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India: people’s experiences of living in the militarised border regions of Rajouri and Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir) | Sahba Husain and Rita Manchanda

1 August 2013

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The Economic and Political Weekly, Vol - XLVIII No. 31, August 03, 2013

Unequal Citizens: Field Notes from Rajouri and Poonch

by Sahba Husain and Rita Manchanda

In the militarised border regions of Rajouri and Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir), the boundaries are blurred. Violence had breached the security of people’s homes, changing their lives forever. Despite the enormity of the violence done to their lives and livelihood, the cry for justice seems to be missing. The region appeared to have been enveloped in hopeless resignation.

This paper is based on the two field visits to Rajouri and Poonch, between July and October 2012, to study the social impact of militarisation and security. This is a part of an ongoing research project of the “Women’s Regional Network” focusing on people’s experiences of living in a militarised zone.

For over 20 years, like the rest of the world, we had focused on the strategic significance of the Kashmir Valley. After all, it was Kashmir’s ethno-national assertion, which challenged Indian nationalism; it was Kashmir over which India and Pakistan ideologically, territorially and diplomatically battled in three wars, and it was in Kashmir that the commitment of Indian democracy to rights and equality was tested. As for Jammu, Kashmir was the reference point to its minor narrative of regional identity politics. The twin border districts of Rajouri Poonch were a footnote to Kashmir’s turbulent history of Partition, militancy and militarisation.

But Rajouri and Poonch refused to stay neglected. Intriguing news reports spoke of a different social and political dynamic that was at work in these border districts peopled by a complex mosaic of religious, ethnic and linguistic communities, in contrast to the largely mono-ethnic Muslim Valley. It was here that we read of the mass revenge slaughter of extended families. Here were the sightings of women and men whose ears and noses had been punitively slit or who had been beheaded for being informers. Here, women lived in remote, sparsely populated villages or at heights in isolated dhoks (stone and wood shelters of migrant shepherds), while men migrated for work to Jammu or Punjab, negotiating the family’s survival between the security forces and the militants. Here there was no outcry against mass disappearances, arbitrary killings and sexual violence, while across the Pir Panjal, the Valley resounded with public outrage at human-rights violations. Here, it was said, the army was a “friendly force” patrolling the borders, not a counter-insurgent force brutalising civilians.

Geographic Separation

Rajouri and Poonch districts have a 230-km long border along the Line of Control (LOC) and it is here that Partition and the wars between India and Pakistan have most affected Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), dividing territory, family and nation. During the uncertain time of Kashmir’s accession to India, an estimated 60,000 demobilised servicemen of the second world war, largely Muslim-Rajputs and Jats in Jammu province, rose in revolt. Backed by Pakistani tribal raiders and the army, they declared the territory “Azad Kashmir”. The Pakistani flag flew over the whole of Rajouri and rural Poonch, though Poonch town held out. Hindus and Sikhs fled from Muslim-majority villages, thronging to towns. In Rajouri, except for the name Balidan Bhavan and its chronicler Kuldeep Raj Gupta, little remains of the site where women and children huddled waiting for the marauding mob to pass. Tall buildings stand on the wells in which women jumped or were pushed in to protect the community’s honour (Cohen 1955: 36).

It took a year before the Indian army reinforcements reclaimed the territory in a campaign notorious for its savage repression. It is remembered too as a betrayal by Pakistan. The Pakistani army and establishment melted away overnight, leaving people defenceless. Thousands fled in panic across the border. By the time the ceasefire line was drawn, 60% of Poonch jagir was on the other side of the border. Jammu, a Muslim-majority province had become a Hindu majority.

The bifurcation of Poonch resulted in the political minoritisation of Jammu, vis-à-vis, the now more populous Valley of Kashmir. Some 60% of the families in Poonch and what eventually became Rajouri district, found themselves divided following the waves of cross-border migration in the wake of the 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars. However, as Sandhya Gupta’s study (2007) of divided families indicates, entire families and even on occasion entire villages continued to flee across the border. Following the fencing of the border, an estimated 30 villages in these border districts were left straddling the fenced border.

