The arrival of spring in Kashmir every year begins with the inauguration of Asia’s largest tulip garden located in Srinagar, splashing the news print, social media platforms and television screens with photographs of manicured rows of bright tulips.
Earth’s been around the Sun. Kashmir, where it was, in darkness
While tyrants spin untruths, enact laws in darkness
The tortuous thicket of laws, constitutional provisions, presidential orders, political history and legal mystifications surrounding Article 370 and Article 35A make it difficult to navigate through recent debates about its abrogation in an informed way. This series of three essays by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, lawyer and legal researcher, which we published last year, aimed to be a somewhat eclectic guidebook— at times proffering a no frills step-by-step road map, at others traversing some rather more unfrequented and adventurous legal diversions.
In death, shaheed articulates both his agency and his suffering. In death, he bears witness to the pain and truth of Kashmir. In death, he makes it clear that the world’s largest democracy is afraid of simple dreams in the eyes of simple men.
“But what do these Kashmiris want,” the world asks.
A totalitarian control over histories and a calculated manipulation of meanings have been instrumental in India’s narrative warfare. Its armed and administrative forces have actively pursued the destruction of historiographic and material evidence of the Kashmiri past.
However, there exist ‘witnesses’ that reject the Indian imagination, refuse to grant it any legitimacy, and rule out any possibility of submission to its apparatus of regulation. These ‘witnesses’ attest to the multiple struggles of Kashmir’s pasts and preserve the evidence of its demands from the future. They undermine the colonial design by engaging in a negotiation of power where they reimagine the Kashmiri body, Kashmiri history, and the Kashmiri everyday. Subverting the threat of erasure and elimination, the ‘witnesses’ promise life in their sense of continuity, renewal, and resilience.”
It is the dead of the night. I look out of my favourite bed-side window and find the darkness, illuminated by tiny lights at Takht-e-Sulayman, staring at me. Each dot of luminosity reminding me of the military occupation of my land. This takes me back to my childhood days when I was growing up in my hometown. Every morning, long rifles protruding from the surrounding military camps would inspect me as I walked to the school bus stop, and each night, a blinding beam of search-light from the nearest military camp would invade one of the rooms of our home. As a child, it would startle me and I was left petrified. I would navigate around that torturous foreign beam, scared of being mowed down by the long rifles if I got into the crosshairs of the searchlight. As I grew up, my mind started questioning these search-lights and long rifles, crackdowns and curfews, killings and rapes, and the causative agent of these monstrous manifestations in Kashmir:– the occupation.
Dr. Sambit Patra, the numero uno mouthpiece of the BJP, wants a three-year-old-child sitting atop the blood-smeared chest of his slain grandfather to be a Pulitzer moment for India. Why not? Hasn’t Kashmir been the locus classicus of cinematographers? Erstwhile of the Bollywood, and now of the Bollywood-style newsrooms? Patra sees nothing in the image worth commenting on, his emotional sensibilities were long traded up to filthy political point scoring. But that is just routine, especially in today’s India. Tweets of the Patras are a narrative that lulls such gore, making it palatable.
On May 26, The Print published an article by Martha Lee of Middle East Forum (MEF) entitled “Stand With Kashmir not an innocent hashtag, it supports violent Islamists and terrorists.” The article made a number of defamatory claims regarding our grassroots social justice advocacy movement, Stand with Kashmir.
The Middle East Forum is notorious for its virulent Islamophobia and was created for the purpose of demonizing scholars and activists who call attention to the Israeli state’s vindictive treatment of Palestinians.
Cooped up in a little apartment in New York, Mir Suhail, Koshur (Kashmiri for the uninitiated) artist extraordinaire, has been struggling, like the rest of us, to make sense of the arcane pandemic. Perhaps the talented cartoonist’s art ensures that he has better tools at his disposal in this endeavour than most of us. On the other hand, he shares a burden all Kaesher (Kashmiris) must bear—the India occupation of Kashmir and the utter lack of compassion for and solidarity with Kaesher by most of the global community. That probably balances out any advantages his art might supply.
Raashid Maqbool – poet, teacher, scholar, journalist, friend-recited this ghazal to me in late December 2019 in his dusty car, parked on the side of a main thoroughfare in Srinagar, Kashmir. We had only an hour ago driven by a macabre spectacle: a young man, no more than 25 years of age, was being dragged by his long hair, his body bouncing against the rutted road as he flailed and kicked in protest.
