When NATO unleashed its so-called Global War on terror, many innocent people, usually Muslims, were picked up from Muslim countries, held and tortured in the fiercest prison of the world known as Guantanamo Bay. The cases, later, proved to be false and fabricated and consequently, detainees were freed but not after having been deprived of essential years of their life.
When disturbing pictures of the prison surfaced, and detainees narrated their ordeals, activists and humanist champions described Guantanamo as “Hell on earth” and rallied around for its closure. Such was the intensity of trauma that it made front page headlines in print media and appeared as speed news in electronic media. Fine. This is genuinely a grave issue, and the world must pay attention to it but when it comes to my part of the world (Kashmir), why do we see double standards and blind eyes from the so-called textured activists and human rights bishops?
The stories of innocent Kashmiris languishing in different Indian jails are pathetic and tell of the distress and intense trauma. Their condition – from arrest to prison and court to acquittal (albeit acquittal of Kashmiris is a rarest of the rare case) – is no different from Guantanamo prisoners, then why don’t they make headlines in print or electronic media? Why does the Twitterati world sleep on injustice, oppression, and occupation in Kashmir? Why don’t we witness human rights priests hurling sermons in different parts of world and India about innocent Kashmiris being jailed or held incommunicado?
Those hoards of celebrity sycophants, doing politics under the guise of human rights should hang their heads in shame not because they don’t speak for Kashmiris, but because, they allow injustice to marry power and eventually succumb to its impulses. When justice becomes a tradable commodity for states in the world, then the very idea of the state becomes questionable. As Jonathan Israel puts it, “injustice is the first step of the ladder which leads to oppression” and hence the famous saying – “When oppression becomes the law resistance becomes the duty”. This holds true for Kashmiris.
Why are Kashmiris framed? Kashmiris, by and large, are usually seen with suspicion in Kashmir or rest of India. If you are a collaborator, you will enjoy all the perks and privileges from the Indian government and its regime in Kashmir. Therefore, Kashmiris become easy targets for Indian security agencies and the judiciary. It’s not a hidden truth now that security agencies are assigned time-based jobs and are bound to show the results within the stipulated duration. And as an institution, it’s growth, efficiency and credibility are at stake if results are not provided, come what may. The easy way out for them is scapegoating either of the two: Indian Muslims or Kashmiris. There have been various studies on how Indian Muslims are falsely implicated, the recent one being – “Framed, Damned and Acquitted” – by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA). The book shows how cases are fabricated and innocents keep waiting for justice for decades or more.
There are hardly any studies or data on the case of Kashmiris languishing in Indian jails. Moreover, as all Kashmiris are deemed terrorists for India, they suffice as easy pieces of meat for the gladiators. Given that Kashmir is the world’s largest military garrison and every Kashmiri is held under the barrel of the gun by the Indian state. The lives of Kashmiris are at stake all the time. Kashmiris know it, and the India isn’t oblivious to this reality, either. Kashmiris are picked up in broad daylight and taken to Joint Intelligence Committees and flown to New Delhi, from where they are shifted to various jails. If the information is leaked to any media house, the fourth horsemen of Indian democracy, media, knows very well how to trade Kashmiris and play to the press galleries. This nefarious design of projecting innocent Kashmiris as dreadful terrorists by the Indian media came to fore during the popular armed uprising of 90’s and particularly during the parliament blast investigations. The Indian media satisfied India’s national conscience by campaigning for extra-judicially hanging Afzal Guru in the Parliament Blast case. Since then bashing Kashmiris in primetime debates has become a norm for the Indian media.
Stating the obvious: India spends heavily in Kashmir to maintain its security establishment, and in policies and election campaigns in India, it frames Kashmir as “important region for national security”. If the Indian version of so-called national security is accepted for the sake of argument, then it logically means: “There is an imminent threat to the safety and well-being of Kashmiris”, and Indian forces are there to eliminate that very threat. And when historical records on violence and countless anecdotes are verified, a contrary assertion turns out to be true, i.e. presence of Indian security force is a direct threat to Kashmiris and for which there are documented evidence which proves that Indian security forces have killed hundred thousand Kashmiris since 1990. So to support their claim of national security and to manufacture consent among Indian citizens, Kashmiris are picked up from colleges, universities in Kashmir or in India, framed particularly in Terror-Related Cases, subjected to extreme, inhumane tortures and finally sent to gallows and then the postscript of state managed Indian media conclude drama by afflicting the oppressed.
Recently, Mohammad Rafiq was acquitted by an Indian court after 12 years; he was picked up by Indian forces while pursuing post graduation in Kashmir University. A spell of sorrow may have ended for the person and his family but not for Kashmir because many brothers are behind bars in Indian jails and their family members back home continue to wait for their return, day and night. With tearful eyes, Mohammad Rafiq says: “I was forced to drink urine, kept naked and sexually abused, rats were put in my trousers, and my religious sentiments were constantly hurt. I am being victimised only because I am a Kashmiri Muslim”. There are many stories of painful ordeals Kashmiris have to go through in Indian “Guantanamo Bays” and “Abu Ghraibs”, waiting to come to light. They will tell all you need to know about injustice, oppression, and occupation on Kashmiris. This is not NATO but India and it’s not a war on terror but the war on Kashmiris. Kashmir is a battleground of truth and falsehood and falsehood by its very nature is bound to perish. So, no more Human Rights hypocrisy.
The article was earlier published in Kashmir Reader