Twice in two wars, in 1947 and 1965, the people of Rajouri and Poonch succumbed to the lure of Kashmir banega Pakistani and its brutal consequences. That moment of disruption and uprooting gets reconstructed as territories and people shift due to vagaries of crossfire shelling, endemic wars and negotiated settlements. In 2004, when there was a buzz about Pakistan president Gen Pervez Musharraf’s proposals for settling the Kashmir dispute, the people of Rajouri and Poonch, especially the Hindus, were haunted by the fear of territorial “adjustments” once again unsettling them. The border remains an active participant in their lives. For the people of the fenced out villages, moving across the border is an ever-present circumstantial option, but it renders their loyalty suspect. The border is full of such narratives, like in Manjakote in 2001, when overnight, 22 families melted away across the border due to intense shelling.

Overlapping Identities

Whereas in the Valley you have a homogeneous Kashmiri-speaking population and 95% of the people are Muslims, while the Jammu division is characterised by overlapping identities. It has a Hindu majority but these border districts have a Muslim majority – Rajouri 60% and Poonch 91%. The towns have non-Muslim majorities – Poonch 66% and Rajouri 59%. Markers of identity are more on the basis of caste, tribe and language rather than religion. Caste is a pre-eminent category having continuity across the religious divide, e g, Muslim-Rajputs. The divide between tribal and non-tribal categories has got entrenched following the Indian government’s decision to accord the Gujjar-Bakerwal communities scheduled tribe status, thus disadvantaging the Pahadis. There is a common linguistic and cultural linkage across the four major languages – Dogri, Pahadi, Gojri and Punjabi (Chowdhary 2011).

However, it is significant that the communal agitation around the Amarnath land controversy spread rapidly in Rajouri and Poonch in July 2008. Equally importantly, as a well-respected Poonch resident, Yash Pal emphasised, community collective action was able to contain the growing tension. The communities are socially and economically very interdependent and as houses burned and shops were gutted, “there was a realisation of being used”, said, Hussain Siddiqui, an eminent member of Jammu’s legal establishment who hails from Mendhar, Poonch. “The movement was imported into Jammu from Kashmir. They can start a fire but who will put it out”, he said resentfully.

In Mendhar tehsil, journalist Vikram Bhasin is sensitive to the vulnerability of the few Hindu and Sikh families in the town, but he had never thought of moving. His Muslim neighbours were his security, he said. But in the mohallah Panditain, the centre of Poonch, the BamBam Bole agitation had revived unsettling memories of the minority being under siege. Re-enacted was the drama of neighbourhood communal watch committees of women and men patrolling the area. A woman resident spoke of the legacy of distrust: “The army is our security. Pull out the army, and within hours Poonch would be Pakistan”. Dusting off myths of Muslim sexuality and vulnerable Hindu women, she spoke of Muslim boys running off with Hindu girls. That myth took a desperate turn on our detour to Kalakot district as we faced a beseeching young Muslim engineering student thrown in jail because of a suspected liaison with a young Hindu girl student. She had committed suicide.

Bhajans and Namaz

Our visit to Poonch coincided with the annual Amarnath Yatra, which happened to converge with the month of Ramzan. Late into the night, blaring from the temple, were devotional songs; early morning we heard the call of Azan, followed shortly by the sounds of Gurbani. Were we witnessing the secular state abetting a competition for religious ascendency, and division? A young woman at the guest house fretted, the bhajans disrupted her offering namaz. Invariably, the lights went off at that time.

