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Animal hunting in Pakistan deserves no applause

This article was originally published on March 13, 2015.

An Italian national flew 5,157 kilometers to Pakistan, travelled 234 miles north to Gilgit-Baltistan, trekked through the mountainous terrain to a secluded wildlife conservatory near the Pak-China border, and paid $8000 to fatally shoot a sheep.

Verily, man’s place at the top of the food chain is finally secure.

Making rounds on social media, is news of the record set by Boieti Gian Carlo for hunting a blue sheep with 32-inch horns – the largest in Pakistan, and the second-largest in the world.

I admit that my snark-laden review of this incident is clearly tainted by my bias against the general concept of hunting animals for sport. I wouldn’t want to single out any hunter in my tirade against the greater culture of hunting, and glorification of men and women who partake in this “sport”.

I believe the significance of elaborate hunts such as these cannot be overstated in limning what’s become the grand philosophy of the human species. From the highest mountain to the deepest ocean, wherever our noble relatives of the animal kingdom may hide; with the unfaltering determination of Liam Neeson, we will find them, and we will kill them.

Why? Just ‘cause.

In fact, as this blog is being penned, I’m receiving word of a raiding party en route to the Mariana’s Trench, to search and destroy that last non-human species rumored to have been spared by poachers, man-made climate change, floating islands of ocean garbage, and our voracious appetite for meat.

It was different when our ancestors went spear-hunting to acquire resources necessary to sustain life. To some degree, I can even understand (though not happily condone) the animal deaths caused either directly for meat and fur, or through negligence in the pursuit of some other human goal.

What I’m particularly intrigued by, is the psychology behind killing an animal to savour the act of killing itself.

There is no real resource to be acquired, but rather, a staggering amount of resource to be spent on attaining the satisfaction of shooting a harmless beast as it insouciantly grazes grass atop a serene mountain. The only physical prize to come out of it is a severed part of its anatomy to be mounted on the wall, as a reminder of the blissful day one shot something dead.

When I say there’s resource to be spent, I mean it. The prized markhor – a rare wild goat with majestic spiral horns – costs a hunter a whopping $62,000 to shoot at.

And note that according to the rules, the hunting license is valid for a single shot only.

Saudi royals have been known to spend lavishly on Pakistani conservatories and affiliated towns to curry favour with locals, for their love of hunting houbara bustards.

Also read: Saudi Royal on Houbara Bustard hunting spree in Balochistan

There’s dark humor to be found in the fact that 80 per cent of the money made from selling hunting licenses, goes back into preserving biodiversity and maintaining our conservatories.

I wonder, if this utilitarian approach can be applied to impoverished human communities; to allow wealthy hunters to fire non-lethal darts at the Congolese people as they innocently work on their farms. But not to worry! The money from this cruel exercise would go back to providing food and clean-water to the good people of Congo.

Jeremy Bentham famously argued that it’s not a creature’s identicalness to the human species which determines the morality of harming it; it’s a matter of whether that animal can suffer.

The activities we enjoy and applaud make a statement about who we are, just as it did for the ancient Romans who cheered on grizzly, deathly combats at the Coliseum.

For those of us who venerate the sport of killing animals, that statement isn’t very comforting.

Correction: The article erroneously stated that 20 per cent of the money made from selling hunting licenses went to wildlife development. The correct figure is 80 per cent. The error is regretted and has been fixed.

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Faraz Talat is a doctor from Rawalpindi who writes mostly about science and prevalent social issues.

He tweets @FarazTalat

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

I was handcuffed and tied but it was worth my fight against One Unit

50 years ago, 4th March, 1967 marked a watershed event in the post-Partition history of Sindh. It was the day when 207 students were arrested en masse at the G.M. Barrage between Jamshoro and Hyderabad as they staged a rally against the One Unit scheme that had been in place in the country since 1955.

The protests were a culmination of the unrest among Sindhi students that had been simmering beneath the surface for a long time against One Unit. Its causes went deep into the humiliations suffered by Sindh and its people on cultural, political, administrative and economic levels.

Sindhi, a 2,500 year-old language, had no official status in what became the province of West Pakistan. It was stripped of all its rights as a medium of instruction, except in primary schools in the rural areas of Sindh. Sindhis were thus deprived of all opportunities of promoting their culture and language.

