“FREEDOM” REPRESENTS MANY things across rural and urban spaces in India-ruled Kashmir. These divergent meanings are steadfastly united on one point: freedom always signifies an end to India’s authoritarian governance.
In the administration of brutality, India, the postcolony, has proven itself coequal to its former colonial masters. Governing Kashmir is about India’s coming of age as a power, its ability to disburse violence, to manipulate and dominate. Kashmir is about nostalgia, about resources, and buffer zones. The possession of Kashmir by India renders an imaginary past real, emblematic of India’s triumphal unification as a nation-state.
Controlling Kashmir requires that Kashmiri demands for justice be depicted as threatening to India’s integrity. India’s contrived enemy in Kashmir is a plausible one — the Muslim “Other,” India’s historically manufactured nemesis.
Between June 11 and September 22 of 2010, Kashmir witnessed the execution of 109 youth, men, and women by India’s police, paramilitary and military. Indian forces opened fire on crowds, tortured children, detained elders without explanation, and coerced false confessions. Since June 7, there have been 73 days of curfew and 75 days of strikes and agitation. On September 11, the day of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrating the end of Ramadan, the violence continued. The paramilitary and police verbally abused and physically attacked civil society dissenters.
Summer 2010 was not unprecedented. Kashmir has been subjected to much, much worse. The use of public and summary execution for civic torture has been held necessary to Kashmir’s subjugation by the Indian state. Militarization has asserted vigilante jurisdiction over space and politics. The violence is staged, ritualistic, and performative, used to re-assert India’s power over Kashmir’s body.
The military’s fabrications — fake encounters, escalating perceptions of cross-border threat — function as the truth-making apparatus of the nation. We are witness to the paradox of history, as calibrated punishment — the lynching of the Muslim body, the object of criminality — enforces submission of a stateless nation (Kashmir) to the once-subaltern postcolony (India).
Kashmir is about the spectacle. The Indian state’s violence functions as an intervention, to discipline and punish, to provoke and dominate. The summer of 2010 evidenced India’s maneuvering against Kashmir’s determination to decide its future. The use of violence by the Indian forces was deliberate, their tactics cruel and precise, amidst the groundswell of public dissent in this third summer, since 2008, of indefatigable civil society uprisings for “Azaadi” (freedom).
What is the Indian state hoping to achieve? One, that Kashmiris would submit to domination, forsaking their claim to separation from India (to be an independent state or, for some, to be assimilated with Pakistan), or their demand for full autonomy. Or, that provoked, grief-stricken and weary, Kashmiris would take up arms once again, giving India the opportunity to fortify its propaganda that Kashmiri civil society dissent against Indian rule is nurtured and endorsed today by external forces and groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
If the latter transpires, India will manipulate this to neutralize Kashmiri demands for de-militarization and conflict resolution, to extend its annexation of Kashmir, and further normalize civic and legal “states of exception” (i.e. repression). If India succeeds in both provoking local armed struggle and linking Kashmiri resistance to foreign terror, it will acquire international sanction to continue its government of Kashmir on grounds of “national security,” and “have proof” that Kashmiris are not authentically debating India’s government of them, but are pressured into it by external forces.
India can then reinforce its armed forces in Kashmir, presently 671,000 strong, to prolong the killing spree. Such provocation as policy is a mistake. Such legitimation of military rule will produce intractable conflict and violence. All indications are that Kashmiri civil society dissent will not abate: It is not externally motivated, but historically compelled.
Dominant nation-states overlook that freedom struggles are not adherent to the moralities of violence versus nonviolence, but reflect a desire to be free. Dominant nation-states forget that the greater the oppression, the more fervent is resistance. The greater the violence, the more likely is the provocation to counter-violence.
Whether dissent in Kashmir turns into organized armed struggle or continues as mass-based peaceful resistance is dependent upon India’s political decisions. If India’s subjugation persists, it is conceivable that the movement for nonviolent dissent, mobilized since 2004, will erode. Signs indicate that it is already slightly threadbare. It is conceivable that India’s brutality will induce Kashmiri youth to close the distance between stones and petrol bombs, or more.
If India fails to act, if Pakistan acts only in its self-interest, and if the international community does not insist on an equitable resolution to the Kashmir dispute, it is conceivable, that, forsaken by the world, Kashmiris will be compelled to take up arms again.
Misogynist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba [fundamentalist Pakistani group — ed.], al-Qaeda or the Taliban are mercenaries looking for takers in Kashmir. By the Indian state’s record, there are between 500-700 militants in the Kashmir Valley today. These groups have not been successful because Kashmiris have been disinterested in alliances with them, not because the Indian army is successful in controlling them. This time, an armed mobilization by Kashmiris would include an even stronger mass movement than that which occurred between 1990 and 2004/2007, led by youth whose lives have been shaped by the two-decade long violence of militarization.
Who wants that? Can the South Asian Subcontinent, already nuclearized, survive that? India is accountable to keep this from happening — not through the use of unmitigated force, but through listening to the demands for change made by Kashmiris.
This summer, India’s violence on Kashmir was threaded through with strategic calculation. The police, military and paramilitary, without provocation, brutalized widespread peaceable protests across Kashmir that were opposing the suppression of civil society. Hostile Indian forces acted with the knowledge and sanction of the government of India and the government of Jammu and Kashmir.
The repeated repression by state forces provoked civilians, whose political means of expression and demands have been systematically denied, to engage in stone pelting. The conditions of militarization prompted them to be in non-compliance with declared, undeclared, and unremitting curfews. In instances, civilians engaged in acts of violence, including arson.
