Category Archives: India

Republic Day

Today is the Republic Day of India, the day which celebrates the passing of the Indian Constitution on January 26, 1950. Large parts of Srinagar has been under tight restrictions the whole weekend, as the fear of anti-government protests and militant activities is growing. Today celebrations will take place at Bakhshi Stadium, which is guarder by a three-tier security ring.

Amidst the increased tension on the subcontinent, Gilani, the PM of Pakistan, sent his well-wishes to his Indian colleagues and promised to take “this opportunity to reiterate our commitment to resolve peacefully all outstanding issues between the two countries to usher in an era of peace, progress and prosperity for the people of the subcontinent”.

Advertisements

The day before

Srinagar, 23 December 2008

Srinagar

Tomorrow the last round of state assembly elections are taking place in and around Srinagar, as well as in 13 constituencies in Jammu and Samba districts. The Kashmir Observer reports on little enthusiasm among the local population, mainly due to the intensive presence of the the military, anti-election protests and recurrent instances of violence.

Yesterday, the authorities once again inforced restrictions as anti-election protesters had thrown stones and brick on security forces. Unrest has also been reported in Sopore town in Baramulla, where suspected militants shot dead two police men. So far noone has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

As this election is the greatest opportunity for Kashmiris to gain political agency, it is a shame that it is wasted on violence and curfews. Acknowledging the voices for independence, democracy is currently the safest way to achieving justice and equality within the state.

India’s 9/11, Oklahoma City or Columbine?

During the last couple of days I have read several journalists and bloggers referring to the attacks in Mumbai last week as “India’s 9/11” (a quick Google search received 34,300 results, among at least the first 10 referred to Mumbai), or asking “Is Mumbai like Oklahoma City?” or stating “This is India’s Columbine”.

All these events were extremely tragic and obviously there are cross-cutting similarities, such as Islamic fundamentalism in the Twin Tower-case or young disillusioned nationals as in the other two cases. But even when I tried to make this brief generalisation here, we can see that it doesn’t work.

Islamic fundamentalism with connections to Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba, yes, but the targets were not only “Western”, but also Indian local such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Young, yes. But nationals? Hm. There are still uncertainties, rumours and guesses. But there seem to have been at least one Pakistani, a couple of British nationals of Pakistani background and a Maldivian.

Obviously it was a well-coordinated attack in style with September 11, but that doesn’t justifying the simplification of the motivations behind Mumbai. And whilst acknowledging the complexity of 9/11 for its own reasons, Mumbai is complex in itself.

My point is that we need to look at each case separately, to avoid simplifications that reduce our thinking to totalities such as “All terrorists are Muslims”, or “All Christians are fanatics”. Instead we must highlight the socio-economic structures and intersectional injustices that excludes individuals and groups from participating as equal individuals in our societies. We must never justify terrorism, but we must also never reduce it to only violence. It’s much more complex than that.

“We want Azadi and we will fight for it till our last breath”

So, the third round of State Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir has gone through. The Indian government reported a pretty high turnout, with 79% in Karnah constituency as the highest and 53.56% in Langate as the lowest. All figures, except Langate – which remained the same-. were higher than in 2002. But one may wonder how accurate these figures are. Allegations of fixed elections or tampered voting results are frequent in Kashmir. Also, often people have been forced out of their homes to vote, sometimes even under gunpoint.

In the constituency of Trehgam the Indian army attacked and abused a large crowd of women protesting against the elections and for independence. When the police cornered the group and snatched their banners, the crowd responded with stone-throwing, which exaggerated the protests. Yet, despite the violent abuse by the policemen, the anti-election protestors managed to get their voices heard, as the queues to the voting booths dispersed.

In Greater Kashmir these voices were cited.

Khalida: “We want Azadi and we will fight for it till our last breath. Voting will do us no good…”

Abdul Hameed: “We support the call given by CC and we would not cast our vote come what may. We have gathered here to see the people who come out to vote ignoring the sacrifices that Kashmiris have made all these years … All these years we have seen what Indian government is all about but every Kashmiri should understand that by casting the vote they are playing into the hands of India…”

But some other people regarded the voting as an important part of the democratisation and development process of the state.

Kaiser Malik: “I have been casting vote since I became eligible for voting. It is necessary to elect the representative who would work for our development. But this does not mean we don’t want Azadi.”