Politically and administratively, One Unit meant that Sindh disappeared as an entity and was reduced to looking to the capital Lahore for the pettiest matters.

On the economic level – and this situation continues to this day – it had to concede much of the lands rendered cultivable by the construction of barrages to the higher bureaucracy and military.

Last but not the least, the demographic changes due to Partition, which saw mass influx of Muslim migrants from India and an outflow of Sindhi Hindus, meant that the major cities of the province, including Karachi, became virtual no-go areas for Sindhis as far as jobs and economic opportunities were concerned.

Final straw

The movement itself was sparked when the Vice Chancellor of Sindh University, Hasan Ali Abdur Rehman, was dismissed in February 1967 by the Governor of West Pakistan, Nawab Amir Mohammad Khan Kalabagh.

Rehman, the first Sindhi Vice Chancellor of the university, was dismissed for his efforts for facilitating the admission of Sindhi students in professional colleges by allotting quotas for the far-flung districts of Sindh. The students agitated and demanded Rehman to be reinstated.

On March 4, a general-body meeting of students of Sindh University, Liaquat Medical College, and Engineering College was planned in Sindh University’s City Campus in Hyderabad. Students were proceeding to the venue in university buses when the police encircled them near the G.M. Barrage. The students were beaten up and all 207 of them were arrested.

The police brutality resulted in mass protests all over the province. Although the dismissal order against the Vice Chancellor was not taken back, this moment, which came to be known as the 4th March Movement and is commemorated every year, gave rise to wide-scale political awakening in Sindh.

My contribution

I was a first-year student at the university’s Hyderabad campus. I remember it was another pleasant evening when the news of the mass arrest spread.

This development was grave not only because students had been targeted, but because the authorities had been trying to divide the students on linguistic basis. In order to counter the unrest against the dismissal of the Vice Chancellor, the Commissioner of Hyderabad, Masroor Ahsan, had attempted to rally those who were regarded as leaders of Urdu-speaking students behind him.

The outrage felt by the students against the victimisation of the first Sindhi Vice Chancellor of Sindh University, who had dared resist the attempts by the West Pakistan government to undermine the autonomy of the university, was given a parochial colour.

Given that most Urdu-speaking students seemed to be supportive of government action, a few of us decided that something had to be done, even symbolically, to prevent the cleavage between the students on parochial lines. This could only be done by showing solidarity with the arrested students. A minimum would be to write slogans on walls against the police action.

So me and my comrade Inayat Kashmiri took up a brush to paint slogans against the police and the Ayub dictatorship in the area around Tilak Charri, where most of the education institutions of Hyderabad were located at the time.

While writing on the walls, we had our eyes fixed on the on-coming traffic on the one-way road, ready to slip into the side streets if a police van came. We were too naïve to know that police in this country does not observe basic traffic rules.

A police van came full-speed from the opposite direction and before we could do anything, we received the full brunt of lathis on our backs, were lifted up and thrown inside the van. Direction: Market Thana. There ensued salvos of invectives in Punjabi centred on one’s lower anatomy.

We were handcuffed and remained tied between two chairs in the SHO’s office for four days and nights. This made of us far greater rebels than the books we had lately become fond of: Maxim Gorky’s Mother and, of course, the Communist Manifesto.

Market Thana was located just near the red light area of Chakla. A large part of police activity in this thana consisted of rounding up prostitutes from the bazaar and bringing them in for extortion and entertainment.

The language of communication in the thana was Punjabi – not its Heer of Waris Shah variant but an outpouring of its filthiest variety. This made us understand all the more the resentment in Sindh against One Unit, the suppression of the smaller provinces and their merger into West Pakistan with its capital in Lahore.

During this time, we were hardly given any food and we avoided drinking water as we did not want to beg our unworldly hosts to take us to toilet. After four days, Hafeez Qureshi, one of the leading advocates of Hyderabad and a nationalist leader, came looking for us. He asked the SHO for a copy of the FIR so that he could engage legal procedures for our release. But an FIR there was none.

Apparently the SHO hadn’t even cared to inform his higher authorities of our arrest. He panicked and handed us over to the lawyer and even excused himself, saying that if he knew we were students, he would have let us go after admonition. Luckily for us, it was not yet the era of missing persons and kill and dump.

The discovery of Sindh

This small act of solidarity earned us lot of recognition and friends in the university. I already knew Jam Saqi, the great Sindhi nationalist leader whom I held in awe for his dedication and selflessness. He came from a far-off village in Tharparkar. I was a frequent visitor to his small kholi in a building on Tilak Charri.

