Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Vietnam War memories revived!

(The photograph of human shield and the subsequent award to the perpetrator of human rights violation have put the Army as well as the country in a very poor light!)
Vietnam War memories revived!
A photograph of Farooq Ahmad Dar, a weaver from a village in Badgam Kashmir, tied to the front of an Army jeep and paraded through 30 odd villages during the 9 April Srinagar Parliament by-election had gone viral on the social media including Twitter and Facebook. The photograph was also used by world media extensively. The action evoked widespread rage in Kashmir and was condemned worldwide by human rights groups and others. Alfons Lopez Tena tweeted, “This image will end up being the defining image of the Indian Army, just as the napalm girl was for the Vietnam War”. In a way the image had refreshed the brutalities committed by the American Army on the civilians in the Vietnam War. Major Leetul Gogoi who had tied Dar to the front of the jeep and paraded him sought to justify the act by saying that he did it in order to prevent bloodshed; thereby saving many lives. The finishing touch making the action the cruellest and offensive has been the award to Major Gogoi by the Army Chief for taking this action! The Hindustan Times in editorial states, “It is highly regrettable that Gen. Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Army Staff, has chosen to justify and extol the actions of Maj. Leetul Gogoi, who used a Kashmiri civilian as a human shield against stone-pelters in Budgam on April 9. It is understandable that Gen. Rawat feels a loyalty to his men, and a concern for the morale of his troops. But his defence of Maj. Gogoi achieves neither of those objectives. If anything, it undermines the prestige of the Army, and makes even worse a bad situation in the Valley”. This act has also been criticised by Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Watch, saying, “Indian Army Chief shows criminal leadership, backing as “innovative” troops’ use of Kashmir man as a human shield”.

The use of humans as a shield in a war is not unknown. It has happened during many wars in the past and in the recent times. In enemy territory, the soldiers do use civilians as shields to prevent sudden attacks from the enemy especially guerrilla fighters. This is especially so when the troops are passing through civilian areas. There are two considerations for such actions. These things usually happen in a war and in enemy territory. In spite of these what may be called urgent tactical considerations from the view point of an army fighting a war, such an act is a grave violation of the basic human rights and is strictly prohibited under the Geneva Convention. Rule 97 of Geneva Convention defines Human Shields and rule 28 of Geneva Convention IV provides “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.” Geneva Convention further states on Human Shields “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts. In Kashmir, all these acts are claimed to be limited terrorist actions and not really full-fledged armed conflict.  Then the Army is being used against own citizens! However, no one uses one’s own citizens in one’s own country as a protective shield no matter how grave the provocation is!

Apart from the Army Chief, the action has not only been condoned but lauded by the politicians and some other important people. Ram Madav, the architect of BJP-PDP Alliance commented on CNN News 18 that “Everything is fair in love and war”! The Defence Minister Arun Jaitly said that “Indian Army officers are free to take decision in war like situation”! The Attorney General, Rohtagi said, “I salute Major Gogoi and will defend him in court”! In contrast to this, some of the top retired Army Officers totally disapproved the action. General H.S.Panag, former Commander of the Northern Command, said that the action will haunt the Indian Army and the Nation for ever. "This image will end up being the defining image of the Indian Army, just like the Napalm girl was for the Vietnam War," he said referring to the image of the naked child running away from Napalm bombing.

Tying an innocent man in front of a jeep and parading him through 30 villages or so to instil fear among the population is preposterous. As it turns out, the person Dar, a poor weaver, had nothing to do with stone pelting or any protests. In fact, he had come out to vote in an election almost totally boycotted by most of the people! The unfortunate episode has clearly demonstrated that the present ruling elite and some Army officers consider Kashmir as enemy territory and, according to them; there is a “war like situation” here! The Army is supposedly fighting a war against its own people! Such an attitude is not going to improve the situation but worsen it further. However, the only silver lining is that there are saner voices within the country as well as abroad. Let us hope and pray that ultimately the sanity prevails and peace returns to the troubled Paradise!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Idea, not leaders!

(Kashmir’s new revolution is following an idea and not any particular leaders!)
Idea, not leaders!
