India Insight

Of Kashmir’s “staged” killings and south Asian peace process

When the prime ministers of India and Pakistan held talks on April 29 and signalled an unexpected thaw in their frigid relations, troops in Indian Kashmir reportedly lured three civilians to work as porters.

A Kashmiri village girl cries during the funerals of three villagers killed in an alleged fake gun battle by security forces in Nadihal, about 70 km (44 miles) north of Srinagar May 29, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailThe next day, security forces allegedly gunned down three on the Line of Control (LoC) and passed them off as infiltrating militants from the Pakistan side.

Last week, police exhumed the bodies after three families in north Kashmir’s Baramulla area said the slain men were innocent relatives who had gone missing days before the ”border clash”.

After identification the three bodies were found to be those of the missing men, triggering massive anti-India demonstrations across the Valley.

Government forces in the disputed region have been accused in the past of murdering innocent civilians in staged gun battles and passing them off as separatist militants to earn rewards and promotions.

In Kashmir, nearly half favour independence

Nearly half of the people living in the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir want their disputed and divided state to become an independent country, according to a poll published by think tank Chatham House.

A man walks past closed shops during a strike in Srinagar June 11, 2008. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/Files London-based Chatham House says the poll is the first to be conducted on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), a military control line that has separated Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir since the U.N.-brokered ceasefire between two rivals in 1949.

The poll has produced startling results. On average 44 percent of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43 percent in Indian Kashmir.

India-Pakistan “secret pact” – was Kashmir accord just a signature away?

India and Pakistan held secret talks for more than three years, reached an accord on the thorny Kashmir issue and had almost unveiled it in 2007 before domestic turmoil in Pakistan derailed it, former Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has revealed.

A Border Security Force(BSF) soldier stands guard next to the national flags of India (L) and Pakistan near the Pakistan border in Chamliyal, 45 km west of Jammu, June 25, 2009. REUTERS/Amit GuptaKasuri says the two nuclear-armed rivals, who rule the Himalayan region in parts, had agreed to full demilitarisation of both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir with a package of loose autonomy on both sides of the Line of Control, a military control line that divides the region between two nations.

“We agreed on a point between complete independence and autonomy,” Kasuri told Times of India.

Afghan endgame and fears of rise in Kashmir violence

The Indian army says rebel violence will escalate in Kashmir in summer as hundreds of militants are waiting in the Pakistani part of Kashmir to infiltrate into the Indian side and step up attacks.

Seized bullets are displayed by the Indian army during a news conference after a gun battle with militants, in Srinagar March 28, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliEven an internal assessment of the Home Ministry says the summer of 2010 will be as bloodier as or even worse than the mid-nineties.

In Kashmir, violence involving Muslim rebels and Indian troops was on the decline since India and Pakistan, who dispute the region, began a peace process in 2004.

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.

Will Kashmir tensions hurt fresh India-Pakistan peace efforts?

Killing of civilians, six in the past month blamed on government forces, has triggered massive protest demonstrations since last week in Kashmir, the region at the heart of enmity between India and Pakistan.

Police stand guard at a barricade set up to stop a protest march in Srinagar February 8, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliAnd the anger has evolved into wider anti-India protests, nearly similar to huge street protests seen in 2008 that embarrassed New Delhi. After a period of relative calm, rebel violence has increased.

The fresh trouble in the Himalayan region comes at a time when India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full but rule in parts and have fought wars over it,  have decided to improve strained relations.

Shiv Sena, secularists and politics of regionalism

India’s ruling Congress party and main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have found themselves on a common platform after Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi slammed the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for their tirade against ‘outsiders’ – mainly north Indians – in Maharashtra.

Earlier, BJP president Nitin Gadkari invoked the constitutional right of every Indian to live anywhere, in a snub to erstwhile political ally Shiv Sena, whose agenda is to promote the interest of Marathis, sometimes with violent effect at the cost of non-Marathis, especially those living in Mumbai.

Waving the politics of regionalism is nothing new for the Sena and its breakaway faction MNS, who derive their political base from the ‘sons of the soil’ ideology.

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.

Are the Maoists gaining ground in West Bengal?

Hundreds of tribal people backed by the Maoist guerrillas stormed the high-speed Rajdhani Express, one of the country’s most prestigious passenger trains, in West Bengal on Tuesday. Police and security forces could free the train and its driver after a five-hour-long hostage drama, including a gunfight with the rebels in the forest.Maoists have stepped up violence across eastern and central India and internal security experts say it indicates a growing dominance of the insurgents in the state.The rebels raided a police station in West Bengal this month and abducted a senior official after gunning down two of his colleagues.Police officer Atindranath Dutta was held captive for two days and freed in exchange for 23 tribal women lodged in prisons for suspected Maoist links.Maoist attacks on police posts are nothing new in an area that has witnessed an anti-insurgency operation since June and the rebels have taken effective control of large swathes of the countryside.The insurgents say they are waging war on behalf of the poor and the landless against the state. The attack has raised concerns and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the swap was an “exception, not a norm.”Security experts say the Maoists, whom Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has identified as the country’s biggest internal threat, have thrown an open challenge to the authorities.In June a combined force of central paramilitary troops and state police retook control of Lalgarh, a town captured by the Maoists in West Midnapore district of West Bengal.The government began cracking down on the rebel leaders and sympathisers since then.The policeman abduction episode has apparently galvanised the communist government in West Bengal which has said it will heavily weaponise policemen and fortify its police stations. The NGOs working in Maoist-affected areas blame the government for the state of affairs.Is increasing Maoist violence in West Bengal indicative of a growing clout of the rebels?

Are Muslims of troubled Kashmir treated unfairly by Indians?

Parvez Rasool, a Kashmiri cricketer, was briefly detained in Bangalore on suspicion of carrying explosives, an incident which triggered anger in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley.

This is not an isolated case.

Earlier actor and model Tariq Dar, a Kashmiri Muslim, was mistakenly imprisoned in New Delhi for weeks for having terror links. But Dar was later found innocent.

Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani, a Kashmiri, was even awarded the death sentence in connection with the 2001 Parliament attack case, but was later released.

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