National English newspaper Hindustan Times, last week, ran a report that central government was looking for arming CRPF with alternative weapons for the dreaded pellets guns. Quoting officials the report says that much-maligned pellet guns will give way to chilli bombs and ‘soft-nosed’ tear gas shells to avoid collateral losses during the paramilitary action. Around 18000 people, majority of them youth, have been wounded by the pellets used by CRPF to control street protests in the valley since the death of Hizbul Mujahisdeen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016. Hundreds have attained permanent injuries and dozens have lost eye-sight. The blatant use of pellets caused international concern with human rights and social activists censuring the Indian government. This caused embarrassment for India internationally. Supreme Court of India also urged the central government to consider alternative to pellets guns. It is quite flabbergasting that government of India has come with the answer of Chilli bombs and “soft-nosed” tear gas shells. One wonders that isn’t there any other answer to the peoples’ anger. Is the weaponry only answer to the problem in Kashmir? Can’t the government think beyond killing or wounding people? The people in and outside the government are not tired of calling people of Kashmir as “our people” Do “our people” deserve to be treated with weapons of mass or less destruction? Government of India needs to come out of this power-driven mindset. It is only but adding to the ire of the people. The anger and alienation of the people is increasing in proportion to the force the security forces are using against the local population. This gives the sense that the government has not learned anything from its past experience. Military methods have been a rule to tackle Kashmir situation right from 1990 when the first militant entered here and shot his first bullet. Almost seven lakh soldiers of regular army and paramilitary forces have been deployed in Kashmir to counter the insurgency. Though the militancy was curtailed to certain extent but it could not completely curb it. Many army commanders (former and present) are on record to have said that army can contain militancy but it cannot end it up. Only a few days back army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said that gun is not a solution to the Kashmir situation. He said that neither militants nor army could achieve anything from the gun. He, instead, pleaded for political approach. It is sad that the political establishment has bitterly failed in its responsibility towards its ‘own people’. Kashmir, in essence, is a political problem. Militancy and military approach are the outcome of delay in resolving the issue politically. Government of India should have learnt from the past experience where military action not only failed to restore peace but worked as igniting force to add to the trouble. The tension in Kashmir rose to new horizons after the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in July last year. For the soldiers, it was a routine operation and killing of a militant commander a common thing. But how it proved counter-productive could be understood from the fact that even chief minister Mahbooba Mufti lamented his killing and said that Burhan Wani could have been captured alive. Burhan was not the first militant leader to have been killed. But his death was indeed first to provoke such a public convulsion. What makes things worse is the arbitrary use of power by the men in uniform while dealing with common people. It is not going overboard to say that armed forces have public approval from the government to use any method to deal with common people. Entire political and security establishment rose in one voice in favor of Major Nitin Gogoi, who violated all laws of humanity and civility by using a Kashmiri boy as human shield on April 9. The Major was not only rewarded for his action that should have otherwise invited punishment for him but was praised for his what was called “innovative idea”. Also came a series of statements from the defence minister to home minister to army chief saying army has been given free hand to deal with the situation in Kashmir. There is a thinking in the political establishment in Delhi that if India exercises power, then Pakistan and the Kashmiris will fall in line. Ajit Doval, the national security advisor (NSA) of Modi is the author and architect of this theory of power. It is perhaps against this backdrop that central government is not ready to talk either to Pakistan or to Kashmiri leadership. This has already caused untold damage to Kashmir. Persisting with it can generate severe militant blowback within the Valley. It is a violent experiment that is destined not only to fail but complicate the matters further. It was expected of the Prime Minister recognize the real problem in Kashmir and reach out to the people with political initiative. But by treading the extremist path, he is not doing any good either to Kashmir or to the country.
