Dawn Editorial 1 Sep 2019

Solidarity with Kashmir

TENS of thousands of citizens attended public gatherings large and small across the country in answer to the government’s call to demonstrate solidarity with Kashmiris on Friday — day 26 of India’s brutal clampdown of the occupied region. Where Kashmiris have been denied the right to be heard, Pakistanis collectively lent their voices, in scenes resonant with the support and sympathy they have for Kashmiris and their struggle for self-determination.
Indeed, Pakistan has long been telling the world about India’s blatant human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir. But now, despite the fact that Delhi may believe it can continue its odious campaign in the held region with impunity, many independent international voices too are finally noticing that the ‘world’s largest democracy’ is unleashing torture and death on the Kashmiri people.
Read: Stories of torture following annexation by India emerge from occupied Kashmir
As per a BBC report, Delhi’s military enforcers in the held region have undertaken a campaign of violence and intimidation, using extrajudicial methods to torture and maim Kashmiris suspected of having sympathies for freedom fighters. One victim who spoke to the British media outlet said he implored his tormentors: “Don’t beat us, just shoot us.”
The accounts of Kashmiri villagers as documented by the BBC are truly horrifying; they reveal a sordid campaign of beatings, night raids and electric shocks. There are graphic pictures of victims beaten black and blue, while one Kashmiri youth said the Indians threatened to frame him if he didn’t become an informant. The Indian military has, predictably, dismissed the report as “baseless”. However, it is also a fact that officials and doctors refused to speak to the media, indicating the wave of fear that has gripped the held region.
The BBC report is important for many reasons; primarily, it shines a light into a region that has been under Delhi’s lockdown for nearly a month. With such little information coming out of held Kashmir, reports such as these play a key role in exposing India’s charade that ‘all is well’ in the occupied region.
The fact is that IHK has been turned into a giant concentration camp for its inhabitants, as Modi and company seek to subdue the region in classic colonial fashion.
If India claims that the situation is normal in Kashmir, then it should open the held region to international observers to assess matters for themselves. But obviously this will not be done, as the RSS fanatics ruling Delhi have something — in fact plenty — to hide in IHK from the world.
Now, it is incumbent upon the UN, as well as the flag-bearers of democracy and human rights, to ask India to explain itself.
Can a state that claims to respect fundamental rights be allowed to get away with such brutality in this day and age? The Kashmiris who have been tortured and maimed by Delhi’s armed goons will certainly want to know.



Security in Muharram

LAW-ENFORCEMENT agencies in the country are once again tasked with the sensitive job of ensuring complete security during Muharram. The system is being fine-tuned at various levels and the calls for alert are accompanied by quick refreshers about the annual assignment. Religious leaders belonging to various sects and particularly those who are going to host religious events during the month are being asked to liaise closely with the police in their area. The participation of these organisers in the security arrangements is absolutely essential to get the critical balance right. Law-enforcement personnel have to be on their toes and one step ahead of anyone with any adventurous ideas in their mind. The arrest of two people in Taxila the other day over an attempt at spreading sectarian hatred is an example of how keen the mischief-makers are to use the relatively new tools easily available to them. Thus social media is another front the police and others on their side must keep a close eye on. Managing public events all over the world is always exacting for law enforcement. The idea is to not intimidate but facilitate the large numbers taking part, providing them with as conducive an environment as possible. In this case, since the Muharram events are going to be spread over many days, in fact over several weeks, this security effort must guard against laxity. The effort has to be sustained by regular monitoring, frequent checks and reinforcements and encouragement, most importantly from the high command.
The security system set up during Muharram over the last few years has been at its most vigilant. Expectations are high that this year, too, the arrangements will be top-level. One peculiar but understandable recent tendency is to look at violence in Muharram, or the lack of it, as a barometer for terrorism in the country. Now, while there may have been a drop in the incidence of acts of terrorism generally, this must not lead to any complacency in the ranks of the law enforcers out to perform their duty in good numbers. There have been in the recent past incidents obviously aimed at creating sect-based disharmony. No one should doubt the intent of the troublemakers, and let there be no false sense of security just because these attacks have occurred at a distance from ‘your home’ or ‘your city’. The security apparatus must be particularly vigilant during Muharram.



Crackdown on gutka.

FOR a type of potentially fatal yet easily preventable disease, and one that often causes terrible disfigurement, oral cancer continues to afflict a shocking number of people in this country. According to latest figures by the World Cancer Research Fund, Pakistan ranks second in the list of countries with the highest incidence of this disease. In fact, oral cancer is the most common type of cancer among men in Pakistan. The consumption of gutka, mainpuri and other concoctions of chewing tobacco that is prevalent in certain sections of society — mainly in Sindh — is largely to blame for the statistics. On Wednesday, the Sindh High Court ordered a province-wide crackdown against the manufacturers and sellers of these noxious substances. Interestingly, this was in response to an order by a district and sessions judge who ruled — in a departure from all facts to the contrary — that gukta and mainpuri did not fall under the ambit of sections of the Pakistan Penal Code that deal with acts “likely to spread infection or disease dangerous to life”. The SHC has rightly underscored that the sale and manufacture of chewing tobacco preparations is illegal.
However, many such crackdowns have been ordered and proved ineffectual in the past. Several factors impede effective compliance — apathy, ignorance and local financial stakes in a hugely lucrative racket. Local administrations turn a blind eye, or at the very least do not bestir themselves to act effectively. Of course there are periodic raids by police here and there, and a few individuals hauled up every few weeks, but soon enough, it is business as usual. Many lower cadre cops are themselves ‘stakeholders’ in small ‘factories’ situated in low-income localities where everyone, including children, has easy access to these lethal concoctions. The provincial administration must expedite the passage of legislation dealing specifically with the manufacture and sale of gutka and mainpuri, and considerably enhance punishment for those involved in it. Moreover, it must devise an effective mechanism to prevent this game of whack-a-mole.
September 2, 2019
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