Black Day Kashmir: Dedicated to those who opened my eyes.

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Half-widow waiting for return of husband missing in Kashmir

Today is 27th October Black Day Kashmir which observes the date in 1947 when Indian troops entered Kashmir.

In gross violation of the law and ‘Partition Plan of the Indian Subcontinent’, India forcibly landed its troops in princely state of Jammu and Kashmir on 27th October 1947.
Every year, the day is marked as Kashmir Black Day by total strike. Different functions, protest demonstrations and anti-India rallies are taken out in the occupied territory, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and also in the world capitals. This year too, the Kashmiris are observing October 27th as the Black Day to demonstrate to the world that they will never yield to Indian repression.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/editors-picks/24-Oct-2013/reasons-to-observe-kashmir-black-day

Whilst living under occupation the people of Kashmir have witnessed countless atrocities and been subjected to repeated human rights violations as I learned for myself in 1991.

In the late summer of 1991 I set off with a friend Christy, an Indian tour guide and a party of Italian mountaineers to trek in Ladakh to the base camp of Kun, the Indian side of the Himalaya where the experienced climbers would attempt the summit. I had flown from the UK to Delhi and then on to Srinagar to join the group.

I knew something of the history of Kashmir and had recently read a Guardian article detailing a massacre earlier that year. The advice was not to travel there but as I would be mainly in transit decided to go ahead with my plans.

Arriving at Srinagar, I realized how tight security was, the Indian army were everywhere. Most of the hotels appeared to be taken over by the military and the streets were full of sandbags and sentry posts. The day after arrival, a local Tibetan restaurant quietly opened up just for my friend and I to eat. I was only staying in Srinagar a couple of days before heading up to Leh in a bus and was sleeping on a houseboat on Dal Lake, amidst breathtaking scenery, preparing for the trip.

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Dal Lake, the “paradise” of Kashmir

It was very sad to see businesses in decline as Kashmir has relied heavily on the tourist trade for many years, now there was barely a foreigner to be seen and at 6pm each night there was a curfew and firing could be heard around the lake.

We loaded up the bus with equipment and food including live chickens and set off on our journey. The atmosphere was one of excitement yet tense as every few miles we were stopped at checkpoints, told to leave the bus which was searched for guns and bombs and our passports were checked. The delays grew longer as Indian soldiers insisted on being photographed with the female passengers before allowing us on our way.

The trek which left from Lamayuru monastery, Leh turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life, physically challenging and spiritually enlightening surrounded by the magnificance of the Himalaya. The journey however was not without its difficulties. One of the Italian females fell to her death coming down from Kun. She had not felt able to continue the climb, decided to descend but none of her companions in their ruthless determination to reach the top had thought to accompany her back to camp.

I was in my tent when the radio call came through from the guys that had spotted her body and heard the terrible cries of her husband who suffering from altitude sickness had stayed at base camp. We clubbed together to pay the Indian army to fly her body back to Srinagar. I helped take care of the other climbers one of whom returned with severe frostbite and lost several toes. An Indian army doctor with some of his fellow soldiers also on the mountain helped out with medical  care when we approached them.

Returning to Srinagar in sombre mood I decided to stay on alone in the houseboat, my friend had to leave to accompany another trip in the south of India. I wanted to take some time to reflect on the trip and had some major decisions to work out for my future. Christy had organized a local man Hilal to ferry me around the lake and sort out any practicalities. Not wanting to be confined to the houseboat I asked him to take me to several tourist sites, which I had virtually to myself.

During this time I was learning more and more about the harsh realities of day to day life in this “paradise”. Hilal spoke good English and we talked for hours.  I mentioned that it would be nice to meet more local people and he asked me if I would like to meet his family at some point, I happily accepted the invitation.

The day before I was due to visit his home, he accompanied me to the local bank to change money. It was a surreal experience. Firstly my entrance drew much attention and chatter. I was told the transaction would take some time and taken to a small room to wait. After a while several people arrived and said they had something to show me. Curious (and expecting it would be related to the money transaction) I stared in amazement as they proceeded to place in front of me dozens of photographs of missing, tortured and dead bodies. They were desperate to inform me of the suffering in Kashmir and for me to “tell the world” as foreign reporters were being blocked from entering Kashmir.