Amin Bhat, a Kashmiri playwright, wrote a play – ‘Shinakhti Card’ – based on the the theft, and loss, of an ID card and its disastrous consequences. It is considered a landmark in contemporary Kashmiri literature for a reason, and that has to do with the fact that it responds to the predicament of being invalidated by being unable to show one’s papers. For all those saying ‘Kagaz Nahin Dikhayenge’ (‘We Won’t Show Papers’) in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Indian cities and towns, the consequences of what happens when one cannot show papers in occupied Kashmir could act as a salutary warning about the violence of the paper-prison-state. Because what will happen in India, if the CAA-NRC-NPR goes through as planned, is what has already happened, in many ways, in India administered Kashmir.
On October 25, 1947, Vappala Pangunni Menon, India’s envoy par excellence, gifted a car to Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra king of Jammu and Kashmir (hereon J&K). Or did he? The exact details of the events of that fateful era are lost behind a perennial fog of war. Some people say that the Maharaja had actually bought the car from the British. That it was one of the numerous vehicles used to transport Muslims of Jammu to the new, temporary border in Akhnoor and Ranbir Singh Pora, where they were disembarked, dismembered and massacred. The charons driving the vehicles would quickly turn them around to pick up and transport more people. The car was so efficient during the exercise, these people conclude, that the Maharaja thought it might impress even somebody like Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. So the Maharaja tried to gift the car to Menon; but he refused to take it, reasoning that it might serve more useful purposes in J&K. Alas! A written copy of the purported gift deed has not survived, so we can only speculate about the nature of the agreement. One thing is certain though, the car became a ubiquitous fixture in Indian-controlled J&K.
Arif Ayaz Parrey tells a short tale from Kashmir about Avtar Singh, a counter-insurgency officer of the Indian Army, wanted for the murder of the Kashmiri human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi. On June 9, 2012, in Selma, California, he shot his family and himself.
As of now there are no direct links, and the alliances between the Azadis, in India and in Kashmir. But remarkable and perplexing exchanges are not uncommon in history, and we should not close our eyes to such possibilities beforehand. Kashmiris have demonstrated the ability to patiently out-wait the state, not least of all in this present crisis of the post-370 abrogation. The rhizomatic subterranean diffusion and spread of Azadi into India’s social – slowly navigating across barriers and police pickets, surviving and seeking life – into all different directions, should also be patiently nurtured and allowed to grow for more mature solidarities and struggles to come later in the day. It’s not the responsibility of the oppressed to emancipate their oppressors but somehow Kashmiris might have just given India such a gift. How far India will go with this gift is an open question.
The abrogation of Article 370 has been accompanied by many colossal whoppers about its politics and history, and deliberate disinformation about the consequences for legal and constitutional rights and status. Yet in Kashmir, from where I write this, none of it matters. It is all of a piece with India’s long history of lawlessness and lies in the name of law. In the face of overwhelming ontological insecurity and terrifying state brutality, no one, not even the lawyering community (such of them as are not busy filing habeas corpus and bail petitions or themselves hiding from arrest), can be bothered to pore over the niceties of how exactly the deed was accomplished. With no Internet access many Kashmiri lawyers I speak to have not so far been able to read the full text of the two Constitutional Orders that altered their fate. What, after all, is a legal sleight of hand or an elaborately constructed constitutional lie when you have not spoken to a beloved daughter in two months? Who cares if Tulsi Gabbard (“who?”) or the late Arun Jaitley (“he died?”) misrepresent the nature of property rights that daughters enjoyed under your one-time, so-called semi-autonomous legal system? Many had not heard that this was even a thing. When I informed them, seething with indignation, they shrugged. “Yes” they said. “They lie.”
Despite Kashmir valley experiencing a crippling communication blackout for the last sixty days, with massive restrictions and curfew imposed, where it has impacted life beyond one’s imagination, one comes across the launch of a fashion campaign (Zooni) directed by Avani Rai for a label called Raw Mango. It is not just that the campaign is ill-timed and insensitive, but it does damage by further fetishing Kashmiri women.
This statement is in the context of an invitation to Kashmiri students studying at Aligarh Muslim University by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. It has been reported in the National media that forty Kashmiri students from AMU have been called to Lucknow for a meeting with the Chief Minister wherein the Chief Minister will discuss the abrogation of Article 370 with students and will explain the “advantages” of the decision.
It is worth asking whether the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will ensure the safe return of the more than 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits to the idyllic homes they left behind in the 1990s, on their “own terms”. If those terms entail a return not merely to the territory of Kashmir but to any semblance of the cultural and social relations that had once made Kashmir home, then jubilating Kashmiri Pandits might want to ask whether their native home is being secured or only further eroded by the recent decision.
