Army camps in Kashmir have succumbed to ‘Mandir’ culture: Parvez Imroz

A Civil Rights activist for decades and well-known lawyer, Parvez Imroz is the Patron and co-founder of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and possesses a long-standing experience of human rights activism in Kashmir. He also represents ‘the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir’ and is accorded with international recognitions for efforts carried out to bring anomalies of conflict in Kashmir to the outside world.

Kashmir many a time witnessed state-sponsored attacks on human rights organizations, activists, and lawyers. Last year, Khurram Parvez, another leading figure of JKCCS was arrested and prevented from boarding his flight to Switzerland as directed by the Intelligence Bureau even after his possession of a valid VISA with an official invitation when scheduled to attend a session organised by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Parvez Imroz had then led the ‘delegation’ and sought to build opinion in support of their efforts. In early 2005, he had stated in a press conference that the Indian Army and the Government are conspiring to kill him. 

Mohammed Sirajuddeen, a doctoral researcher at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU, interacted with Parvez Imroz in February 2017 at the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) Office in Srinagar.

Mohammed Sirajuddeen (MS): Why are people getting mobilized given the fact that security establishment is tough in every corner of Kashmir?  

Parvez Imroz: No doubt the history of Government conduct has been tough. A fear element in Kashmiris has gone to an extent that stake of remaining silent is more costly than resistance. The young generation is politically mature in their struggle. Palestine is an example in front of us and Israeli settlement is the model of Indian occupation. Kashmir does not need a ‘Palestinisation’. RSS Chief believes that demographic changes are the only solution to Kashmir problem. Now, the ‘Article 370’ is being diluted even by judicial acts. A process to that direction has started. There is a conservative turn globally and a globalisation of mediocrity. No concrete solutions are coming from Indian authorities.

MS: How will you characterise the behaviour of Indian Armed Forces?

Parvez Imroz: ‘Army’ is getting communalized and with the coming of Modi government, that process got intensified. Defense Ministry took an aggressive stand. Army camps in Kashmir have succumbed to ‘Mandir culture’ and the State is hell-bent on bringing radical ‘Hinduisation’ of Army ranks. Even though aggressive attitude of ‘Army men’ existed earlier, the communalisation process is a recent phenomenon and in many cases, it is reported that behaviour of Army men hailing from North belt of Indian mainland characterised belligerent attitude to Kashmiri people. Hence even after 25 years, we witness no delivery of justice, and institutional mechanisms also proved inadequate.

MS: Will you compare Kashmir with Palestine?  

Parvez Imroz: The World has condemned atrocities in Palestine and Israel was vetoed in UN. The government cannot be as brazen as Israel because Indian ruling class is different. As different from Palestine, for Kashmir, ‘Pakistan factor’ is pertinent therefore there cannot be a plain comparison with Palestine. While Palestine has a 4 million ‘diaspora’, Kashmir lacks diaspora and Palestine got global support in all terms. At the same time, we have seen parallels in patterns of state atrocities in both the places.

MS: What are your views on ‘Indian Left’ since it said that the only spectrum that speaks for Kashmir is ‘Left’ groups in India?

Parvez Imroz: We have seen vibrant left movement in Palestine like that of ‘The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP)’, Kashmir is the only national liberation movement where there is an ‘absence’ of Left movement. The only visible left group in Kashmir is represented by Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami and he functioned as a collaborator like mainstream Indian Political Parties. From experience, for Kashmiris, ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ political groups in India stands as two sides of the same coin. Indian Left has played a ‘treacherous role’ with respect to the need of resolving ‘Kashmir question’. Barring Maoists and radical humanists all streams of Parliamentary Left in India didn’t care about Kashmir and confined to rhetoric.

MS: There are criticisms that if granted freedom, Kashmir will become an ‘Islamic State’, any comments?

Parvez Imroz: Many scientific surveys in past years pointed that majority of Kashmiris aspired ‘azadi’. Since there are no non-Muslim entities and notable non-Muslim figures in Kashmir’s resistance movement, vested interests in India sought to frame it ‘otherwise’. But in reality, we cannot ignore the role of religion in Kashmir. Every time, those who criticise Kashmir forget the fact that India is a ‘Brahminical Hindu State’. Though there are Bhutan and Nepal, they say that Kashmir will be at peril if given freedom that too at the hands of Pakistan and China. This is ‘Colonial-British logic’ and we reject it.

It is a ‘self-defeating’ proposition that Kashmir is becoming an ‘Islamic State’. Those who argue this leave no scope for ‘self-determination’ and they undermine our cause. Unlike other South Asian turmoil, outfits like ‘Taliban’ has no much influence in Kashmir and the visible militant group ‘Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’ is based on indigenous cadre base. While in Pakistan, electoral politics witness no more than 3% support for religious political parties, India mandated a Hindu party with more than 31% voting. India represents as a burning pot of 16,000 communal riots and a history of mass atrocities against minorities. The condition of Muslims are worse than the situation of Dalits and they are considered as second-class citizens. Here in Kashmir, Hindus are over represented institutionally and we believe in brotherhood.

MS: What is your vision of ‘Azadi’?

Parvez Imroz: During the early 1990s, militancy was a result of an emotional outburst, a sentimental reaction and the State responded with a heavy hand and it was an ugly phase. Even after militancy receding and reaching a ‘low’ in scale and spread, state repression continues unabated. Militancy in present Kashmir is organised by ‘Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’ and Lashkar,,, their method is qualitatively different in the sense that they rely on ‘romanticism’ and ‘glorification’ techniques to gain mass support. The question of freedom is a ‘dream’, our primary concern is to put the military out and a majority in Kashmir believe that Pakistan is an option which is lesser an evil than the present regime.

 This interview was first published in Two Circles

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