I was shocked and very upset to hear of their suffering and promised to contact human rights organizations on my return to the UK. In view of this experience, I should not have been surprised perhaps by events of the next day.

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Indian soldiers patrol the streets

Hilal came for me and after crossing the lake we headed for the centre of Srinagar. Although wearing salwar kameez and Hilal trying to convince me I looked rather like a Kashmiri woman in appearance, clearly the Indian soldiers did not think so as they stared at me with great hostility. We proceeded through a run down and bombed out area of the  city and entered a house. I left my shoes at the doorway and climbed the stairs.

I followed Hilal into a room to be met by two men armed and faces covered. For a sickening moment I questioned my stupidity at going to a place on my own where nobody would know where I was and it would be days, maybe weeks before I would be missed by anyone. There was the possibility I might be about to be held hostage but the sight of food laid out on the floor was somewhat reassuring… they had at least prepared for a visitor with hospitality.

From nowhere I found myself joking to Hilal, “tell your family I am pleased to accept their hospitality but in England it is considered rude to point a gun at a person whilst they are eating.” The men, who turned out to be not much more than boys laughed heartily and immediately put their guns down and removed the cloths from their faces.

Two women appeared before me introduced as their mother and sister and I sat down to enjoy the food just in case it was my last meal. After food was served the men began to tell me about their lives. They were militants recently back from training in Afghanistan with Mujahideen. Training was funded by Pakistan and Saudi sponsers. The mother proceeded to open a cupboard and behind her sewing machine was a collection of hand grenades and a large square shape covered in cloth. The material was lifted to reveal the portrait of a martyr against the Pakistani flag. I was informed that had died assisting the cause and was asked to photograph the painting.

The family were under the mistaken impression I was a journalist (at that time I was actually a nurse) as in their mind, why would a woman be travelling on her own in Kashmir. Again they wanted the outside world to know what was happening to people in the region, there were more photos and terrible stories of rape, torture and killings. They shared stories of the Kunan-Poshpora attacks that had occurred in February of that year (1991) and other massacres) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVZ-18HXZ68

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Kunan-Poshpora victims tell their stories

As I had read up in advance of my trip I was able to discuss something of the politics of occupation, this both pleased and surprised my hosts. Before leaving I was presented with a list of demands of the militant group to be sent to western media. Again I promised I would do what I could to highlight their plight and had a nervous time going through checks at the airport in case the document would somehow lead to my arrest. I carried out my promise contacting media and human rights groups shortly after my return to the UK.

Since that time I have continued to campaign on human rights in Kashmir and also became involved in a campaign to free western hostages in the mid-90s, working with the wife of Keith Mangan. Her husband was kidnapped by militants along with other backpackers, one hostage, Hans Ostro was found beheaded with the words Al Faran carved on his body http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxTyD3qIJ3U

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Western hostages kidnapped by militants

Sadly the other hostages were not released and their bodies never recovered. I was offered assistance from contacts in Kashmir to try to locate their bodies and planned to return but my husband became very ill, so it wasn’t to be.

I often think of my time in Kashmir and have nothing but respect for those living under occupation. I pray one day they will be free.

For information on human rights in Kashmir check out the following link http://kashmirprocess.org/

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/experts/Health_and_Wellbeing.aspx Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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10 Responses to Black Day Kashmir: Dedicated to those who opened my eyes.

  1. an excellent portrayal of the situation in Kashmir from someone who is not from India or Pakistan, thus cannot be considered biased.
    militancy is not the solution to any problem, and it always leads to violence and ruthless brutalities, but behind the start of every militancy itself there is a reason of brutality, suppression or oppression. Therefore, it is very important to study and analyze the cause of every militancy before we pick up guns and start an operation to curb it. for me Terrorism does not exist at all, there is no such thing as terrorism. it is only a word added to the dictionary by the oppressors to give cover to their ‘interests’ and to present it to the world as right and justified.
    if we study and analyze any movement of militancy with a neutral, free and unbiased mind we would find few things behind it: Vengeance, Reaction, Fight for Freedom. where any movement started as a Reaction or a Fight for Freedom ultimately involves Vengeance and there at that point every movement becomes corrupted with indiscriminate violence by the parties involved. same is the case with the movement in Indian Kashmir, Taliban in Afghanistan in Pakistan, and so many others around the world.

    i appreciate your efforts to highlight the cause of the People of Kashmir and i consider it as a beacon of light as the western world is tilted towards India for their own economic interests.