Recently, there was a sting operation conducted by a TV network regarding money being received by some of the leaders of the present movement for “Azadi”. In fact, the discovery was proclaimed all over the country like the discovery of the principle of floatation by Archimedes who ran naked from his bath tub shouting “Eureka” (I have found it!). The receipt of funds by various parties in Kashmir from both sides of the border has been going on right from 1947. In fact, the flow of money from across the border started immediately on the ouster and imprisonment of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953. A Pakistani spy named Jahangir Khan used to bring money from across and deliver the same to Begum Abdullah and others. On this side the former RAW Chief Dulat in his book has given details of how money was given to mainstream leaders and others by him and many agencies. In fact, General V.K.Singh had also once disclosed that the Army too had been giving money to Kashmiri politicians. He had even named a particular politician whom he had allegedly given couple of crores. There have been allegations from many leaders of the present ruling set up in New Delhi that the stone pelters are being paid Rs 500 for throwing stones. Following the sting operation recently telecast on National TV channel, a team from the National Investigation Agency came to Srinagar to question various leaders regarding the receipt and distribution of foreign money. The entire exercise is aimed at discrediting these leaders in order to suppress the present popular movement. However, if one studies the present unrest in Kashmir, all types of leaders seem to be irrelevant as it is no longer a political movement but a “Revolution”. The main moving factor of any revolution in the world has always been an idea. It is an idea which gives rise to a revolution and it does not depend on leaders. In fact, on the contrary, every revolution throws up new leaders.
Kashmir’s history, both the ancient and the recent is full of tragedies, misfortunes and disasters. Famines, earthquakes, floods, epidemics and the political upheavals have always been there. In spite of all these misfortunes, Kashmiris have been surviving for last few thousand years and hopefully, will survive as long as human civilization exists on this planet or for that matter in the universe if man starts planetary travel and colonization! In the recent past, the worst misfortune for Kashmir has been its confused leaders who have been leading people from the proverbial pillar to the post! No leader has given a very concrete objective of where a Kashmiri can lead a life of honour and dignity, unmolested by oppressors and how he can get there! It is because of this that the new generation is following an idea and not any particular leaders.
In the long history of external subjugation, Kashmiris have risen many times but have always been crushed brutally. Almost after four centuries of subjugation, they did wake up from the deep slumber to which the foreign oppressors had put them. They also threw up a very tall and forceful leader but unfortunately after sometime he got confused and fatigued leaving his followers too confused and bewildered! There have been other leaders too but none like the colossus we had produced through the uprising of 1931. One cannot belittle the contribution he made along with his followers, one and all towards the ultimate emancipation of the down trodden people. Every Kashmiri in his heart cherishes the ultimate goal, which is to lead a life of honour and dignity which they call “Azadi”! However, so far the oppressors have proved stronger and crafty. Utilizing the weaknesses of the character of a Kashmiri and employing the harshest means they have succeeded in keeping him in perpetual bondage.
The new generation of Kashmiris does not believe in political jargon, dialogues, referendum, interlocutors, mediators, and political processes. They have got one universal idea, “Azadi”. The slogans are, “Go India, Go Back” and “We want Azadi”! Recently, many political leaders, intellectuals and others have opined that India has lost Kashmir. That is not correct. How can Kashmir be physically lost to India when it is held in place by half of the world’s third largest Army? Yes, India has lost Kashmiris. The land is still with them. A BJP leader has declared that the present unrest is in just three and half districts of Kashmir Valley. He needs to be corrected. Yes, the three and a half districts have been completely lost! The unrest is in all the twenty districts and even across the Pir Panjal Mountains. Incidentally, there is also a continuous refrain about talking to stakeholders. One needs to clarify as to who are the real stakeholders. According to information, 70% population of Kashmir is below 35 years. The most volatile is the generation born and brought up in the turmoil of the nineties of the last century. They are the real stakeholders now. Here one is reminded about Tom Paine’s quotation given in “The Rights of Man”! “There never was, there never can, and there never will be a generation of men which can bind posterity till the end of time! Every generation is free to decide its own future. The idea of ruling beyond the grave is preposterous!” So if one desires peace in Kashmir, the new and the real stake holders have to be taken on board. How that can be done, is the million dollar question!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The “Opium” of the people!