An exemplary leader
It is not the size of one’s chest that matters. It is the moral standing that defines one’s person. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shown that she could be small only in terms of heading a small country but she is above all in human and moral values. Her response to March 15 terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 Muslims has earned her appreciation from world over. She won the hearts world over for the love, compassion and support to the families of victims. The New Zealand Prime Minister was equally hateful for the attacker and refused to mention him by name saying she would not give him a name, and urged others too to do the same. She said that he should go in the history nameless. Brenton Tarrant, 28, a Narcissistic right-wing Australian terrorist motivated by his anti-Muslim ire carried out the carnage as the Muslims prayed in Christchurch mosques. He live-streamed the horrific massacre on his face book page. Tarrant, described by Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”, expressed admiration for other violent white nationalists and his intention to “create an atmosphere of fear” and to “incite violence” against Muslims.Led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the people New Zealand down under showed showed the world how a tragedy of such huge proportions should be handled, and how governments should react in times of crisis. Jacinda Ardern was praised as the face of New Zealand in the times of grief. Right after the rampage, Ms Ardern led from the front, meeting survivors and the heirs of victims, condoling with them and offering the full support of the state. A day after the attack, when Ardern visited a Christchurch refugee centre to meet community leaders, she earned the respect of the Muslim world when she arrived in a hijab, carrying off the headscarf with natural poise, placed her hand on her heart, a traditional Muslim gesture, and said a simple, “Asalaam alaykum,” (peace be with you) as the grieving crowd murmured, “Wa alaykum asalaam. At a subsequent visit to a local mosque, her composure and empathy while meeting survivors was lauded, as was her insistence that New Zealand would remain a refuge for people of all faiths from across the world.
From taking the responsibility of informing the people herself about the immediate developments on the day that the attack took place, to later talking to the media about the hurdles in the process of returning bodies to victims’ families for burial, Ardern made sure she was there, and not someone else, to inform the people about all the goings-on—reflecting just how deeply involved and up-to-date she is. When Ardern took office in 2017 as an unmarried 37-year-old, she was not only the country’s third female prime minister and the world’s youngest world leader, she was also about to give birth. She became just the second woman, only after Pakistan then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in history to give birth while an elected head of state and the first elected leader ever to take maternity leave. This is the first time that a government head has been so widely praised by so many people from all around the globe for showing the world what true leadership looks like; for giving the world a reason to be hopeful about being led by people whose intelligence and compassion outweigh a desire for petty political points, for setting an example for heads of government all around the world by avoiding caustic rhetoric against political opponents at home and abroad.
Threat of Right Wing Nationalism
At a time when the international community was focusing on the issue of a series of deadly ‘lone wolf’ attacks across the globe by the Islamic State, ignoring the rise of ‘White Nationalism’ against ‘Islamist invaders’, a white man, identified as Brenton Tarrant, in his late 20s carried out the deadliest attack ever witnessed in New Zealand. Tarrant killed 49 Muslim worshippers at two separate mosques – Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque – in Christchurch. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that 41 people were killed at Al-Noor Mosque while another seven were killed at Linwood Mosque. One person died at a hospital. 42 people, including a four-year-old child, were reported injured. Several others, including nine Indian citizens, are missing.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted that “this can now only be described as a terrorist attack”. She also noted “it is clear; this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. New Zealand never before in its history had witnessed a terror attack of this scale. Indeed, as per reports, New Zealand’s terror threat level has been lifted to high for the first time in its history, following the attack.
Meanwhile, the lone attacker, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen, in his 74-pages document titled The Great Replacement has disclosed that “New Zealand was not the original choice for attack” and he carried out the attack there because he believed that an incident in New Zealand would bring to attention the truth of the assault on our civilization that nowhere in the world was safe, the invaders were in all of our lands, even in the remotest areas of the world and that there was nowhere left to go that was safe and free from mass immigration.
In an attack similar to Christchurch, six people were killed and another 19 injured in a shooting incident at a mosque in Canadian city of Quebec’s Sainte-Foy neighbourhood on January 29, 2017. A French-Canadian student, Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged for the attack.
Bissonnette, like Tarrant, was ‘fighting’ for ‘White Nationalism’. According to an April 18, 2018, report, in a video of his police interrogation shown in court, Bissonnette is heard telling officers that his three-minute-long attack was set off by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message of welcome to refugees in the wake of President Trump’s entry ban, which was issued two days before his attack at the Sainte-Foy mosque. The report also stated that Bissonnette spent hours in front of his computer screen reading about mass shooters and scouring the Twitter accounts of right-wing commentators, alt-right figures, conspiracy theorists and President Trump.
Bothe the attackers – Tarrant and Bissonnette – had no criminal history and were under no watch list.
Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University (US) and author of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, following the Christchurch attack rightly observed as saying, it’s a particular form of hate and hate crimes that blames immigrants and outsiders and people who look different. It’s impossible to see this crime and this mass murder just as a mass shooting. It took place in the context of the global spread of white nationalism.
