Tag Archives: India

Peace process frozen?

Last week, in a draft for a research funding application, I wrote about the small steps forward in Indo-Pakistani peace dialogue: In October this year trade links between Srinagar (in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, IJK) and Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-administered ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, AJK). Last Wednesday the Foreign Ministers of the two states were to meet in New Delhi and discuss what the next step would be. Instead we have seen accusations thrown back and forth, and fears are voiced that the peace process has gone down the drain.

It seems to me, however, that India so far has been the actor with the hardest words. This is probably pretty obvious as the attack took place on Indian soil and was aimed at Indian citizens, but also foreigners of course. But, I also think that the Pakistani government is really scared of an Indian or multilateral attack. The civilian government that came into power in September this year has no control on what’s going on inside its borders, whether it’s guerilla training in AJK, ethnic violence in Karachi, Taliban fighters in the North West or earthquake survivors in Balochistan. In a case of a military involvement, the country would fall into pieces.

India has demanded extradition of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don alleged to have planned the serial bombings in Mumbai in 1993 that killed around 300 people. Pakistan has refused, as they claim there is a lack of proof. Instead they have offered a ‘joint investigation team’ to be sent to India.

The real reason for Pakistan’s refusal is probably that they don’t know where these people are.

But, what is more important, instead of stalling the peace process, the Pakistani links could actually be yet another step towards friendship on the subcontinent. A successful joint investigation team could find the perpetrators, charge them for their crimes, and source and stop their funding to avoid future attacks. An idealistic thought maybe, but it’s the only way if India and Pakistan want to continue to present themselves as democracies and enemies of terrorism, as well as to preserve peace in their front- and backyards.

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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.

Democracy vs. Independence?

The leader of the pro-India party the National Conference, Dr Farooq, told journalisits of The Greater Kashmir that he was happy that Pakistan, the United Jihad Council and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen had not interfered. He highlighted the fact that the NC stood for good governance and the separatists for indepence – two facts that are not incompatible.

I would agree with Dr Farooq: good governance and independece are not two opposite poles. Democracy, human rights and cease-fire are essential for the empowerment and improvement of the quality of life of the Kashmiri people.

But, there seem to be more than approval of elections that keep the separatist groups quiet this time. The leaders of the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Sajad Ghani Lone and Bilal Ghani Lone, have been kept under house arrest the last week. For the Indian Government it has been a crucial policy to keep the anti-election voices silent in order to produce a high turnout.

Clearly this brings us back to the discussion about democracy that is as old as democracy itself – what to do with undemocratic forces in a democratic system? And as the pro-independence groups in Kashmir (well, the most of them at least) are not against democracy per se, but only objects to the Indian-administered democracy (with or without airquotes), it becomes even more confusing.