He used to cook his only meal of the day late in the evening on a small stove. Even then, he used to insist on sharing it with me. I had never come across such a man in my family environment. I realised that life was much deeper and vaster than what family confines could offer. The real human beings were found where I was taught not to look for inspiration.

4th March served me as initiation into the soul of the province that had offered refuge to thousands of Urdu-speaking families like mine when they migrated to this country after Partition. With time, on becoming proficient in Sindhi language and going to the various cities and rural areas of Sindh as an activist, I impregnated myself with the deeply humanistic substrate of the Sindhi civilisation. With Jam Saqi, I came to meet luminaries like Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi, Ibrahim Joyo, Sobho Gianchandani, Usman Diplai and others.

What struck me the most in these people was their simplicity and total absence of pretension of any kind. I became more and more repulsed by the type of hostility that the great majority of educated Urdu-speakers maintained against the people of Sindh at the time.

The importance of 4th March

It will not be wrong to say that 4th March crystallised the defiance of the people of Sindh against the treatment meted out to them by the dominant players of the country. Ground was prepared for it first of all by an unprecedented flourishing of Sindhi literature in all of its genres, especially poetry. Poets like Shaikh Ayaz felt and mirrored the pain of Sindh in their poetry.

No wonder that after 4th March, a recurrent event Sindhi Sham became the main form of assertion of Sindhi identity and pride. Behind an innocuous cultural façade, Sindhi Sham was a forum for voicing dissent against the unjust policies perpetrated in the name of one nation.

Countless literary periodicals burgeoned in Sindh after 4th March. To this day, the most vibrant daily press of the country, closest to the ordinary citizens, is the Sindhi press.

Unfortunately, most historians and political specialists in and outside Pakistani, with some honourable exceptions like Dr Tanvir Ahmed who wrote the Political Dynamics of Sindh, have failed to take due account of the landmark nature of the 4th March Movement.

The Movement was an important component of the overall democratic upsurge in Pakistan that led to the falling of Ayub Khan’s dictatorship and dismemberment of One Unit. Even the books written on student movements in Pakistan seem to overlook the fact that Sindh, after having been wiped out from the country’s map by virtue of One Unit, struck back hard and reentered the political frame due to the defiance and courage of its students.

It is 50 years since that fateful evening of 4th March, 1967. It is long ago but so near that it is impossible to forget it. Time has not erased the deep pride I have always felt in making a very small contribution to that great event.

I will finish with a prayer by the inimitable Latif Sain:

Saim sadaein karein mathan Sindh Sukar
Dost mitha dildar Alam sub abad karein

My Lord keep Sindh always on top
Dear Friend also make prosperous the entire world

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Hidayat Hussain is an ex-student of Sindh University. He was Acting-President of Hyderabad Students Federation from 1967 to 1968 and a founding member of Sindh National Students Federation. Later on, he studied in France and holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the Sorbonne. He is the author of an anthology of Urdu and Sindhi poetry translated into French, published in France in 2011.

How India-Pakistan wars tore apart the social fabric of Umerkot

Wars have a way of creating false or incomplete histories. The tales of heroes and victories often obscure the plight of the common person caught in the war zone.

The suffering of those living in Umerkot, Sindh during the 1965 and the 1971 wars fought between India and Pakistan finds no mention in the history books taught in our schools. I learnt about these unwritten stories by word of mouth during a recent visit to this small, dusty town.

Umerkot is located in the east of Sindh, about 60 kilometres from the Indian border. It is famous for the Umerkot Fort that dates back to the 11th century. Mughal emperor Akbar was born at the Fort in 1542, after the Hindu Raja Rana Parasad gave refuge to his father Humayun, who was fleeing the armies of Sher Shah Suri. The Fort is also the setting of the famous Sindhi tragic romance of Umar Marvi.

Mohammed Shafi Faqir, the Sufi singer of Umerkot.
Mohammed Shafi Faqir, the Sufi singer of Umerkot.

I, and a group of friends, had travelled to Umerkot to record Shafi Faqir, a very fine singer of Sufi poetry. We were all set to record the singer in the morning when we got the news that he was going to be late since a relative of his had passed away and he had to be at the funeral. He requested a friend of his, Mohammed Jumman, to attend to us while we were waiting.

