When towns and villages across Kashmir erupted in freedom protests after Burhan Wani’s killing on 8 July, international media quickly turned its focus on Kashmir. The focus somewhat shifted after the Uri attack towards relations between India and Pakistan and their war-mongering. Here is an assortment of what the major global outlets carried on various aspects of the situation in Kashmir.
The New York Times published a front-page detailed report on the eye injuries due to pellets. Headlined An Epidemic of ‘Dead Eyes’ in Kashmir as India Uses Pellet Guns on Protesters, reporter Ellen Barry spoke with retinal surgeons at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital and documented how ‘non-lethal pellet guns’ have “mutilated retinas, severed optic nerves, irises seeping out like puddles of ink”.
But 2016 will almost certainly be remembered as the year of dead eyes. The eye injuries have become such a focus of public anger that last week, in a conciliatory gesture, India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, promised that the pellet guns, as they are known here, would be replaced by another type of nonlethal weapon in the coming days.
On the ophthalmology ward at the main Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, however, new patients arrive every day. Walking the hospital hallway, you first notice a handful of young men in blackout goggles. Then you see them everywhere. A weary ophthalmologist looks on from the break room as Dr. Natarajan’s young patient, waking from anesthesia, stirs and begins to moan…
Indian troops use pellet guns for crowd control only in Kashmir. They were introduced in 2010, halfway through a particularly bloody season of protest. Pellet guns have been used to break up protests in Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia, but most countries do not use them on unarmed civilians, as the pellets spray widely and cannot be aimed. For Commandant Chaudhary, who sometimes faces crowds of more than 1,000 hostile young men with a contingent of 20 or 30, it is by far the most effective weapon at his disposal.
Basharat Peer, journalist and author of Curfewed Night, wrote an article for the NYT titled Kashmir, and the inheritance of loss. Peer wrote:
Kashmiris, as they do in crisis, turned to themselves for support. At Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in central Srinagar, where the injured had been brought by the hundreds, scores of volunteers were offering medicine, money, clothes and care to the patients and their families. On one wall in the lobby hung a banner with the words, “The Martyrs Ask of You: Remember Us,” and two photographs of Burhan. One showed him standing against a mountainous backdrop; the other was of his bullet-ridden corpse on a stretcher…
Omar Nazir, a reed-thin boy of 12, barely filled one corner of his bed. A thick swathe of bandages formed a cross across his chest and belly. He had black, adult-size glasses. “He’s lost both his eyes,” Dr. Shafi said. Doctors had yet to deliver the news to Nazir Ahmad, the boy’s father, a day laborer in Pulwama, a district in southern Kashmir, but he already seemed to know. Mr. Ahmad, tall and wiry, looked at the doctor, his eyes liquid with entreaty: “Dr. Sahib, we own one-fifth of an acre of land in the village. I will sell all my land, but please make him see.
Besides, the NYT ran a number of editorials on Kashmir.
The BBC radio ran an entire 50-minute programme on Newshour Extra titled Kashmir in Crisis. The participants in this programme were: Andrew Whitehead, former BBC correspondent who covered Kashmir during turbulent ‘90s; Mirza Waheed, Kashmiri author who shot to fame with his maiden book The Collaborator; Manu Khujuria, a Jammu-based author; and Farooq Bajwa, London-based lawyer of Pakistani origin. Besides, the BBC South Asian Correspondent Justin Rowlatt reported from Srinagar for BBC Magazine. He interviewed slain Tengpora youth Shabir Ahmad Mir’s father Abdur Rahman Mir.
Rowlatt writes in his report titled Firing at stone-throwers in Indian-administered Kashmir:
Word has spread that the BBC is here and more people have gathered, defying the curfew that bans anyone from going outside in sensitive areas like this during daytime.
“Azadi! azadi!” – freedom, freedom – they cry.
I’ll be honest: I’m afraid. I am in a house surrounded by an angry crowd down a maze of alleyways in a city kept in lockdown by the police and army.
But their fury is all directed at India. “Go India, go back!” they chant.
BBC Urdu service was very popular among Kashmiris during ‘90s. It was almost the sole source of getting some authentic lowdown on the situation here.
