Skip to main content

In Kashmir, state doesn't have to kill. It establishes reign of fear in 'other' ways

By Anand K Sahay*
The gun trigger that took the first life in Kashmir was squeezed on August 6, just one day after constitutional violence had been done to J&K state- and it wasn’t the militants.
In the Ilahi Bagh-Soura area of Srinagar’s old city, locally called the “downtown”, Asrar Khan, a 14-year old pupil of the well-regarded Kashmir Harvard School, near his home, was shot in the head from a pellet gun.
The boy was brilliant at studies and was his school’s cricket star. He was bending down to field a ball in a local game in the mohalla park, literally yards from his home, when his skull was pierced by a volley of pellets fired from a column of passing security forces vehicles, the way his parents remembered things- sobbing, but angry and defiant- when I called on them at their home to condole last week. They said tear-gassing had preceded the firing.
For 29 days Asrar fought to live, and then yielded. Images of his brain, seen from the hospital records, are a field of lodged pellets. Yet, a senior police officer, Muneer Khan, declared to the media that the boy had been hit by a flying stone and died. But there had been no stone-pelting. The administration later withdrew the shocking statement. It was too evidently false.
Asrar’s parents said there was no reason for their son to die. The area was quiet. It seemed that just one solider decided to target their son’s bent head for no apparent reason. Pellet guns are supposed to be used when the forces seek to deter an advancing stone-pelting mob from a distance. They are not for use against little boys enjoying a game of cricket when their schools are shut.
A small group of neighbourhood women was with Asrar’s grieving family. Some seemed to be near relations. They described an uncommon scene. Batches of helicopters had apparently flown low over their homes, as if on patrol, for a couple of days before the firing incident that claimed young Asrar’s life, suggesting that the administration was adopting techniques to instill fear even before August 5.
“First the helicopters, then firing pellets at a child,” they said. “What is this if not governmental terror?”
There have been unlawful, unrecorded detention, and possibly beatings, for those who dare to go to police to seek confiscated ID back
Pellet guns have blinded and killed scores of people in the last three years in Kashmir, and their wanton use has been the subject of international censure.
The state does not have to kill. It establishes the reign of fear in other ways. An agitated school teacher told me in Baramulla that he was walking up to his school when a man in uniform patrolling there- they are everywhere, even on village streets -- asked to see his ID (in Kashmir, unlike elsewhere in the country, people must carry their identity cards). When this was presented, the soldier pocketed it and said peremptorily, “Collect it from the police station!”
Now, this can be dangerous. Typically, this means unlawful and unrecorded detention, and possibly beatings, for those who dare to go to the police to ask for their confiscated ID back. This can also mean arrest under the dreaded Public Safety Act unless relations or friends are able to mobilise funds to propitiate the petty gods in uniform. For fear of being picked up arbitrarily, young men avoid going to their apple orchards to tend to the fruit, and send their fathers or uncles instead. Many have apparently left the valley to visit friends or relations in Jammu, Delhi, or other cities.
The presence of the armed forces is ubiquitous. For instance, in Shopian district, the Valley’s smallest, there are 226 villages and some 15 camps of the security forces, three of them in the small district town alone. The largest of these, at Balpora, is thought to accommodate around one thousand soldiers. But no terrorist has been caught yet, while torture of civilians is whispered about.
(To be concluded)
---
*Senior Delhi-based journalist, who was recently in Srinagar, Baramulla and Shopian. This is the third article in a series on ground realities in Kashmir following the August 5 crackdown. A version of this article has appeared in the “Asian Age”

Comments

TRENDING

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.

Whither right to food? Social security scheme allocation for woman, child 'reduced'

Counterview Desk Pointing out that women and children have been ignored in the Union Budget 2021-22, the advocacy group Right to Food Campaign (RtFC) has said that the Government of India should have taken into account the fact that even after the lockdown was lifted, distress among marginalized communities continues, with people having lower incomes and reduced food consumption.

NAPM extends support to Indian, Aussie citizen groups 'opposing' Adani ventures

#StopAdani action in Australia  Counterview Desk  The civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), extending solidarity to the global campaign by the Youth Action to Stop Adani (YAStA), held in recently in Australia and India, has said that the effort was to bring more attention to the struggle aboriginal, indigenous peoples, farmers, working class and other oppressed communities against allegedly anti-people multinational corporate conglomerates.