(The Hindutva wave of violence during the elections and after is not really against Muslims and for the safety of the cows. It is an excuse to administer what Karl Marx called the “Opium of the people” to the millions of poor Indians!)
The “Opium” of the people!
The ultimate goal of every religion is to explain the purpose of human existence to make it meaningful. Without religion a human being is just like any other animal. Every religion believes in an ultimate being, who is the creator, the sustainer and the retirbutor. Without belief in religion, life becomes meaningless. Just an animal existence without any purpose or goal. However, every religion also teaches the equality of all human beings before the ultimate Being. Unfortunately, the material greed and lust for power to rule over human beings totally distorts the sublime religious beliefs. It becomes a tool in the hands of the few rich to keep under millions of the teeming poor.
This distorted use of religion had been explained by the great philosopher Karl Marx, the author of Das Kapital, which is supposed to be the virtual bible of the communists. The full quote from Karl Marx translates as: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people". This quotation of Marx was further explained by Lenin while describing the exploitation of the poor by the rich. “Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven”. Charles Kingsley, a canon of the Church of England, wrote this four years after Marx: “ We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable's hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order”.
Going beyond the Communist beliefs totally negating religion by labelling it as a tool of exploitation of the rich against the poor, if one studies the present state of affairs; religion is being practically used to cause worldwide mayhem. People are being exploited in the name of religion to unleash an era of mad violence. Some of the most civilised and historical countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen have been virtually destroyed in the name of religion. No religion permits suicide. In fact, suicide is a big sin. However, one hears every second day suicide bombers, sometimes very young kids fully brainwashed, blowing themselves up in the name of religion! While the poor are killing and blowing up each other in the name of various sects and beliefs, the rich are collecting their bounties and piling up their wealth in foreign banks and as material assets all over the world! Every second day there is disclosure of un-proportionate assets and cash stashed in foreign banks. The panama papers are haunting the rulers across the borders!
The situation is same on this side but in a new garb. India has over 350 million people living below poverty line who cannot afford even a single good meal in a day. Almost half the population does not have access to treated and cured water supply. Majority of population in rural areas eases themselves in open fields. The same is the case with the basic healthcare. On the contrary the major chunk of the budget goes to defence and security related purchases. India is the largest importer of weapons in the world! The entire Indian economy is controlled by the 6% upper caste people. The Hindutva wave for the protection of cow and the open threat to Muslims from some of the top RSS leaders is to create a religious frenzy to drown the real basic issues confronting the majority of the population. Aakar Patel in his recent article mentions that India is run by 6% upper caste Brahmins, Banias and Jains.
According to Ram Punyani, “Communal politics in India is primarily due to the absence of land reforms, absence of a process of secularization and failure to reduce the hold of clergy”. The same is being used as “opium” for the poor. So Modi with his colleagues in RSS and BJP have found the best “Opium” which he is distributing in the form of Cow Protection, Ram Mandir, Ghar Wapsi, and the Love Jihad. The idea is to make the poor forget about the issues of Vikas or development. The slogan Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikaas has been forgotten. Now religion is the most important issue. The Hindu Religion has to overtake everything to usher “New India”, which would be a Hindu Rashtra without any non-Hindus who can only stay as second class citizens. They are asking Muslims to leave India and have started a systematic campaign to target them everywhere accusing them of being outsiders.
In fact, those asking Muslims to leave India do not know that most of the Indians are migrants from outside. According to Justice Markandey Katju, the real inhabitants of India are the Adivasis! He says 90% Indians are immigrants who chased the pre-Dravidian Adivasis into jungles. Only 7 to 8 % of these original Indians are left now. He says Akbar the Great was not only the greatest ruler of India but the greatest ruler of the world. When entire Europe was engaged in total religious mayhem, he had given the philosophy of religious tolerance. His top officials like Toddermal (Finance Minister), Birbal (Chief Advisor), and Man Singh (Commander-in-Chief) were Hindus. India’s secular tradition comes down from this great ruler which was followed by secular and progressive leaders like Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. However, the present set up is undermining and destroying the same and could eventually cause disintegration of India! The secular and progressive people in India need to wake up before the “Opium” has its full effect. Otherwise, the country is heading for a disaster which may engulf the entire South Asia!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The New “Iron Curtain”!

