Welcome to Kashmir, the land known for its flowers, mountains and pristine lakes!
But here, I am talking about an absolutely different Kashmir:
Welcome to the land of watchtowers and barbed wire, of military convoys, of torture and rape! Welcome to the place where India, the U.S. and Israel are continuously conducting their joint military exercises, while plotting in unison, the best strategy of how to oppress and “pacify” the local population.
Welcome to the land of 7,000 mass graves!
Welcome to a land of torture and extra-judicial executions, where at least 80,000 people have already died, most of them in just the last two decades.
Welcome to that exhausted land, where at least 8,000 people have been “disappeared” without a trace, where the entire female population of some border villages have been raped, where torture perpetrated by Indian security forces has reached an unimaginable level of brutality.
Maybe you have never heard about the crimes against humanity committed by the Indian forces in Kashmir or in the Northeast, and it is not surprising if you haven’t. Because India is like Indonesia, like Rwanda, Uganda or Ukraine — it is now a staunch ally of the West; virtually its client state. As a reward to the Indian rulers and elites, there is almost no criticism coming from the Western mainstream media. And all the Indian mass media now belongs to the right-wing business conglomerates, so there is no criticism coming from there, either!
What takes place in Kashmir is called genocide — by some, by many. But their voices are barely audible. Their voices are muffled, even silenced, by the Western and Indian regimes.
“By inviting President Obama to New Delhi, India betrayed BRICS, politically, economically and militarily,” explained Mr. Binu Matthew, editor of an influential alternative Indian web-based magazine Countercurrents, which operates from the southern state of Kerala (www.countercurrents.org).
For years, I actually tried to define India’s position in BRICS. My conclusion is increasingly straightforward: it does not belong there at all! Its social, economic, political and military stands are anti-BRICS, pro-business and pro-Western.
While Obama was visiting India in January 2015, I was actually working in Kashmir. In fact, exactly at the time when his Air Force One was touching down near New Delhi, I was supposed to be transiting at Indira Gandhi International Airport, en route from Kerala to Srinagar, Kashmir.
The madness of the Indian security apparatus in action has turned into something indescribable! Two maniacal countries — India and the United States, have joined their hands, as well as their paranoia.
My Air India flight had to circle in the air for an extra hour, before being allowed to land. And several days later, long after Obama departed, when I checked into the same hotel where the U.S. President had been staying (ITC Maurya), the place was still overflowing with those brave and beefed-up U.S. security apparatchiks and their confused Indian lackeys.
I was told that at its peak, there were approximately 1,600 members of the U.S. security, operating in the India’s capital. They brought everything with them, from surveillance equipment, to oxygen bombs, in order to “fight” the legendary New Delhi pollution and supply their Commander-in-Chief with clean, breathable air.
The Metro system was shut down, and snipers, both from local and foreign security forces occupied most of the high-rise buildings in the center.
In India, even without Obama’s visit, surveillance and “security” has become a national obsession. Outrageous “security” measures here are always justified by “terrorism” and by all other “threats” (most of them fabricated). The main reason why they exist is very simple: they serve the elites who are protecting themselves against the great majority of their own miserably poor, cheated and underprivileged citizens.
Obama got from his Indian sojourn exactly what he hoped for: both countries (or more precisely, their elites) are now moving closer and closer towards each other, both militarily (India is readily offering itself to the U.S. geo-political interests, particularly to the most important one, which is to ostracize, demonize and provoke China) and economically by maintaining a despotic market fundamentalist system, which is for the exclusive benefit of the upper classes, corporations and moneyed mobsters.
The mechanism is simple: India, which is actually a police state, oppresses the majority of its citizens on behalf of the Empire and its business interests. And in exchange it gets promoted as “the largest democracy on Earth.”
Its big boys are now finally getting what they have dreamt about ever since the collapse of the British Empire: acceptance to the exclusive Western imperialist club. When they were in charge there, the Brits put up warnings all over Sub-Continent: “No Indians and Dogs!” Such sleights are now conveniently forgotten. Everything Western is glorified.
“Let’s walk together!” declared Obama during his visit. He forgot to mention, where?
Now imagine what a police state based on thoroughly cynical principles and deceptions is capable of doing to an occupied territory, like Kashmir!
Parvez Imroz, the Director of “Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society,” explained to me during our meetings on the outskirts of Srinagar, in Kashmir:
“India, being a growing regional power, with an increasingly free market open to the United States and other such states, has been emboldened by foreign powers.
The army since 1989 has resorted to war crimes as they have been given legal impunity, and seldom have any armed personnel been punished for crimes against humanity. The militarization in Jammu and Kashmir has affected all aspects of life and unfortunately the Indian media and civil society, with some exceptions, have also been extending the moral and political impunity to the army who they believe are fighting trans-border terrorism. The systematic disappearances, mass graves, and torture have been completely ignored by the Indian and international media.”
In New Delhi, I discussed the joint exercises of Indian, US and Israeli military forces, with a renowned independent documentary film-maker, Sanjay Kak. He concluded:
“When it comes to brutality, Indian forces could actually teach both Israel and United States quite a few things.”
It is easy to confirm it.
For several days, I worked in Kashmir, with two members of “Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society,” but also with reporters employed by large Western press agencies, as well as with prominent lawyers from New Delhi. The journalists and attorneys asked not to be identified in this report, for reasons of safety and fear of losing their jobs. But they readily shared their knowledge and contacts.
