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Kashmir calmer as PM Narendra Modi, Mehbooba Mufti appeal for peace

Violence erupted in the Kashmir Valley after security forces killed Burhan Wani, the 22-year-old commander of Hizbul Mujahideen

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CM Mehbooba Mufti of J&K and PM Narendra Modi of India in a meeting. www.thequint.com
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  • Violence erupted in the Kashmir Valley after security forces killed Burhan Wani
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti appealed for peace in Kashmir to end days of violence
  • a mob attacked a police station in Kralpora village in Kupwara district in north Kashmir and set a police van on fire, trapping some policemen

Barring stray protests in rural areas where security forces shot dead a civilian, large parts of curfew-bound Kashmir Valley were calm on Tuesday, July 12, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti appealed for peace to end days of violence.

While curfew continued for a fourth day in most parts of the valley, the authorities said the situation was under control despite some incidents of arson and mob attacks.

After returning from Africa, Modi chaired a high-level meeting and voiced concern over the incidents of violence in the Kashmir Valley that have left over 30 people dead and hundreds injured in widespread violence since security forces shot dead a top militant on Friday, July 8.

In Srinagar, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti described the situation in Kashmir as “a matter of concern for all of us” and urged Kashmiri youths to show “patience and calm” at this “critical and sensitive” hour.

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“Bloodshed will result in nothing. Life comes once. It is our duty to respect and appreciate this Godsend gift,” Mebooba said in a passionate appeal in Urdu.

Violence erupted in the Kashmir Valley after security forces killed Burhan Wani, the 22-year-old commander of Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, and two associates in a village on Friday.

Burhan, Hizbul Mujahidin. Image source:indianexpress.com
Burhan, Hizbul Mujahidin. Image source:indianexpress.com

The killing of Wani, who had emerged as the new face of Kashmir’s militancy with his Facebook and other social media photos and videos, triggered a vicious cycle of protests by angry mobs and counter violence by security forces.

The protests continued on Tuesday, Jul 12, but their intensity was less compared to the last four days.

A police spokesman in Srinagar said a mob attacked a police station in Kralpora village in Kupwara district in north Kashmir and set a police van on fire, trapping some policemen.

Police fired back, injuring a person who succumbed to his injuries. The latest killing took to 34 the number killed across the valley.

Earlier on Tuesday, Amir Nazir Latoo, who was injured in firing at Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown in Bijbehara, succumbed to injuries at a hospital in Srinagar, doctors said.

Police said protesters pelted stones in some areas of south and north Kashmir during which one was injured after he picked up a tear smoke shell that exploded in his hand.

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At least three police guard rooms were set ablaze in different villages of south Kashmir, which has been most volatile over past four days. The dead militant commander belonged to this region.

Srinagar remained calm throughout the day even as police reported that some “miscreants lobbed a petrol bomb” targeting paramilitary and police forces in the old city.

Official sources told IANS here that the curfew will continue on Wednesday – July 13 – the annual official “Martyrdom Day” to remember those who were killed in an uprising against the Dogra autocratic rule in 1931.

Separatist leaders, most of them under house arrest, have called for a march to the martyrs’ graveyard in the old city. The Chief Minister too is scheduled to lay a wreath there. (IANS)

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Kashmir’s situation is really critical. The need is to calm the situation which can only be done with the help of Kashmiri youth.

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)