Hindus and Muslims, we were told, feel culturally more bonded with each other than with their co-religionists in Kashmir. The geographic separation between Jammu and Kashmir is mirrored in their socio-economic and ethno-linguistic distance, which has produced divergent political legacies. Whereas, Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference captured the imagination of the Valley, the Muslim Conference prevailed in Jammu. Naya Kashmir’s radical land reforms empowered the Muslim peasants of the Valley and disempowered the Jammu-landed elite. Kashmir’s ethno-nationalist movement finds few echoes as reflected in the Hurriyat Conference having no executive member from the region. According to political scientist, Rekha Chowdhury (2011),

The identity politics of Jammu is characterised by the demands for re-organisation of power relations within the State on the one hand, and contestation of the ethno-nationalist goals of Kashmiri identity politics, on the other. There is a strong feeling of ‘political deprivation’ due to its lack of parity with Kashmir region.

Divisive Propaganda

If Kashmiri nationalism gets positioned in competition with Indian nationalism, Jammu’s nationalism gets positioned as pro-India and its Gujjar and Pahadi Muslims as – pro-India. In such popular ideological constructs lie the seeds of communal partitions. Commonly voiced in Rajouri by elected panchayat members was the refrain, “We are the ones who hold aloft the tri-colour, we work shoulder to shoulder with the army, yet we the ‘nationalists’ get neglected. The state has deliberately ignored the tourism potential here, lavishing all attention on the Valley.” The right to information (RTI) activist Shahbaz Khan complained that,

In Kashmir they reap the benefits of both militancy monies and the [S]tate’s appeasement policies. Unka toh roza aur namaz bhi farzi hai! They have the power to bring Kashmir to a halt with their hartals, but that doesn’t stop them from accepting the government’s rich ‘doles’. If they are against India, why do they accept all this? All we get is the dregs, like haathi ke mooh mein jeera, despite our suffering being greater.

Evidently, neither sympathy nor empathy crosses the Pir Panjal range. What was striking was how little knowledge there is of the other. However, with the reopening of the Mughal Road, already, there are signs of renewed interactions as evinced in local TV channels carrying advertisements of medical facilities and properties to buy in Srinagar as an option for the residents of Jammu. But the divide is deep and there are stakes in deepening that division.

“We’re not trusted here or there”, chorused a group of students of Jammu University from the border districts. Muslim students are discouraged from participating in student politics lest they capture a student union and subvert it for anti-national activities. On one occasion, when some of them had gone to meet the then vice chancellor on student issues, he reportedly took one aside and said, “Mr Khan, I hope you realise that I have several top Indian agencies here under my control. Do you know the implications? Do you realise what that means for you?”

Ironically, in the Valley, the border people are deprecatingly called “Army ke gulam”. While these young women and men echoed many of the stereotypes and prejudices against the Valley people, the more mindful were aware of being manipulated, and the security establishment’s interest in dividing Muslims. A Muslim student from Rajouri described how on a visit to Srinagar with a friend to hear the Mirwaiz’s sermon after the Jumma prayers, he exchanged some words in the Pahadi language with his friend, “people sitting close by began to look at us suspiciously; one old man simply got up and left the mosque. They suspected us to be either ‘informers’ or ‘agents’ since we did not speak in the local Kashmiri language.”

Corroborating the army’s divisive “propaganda”, another student added, “when a group of us decided to visit the Kashmir Valley, one of the soldiers advised us to only eat at the vegetarian Vaishno dhabas rather than at restaurants/cafes owned or managed by Muslims, as it was not safe for us”. Through this differential development and neglect the government was creating divisions between regions and communities – Hindu, Muslim, Gujjar and Bakerwal. “Today in J&K we are facing the terror of division and communalisation of social relations, and not so much the terror of militants or the army”, said a Bakerwal student leader. It was less Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) that he was concerned about and more the state’s Public Safety Act under which hundreds of students like him were jailed.

Many Faces of Militarisation

The hill districts of Rajouri and Poonch present a mirror to the Valley’s future face as active militancy is contained, the ubiquitous bunkers dismantled and thickets of troops withdrew to discreet but permanent camps and militarisation gets normalised as a way of life.

