India Insight

New book describes crimes against civilians during Mizo uprising

The two-decade-long Mizo rebellion from 1966 to 1986 remains the only conflict in which the Indian government used war planes against its citizens. Few written records exist on the conflict in which the Mizo National Front (MNF) revolted against the government, trying to establish an independent country.

A new book by a former militant in the Mizo National Army (MNA), the armed wing of the MNF, recounts the air bombings and the government’s “grouping” policy, under which villages in what is now Mizoram state were burned and civilians relocated to guarded centres called Protected and Progressive Villages.

“Untold Atrocity” by C. Zama deals with incidents in which civilians suffered or were allegedly killed by security forces. The book also assumes significance today because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allowed security forces an almost free hand in arresting or shooting anyone during the insurgency, is still enforced in Jammu and Kashmir and some areas of India’s northeast.

Zama in this interview talks about the almost unlimited powers the army wielded during the insurgency, and why the Mizoram Accord, which is touted as the most successful peace treaty in India, has not been fully implemented.

Q: Tell us about your time as an insurgent?
A: In 1965, before the violence started, I volunteered as a MNA member while studying in high school … I was in Class VIII when the [armed] movement broke out, so I left home and school and we started living in the forest. We traded fire with Indian soldiers many times – in Mizoram and (East) Pakistan, which is present-day Bangladesh.

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trial

Amnesty International has accused the government of detaining hundreds of people each year in Kashmir without charge or trial under a “draconian” Indian law.

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trialThe rights group said India’s Public Safety Act (PSA)  had been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial over the past two decades. Public Safety Act allows for detention without trial for up to two years.

Tens of thousands have died in the disputed region, which India and Pakistan claim in full but rule in parts, since a revolt against New Delhi’s broke out in 1989.

Kashmir seeks extradition of accused army soldier

A former Indian soldier, accused of killing a Kashmiri human rights lawyer, has been arrested in the United States on charges of domestic violence.

Major Avtar Singh fled the country in the 1990s after he was accused of kidnapping and brutally killing Jaleel Andrabi, a Kashmiri lawyer and human rights activist.

Andrabi’s decomposed body was found 15 years ago in a river. The killing sparked off massive protests and led to a probe by authorities.

Should forces responsible for over 100 killings be praised for restraint?

India’s Prime Minister praised the work of security forces in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, in a show of support for troops that killed over 100 separatist protesters last year that risks angering those that resent India’s large military presence in the state.

Indian policemen stand guard during a curfew in Srinagar September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The remarks represent a seal of approval for security forces that are cited by many Kashmiris as an element of the violence, rather than the preventers of it, and come as a team of interlocutors enters its fifth month of talks in the troubled region, and almost two months after Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said that a political solution to the troubles was likely to emerge “in the next few months.”

But can Manmohan Singh’s praise for the “tremendous restraint” of Indian forces in Kashmir be applauded considering they have been responsible for the death of over 100 separatist protesters in months of violent clashes since last summer?

A Republic Day to forget for India’s opposition party

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh watched India’s 61st Republic Day parade in the New Delhi sunshine on Wednesday morning, senior opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were in a Jammu prison, where they had spent a night under arrest.

Detained for attempting to lead thousands of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers into India’s northern state of Jammu & Kashmir to provocatively raise the national flag in the state that has been racked by unrest by Muslim separatists opposed to Indian rule, Swaraj and Jaitley’s politically-driven mission had ended in failure.

Workers of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hold national flags and shout slogans during a protest on a bridge at Madhopur, in the northern Indian state of Punjab January 25, 2011. Thousands of Indian Hindu-nationalist opposition supporters massed on a bridge to the disputed Kashmir region on Tuesday as officials sought to stop a flag-raising ceremony that could spark violence. Police faced off with flag-waving BJP workers as authorities sealed routes into Kashmir to thwart the planned raising of the national flag in the state that has been racked by unrest by Muslim separatists opposed to Indian rule. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta

The BJP appear to have thought that the nationalism-drenched plan to hoist the flag in the centre of Srinagar, the state capital, would galvanize their Hindu support base, and show the ruling Congress party as ineffective in defending the disputed state from separatists who rile against New Delhi’s rule.

Omar Abdullah: a successful year in office?

Omar Abdullah, the youngest ever chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, completed a year in office on January 5.

Omar AbdullahThe administration, youth and people of the state had huge expectations from Abdullah after the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference formed a coalition government with the Congress party last year.

“When he came into people, he wanted to prove himself as an excellent leader, but looking down a year that hope is slowly but surely diminishing because nothing concrete is happening on the ground,” says Raja Muneeb, a local resident of Srinagar.

Will ban on pre-paid mobile connections further alienate Kashmiris?

Rebel violence in Indian Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since an insurgency began nearly two decades ago.

But the central government has banned pre-paid mobile connections in the strife-torn state, leaving nearly three million subscribers disconnected over security concerns.

The ban, which comes days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered fresh talks with Kashmiris, has annoyed local residents while troops deployed in the state are also distressed over getting disconnected from their families.

Is India downplaying Chinese border intrusions?

In response to recent reports that two Chinese helicopters intruded into Indian territory in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor said he did get reports of Chinese intrusion but “this is not a new thing.”

“I want to tell you that the press sometimes hypes this but the numbers of intrusions which have taken place this year are on the same level as last year,” Kapoor said.

Soon after that the Indian media reported that Chinese soldiers had crossed the border in Ladakh last week and painted some rocks red.

The spectre of climate change in Kashmir

Its striking beauty is not the only thing that hits you when you visit Kashmir valley.

Though it was the kind of paradise I had imagined, I didn’t know there would be so many shanty towns set in such picturesque locales.

As I travelled through Kashmir, the breathtaking views did make me breathless but so did the smoke and dust. 

Is Pakistan still aiding Kashmir militants?

Separatist violence in Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since an anti-India insurgency began nearly two decades ago.

However, people are still killed in daily firefights and occasional attacks by suspected militants, mostly in rural and mountainous areas.

Is Pakistan still aiding militants fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, despite Islamabad’s assurances and a slow-moving peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad?

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