  2. Dip says:

    Smells of a very biased reporting.
    Let me simplify things for you.
    1. Military on Roads in Srinagar – Because you have militants / civilians with illegal automated weapons, ready to kill anyone who is not on their side. No militants, no army in civilian areas
    2. So called ‘Human Rights Violations by Army’ – Police & Army’s job is to kill anyone who is against law and order. What would you say about the people, kashmiri pandits and army men killed by these Mujahideens? They are not humans? These are not ‘Human’ Rights violations? Only the locals are humans? Anyone who supports terrorism, is a terrorist and deserves to be killed by security forces (Going by USA’s definition)
    3. Army / military has no personal vendetta against civilians. They are just trained to contain violence by offensive operations. You remain peaceful & quiet, army will be gone. You are the trouble maker and you shamelessly cry foul of army’s offensive.
    4. You wrote – ‘They were militants recently back from training in Afghanistan with Mujahideen. Training was funded by Pakistan and Saudi sponsers’. What the heck are Pakistani & Saudi players doing in a soveriegn country? Why should any self-respect carrying nation tolerate such elements on its soil? Would your so-called Western & Developed nation tolerate any foreigner entering your borders without a Visa and waving am AK-47 killing civilians? Wont your government send its army to combat it? Hypocrisy at its best Sister.

    • I was there at a key time… my intention however was one of travel/trekking but my experience certainly opened my eyes… I value life and I speak out where I see abuse.

      My homeland UK unfortunately had a major role in events leading up to the tragedy of Kashmir with partition in 1947. What about alleged rape cases, I was shown some horrific photos… see also HRW Rape in Kashmir: A Crime of War

      Click to access INDIA935.PDF

      What has that got to do with militancy? What about all the disappearances?… There is surely a proper humane process if taking a person into custody Yes my govt would not accept foreigners without visas and waving AK47s but it has sometimes created scenarios that would incite such violations…torture, abuse in detention, black sites… that is the sad reality that is not being faced now, government has its head in the sand!

  3. Mujeeb Yousuf says:

    U have written something which most people consider small things…i highly appreciate u…. Situation is grim these days…there is a sense of fear in every nook and corner…u cant move out of ur home after 7pm… u fear of being beaten or killed by the indian forces…this is nothing….the situation has worsend…. u are sometimes afraid of wearing ur traditional dress…the reason is obvious…their are marks of torture on everybody and their is a victim in every house… their r half-widows and their are homes without people…u will hear cries and moans of the mothers who have lost their kids…u will see revenge on every teenager’s face…u will see the women and teenagers fighting together with the forces on the roads…u will see the elders carrying the coffin of children…u will see the outburst and hear the slogans…u will see the engineering graduates,doctors,scholars taking arms to fight for all the injustice…. and u will see media barking against them and favouring atrocities…there are many things to tell ,many stories to told,many incidents and many marks to show…their are scars,their is a pain,their is anguish….This is paradise for u….This is kashmir for u…This is the region of unending miseries for u….

    • Dipanshu says:

      – “Situation is grim these days”: Your Pakistani friends who sneak across the border without passports and with lethal weapons in hand – they make the Situation grim

      – “there is a sense of fear in every nook and corner” – Because your terrorist friends who have illegally crossed the border, and their local counterparts have spread havoc and death in minds of ordinary Kashmiri.

