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Human Rghts & Kashmir in 1900s

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

kashmir-global-network : Message: [kashnet] Human Rghts & Kashmir in 1900s

Human Rghts & Kashmir in 1900s
Worst ever HR situation in Kashmir during 11 years
From Masood Hussain
SRINAGAR, Jan 2: For the last one decade, strife-ridden Kashmir is the
much-talked-about case of human rights. Insurgency and counter-insurgency
has made
almost every individual a victim of one or the other side. Though the crisis
had political
goals, it seems it is ending up as a strong case of human rights with
politics in the
background.

Academicians introspecting the last century are perturbed over the fact that
Kashmir’s
present-day identity as a “worst case of human rights” is nothing new.
Barring a brief
period of a few decades this century, they say, people had no human right
from 1752,
when the Afghans invaded and occupied Kashmir. “The human rights might be a
modern concept to the people but for us it has been the subject that made us
cry over
the centuries”, said Manzoor Ahmad, a history teacher.

“The interesting finding”, according to Abdul Rashid, a school teacher, “is
that the
history has repeated itself in such a fashion that the tools of terror which
were devised
by various regimes between 1752-1947 have all been put to use here during
last one
decade”. Barring the economic drainage of resources that was the hallmark of
the
pre-partition regimes, Kashmir was somehow used to the Begar (forced
labour),
deportations, detention in far away places, rapes, summary executions,
destruction of
houses, torture of various kinds though not this magnitude. Following the
past practice,
the situation has started in having a little but permanent impact on
architecture, life-style,
vocabulary and the thinking of the people.

The Mughal occupation, according to Dr Mohammed Ashraf Wani of the
University of
Kashmir’s History Department, marked the beginning of victimisation of
Kashmir.
Initially the economic interests were hit which gradually devoured the
routine basic rights
of the people in various regimes that followed. Barring brief periods in
which the people
were permitted to survive on their own, the terror was the buzzword of all
the regimes
from Afghan (1752-1819) to Sikh (1819-1846) and then to Dogras (1846-1947).
There
was no right of the people in any of these regimes. “A good number of people
were
migrants and not having a settled life till the beginning of this century as
they were
simple food-gatherers keen to ensure that the powerful do not snatch away
their meals”,
added Dr Ashraf.

“Afghans and the human rights are poles apart”, said Prof Abdul Majid
Mattoo, the KU
Registrar and the head of the Centre for Central Asian Studies. He referred
to one of
the governors Kakar Khan, who mutilated a corpse in order to create terror
among the
subjects on the first day of his arrival. “The right to life and property
was at the sweet
good will of the rulers”, he said. “As long as one paid taxes and avoided
challenging
authority of rulers, there were no major problems”, he added. There,
however, were
certain cases of the Kabul leaders marrying local women against their
wishes.

In the Sikh rule that followed, asserts Mattoo, there was terror and torture
on religious
grounds. Mosques were closed, heavy taxes were imposed and there were no
punishments for killing a Muslim. The tax collectors would add to the tools
of terror, he
added.

The subsequent Dogra rule that commenced from 1846 with the establishment of
the
state of Jammu & Kashmir was no different. “The biggest and the unparalleled
violation
of the human rights was the Treaty of Amritsar under which the British sold
Kashmir to
Gulab Singh on March 16, 1846 for a sum of Rs. 75,00,000 against the will of
the
people”, said Manzoor. Things did not change even after a Christian
missionary Arthur
Brinckman authored a pamphlet “The Wrongs of Kashmir”, pleading for direct
British
presence in the valley to prevent the people from blatant exploitation.

F M Fida Husnain, author of two books on Kashmir’s fight against the
Maharajas of
Jammu, paints a very grim picture of the human rights. People didn’t enjoy
rights over
anything. Hundreds would perish while taking rations for troops to Gilgit
via Bandipore
on their backs without any clothing, food or shelter. Their produce would be
taken away
by the rulers, people would not be permitted to take fish or beef, and there
would be
heavy taxation. “The state would not mind a female becoming a prostitute
here or in
Queta as long as she pays a sum of Rs. 100 to the Maharaja”, he said adding,
and “her
return to a virtuous life would be blocked”.

It was in this period that the first civil libertarian laid down his life
for Kashmir. Robert
Throp, one of the three siblings of Colonel Throp and Kashmiri women Jana
from Sugan
village (according to Husnain) came to Kashmir, the land of his mother.
Moved by the
misery on all fronts, he authored the famous “Cashmere Misgovernment”. He
was found
dead near Shankaracharya and laid to rest in the Christian missionary here.
Though
Husnain has sent the copy of his book to the International Court of Justice,
Geneva and
is seeking an apology from the descendents of Gulab Singh to Kashmiris, he
insists
that Hari Singh was the benevolent of them all. Singh, he says, stopped the
“export of
Kashmiri women to outside”, started education and initiated certain welfare
measures.

