Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kenya - Terror spreads Tentacles

Religious terrorism has again raised its ugly head and this time, has struck bang in the middle of a bustling city in East Africa. As the toll of Indians dying in this Kenyan replay of 26/11 reaches 3, the total number of dead has climbed to 68 amongst whom are many of Indian origin as well!

Westgate Mall, Nairobi

The tragedy is somehow more personal as it brought back memories from the time I had stayed in Nairobi in a service apartment right next to the Westgate mall. It also brought back terrible memories of being holed up inside the house for three days when Mumbai was under a similar attack from Pakistani terrorists!! Kenya has a sizeable Indian population and the images captured from this incident could very well have belonged to any Indian metro!

This is how the incident took shape - Masked gunmen stormed into a crowded mall in Nairobi on Saturday and shot dead at least 68 people and wounded more than 175 in one of the most chilling terrorist attacks in East Africa.

The mall, called Westgate, is an impressive five-story building where Kenyans shop for expensive stuff and is also popular with expatriates. A cooking competition was taking place at the mall at the time, and hosting the contest and among the dead was Ruhila Adatia-Sood, a Nairobi local who was a popular TV and radio presenter.

Sood was six months pregnant and posing happily for Instagram photos in the minutes before the attack. One of these showed her with the popular Indian Radio-Africa journalist Kamal Kaur. Kaur, who was with her own two young children, said the attackers threw a grenade at the crowd before shooting. One bullet narrowly missed her son before ricocheting off a wall and killing another child next to her.

Several witnesses said the attackers had shouted for Muslims to run away while they picked off other shoppers, executing them one by one.  

Parents hurled their bodies over their children, people jumped into ventilation shafts to save themselves, and shoppers huddled behind the plastic mannequins of designer clothing stores as two squads of gunmen moved through the mall, shooting shoppers in the head. Hours later, the mall’s gleaming floors were smeared with blood as police officers dashed through the corpse-strewn corridors, trying to find the assailants. 

"Al Shabab", an Islamist militant group based in Somalia, took responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia against the group, which is al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia.

The Shabab, used to control large parts of Somalia, imposing a harsh and often brutal version of Islam in their territory. They have beheaded civilians and buried teenage girls up to their necks in sand and stoned them to death!! But in the past two years, the African Union forces, including the Kenyans, have pushed the Shabab out of most of their strongholds. The worry now, current and former American officials said that this attack could be the start of a comeback. 

Until the Westgate attack, the group made no effort to spare Muslim civilians, hitting packed restaurants, bus stations and a government building where hundreds of students were awaiting test results. And until his death in 2011, Osama bin Laden refused to allow Shabab into the Al Qaeda network, according to letters retrieved from his safehouse in Pakistan.

In a letter to Shabab in 2010, bin Laden politely advised the Somali-based fighters to review their operations "in order to minimize the toll to Muslims." Shabab did not get the green light to join Al Qaeda until February 2012, almost a year after bin Laden's death. In an email exchange this week with The Associated Press, it made its intentions clear: "The Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar before carrying out their attack."

In the bizarre game of life or death, they killed those who failed to name the Prophet Muhammed’s mother and spared those who could!! 

A 14-year-old boy saved himself by jumping off the mall's roof, after learning from friends inside that they were quizzed on names of the Prophet Muhammad's relatives. A Jewish man scribbled a Quranic scripture on his hand to memorize, after hearing the terrorists were asking captives to recite specific verses. As the gunmen opened fire with assault rifles, Westgate was plunged into mayhem and carnage. People ran out screaming, and victims soaked in their own blood were wheeled out in shopping carts. They showed no mercy to even pregnant women and slaughtered a young couple just two weeks before their first child was to be born along with the yet-to-be-born baby!

Time and again religious fundamentalism hits unsuspecting innocent people all over the globe. Yet, there is a reluctance among people to label it as RELIGIOUS terrorism and instead just use the latter term. I find it surprising that even in today's age of information and education, people are STILL unwilling to recognize this violence for what it is!