At least 11 attacks (excluding the one at Christchurch) by white supremacists have been recorded over the past eight years across Europe and the US resulting in at least 124 fatalities. Though not all these attacks directly targeted immigrants they were intended to pressurise Governments to change immigration policies. The most prominent of these included the October 27, 2018, killing of at least 11 people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, by Robert Bowers; the killing of Labour Party Member of Parliament Jo Cox in Birstall, West Yorkshire, UK, on June 16, 2016; and the worst of these, the July 22, 2011, attack by Anders Behring Breivik, which resulted in the killing of 77 people.
Sadly, countries facing this problem feign ignorance of such developments across the globe, most prominently since the Syrian crisis and the resultant immigration of Muslims into western countries and rising Islamophobia. According to a September 11, 2018, report, the top countries by origin of asylum seekers in the EU since 2014 were Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, all countries with recent or ongoing conflicts. Between 2014 and 2017, a total of more than 919,000 Syrians applied for asylum in the EU.
Colin Clarke, an adjunct political scientist at the RAND Corporation and a senior research fellow at the Soufan Centre, observes
But while we pay a lot of attention to jihadist terrorism, we’ve been very slow and stubborn to realize that right-wing terrorism is very global, too.
The problem of the increasing threat of right wing nationalism has the potential to derail global peace and needs to be addressed with great urgency across the world.
Death in the afternoon
Kashmir is again on the edge. The death of a 28-year old man Rizwan Assad Pandit of Awantipora in SOG custody has sparked outrage across the political and peoples’ spectrum. Politicians of all hues are enraged over the gruesome incident. On Wednesday valley shut under a protest strike called by the separatist Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL). It cannot be a mere chance that Rizwan died when he was in custody. Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police has a shameful history of arresting people, killing and torturing them in custody. Some police officers associated with SOG have earned the notoriety of kidnapping and killing people for ransom. They have often been shielded by their seniors and political masters and even promoted in ranks merely for the brutality they did. Soura triple murder case would always haunt the minds in this regard. A DSP (Abdul Rashid Khan alias Rashid Billa) arrested three persons on June 23, 1999 who were part of a baraat. During frisking the police found some cash with them (reportedly Rs.30, 000) which ultimately became the cause of their death. Three after their arrest their bodies were found in Uri Baramullah. Instead of taking any cognizance of the crime the concerned officer committed, he was given full protect by his senior officers. One of the senior officers from Punjab reportedly sheltered him in his farm house in Punjab to evade the arrest under court orders. Though a court in Jammu acquitted him in 2008 but the families of the victims were never satisfied with the court direction. On 3o July, 2011 Nazim Rashid Shalla of Sopore town was picked by a joint party of SOG. He was returned dead to his father Abdul Rasheed Shalla next morning. Shalla, who visited the police station to see his son after his arrest, saw SOG men beating Nazim. He saw his son laying flat on the floor in half-dead condition. He was forced to leave the site only to receive his body next morning. State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), a government appointed body, in 2013 confirmed the concerned Superintendent of Police (SP) involved in Nazim’s killing and recommended action against him. No action was taken against the SP. The same officer (he was DSP then) was found guilty by the SHRC of raping and torturing mother-daughter duo at Zachadara in Handwara in 2008. Despite these findings by SHRC, he was promoted as a SP. He was also awarded the Director General of Police’s Commendation Medal for 2010, Gallantry award on 26 January 2012, a Presidents Police Award for Gallantry on 15 August 2012. That is how criminals are rewarded in Jammu and Kashmir.
The list of criminal actions of the SOG is quite a long one. Rizwan is the latest addition to hundreds of persons who have been done to death during custody. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the death of Rizwan but people in Kashmir know how such commissions are used as a façade to hide murderous actions of the police. Not a single case referred to the commissions set by various governments in the state was ever completed. The farce of inquiry commissions is played to pacify the anger among the common people. If government is serious in dealing with Rizwan’s case sincerely and judiciously, the concerned members and officers of the SOG should immediately suspended till inquiry is completed. Since that has not been done, and that would never be done, Rizwan’s case too would be buried in official files soon. Since events and incidents occur in Kashmir so quickly, people barely remember what had happened yesterday. If the governor’s administration wants to be remembered for some good things in Kashmir, Governor Satpal Malik should immediately act against the SOG men involved in Rizwan’s killing.
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