This sad and unexpected situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us as we found out, much to our delight, that Mohammed Jumman, who was about 70 years old, was a wonderful Sindhi poet and a scholar of the area’s history. He had been close to the famous Sindhi intellectual and nationalist, the late G.M. Syed.

The humble and un-assuming poet and scholar, Mohammed Jumman.
The humble and un-assuming poet and scholar, Mohammed Jumman.

Recounting the recent history of Umerkot, Jumman told us that in 1965, Umerkot’s population was 80% Hindu and 20% Muslim. Most of the large landowners of the area, known as Thakurs, were high-caste Hindus.

The Thakurs employed tradesmen like shoemakers, carpenters, and musicians. They provided housing, education, and health care for these tradesmen as well. Faqir’s family was also in the employ of a Thakur.

Then came the 1965 war and a major upheaval took place in the lives of the residents. Fearing reprisals by Muslims, most Hindus crossed over to India. The majority of those who left Pakistan were the rich Thakurs.

The serene mood of a desert dweller.
The serene mood of a desert dweller.

The lower-caste Hindus — Bheels, Kolhis and Meghwars — stayed back as they were poor and discriminated against on both sides of the borders. It did not matter to them whether they earned their living in India or Pakistan.

The migration of the Thakurs left their employees without a place to live or any source of income. Faqir’s father and Jumman had to move to larger towns and take up jobs as tea boys or truck cleaners to survive. Jumman told us that the period between 1965 and 1968 were the worst in his life.

Interesting design elements in the doorway.
Interesting design elements in the doorway.

The war came to haunt the residents of Umerkot again in 1971, when the Indian army crossed the border and occupied parts of Tharparkar. This is something that is not common knowledge in Pakistan.

Many fled Umerkot to its adjoining areas as fear of the advancing Indian army grew. They left their houses and cattle behind as they rushed out of the war zone.

When the ceasefire came into effect and the Indian army retreated, the residents came back to find a lot of their houses destroyed and their cattle stolen. This meant another struggle to rebuild their lives.

There is not much else in Umerkot after the Fort.
There is not much else in Umerkot after the Fort.

The religious composition of Umerkot has now changed and the majority of the population is Muslim. Jumman told me that while generally there is peace between the two communities, the relations are on an edge and a small incident can trigger violence.

He also lamented that before the wars, it was very easy to cross the border to meet relatives. All that was needed was a small tip to the border guards. Now, it is not possible to do so without taking the risk of being shot.

It is telling that Jumman’s nom de plume is Dar Badar (of no fixed abode). There could not have been a more appropriate word for the displacements he had been forced to endure.

The sadness of this history was alleviated somewhat when Faqir arrived and sang the songs of love of the native soil, of peace, and of the impermanence of all things worldly.

Shafi Faqir singing songs about the love of native soil and peace.
Shafi Faqir singing songs about the love of native soil and peace.
VIP seating for Shafi Faqir's concert.
VIP seating for Shafi Faqir’s concert.
Our videographer being observed with a calm interest.
Our videographer being observed with a calm interest.
Young and old both display an equanimity not found in the cities.
Young and old both display an equanimity not found in the cities.
A charming little mosque inside the fort grounds.
A charming little mosque inside the fort grounds.
Robust stairs leading to the top of the fort.
Robust stairs leading to the top of the fort.
A cannon overlooking the town.
A cannon overlooking the town.
Colourful and languid.
Colourful and languid.
Mobile artwork in Umerkot.
Mobile artwork in Umerkot.
Freshly roasted peanuts in downtown Umerkot.
Freshly roasted peanuts in downtown Umerkot.

All photos by the author.

Concerned US and Canadian Muslims weigh in on rising Islamophobia

Last month, North America witnessed instances of blatant Islamophobia and religious and racial hatred.

Not long after the new American president Donald Trump announced a visa ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and a hold on the intake of Syrian refugees, a mosque in Quebec City, Canada, was attacked by a shooter that killed half a dozen worshippers.

Trump’s ban has since been made non-functional by a courtand the Quebec shooter apprehended, but the shock doesn’t subside so easily.

The following is a selection of reactions by’s readers in Canada and the United States after what happened in their respective countries.

“Inshallah this madness will be stopped”
Maggy Antebi-Wilson, psychotherapist, Ottawa, Canada.