The attack has come at a time when several violent Islamist groups all espousing an anti-Western, anti-Christian creed are striking at state authority and international interests in many countries in Africa. The three Indians who lost their lives - Sudharshan B. Nagaraj from Bangalore, Sridhar Natarajan from Tamil Nadu and the 8 year old Paramshu Jain were all victims of a travesty that has NO PLACE in a civilized world!

The ripples from the attack reached as far as Trinidad, with a research economist called Ravindra Ramrattan named among the dead. The winner of a presidential gold medal in Trinidad for his academic prowess, Ramrattan, succumbed to the bullets of terrorists. The most high profile victim, and among the first to be named, was Kofi Awoonor, a Ghanaian poet and academic, and former diplomat. The Kenyan president's nephew was also one of the casualties in the dastardly attack!

At least 175 people were wounded or injured in the attack, including 11 Kenyan soldiers, and about 1,000 were rescued. Bodies were still sprawled on the mall’s front steps hours afterward, and woozy shoppers continued to emerge from the stores where they had been hiding to save their lives.


Whether one accepts it or not, RELIGIOUS TERRORISM is a reality and no one can just wish it away. And it's not limited to one religion alone; every religion in the world has practiced it at some point in its history. 

The Romans persecuted early Christians; Christians prosecuted Jews; Invading Muslims destroyed Hindu temples and killed Hindus/Sikhs/Buddhists/Jains in thouands while Buddhists in Myanmar are today persecuting the Rohingya muslims!!

All over the world there is growing intolerance for others' religion and ethnicity. Post 9/11, the suspicion with which every BROWN man or woman was seen in the US was scary to say the least! For a while it seemed only White Christians were above suspicion in the world! Many Sikhs faced brutality in their mistaken identity of being an Arab (because of their turbans) in US as well as UK.

More recently, when an American girl of Indian origin won the Miss America title, there were racial slurs calling her an Arab and a terrorist!!

And the grass isn't greener on the other side of this fence! The hatred of America and the 'West' has become so visceral in the Muslim world that their is complete REFUSAL to accept any responsibility for what's happening in the name of Islam! Any news that comes out of torture or destruction by Jihadi forces is immediately termed as American propaganda without any attempt to self-analyze what's going wrong with the Muslim youth.

Worst still, it may even be seen as justified on the premise that US has killed so many innocent civilians in its drone attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

But people forget that whoever is responsible, it is the INNOCENTS who die! You can't justify your vendetta of killing innocents based on a grievance cause by twisted political agendas. Let religion and politics be separate for the sake of our future! Just two days back, there was a blast in a historical Church in Pakistan which took the life of 78 people who were targeted by Islamic terrorists!

Victims of Peshawar's Church blast


This FUNDAMENTALISM should be recognized as a genuine problem if we REALLY wish to find a solution to it. Denying its existence would be behaving like the proverbial pigeon who closes its eyes and hopes the cat would disappear! It is disappointing that today's educated youth instead of following the true principles of religion choose to follow the extremist fanaticism that many believe will open the gates of heaven for them in the after-life.

If you can't even love your fellow beings and live your life spreading vitriol in this world, what guarantee do you have of even REACHING Heaven in the first place, let alone being happy there! 

The only solution it seems in current circumstances is to give less importance to RELIGION and more to HUMANITY! Denial WILL NOT give us Safety. Hoping for an open debate on this issue so that we can save more innocents in the future from such meaningless violence in the name of religion!

Praying for the souls of the slain Indians and people of other nationalities
May their souls Rest in peace..


Friday, July 12, 2013


In the post titled {From Assam to Azad Maidan}, I had discussed the reasons behind the massive protests in Mumbai against alleged atrocities on Muslims in Assam and Myanmar. I had shared in the above mentioned post how many doctored images were shared online to inflame passions and rouse Muslims to come out on the streets and most of the trouble makers were believed to be illegal Bangladeshis. 