Each instance of civilian violence was provoked by the unmitigated and first use of force on civilians and/or extrajudicial killings on the part of Indian forces. Peaceable civilian demonstrations by women and men protested the actions of Indian forces. Individuals caught in the midst of the unrest, or mourning the death of a civilian, were fired upon by Indian forces, leading to other killings by Indian forces, more civilian protests, greater use of force by the police and paramilitary, use of torture in certain instances by Indian forces, more killings by Indian forces, larger, even violent, civilian protests, and further state repression.
In Summer 2010, dominant discourse focused on the use of stone pelting and on the instances of violence by youth in Kashmir as the reason for armed action on the part of the state. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh focused on the need for efficient tactics in “crowd control.” India’s elite intelligentsia, inculcated into “rational” conduct, and no longer outraged by suffering, assessed the costs and benefits of militaristic violence.
Civil society demonstrations in Kashmir are not a law-and- order problem, as they have been reported. Stone pelting, and incidents of arson and violence, are not causal to the violence that is routine in Kashmir today. Stone pelting does not seek to kill, and has not resulted in death. Pro-freedom leaders (termed “separatists” by the Indian state) have emphasized nonviolent civil disobedience, and have appealed to civil society not to engage in violent protests in reaction to the violence and killings by Indian forces.
Indian rulers disregard that suppression acts to catalyze the resistance movement in Kashmir. The Government of India continues to monitor the resistance movement, shifting the boundaries of acceptable practice of civil liberties. Kashmiris are allowed to protest in New Delhi, while in Kashmir sloganeering (“Go, India, Go Back,” “Indian Dogs Go Home,” “Quit Kashmir”) is met with force. When Masarat Alam Bhat, a rising pro-freedom leader, issued an appeal to Indian soldiers in July to “Quit Kashmir,” Indian authorities banned its circulation.
Acts of violence by protesting civilians increased as military violence continued into September. On September 13, crowds in Kashmir torched a Christian missionary school and some government offices while protesting the call to desecrate the Qur’an by Florida Pastor Terry Jones. On September 13, 18 civilians were killed by the Indian forces in Kashmir (a police officer also died).
Provocation is easy in a context of sustained brutality. Provoking Kashmiri dissenters to violence serves to confirm the dominant story of Muslims as “violent.” Yet again, several pro-freedom leaders condemned the attack on the Christian school and renewed their call for nonviolent dissent.
On September 13, the Government of India stated its willingness to engage with Kashmiri groups that reject violence. New Delhi did not apply the same precondition to itself. Nor did it acknowledge that pro-freedom groups have repeatedly opposed the use of violence in recent years.
The Kashmiri Muslim is caricatured as violent by India’s dominant political and media apparatus. There is a refusal to recognize the inequitable historical-political power relations at play between Muslim-prevalent Kashmir’s governance by Hindu-dominant India. The racialization of the Muslim, as “Other” and barbaric, reveals the xenophobia of the Indian state. Distinctions in method and power, between stone pelter and armed soldier, between “terrorist” and “freedom fighter,” are inconvenient.
The Indian state’s discourse is animated by the prejudice that Kashmiri inclinations to violence are subsidized by Pakistan. Such misconceptions ignore that while Kashmiris did travel to Pakistan to seek arms training, such activity was largely confined to the early days of the armed militancy, circa late 1980s through the mid-1990s. Pathologies of “violent Muslims” legitimate the discursive and physical violence of the Indian “security” forces, which is presented as necessary protection for the maintenance of the Hindu majoritarian Indian nation.
I have spent considerable time between July 2006 and July 2010 learning about Kashmir, working in Kashmir. In undertaking the work of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir, I have travelled across Kashmir’s cities and countryside, from Srinagar to Kupwara, through Shopian and Islamabad (Anantnag), with Parvez Imroz, Zahir-Ud-Din, and Khurram Parvez.
I have witnessed the violence that is perpetrated on Kashmiris by India’s military, paramilitary and police. I have walked through the graveyards that hold Kashmir’s dead, and have met with grieving families. I have sat with witnesses, young men, who described how Indian forces chased down and executed their friends for participating in civil disobedience. I have met women whose sons were disappeared. I have met with “half-widows” [women whose husbands have been “disappeared” — ed.]
I have spoken with youth, women and men, who are enraged. I have also spoken with persons who were violated by militants in the 1990s. People’s experiences with the reprehensible atrocities of militancy do not imply the abdication of their desires for self-determination. The Indian state deliberately conflates militancy with the people’s mass movement for liberation.
I have met with torture survivors, non-militants and former militants, who testified to the sadism of the forces. Men who had petrol injected through the anus. Water-boarding, mutilation, being paraded naked; rape of women, children and men; starvation, humiliation, psychological torture. An eagle tattoo on the arm of a man was reportedly identified by an army officer as a symbol of Pakistan-held Azad Kashmir, even as the man clarified the tattoo was from his childhood. The skin containing it was burned. The officer said, the man recalled: “When you look at this, think of Azaadi.”
A mother, reportedly asked to watch her daughter’s rape by army personnel, pleaded for her release. They refused. She then pleaded that she could not watch, asking to be sent out of the room or be killed. The soldier pointed a gun to her forehead, stating he would grant her wish, and shot her dead before they proceeded to rape the daughter.
Who are the Indian forces? Disenfranchised caste and other groups, Assamese, Nagas, Sikhs, Dalits (erstwhile “untouchable” peoples), and Muslims from Kashmir, are being used to combat Kashmiris. Why did 34 soldiers commit suicide in Kashmir in 2008, and 52 fratricidal killings take place between January 21, 2004 and July 14, 2009? Why did 16 soldiers commit suicide and two die in fratricidal killings between January and early August in 2010?
