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Bhaand Pather: The Fading Folk art

Bhaand Pather: The Fading Folk art

Bhaand Pather is the traditional folk theatre form performed by the ‘Bhaands’, folk artists of Kashmir. Historians believe that the Bhaands of the Mughal period successfully symbolized the aspirations of...

April 15

At around 11:45 a gunfight raged in South Kashmir’s Kulgam District late night on Tuesday, when three Militants opened fire on a party of Government Forces. More troops from 1 Rashtriya Rifles, Jammu Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force were called in and a siege was placed around the Wani Mohallah in the locality. As soon as Gunshots reverberated in the area, Civilians in large numbers hit the streets to disrupt the Anti Militancy Operation, which is not new to this area, in fact, the chain of stone throwing at encounter sites commenced here In 2015 when civilians took out a march for the first to give a chance to two Trapped Militants to escape. One civilian Asif Ahmad Tantray was killed near the scene of encounter, allegedly shot dead by troops.

Khudwani in South Kashmir not more than five Kilometers away from the District headquarters of Islamabad District has seen at least 80 deaths of locals since the explosion of an armed Militancy in 1988. The area has three Graveyards reticent for people killed by Government Forces (Shaheed), One in Redwani, in Rampura and in Hawoora. On Wednesday, Khudwani in Southern Kashmir’s Kulgam District again saw four civilian deaths, two of them natives of Khudwani.

“This has been the only area where Government Forces have never been able to achieve any success, it is not due to the topography or location of this area, but due to the resilient people in the area,” a resident Bilal Ahmed told.

Civilians in huge numbers came out on the Tuesday night to give a chance to trapped Militants to escape. Announcements were made on the loudspeakers asking others to come out and help the trapped Militants. Allegedly youth paid for a truck loaded with stones and got it unloaded near a bridge in the area. Massive Stone throwing clashes witnessing use of pellets, tear gas shells and bullets began. In the struggle to save Militants, four civilians, Faisal Allie (15 years), A class 9th Student Bilal Ahmed Tantray (17 Years old), a class 12th Student, Aijaz Ahmed Pala, 30 years old and a father of a 7 Month old girl. A youth namely Sharjeel Ahmed Sheikh who was scheduled to be married on the 15th of April was also shot dead allegedly when he was coming out post a morning bath.

After the Killing of Burhan Wani in 2016 July, a storm of civilian uprising began in Kashmir with Southern part of Kashmir as its centre and without a doubt Khudwani as the centre in South Kashmir. A series of Pro Freedom rallies were held here which witnessed a mass participation of public. It was here that Militants openly addressed the crowds during a public rally on 14 August 2016.

According to a senior security official, places like Khudwani Belt, Tahab Belt, Litter Belt, Koil belt, Heff belt have virtually become 'no-go' areas for Government Forces because of the hostility from the locals.

As the encounter that raged on Tuesday night between Militants and Government forces was called off after massive search operations and bombardment, people in droves of hundreds and thousands shouting pro Militancy Slogans reached the encounter site and allegedly rescued the Militants from the basement of a house. Later Militants on two wheelers appeared to the crowds chanting slogans and thanking the General public who rather than mourning the death of four civilians, shouted in Joy and whistled and cheered at a mere glimpse of three Militants.

“We are fighting for Allah, there is no mourning in our death, we fight for truth, Truth never dies from any land,” Aaqib Malik, a Redwani resident who is among a huge group of youth who have gathered near the encounter site said.

The ground reality in Kashmir is changing slowly but surely and it can be gauged even from plain statistics. If in 2013, 31 local youths joined militancy, the number for 2015 (till September-end) jumped to 63, in 2016, around 90 and in 2017, 124 Local youth joined Militancy.

As per stats, the heightened militancy this year is receiving ground support with the local people posing maximum resistance to the forces, especially during the Anti Militancy operations. As many as a dozen Local youth have flanked the Militant ranks In the first three months of 2018 as per records while as 415 local youth have  joined militancy in since 2014. From Khudwani Belt, more than 20 Youth have joined Militant ranks which include known slain commanders like Majid Zargar, Dawood Sheikh, Junaid Matoo and the presently active Altaf Kaczroo. Altaf is an A++ category militant who carries cash bounty of Rs 12.5 lakh on his head. For two years repeatedly he featured in the List of Army’s most wanted Militants.

