Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is the Media in Kashmir Objective, Fair and Balanced? Check out What Parts of the U.S. Human Rights Report the Kashmiri Press Ignored.

The U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices (2007) highlights excesses of the state and insurgents, and describes the plight of victims. However, the Press in Kashmir covered only a part of the story. The rest is at the very bottom of this Press clip.

Abused Kashmir on US radar State Deptt: Custodial deaths serious problem, lack of accountability creates impunity

Showkat A Motta (The Daily Etalaat)

Srinagar, March 12 : The US State Department has said that human rights abuses by troops continue in Kashmir with a “lack of accountability creating an atmosphere of impunity.”

In its ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -2007’ released on Tuesday, the State Department has highlighted in detail how the troops indulge in fake encounter killings, custodial disappearances, rapes and other rights abuses across the conflict-ridden state.

Lack of accountability
The (Indian) government “generally respected” the rights of its citizens, it said, adding “However, numerous serious problems remained.” “Major problems included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture and rape by police and other security forces.” “A lack of accountability permeated the government and security forces throughout the country, creating an atmosphere of impunity,” says the report. Quoting human rights groups, it says the troops targeted suspected militants and their supporters. “But,” it added, “There was no widely accepted data on the magnitude of extrajudicial killings, which included encounter killings and custodial deaths.”

“For example, according to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, 18 cases of custodial killings and extrajudicial killings took place during the year. Of those, six cases were under investigation by the local government at year's end. In March, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed that only five custodial deaths occurred during his eighteen-month tenure and that the overall situation improved considerably with a 95 percent reduction in custodial deaths over the last two years.” Referring to the infamous Pathribal incident of April 2000 when troops and the Special Operations Group of police killed five civilians in cold-blood, the State Department said that at the end of 2005, CBI investigation of four army officers, including Senior Superintendent of Police Farooq Khan, was still pending.

The report said the state government did not take action in the February 2006 killings of four children by Army at Bangargund village of Kupwara district. While the NHRC had asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to provide a detailed report of the killing, the government had not done so by year's end, it said.

Custodial deaths
“Custodial deaths, often made to appear as encounter deaths, remained a serious problem, and authorities often delayed prosecutions,” the report said. Chief Minister Azad announced that no custodial disappearances occurred in Kashmir during the year. “(However) there were no developments in the May 2006 case of Ghulam Nabi Mir, who disappeared in Pulwama after Rashtriya Rifle (RR) officers allegedly raided his home,” says the State Department report.

In the chapter “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” the report says in Kashmir torture victims or their relatives reportedly had difficulty filing complaints, as local police allegedly were instructed not to open a case without permission from higher authorities. During 2006 the screening committees released 140 persons detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA). During the year, the government did not release any additional detainees, the report says.

In addition, under the (Jammu and Kashmir) Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1990, no "prosecution, suit, or other legal proceeding shall be instituted against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers of the act," without the approval of the central government.

Pattern of rape
“There was a pattern of rape by paramilitary personnel in Jammu and Kashmir as a means of instilling fear among noncombatants in insurgency-affected areas, but these incidents were not included in NHRC statistics, as the NHRC does not have direct investigative authority over the military,” says the report.

Arbitrary arrest
In April a Working Group on Kashmir appointed by the prime minister also recommended that the act be revoked. The government had not acted on these recommendations by year's end, the report said.
The AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) remained in effect in the Jammu and Kashmir districts of Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri, Doda, Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag (Islamabad), Pulwama, Baramulla, and Kupwara.

According to the State Department, there was “virtually no information” about the fate of individuals who disappeared since the beginning of anti-India insurgency in Kashmir.

“There were no reliable figures for disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir during the year. According to Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and other NGOs such as ACHR and SAHRDC, the number of newly reported disappearances decreased compared with the early years of the conflict,” it said.

Passport delay
“Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of the government using the issuance of passports or travel documents to restrict travel of separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, says the report.

“However, citizens from Jammu and Kashmir continued to face extended delays, often up to two years, before the Ministry of External Affairs would issue or renew their passports. Government officials also regularly demanded bribes before issuing passports from Jammu and Kashmir that required special clearances,” it said.

The State Department report also mentioned in detail the sex scandal that rocked Kashmir in 2006. It also blamed militants for “serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials and civilians.”


Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, regional conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, and the northeast displaced at least 650,000 persons. Approximately 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits forced to flee the Kashmir Valley in the early 1990s after the outbreak of separatist violence remained in IDP camps in Jammu and New Delhi. They were unable to return to their homes in Jammu and Kashmir because of safety concerns, including the ongoing killings of Hindus in the state.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs' Annual Report for 2006-2007, there were 55,950 Kashmiri Pandit migrant families, of which 34,562 resided in Jammu, 19,338 in Delhi, and 2,050 in other states. There were 230 migrant families living in 14 camps in Delhi and 5,778 families in 16 camps in Jammu.

Terrorists and insurgents operating in Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, and Doda areas of Jammu and Kashmir repeatedly targeted the minority Pandit (Hindu Brahmin) community, killing entire families in several incidents throughout the year.

Killings of security force members by insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir declined to 330 during 2005, according to home ministry statistics. As of August 2005, the Jammu and Kashmir police claimed fighting in Kashmir had resulted in the deaths of 167 security forces, 359 civilians, and 622 insurgents. According to the Jammu and Kashmir police, militants killed 385 civilians, security forces killed 554 terrorists, and insurgents killed 177 members of the security forces. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at year's end, 164 civilians, 121 security force personnel, and 492 terrorists had been killed as a result of terrorist violence.

Separatist guerrillas and terrorists in Kashmir, the northeast, and the Naxalite belt committed numerous serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials, judges, and civilians. Insurgents also engaged in widespread torture, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.

As in previous years, tension along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir was minimal. The Home Ministry reported no cases of artillery shelling, mortar, or small arms fire across the LOC or on the Siachen glacier.

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