Laws authorize soldiers to question, raid houses, detain and arrest without bringing charges, and to prolong incarceration without due process. They blur distinctions between military/paramilitary, “legality”/“illegality.” Citing “national security,” Indian forces in Kashmir shoot and kill on uncorroborated suspicion, with impunity from prosecution.
Yet revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, for example, will not stop the horror in Kashmir. India’s laws are not the primary contention. India’s political and military existence in Kashmir is the issue. Legal impunity is the cover for the moral impunity of Indian rule. Human rights violations in Kashmir will not stop without removing the military. The military cannot be removed without surgically rupturing India’s will to power over Kashmir.
Is the military willing to withdraw from Kashmir? Since 2002, the Government of India has procured five billion U.S. dollars in weaponry from the Israeli state — a colossal sum for India, where 38% of the world’s poor reside and where eight of the country’s poorest states are more impoverished than the 26 poorest countries of the African continent. Five billion dollars, in addition to the other monies and resources invested in the militarization of Kashmir, do not evidence an intent to withdraw.
Yet India needs to make the “Kashmir problem” disappear. India’s diplomacy is directed toward assuming a role as a world power, a world market, and a world negotiator in global politics. India is also seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
What constitutes India’s dialogue with Kashmiris in conditions of extreme subjugation? The Government of India has scheduled a hurried time frame in propelling Track II diplomacy into success, to secure a proposal for resolution that is acceptable to India and Pakistan and, ostensibly, to Kashmiris. The terms of reference set by New Delhi exclude discussions of self-determination or heightened autonomy, boundary negotiations, the Siachen glacier and critical water resources, and renegotiations of the Line of Control.
New Delhi and Islamabad appear to be in collusion. If Pakistan overlooks India’s annexation of Jammu and Kashmir, India would be willing to forget Pakistan’s occupation of another fragment of Kashmir. For the Government of Pakistan, however, Afghanistan is the current priority, not Kashmir. Conversations on the phased withdrawal of troops by India and Pakistan at the border, local self-government, and the creation of a joint supervision mechanism in Jammu and Kashmir, involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir, are at an impasse.
The Government in New Delhi is looking to neutralize Kashmir’s demand for self-determination or unabridged autonomy, pushing forward a diluted “autonomy,” seeking to assimilate Kashmir with finality into the Indian nation-state. New Delhi is seeking buy-in, which it hopes to push through using the collaborator coterie in Srinagar. Local self-government would be New Delhi’s compromise — a weak autonomy — with a joint supervisory apparatus constituted of India, Pakistan, and Kashmir.
New Delhi hopes that the Kashmiri leadership, including pro-freedom groups, can be restrained for a price, and weakened through infighting. Certain segments of the pro-freedom leadership, throughout history, have lacked vision, honesty, and the ability to prioritize collaboration for justice and peace in Kashmir. Certain segments of the religious and political leadership have been unable to collaborate meaningfully with civil society, with observant Muslims and those irreligious, and with non-Muslims.
The spiritual commitment to justice in Islamic tradition has receded as religious determinations embrace instrumental political rationality. The determination of what “freedom” is has been deferred since 1931; instead there has been a focus on immediate and small political gains. This has plagued and rendered ineffectual segments of the complex Hurriyat (Freedom) alliance in the present, which is often unable to capitalize on the exuberant people’s movement on the streets and pathways of Kashmir.
Segments of the pro-freedom leadership have focused on New Delhi rather than Kashmir civil society. New Delhi has fixated on enabling this dynamic, using vast resources to create a collaborator class in Srinagar that undermines the will of the Kashmiri people. And while Pakistan’s politicians have pointed to India’s injustices, they have not reciprocally addressed issues in the management of Pakistan-held Kashmir, including the deflation of movements for the unification of Kashmir.
The crisis of state in Pakistan, and the role of its ruling elite in vitiating people’s democratic processes, remains a pitfall for regional security. The logic that Muslim-prevalent Kashmir must either stay with secular India or join Muslim-dominated Pakistan is configured by India’s and Pakistan’s internal ideological needs and identitarian politics. Neither is inevitable. Neither speak to the foremost aspiration of Kashmiris.
The Government of India’s “inclusive dialogue” this summer has systematically disregarded Kashmiri civil society demands, thrusting a violent peace brokered by New Delhi’s agents of change. New Delhi has invited various Kashmiri stakeholders from civil society as well. Their articulations, however, have not shifted the agenda, even as bringing people to the table is used to legitimate India’s visage of inclusivity.
What do a majority of Kashmiris want? First, to secure a good-faith agreement with New Delhi and Islamabad regarding the right of Kashmiris to determine the course of their future, set a time frame, and define the interim conditions necessary to proceed.
Following this, civil society and political leaders would put in motion processes to educate, debate and consult with society, including minority groups, in sketching the terms of reference for a resolution, prior to negotiations with India and Pakistan.
Significantly, pro-freedom leader Syeed Ali Geelani’s statement of August 31 sought to shift the terms of engagement, not requiring the precondition of self-determination or the engagement of Pakistan. Unless New Delhi responds, the protests in Kashmir will continue. Geelani’s statement, supported by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, testifies to this. The mood in the streets testifies to this.