Take the road from Rajouri to Buddhal, on the crossroads to the Valley, once militancy affected hub with heavy troop deployment, the Assam Rifles battalion encamped in Buddhal is being withdrawn. But entire hillsides on both sides of the road have been taken over by permanent, sprawling camps of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR). The strategic significance of these border districts has been demonstrated in the three wars producing permanent entrenchment of military encampments. The challenge of militancy has multiplied troop deployment threefold. Estimates for Rajouri-Poonch are not available. According to the state government of J&K, as stated on the floor of the legislative assembly in 2007, overall army deployment was 6.34 lakhs. Since then, six battalions each of central paramilitary and army have been withdrawn.1 According to the then union minister Ashwani Kumar, 86,260 paramilitary forces were deployed in 2011.

In Surankote or “little Kashmir” as this notorious epicentre of militancy in the hill districts was called, there was often firing at night across the LOC and commonly, families huddled in their homes as bullets flew overhead. It was the site of the 1998 Sailan massacre in which 19 women and men were killed to take revenge against the family of a militant who had killed a special police officer (SPO). Allegedly the army’s para-unit stationed nearby was involved. Surankote’s hill posts are part of the saga of Operation Sarvinash to destroy the bunkers of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

With militancy abated, the security forces have withdrawn from the Dak Bungalow and the schools. But in the centre of town there remains an entrenched and encroaching garrison of a central reserve police force (CRPF) camp that loomed over educational institutions – the Government Boys Higher Secondary School, the adjoining temporary building of Women’s Degree College and a primary school. The shrinking school playing field pressed in by barbed wires and high walls is witness to the relentless land grabbing of the security forces. Entrance to the educational complex is through two openings, one a gap in barbed wire, the other, a securitised gate through which jawans and students enter. Armed sentries watch as students scramble through the barricades. We asked some girl students if they felt intimidated. But they shrugged, brushing aside our questions. Was militarisation so naturalised in their eyes that they did not notice?

Boldly scrawled on the outer walls of the army encampments that line the road from Jammu to Rajouri and Poonch are sayings such as “a country without an army is like a summer without trees”, alluding to the “protective” role of the armed forces patrolling the border. Eminent professionals from the region emphasised that when the army and the “agencies” came to crush militancy in the border districts,

They treated us like they did the Kashmiris, with suspicion and hostility as the enemy, brutally punishing them for giving militants food and shelter. No one cooperated. They got no information. That strategy changed in 1999 with the realisation that the people here were not with the militants. The new strategy was, ‘okay, you gave shelter, food at gun point, now tell us how many they were, and which direction they went’.

In the early years of militancy the hill districts were essentially used to access the all-weather routes into the Valley. Targeted militancy-related incidents date from 1996. By then pro-independence elements and local militant leadership had been displaced by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar and LeT. Some people like Rashid Zargar, a goldsmith of Surankote, were ideologically swept up in the azadi wave. In 1993, he along with 70 others crossed over for training. Persuaded by his family to surrender, he nonetheless spent three and a half years in jail, a time when the Hurriyat cruelly abandoned him. A “surrendered” militant, he was easy prey for the colonel in the local Rashtriya Rifles brigade. He resisted being turned into a “spy”, but had to seek court protection. His nephew, the crucial witness in the case was killed in a “fake” encounter as an unidentified militant. Today, Zargar is an elected sarpanch, but as he told us, he still believes in the people’s right to self-determination and resists the army’s overtures to turn him into an informer.

