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July 3, 2020

Kashmir’s anguish

Editorial

 
July 3, 2020

Despite the violent world we live in, where incidents such as the death of George Floyd in the US around a month ago shocked the world, there are atrocities which are so appalling it is difficult to believe any human being could commit them. In Indian-occupied Kashmir, in the town of Sopore, such an incident took place on Wednesday. A 65-year-old man, Bashir Ahmad Khan, who had driven out from his home on an errand, was shot dead by the Central Reserve Police Force who had at the time been engaged with militants. Local people, including his family, say Bashir Ahmad was killed by the security forces, possibly while seated in his car. But the incident grows even grimmer. Pictures of Aayad, the three-year-old grandson of Bashir Ahmad who had accompanied him, sitting on the body of his dead grandfather and sobbing went viral. People allege the picture was taken by the police. There are also other pictures of a police official carrying Aayad. The police chief in Kashmir Vijay Kumar says the boy was rescued by officials, and a militant bullet had killed his grandfather. Other angles of the same photograph show that the police officer carrying the small child had his foot placed on the body of the child’s dead grandfather.

The incident has caused a wave of anger to run across the tortured territory of Kashmir. Local people blame the police for exploiting the child and for killing Bashir Ahmad. Amnesty India, the local wing of the international human rights body, has condemned the incident as a violation of the rights of a child. Major political parties in Kashmir, including the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, have both spoken up against the brutality involved in the CRPF action. Condemnations continue to come in from major politicians.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. The brutality of the Indian security forces in Occupied Kashmir have become the norm. People in the area face them virtually every day. They range from arrests to torture to killings and harassment. It is also becoming obvious that the Indian government has decided to change the demographic profile of Kashmir by removing the rule that allowed only permanent residents to own land in the area and instead grant Kashmiri domicile status and the same rights to retired government officials who had served in the region, their children, persons who have graduated from an educational institution in the area and others moving in to the region. This could mean the Muslim majority status of Kashmir would change. The same policy is being followed in Ladakh, once a part of Kashmir, to tighten Indian control over what is now a union territory. The misery of the Kashmiri people seems unending. Even small children are not spared. Yet the world has failed to speak up against the inhumanity seen on a daily basis, especially after Article 370 of the Indian constitution was removed in August last year. We need to hear more voices condemning what is happening in Kashmir. Until the world speaks up, until notice is taken of the unending violence, there can only be more bloodshed, more death and more tragedy in the valley whose people have been left virtually to themselves.