“I am Canadian, Jewish, born in Egypt, raised in Montreal and married to a Protestant from Scotland. Our children are proud to be enriched by so many different cultures.

I, like many Jews, decry the horrible terrorist attack on the mosque in Quebec City which claimed the lives and well being of so many, including the sense of security and peace of mind of the community.

Like many of my generation, my parents fled persecution in Nasser’s Egypt, a country which my parents loved and where they had felt welcome. The Cairo synagogue where my parents were to be married was burned to the ground. Fortunately, it was empty at the time. By comparison to the annihilation of our European brethren at the hands of Hitler and his Nazi murderers, our journey was relatively easy.

Once in Quebec, suspicion and intolerance of the ‘other’ amongst a small group of racist pure laine [those of ‘pure’ ancestry] was present. In those days, when the Catholic church still held sway, we were not allowed to attend French schools although we were French speaking. Sal Juif (dirty jew) and swastikas were part of our experience. On the whole, however, Canada was and is a great and welcoming country.

Sadly, the former government of Quebec, Marine Le Pen in France, Trump in the US and others have fanned the flames of hatred against Muslims. Terrorism perpetrated by Al Qaeda, IS, Boko Haram, Assad and others towards fellow Muslims primarily, but also towards others, has contributed to the creation of a very hostile environment for law-abiding Muslims in our country and elsewhere.

Inshallah, this madness will be stopped.

“These policies and speech do not represent us”
Hasanat Kazmi, software engineer, California.

“I live in California and the current political climate has made things very uncertain for Muslims and Pakistanis. I follow Pakistani media and although the media in Pakistan portrays as if everything is going south, I would like to share what my neighbours just sent me:”

“I worry about tomorrow”
Mahnoor Maqbool, MA Psychology in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University.

“Last semester, my biggest worry was what grade I would get in my next assignment. This time around, I worry about whether I am even going to be here tomorrow. It scares and saddens me to know that so many others just like me have been denied the opportunity to live the dreams they worked so hard to achieve.”

“I am angry!”
Minahil Asim, PhD candidate Education Policy, UC Davis.

“I am angry! My husband and I discussed moving back to Pakistan and we are both grateful to have that option. This entire thing just shows how ridiculous people were who said not to take Trump seriously.”

“I feel really unsafe”
Natasha Barlas, Masters/CAGS Applied Educational Psychology, Northeastern University.

“I am terrified because despite hearing about Islamophobia, this is the first time I feel that I am personally targeted. There are people who have worked really hard to build their lives here and they are not allowed to come home. For the first time since moving to the US, I feel really unsafe and it feels as if I can’t plan my future.”

“These policies have heightened my concerns about my future”
Tehreem Arif, M.S. Enterprise Risk Management, Columbia University.

“As a Muslim student studying in the United States, I believe Trump’s discriminatory policies regarding the Muslim community are very disturbing. These policies have heightened my concerns about my safety and future in the country.”

“It makes no sense”
Arman Ashraf, M.S. Development Psychology, Columbia University.

“It makes no sense. The choice of countries for this ban, the time duration – nothing makes sense. But I don’t feel any less unsafe than I did when I first moved here. I never expected a warm welcome being Pakistani and Muslim. I would just like to see how Trump’s foreign policy shapes up now. I feel horrible for the people who have been detained at airports and who find themselves suddenly belonging nowhere.”

“I am inspired by how people have responded”
Abbas Shahid, Integrated Marketing, New York University.

“I am frustrated by how the ideals an entire country claims to embody can be forgotten, and such blatant discrimination can be made lawful overnight. However, I am also very inspired by how the people of New York have responded. They stood up even though they were not directly affected by this policy. I am frustrated, but at the same time I want to express my gratitude for getting to live in a city with a strong sense of community and responsibility.”

“I am stunned”
Asif A. Hasan, M.S. Mental Health Counseling, City College of New York.

“I am not concerned or scared for myself, but I am stunned by the way people are being treated across the country – people who had proper visas. I am also concerned for those Pakistanis who are looking for jobs here.”

“We are living in a different America now”
Abdullah Bajwa, PhD Candidate Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University.