Zargar’s story led us into a universe of legal and moral ambiguity. Here you could be an army “source” by day and a militant accomplice by night. In that continuum, it was not ideology but the compulsions of survival that led the Pahadis, Gujjars, Bakerwals to the remote passes to guide infiltrating militants, providing them shelter. It impelled them to become the army’s porters, informers and trailblazers in minefields. Legality gets destabilised, and the moral compass runs aground in a situation of militarisation for both the forces and the society. “Hamara uthna baithna unke (armed forces) saath hai” (we mix socially with them on a daily basis) said the elderly panch of Degwar, a fenced-out village in Poonch. The army had built a school and health centre, provided electricity and water and also evacuated them when shelling intensified.

What does routinised coexistence mean when power relations are unequal? Samina travelled daily by bus from Surankote to the degree college in Poonch. The army would stop the bus regularly. Male passengers were made to get down to haul up heavy ammo boxes and supplies to steep hill posts. Refusal was not an option as Sarwar Khan learnt. Officers of the RR stopped a bus travelling from Poonch to Pelera Mandi. Luggage and ammo had to be taken up to an army post two and a half kilometres away. According to a son, his ageing father was forced to carry the heavy load. He offered to pay Rs 500 to hire a younger person to do so. Angered, the soldiers thrashed him. Forced to carry the load, he collapsed and was abandoned. By the time he was rushed to the local hospital, he was dead. The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) directed that ex gratia relief be paid as he died serving the army. No compensation was however ever paid.

The contradictory layers seemed particularly difficult to untangle when we met Tazeem, the driving force of the Pakeezah Mahila Mandal, Poonch district. She is an enthusiastic participant in the army’s Operation Sadbhavna (Anant 2011) scheme of fostering exchange visits of women and children in J&K to build national integration. But any easy labelling of pro-Indian or pro-army soon got destabilised as she recounted the story of her panic-attack out of fear of the army. A few weeks before we met, she was returning after teaching at her school in Sawjian village. Dusk had fallen as she walked down a deserted hill road, a male colleague visible in the distance. Above, she heard and saw an army vehicle with soldiers. In gut reaction, she jumped towards the river below, but fortunately found her feet on a lower ledge. The soldiers found her and she saw with relief her colleague riding with them and got in. Women teachers from Rajouri added how soldiers would pass lewd comments at girls. They were careful never to drink or eat more than absolutely necessary, lest they have to go out at night. Early evening lights were doused so as not to draw any attention of the militants who might come for food and the army that would follow.

Dual Militarisation

One person’s security is another’s source of insecurity is the aphorism. But in the militarised border regions, the boundaries are blurred as epitomised in the ubiquitous phrase “unidentified gunman” encompassing a militant/soldier or a renegade whether in fauji uniform or salwar kameez. Militarisation meant the violence of the “gun”, be it militants or the army. Violence had breached the security of their homes, changing their lives forever. In 2000, Shahpari, her husband and seven children were at their dhok in Budhal, when 13 militants came and took away her husband to show them the way. Next day three militants returned without him. He had run away; had he come home or had he gone to the chowk (police station), they insistently demanded. One of the militants was sharpening his knife in readiness. Gripped by terror, she tried to appeal to his human side. Instead, they thrashed her and the children. Her husband returned at 6 pm. They killed him. An hour and half later, they killed her niece’s husband at his shop down in town. He used to tailor uniforms for the army. For two years the dhoks were declared off limits by the army.

For the Hindu migrants who fled their villages for refuge in one-room government quarters, there was no return. In 2005, the forces had killed three militants and in retaliation, the militants killed the male members of three Hindu families. The local Muslims had helped them “pick up the dead bodies and perform the last rites. But they did not stop us from leaving and they do not want us to return to our lands. And without our men what worth are our lands”. With the battalion about to withdraw from Buddhal, their insecurity is mounting.

Landmine Survivors

As we travelled closer to the border in Poonch district, the notion of security was turned on its head. In the rest of the country people imagine the borders as secure due to the army’s presence there. But who pays the cost became clear to us as we were overwhelmed by a crowd of landmine survivors – women and men, young and old – from the villages on the LoC. One of the region’s rare human rights defenders, Kawaljit Singh was helping them petition the SHRC for compensation for hurt and loss caused by cross-border shelling, landmines, or while working for the army and “serving” the nation.

