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Naum Sharapov
Naum Sharapov

Kashmir - The Case For Freedom ##BEST##

The first essay by Pankaj Mishra describes that Kashmiris want true democracy and questions the disregard of the hardships faced by the Kashmiris and evasiveness of the Indian intellectuals on this issue. Tariq Ali in his essay "Story of Kashmir" explains how the valley which was once considered a paradise changed into a disputed region. Arundhati Roy in "Azadi: The only thing Kashmiris want" discusses Jawaharlal Nehru's stance on the Kashmir issue by referring to his speeches, letters, telegrams and quotes under the header "Seditious Nehru." Moreover, Roy elucidates what freedom means to Kashmiris.[1] While questioning India's liberal democracy, she criticises journalists for not raising their voice against the human right abuses against the Kashmiri people by Indian security forces. According to Roy Kashmir was never an integral part of India.[3]Hilal Bhatt shares his experience of a train journey, which was marred by the violence that erupted after the Babri Mosque debacle. Bhatt who lost his friends in the violence during the journey, expresses how the announcement at reaching Aligarh railway station made him realise the meaning of the word freedom.[1] The essay also includes poem by the sixteenth Queen of Kashmir, Habbah Khatun.[4] Angana P. Chatterji discusses how the militarisation has affected the lives of the people in the valley in her piece "The Militarised Zone", while Tariq Ali describes his views in "Afterword".[1]

Kashmir - The Case for Freedom


Amnesty International also found that in the last three years, at least six individuals including journalists, human rights activists and academics were stopped from travelling abroad (despite having requisite travel documents) in violation of their right to freedom of movement through arbitrary executive actions not backed by any court order or warrant or even a written explanation.

The Indian authorities should respect the right to freedom of expression and release any journalists detained on trumped-up or politically motivated charges for their critical reporting and stop targeting journalists and muzzling independent media.

These restrictions on media freedom come amid an escalating crackdown on civil society by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which is using sedition, counterterrorism, and national security laws to target and prosecute human rights activists, students, government critics, and peaceful protesters. Journalists from minority groups and those in Jammu and Kashmir are particularly at risk, the groups said.

Siddique Kappan, another Muslim journalist, has been in prison since October 2020, when Uttar Pradesh police arrested him on baseless charges of terrorism, sedition, and promoting enmity between groups, among others. At the time of his arrest, Kappan had been on his way from New Delhi to Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh to report on a gang rape and murder case of a young Dalit woman that had sparked nationwide protests.

Authorities in Kashmir are also using preventive detention under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act against journalists, which allows them to arbitrarily detain people without evidence and thorough judicial review. In 2022, the authorities rearrested Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan, and Sajad Gul under the Public Safety Act after they had been granted bail separately in other cases filed against them in retaliation for their journalism work.

The government is increasingly using technology to curtail human rights and stifle freedom of expression online. In February 2021, the Indian government published the Information Technology Rules, which imperil freedom of expression and the right to privacy. These rules empower the government to summarily compel the removal of online content without any judicial oversight. They also jeopardize encryption, which is crucial for ensuring privacy and security online, and routinely used by journalists to protect their sources and themselves from being targeted. The Editors Guild of India said the rules undermined media freedom. Three UN human rights experts have expressed concern that the rules do not conform with international human rights norms.

The Pegasus Project found that over 40 Indian journalists appeared on a leaked list of potential targets for surveillance. The Indian government has repeatedly stalled attempts to investigate these allegations. This perpetuates an environment of surveillance impunity that results in a chilling effect on free speech and media freedoms, the groups said.

The groups urged the Indian government to protect the right to freedom of expression, including by immediately releasing journalists who are arrested for their critical reporting, ending broad and indiscriminate internet shutdowns, withdrawing the media policy in Jammu and Kashmir, and repealing the Information Technology Rules.

The reluctance to report a case stems from the fear of reprisal by the Indian armed forces and also from the fact that not even one member of the Indian armed forces has been prosecuted to date in any case of human rights violation. Even when court martials happen, in rare cases, the punishments are disciplinary, not punitive, as in case of Major Rahman in 2004, where he raped two women of a family but was suspended from service and later acquitted. In such a scenario where there is no accountability of an occupying state and worse, it has legal, moral and political impunity to protect its armed forces, the discourse about sexual violence, against both women and men is obviously bound to be lost.

In the case of men, it is mostly to break their morale and extract information and in the case of women it is mostly to force a community into submission, using the existing patriarchal structure that places the burden of honour on women. The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society has documented 7,000 cases of sexual violence that also include sexualized violence against men in custody, mostly sodomy. We know the numbers are far less than what the actual situation is; shame, stigma and reprisals do not allow for a conducive atmosphere in which to report sexualized violence.

During times of crisis and long, extended protests, cases have been reported of pregnant and unwell women who were not allowed to reach hospitals, because of the curfew put in place by the state. The military occupation has taken its toll on women in all aspects, whether it is in affecting their rights to basic amenities or the larger right to a life with dignity, free from fear for their safety and fear of violence.

However, this action is not new to Kashmiri women, who have been portrayed by the media and writers, as victims who have suffered only through the loss of their men, or resisted only by supporting their men. Women were casualties last year too, both killed and blinded by the Indian armed forces, who fired indiscriminately, the target for them ageless and genderless. There were endless reports of women being beaten and sexually harassed by the government forces, for their participation in pro-freedom marches or as part of the collective punishment for protests led by men.

When we started the struggle to have the Kunan Poshpora mass rape cases reopened and wrote the book, Do you Remember Kunan Poshpora?, we were part of this new movement that used memory as a method of resistance, pointed out forgetfulness as a weapon used by the state and broke the deafening silence that had been created around Kashmir and Kashmiri women.

Essar Batool is a professional social worker from Kashmir and a petitioner in the case against the Indian Armed Forces in the Kunan Poshpora mass rape case of 1991. Batool is also co-author of the book Do you remember Kunan Poshpora? and works on the development of expression and spaces among young women, creating spaces for dialogue based on understanding of gender among youth and volunteers with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society documenting human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Anuradha Bhasin, the Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, had filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the communication shutdown in Kashmir. Two journalistic bodies- Foundation for Media Professionals and Indian Journalists Union- had intervened in the case to support press freedom in Kashmir. Yesterday, the State Government filed an additional affidavit stating that the communication shutdown was necessary because of cross-border terrorism and it has declined to provide any further explanation or materials to the Petitioner or Intervenors.

Regarding the applicable legal standards, the Government has urged the Court to defer to the opinion of the administrative authorities in Kashmir because they are aware of ground realities and such decisions always involve an element of subjectivity. Further, the Government has cited a case in which the Supreme Court upheld a complete ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks (State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat) to argue that a total prohibition on exercise of fundamental rights is justified if there is no lesser adequate alternative. Finally, the Government has reiterated its stance that the communication shutdown was a temporary and need based restriction which was aimed at "pre-empting inflammation of passions, rumour mongering etc."

Although the case was originally supposed to be heard on Friday, 25 October 2019, it was unexpectedly listed a day earlier. To the best of our knowledge, the change happened because the judges were busy with another matter tomorrow. The Court indicated that since all parties have filed their pleadings, the lawyers could commence their oral arguments on the next date and listed the case for hearing on 5 November 2019.

India considers the armed rebellion a proxy war by Pakistan and deems it to be state-sponsored terrorism. Most Muslim Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle and support the rebels' goal for the divided territory to be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. 041b061a72


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