Karakash River in the Western Kunlun Shan, seen from the Tibet-Xinjiang highway. Photo taken by Nick Kent-Basham in September 2004 while on a geological expedition from UC Davis
Pakistani PM to Raise Kashmir Issue at UN General Assembly
By Roshan Mughal
Pakistan's prime minister assured residents of disputed Kashmir on Friday that he will expose years-long Indian oppression and human rights violations in the region when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly this month.
Imran Khan made the comments in his first speech to a rally in Pakistan-held Kashmir since the revocation of the special status of the disputed Himalayan region by India on Aug. 5. Some 20,000 people took part.
Khan also requested that rally-goers refrain from marching toward the heavily militarized Line of Control that separates Kashmir between Pakistani and Indian sides, saying they should wait for his call.
``Don't go to the (Line of Control) until I ask you and I will tell you when to do it,'' he said.
Khan was attempting to calm down angry youths who this month clashed with police in Pakistan-held Kashmir upon being stopped from marching toward the frontier, where Pakistani and Indian troops are in close quarters.
The appeal to angry youths came days after thousands of unarmed young people marched toward the frontier to protest the lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir, triggering clashes with police.
Pakistani and Indian troops often exchange fire, causing troops and civilian casualties.
The rally also comes a day after the country's military said Indian fire killed one of its soldiers in Kashmir in the latest cease-fire violation.
Khan urged the world community to pressure India to give the right of self-determination to Kashmiris.
In his speech to rallygoers, Khan said if the people in Kashmir were given the right to decide their future, his country would respect their decision, saying they have faced hardships resulting from a curfew that has been in place in Indian-administered Kashmir since last month.
Tensions between Pakistan and India have increased since Aug. 5, when New Delhi downgraded the autonomy of Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India but coveted by both in its entirety.
The two neighbours fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
They nearly went to war again in February, when a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir killed 40 paramilitary soldiers. India at the time responded by bombing an alleged militant training camp in Pakistan. Pakistan then said it shot down two Indian air force planes and captured an Indian pilot who was later released.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
Kashmiris Allege Night Terror by Indian Troops in Crackdown
By Aijaz Hussain
The Indian soldiers descended on Bashir Ahmed Dar's house in southern Kashmir on Aug. 10, a few days after the government in New Delhi stripped the disputed Himalayan region of its statehood and launched a crackdown. Over the next 48 hours, the 50-year-old plumber said he was subjected to two separate rounds of beatings by soldiers.
They demanded that he find his younger brother, who had joined rebels opposing India's presence in the Muslim majority region, and persuade him to surrender or else ``face the music.''
In the second beating, at a military camp, Dar said he was struck with sticks by three soldiers until he was unconscious. He woke up at home, ``unable to sit on my bruised and bloodied buttocks and aching back,'' he added.
But it wasn't over. On Aug. 14, soldiers returned to his house in the village of Heff Shirmal and destroyed his family's supply of rice and other foodstuffs by mixing it with fertilizer and kerosene.
Dar's account of violence and intimidation by Indian soldiers was not unusual. In more than 50 interviews, residents in a dozen villages in Kashmir told The Associated Press that the military had raided their homes since India's government imposed a security crackdown in the region Aug. 5. They said the soldiers inflicted beatings and electric shocks, forced them to eat dirt or drink filthy water, poisoned their food supplies or killed livestock, and threatened to take away and marry their female relatives. Thousands of young men have been arrested.
Asked by AP to respond to the recent allegations of abuse from the Northern Command, the Indian army's headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir. Its spokesman based in the main city of Srinagar, Col. Rajesh Kalia, dismissed the villagers' accounts as ``completely baseless and false,'' and asserted the Indian army values human rights.
``There have been reports of movement of terrorists'' in the areas AP visited, Kalia said. ``Some youth were suspected to be involved in anti-national and disruptive activities and were handed over to police as per law of the land.''
India's top security official, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, said the army has not been involved in the operation in Kashmir. ``There have been no atrocities,'' he said.
For years, there have been accusations from Kashmir residents and international human rights groups that Indian troops have carried out systematic abuse and unjustified arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi in the divided region that is claimed by both India and Pakistan.
But frustration, anger and fear have been growing in Kashmir in the five weeks since the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the region of most of its semiautonomous status on Aug. 5 and imposed a curfew and a communications blackout. Although some restrictions have been eased in the main city of Srinagar, with students encouraged to return to school and businesses to reopen, rural residents complain of what they perceive as a campaign of violence and intimidation that seems designed at suppressing any militancy, rebellion or dissent.
The abuses in the nighttime raids by troops began in early August as New Delhi took its action on Kashmir, according to interviews with at least 200 people. The change in status nullified decades-old constitutional provisions that gave Jammu and Kashmir some political autonomy and land inheritance rights. It also downgraded the state into two federally governed territories. The actions have been challenged in India's Supreme Court.
In the village of Parigam, the family of baker Sonaullah Sofi was asleep when army troops raided his home. The soldiers took his two sons into a street, hitting them with gun butts, iron chains and sticks, Sofi said.
``Helpless, I heard my sons scream as soldiers started beating them up mercilessly in the middle of the road,'' Sofi said.
Soon, soldiers brought 10 more young men to the village square, seeking names of anti-India protesters, said Muzaffar Ahmed, Sofi's 20-year-old son, recounting the Aug. 7 incident.
``They hit our backs and legs for three hours. They gave us electric shocks,'' Ahmed said, lifting his shirt to show his burned and bruised back. ``As we cried and pleaded (with) them to let us go, they became more relentless and ruthless in their beating. They forced us to eat dust and drink water from a drain.''