Annie Gowen, The Washington Post’s Indian bureau chief, reported for her newspaper from Tral, the epicenter of 2016 uprising. Her report titled Indian Kashmir suffers worst violence in years after militant leader’s death is a good read. Gowen wrote:
Burhan Wani’s mother, Mymoona Muzafar Wani, said she recalled one time when she was praying and Wani asked what she was praying for.
“I told my son I wanted him to be a doctor or an engineer,” she recalled. “He told me I should pray that he become a martyr.” He left home about a year after that conversation, when he was 15.
Al jazeera English ran a number of stories on Kashmir uprising. Inside Story, one ofAl jazeera’s regular programmes, discussed thrice the turbulent situation of the Valley. In an opinion piece on Al jazeera website Kashmir and the myth of indivisible India by Farhan Mujahid Chak, the author analyzed that “fear-mongering of Hindutva extremists revolve around this nightmare disintegration possibility, especially if alternative identities perpetuate.” Chak wrote in this:
The collective social feelings of Kashmiris is keeping this process in motion, although its intensity varies. The chronic resurfacing and unpredictability of explosive Kashmiri protest is what bewilders New Delhi.
Mirza Waheed wrote an opinion piece in The Guardian. The article India is blinding young Kashmiri protesters – and no one will face justice documented the effects of pellets on unarmed Kashmiri protesters. He advocated independence as an “infinitely better option” to end the 70-year-old deadlock between India and Pakistan. Mirza wrote:
In its intransigence over Kashmir, the Indian state has, among other things, waged a narrative war, in which it tells itself and its citizens via servile media, that there is no dispute, that it’s an internal matter – and whatever troubles there are in the idyllic valley are the work of jihadis from Pakistan. This gives the state easy demons to portray and then slay.
In another recent piece India’s crackdown in Kashmir: is this the world’s first mass blinding? in the same paper, Mirza Waheed wrote:
On 12 July, the fourth day of the protests, the state government, which is run by a controversial coalition between Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a local ally, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), finally issued its first official statement on the use of the so-called “non-lethal” pellet guns. A spokesperson for the government, representing the PDP, described its position to the media: “We disapprove of it … But we will have to persist with this necessary evil till we find a non-lethal alternative.
There is no recorded instance of a modern democracy systematically and willfully shooting at people to blind them. At first, the statement appeared as a typical soundbite, the sort of thing that officials must compose and recite with studied ambiguity for the press – the “government version”, as its known. But I was struck by its cavalier defence of state violence and brutalisation. It was obvious that this was not the spokesman’s personal view; it was a clear articulation of the intent of the Indian state in Kashmir: we have no choice but to shoot people in the eyes.
This was an unprecedented expression of state violence. There is no other recorded instance of a modern democracy systematically and wilfully shooting at people to blind them. At the end of August, according to data obtained by one of India’s national newspapers, nearly 6,000 civilians had been injured, and at least 972 of them had suffered injuries to their eyes.
Los Angles Times did a story on resurgence of militancy in South Kashmir. Shashank Bengali, LA Times’ Contact Reporter went to Panzgam, Pulwama to speak to the family of a recycled former militant. Bengali reported:
Across the Kashmir Valley, a rippling blanket of fruit orchards and saffron fields tumbling down from the Himalayas, residents say more young men are joining militant groups, intensifying a struggle for self-determination that is as old as India itself…
The cacophony surrounding India’s claim of ‘Surgical strikes’ in Pakistan-administered Kashmir exacerbated the tension between the two nations. Though Pakistan dismissed this claim, war clouds loomed large at the Indo-Pak border. In a first, Pakistani Army took a pack of local and foreign journalists to the Pakistan-administered Kashmir to investigate the Indian claim.
BBC’s reporter M Ilyas Khan did an extensive story and remarked:
Despite the claims in the Indian media, the BBC could find little evidence that militants had been hit.
A number of international media outlets carried reports on the claimed surgical strikes and analysed versions of both sides.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper published IA Rehman’s opinion piece titled Should we rethink Kashmir? Rehman raised an important question in the article: Is the world listening to the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir? He further remarked:
Instead of waiting for the world to come to our rescue, we must resolve to pull ourselves out of the quagmire we have created by rearing the monster of bigotry and irrational violence within our polity. That is where the entire process of rethinking should start.