Using a civilian as a human shield and curbing freedom of expression, clearly India doesn’t care about Kashmir

Published: April 29, 2017
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The reason for this was because he expressed his outrage over the Indian army’s act of using a Kashmiri civilian as a ‘human shield’. PHOTO: TWITTER

The Indian army’s former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Northern Command, Lieutenant General Harcharanjit Singh Panag was nastily trolled on social media recently. The reason for this was because he expressed his outrage over the Indian army’s act of using a Kashmiri civilian as a literal ‘human shield’. Farooq Ahmed Dar, 26-years-old, was tied to a vehicle to protect the army personnel from stone pelting in Indian-held Kashmir’s Budgam district on April 13, 2017.

The incident prompted General Panag to send out a tweet:

Apart from being called an “anti-national”, the retired army officer received about 2,000 tweets, some of which also contained threats to thrash him, India’s popular television channel New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) reported. He responded to each of the tweets.

General Panag has served in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir for four decades. The day Dar was made a human shield in violation of international human rights law and probably the Geneva Convention as well, some top politicians affiliated with the ruling Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) defended the indefensible.

Justifying the controversial video, BJP’s general secretary Ram Madhav told the Indian news channel CNN-News18,

“I compliment the major for not allowing both these things to happen… If I were to blame anybody today for that scenario, it would be those who were responsible for failing to send reinforcements when the situation was critical and it was informed to the seniors. In war and love, everything is fair.”

Madhav’s remarks reflect a larger malaise and Hindutva mind-set in mainland India which is becoming more and more radicalised. Mainstreaming of radical majoritarian politics in India is the new reality which can’t be brushed aside as aberration.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ascendant to power in May 2014, India is speaking aggressively to the people of Kashmir as it never has before. The language is of power, not engagement. The argument is of power with no power in the argument.

This shameful ‘human shield’ incident occurred during the time of re-polling in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency. This re-polling witnessed a record low voter turnout when compared to the last five decades; striking a sense of shame for Jammu and Kashmir’s embattled coalition government headed by the pro-India Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The shocking decision of tying a civilian to the bonnet of an army jeep was taken by the Indian army’s 53 Rashtriya Rifles.

India’s radical Hindu right-wing brigade did not even spare its own retired army officer for speaking his mind about Kashmir and the role of the Indian army.

The Bollywood singer Abhijeet, known for stirring up controversies, accused General Panag of being a “Pakistan supporter”.

For a majority of Kashmiris, the atrocities of the Indian army are nothing new.

Kashmir has been witnessing horrific war crimes including the alleged mass rape in the Konanposhpora village in north Kashmir’s frontier district in the early 1990s, hundreds of custodial killings, torture, extra-judicial killings, mass graves and more since the eruption of the popular armed uprising in 1989. Speaking to Irfan Ahmad, a young Kashmiri professional, he told me,

“The image has given a face and a voice to numerous such incidents that have been happening in Kashmir for last three decades. The visuals synchronise with the internationally known acts of torture, thus triggering widespread condemnation globally.”

In today’s technological world, it is rather difficult to hide shame and this is probably the reason why the state’s home department of the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to ban 22 social networking sites for one month. The thought process behind this ban, it seems, is to curb freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, the coalition government in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir is drawing criticism from various quarters for its unusually harsh measures. Moreover, the ban, beginning April 26th, has also incorporated the suspension of 4G/3G services for an indefinite period in the disputed Himalayan region. The ban comes in the backdrop of massive civilian protests against Indian rule and the student-led agitation across the valley.

The recent cycle of agitation began as a result of the by-elections. Consequently, 10 civilians were killed by government forces.

The ban order, signed by the principal secretary in the state’s home department, argued that social media networking sites were being used by “anti-national and subversive elements” for “vitiating peace and tranquillity” in Jammu and Kashmir, an argument which has been used by the opposition and pro-independence groups.

During a discussion, Mohammad Yasin Malik, chairman of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), said to me,

“India has ceased to be a democratic country… India has become a fascist state. In Narendra Modi’s India, there is no space for dissent anymore. Ban on the internet and social media is being enforced to curb freedom of expression.”

The internet is often suspended in Kashmir to quell civilian protests and anti-India demonstrations, which sometimes turn violent when the government forces get involved.

According to a report by the Software Freedom Law Centrethe internet has been blocked in Kashmir at least 31 times from 2012 to 2016.

It appears that the message from India to the world is clear – “We no more care about international outrage over human rights abuse in Kashmir!”

Gowhar Geelani

Gowhar Geelani

The author is a writer, journalist and political commentator from Srinagar, the South Asian Journalism Programme (SAJP) scholar 2015, the first Kashmiri to be selected as Munich Young Leader 2014. He has also served the Deutsche Welle, in Germany, as an editor. He tweets as @gowhargeelani

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sameer Shah

    Where are all my beloved Indians trolls? Wake up it’s time to trash talk the writer and do some chest thumping.Recommend

  • Waron Dafe

    Also killing and throwing the bodies of balochis and raping their women does indicate that pakistan does not like balochistan.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Mr. Farooq Ahmed Dar looks more amused than frightened.