In this post, we shall look at another angle of this problem of illegal immigrants in our neighboring country which is posing security problems for us as well. With the opening of media in Myanmar and removal of Army from the streets, more religious factions have started to exert their opinion. Whether they are instigated by some political faction or not remains to be seen but what is increasingly evident is the growing intolerance for Muslim minorities amongst certain Buddhists. I have visited the country many time but never seen aggression in the Buddhists so this comes as a surprise to me as well.

Me in Myanmar

It appears that small provocations and arguments have developed into full scale acts of arson and butchery with a devastating effect on the Human rights conditions. Perhaps the biggest incident that sparked the debate was in March 2013, when a Buddhist monk was attacked in the town of Meiktila, and later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. 

What followed was a brutal hacking of 20 boys just outside the town center. This is not an isolated incident; there have been reports of mass killings and burnings of the minority population combined with a growing xenophobia amongst the Buddhist majority targeted against the Muslim community. But what has triggered this sudden persecution?

The same illegal immigrants that cross over to Indian territory of Assam are involved in the Myanmar scenario as well. The Rohingyas are referred to as ‘Bengals’ by the Burmese which clearly refers to their land of origin. Burmese have never really acknowledged these migrants as their own despite them being in the country since colonial times. The divide is not just ethnic but also political as the two communities supported different colonial powers at the time of the World War.

At the helm of the anti-Rohingya affairs is a seemingly calm 45 year old monk, Ashin Wirathu, who is based in a monastery at Mandalay. He is extremely vocal of his hatred for the community and accuses Muslim men of enticing Buddhist women into marriages and then imprisoning and turning them into sex slaves. Sounds eerily similar to what happens regularly to the minorities in Pakistan and even the 'Love-jihad' cases in India.

Ashin Wirathu - Two faces of the same coin

The reason for this sentiment perhaps is the history of Islam and its spread throughout the Asian continent. While Muslim preachers repeatedly stress that Islam is NOT the religion of force, the long history of brutal subjugation of the natives in India begs to differ. Medieval chronicles are full of accounts of persecution of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs by invading foreigners who, irrespective of their nationalities, rode high on their own interpretation of what Islamic Jihad meant. 

Right from Mahmud Ghazni who attacked India multiple times to Nadir Shah who in his maiden attack massacred 10,000 Delhi residents, to the Mughals like Jahangir and Aurangzeb, intolerance and butchery have been hallmarks of the spread of Islam in the sub-continent.

It can be argued that any invading army would have done the same to its conquered territories; but what can not be easily justified is the zeal to wipe out the culture and traditions of the lands that were attacked. The breaking of temples and construction of mosques on their foundation has been well documented throughout the sub-continentaghay Barlas, known in the West as Tamerlane or "Timur the lame" himself recorded the invasions in his memoirs, collectively known as Tuzk-i-Timuri. It gives details of how villages, towns and entire cities were rid of their Hindu male population through systematic mass slaughters and genocide and their women and children forcefully converted en masse to Islam from Hinduism. In his own words, "Excepting the quarter of the saiyids, the 'ulama and the other Musalmans [sic], the whole city was sacked".

In recent times too, we have seen fanatics in the form of Taliban who did not hesitate to destroy their world famous National treasure of Bamiyan Buddhas in the name of destroying idolatory. The image that comes across to a non-Muslim is that of an insensitive, intolerant religion spread by the sword that wipes out the history and culture of any nation that it spreads to.

Bamiyan Buddha before destruction
 Bamiyan Buddhas today..

With this background, let us see the situation that is developing in Myanmar. Ashin Wirathu urges Buddhists all over the country to boycott Muslim businesses and gives an allegory to explain his concern – ‘When you let a seed grow in a pagoda, it seems so small at first. But you know you must cut it before it grows and turns into a tree and destroys the building.... You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog!’

But the question is who decides the definition of insanity?? The studied silence of Aung San Suu Kyi regarding these killings is also being questioned by some.

While the history of the spread of Islam is littered with bloodshed and subjugation, is it correct for us to become the perpetrators of these same crimes for revenge? This  is the question we all need to ask ourselves today. Should we behave the same way that our ancestors' subjugators did or can we find a better way to deal with the situation. 