In some cases, the men had been summoned by the army to fetch wood for their bunkers; to clear or de-weed the land near the border fencing; to act as human shields to search a cornfield for a hiding militant or scour an area to detect mines and to function as “sources” in hunting out militants. Others had routinely taken their cattle to graze and stepped on a landmine. There were women too, survivors of shelling and landmine blasts or searching for “missing” husbands and brothers. The hill sides in Rajouri and Poonch have their harvest of unmarked mass graves too. Complaints before the SHRC claim 2,717 and 1,127 unmarked graves in Poonch and Rajouri (Hamid 2011).

An old man told us:

Life is hell when you live so close to the border. The soldiers never leave us in peace. They use us as protective shields. They are the first to run for their lives in case of a landmine blast. They don’t care whether we survive or bleed to death; in fact death would be a better option for us than this daily drudgery.

Poonch district accounts for 62% of landmine victims in J&K. Landmines were laid along the border during the three wars and most recently during Operation Parakram 2002, when an estimated two million mines were laid. Landmine monitor estimates the contaminated area along the border in Jammu division is around 160 km (Bisht 2009). Most mines are said to have been removed but mines that moved due to rain and snow continue to maim people.

Mohamed Bashir, a middle-aged man, recalled how he had lost consciousness after a sudden blast. When he came to, he realised he had been abandoned by the jawans. He dragged his blown-up leg some distance to reach help. At the civil hospital, his leg was amputated. The family sold their land to pay for his treatment. For women, it was in the act of going about their everyday chores that the violence of the border maimed them forever. A young woman, who to all appearances was “normal”, pulled up her salwar and showed her prosthetic leg. She was on her way to fetch water when she stepped on a landmine. Another woman, Saleemabi, was cooking outside her house when a cross-border shell exploded, destroying her kitchen and ripping off her left arm. A now middle-aged woman recalled how in 1991, she, a student of class VIII, was in class when a shell pierced her back. She is still struggling to get a disability pension.

A 14-year-old Bakerwal boy was grazing his two goats near the border, when two Pakistani rangers captured him and the two goats. “The goats they must have eaten. I was locked up in a local jail and was frequently beaten. Five years later in the Kargil prisoners’ exchange, I was sent back.” Once here, he was rearrested and subjected to interrogation and debriefing in Jammu jail for a year. Back home, he had begun to lead a normal life but in 2000, as he was grazing his goats, he stepped on to a shifted landmine. “Mein aise hi ghas per payr rakha tha jaise aap khade ho aur achanak mera pair udh gaya” (I was standing like you on a patch of grass and suddenly my leg blew off), he said, plaintively.

Serving as a Source

These were the survivors. Many more were “missing”, serving as a “source” in the Army Liaison Unit or doing “labour” (voluntarily or forcibly) for the security forces. Their torn bodies would be discovered on the LOC and left unrecovered for fear of exploding mines and cross-border shelling. For instance, Md Qasim of Timbra, Poonch was known to work with the army. According to the complaint before the SHRC, he was called by the commanding officer (CO) and taken away by a dozen troops of the 12th Dogra regiment in 1995. It was the second Eid. There was a mine blast in Titri Morh, Poonch that night. Md Qasim never came back. The army gave his mother Rs 1,800 and ration for two months and then walked away.

The LoC holds many stories of such brutally broken, expendable lives and the impunity with which the security forces and the government walk away. For instance, Bagh Hussain of Shahpur village in Haveli tehsil was attending a wedding in Salonia, Mandi in 1997, when Mohammed Hussain, an army source forcibly took him away at the summons of inspector Satpal of the border-security force (BSF) (G branch). At Shahpur village, Hussain told the chowkidar they were going to the Chotan post of the 7th Maratha. Next day, Hussain’s dead body was found on the LoC along with that of a milk seller Md Sharif. First information reports (FIRs) were filed and cases registered with difficulty. Witnesses became elusive. Post-mortem reports disappeared.