I visited the border region with Pakistan, near the city of Kupwara. I also worked in the city of Sopore, known for its resistance against what the majority of local people calls, “the occupation of Kasmire.” I worked in Srinagar and its vicinity, and in several other places. It is obvious that Kashmir is brutalized, and the loss of lives here is so high that it could easily qualify as genocide.
The torture of civilians accused of supporting the “Mujahedin,” is comparable only with other examples of the most outrageous atrocities, committed in the 20th century. There seems to be no justice for the victims.
I spoke to local people from the villages of Kunan and Poshpora, where more than 2 decades ago, the Indian military arrested all men, took them to a frozen creek and tortured them, then raped all the women in their houses, killing five, including a four-day old baby. This case is well documented, and the victims pressed charges, but no one had been punished as of yet.
I spoke to a man in Sopore, Hassan Bhat, who lost both of his sons. They were murdered at the age of 15. One was shot by a cop while he was buying a carton of milk at local grocery store, and the other, shot with a teargas canister when he was trying to hide in the river, scared of a confrontation between local youth and armed forces. No justice; no one had been punished, although Mr. Bhat knows the names of the officers who were in charge.
I was shown several photos, and the case of a man who was detained after being accused of sympathizing with the “Mujahedeen,” was explained to me. When he was not “too cooperative,” both his feet were cut off. He survived. Later, pieces of flesh were cut off from various parts of his body, cooked, and force-fed to him. He survived again. For years he has been pressing charges, but no one has been punished.
The methods of torture used in Kashmir includes driving nails into victim’s feet, amputations, electric shocks, burning of genitals and other parts of the body, and the removal of nails. Rape is a common form of torture.
All this is documented. Nothing is done.
Even in India itself, I spoke to several people who are aware of the situation.
Just today, in Darjeeling, West Bengal, my colleague explained:
“My friend’s brother confessed that when he recently served in Kashmir, he was in a special Gorkha unit, well known and hated for its brutality. A Mujahedeen fighter, in one of deep villages, killed one of their men. The soldiers did not inform their commander: they just went on the rampage, ‘killing literally everything that moved, from women and children, to dogs, cats and chickens’. None of them were punished. They were discharged without honors. No one was punished.”
Mr. Parvez Imroz concluded:
“In order to suppress the struggle for freedom in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government has resorted to systematic and institutional repression. More than 700,000-strong, armed force has been pressed into service to neutralize the armed struggle and to control the people of Jammu and Kashmir who are seeking the right of self-determination which the government of India had promised before the United Nations in the 1948 and 1949 resolutions. The repression of the Indian state has been part of their policy. In this lie, even the judiciary is culpable, they as a wing of the State, have served the interests of the executive and not the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The international institutions, particularly western civil society and governments after 9/11 and because of Islamophobia and other interests, are completely ignoring the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Arundhati Roy, a famous Indian writer and activist, came to a similar conclusion two years earlier when she spoke on “Democracy Now”:
“Today Kashmir is the most densely militarized zone in the world. India has something like 700,000 security forces there. And in the ’90s, early ’90s, the fight became — turned into an armed struggle, and since then, More than 70,000 people have died, maybe 100,000 tortured, more than 8,000 disappeared. I mean, we all talk a lot about Chile, Pinochet, but these numbers are far greater.”
Locals often compare Kashmir to Palestine, to the Intifada there, but they never fail to point out that their land is suffering a much worse fate, as many more people have died here, and under much more horrible circumstance. Kashmir is far from the cameras, and far from international scrutiny.
I met stone-throwing youth in Kashmir. I stood between them and the security forces. I managed to photograph the encounter. The intensity here was the same as I had witnessed in Palestine. But in Srinagar, I was alone. I was told: “Foreigners do not dare to come. The Indian media does not care and if it did come, perhaps it would have to face the wrath of the locals. And the local media is scared: whenever they come, they get beaten up by the security forces.”
Not long ago, a Mexican journalist dared, and was badly beaten by Indian police. When his case became known, the police apologized: “Sorry, he looked like a local. We though he was a Kashmiri.”
People, who dare to speak and write about the plight of Kashmir, are intimidated, deported, and even physically attacked. Some of the critics are ordinary individuals, while others are well-known figures:
Arundhati Roy is periodically threatened with sedition charges, lawsuits and life imprisonment.
Others, like the legendary radio host David Barsamian, got deported from India, no explanation was given.
In October 2011, a senior Supreme Court lawyer Mr. Prashant Bhushan (who drafted the “Lokpal Bill”) was brutally beaten in his chambers at the Supreme Court after he made comments on the human rights situation in Kashmir.
In Sopore, several people formed a circle around me, after dark, in front of a house that recently saw fighting between pro-independence fighters and the security forces.
“What would save Kashmir?” I asked.
A heroic but desperate battle, of 200 to 300 pro-independence fighters struggling against 700,000 members of the security forces, was not looking too promising.
“Only pressure from the international community can help,” I was told.
“BRICS,” I thought. The West was too busy admiring Indian oligarchs, the military top brass, and politicians who had recently just been considered to be responsible for some heinous crimes against humanity, including those committed in 2002 in the state of Gujarat!