It was in this atmosphere that the beginning of this century marked the
start of a
movement for independence. After the people offered their sacrifices in 1931
and
afterwards, certain reliefs and rights were given to them after the Glancy
Commission
recommendations. After the fall of monarchy in the tricky situation of 1947,
some
revolutionary changes took place. Giving people the right to own was the
revolutionary
one. It restored the people’s economic rights over the years. Most of the
people were
satisfied with the changes taking place and they had most of the rights
barring the
political ones, only if they choose to oppose the popular will.

However, the division of the state and the subsequent emergence of a dispute
out of
Kashmir, did add to the problems. For most of the time Sheikh Mohammed
Abdullah,
Kashmir’s most powerful leader of the century, ruled from October 30, 1947
to August 9,
1953, he not only resented but suppressed the opposition, according to his
erstwhile
colleague Prem Nath Bazaz. The pro-Pakistan and pro-India but anti-Sheikh
were dealt
with the same stick. Defences of India Rules, Enemy Agents Ordinance and
Preventive
Detention Act were promulgated on one hand and on the other “a band of
ragtag and
bobtail was organised to humiliate the critics”.

After Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed was installed, he gave birth to the infamous
“peace
brigade”, the unofficial militia of the state that would do the wonders of
silencing the
opposition. Under Bakshi rule one could be imprisoned for five years,
released for a
few days and again detained for five years without trial and without serving
the grounds
of detention. In Bakhshi rule, observed Bazaz, “the moral degradation set in
hypocrisy,
dissimulation, lying and cowardice reappeared in the Kashmir and no longer
spoke
their minds fearlessly”.

The continuous denial of political rights did finally result in hate against
the process of
elections. This hate was sharpened by the secessionist militancy in such a
way that
there was a coffin in the main chowk of Anantnag in 1989 for the first
voter. And in 1999
polls, it was the boycott that won the game.

The post-1989 development on the human rights front is a separate chapter.
While it is
almost a mixture of the tools widely used by earlier regimes, the quantum of
violations
and its diversity was never so much. No death is documented in the earlier
times
because of torture-induced acute renal failure; no perforation of the gut
because of
insertion of crude foreign bodies from the rear; no rape in front of the
parents; and there
was no law permitting the state to destroy the house of its “misguided
citizen”. It was
only in the reign of Gulab Singh, that death by hot iron rods in custody of
cow-eaters
were reported. There were no shut-gun marriages, nor were the cases of
people
reported missing after their arrest. Killings were reported in every regime
but the
cemeteries never expanded at such a fast pace.

All existing indications on the human rights suggest that things are not
going to change
in the coming days. Many think the plight of human rights is the offshoot of
the main
political issue, once it is settled, things will change automatically. Since
the chances of
an early political settlement are unlikely, a section asserts the priority
must shift towards
the human rights. Both the views are roaming around with no change on the
ground.

Mass Media & Kashmir in 1900s
Print media witnesses many ups and downs
From Masood Hussain
SRINAGAR, Jan 1: Existence of “press” in the state in twentieth century
notwithstanding, the effective mass media appeared on the scene only in the
post-partition era. Most of the struggle against the Dogra monarchy that
dominated the
first four decades was carried out with the traditional tools of defiance,
protest and
voluntary arrests. The press, that was supportive to the Kashmir fight, was
far away in
the Punjab.

Though the emergence of the press in literal sense of the word dates back to
early
forties, its development is totally a post-partition story. So is the case
of radio that came
in 1948 and Television that arrived in early seventies. Though the state-run
media may
claim to have accomplished some of its targets, the print continues to be in
a position
where its struggle for being “responsive and free” is on so that it assumes
the image of
a “leader and trend setter” like other literate communities.

Of the 234 publications registered across the state, 84 are from Kashmir.
These include
43 daily-newspapers. Unlike recent past, Kashmir journalism is not
necessarily the Urdu
journalism as four newspapers are being published in English and three of
them are
available on the world wide web (www). Behind these “successes”, there is a
long
history in which the community underwent ups and downs, which during certain
regimes
led to the banning of a number of publications.

Dr Jawhar Qadousi, a scholar journalist, who has researched the subject,
divides the
history of media (more precisely print) in six different periods. The first
period that ends
with the partition, was the most primitive period during which there were
stringent laws
to prevent the publication of anything against the monarchy. The Glansy
Commission
Report of 1932, said Qadousi, did help in making things easier for the
people in
education and employment and so also the media. Some new papers started
coming
out with a bit of more independence and the monarchy would not go against
them, he
added.

However, in the second period (1947-1953) in which it was Sheikh Mohammed
Abdullah ruling the “just freed state”, things started changing fast. No
criticism was
accepted. Qadousi refers to the “dragging and beating” of Somnath Tickoo in
December 1948, by the National Conference (NC), despite that his paper was
pro-NC.

