media. And the local police arrested Masarat Alam again.

This is what the government press release said: “On the return of APHC (G) Chairman, S. A. S. Geelani from Delhi on 14-04-2015, the Separatist amalgam organized a rally to receive him: In this rally provocative and seditious slogans were raised by the supporters of the group which were led among others by Masarat Alam Bhat S/o Abdul Majeed Bhat R/o Zaindar Mohalla, Srinagar. Masarat Alam himself instigated the crowd by hoisting anti-national flag and shouting pro-Pak and anti-India slogans. On this case FIR No. 92/15 U/S 120-B, 147, 341, 336, 427 RPC and 13 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act was registered in Police Station Budgam and investigation taken up.”

The government further claimed that “during investigation, the video footage of the incident was examined and it was found that the said individual was involved in leading the crowd to raise anti-national slogans and hoist Pak flags. He himself was found raising such slogans and thereby instigating the crowd to follow him.”

For his “seditious activities” Masarat was arrested, in fact re-arrested, on 17 April. His freedom, therefore, was short-lived. He was last arrested after the 2010 bloody summer, in which more than 120 boys, mostly in their teens, were killed by Indian armed forces and local police during pro-freedom protests in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir. Masarat spent almost five years in prison, enjoyed limited freedom for about 40 days before being re-arrested.

After Alam’s arrest the freedom protests in Kashmir spread further.

In Narbal area of North Kashmir a group of young boys were protesting against Khalid’s killings and Alam’s arrest. Suhail Sofi, a Class 10 student, was shot dead by the police.

Eyewitnesses and relatives of Suhail said that two policemen first dragged Suhail to a distance and then “shot him dead”.

After the killing of Khalid, a youth, in Tral (South Kashmir) and Suhail, a teen, in Narbal (North Kashmir) the protests continued. Kashmiris are outraged over the local government’s apathy. And Indian media’s ‘tamasha’ also continues.

Under pressure, the director general of J&K Police K Rajendra Kumar told English daily Rising Kashmir that “a case has already been registered under section 302 against an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) and a Police constable after it was found that duo had violated the Standard Operating Procedure (SoP).”

Kashmiris are used to such probes and their findings. In most cases announcing probes has been a delaying tactic to buy time for conflict-management.

Neither the policemen, involved in killing over 120 boys in the 2010 summer protest movement, nor the Indian army officers found guilty of killing five innocent labourers in March 2000 in Pathribal, Anantnag district in South Kashmir, have been punished till date. Such is the travesty of justice in Kashmir.

What is Indian media’s real problem? This time, it appears that the pro-Pakistan slogans and hoisting of Pakistani flag on Kashmir’s streets has irked them.

Well, let us face a simple fact: this is not for the first time that pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans are being raised in Kashmir.

Over the past so many decades the songs of freedom have become part of Kashmir’s social milieu, cultural behaviour and political symbolism. It is not a new phenomenon that should make blood of hardcore Indian nationalists and jingoists boil in different parts of India.

It is the ground reality, which India knows and understands, but ignores to remain in denial. It creates propaganda through its corporate media, starts believing in its own propaganda, and becomes victim to its own propaganda.

In some parts of the Kashmir valley the ladies welcome bridegroom with wedding songs containing pro-Pakistan flavour like “Sabz Dastaaras Nabi Chuiy Raazi/Pakistanuk Gazi Aaw” (Prophet is glad too for your green headgear/turban/Welcome, you Pakistani warrior).

Now, historically speaking, on 8 August 1953 Kashmir’s then popular leader Sheikh Abdullah was arrested and dismissed as Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir by the then Sadr-e-Riyasat Dr. Karan Singh. The infamous Kashmir Conspiracy Case was framed against Abdullah, Mirza Afzal Beg and 22 others in 1958, all of them were accused of conspiracy against the state for allegedly espousing the cause of Kashmir’s independence. At one point in time Abdullah was accused of being a “Pakistani Agent”.

Kashmirs independence is a dominant viewpoint in Kashmir, which many independent surveys and polls have established.

Even the Outlook-MODE survey conducted in 1995 confirms this. What is new in it? There is also a section of population in Kashmir which espouses pro-Pakistan ideology. It is a viewpoint just as sections of politicians in Kashmir are supportive of India in disputed Kashmir.

Why criminalize any political ideology in Kashmir unless the dispute is resolved?

Kashmir’s current Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed admits that Kashmir is a political issue, that Hurriyat represents a viewpoint; and that reconciliation with Pakistan is inevitable; India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru took Kashmir's case to the UN; Atal Bihari Vajpayee said 'Insaaniyat Ke Dayre Main Baat Hogi'; Narsimha Rao said 'sky is the limit'; Chidambaram said 'Kashmir is a unique problem which needs unique solution', then why this media frenzy and hysteria?

What is the logic behind registering FIRs against Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Masarat Alam and Pir Saifullah when India knows pretty well that pro-freedom ideology is the most dominant narrative in Kashmir followed by pro-Pakistan sentiment?

Mufti Sahab, what happened to your 'battle of ideas' theory? What happened to the 'healing touch' policy?

The Television Rating Points (TRP) driven Indian television channels like Times Now, News X and CNN-IBN are no different from that German weekly Der Stürmer, founded in 1923, which preached hatred of Jews in a systematic manner through crude cartoons and features. It was read by millions of Germans. Indian TV channels do have an audience, ordinary Indians, who are shown a distorted picture of Kashmir and most of them end up hating Kashmiris.

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