In a strange twist, the removal of Article 35 A, which was important to Kashmiri Pandits’ own early mobilisation to secure government jobs for themselves from Indians of the plains, may now well turn the erstwhile Kashmiri Pandit native into a settler. Pandits who have nursed dreams of return must know that they will arrive not as neighbours, but as a demographic stick with which to beat local Kashmiri Muslims and pave the way for a settler-colonial project designed to transform India’s only Muslim-majority state into a Hindu-majority one.
At this juncture, it is important to recollect that India is a union of states with varying legal histories. Article 370, which enshrines the specificities to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is a recognition of this political diversity. Goa, like Kashmir, has a unique legal history. Unlike Kashmir, however, Goan specificities did not merit any constitutional recognition. Subsequent to the annexation of the territory, Goans were not asked, via a plebiscite, what they wished their political status to be, nor was a Constituent Assembly set up, as was the case in Kashmir and some of the other princely states in the process of accession to India. India simply asserted its power and extended its Constitution to Goa, and erased pre-existing citizenship.
The tortuous thicket of laws, constitutional provisions, presidential orders, political history and legal mystifications surrounding Article 370 and Article 35A make it difficult to navigate through recent debates about its abrogation in an informed way. This series of three essays by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, lawyer and legal researcher, aims to be a somewhat eclectic guidebook— at times proffering a no frills step-by-step road map, at others traversing some rather more unfrequented and adventurous legal diversions. In this first essay, Shrimoyee provides a legal-historical guide to terms like 370, 35(a) and the tricks, which were played to make these history.”
As a Kashmiri psychiatrist who happens to be a member of Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) as well, I would like to know did IPS at any point try to contact their registered members in Kashmir or did they just splash their names on the letter used to criticise the Lancet. How does a national organisation representing almost all psychiatrists in the country makes videos, issues political statements and politicise about Pakistan, but at no point thinks of questioning the politicians about policies which are putting the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of people at risk. One does not have to be a scientist to understand that putting an entire population in siege, arresting their children, cutting off their all communication links will scar them psychologically forever, more so when the exposure to trauma is more than 70%. One out of ten people have lost a loved one directly to the current conflict and one out of three has lost someone in their extended families. There are hundreds of publications in peer reviewed journals from local Kashmiri psychiatrists, orthopaedics, surgeons, sociologists, and other specialities talking about the mental and physical morbidity as a direct result of on-going war like situation in Kashmir. This will only get worse and no matter what professional jingoism will say, the reality of mental scarring is real.
The Indian government’s measures to bring Kashmir under direct rule by New Delhi attempts to erase the Kashmiri political identity and will inflame an already simmering resistance.
On Friday August 2, confusion and panic hit the people of Kashmir, in the wake of several orders claiming there is a serious situation in Kashmir, urging yatris and tourists to return and the deployment of thousands of additional troops. But, on my social media feed, there were voices of humour and resilience reminding Kashmiris of what they collectively as a people have suffered and endured through the years, of how the Indian state has persistently viewed Kashmiris as the “other” and sought ways of repression. Scrolling down one searing image went through my mind. It is that of Mir Suhail’s illustration of a man in checked headgear and greying beard that accompanies the report, Torture: State’s Instrument of Control in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. I recognise it as that of Qalandar Khatana of Kalaros, Kupwara.
In the times to come lynching, political assassination, massacre at the borders will be how lessons on Indian Hindu Nationalism will be taught. Everyone who writes, speaks and exposes the fascistic design of the far-right Hindu Nationalist camp will be vilified as terrorist, and demonized as anti-national. Military strikes at the border will be increasingly conducted, upon which the orgy of patriotism will be enacted persistently. The fate of Kashmir and Manipur will be decided around the conference tables in Delhi. People’s movement will not be televised, it will be curfewed and militarized. Parliament will become a shelter of hate-speech. The language of killing and lynching will enter the everyday execution of Hindu democracy, and words like freedom will disappear from our vocabulary. In the meanwhile more Burhan Wani, more Gauri Lankesh will meet the tragic bullet’s end.
ONE After a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane piloted by Abhinandan Varthaman, a Wing Commander in the Indian Air Force, was shot down by Pakistan Air…
Kashmir has been an eyesore on India’s body politic for the last 72 years. The average life expectancy in India is only 68.5 years, so there is a danger the eyesore might become congenital. The latest attack on Indian armed forces at Lithpur in District Pulwoam, where a Kashmiri suicide bomber killed more than forty Indian soldiers, can become India’s “enough is enough” moment. While randomly beating and harassing Kashmiris working or studying in various parts of Bharat is a good beginning, it won’t be enough. After all, if killing more than 80,000 Kashmiris and making about 10,000 of them disappear has not taught them a lesson, what will a few beatings achieve? No, India needs to do more.This is my cue. Hear me out.