For 15 years, Fatima Jan of Guntrian village (Haveli tehsil) on the LoC has been waiting, not for justice, but for statutory compensation. In December 1998, her husband Hakim Din Mohammad, who worked as an army “source” was summoned by subedar Balraj of the 8th JK Light Infantry to the army post in Guntrian. When her husband did not return, she made enquiries at the post and was told he had been sent to “report” to the CO at Sackloo post. When he did not return, she told them she would file an FIR against the jawans. They threatened her. For four and a half years, the jawans kept her under house arrest. Part of the village is fenced out. Even when one of her six daughters fell sick, the jawans brought a doctor, but did not allow her to leave. Only when the army unit was transferred was the siege lifted. His successor “did not want to waste resources in this manner”. In 2008 the SHRC directed the police to register a case for custodial killing. She is yet to receive compensation.

Ironically, these petitions seeking compensation emphasise that their loss resulted from “duty” to the nation. Apparently that “duty” included fomenting terrorism across the border. In 1995, an adventurist army colonel, the CO of the 6th Assam Regiment had his own ideas of getting even with Pakistan and used two young men, Mohammed Yusaf (18) and Mohammed Shabir (20) of Degwar Tarwan Haveli, to cross the border into Pakistan and plant bombs. According to the complainant, Mohammed Din, the father, the boys were given some rudimentary training to plant bombs in “PoK”.

The bombs exploded before they could be planted. Yusaf was killed on the spot. The other was injured. He was thrown into jail. Five and half years later, in the prisoner exchange programme in 2000, he was released. By then he was unhinged. Shabir, since his return from PoK, has not been issued an identity card, without which he cannot move about safely. In his application, the father laments “It is very surprising that a person, who was compelled by army personnel to cross over the Line of Control for National interest, is now being deprived of his constitutional rights of having an Identity Card”. The SHRC recommended compensation, but none has been paid. After 15 years of waiting the father, in desperation, now claims that his son was serving as a “porter” with the army and got killed in a blast on the LOC.

Despite the enormity of the violence done to their lives and livelihood, the cry for justice was missing. It was in sharp contrast to the human-rights-based outrage that is the foundation of the language of grievance and resistance in the Valley. There we would have heard loudly the clamour for justice. Here, it was hopeless resignation and a feeble struggle for compensation. It was as if the multilayered experience of oppression, exploitation and marginalisation had stripped the people of their sense of being right-bearing, equal citizens.


1 As shared by Gautam Navlakha, from his diary noting from daily newspapers, 21 March 2013.


Anant, I Arpita (2011): “Counterinsurgency and Op Sadhbhavna in Jammu and Kashmir”, IDSA Occasional Paper No 19, October.

Bisht, Medha (2009): “Revisiting the Indian Policy on Antipersonnel Landmines”, IDSA November, viewed on 18 July 2013 (

Chowdhury, Rekha (2011): “Caught in Tangle”, Lokniti, viewed on 18 July 2013 (

Cohen, Maurice (1955): Thunder over Kashmir (New Delhi: Orient Longman).

Gupta, S (2007): Reconciliation across Divides: Survey Research about Divided Families in Border Districts of Jammu, Kashmir (Delhi: Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation).

Hamid, Peerzada Arshad (2011): “Silent Fields: Walking the Unmarked Graves of Jammu & Kashmir”, Himal magazine, December.

Sahba Husain (sabbynanu at is an independent researcher and activist focusing on gender, armed conflict and rights issues. Rita Manchanda (ritamanchanda2003@yahoo. works on a rights-based analysis of conflicts and peace-building with special attention to the role of women.


The above paper is reproduced here from The Economic and Political Weekly for educational and non commercial use