New Delhi’s current approach repudiates what Kashmiris want. The Government of India’s “inclusive dialogue” this summer does not recognize Kashmir as an international dispute. Nor does it include: an immediate halt to, and moratorium on, extrajudicial killings by the Indian military, paramilitary and police; an immediate halt to, and moratorium on, the use of torture, kidnapping, enforced disappearance and gendered violence by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police; a plan for the release of political prisoners, the return of those exiled, and contending with the issue of displacement; agreements on an immediate “soft border” policy between Kashmir, India and Pakistan, to enable the resurgence of Kashmir’s economy; agreements to non-interference in the exercise of civil liberties of Kashmiris, including the right to civil disobedience, and freedom of speech, assembly, religion, movement and travel.
New Delhi has refused to acknowledge the extent of human rights violations, and how they are integral to maintaining dominion. New Delhi has not explained why militarization in Kashmir has been disproportionately used to brutalize Kashmiris, when ostensibly the Indian forces are in Kashmir to secure the border zones.
India’s “inclusive dialogue” does not include a plan for the proactive demilitarization and the immediate revocation of all authoritarian laws. Nor does it include: a plan for the transparent identification and dismantling of detention and torture centers, including in army camps; a plan for installing a Truth and Justice Commission for calculating loss and for political and psychosocial reparation; a plan for international and transparent investigations into unknown and mass graves constituting crimes against humanity committed by the Indian military, paramilitary and police. Such omissions are a travesty of any process promising “resolution.”
Kashmir’s claims are historically unique and bona fide. But history — the United Nations Resolutions of 1948, the promise by India’s first Prime Minister Nehru for a plebiscite (to rethink the temporary Accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India by the Hindu-descent Maharaja, Hari Singh), Article 370 of the Indian Constitution [which gave Kashmir the right to live under its own laws — ed.] has been jettisoned by an amnesic India. Its official nationalism seeks to rewrite history, affixing Kashmir to India, to overwrite memory. Within the battlefields of knowledge/power, official “truth” becomes the contagion sustaining cultures of repression and mass atrocity, creating cultures of grief.
New Delhi has been the self-appointed arbitrator in determining the justifications of Kashmir’s claims to freedom. The Indian state is apprehensive that any change in the status quo in Kashmir would foster internal crises of gigantic proportion in India. Across the nation there is considerable discontent, as dreams and difference are mortgaged to the idea of India fabricated by the elite. Kashmir cannot remain India’s excuse to avoid dealing with its own internal matters.
Adivasis (indigenous peoples), Dalits, disenfranchised caste groups, women, religious, ethnic and gender minorities are fatigued by the nation’s deferred promises. Forty-four million Adivasis have been displaced since 1947. Central India is torn asunder, and as Maoists are designated as the latest “national threat,” national memory forgets the systematic brutalization of peoples in the tribal belt that led to a call to arms. Then there is the Northeast, Punjab, the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, riots against Christians in Orissa, farmer suicides, the plight of peasants and Adivasis of the Narmada Valley where dams are not the “temples of India,” but its burial grounds.
Indian civil society decries that Kashmir is not deserving of autonomy or separation, as it, as an assumed Islamist state, would be a threat to India’s democracy. Dominant Indian (left-oriented) civil society must rethink its characterization of Kashmiri civil society as prevalently “Jamaati.” Jamaat is Arabic for assembly. “Jamaati” is used by Indian civil society to imply Islamist or fundamentalist. The reference can often be translated as Muslim = Jamaati, and Muslim-observant = fundamentalist.
To assume that a Muslim-majority state in Kashmir will be ruled by Islamist extremists in support of global terror reflects majoritarian India’s racism. Indians of Hindu descent too easily overlook that India’s democracy is infused with Hindu cultural dominance. Indian civil society assumes that Islam and democracy are incompatible, supported by the inflamed Islamophobia in the polities of the West. Importantly, India forgets that in its own history with the British, freedom fighters had noted that the oppressor cannot adjudge when a stateless people are “deserving” of freedom.
Freedom is fundamentally an experiment with risk that Kashmiris must be willing to take. The global community must support them in making such risk ethical. Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority space. The population of India-held Kashmir was recorded at approximately 6,900,000 in 2008, of which Muslims are approximately 95%. Kashmir’s future as a democratic, inclusive and pro-secular space is linked to what happens within India and Pakistan.
Kashmiris who wish to be separate from India and Pakistan must assess the difficult alliances yet to be built among Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, and among Muslims and Hindu Pandits, Dogra Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, indigenous groups and others. Then there is the question of what lies ahead between Indian-held Kashmir and Pakistan-held Kashmir. Minority groups, such as Kashmiri Pandits, must refuse the Indian state’s hyper-nationalist strategy in using the Pandit community to create opposition between Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir, as part of its strategy to religionize the issue and govern through communalization.
Where is the international community on the issue of Kashmir? In present history, Palestine, Ireland, Tibet and Kashmir share common features. In Tibet, 1.2 million died (1949-1979), and 320,000 were made refugees. In Ireland, 3,710 have died (1969-2010). For Israel, the occupation of Palestine has resulted in 10,193 dead (1987-2010), with 4.7 million refugees registered with the United Nations (1947-2010). In Kashmir, 70,000 are dead, over 8,000 have been disappeared, and 250,000 have been displaced (1989-2010).
During British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to India, he was asked to refrain from bringing up the “K” word. United States President Barack Obama’s proposed visit to New Delhi in November is already laden with prohibitions, India’s rule in Kashmir and its larger human rights record among them. As well, right-wing Hindu advocacy groups have been successful in securing the silence of many on Capitol Hill on the issue of Kashmir.
