India Insight

from The Human Impact:

Malala: An icon for millions of girls who want to learn

When it happened two months ago, it shocked the world. Masked Taliban gunmen stopped a school bus filled with children in northwestern Pakistan, boarded it and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck as she sat in the bus with her friends.

Her crime? She was a campaigner for the right of girls to go to school -- an act strictly forbidden by Taliban militants who are still active in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

This was her punishment for defying their edicts, the Taliban had said.

Fortunately, Malala survived and her story -- as well as her determination to continue to fight for girls to go to school despite the threat of death -- has captivated the world and made her into an international icon for girls' education.

Around 35 million girls across the world do not go to primary school compared to 31 million boys, says the World Bank.

The reasons are vast and varied but often stem from a combination of poverty and patriarchal customs such as child marriage in regions such South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where three-quarters of the world's out-of-school girls live.

Are Kashmiri militants ready to return home from Pakistan?

Hundreds of Muslim militants based in the Pakistani part of Kashmir are ready to give up arms and return to their homes in the Indian part of the Himalayan region following New Delhi’s formal approval of a rehabilitation policy for rebels.

The policy was introduced by India last year for militants who had crossed over to Pakistan-administered Kashmir to be trained and join militant groups fighting New Delhi’s rule in Kashmir.

Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the government has received nearly 700 applications from militants who are in the Pakistani part of Kashmir and want to return home.

Kashmir calms down, but peace still distant

Soldiers patrol the scene of a shootout in Srinagar November 29, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailWinter has come to Kashmir, a scenic valley deep in the Himalayas, cooling tensions in the disputed region after months of violent anti-India demonstrations.

At least 110 people have been killed since June. Dozens were wounded, mostly by police bullets, during the protests – the biggest since a revolt against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

A separatist strike, curfew and security lock-down, that dragged on for over four months and closed much of the region, have ebbed away and the streets across Kashmir are abuzz with activity again.

Is Kashmir’s protest leader gaining popularity?

Separatist militancy has waned over the years in Kashmir, but now a radicalised young generation which has grown up in over two decades of violence and strife is driving the massive anti-India demonstrations across the disputed region.

Senior communist leader Sitaram Yechury (R) prepares to shake hands with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hardline faction of Kashmir's Hurriyat Conference, during their meeting at Geelani's residence in Srinagar September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailWho is leading months of freedom demonstrations in Kashmir, a fresh unarmed uprising that is proving a huge political challenge for the Indian government?

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the 80-year-old hardline Kashmiri politician who is hated by India and backed by Pakistan, has emerged as the leading face of the present separatist campaign in the region.

India’s ‘amnesty’ to Pakistan-based Kashmiri rebels

The Indian government has for the first time offered amnesty to hundreds of Kashmiris who had crossed over to the Pakistani part of Kashmir and are now willing to surrender and return home.

Thousands of Kashmiris have slipped into Pakistan-administered Kashmir for arms training since an anti-India insurgency broke out twenty years ago.

A Kashmiri man rides a bicycle past a closed shop during a strike in Srinagar June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliHundreds have returned and joined Muslim rebel groups, many died on a rugged military control line while sneaking into the Indian side and many more are still living in different parts of Pakistan or Pakistani Kashmir.

Kashmir marks 20 years of conflict, peace still distant

A policeman walks behind a razor wire fence near the venue of India's Republic Day celebrations in Srinagar January 25, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliOne of the world’s longest-running separatist insurgencies, one that has killed tens of thousands of people in Kashmir, completed two decades last month.

The strife-torn region witnessed a period of relative calm, but a recent spate of rebel attacks is a grim reminder of the tensions in Kashmir at the heart of enmity between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan.

A series of skirmishes across Kashmir’s border between the South Asian rivals, which claim the disputed region in full but rule in parts, also underline decades of mistrust between two countries which have fought two wars over the region.

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?

Is India failing to win hearts and minds in Kashmir?

Is India pushing the ordinary Kashmiri people further away by enforcing regular curfews, putting most of their separatist leaders under house arrest and denying them religious freedom by banning Friday prayers in Kashmir’s Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) on a regular basis to avoid violence?

I travelled to Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir this week, and saw how people were tired of violence and wanted peace and dignity in the region.

Many told me how they felt unhappy each time an incident of violence in a remote corner of the city would scare authorities into shutting down the city and forced them to stay indoors, many without any provisions.

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