Sara: “We vote because we don’t want the same people to win again. They have ignored us all these years…”

And as the curfew is still imposed, despite some local clashes as those described above the Kashmir Valley has generally remained quiet. Policemen are stationed around Srinagar to keep people inside their houses. There were complaints about people not being allowed outside to buy milk and bread. Obviously Delhi fears more attacks after last week’s tragic rampage in Mumbai, both from militant Islamic groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and from secular or moderate pro-freedom orgainsations such as The Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee and Hurriyat.

However, one may wonder how far democracy can pushed in order for democracy to remain?

“Real” curfews this time

After announcements by the leaders of the two sections of the Hurriyat, Geelani and Farroq, about anti-elections protests after Friday prayers, the Indian establishment decided on official curfew around the state today. This was allegedly to preserve “law and order” from the threat of separatists. But, one can speculate in whether, after the attacks in Mumbai, the government is now afraid that Kashmir will see similar disaster. We don’t know whether they expect copycats or simply a follow-up attack in the paradise state, but one can assume Delhi is on high alert at the moment.

Only questions and concerns after Mumbai attacks

There’s too much going on – at the same time as I have to finish a draft for a funding application, the Taj hotel is still on fire and a hostage situation is still going on at Nariman. 142 reported dead so far. It puts things into perspective.

Some concerns:

1, Media has reported that at least one of the gunmen is a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani-based Jihadi group fighting in Kashmir. Among the other captured, it is alleged that there were 3 British nationals of Pakistani background, 1 Indian and 1 Mauritian. A pretty international group then.

But who are they representing? A representative from the International Centre for the Study Terrorism (I think) thought the Deccan Mujahideen was a subgroup of the Indian Mujahideen, which is the fighting part of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the largest Pan-Islamic movement in India.

What do they want? The immediate demand was the release of all incarcerated mujahideens in India. However. Would anybody go about with so much trouble, as the years of training, the amount of money invested, and the risks involved to “Only” demand the release of a couple of hundred prisoners? The extent of the attacks, the singling-out of foreigners and the choice of high-profile targets clearly show that the mastermind behind the ongoing terror wanted, no demanded, international media attention. Why?

2, The Indian PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was quick to point finger to India’s “neighbours” (read Pakistan) and their involvement in the attack. Pakistan quickly replied that it was too early to put blame somewhere and stated that the Pakistani government did everything to stop the terrorism in its own country. Now it is proved (or at least alleged) that at least some of the gunmen had direct links with Pakistan. The blame-game has started. How will this effect the ongoing CDP (the bilateral peace process that partly deals with Kashmir, but also nuclear prolifiration and other issues)? Was the purpose of the attacks to disturb this slow but forward moving process? Hardly anyone has noted that the attack happened on Wednesday, the same day as the Pakistani Foreign Minister went to New Delhi to continue the peace talks.

3, What effects will this have on Kashmir? What are the links with Kashmir?

4, Despite its secular constitution and agenda, and its aim to allow all religions in the public sphere, India has seen too much communal violence since its birth in 1947. What will happen after this? The Hindu rightwing party BJP quickly sided with the Indian government to help out solving the crisis. In a recent past, BJP has been directly and indirectly instigating violence against Muslims as well as imposing Hindu-related names on cities and monuments around India. The question is how the propaganda will develop from now on.

So, there seem to be only questions and concerns, but very little knowledge after the attacks on Mumbai this week.

Mumbai under attack

Last night the Indian capital of finance and entertainment was hit by a multiple of terrorist attacks. It was clearly coordinated, with targets such as the luxury hotels Taj and Oberoi, as well as a hospital, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Orthodox Jewish centre and the well-known restaurant Leopold Cafe.

Terrorist attacks have not been unusual in India’s recent history: This year only, there have been six big bomb attacks. However, the fact that the ongoing attack involved a combination of grenades, bombs and machines, and that the actors didn’t simply plant bombs, but are involved in fighting with the army and hostage taking, show a different strategy. A group called Deccan Mujahideen sent out emails to several Indian media companies yesterday claiming responsibility for the attacks. The Deccan Mujahideen is a previously unknown organisation, and it has been said that it is too early to know whether it is a real organisation or just a “cover-up” for an established organisation. Some think it’s an Al-Qaeda-style attack, whilst some argue for a homegrown movement..

More than 100 people have been reported killed, and 285 injured.