Shakoor Ahmed Ganie is the latest one from the Khudwani to join Militancy among 15 others who have joined Militancy post the killing of Burhan Wani of Tral. Shakoor joined the Militant ranks on the 30th day of March.

The region post 2016 has seen a massive eruption of support for Militancy as well as the resistance movement. “Youth here in this area support Militancy, support the resistance Movement and they are cordially connected to both,” Junaid another youth from the area said.

A Security Official said that people in these areas support Militancy and many of them are over ground workers (OGW) to Militants. These OGW groups forewarn the militants about the movement of troopers, helping them to easily slip into adjoining regions like Shopian, Budgam or Islamabad (Anantnag). Most youth are first inducted as over ground workers (OGWs) before they are inducted into the ranks, a police official said.

“Immediately after we hear the news of Movement of Government Forces in the area, crowds spontaneously hit the streets, throwing stones on them,” Aaqib said.

Aaqib also claimed that last year there was a flood scare and the Administrative officials visited the area, Locals chased them with axes, Stones and sticks. Disruption of Cordon and Search Operations has been a norm in the area. “Most number of Cordon and Search Operations have been launched here,” Bilal said.

“Many youth have been injured during clashes here since 2010, hit with bullets, pellets and Tear Smoke Shells,” said Adil Ahmed  (Name Changed on Request), 23 years who was bullet wounded during post encounter clashes in 2017 at Arwani adding that his family is mentally prepared that they will send their son to Militant Ranks.

The most ‘volatile’ areas in South Kashmir are Heff-Shrimal in Shopian, Tral of Pulwama district, Khudwani in Kulgam and Samboora, Lelhar of Pulwama. These are the areas which are dotted with apple orchards and lead to dense forests where militants are holed up, a security official posted in South Kashmir said.

The intelligence network of the militant groups, which had ended in mid-1990s, is understood to have revived again and the terrorists come to know about the advancement of security forces, giving them an advantage to flee the area, he added.

“You may imprison a person, but you cannot imprison his mind. According to me they are fringe elements but we have to fight the idea,” the late Mufti Sayed had once said.

On ground in Kashmir, it is definitely not the reality. More Bunkers popping up, new camps established, civilian killings, extra CASOs, and frequent internet bans, the struggle of people to dignity and justice never ends.

The tragedy over the past two decades though has been that neither the Regional Government nor New Delhi is earing the new reality and looking at Kashmir beyond an issue of Security and more tragically unemployment.

“Modi cannot throw money at us. If he thinks that a package will help people forget the blood of Kashmiris, that will never happen,…”Ghulam Nabi Dar, an old aged man from Khudwani says.

Published in Write ups
Saturday, 14 April 2018 11:12

The World Heading Towards World War III

April 14

While India is fighting its own battles, wanting the world to have Indian poor men treated like third world subclass Humans and providing the world their men as labour on a platter at rat-costsMore than 100 cruise missiles were fired at targets in Syria post  the chemical attack in the held Damascus suburb of Douma, which Western powers have routinely blamed – with no proof whatsoever – on Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad, At least 40 people counting children as well were reported to have been killed on April 4 this year.

How would it benefit Assad using chlorine gas last weekend? Surely, it should not, as Assad’s forces had been winning the war in Syria.

The Syrian administration had just announced its plans to pull American troops out of Syria, having vanquished IS [Islamic State] - That is fine news for Assad. About the only thing he could do to reverse it and to hurt him would be to use poison gas against civilians.

The Trump administration bombarded Syria a year ago after dozens were killed in another chemical attack that was blamed on Assad, with the US and its allies refusing to entertain the possibility that ruthless rebels trying to incriminate government forces might well have been responsible.

The fact is that chemical weapons in this horrific civil war have been used by both the Syrian military and IS groups – some of whom are really cruel extremist outfits and nothing like the champions of democracy they are regularly portrayed as by the West calling them, revolutionaries.