 (The Digital India has failed to control the Social Life in Kashmir in spite of the strongest curbs ever put on all the social networking sites sand TV channels!)
Image result for iron curtain
In the erstwhile Soviet Union there was such a blackout of communications with the outside world that the measure got the name of the “Iron Curtain”. It was virtually an Iron Curtain which the communist regime had put on all communications with the free world. No news filtered out nor were the outsiders able to communicate with the Soviet Citizens. In fact, the “Curtain” extended all over the Communist countries of Europe. The real definition was, “a notional barrier separating the former Soviet bloc and the West prior to the decline of communism that followed the political events in Eastern Europe in 1989”. According to Wikipedia, “The use of the term iron curtain as a metaphor for strict separation goes back at least as far as the early 19th century. It originally referred to fireproof curtains in theatres.  Although its popularity as a Cold War symbol is attributed to its use in a speech Winston Churchill gave in March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri, Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels had already used the term in reference to the Soviet Union”.
In the present world after the advent of the Internet, popularly called the information highway, it is practically impossible to shut out any area from the world at large. There are umpteen ways of communicating with the rest of the world. If internet is blocked through landline or mobile, there are many options of satellite internet. Small digital devices costing $ 60 to $ 200 or so can be used to connect to internet through satellites all over the world. People use these devices in the deserts, ocean and mountains. As regards blocking of Social Media sites, there are dozens of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) available, some absolutely free, to sign into these sites without the local Internet Service Providers knowing anything about it. The days of the erstwhile “Iron Curtain” are gone!
The State Government vide Home Ministry order banned 22 Social Media sites accessible through the internet. Earlier, the internet itself had been blocked a number of times since the installation of the present coalition government. Mobile phone networks too have been blocked several times. Last year these were blocked for almost five months. The state government has also banned some television channels. The reasoning behind these extra-ordinary totalitarian measures is supposedly the use of these by militants for spreading violent activities and so on. Well, the unrest has been there even when there was no internet and even when there were no social media sites. Again it is a short term fire-fighting effort instead of determining and treating the cause of the fire. There are always upheavals off and on. This is because the basic cause of the perennial unrest is not attended to at all! All sane and matured people from the civil society as well as from the Army have opined that the unrest in Kashmir needs a political solution and not a military one.
Unfortunately, the top leadership of the present dispensation in New Delhi refuses to listen to the saner advice and are adamant that talks can only be held once violence is given up. However, they refuse to see the truth that the cause of violence is the total denial of the basic rights including total suppression for any free expression. The words “Freedom of Expression” seem to have been wiped out from their constitutional dictionary! In a free society claiming to be the largest democracy in the world one would expect respect for all views even if contrary to the general belief. Once there is total suppression of freedom of expression especially when every peaceful expression is put down with undue violence, counter-violence is but natural.
In spite of all these totalitarian measures, which remind one of George Orwell’s’ 1984, the truth has the habit of coming out all over the world. In fact, this blockade reminiscent of the Iron Curtain days has proved counterproductive. Videos of suppression, demonstrations and so on are still going viral on the Facebook and twitter. The only gain has been universal condemnation of the Central and the State Government for this total communications and social media blockade. Even the United Nations Commission for Human Rights has held a meeting to discuss these violations of Human Rights in Kashmir.
Incidentally, all these gags have not lessened the protests or other unrest all over the valley. Every day there is news about protests and clashes in different towns. People need to understand that the fastest means of news communication in Kashmir has always been the word of mouth. Interestingly, the most important news source is a baker’s shop in the morning in every part of Kashmir. All over the valley, the people in large numbers very early in the morning gather and wait for their turn to take the bread at the bakers’ shops. These places are the best locations to gather news and the discussions sometimes are very lively and informative. To put a complete blockade on dissemination of news from all parts of the valley, the government may next have to close all the baker shops!
