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“Cruelty and Cowardice in Kashmir” – New York Times

“Cruelty and Cowardice in Kashmir” – New York Times
--Courtesy "The New York Times"

Members of India’s armed forces reached a new low in the long history of alleged human rights abuses in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir when they beat and then tied a 24-year-old shawl weaver named Farooq Ahmad Dar to the front of a jeep on April 9, using him as a human shield against stone-throwing crowds. As the jeep drove through villages, Mr. Dar said, “I saw people breaking into tears on seeing my state.”

The incident, which came to light when a video spread on social media, provides a gauge of an insurgency that has waxed and waned over nearly three decades in Kashmir, an area also claimed by Pakistan, which supports the rebels. Unrest surged last July after Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a charismatic, 22-year-old separatist militant, was killed by Indian security forces. The police responded by firing on protesters with pellet guns, killing scores and injuring thousands, many of whom were blinded by pellets lodged in their eyes.

The abuse of Mr. Dar occurred the day Kashmiris voted to fill a seat in the local Srinagar assembly. Following a call by separatists to boycott the election, only 7 percent of local Kashmiri voters turned out to vote, a low not seen in 27 years. Eight people were killed amid reports of widespread violence. A new vote was held on April 13, but only 2 percent of voters showed up. Mr. Dar, who says he never supported the separatists, complained: “I voted, and this is what I got in return. Do you think it will help India in Kashmir? No. It will give Kashmiris another reason to hate India.”

India’s army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat, has vowed action against those responsible for tying Mr. Dar to the jeep. But he has also thundered against Kashmir’s stone-throwing youth and separatist militants, saying in February: “They may survive today, but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue.”

Such posturing will only doom Kashmir to a deadly spiral, where more brutal military tactics will feed more despair and more militancy. In January, a team of concerned citizens presented a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Citing strong feelings of discrimination and a “complete lack of faith” by Kashmiris in government promises, it pleaded for improved human rights and a multiparty dialogue aimed at a durable political solution.

Mr. Modi’s government would do well to follow the recommendations of the report, before Indian democracy loses its credibility and Kashmiris are robbed of a chance to dream, along with the rest of India, of a peaceful, prosperous future.

–Courtesy “The New York Times”