This sort of talk, by the way, is instantly condemned by the mainstream narrative as heresy, facts and legitimate doubts are damned. Now it’s happening again, with the US and its British and French global policing cronies raining more than 100 missiles on Syria.

The actual disturbing caveat this time is that the Russians, who have boots on the ground to prop up the regime, are looking to retaliate. That would be a very alarming escalation indeed, and far more informed people than I, are warning of the real threat of a third world war.

“We are prepared to sustain this response,” Trump said.

Would it make America or the world safer? Would it make the Middle Easter region more stable? Let’s see, how exactly did regime change work in Iraq and Libya?

With Assad gone who would run it, exactly? Do we have another strongman in place to install or is it our hope that a stable democracy will magically appear in the wake of this protracted civil war like In Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq?

Trump a few years ago had cautioned his predecessor Barack Obama to stay out of Syria or risk the end of the world regularly sent out tweets like this one: “Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III.”

Well, suffice to say there’s more than a “small chance” of Armageddon, under his own “horrendous leadership” this time.

Escalating tensions may be focused on Syria, but the Baltic States are described as a shield between Russia and the rest of Europe.

French president Emmanuel Macron even this week spoke of the importance of the region, saying they are made “all the more important in a very troubled and uncertain international context”.

Russia has at least six armies’ worth of troops and equipment right on the edge of the Baltic.

Too bad about his unending amnesia, but maybe we can hope against hope that Trump will still heed advice actually worth taking.

Published in News

April 08

Rouf Bashir Khanday was 20, when he was shot dead by a Joint team of 19RR, SOG of Jammu Kashmir Police and CRPF in Dialgam area of South Kashmir on the intervening night of 31st March and 1st of April.

Rouf hails from Dehruna village of Islamabad (Anantnag) District in South Kashmir which was once a nucleus of Pro Pakistan Militants in early 90’s. Last year a civilian named Mudasir Ahmed Chopan was killed in the village about 8 Kilometers distant from the District headquarters of Islamabad (Anantnag).

Post the Killing of Burhan Wani on 8th July in South Kashmir around 230 Local Boys have picked up arms. Security Agencies feel there is a difference between present day militants and those of the early 1990s. The ideological conviction of the present lot is stronger than that of the terror groups during the early days, they feel.

While a majority of the boys belong to the average middle class, militants like Rouf Bashir Khanday from Dehruna in south Kashmir show a trend that literate students from well-to-do families are also picking up arms. The young boys are opting for Militancy knowing full well that they are at the risk of being killed and the shelf life for a Militant as shown a great decline to 3-4 months. South Kashmir which has lately turned into a fertile ground for Militancy has seen a wave of local youth taking up Arms. The harrowing tales of the new age Militants- who hardly know each other but all risk their lives by siding against the Indian State.

One of the first youth to pick up Arms was Dawood Sheikh from Kulgam District, A Stone Pelter turned Militant who was shot dead in 201 at the age of 22. Dawood’s story is the story of most of the Youth who have picked up arms post 2010 in Kashmir, Profiled in the Police stations- Humiliated, Offended and then they take up arms.

Rouf was 16, when in August 2016 he was picked up by Government Forces while riding his two-wheeler in South Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) District. “Merely for having photos of Stone Throwing incidents and Local Militants, he was detained for nearly 45 Days wherein he was tortured too,” said his brother Ashiq Hussain Khanday. After his return from Jail, Rouf became almost mute and used to spend most of his time studying and praying. “He rarely used to speak to anyone post his release, he did not even speak of the torture he faced in the Joint Interrogation Center, his friends told us,” Ashiq said.

“He was constantly called by the Police Stations to keep a record of his activities since his release in October 2016,” his father said. In March he told his family that he was going to visit a friend in Jammu and a few days later his parents filed a Police complaint as there was no trace of Rouf.

On 27 March, a photo of Rouf holding a Gun became viral over social Networking after which his father spent many afternoons and evenings crouched over the phone screen, sending encrypted messages to friends and relatives, seeking help.

Four Days later, on April 01, a Cordon and Search Operation was launched in Verinag area, however soon gunshots were heard in another village, 12 Kilometers away from Verinag. The 19 Rashtriya Rifles of Indian Army, 40 Battalion of Central Reserve Police Force and Jammu Kashmir Police had specific information about Rouf being trapped in a residential house in Dialgam area.

