The Holocaust in Kashmir
There is a crisis in Kashmir – a disputed land overseen by India. According to the Facebook group, International Campaign for Human Rights in Kashmir (LIKE THEM HERE TO SUPPORT): To gather support for Kashmir human rights activists and defenders who are advocating for their civil, political, social, and economic rights within the framework of international treaties and standards that define Kashmirs obligations.
They want India to end the brutal occupation of Kashmir, their homeland. The Kashmir dispute is the oldest unresolved international conflict in the world today. Pakistan considers Kashmir as its core political dispute with India. So does the international community, except India.
India’s forcible occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 is the main cause of the dispute. India claims to have ‘signed’ a controversial document, the Instrument of Accession, on 26 October 1947 with the Maharaja of Kashmir, in which the Maharaja obtained India’s military help against popular insurgency. The people of Kashmir and Pakistan do not accept the Indian claim. There are doubts about the very existence of the Instrument of Accession.
The United Nations also does not consider Indian claim as legally valid: it recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory. With the exception of India, the entire world community recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory. The fact is that all the principles on the basis of which the Indian subcontinent was partitioned by the British in 1947 justify Kashmir becoming a part of Pakistan: the State had majority Muslim population, and it not only enjoyed geographical proximity with Pakistan but also had essential economic linkages with the territories constituting Pakistan. since 1989, India has maintained a military occupation of the Kashmir Valley by more than half a million soldiers, police, paramilitaries, and other armed “security” forces brought in from outside Kashmir.
NDTV reports on the violence directed towards those trying to cover the crisis (source): Cameramen were punched. Reporters abused and threatened. A journalist beaten up so ruthlessly he was left with two fractured ribs.
Covering disasters is not easy. Journalists sign up for it because there are stories worth telling. Knowing there would be appreciation for some reports and uncensored criticism after others.
All in a good day’s work so no hard feelings. But what happened in Kashmir while covering the floods has been disturbing and heart-breaking.
Our team was perhaps the first to go on a rescue mission with the army. Paradise was under water. The only way to move around was with the forces in army trucks and boats.
One evening, around 9:30 pm, our boat rescued one officer and ten civilians – all local Kashmiris.
But as the soldiers stretched out their hand to the locals, young men showered abuses on the men in uniform. Even a young Kashmiri man who dared to hop onto the boat, wasn’t spared.
Half in disbelief, half in fear, we hastily switched off our cameras. A mob isn’t amenable to reason.
Thousands were waiting for help — surviving somehow on rooftops, lashed by incessant rains. They were angry, perhaps allowed to vent and scream at the helping hands. Or were they?
On our way back, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, the army truck transporting us and the rescued men and women to safety, got stuck in neck-deep water.
We stopped filming and used the camera lights to signal for help instead. Just for evidence, we rolled 10 seconds of video.
“Stop shooting, you Indians,” screamed the rescued Kashmiris.
Appalled and hurt, I snapped back. Wasn’t my team stuck with them too?
It was a natural reaction and I thought justified, but at the same time felt guilty. These people were going through hell, they have the right to scream. I should be quiet. But why did they have to keep bringing India in? And insult the soldiers risking their own lives to save theirs?
The reaction of the people towards us could have been for a variety of reasons. Help reached late and many of their near and dear ones were still stuck. The trust deficit towards the Indian state and all its symbols led them to believe the cameras were rolling only to praise the forces – men a section of Kashmiris have been fighting against. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said it wasn’t those in need of the relief who were pelting stones at the choppers and the army, but “those who traditionally fish in troubled waters”. The separatist sentiment was certainly being provoked.
Their anger was understandable, their hatred wasn’t.
The constant attacks made it difficult for many of us to venture out as often and as freely as necessary to record that massive humanitarian crises.
Did that help them? Reportage during natural disasters is crucial in bringing people’s focus to disaster zones. Everything depends on that — rescue, relief and donations… the much needed blankets, drinking water, medicines and food.
If a section of Kashmiris felt the media has failed them in covering the floods, they must understand they failed the media too. At a time like this, humanity must get precedence over the politics of conflict.
Restricting the press wouldn’t help.
The unsung heroes of the tragedy? The volunteers, students and shikarahwallahs, who not only helped the journalists but also ferried the tourists and locals alike to safety.
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