      – “u cant move out of ur home after 7pm” – As your terrorist friends have Pakistani and Chinese guns (of course without legal licenses), they can kill anyone in dark, so Army has to enforce a virtual curfew to curb the violence. If they allow people to on road after 7 pm, your terrorist friends will start violence and killings and this needs to be stopped by Army. Army is there because gun-wielding terrorists are there. No terrorists = No army. What is the use of an AK-47 gun for a regular civilian like me or you?

      – ” u fear of being beaten or killed by the indian forces” – If you are helping terrorists who have waged a war using foreign weapons and funding, any sane army / body will do the same to you. This is not the speciality of Indian Army or Police only, US army will do the same, UK army will do the same, Saudi Army will do the same, Japan Army will do the same.

      – “their is a victim in every house. their r half-widows and their are homes without people” – Because these are the very same houses who have given shelter to Pakistani terrorists who have crossed the border illegally and spreading terrorism on Indian soil. Instead of accussing the army for killing these so-called victims/people, why dont you answer wny were they helping the terrorists? You want a medal/prize for this illegal activity?

      – “u will hear cries and moans of the mothers who have lost their kids” – Their kids are no kids, they are seasoned criminals who help other cross-border trained terrorists. Kids who are expert in stones pelting, rioting, killing, and you call them kids? From what angle do they look like kids?

      – “u will see revenge on every teenager’s face…u will see the women and teenagers fighting together with the forces on the roads…u will see the elders carrying the coffin of children…u will see the outburst and hear the slogans…u will see the engineering graduates,doctors,scholars taking arms to fight for all the injustice….” – These elders, women, children, so-called educated people will not oppose terrorist and violence-mongers, instead they will support the murderers / Pakistan-sponsored killers.

      -“This is paradise for u….This is kashmir for u…This is the region of unending miseries for u….” – Reason for miseries is Pakistan sponsored terrorism and the local people’s support for illegal and unethical activities of terrorists. If these factors are eliminated, Kashmir is still a paradise.

      • Thank-you for your comment. I observed for myself the situation for Kashmiris is grim and there are many human rights abuses. It is not easy to carry on daily life in those circumstances. Yes there is a long history with Pakistan and Kashmiris are divided on that. What is clear is that the abuses are not being properly addressed and continue daily. As with Occupied Palestine when people live under years of oppression the time will come when the situations erupts, when will that time be for Occupied Kashmir?

    • Thank-you for your detailed comment, you paint a very grim picture, worse than I thought. The international media has been too neglectful of Kashmir.I have written a number of articles but definately time for another.

      • Mujeeb says:

        Thanks carol….There are unending stories full of miseries,tales of women being raped and ballads of unending crimes…intenational community has been silent largely because media doesnot show to them what really happens in kashmir…. It is time for u people to speak and write…i will be available anytime u require my help

      • Appreciated… it has been too quiet in the media, time for another article…

  4. Mujeeb says:

    Mr Dipansu u live in glad tidling houses and areas free from army how can u feel our pain…u people have the problem of judging kashmir on the media reports…have u ever been in kashmir for a night…Do u know Arundatiya Roy ,Sanjay kak,Nitasha Kaul(kashmiri pandit), Prashant Bushan…U Must know them..Do u know why Indians call them Traitors…Do u know why they are attacked in India…Do u know y they live in foriegn…U must know…But i will tell u who they are…they are ur intlectual who have known kashmir and kashmiriyat for long …they know the truth and they have spoken about it…that is y they where attacked…how will u get to know about our sufferings when ur media hardly reports truth…Shekhar gupta(well known journalist of india) spoke about the same recently…Do u know y article 370 is in j&k…U must know…Have u read hindustan times of 1947,15th aug…u must read…Do u know about princely states…u must know…do u know the basis of partition…u must know…Do u know about the 2008 mass uprising…u must know…do u know about 2010 uprising …u must know….Do u know y yesterday 27th oct ,civil curfew was observed in kashmir …u must know…but how will u know when ur whole country is after muslims for beef ….how will u know when u will consult the writings of pan indian n patriots who will never try to say a word of truth….but i will suggest a book …”THE KASHMIR CRISIS” by forign author…but it is banned in india…and ur country has produced a duplicate of this and are selling at cheap rates in market…Alas how will u know the truth…

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