New York Times article on Occupied Kashmir comes as a blow to Indian narrative

New York Times article on Occupied Kashmir comes as a blow to Indian narrative

NEW YORK - The Kashmiri people’s struggle for freedom from India’s rule is “overwhelmingly homegrown”, The New York Times said in an in-depth dispatch from Indian occupied Kashmir where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s anti-Muslim policies have “spurred more people to turn against the government.”

“The conflict today is probably driven less by geopolitics than by internal Indian politics, which have increasingly taken an anti-Muslim direction,” Times’ Correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman wrote from Qasbayar, a Kashmiri village. The report said that most of the fighters are young men who draw support from a population “deeply resentful of India’s governing party and years of occupation.”

“Kashmir sits on the frontier of India and Pakistan, and both countries have spilled rivers of blood over it, correspondent Gettleman wrote. “Three times, they have gone to war, and tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. It is one of Asia’s most dangerous flash points, where a million troops have squared off along the disputed border. Both sides now wield nuclear arms. And the two sides are divided by religion, with Kashmir stuck in the middle.” The dispatch cited Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister-in-waiting, as saying that the Kashmiris’ struggle is now indigenous. “Mr. Khan, who clearly has a Pakistani perspective on the conflict, says he is determined to negotiate an end to it,” the report said.

“His persuasive election victory last month” and the fact that India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, made a friendly phone call to congratulate him suggests a breakthrough is possible.” But the dispatch said, “India still loves to blame Pakistan for all its Kashmir problems … Many Indian politicians seem in denial that their own politics and policies might be a factor.”

Correspondent Gettleman wrote, “India’s swerve to the right in recent years, with the rise of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has deeply alienated its Muslim minority. Many top members of the ruling party have a very questionable record when it comes to treating Muslims fairly. This has emboldened Hindu supremacists across India, and in recent years, Hindu lynch mobs have targeted and killed Muslims, often based on false rumors. Many of the culprits are lightly punished, if at all, leaving India’s Muslims feeling exposed.” “In the Indian-administered parts of Kashmir, where there was already a history of bitter conflict, the new politics have spurred more people to turn against the government. Some pick up guns, others rocks, but the root emotion is the same: Many Kashmiris now hate India.” “This is what’s different,” Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri historian who earned his Ph.D from Harvard, was quoted as saying in the NYT dispatch.

“Before, in the 1990s, many Kashmiris felt we can negotiate this, we can talk.” “But nobody wants to be part of India now,” he said.

“Every Kashmiri is resisting today, in different ways.” The dispatch said, “The latest are children and grandmothers. At almost every recent security operation, as Indian officers closed in on houses where militants were believed to be hiding, they have had to reckon with seething crowds of residents of all ages acting as human shields. “Walk through Kashmiri villages, where little apples are ripening on the trees and the air tastes clean and crisp, and ask people what they want.

“The most common response is independence. Some say they want to join Pakistan. None say anything good about India, at least not in public.” “India’s steely response has pushed away even moderates,” the Times said. “Soldiers manhandle residents, cut off roads and barge into homes, saying they are looking for militants, who often hide among ordinary residents. When violent protests erupt, the Indian security services blast live ammunition and buckshot into the crowds, killing or blinding many people, including schoolchildren who are simply bystanders, despite cries from human rights groups to stop.”

“But while protests against Indian rule have grown in number and size, the armed militancy has become surprisingly small … Security officials say there are only around 250 armed militants operating in the Kashmir Valley, down from thousands two decades ago. Most of them are poorly trained and militarily lost. But still, the Indians can’t stomp them out.”

“I’ll be honest,” Mohammad Aslam, a seemingly forthright police commander in southern Kashmir, was quoted as saying. “For every militant we kill, more are joining.” The Times said, “More than 250,000 Indian Army soldiers, border guards, police officers and police reservists are stationed in the valley, outnumbering the militants 1,000 to one. Most militants don’t last two years. One fighter, a former college sociology professor, was killed in May just two days after he joined. “Their attacks tend to be quixotic and they usually die in a hail of automatic weapon fire. Their assassinations and killings are not militarily significant, more acts of protest against Indian rule.” These days, according to the dispatch, the Kashmiri militants don’t have many opportunities to practice shooting, police officials said, noting that the Indians have sealed much of the contested frontier, which runs about 450 miles.

“The Israelis have been surreptitiously helping them, providing security cameras, night vision gear, drones and other surveillance equipment along the border to stop big infiltrations,” the Times revealed.

“Kashmiris speak of a psychological tension that divides communities, individual families and sometimes even the same person. “On one hand, people want to support a functioning society to have their children go to school, get jobs, see some economic development and Indian control represents that. On the other, they feel real sympathy for a cause, Kashmiri independence, that they consider just.” “A CULTURE OF DEATH IS SPREADING across Kashmir. The militants have become the biggest heroes,” the dispatch said. “People paint their names on walls. They wear T-shirts showing their bearded faces. They speak of them affectionately, as if they are close friends. The militants are especially revered after they are dead.”

“On a Tuesday morning, May 1, (militant) Sameer Tiger’s lifeless body, riddled with holes and soaked in blood, was hoisted onto a makeshift wooden platform in the yard of one of Drabgam’s mosques. Thousands poured in from across the valley. For hours, they chanted his name: ‘Tiger! Tiger! Sameer Tiger!’

“Boys scrambled up trees and scurried across tin roofs, the light metal popping beneath their gym shoes, to find any vantage point. Others fought through the nearly impenetrable crowd to the funeral pyre, just to gently stroke Sameer Tiger’s beard or to kiss his pale face goodbye. Many vowed to join the militants.” One woman who identified herself as a separatist leader looked out at the sea of mourners and gravely smiled. “We are winning,” she was quoted as saying. “These bodies are our assets.”

Correspondent Gettleman wrote, “A few hundred yards away, on the rooftop where Sameer Tiger had been cornered, a team of boys wearing religious skullcaps scrubbed a rust-coloured splotch. A crowd pressed in to watch. “Young ones, tell me: What does the spilling of this blood mean?” one man shouted. “Azadi! the crowd roared back, according to the dispatch.”

“The boys worked fast, heads down, sweat trickling off their temples. They used wet rags to mop up the splotch. They squeezed the blood-water mixture into a copper urn, to be saved. An imam watching closely told them to capture every last drop of blood,” it said in conclusion. - APP