Whatever the provocation, we know from India's own experiences that an issue this complicated can never be resolved through mindless violence and diplomatic negotiations are any day more productive than the use of force. Physical violence would only serve to give a justified reason for the growth of terrorism in coming generations, which is something no one wants.

Also, it may give rise to a backlash against Buddhists in other parts of the world, especially India and the 2013 attack on the Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya, Bihar could be a case in point! The Rohingya refugees coming to India can also become a huge demographic problem in the future.

The Indian Mujahidin Twitter Account that was suspended

We hope the emerging democracy of Myanmar does not run into the brick wall of intolerance like Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have to rise above the follies of the past generations in order to have a better tomorrow for the generations ahead. The only way forward for this world to exist peacefully is to embrace TRUE SECULARISM by stopping minority appeasement while at the same time safeguarding against majority totalitarianism.

As Mahatma Gandhi had once famously observed – An eye for an eye, only makes the world blind.

Jai Hind!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rumble in Afghanistan

America is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and India is worried.

The recent visit of U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry has done little to assuage the fears of Indian authorities and quite justifiably so, since the US pullout will leave the stage open for the resurgence of Taliban leading to another civil war between the elected Hamid Karzai government and the Pakistan backed terrorists.

Most political analysts don’t find the fears exaggerated considering the latest developments regarding Taliban. What was earlier a banned military outfit composed of fanatical, brain-washed mercenaries, has now opened a POLITICAL OFFICE (!) in Doha, Qatar and have even labelled it as an outpost of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’!!

To add fuel to fire, after they pusted them in 2001, the US has today agreed to meet them for talks putting the Afghan Govt in a predicament! After President Karzai expressed displeasure, the Americans have asked the Taliban to take down the flag and the plaque as a pre-condition to talks.

Someone has truly said - Life is full of ironies. With Taliban, the Americans have come a full circle.
  • They armed the tribals in Afghanistan and created a proxy army to fight for them when the Russians seemed to be gaining influence there. 
  • When Russia collapsed, the same armed militia turned against its own creator culminating in the tragic incident of 9/11.
  • US vowed to take revenge and attacked with all its might to push Taliban out of Afghanistan and finally managed to kill its leader Osama-bin-laden.
  • Yet, all these efforts just pushed Taliban underground and gave them an opportunity to find new sponsors besides of course the old allies Pakistan.
  • And now, the US is gonna sit and negotiate with them in a round-table conference!

William Dalrymple, the bestselling writer and acclaimed British historian, ominously writes in his essay {A Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan and India} that in reality, the US, UK and NATO are playing little more than bit-parts and would pretty soon exit from the scene. 

At its heart, the conflict will remain entrenched between the nefarious policies followed by Pakistan and its paranoia about getting trapped in a pincer hook if India has influence over Afghanistan. The problem gets compounded because the ethnic races of Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially the Pashtuns, overlap to a considerable degree.

Pashtun/pathan distribution across Afghanistan-Pakistan

While President Karzai is pro-India and belongs to the dominant Pashtun clan, there are ethnic inequalities within the Afghan people. Taliban is formed of predominantly PASHTUN tribes and the Karzai government is seen as being more biased towards the other ethnicities of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. According to Dalrymple, 70 % of Afghan army officers today are Tajiks and the Pashtuns who form 40 % of the population are not very happy with the condition even if they do not express it openly.

India is doing a lot of good work in Afghanistan - building hospitals, roads, the Parliament, even to the extent of developing a rail route between Iran and Afghanistan so that its dependency on Pakistan can go down. Needless to say, Pakistan would not take this lying down and we can expect fireworks sooner or later. The newly elected Nawaz Sharif Govt. too will not leave any stone unturned in turning the situation in its favour.

Let’s hope Indian Govt, for once can show some mettle while dealing with its rogue neighbors and help establish the democratic government in Afghanistan firmly. Only then, the region would be able to stem this tide of failing states and move towards peace and prosperity.

Jai Hind!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Milestone Judgement against AFSPA!