The Press Act, which had been amended by Maharaja to make things easier for
the
newspapers, was amended again and made harsher. The period witnessed the
rise of
various pro-NC newspapers. After his arrest, Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed took the
control and unleashed his “infamous” peace brigade against the media.
Qadousi, who
terms 1953-63, as the third period of the media, says 16 newspapers were
banned by
the regime.

The subsequent regimes of Gulam Mohammed Sadiq and Syed Mir Qasim (1964-75)
were affordable. Sadiq, he says, was initially supportive but in 1965 and
1967; he
banned 16 other newspapers. “By and large he was supportive and soft and Mir
Qasim
also continued with the same policy”, he added.

He terms the fifth phase of 1977-88 as the best period for the print media
in Kashmir.
There was a better quantum of freedom available and the proprietors
installed the offset
printing presses. This helped in expanding the readership that was limited
to the ruling
elite, bureaucracy and the upper stratum of the society.

The sixth phase that started from 1989 and continues has been the worst and
the most
challenging phase. Though it helped newsmen in proving their acumen while
the guns
were shooting from all sides, the era claimed lives of eight persons from
this
microscopic community. At certain junctures, the community would be at the
receiving
end from all the parties involved in the mess. In the history of print media
in Kashmir, the
newspaper never witnessed so much of circulation of their papers, however,
neither of
them could maintain it in the subsequent years.

“Sometimes, the freedom of the press seemed to be a myth”, said a
journalist, “and
sometimes one feels being suffocated”. They have been working under pressure
and
duress from various sides at the same time. “Is not it difficult to manage
peace with all
parties on a single incident that involves them all ?”, said a reporter,
“long live the
concept of so called balancing the copy”. That the Kashmir scribes have been
working
on a razor’s edge for the last over one decade is an old story now. The new
story is that
there are concerted efforts at various levels to play with the credibility
of the people
reported from Srinagar.

“Some newspapers were having six to eight pages before the militancy set in
and now
you see how difficult it is for a proprietor to change even a single page of
his
publication”, says Qadousi. With pressures from all the quarters, it has hit
the news
content, which ultimately has affected the quality. This all has helped the
newspapers to
witness a slump in their circulation. With these challenges before the print
media in the
twentieth, it seems the publication of a “complete language (Urdu)
newspaper” from
Srinagar becomes an agenda for the next century.

The print media in Kashmir has not registered its role-player status in the
society which
has been its biggest failure and that has given it the image of a parasitic
bourgeois in
the power elite and hagiographer among the commoner. It has avoided
addressing its
economic aspect. With quite a few newspapers self-sufficient, most of the
rest are a
flouting lot. Of late, the language press has started recruiting the
professionals. The
Kashmir University is running two units – Medi
a Education & Research
Department and
Audio Video Research Department with the candidates getting post-graduate
degrees.
Since both the courses are meant for the English and the electronic media,
the
language press is not getting professional help.

Unlike print media, the case of state-run public broadcasting is more or
less a success
stories as far as their targets and reach is concerned. Radio came into
being in 1948
with the primary aim to counter the offensive broadcasting being made on the
other side
of the Kashmir, or the other part of India that was by then the Islamic
Republic of
Pakistan.

While delivering this primary duty, the radio became the most powerful
medium in the
state. It contributed in imparting non-formal education to the people.
Besides, trying to
guide the peasant, the main worker of the Valley’s agrarian economy, it did
prove a
source of entertainment.

However, its biggest crisis was the migration of its Regional News Unit
(RNU) to
Jammu for a couple of years (after 1990), during which, it would broadcast
the lie – Yeh
Radio Kashmir Srinagar Hai. Because of its compulsions, the RNU would
broadcast
everything that would neutralise the gains of the institution on other
fronts.

DD’s story is no more different. Its news section also migrated after its
Director Lassa
Koul was gunned down. However, its reach is limited as least number of
people own the
TV sets. The erratic power supplies and the presence of more international
channels
has made its reach more limited.

Though the twin institutions can claim a right of helping the local
litterateur, the poet,
singer and other related professionals, but the monitory benefits did went
straight-away
to certain families and groups while society got a lot of gossip, scandals
and the new
narcissist trends in various periods. DD might have done hundreds of
programmes, the
fact is that people do not remember anything beyond Hazaar Dastaan.

As far the Internet, the fastest growing information highway that has
started transforming
the life, Kashmir is not lagging behind other areas in the third world. Of
the five
newspapers from the state available on the net, three are from Kashmir.
Infact Kashmir
was on the net much before the facility came to Kashmir in 1998. Perhaps
Kashmir is
the only place from the third world that dominates over one lakh web pages
on the net.

Ask rediff.com, a respectable on-line newspaper, about Kashmir – they have
28, 011
sites available as their “editor’s choice”. Search through the routine
search engines
Yahoo and MSN, you get 21 standard linking sites and 200 top spots,
respectively. And
if you choose the Alta Vista, it would offer you 84,905 web pages. Even the
amazon.com, the biggest bookstore on the net, you have 303 titles about
Kashmir
available on the first day of the 2000.

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