Since the crackdown began, at least 3,000 people, mostly young men, have been arrested, according to police officials and records reviewed by the AP. About 120 of those have been slapped with the Public Safety Act, a law that permits holding people for up to two years without trial, the records showed.
Thousands of others have been detained in police lockups to be screened for potential to join protests. Some have been freed and asked to report back a few days later. Some are only held in the daytime, released at night to sleep at home, while their parents are told to bring them back the next day.
Ahmed, the baker, said the soldiers finally left at dawn, leaving them writhing in pain. He and his elder brother along with at least eight others were then bundled into a single ambulance and taken to a hospital in Srinagar.
The conflict over Kashmir has existed since the late 1940s, when India and Pakistan won independence from the British empire. The countries have fought two of their three subsequent wars over Kashmir, and each administers a portion of the region.
New Delhi initially grappled with largely peaceful anti-India movements in its portion of Kashmir. However, a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent escalated the conflict into a full-blown armed rebellion against Indian control in 1989 for a united Kashmir, either under Pakistan rule or independent of both. Since then, about 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which India sees as a proxy war by Pakistan.
The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world, patrolled by soldiers and paramilitary police. Most Kashmiris resent the Indian troop presence and support the rebels.
Now, a new generation in Kashmir has revived the militancy, challenging New Delhi's rule with guns and social media. In February, a Kashmiri suicide attacker rammed a van full of explosives into an Indian paramilitary convoy, killing more than 40 people and wounding more than two dozen. Modi said at the time that government forces have been given ``total freedom'' to deal with militants.
For years, human rights groups have accused Indian troops of intimidating and controlling the population with physical and sexual abuse and unjustified arrests. Indian government officials deny this, calling the allegations separatist propaganda.
Abuses alleged by rights groups since 1989 have included rape, sodomy, waterboarding, electric shocks to the genitals, burns and sleep deprivation.
The U.N. last year called for an independent international investigation into allegations of rights violations like rape, torture and extrajudicial killings in Kashmir. India rejected the report as ``fallacious.''
Parvez Imroz, a prominent rights lawyer, said the new reports of abuse in the security forces' ongoing campaign were ``disturbing.''
Fear and anger are palpable in the villages that dot the vast apple orchards, especially after sundown, when the soldiers come.
Abdul Ghani Dar, 60, said soldiers have raided his home in the village of Marhang seven times since early August, adding that he sends his daughter to another location before they arrive.
``They say they've come to check on my son but I know they come looking for my daughter,'' Dar said, his eyes welling with tears.
Residents of three other villages said soldiers had threatened to take girls away from their families for marriage.
``They're marauding our homes and hearths like a victorious army. They are now behaving as if they have a right over our lives, property and honour,'' said Nazir Ahmed Bhat, who lives in Arihal.
In early August, soldiers came to the home of Rafiq Ahmed Lone while he was away.
``The soldiers asked my wife to accompany them for searching our home. When she refused, she was beaten up with gun butts and sticks,'' Lone said. While she was being beaten, the soldiers killed their rooster, he added.
Associated Press writer Emily Schmall in New Delhi contributed to this report.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
India Tightens Kashmir Lockdown Over Muslim Processions Authorities on Sunday tightened a month-long security lockdown in Indian Kashmir's main city of Srinagar after breaking up religious processions by Shiite Muslims who defied a ban.
A military clampdown was imposed in Muslim-majority Kashmir from August 5 to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the disputed region's autonomy, with mobile phone networks and the internet still cut off in all but a few pockets.
Police drove around the city from early Sunday, announcing through loudhailers that "residents areinformednot to venture out of their homes".
"Strict action under law would be taken against violators," they added.
Shiite Muslims worldwide stage processions and hold rallies during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar -- which started on September 1 this year -- to mark the anniversary of the death of a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
Most such processions have been banned in Indian-administered Kashmir since the outbreak of insurgency against New Delhi's rule in 1989, on grounds that the rituals could be used to stoke anti-India sentiment.
AFP saw at least two small protests on Sunday morning by between eight to 10 Shiite mourners, who were quickly detained and taken away in police vehicles.
Police were also seen hitting the mourners with bamboo sticks.
Witnesses told AFP they saw at least six more similar protests, with police also detaining the participants.
Locals said the processions have taken on a political aspect this year after India's controversial autonomy decision.
- Bamboo sticks -
Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.
Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a decades-old armed rebellion -- backed by Pakistan, New Delhi claims -- against Indian rule with tens of thousands, mostly civilians, killed.
On Saturday, four local journalists were injured while covering a protest involving up to 5,000 demonstrators, one of the biggest gatherings since the lockdown was imposed.
One journalist said his camera lens was broken and another had visible marks on his body after he was allegedly hit with bamboo sticks by security personnel.
Security forces also fired tear gas and live ammunition in the air.
Authorities had loosened the curfew in parts of Srinagar gradually in recent weeks but began to enforce it again from Friday.
An AFP reporter said Sunday's clampdown was one of the tightest since August 5. While barricades had been manned by up to three paramilitary troopers, there were now up to 10.
Tensions could further heighten on Tuesday, which is Ashura, the climactic 10th day of Moharram.
While the rituals are traditionally marked by Shiite Muslims in the Sunni-majority valley, Sunnis told AFP they would take part in processions on Tuesday to show solidarity with their fellow Muslims.
The tightened security measures came a day after India's national security advisor said the lifting of communication restrictions in Indian Kashmir depended on Pakistan stopping deploying "terrorists" and fomenting unrest there.