“Seeing the collapse of liberal America right in front of my eyes has been heart-wrenching. President Trump was sworn into office on a Friday and I saw a police officer stationed outside the local mosque during the Friday prayers. This was only the second time during my stay that there had to be an officer present during the prayers. The first time was in late 2016 when the mosque was shot at in the middle of the night. The ensuing outpouring of love from the local community didn’t let the incident get to us. We shrugged it off as an act of a deranged individual. But seeing the officer outside the mosque on inauguration day for no apparent threat gave me a much-needed dose of reality. It was then that I realised that things aren’t going to be the same anymore. We were living in a different America now.”

“The Executive Order meant to create division but it created unity”
Mohsin Fareed, Philadelphia.

“It is true that every action has a reaction, but sometimes, actions bear unwanted reactions. Trump’s Executive Order meant to create division but it created unity. The long-term consequences of this order are yet to be established, but it is clear that currently it has created harmony and support in favour of Muslims. American people are seeing the tolerant aspect of Muslims. This is in direct contradiction of what the media has been portraying about Islam and Muslims.”

I’ll never forget the day Burhan Wani was killed

The news first broke when I was in the north of Kashmir in Vijbal, a town of less than a hundred households.

My cousins had invited me for dinner as I was scheduled to leave for New Delhi right after Eid.

One of my friends from Tral, south of Kashmir, informed me through a Whatsapp text: Burhan Wani has been killed.

I didn’t believe him. It was just a rumour, I thought. Half an hour later, the Indian media erupted in celebration, announcing victory.

The party immediately began on Twitter and continued on television. “Burhan Wani elimination BIG NEWS,” tweeted Barkha Dutt of NDTV.

Abhijit Majumdar, the managing editor of Mail Today, chipped in: “with Burhan Wani’s killing, Indian forces have eliminated entire gang of Facebook terror poster-boys of #Kashmir one after the other. Salute.”

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles began to honk mindlessly. My aunt worriedly asked her son to check if everything was alright.

Burhan gove shaheed (Burhan has been martyred), I told them.

They looked back at me in shock.

My aunt began to wail.

Ye kusu tawan cxunuth khudayoo (what tragedy did you send upon us, oh God), she lamented.

The heavens opened up at the same time and the sound of rain hitting the tin-roof of the house got louder.

I looked at my cousin, red-faced, eyes welling up, his body shivering.

His phone rang and he finally noticed on the fifth ring. It was my mother calling.

By the next morning, the internet was blocked. People were expecting mobile networks to be shut by the government as well in order to restrict communication in the valley.

People know how the state functions. The Indian state’s oppression is as routinised in war-time as it is in peace-time.

People knew that in the coming days, the only way to communicate and find out what was going on would be to travel, on foot, from village to village. They knew that they had to avoid the highways which are constructed to allow smooth movement to Indian military convoys only.

‘They know everything’

Rafiabad, the place where I live, is as militarised as any other place in Kashmir. Indian army camps are located every five kilometres from one another, allowing them to bring every village and its people under the army’s view.

The army knows the number of people in each household, including how many males and females, educated and uneducated, where they work, newborns, adults and old.

They have numbered our houses and categorised the localities. They have marked our streets, shops, playgrounds, even the apple orchards.

They know the size of our courtyards and backyards, as well as the the shape of our cowsheds.

They know everything.

As the protests and stone-pelting began, so did the congregational funeral prayers.

People began to count the dead. And the numbers kept rising.

The protest demonstrations kept swelling.

The campaign of killing, blinding, maiming and torturing people continued.

The Pakistan bogey

The protests were a sign of the Indian state losing all ground. The divisions that they had constructed — Shia-Sunni, Muslim-non-Muslim, Kashmiri-Ladakhi, Tableeghi-Salafi, majority-minority — to obfuscate the truth went up in smoke as the air was now incensed with songs of freedom.

But in the newsrooms in India, it was the perennial threat that was being accused of fomenting the trouble. Pakistan, they said, was responsible for causing unrest in Kashmir.

Sometimes, one imagines, if Pakistan were to tectonically shift from here to Antarctica, where would the Indian state and its jingoistic media derive their narrative from?

Who will they blame for their own failure and guilt, their own deception and debauchery?

A confrontation

Soon after (dates have lost their significance) the death of Burhan Wani, people of Rafiabad assembled near the Eidgah in Achabal.

The announcement was made through the mosques’ loudspeakers. People from adjacent villages poured in as well. As the numbers kept rising, so did the volume of the slogans, causing panic inside the Indian army camp nearby.