The spotlight is back on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act with a milestone judgement from our judicial system!

Based on two PILs on fake encounter killings and withdrawal of AFSPA from Manipur, the Supreme Court had commissioned a probe into the actual situation in the state. In January 2013, a three-member panel was set up to look into the incidents and for the first time in the history of AFSPA, a court-appointed panel has held security forces guilty of killing seven persons, including a 12-year-old boy in six fake encounters during 2009-10!!

The Hegde Panel as it is called, comprised of retired Justice Santosh Hegde of the SC, former CEC J M Lyngdoh and former Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar Singh, is the first official panel to endorse the charge of GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS by the security forces operating under the hated and reviled AFSPA. For those, who have never heard of the act before and do not know what it is about, here’s a brief summary:

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, comes into force as soon as the Govt. declares a state to be ‘Disturbed’ and gives blanket powers to the forces to ARREST anyone merely on suspicion without requiring a warrant; pick people up for questioning; put them in remand and use any kind of force even if it causes DEATH!!! 

There can be NO prosecution, suit or ANY legal proceeding whatsoever, against ANYONE acting under this Act. Nor is the government's judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review. Are we living in a democratic state or a dictatorship???
Not surprisingly, the honorable court observed that security forces have conducted raids and resorted to FIRING merely on the basis of source information WITHOUT bothering to cross-check the authenticity of the ‘source’. This implies, anyone could complain to the Army about another person (even if it is just for the sake of settling a personal score) and the forces, without authenticating the complaint, can barge into a person's home, pick them up for questioning, use all the force they want, kill one or two people in the process and STILL not come up with ANY ACTUAL information!

The report says that forces are allegedly responsible for 1,528 extra-judicial killings in the past 30 years! Anyone with common sense would understand what our high ranking officials in the army and the government don’t and what was surmised for them by the justice bench, “This is not the best way to integrate (north-eastern) people. It is the best way to alienate them!”(Courtesy TOI Report).

Shocked by the report, the Justices reviewing the petition, Aftab Alam and Ranajana Desai, said the forces and police threw caution to the wind while following guidelines in conducting such “operations” and put a major portion of the blame on the Union government. They also observed, that elaborate guidelines laid down by Supreme Court, guidelines issued by Army headquarters, NHRC and Manipur government have all been confined to the papers. NOTHING is followed in practice by armed forces and police while carrying out the operations!!

This just goes to demonstrate what we have been saying all along, All is NOT Well with the security forces in troubled states. On 31 March 2012, the United Nations itself had asked India to revoke AFSPA saying that such a law had no place in a democracy!

 Protests against the AFSPA in Manipur and Delhi

Many human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have condemned human rights abuses in Kashmir and North-East by forces in the form of ‘extra-judicial executions’, so called ‘disappearances’, and torture using electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees! {Check the post The Kashmir Conundrum for the situation in Kashmir}.

Irom Sharmila, a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from Manipur, has been on a hunger strike since 2 November 2000 (!!) to demand that the Indian government repeal the AFSPA which has devastated her state. 

She has been christened the ‘World's longest hunger striker’ and is currently under trial for attempted suicide under ANOTHER outdated and draconian law!! She has been forcefully fed through a naso-gastric tube for thirteen years as the state does not want her to die and unfortunately, does not want to do anything to resolve the issue as well!

In 2004, tired of the repeatd abuse and rapes, Manipuri women took out a NUDE PROTEST to condemn the alleged rape and custodial death of 32-year-old woman Thangjam Manorama by Assam Rifles personnel. Compare it with the media coverage that Delhi Rape case got, and you'll realize we don't have the slightest clue about the condition of women in Manipur!

The movement, spearheaded by 32 social organizations became violent after a student leader Pebam Chittaranjan immolated himself on the Independence Day in 2004. Pebam left a suicide note before putting himself to fire, which said: "It is better to self-immolate than die at the hands of security forces under this Act. With this conviction I am marching ahead of the people as a human torch." He ran for about 100 metres with his body in flames before falling to the ground in Bishenpur Bazaar!!