The Kashmiri diaspora has been partly effective in bringing visibility to the issue, even as the community remains ideologically and politically fragmented. International advocates have propagated an “economic” approach to “normalcy.” This avoids the fact that militarization impacts every facet of life, making economic development outside of political change impossible.
Kashmiris are caught amidst world events, regional machinations, and the unresolved histories of the Subcontinent. In 2010, as of September 23, 351 soldiers from the United States have died in Afghanistan, while the United Kingdom sustained 92 fatalities. Of paramount concern for both is bringing their forces home without compromising the principles of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) operations in the region. To accomplish this would require that Pakistan move sizeable forces from the Indo-Kashmir-Pak border to the Af-Pak frontier. This cannot be done, however, without cessation in Indo-Pak hostilities, which requires resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
Kashmir’s resolution, however, cannot mean a sanction to Pakistan’s encroachment on Afghanistan, which, given the political situation in the region, remains a highly likely possibility. For the United States and India, the containment of China is another issue, also linked to Kashmir.
The Indian state’s military governance penetrates every facet of life. The sounds of war haunt mohallas [neighborhoods —ed]. The hyper-presence of militarization forms a graphic shroud over Kashmir: Detention and interrogation centers, army cantonments, abandoned buildings, bullet holes, bunkers and watchtowers, detour signs, deserted public squares, armed personnel, counter-insurgents, and vehicular and electronic espionage. Armed control regulates and governs bodies.
It has been reported that, since 1990, Kashmir’s economy has incurred a loss of more than 1,880,000 million Indian Rupees ($40.4 billion U.S.). The immensity of psychosocial losses is impossible to calculate. The conditions of everyday life are in peril. They elicit suffocating anger and despair, telling a story of the web of violence in which civil society in Kashmir is interned.
For India, constituting a coherent national collective has required multiple wars on difference. National governance determines territory and belonging, disenfranchising subaltern claims. Local struggles for self-determination are brutalized to reproduce obedient national collectives. Systemic acts of oppression chart a history, as relations of power are choreographed by nation-states in the suppression of others. Massacre, gendercide, genocide, occupation, function within a continuum of tactics in negation/annihilation.
India’s relation to Kashmir is not about Kashmir. Kashmir’s aversion to being subsumed by the Indian state is not reducible to history. If violence breaks lives, Kashmir is quite broken. If oppression produces resistance, Kashmir is profusely resilient. From Michel Foucault to the African thinker Achille Mbembe [who coined the term “postcolony,” — ed.] and so much in between, we are reminded of the myriad techniques in governance that seek to subjugate, while naming subjugation as subject formation, as protection, “security,” law and order, and progress.
Realpolitik triumphs against a backdrop of persistent refusal. Through summer heat and winter snow, across interminable stretches of concertina wire, broken windowpanes, walls, barricades, and checkpoints, the dust settles to rise again. The agony of loss. The desecration of life. Kashmir’s spiritual fatalities are staggering. The dead are not forgotten. Remembrance and mourning are habitual practises of dissent.
“We are not free. But we know freedom,” KP tells me. “The movement is our freedom. Our dreams are our freedom. The Indian state cannot take that away. Our resistance will live.”
ATC 149, November-December 2010
JAMMU KASHMIR COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY
November 2, 2010
On November 1, 2010, shortly after 5.10 am, Professor Richard Shapiro was denied entry by the Immigration Authorities in New Delhi. Richard Shapiro is the Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco. He is also the life partner/husband of Angana Chatterji, who is the Co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK) and also Professor of Anthropology at CIIS.
Richard Shapiro, a US Citizen, has been accompanying Angana Chatterji, a citizen of India and a permanent resident of the US, to India since 1997, and has travelled here approximately thirty times. His area of work is not India or Kashmir, but focuses primarily on issues of race, class, gender, and alliance building in the United States, and discourses on power and subjectivity. He is not someone who has made India a “career,” but invested in thinking and learning through the various struggles that Angana has been a part of across India.
Since July 2006, Richard regularly travelled to Kashmir, and interacted with various human rights defenders, scholars, youth, to bear witness and learn from their experiences. He has been conscientious in not violating the conditions of his tourist visa. He has not participated in formal conferences, and has not conducted any applied research in Kashmir or in India. He also helped form a Jewish-Muslim Friendship Circle. Richard Shapiro had written an op-ed in 2009 and another in September 2010. These were analytical pieces based on articles and newspaper reports, and not on primary research that had been conducted by him. Any scholar can do that. This is a matter of academic freedom, and beyond the control of states and their desire to regulate thinking on the injustices they perpetrate.
This Monday, Richard Shapiro had travelled a long way from San Francisco to be with Angana Chatterji, who was traveling to Kashmir for work, to think and learn. When he first presented his passport to the Immigration Authorities, he was stamped an entry permit. Then, they started processing Angana Chatterji’s passport. She has been stopped regularly since the inception of IPTK in April 2008. As they paused over her passport, the Immigration Officer again asked Richard Shapiro for his passport. Then, he was informed that he may not enter India, and that the ban was indefinite. The Immigration Authorities insisted that Richard return immediately. They stamped “cancelled” on the entry stamp they had provided minutes ago. They did not stamp “cancel” on his visa. However, Professor Shapiro was not deported. His visa was not cancelled. The Immigration Authorities refused to pay for his return airfare. He was made to leave at 11.50 am that same morning. The Immigration Authorities refused to give any reason, while stating that Professor Shapiro had not been charged with anything.
While no charges were framed against Professor Shapiro, the persons at the airport were categorical in stating that he is not to return to India, impinging on his academic freedom, freedom of movement, and rights to travel with his legal partner, and visit his family in Kolkata.