Everything will be okay tomorrow
Tomorrow everything will be okay
Tomorrow the great media will
Deliver the propaganda pizza
Tomorrow everything will be okay
The Bakarwal tribe is a Muslim nomadic pastoral tribe in Jammu and Kashmir also found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is one such tribe which is facing numerous challenges which are posing a threat not only to their livelihood but also puts into question their existence. Following is an interview conducted on a pleasant evening as part of my study on the tribe exploring the lives of Bakarwals, a tribe which came into the limelight after the Kathua rape case.
On 16th of July, 2018 some of the news portals in Kashmir Valley published a letter from Abdul Manan Wani, member of the resistance group – Hizbul Mujahideen. Mr. Manan was a research scholar from one of the prestigious universities in India and was in news some months back when news channels flashed ‘scholar turned militant’ in the headlines. Within no time the letter was taken down from the virtual space from by the State authorities and the police were quick to start legal action against the web-portals who had published this letter.
A day before Eid, a Twitter storm with the hashtag #InquireKashmirKillings erupted. Notwithstanding the pall of gloom caused by the killing of respected editor- in-chief of Rising Kashmir, Shujat Bukhari by unknown gunmen on the very day that the report by the UN on the situation in Kashmir vis-a-vis human rights was released, Kashmiris hurled themselves into battle.
The image she shows me on her laptop shows smears of blood on the floor, discarded clothing and prayer mats at one corner of the corridor. No action. No people. But Sanna Irshad Mattoo, one of Kashmir’s growing bunch of women photo-journalists, conveys the potential of objects and belongings to bear “witness”. The inanimate speaks out of the terrible violence that stains, not just the hospital floor, but, as the hashtgag suggests one that has permeated the soul of Kashmir.
Something like above would have read as the brief academic profile of thirty-two-year-old Dr. Mohmmad Rafi Bhat till Sunday May 6, 2018. Now, he shares…
There would be no justice for Asifa if we don’t contextualise her murder and rape. Iqbal Bhat’s essay
what does the Indian left-liberal solidarity choose to do differently about a people who, one can argue, are doubly colonized? They choose to express their ‘desire’ for the “beautiful woman” by exporting a girl, who faces multiple hierarchies of oppression besides the double colonization of her community, to their mainland and call her “another Nirbhaya” or “India’s daughter”. They stress that Aasifa’s rape and murder is an ‘issue of humanity’. By deliberately trying to erase the specificity of the case, they are obfuscating their complicity in the crimes the Indian state has committed in Kashmir in their name for all these years.
In response to Sunday’s events, the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) in Kashmir gave a call for a solidarity march to Shopian on April 3. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who continues to be a part of the JRL along with senior leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, too hoped to march this time. The government had recently announced his release from a seven-year-long house detention after his resignation as the TeH chief. As Geelani slowly walked towards the gate of his party residence, he found it closed. Peeping out through a small window in the door, he asked the armed personnel stationed outside to open the gate. When they refused citing “orders” Geelani quipped: “Darwaaza kholo, tumhari jamhooriyat ka jinaza nikal raha hai…hindustan ki jamhooriyat ka… uska jinaaza nikal raha hai… Open the door, the funeral of your democracy is leaving… Of India’s democracy…here goes its funeral!”
Around 00:05 on February 19 2018, Indian armed forces shot dead Syed Habibullah after he allegedly “tried to enter the high security Air Force Station” in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The police spokesman said that the man, in his fifties, “appeared to be mentally challenged”—he was not wearing any footwear, had no winter clothing, and did not carry any identity card. Those who knew him told media-persons that “he used to roam from once place to another, not because he was mentally challenged but because he was distressed with extreme penury.” He was laid to rest in his native village of Soibug amidst pro-freedom slogans and clashes with the government forces.
The name Habibullah translates as ‘the beloved of God.’