The Senior Superintendent of Jammu Kashmir Police (SSP) for the Islamabad (Anantnag) district while speaking to a News channel called it one of the toughest operations of his life. Altaf Khan, the SSP also said that he tried his finest to convince Rouf to surrender, however he failed. His parents were also transported to the house, but they also could not make Rouf lay down his arms.

At least 16 militants, who have picked up arms in the last three months, when engaged with forces in an encounter and beseeched by their family members, have actually laid down their Arms.

Bashir Ahmed Khanday in conversation with The Kashmiriyat said that when they SSP was trying to convince him, Rouf responded, “I remember how Police tortured me in 2016, I do not want to face the torture yet again.” He also told the Senior Superintendent of Police that his life would be a misery when he has committed an offence, when he was tortured without committing an offence in 2016. The SSP however in conversation with The Kashmiriyat denied having any conversation as such with Rouf.

“We told him, your sister is getting married tomorrow, Do you not want to see her turning into a bride,” his brother said while they had a conversation with Rouf over the phone. The family claimed that they did not want Rouf to surrender for they did not want him to be in the Custody of Police or be tortured. In this last telephonic conversation his mother is also heard saying that the entire family is proud of him as he chose ‘the path of truth.’ She also advised Rouf to pray before his death.

The firing continued for nearly two hours and after 2 hours, the house was blasted turning it into garbage, mud and timber. Rouf had been killed. But his body was terribly disfigured. “We could not find the head and the portion underneath his abdomen,” his brother said. He also demanded an intervention of the international community into the alleged use of Chemical weapons. “Why is the world not heeding any ear to the usage of chemical weapons in Kashmir?” his brother asked. As of April 2018, 192 states including India have accepted the obligations of The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors.

Thousands in all age groups turned up at his funeral and mourned his death. Women were wailing and the impression that one got after witnessing this was that a Young blooming boy had turned into a martyr. The crowds at the funerals of militants like in Rouf’s suggest a sense of defiance. There is a great deal of insecurity among the youth in particular who complain of being alienated. Such an existing scenario in Kashmir has led to this defiance and attending these funerals is nothing but an attempt to send a message out to the government. As per the intelligence wing, grand funerals motivate other youths of the state to join militant groups.

“We are in mourning, but we do not regret his death, this was God’s will, and I’m proud of it. Something has to happen in Kashmir. Something has to change,” his father said. He also feels that Rouf chose a brave death than dying in his bed many years from now. His brother also claimed that this was the first time in the history of Kashmir that it took them three days to bury Rouf. “The Locals of the Dialgam area recovered his arm from the debris of the house he was trapped in one day after his encounter and they brought it in a scarf, we buried his arm besides his grave,” his brother, Ashiq said. He also said that the very next day Rouf’s leg was recovered from the debris and they buried the legs on day three. “It took us three days to bury him completely,” his father, Bashir Ahmed Khanday said.

The Locals in the area also spoke of another boy from Srinagar Eisa Fazili who was killed in a gun battle in a nearby village Hakura. One of the Locals, Arif Rashid told, “He was often noticed in this area without any arms, but we hardly knew who he was.” Eisa was an engineering graduate before he picked up Arms in defiance of Indian State. He was from a well-to-do family and was a homely, docile boy, as per his family.

The New Age Militants have transgressed the spaces of economy and education. Educated and rich boys as well are taking up arms in defiance. Social Media posts have also been a cause of worry for Security agencies across Kashmir. “Viral videos that capture militants at play and leisure, shocking videos of alleged rights excesses committed by security forces on Kashmiri civilians has done a great damage,” a security official stated. Youth also notify their families through social networking sites that they have joined Militant Ranks.

Internet is often gagged in Kashmir valley as Indian Army has intensified operations against Militants. Official figures reveal that 59 Militants have been killed in the Anti Militancy Operations this year. However more youth are joining the militant ranks causing worry to the Security Agencies.

“India needs to stop pushing the youth to be violent, They have to sit on a dialogue table after confidence Building measures, which can only ensure peace in Jammu Kashmir and an end to the bloodshed.”

Published in More

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