The Government of India has initiated various “peace” processes and confidence building measures without the consent of the Kashmiri people. With friends like Richard Shapiro, we are able to think and learn together. This is what is urgently required to build an atmosphere in which Kashmiris are not isolated from new ideas, other worlds, from the friendship and hospitality offered by those who seek out a place that has been forsaken by so many. The ban on Professor Shapiro days before the visit of the US President speaks volumes to the arrogance of the Indian State. It is ironic too because the Government of India desires that the US Government grant more visas to Indians, even as it just evicted a US Citizen without warning or due cause.
The ban on Richard Shapiro also further seeks to intimidate and target Angana Chatterji and the work of IPTK with Parvez Imroz, Gautam Navlakha, Zahir-Ud-Din, Mihir Desai, and Khurram Parvez. JKCCS condemns this ban.
The ban on Richard Shapiro is also a ban on Kashmiris, condemning them to isolation.
The Indian state has targeted those that have been outspoken on injustices and military governance in Kashmir. Since 2008, Parvez Imroz and his family have been attacked in their home. Angana Chatterji and Zahir-Ud-Din have been charged under Section 505 of the Ranbir Penal Code, with writing to incite against the Indian State. Last week, Arundhati Roy has been threatened with charges of sedition. JKCCS condemns the attack on the home of Arundhati Roy in New Delhi, and the continued targeting of her stand on Kashmir, and the dangerous role being played by the mainstream Indian media in inciting violence against her.
These actions speak to the intent of the Indian State as it continues it impunity rule in Kashmir, with deliberate actions to isolate Kashmiris from the world and the world from Kashmiris. In the past, several academics and journalists have been banned from entering India, and numerous Kashmiri scholars, journalists, and activists have also been banned from leaving Kashmir to travel abroad.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Nationalistic Chauvinism’s latest victim, students of Jadavpur University. A Seminar ‘Azaadi: The Only Way’ organized by the United Students Democratic Front (USDF) a Students organization mainly representing students of colleges and universities of Kolkata was attacked by a mob of B.J.P. /R.S.S. activists on Saturday, 30th October 2010. The Speakers were SAR Geelani, Delhi University Teacher, Siddhartha Guha Roy, Academic and Malen, an activist from the Campaign for Peace and Justice, Manipur. While the standard was the usual RSS/BJP chauvinistic one, what was new was first, that the target was a student seminar, and second, that it happened in West Bengal, where the BJP is considered a weak organization.
Jadavpur University students lead from the front in the state of west Bengal, when it comes to voicing concerns on National and International issues. The vibrancy of the student community on campus and off campus since the University’s inception in 1956 has been demonstrated again and again by their active support to democratic and progressive struggles worldwide. This University, which has been given a five star university status by the UGC, and recognized as one of the leading universities with “Potential for excellence”, also has had sustained student activism which has played no mean role in preserving freedom of speech in the campus, the most recent event being a fight to resist the installation of closed circuit televeisions in the campus in the name of security. The concern for recent happenings in Kashmir has echoed in the student’s demonstrations and the suppression of people in the disguise of national security claimed by the Central Government led by Congress and the State Government led by CPM.
In ‘Azaadi- The only Way’ Siddhartha Guha Roy, a civil rights activist and historian with a book on Kashmir emphatically expressed his concern for human rights violations by minions of the Indian state with ordinary Kashmiris at the receiving end. Only when the Kashmiri masses were rebuffed and deceived by the Indian State and leaders like Abdullah Dynasty (Sheikh Abdullah, the historic leader, often imprisoned in independent India, his son Farooq, and grandson Omar) in failing to deliver promises that some provoked men to take up arms. The Jammu Kahmir Liberation Front (J.K.L.F) he said began with civic demands for improving electrification in the state and for better transport facilities. Immediately after Siddharth Guha Roy finished his speech and SAR Geelani was to address the audience, a mob of seven to eight people frantically shouting slogans, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ emerged from the hundred odd seminarians. Donned with the B.J.P. flag, they rushed to the stage where the speakers were seated. One of them even hurled a shoe at the speakers, which was intercepted by a student’s chain. On repeated announcements to maintain order by the student organizers the mob did not yield. The student volunteers had to forcibly take the mob outside the seminar hall. The speakers remained seated on the stage, patiently waiting for the seminar to resume. After the seminar resumed, Amitava Roy, State Secretary of the Bharatiya Yuva Morcha (B.J.P.’s State Youth Association) remained in the hall and constantly interrupted the speakers and forced the presenters to take questions. On a question to Siddhartha Guha Roy, as to comment on the Quit Kashmir Movement initiated in Kashmir against the Kashmiri Pandits by B.J.P. State Youth Secretary, Guha Roy said that he believes that human rights are for all individuals and hence, the eviction of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, he condemned in the same spirit. Geelani on the contrary, said that like the ‘Quit Kahmir Movement a movment by the Kahmiri Pandits called ‘Quit Jammu’ was initiated in Jammu city. But, he making his stand clear on the Kashmiri Pandit’s forcible eviction said that Pandit’s were forced out from Kashmir, but it was not because of they were Hindus. He said that the Kashmiri Pandits were the propertied class of Kashmir. Geelani was rather ambigious on the Kashmiri Pandit’s issue.