    As for using him as a human shield, it was a good decision.
    served the purpose with o any bloodshed. Be thankful to the presence of mind of the army officer.Recommend

  • G. Din

    Oh, we do care and care deeply about Kashmir. True, we don’t care about the 4-S (Srinagar-Sopore-Sunni-Separatists). It is one of those that was strapped to the jeep. Proved very effective, you must admit.Recommend

  • akhil g

    Military has once used a so called human shield and that too in a grim situation but militants use children and women as human shield for stone pelting and to hurl grenades at security personals.Recommend

  • Paki Terrorist

    India’s Attorney General has clarified that this was a perfectly legitimate action by the Indian army to thwart the pro-Pakistan Kashmiri stone pelters … all of India has welcomed this novel step by the army …Recommend

  • Shaafi Butt

    Well done IndiaRecommend

  • Cynic

    “Boy”

    First time seeing a boy with a beard!!!

    How about showing the other video where local boys beat the CRPF and he kept walking even though he could have shot them all with his gunRecommend

  • Amer Lodi

    Now this picture depicts the real ugly shinning face of India………Recommend

  • zoro

    No need to thrash the writer now … Indians already thrashing the stone pelters …
    The whole world knows who is behind the Kashmir trouble …No wonder no one pays a heed to it … including the UMMA …
    Pity on the Kashmiri youth who are being used as a cannon fodder for Indian Army … well …its for the youths to decide …
    India knows how to take care of her own people … Anyone fomenting trouble in India will be dealt accordingly … so was the Kashmiri stone pelter … tho he denies … everyone knows what he he is and who is paying Rs 300 per day …and the drugs to the youths …Recommend

  • Tom

    The next kashmiri who throw stones at the police or the soldiers should be shot and tied to roof or to rear bumper and carried or dragged thru the streets of kashmir………..Recommend

  • Eddy Eddy

    What a shameful act using human as a shield. Aren’t this is the army who day dreams of conquering Pakistan?
    Just look at them scared of stone pelleting. I bet when bullets start firing they will wet their pants. lolxRecommend

  • Pure Ind

    Buddy the reaction from the armed forces was instinctive that shouldnt have happened.. but I guess that the patience of the Indian soldiers broke because of the constant irritants in the form of stone pelters,
    I know Pakistanis really want the world to consider them as supporters of Kashmiri Muslims few questions.
    1) Why not the same concerns for chinese ulghir muslims being harassed are they lesser muslims than Kashmiris??
    2) You claim Kashmir is a disputed Territory & only Kashmiris have the right to decide its future.. Woww then what about Aksai Chin gifted to China?? So you guys have the right to play with disputed territory when it profits you guys??

    Kashmir has always been a part of Indian culture more than 5000yrs old, the very name Kashmir has been derived from Sanskrit, Hindu Pandits are the true inhabitants of the soil who have been killed & threatened to leave their land. A migrated foreign culture which is not even 1500yrs old cant stake any claim on it !!Recommend

  • Shilpa

    Perhaps, media freedom is better in Pakistan or Turkey or Egypt.

    Write-ups like these are just a one-sided monologue. So while “human shield” is shameful,.. The forces in the video have guns but do not respond to the hitting and provoking. But why would Gowhar Geelani want to mention anything about it or condemn it? It doesn’t present a good picture of the “peaceful” protestors, does it?Recommend

  • G. Din

    Your “beloved Indian trolls” have been silenced by your “patriotic” moderators.Recommend

  • angrybird

    haha civilian!!!!!!!

    he was getting medicine for his own terrorism there… came to stone at Soldiers and got slapped.. lolRecommend

  • little children

    good tactics used by INDIAN ARMY. not a single stone thrown and nobody got hurt.Recommend

  • Sane

    The army officer must be hungryRecommend

  • Sane

    Talk Kashmir, which you are losing.Recommend

  • Sane

    paid Indian commentator. They are no more earning out of this.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Why don’t you get a Disqus ID?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Really? You mean the video specially made, staged [with help
    from Bollywood cinematographers] that shows a Stalwart Oh So
    Decent Hindu Armed Forces man bravely walking while being beaten
    around the head and shoulders [well padded to take the blows]
    by Bollywood hired extras? One mistake,…the soldier is wearing tennis shoes!!!! Somebody forgot to change the actor’s shoes!!!!
    Now is anyone going to believe this video?Recommend

  • LS

    his comments are enough to tell he is a “patriotic” paki Recommend

  • LS

    Losing? Kashmir valley is just 16% of the land of whole J&K. India isn’t losing its sleep over a bunch of stone peltersRecommend

  • Cynical

    Why do you want him/her to get a Disqus ID?Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Why don’t you let him/her reply?Recommend