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NYT slams Indian military crackdown in Kashmir

Monday, April 24, 2017
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Influential New York Times has slammed military crackdown in Kashmir, warning that Indian democracy may lose its credibility in the face of abuses committed by its forces in Kashmir.

In its hard-hitting editorial, the US paper said the Indian army “reached a new low in the long history of alleged human rights abuses in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir when they beat and then tied a 24-year-old shawl weaver named Farooq Ahmad Dar to the front of a jeep on April 9, using him as a human shield against stone-throwing crowds.”

“Sch posturing will only doom Kashmir to a deadly spiral, where more brutal military tactics will feed more despair and more militancy”.

NYT  quoted Farooq as saying, “As the jeep drove through villages, I saw people breaking into tears on seeing my state.”

The incident, which came to light when a video spread on social media, provides a gauge of an insurgency that has waxed and waned over nearly three decades in Kashmir. Unrest surged last July after Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a charismatic, 22-year-old separatist militant, was killed by Indian security forces. The police responded by firing on protesters with pellet guns, killing scores and injuring thousands, many of whom were blinded by pellets lodged in their eyes”, NYT editorial said.

“The abuse of Mr. (Farooq) Dar occurred the day Kashmiris voted to fill a seat in the local Srinagar assembly. Following a call by separatists to boycott the election, only 7 percent of local Kashmiri voters turned out to vote, a low not seen in 27 years. Eight people were killed amid reports of widespread violence. A new vote was held on April 13, but only 2 percent of voters showed up. Mr. Dar, who says he never supported the separatists, complained: “I voted, and this is what I got in return. Do you think it will help India in Kashmir? No. It will give Kashmiris another reason to hate India.”

The paper came down hard on Indian army chief for his aggressive posturing in Kashmir referring to his recent statement in which General Bipin Rawat had vowed tough action against stone-throwing activists and militants. The army chief had said, “They may survive today, but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue.”

“Such posturing will only doom Kashmir to a deadly spiral, where more brutal military tactics will feed more despair and more militancy,” the paper said while commenting on Indian general’s statement.  

It urged the Indian government to improve human rights in the valley and initiate dialogue as recommended by a report presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government by a team of concerned citizens in January.

The said report had cited strong feelings of discrimination and a “complete lack of faith” by Kashmiris in government promises. It pleaded for improved human rights and a multiparty dialogue aimed at a durable political solution.

NYT suggested that Modi’s government would do well to follow the recommendations of the report, “before Indian democracy loses its credibility and Kashmiris are robbed of a chance to dream, along with the rest of India, of a peaceful, prosperous future.”

Earlier this month, US State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016” had also highlighted human rights’ abuses by Indian forces in Kashmir after the July 8 killing of commander Burhan Wani.

The report said the indiscriminate use of shotguns loaded with birdshot by security forces to control crowds, including violent protests, in Jammu and Kashmir resulted in 87 civilian deaths and blinded hundreds more, including children.

“The central and state governments and the armed forces investigated complaints and punished some violations committed by government forces,” it reads.

“There were few investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations arising from internal conflicts. NGOs claimed that due to AFSPA immunity provisions, authorities did not hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of civilians killed in Jammu and Kashmir in previous years,” the report said.