Geelani responded to the ruckus created by the B.J.P. as a tactic of vandalism and appealed everyone for behaving rationally. There were heated exchange of words between B.J.P. party men and students mainly provoked by the B.J.P. supporters who constantly intercepted the speakers. Eventually all the hecklers had to be escorted out of the hall. One Student organizer Chandan Mondal of U.S.D.F. also informed the audience of the seminar that his colleague, a co-organizer girl student was heckled by the B.J.P. party men and also lit a match, with an intention to immolate her. SAR Geelani said, never has the State of Pakistan claimed Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan. He emphasized that the Indian State has prolonged the solution to the ‘Kashmir Issue’ and has instead used force against the Kashmiri masses. There were around a 7,000 Kashmiri men missing from the state, reportedly picked up by the Indian Army for interrogation. He said the Central Government of India is not serious in wanting to address the concerns of Kashmiri masses instead it is just dubbing the Kashmiri masses call for a Azadi (freedom) as a Governance issue, blaming the Omar Abdulla Government at the state. Marlem representing Campaign for Justice and Peace, Manipur responded to a Jadavpur student’s query on the possibility of making a common platform where people’s representatives of Oppressed states like Manipur and Kashmir could come together and fight for the rights of their populace, said, ‘we can only hope that in future we can make such a people’s platform’.
The B.J.P. party-men sat for a dharna after having been evacuated from the seminar hall and shouted slogans like ‘Long live Indian Motherland’. They even blockaded a road adjoining the campus premises. They claimed that in the name of protecting free speech Jadavpur Universty was promoting actions like the burning of the national flag. Later on, some unidentified B.J.P. men even registered an F.I.R. against the student organizers of U.S.D.F. for carrying out ‘anti-national activities’. When the Indian State and the ruling political parties are being exposed for their involvement in Corruption even in defense sector, B.J.P. being exposed in the Tehelka Expose, the latest being the Adarsh Co-op. Housing Society Scam, where a residential plot was acquired for Kargil War Veterans only to have been taken over by top army men and state bureaucrats and politicians. It would rational to evaluate the Indian state’s performance in Kashmir in the Universal of Human Rights and Justice.
Since last May, the situation in France has been marked by the mobilisation against the pension law. Days of mobilisation succeed days of mobilisation, the movement against pension reform continues to develop and put down roots. It is the confirmation of a profound movement massively rejecting not only the pension reform but more broadly Sarkozy’s anti-social, racist and authoritarian policies as a whole. But also the injustices accumulated and accentuated by the crisis, whether among the young or among wage earners.
That is why the demonstrations, although repetitive, are not shrinking and are even beating records, in particular those on October 12 and 19 when 3.5 million people were on the streets. The gatherings are increasingly combative and radical. The private sector is highly mobilised and now youth (at this stage essentially high school students) have also entered into mobilisation. Because the youth have understood that their access to a job in the short term and to a pension at full rate in good health were highly compromised by this reform.
Little by little the environment has changed, many of us, very many, think that victory is possible, that we can defeat Sarkozy. Already, at this stage of the mobilisation, the government has lost the battle of public opinion. 70% of the population support the mobilisations and oppose this reform. Today, the majority of the workers, those in precarious jobs, and youth know that the question of pensions is neither a demographic question nor one of financing as the government has tried to have us believe for some months.
The strike has little by little become a feature of the landscape. With each day of strikes and demonstrations, it has appeared increasingly obviously to numerous sectors that staggered days were not enough to defeat the government. In fact, ongoing strike action has never been so much discussed in all sectors of activity as in recent weeks, to the point that 61% of those polled favour prolonged strikes. The problem is precisely the leaderships of the trade union confederations who, even if they are pushed by the rank and file to continue, make sure they avoid calling for a general strike. Since the beginning of the movement, trade union unity has undoubtedly been a gain, a point of support in the success of the days of strikes and demonstrations. But the inter union coordination has not called for a major social confrontation with this government, and no longer demands the withdrawal of the draft legislation, instead proposing new negotiations and amendments.
The key sectors of the economy have however decided to launch or broaden prolonged strikes. This is the case for example with the rail workers, EDF centres and refineries. In the latter sector this has not been seen since May 68. Since October 14, the 13 refineries are taking ongoing strike action with a total halt to the installation and shipping of fuel to service stations and depots. The strike is huge, renewed with virtual unanimity.
This movement is on the move everywhere, with every day new initiatives, blockade actions (toll points, roads, airports, industrial zones and so on), and local demonstrations taking place in a unitary and inter-professional fashion. Mass meetings of the different mobilised sectors are also taking place every day, small at the beginning, they are increasingly significant now. But it should also be noted that if there are numerous strikes here and there in the public as in the private sector, ongoing action remains still too scattered and a minority phenomenon and the rate of strikes during the national strike days is high but not extraordinary.
For some days and in particular since the day of strikes and demonstrations on October 19, young people have participated fully in the mobilisation, with very significant and dynamic contingents and many high schools blockaded. There is a determination and politicisation here that was not there in previous mobilisations. The more they are said to be manipulated and the more their right to demonstrate is contested, the more their determination grows. The mobilisation in the universities is taking off, little by little. It is the big issue in the coming day, on the eve of the high school holidays.
Faced with this situation, the right, the employers, the government and Sarkozy remain determined to defend this unjust reform. Sarkozy is intent on a test of strength. The use of force is patent as shown by the police intervention against the refinery strikers or against the high school students, strong-arm tactics in parliament and the rejection of any discussion even with the most moderate union leaders. Their determination is understandable since this reform is for them at the heart of their austerity policy to ensure the crisis is paid for by those who are not responsible for it. Success with this reform will boost the financial markets but it is also the opportunity in France to change the relationship of forces and the distribution of wealth in favour of the richest. It is also a chance to get rid of the “social and fiscal burden" which is the legacy of old struggles and to bring the most resistant sectors to their knees. The key element for Sarkozy is also to rally his own camp some months prior to the presidential election. However, he is still far from victory and he has not broken or silenced the resistance.
