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Kashmiri intifada

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

A Kashmiri youth strikes a government vehicle which had been set on fire by a mob during a demonstration in Srinagar on August 4, 2010, who were protesting over the recent deaths in The Kashmir Valley. Five more demonstrators died in Indian Kashmir as new protests erupted in defiance of pleas for calm from the region’s chief minister, the deaths again brought huge crowds chanting anti-India slogans on to the streets of Srinagar as the bodies of two dead men were carried on stretchers to their funerals. The death in early June of a 17-year-old student – killed by a police tear-gas shell – set off the series of almost daily protests during which scores of people have been killed, 27 of them since July 30. At least 44 people have died in the weeks of unrest – most of them killed by security forces trying to disperse angry protests against Indian rule. – AFP Photo

Has New Delhi learnt any lessons from all that has been going on in Indian-held Kashmir — especially since June 11, when the current intifada began? On Tuesday, India obliged Chief Minister Omar Abdullah by rushing more troops to the valley. Does the Indian government really think that 1,500 more troops will succeed where an army of over half a million men has failed? If the Indian troops’ job is to crush the Kashmiri yearnings for freedom, then history says brute force has never succeeded in denying freedom to a people for long.

Five more Kashmiris were shot dead on Tuesday as fresh protests broke out in Srinagar, with a crowd of urban youths shouting anti-India slogans. The extent of Kashmiri anger is obvious, for the demonstrators defied curfew despite police warnings on loudspeakers that violators would be shot dead. Some officials deny that any ‘shoot on sight’ order had been given. But the way the troops have been behaving and given the rising number of Kashmiri deaths make it clear the order exists for all practical purposes.

The second Kashmiri intifada is home-grown. There are no two opinions about it. Even India’s rights bodies and sections of the media acknowledge this truth, and barring those toeing the government line, no responsible Indian sees a foreign hand in what undeniably is a spontaneous reaction — mostly from urban youths — to India’s repressive policies that aim at keeping the Kashmiris in bondage by force. One wishes India realised that the stifling atmosphere in the valley and the violations of human rights by its troops cause more violence and deaths, inviting censure from the world and putting strains on the already tense relations with Islamabad.

The only choice New Delhi has is to talk — both to Kashmiris of all shades of opinion and to Islamabad, for only that solution will be long-lasting and acceptable to the people of Kashmir. Let us hope India doesn’t consider it a provocation when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expresses Pakistan’s concern over the “escalation of violence against the Kashmiri people” and asks New Delhi to “exercise restraint”.

DAWN