Manipuri women protest against Indian Army 

What shocks you more.. the desperation of these people, or that you haven’t heard any of this ever before?? The only memory of Manipur you might have is the name of Mary Kom, who won the bronze medal for India in 2012 Olympics. Yet, what we do not know is the harsh conditions she has faced to be where she is today!!

Taking into account the state's geographical location, Manipur can actually serve as the perfect Gateway to South-East Asia! A Trans-Asian Railway Network (TARN) which was proposed ages ago, if constructed, could connect India through Manipur to Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and even Singapore and ensure development and prosperity throughout its route!

Instead, we are involved in a vicious cycle of subjugation and retaliation of our own citizens! It is hard to visualize the army and forces as anything short of heroes as they are people from our own families/friends/acquaintances whom we have known for ages. But, what is important to remember is that in such extreme conditions, away from their families for long, abused and subjugated by the superiors, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, having the unlimited powers that AFSPA provides, these same people have been raping/kidnapping/extorting/beating up and (as the court declared above), murdering people in cold blood! 

It may not be prudent to COMPLETELY revoke the Act given that there definitely is a resurgence issue in Manipur but there is a dire need to revise it and add some accountability to the people enjoying immense powers under it! 

To be fair, not everyone abuses the power, but those who DO NOT stop their colleagues from doing so, are equally responsible and so is the media that does not bring this issue out in the open! Should we just sit and watch what’s happening till the same situation happens in our own state or city? Shouldn't the law be the same for every citizen including the Army and the Police?

The court has sought responses from the Centre, the Manipur government and the National Human Rights Commission within five days. Till then, let’s do OUR bit to stop this injustice on citizens of our OWN country by those who have more power than us and DO NOT hesitate to misuse it!! 

Spread the word and make people aware of the realities our fellow citizens are facing
Jai Hind!

Skeptics please check out the following links as an eye-opener:  

MANIPUR ON FIRE". Frontline. September 2004


Friday, March 15, 2013

The Kashmir Conundrum

Was reading an extremely interesting article today that said - 'Trauma in Kashmir is like a heritage building. They want the wound of Kashmir to endure because the wound is what indicts India for the atrocities of its military.. If the wound vanishes, does India simply get away with all those rapes, murders and disappearances?'

The words hit a chord in my heart. How indeed would India get punished for the sins of its forces? Judging by the news splashed all over the papers today, it won't be long before the condition again turns volatile! Whenever there is a case of misuse of power in the valley, the protesters no longer rally against the Army or the notorious AFSPA. The protests are against the INDIAN STATE now.

They burn the Indian flag, abuse the motherland, call Indians dogs.. yet, can we Indians keep putting the blame on Pakistan forever and wash our hands clean of all responsibility??

I had a harsh argument with a Kashmiri friend living in Delhi. He had posted an anti-India status on FB and I could barely restrain myself from retorting that if he had so much problem with India why the hell was he living here??

As Indians we can't see our motherland being rubbished because of what some trigger-happy morons are doing in the valley! But, for an average Kashmiri, the forces and politicians are the only face of India and we all know how clean their record is..

My friend stated that Indians don't stand with the Kashmiris and support them but my point is, how many Indians ACTUALLY know what's going on in Kashmir??? Blame it on our busy lives; blame it on our short attention spans or blame it on the media that seldom (if ever) presents the citizens' point of view from Kashmir, the truth is that an average Indian has NO CLUE what the real state of affairs in Kashmir is. 

It is next to impossible today to make a common man on the streets in India aware of what really is the ground reality on the streets of Kashmir.

Almost a lakh people have disappeared in Kashmir over the past two decades which saw first the genocide and eviction of Kashmiri Pandits, then Pakistan sponsored bloody terrorism followed by Indian army-managed fake encounters! 

Human Rights Watch has documented many cases of misuse of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir, such as the killing of human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi in 1996 and the student Javed Ahmed Magray in 2003. In both cases, when police inquiries identified the perpetrators as members of the armed forces, they were shielded by the impunity offered by the AFSPA.