On a cold day, some 27 years ago, Juma Sheikh, chowkidar of the twin hamlets of Kunan and Poshpora, Kupwara district in Kashmir, approached tehsildar Sikandar Malik with a letter written in Urdu signed and supported by thumb prints of the villagers. In elaborate and formal language the letter detailed the horrific ordeal of sexual violence and torture that they had suffered on the intervening night of February 23 and 24 at the hands of 4 Rajputana Rifles that had come in for a cordon and search. The victims reportedly ranged from a 60 year old woman to a 14 year old girl and a pregnant woman nearing full term. The men were not spared. Herded outside in the snow to makeshift interrogation centres they were subjected to various forms of torture like having chilli powder rubbed on the genitals or subjected to electric shocks in their private parts.
In this excerpt from his autobiography, Syed Ali Shah Geelani talks of 1947, the tribal invasion and Indian Army in Kashmir
Witness / Kashmir 1986-2016 / 9 photographers – can never be confused with the old ‘touristy’ coffee table relics of photography I remember, not even by accident.
A day ahead of the India Pakistan match, when Indian media, publicity hungry cricketers and showbiz stars are all over spitting their Indian nationalist bile, Chalukyan G, a Chennai based graphic designer wrote a fan mail on Facebook to Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi. His fan mail did not just touch upon sporting matters but also laid out in detail the hypocrisy of Indian nationalist rhetoric. To his surprise, Afridi replied and unlike cricketers like Sehawg, he said “Let the best team win,”
Those who have not been around academic circles, have not heard of General Dyer, not watched The Namesake, nor confused Partha Chatterjee with his namesake, might be wondering what the fuss about Professor Partha Chatterjee is about. Parthada recently referred to the justification of using a human shield by the Indian Army in Kashmir as the General Dyer moment of the independent Indian state’s army.
Young Kashmiri women know the public space is theirs to keep and rightly so. When they raise their middle finger at the occupation, their heads are held high in knowing that standing up to oppression in all forms of expression does not diminish their dignity. It is clear that these women do not need to be called from the Masjid pulpits, but that they have arrived of their own accord. And they have come to stay.
India is scared of a facebook post. India is scared of a poem. India is scared of a video. India is scared of the smile of a martyr. India is scared of a girl in hijab pelting stones. India is scared of a boy helping his friend reach to safety. India is scared of the people coming together.
“There is only one solution—gun-solution, gun-solution,” mourners shout beside the bullet-ridden dead body of 25-year-old Nissar Ahmad Mir in Rathson, a village in Kashmir’s Budgam district.
Among nationalists in India, who have wet dreams of global “superpower” and watch over and over videos of “Indian weapons” and “most powerful militaries” on the YouTube, seeing images of those arms and men being reduced to a barbaric spectacle against an unarmed people produces a dispiriting dissonance. “Indian man” has fantasized a genocide for long. In its eyes, a genocide has a metonymic association with “national will.” This fantasy is now a metastasized desire to act like the US in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as ISIS in Syria. They want Indian military to kill without any compunction: “kill 1000 of them for our one;” “drop MOABs on them;” and “take Kashmiri women as slaves.”
in the darkness
of countless lead-pellets
lodged like tumours
in fresh corneas
the ruptures of history
For long, Kashmiris have been captivated by the power of photography. But why? Why have so many of the world’s greatest geniuses with the camera produced some of their best work in Kashmir? Is it the unique tragicomedy of spectacular natural beauty and a gruesome conflict that has consumed generations? Why are there so many good photojournalists and photographers in Kashmir and why is their number on the rise?
On January 21, 2017, early morning an everyday Kashmiri feminist died quietly in her sleep [this “her” is a typo, but I prefer to leave it here; for if anything he always felt it was an honor to be a woman] after few bedridden years, which he absolutely hated. This was also the first ever, I had seen my maternal grandfather Gulam Ahmed Lone, who I call Daddy like everyone else in the family, cower before life a little. Even asking the universe to let him go rather than for wellness. He thought he had lived it all, and ended if not the best but still a little better.
In 2016 – RAIOT became a Kashmiri word. Maybe it was the accidental cartography of India making Shillong share Instrument of Accession with Srinagar or just accidents of friendships, whatever be the reason – RAIOT had some of the key texts about Kashmiri Azadi uprising of 2016. Just a sample for your holiday reading.
We, twenty five citizens of India, representing people’s movements, women’s organisations, trade unions, human rights organisations, youth organisations and individuals who are journalists, writers and filmmakers, from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, visited Kashmir from 11 to 20 November 2016 with the objective of understanding first-hand, from ordinary people and civil society, the situation of the peoples of the Kashmir Valley that has emerged over the past four-and-half months since the killing of three Hizbul Mujahideen militants, Burhan Wani, Sartaj Sheikh and Pervaiz Lashkari by the Indian Army and J&K Police on 8 July 2016.