Posts Tagged ‘Kashmiris’

Republic Day: 26 January 2011

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Republic Day has been celebrated in India on the 26th January since 1950, and marks the day in 1950 when the Constitution of India came into effect. India had gained independence on 15 August 1947, but that left the country as a British dominion, still under British Law and with King George VI as head of state. It took until November 1949 for the new constitution to be agreed, and the January 26 was chosen for its introduction as the Indian National Congress had declared it as Independence Day in 1929.

Along with Independence Day it is a day when there are often protests outside India House in London and on 26th January 2011, ten years ago today, there were at least two taking place. One called for the release of leading paediatrician and public health specialist Binayak Sen, a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties who has gained international recognition for his work in Chhattisgarh, India, where he “helped establish a hospital serving poor mine workers in the region, founded a health and human rights organization that supports community health workers in 20 villages.”

Dr Sen also criticised the Chhattisgarh state government’s atrocities against indigenous people fighting the handover of their lands for mining and their establishment of an armed militia, the Salwa Judum, to fight against the Naxalite (Maoist) rebels in the area, and was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh court for sedition and helping the Naxalites. His case and appeal attracted support from around the world including from 22 Nobel laureates who sent a letter to the Indian President and Prime Minister and Chhattisgarh state authorities asking for him to be allowed to travel to the US to receive the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Later in 2011 he was granted bail by the Indian Supreme Court.

Also protesting outside India House were Kashmiris and Sikhs calling for the freedom for their nations which has been denied by Indian military repression. Kashmir is one of the oldest countries in the world, dating back to the Iron Age and became a Muslim monarchy in 1349, was later a part of the Sikh empire but was established later as a kingdom under British guidance. At partition the ruler ceded the country to India against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants for military protection after Pakistan invaded the country, which is now in three parts, under military rule by India, Pakistan and a small part China.

The Indian administered area, known as Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh had limited autonomy which was revoked on 5 August 2019 and has a huge occupying force accused by human rights organisations of imposing strict military law in a systematically brutal fashion, with deaths during interrogation of suspects, detention without trail, censorship, arson, beatings, rape, mass murder, and tortures of all kinds.

It was a busy Wednesday, with other protests taking place, including a student day of action against fees and cuts, including the loss of the Education Maintenance Allowance which has allowed many 16-18 year olds to remain in education. Axed in England it is still available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Unfortunately although there had been publicity about students walking out of schools and college there was very little information available about the protests they might attend, and only perhaps qa hundred made their way to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

After some speeches there was a discussion about what to do next, and most of those present decided to join the NUJ demonstration outside Bush House against the savage cuts announced by the BBC for the World Service broadcasting, with up to 650 job losses, switching off of radio services and the complete loss of services in 5 languages. This was particularly convenient for me as I was also going to join this protest as a member of the NUJ – and it was just a few yards from India House were I was going to photograph other events.

More at:
Release Binayak Sen Now
Free Kashmir & Khalistan
Save the BBC World Service
Student Day of Action


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All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Kashmiris say ‘India Out!’

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

By 1947 Britain had boxed itself into an impossible position in India (not least by the earlier actions of Lord Curzon as Viceroy in Bengal in 1905) and it was clear that the only option was for a British withdrawal from the whole area. Clement Atlee who had become UK prime minister since the 1945 election had long been a supporter of Indian independence and the question was not whether this should happen, but how it could be managed in a way that satisfied both Muslim and Hindu communities and avoided catastrophic bloodshed.

It was indeed a hugely complex situation. As well as the British Raj, there were also several hundred princely states in a looser arrangement with British rule. And as well as Muslims and Hindus, there were also some areas where Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains were in the majority. The British Government ruled that the area would become independent at the latest by June 1948, but Lord Mountbatten, newly appointed Viceroy announced his plan on June 3 1947 with independence only just over 2 months away on 15 August 1947.

The plan called for various existing Indian legislatures to vote on whether to be a part of India or Pakistan or be partitioned and set up a boundary commission to establish partition, but failed to deal with the princely states, where the decision of which dominion to join would be a matter for the prince alone.

Protesters in Kashmir have been killed and many deliberately blinded bu Indian forces

Mountbatten was clearly poorly advised and was as he said a soldier not a civilian and he assured those who predicted a bloodbath at partition that the army would be able to control the situation: ” I shall see to it that there is no bloodshed and riot.” In the event around 10 million people were displaced and somewhere between 200,000 and 2 million killed, with violence being encouraged by some of the princely rulers, including in Kashmir.