When my friend told me that Indians never support them in their rightful protests I accepted that but there are two sides to this question. When have Kashmiris supported people in the rest of India? 

The entire country was rocked by a series of protests against the rampant corruption and innumerable graft scams; yet, Kashmir chose NOT to participate. There were people on the streets in Delhi demanding better treatment of women in the society which is as much an issue in Kashmir as elsewhere, yet they did NOT participate. It has to be a two-way street!

If Kashmiris come forward and raise their voice against these issues with the rest of India, people would definitely help them in their fight against injustice!

NO DOUBT, there is an element of cross-border state-sponsored terror machinery waiting to up the ante in Kashmir; true there are elements that nudge the Kashmiri youth at the slightest provocation to erupt against the Indian state; true the Kashmiris have never felt a part of India.. BUT, what is EQUALLY true is that the Indian Govt. and Military have failed to build the credibility with Kashmiris and more often than not, there is a grievous, unheard, unresolved complaint when the protests turn violent in the valley. We ourselves are creating the circumstances that outsiders especially Pakistan can take advantage of!

When Kashmiri Pundits were thrown out, it was the RESPONSIBILITY of the Govt. to make sure they were safe in their own homeland. Instead, lakhs of people had to flee in the middle of the night, hounded by Pakistan backed extremists, turning up in different parts of the country as homeless refugees. Today, the same Govt. is stifling the basic rights of Kashmiri Muslims and justifies any strong action by playing the 'Pundit' card.

But two wrongs DO NOT make a right! 

We still remember the protests in 2009-10 when this madness started and their shoddy handling by both the Central and the State Govts. {Read Human Rights Violations in Kashmir} for more on what happened in Kashmir then}. All that was needed to set things right was to punish the guilty and things would have returned to normalcy. instead, what followed was a systematic subjugation of valid protests much like we saw in Delhi recently where protesters were roughed up and the guilty were not even identified!

Unlike Delhi though, the protests in Kashmir turned violent and anti-India rhetoric was heard and this gave another pretext to the Govt. to use firearms for the safety of its own forces which ended up in the deaths of 15 more protesters! Within a span of few months, all the goodwill gestures by earlier Govts., millions of rupees spent in subsidies, and the GENUINE efforts of security forces in protecting our Nation were rendered useless.

We have to accept the fact that the people in our forces are NOT angels who have dropped from heaven above! They are as much human as us, and can also give in to anger, lust, greed, avarice like any one of us.

In any other profession this is what would normally happen - a cricketer who is not performing is thrown out of the team, a doctor whose negligence leads to patient's death is barred from practice, an accountant who screws up his company's financials is given the boot. WHY not the same treatment with the forces?

Such a blunder, that could have been easily avoided simply by apprehending the guilty and punishing them in front of the people of the country so that everyone knew what was happening in Kashmir. 

One simple step would have brought the situation from the brink of destruction back into the fold of normalcy and united the people of Kashmir with the people in rest of India who undergo the same high-handedness by forces every single time they come out to protest!

Even today, there seem to be no efforts towards this and it may perhaps already be too late! But whether it brings the Kashmiris back into the mainstream or not, a heart-felt sincere APOLOGY and PUNISHMENT to all those who have abused the draconian AFSPA in Kashmir (AND other disturbed states), would go a long, long, long way in bringing peace to the hearts and minds of every citizen.

The sensible conclusion to the Kashmir conundrum would be holding a plebiscite involving all the people of Kashmir right from Ladakh, Kargil, Kashmir, Jammu, Poonch and other far flung areas and ALSO taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri Pandits who were forcibly thrown out of their land earlier. Only that can bring closure to ALL the people involved in this issue.

We agree the problem is complex and there is no simple solution, but sincerely hope and pray there is someone in the center who can actually take this difficult step for the sake of the future of both the citizens of Kashmir, as well as those living in the rest of India. Otherwise, both sides will continue on this long, winding, bleeding pathway to destruction..

Hoping Peace will get a chance in Kashmir