The breadth of this mobilisation indicates the possibility of defeating the government. That is why the overall unity of the social and political left in this struggle is imperative. That is the meaning of the commitment of the NPA [Nouveau parti anticapitaliste – New Anti-capitalist Party] in all the unitary and political initiatives allowing regroupment of our forces and in particular through the national collective initiated by the Fondation Copernic and Attac. But this unity around the slogan "pensions at 60 and withdrawal of the draft law” does not hide certain disagreements on the basis and on the strategy of ‘action in particular with the Socialist Party. The latter defends the pension at 60 but voted with the deputies of the right on increasing the number of annuities to 41.5, which in fact destroys the idea of defending the pension at 60. Also faced with the growing mobilisation, we prepare for the 2012 presidential election. When there are divergences with the left of the left, in particular with the Parti de Gauche of Jean-Luc Melechon, they concern essentially action strategy. The latter defends the immediate perspective of a referendum which would shift the mobilisation from the street to the institutional level at a time when the social test of forces is still before us!
The NPA has appeared since the beginning of the mobilisation as a party organising struggle, seeking unity around political objectives and demands: the withdrawal and undoubtedly now the abrogation of the law and the resignation of those responsible for the social crisis, Sarkozy and Woerth. We also develop anti-capitalist perspectives though an emergency social and political plan to beat the crisis.
The coming days will be decisive. The law will be voted through but that will not silence or halt this mobilisation because for all those who are today on the streets, on strike, this regime is illegitimate. Also, we know that a law which is enacted can be withdrawn in this country - thishas already happened with the First Employment Contract [Contrat Première embauche] in 2007.
One to watch, then...
Towards a general strike
The political situation in France is dominated by the mobilization against the proposed reform of the pension system. This reform is at the heart of Sarkozy’s austerity policy. Although it is presented as an obvious demographic necessity, it is meeting increasing opposition in public opinion.
The mobilization has been growing since the start of the mobilizations in May and the first day of action in June. Since the beginning of September three days of strikes and demonstrations (the 7th and 23rd of September and the 2nd of October) have brought out 3 million people on each occasion. The CGT estimates that 5 million people have participated in the strikes and demonstrations since the start.
On each day of action, we have seen that there are more private sector workers, more young people – even high school students are beginning to mobilise and block their schools - and more radical demands.
The battle against the draft law on pensions also shows a massive rejection of the whole politics of Sarkozy. There is not only the question of the pension, numerous sectors are extremely mobilized, on strike on various topics: post offices, in hospitals, the nurse-anaesthetists, the dockers...
Faced with this resistance, the government is more and more unpopular. These accumulated difficulties are provoking a crisis within the right.
To try to reassert his control, Sarkozy has stressed his racist and security policies, in relation to the Roms in particular. But also in the last few weeks, the government has tried to make people forget the social question by advancing the terrorist danger. But without much success.
Dissatisfaction is growing and the situation is "explosive". Faced with the success of the demonstrations and strike days, the government has not moved and says that nothing will be changed in its proposal. The crisis and the debt are poor excuses to justify the reform.
Sarkozy and his government want their reform. Faced with the determination of the government, many workers know that to win it’s necessary to impose social determination.
Today, in numerous sectors, it is time for an all-out strike. For example in the RATP (Paris public transport system), the SNCF (French national railway company), but also in the chemical and engineering industries there is a possibility of a continuing srike from Tuesday. 
We know that the next day of strikes and demonstrations, on Tuesday 12th October, will be a success. And today, the idea that we can win is increasing.
This movement is characterized by a massive refusal of the reform, a spectacular mistrust against the power, against Sarkozy but we don’t know what will be the end result of this confrontation. Everything is possible.
The NPA participates with the whole French left including the PS, but without LO, in a unitarian campaign against the pensions reform .
This unitarian campaign, launched by Attac and the Copernic Foundation, is based on the demand of a pension at 60 years for all and the withdrawal of the law.
Although all the left agrees on these two demands, there are several disagreements.
The disagreement over demands is in particular with the Socialist Party. They agree with the demand of 60 years old as retirement age but they defend the idea that workers must work longer to get a full pension. And so they voted with the rightwing deputies for the increase of years worked to qualify for the full pension.
There are also disagreements about the strategy for winning against the government and obtaining the withdrawal of the draft law. There are disagreements with the Socialist Party but also with the Communist Party and Parti de gauche (Left Party). The Socialist Party ask us to wait for the next presidential elections in 2012 and the other political forces demand a referendum, turning the class struggle into an institutional question. They are all refusing the social confrontation necessary to win.
Since the beginning of the mobilization, the NPA has worked in two directions:
11th October 2010
Sandra Demarcq is a member of the Executive Committee of the New Anti-Capitalist pary (NPA) in France, and a member of the leadership of the Fourth International.
 The right to strike is embodied in the French constitution. Trades unions have to give a “warning” (préavis) of a strike for the workers to be considered legally on strike. In these sectors there has been a préavis for a “reconductible” or all-out strike, that is one that is revoted each day by the workers.
 [The “intersyndicale” brings together the five confederations, including two usually classed on the “right”, CGT, CFDT, FO, CGC and CFTC; the radical union SUD Solidaires with important implantation in the postal, transport and health sectors, FSU and UNSA (teachers and public sector)
Originally published in International Viewpoint. http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1935