illustration by Mir Suhail
January 5, 1993. Sopore massacre. BSF units go berserk in the apple town of Sopore in district Baramulla after armed rebels had killed one of their men and thus ended up killing 55 Kashmiri civilians. The damage was exacerbated when 600 houses were burnt by the BSF personnel. People were crammed into shops and buses, fired upon and then the structures set ablaze.
January 21, 1990. Gawkadal massacre. CRPF, under the instructions of DySP Allah Baksh, resort to indiscriminate firing over protestors. 100 – 280 unarmed civilians were killed. BBC said 77 whileas authorities put the number at 28.
January 25, 1990. Handwara massacre. BSF go berserk and kill 26 civilians in Handwara town of district Kupwara.
January 27, 1994. Kupwara massacre by 15 Punjab Sikh Regiment at around 10:40 am. 27 people were killed. The market was gutted too. Those killed included even policemen. 38 were injured. The massacre was a collective punishment for boycotting Republic Day functions.
In addition to the above mentioned large scale massacres of civil Kashmiris, many incidents have occurred in the month of January in Indian-occupied Kashmir. On January 8 in the year 1990, five persons were killed at Noorpora in the town of Sopore. On January 12, 1992, two dead bodies were handed over to people by forces in Braipora, Handwara, following which three more persons were arrested and killed in custody some days later. On January 30, 1990, armymen killed an entire family travelling in their personal car at Palhalan in Sopore town. The flesh of the children was stuck to the car’s interiors while their toys lay in blood.
January seems to be a month of special liking for the Indian “security forces” who turn predators on prowl for human blood in Kashmir. The phenomenon is not entirely new. Back in 1932, on 21st January, the Dogra forces had rolled over people at Rajouri. Under the command of DySP Tirath Singh Wadhar, the forces fired on worshippers on the festive day of Eid. The resulting bloodbath had 25 of them motionless. The present stationed troops in Jammu and Kashmir, 6 lakh to be precise, in the name of securing India’s territorial integrity, have inherited these massacring genes from their preceding gun-wielding monsters.
It comes as a surprise though, to political humans, that the state, which has orchestrated such major massacres in a picturesque valley, celebrates its sanctimonious national holiday in the same month. On 26th of January in the year 1950, the “secular”, “democratic”, “socialist” and “republic” constitution of India came into effect. A matter of celebration, indeed it is, for every state in the world. India is “secular”. Remember the destruction of Babri Masjid by Hindutva fanatics. Or more recently google how Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched for possessing beef in his refrigerator. India is “democratic” too, given the fact that justice, equality and liberty are studied in textbooks right from kindergarten classes. India is “socialist” as well. Observe how the state is waging a war against it’s own people to dispossess them of their lands and handover the same to meaty corporatists. India is a “republic”. Sample the rise of a tea-selling kar sevak to the country’s topmost administrative position despite spearheading a Muslim mass pogrom. The party with 31% vote share rules rest of the 69% voting population. Hail this democracy ! What is missing from the “holy book” is an antonym for the term “casteist”. It would have gone well with present scenarios in the country.
But how does India bring on the event in Kashmir ? First. Right from the onset of the month of January, uniformed men, with that cannibalistic weapon of theirs, man roads and alleys in nook and corner of Kashmir. Identity Cards, attested to by India, become more life-saving than other vital organs of human body. If you are lame or blind or deaf by default but have no ID card to prove your “identity” in your own land, then only miracles can divert your destination from a notorious torture camp. Frisking and checking form new curries on the menu list. Strip-searches find their way into the harassment manual. It was some years ago, when a friend was asked to take off his shirt and sweater and reduced to his undershirt in one of the main towns of the valley. Arrests on mere suspicion occur with much more frequency.
On the day itself, the scene in Kashmir is that of a zoo where animals are caged and their movement limited to indoors. And why are we not animals ? We have been butchered, tortured, raped, humiliated and our political rights violated. We don’t have the right to speak and if we do, there are no ears to hear us. More to it, human rights in Kashmir has been a beautiful phrase that has suffixed organisations those who work for them. People are reduced to inertial organisms in their own homes while the stooges of India in Kashmir make sure to hoist the tricolour in heavily protected grounds. To falsely attain legitimacy for such unpopular actions, the local collaborative politicians pay their audience for chanting a few slogans. The police and armymen are, as obvious, salaried to demonstrate their skills and power for the prestige of their employer.
In the capital of world’s largest “democracy”, fighter jets shall zoom in the air under blue skies. Latest additions to the weaponry shall be unveiled, in front of a cartooned guest, probably to send a message of increasing destructive capabilities to the outer world. Rhythmic foot-tapping soldiers shall salute their premiers. They shall test themselves in front of their leaders essentially to depict how they are going to act while confronted with an actual situation. Far from the national capital of India, in a valley held forcibly, India’s army has been putting all theories into practice to eradicate a population that is hellbent upon forcing them out. Consequently they have ended up perpetrating a large number of massacres in the valley that too in the same month in which they dance the dirty dance of democracy.
Just a few days before, on the anniversary of Gawkadal massacre on 21st January, people paid rich tributes to the civilians who faced bullets of armymen on that black day in 1990. The brutalities of armed forces on that day even angered the J&K policemen who bundled the dead bodies into a police van. Blood out-amounted the water flowing beneath the bridge, the Bridge of No Return as it is called in the dictionary of oppressed Kashmiris. That day, Rouf Wani, a 24 year old, thronged to the street on seeing armymen harassing protesting women. When the forces resorted to indiscriminate firing, Rouf Wani acted, and his action remains imprinted in the hearts of Kashmiris and books of history. He held the LMG towards his chest until it emptied 32 bullets in him. This was not a once-in-a-blue-moon incident. Irfan Wani, a 16 year old teen, did the same and received 18 bullets in all. Decades down the lane, people have been dying, bullets have been utilised but neither has India given up on Kashmir nor has Kashmir given into India.
On India’s Republic Day, just 5 days away from the Gawkadal massacre, we shall hear Jumlas from Narendra Modi. We shall hear his rhetorical and controvertible claims on how India is rapidly evolving as a major superpower in the world and a worthy contender for a permanent place in the Security Council. Nobody expects him to speak against his party ideologues who lynched Mohammad Akhlaq or abetted the suicide of Dalit student Rohit Vemula.
As we speak of the contrasting conceptions in the Indian capital and an Indian colony, International Monetary Fund or World Bank may have come up with a new prediction regarding India’s economic growth. Modi will have a new thing to brag about. His kar sevaks must be singling out their next target. Modi will talk of India being a welfare state. Little does he ponder that the welfare of his state flows through barrel of the guns of his forces.
Modi will praise democracy in India, in his well-written speeches. But the world knows how India has been clamping down on dissenters. How Muslims are being forced to prove their nationalism. How Dalits still face worst form of casteist discrimination in a 21st century “democracy”. How “seditious” people are being told to flee to Pakistan. How writers, actors and other artists are returning their prestigious awards in protest against the idea of an intolerant India. Modi will not speak of this. Newsrooms will not carry such analysis.
Beyond the malfunctioning within Indian state, the muzzling of voices in Kashmir is one thing that will go, and has gone, unsaid and unheard in India. Over a caged Kashmir, will India celebrate it’s Republic Day.
Happy Republic Day, India. RIP.