On the positive side, the government has inadvertently done a great favour to the social life in Kashmir. After the violent events of the decade of nineties of the last century, almost all the physical interaction had come to a virtual end. People would not dare to go out to meet friends or relatives due to continuous crack downs, cordon and search operations and continuous curfews. The only meeting places were either funerals or marriage functions! There was a revival at the beginning of the new century and the people had started moving around. This physical interaction got another jolt by the interactive social media. People became couch potatoes sitting in front of their laptops or holding their smart phones and doing all the interactions at their own homes. The blockade of the social media is making people mobile once again. We may, hopefully, see much more physical interaction in future which is the most important requirement to keep a movement alive!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Generals for political solution!

(Recently a number of retired Generals of the Army including a former Army Chief have opined that Kashmir needs a political solution rather than a military one!)
The Generals speak
In a recent interview, the former Chief of the Army Staff General Ved Prakash Malik said that Kashmir needs a political solution and bringing peace is not solely the task of the Indian Army. The former Army Chief said, “Conflict resolution has to be done at the political level. It’s not right to place the complete burden either on the Army or CRPF. If the Army is expected to resolve the Kashmir issue single-handedly, it cannot be done. A political solution is a final solution.”
General Hooda, the former Army commander had last year during the “Burhan Uprising” given a similar statement. Lt General D S Hooda, had said “it’s been over 40 days (of uprising) and everybody is suffering due to stone-pelting and clashes.” “Everybody is suffering. Government employees, traders, school children, teachers, mainstream leaders and even police and forces have suffered over the past more than a month of cycle of conflict,” Hooda said. “So my appeal to everyone, including the separatists, is (let’s) join hands to restore peace as a single party can’t do it alone.”
Earlier, General Panag had expressed his extreme displeasure about the use of a human shield by the Army. A day after the image and video of a shawl weaver Farooq Ahmad tied to an Army jeep as human shield had gone viral on social media sites, Lt. General (Retired) Harcharanjit Singh Panag, former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command gave vent to his feelings on the social networking site, Twitter. He had tweeted, “Image of a “stone pelter” tied in front of a jeep as a “human shield”, will 4 (for) ever haunt the Indian Army and the nation”. In another tweet, he said, “When the state starts looking like a mirror image of the terrorists, it spells ominous portents”.
Lt. Gen V.G. Patankar (Retd) former Corps Commander in an article advocates a “New covenant for Kashmir”. According to him, the way forward lies in beginning a new narrative and a fresh engagement with the people. “A new narrative will usher a balanced, even handed policy that not only brings normalcy in the physical sense but also give back to the people their sense of identity and dignity”. Even the present Corps Commander has stated that the Youth of Kashmir need to be engaged with a fresh initiative. These field commanders now realise that force and more suppression are not going to bring in peace.
Apart from these important personalities, some more senior Army officers have opined that Kashmir needs a political solution rather than a military one. The reason for this contradiction in the views of some senior Army Officers and the Delhi based politicians is the knowledge of the ground situation. The Army officers have been in the field and very well know the feelings of the people on the ground. While the ruling Politicians within the state and in New Delhi claim 95% to be “loyal” and only 5% disgruntled and alienated people, the Army Officers dealing directly with the people on the ground know that the reverse is true.
India was considered to be the largest “Secular Democracy” in the world. However, the new rulers are making every effort to completely erode the secularism as well as destroy the democratic set up. The Hindutva wave has created problems not only in Kashmir but all over India. One fails to understand why these people are dragging the country back to virtually Stone Age? The clock can never be turned back. It is very strange that human beings are being degraded to a status lower than animals! It is a misfortune for India that the progressive and secular people are not able to put up a united front against the communal and divisive forces at present enjoying total government patronage. In their fanatic and chauvinistic approach they do not understand that they are “Unmaking” India.
As suggested by these top ranking Army Officers, the solution to Kashmir is not through the barrel of a gun but through understanding and dialogue. The first and foremost thing is to respect the basic human rights. Even if people have serious grievances and have been oppressed, the solution does not lie in more suppression. Putting an iron curtain like blocking Social Media and suspending internet is not going to sweep the issue under the carpet. It will emerge with more vehemence. These steps are a total negation of the Digital India concept. The sooner the advice of these high ranking Army Officers is heeded, the better for all!