Kashmir had a Muslim majority but a Hindu prince who was hesistant to join Pakistan and went to Mountbatten for military help when Pakistani forces invaded part of the area; Mountbatten agreed to help on condition it would become a part of India. In 1948 the UN intervened and brokered a ceasefire, declaring that a referendum of Kashmiris be held – which never happened. There were further military conflicts between India and Pakistan in Kashmir in 1965 and 1999.

Since then the Indian controlled area named Jammu and Kashmir has been under military occupation by Indian troops. The severity of control by police and army increased following an armed revolt by Kashmiris calling for independence in 1989. Elections in the area are now widely thought to be rigged in favour of pro-India groups.

The special position of the area was recognised in 1954 by Article 370 of the Indian constitution, with separate laws on  citizenship, the ownership of property and fundamental rights. In particular these prevented non-citizens of the area buying land and property in the state.

On 5th August 2019 the Indian government cancelled the 1954 provisions, bringing Jammu and Kashmir under the same conditions as other Indian states. Kashmiris protested and there was a further security clampdown, with communications to the country being severed and a further influx of Indian soldiers – there are now around 800,000 there.

Kashmiris protest at India House
Kashmiris protest in Trafalgar Square

Kashmiris call for freedom

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

A YouGov survey back in 2016 found that 43% of UK respondents still felt that the British Empire was a good thing, over twice as many as those who felt it was bad, with a similar figures for those who think we should be proud of colonialism as part of our history or regret it.

I wasn’t one of those asked for my opinion (the chances of that were small, as the sample was only 1733 out of the UK population of around 65.65 million) and would probably have refused to give an answer as there wasn’t a category that expressed my feelings. Clearly the British Empire was a good thing for Britain, as the opulent architecture of our major cities from the 19th and early 20th centuries demonstrates. And while the disastrous effects on other civilisations and many brutal and immoral acts in the building and maintenance of our Empire are clear, there are also more positive instances. And in some countries we took over from earlier invaders or rulers who were even less principled and more harsh and brutal, though for Kashmir this was less clear.

The history of Kashmir is complex but certainly at the start of the ‘Common Era’ (still AD to most of us) it was a considerably more developed and ancient civilisation than anything in Britain. Originally an important centre of Hinduism and Buddhism it largely converted to Islam in the 13th and 14th centuries and around 1580 was conquered and became part of the Mughal empire. Around 1820, it was conquered again by Sikhs, who imposed harsh anti-Muslim laws and exorbitant taxes. The First Anglo-Sikh war waged by the East India Company between 1845 and 1846 resulted in Jammu and Kashmir becoming a princely state under British suzerainty. The persecution of Muslims, now by Hindus, continued under what was a tyrannical feudal system.

Logically, Kashmir, over three-quarters Muslim should have become a part of Pakistan, but after popular protests and a guerrilla campaign supporting this, the country’s ruler appealed to Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India, for help – and Mountbatten only granted this on condition that Kashmir became a part of India. Pakistan disputed this and the countries went to war over Kashmir, ending with a truce and a UN resolution that the people of the country should have a referendum. This never happened and there were further wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999. Pakistan now controls around a third of the country, India about half and a smaller area is held by China.

The country is still a ‘disputed territory’ and the is a huge presence of Indian military and para-military forces in the area under their control, estimated at around 1 for every 17 Kashmiris. At the 1948 ceasefire Kashmir was promised special status with a substantial autonomy by India, but increasingly this has been abandoned. Recent years have seen greater activity by movements calling for the restoration of autonomy and for freedom and independence.

Maqbool Bhat Shaheed was the pioneer of the Kashmiri Freedom Struggle and in 1968 was captured in Kashmir and sentenced to death following the murder of an Indian CID officer. With others also sentenced he escaped from prison through a tunnel and made his way to the Pakistan administered area – were he was arrested and tortured for several months. In 1971 masterminded the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane which was forced to land in Lahore, Pakistan. The hijackers demanded the release of over 20 members of the Jammu Kashmir Nationalist Liberation Front (JKNLF) in Indian prisons, asked for political asylum in Pakistan and wanted a guarantee from the Indian government that their relatives in Kashmir would not be persecuted.

Although the hijackers were first welcomed in Pakistan, when it was realised that the JKNLF wanted the Pakistan occupied area of Kashmir also to be liberated they were tried in a special court charged with collaboration with the Indian intelligence services. Released after 2 years he returned to Indian administered Kashmir where he was captured in 1976. Bhat appealed for clemency stating that the original trial had been unfair, but after the murder of an Indian diplomat kidnapped in Birmingham demanding his release, his appeal was dismissed and he was executed on 11th February 1984.

Kashmiris call for freedom

Kashmir Awami Party call for Freedom


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