As the protesters neared the army camp, two armoured vehicles blocked the way on one side.

Rest of the road was sealed with barbed wires. The demonstration came to a halt, but the sloganeering did not.

Soon, there was chaos.

As stones were hurled at the armoured vehicles, more army men from the camp arrived and started moving toward the protesters with guns and lathis. A few protesters started to turn back.

A direct confrontation with the Indian army, we are told by our elders, should be avoided. But some among the protesters didn’t relent and stood their ground firm.

Several of them were later picked up. All security installations in Kashmir are equipped with high-quality surveillance cameras to keep watch on the people’s every movement.

From the footage, they identified the persons who were at the forefront of the march. They knew who these men were. They knew their addresses. They could pick them up from inside their bedrooms.

Inside the camp, they were tortured. One of the boys later told me about how they were made to stand naked, abused, spat on, and beaten with guns, sticks and belts till their bodies bled. They were given death threats and some were even made to jump naked in the river. Yet, after he came out of the prison, he was determined to protest again.

Another boy, in his pre-teens, lying flat in his room, smiled as I entered to see him. He didn’t appear to have been affected by the torture at all.

He was waiting for a bandage to be removed from his back. “I remember the face of the army man who beat me up”, he said, “I won’t spare him”.

He was clearly enraged. He wanted to avenge what was done to him.

It is this anger and this sense of revenge, especially among the youth, which the ‘experts’ on Kashmir amplify and manipulate to present the issue as a problem of inteqaam (revenge) alone.

They also see in the youth a rage informed by religious extremism.

Building a false narrative

For years now, these Kashmir ‘experts’ have dedicated all their energy and resources to maintain control over the Kashmir narrative that comes on TV screens and newspapers.

In April this year, when an Indian army trooper was accused of molesting a teenage female student in Kupwara, a group of reporters were dispatched from New Delhi to report the aftermath in which five protesters were killed, including a woman.

The Kashmiri reporters working for various Indian media organisations, barring a few exceptions, were asked to stand down or take leave of absence or just assist the reporters airdropped from New Delhi.

While the reporters filed contradictory versions of the actual incident, India’s Kashmir ‘experts’ were quick to process the information and construct a narrative which helped the government to systematically shift the focus from the molestation to the protests.

Praveen Swami, one of India’s leading Kashmir ‘experts’, a journalist who has the audacity to tell Kashmiris that he knows more about Kashmir than Kashmiris themselves, tried to historicise the violent protests. For him, “the underlying crisis in Kashmir needs to be read against the slow growth, from the 1920s, of neo-fundamentalist proselytising movements.”

He implied that allegations of sexual violence against an Indian army man do not merit any protests as per secular traditions and only religious movements, like the Jamiat Ahl-i-Hadith and Jamaat-i-Islami, can inspire people to take such a recourse.

Two more ‘experts,’ David Devadas and Aarti Tickoo Singh, whose writings have a clear streak of right-wing bigotry, indulged in victim blaming and in theologising the movement for self-determination in Kashmir.

Devadas wrote that the different “narratives emphasise that unarmed ‘civilians’ were killed by armed forces, with no reference to the fact that the mobs attacked an army bunker and a camp before the army retaliated”. Four months later, Devadas said that “it still isn’t clear what exactly lies at the heart of the current unrest.”

Aarti Tickoo Singh believes that in 2010 “stone pelting phenomenon that led to the death of over 100 youth during clashes with the forces was restricted to urban poor Sunni Muslim youth in Srinagar”. She also cites a study by Indian police officials that “lack of entertainment resources and Saudi-funded religious radicalisation” motivate the youth towards violence.

These ‘experts’ have time and again warned the people of Kashmir about the capabilities of the Indian State: you will be killed if you come out on the streets.

For them, the responsibility of Kashmiris getting killed by an Indian soldier is on the Kashmiris and not on the Indian state.

However, their ideological manipulations have been of little consequence to the people of Kashmir.

Men, women, young and old, come out daily in the streets of Kashmir with the slogan: Hum kya chahtey? Azaadi!

Freedom, self-determination and the right to live in peace are innate to a people. No matter how much violence the Indian state resorts to and no matter how much the country’s media manipulates the narrative surrounding what’s going on in Kashmir, the people of Kashmir will keep coming out on the streets to demand for their rights.

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Basharat Ali is Research Scholar at the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi.



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