Yes, there are parts of Kashmir that look just like my neck of the prairie
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
A much-despised law that suspends basic rights and shields security forces from prosecution in the disputed province of Kashmir will be lifted in some areas in the next few days.
Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, said in a speech to police officers that the situation in many areas of Kashmir had become peaceful enough to warrant removing the law, which is known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Human rights activists have long argued that the act, which gives government security forces wide latitude in areas where insurgents operate, has led to widespread abuses. The discovery of thousands of unidentified bodies in mass graves in the region this summer seemed to underscore the impunity the law allowed.
Security officers cannot be prosecuted for acts committed while on duty in areas covered by the act without permission from the Home Ministry, and such permission has almost never been granted, even in cases where rape and murder were alleged.
The law was put in place in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir in 1990, when the state was in the grip of insurgents — partly fueled by Pakistan — who sought to wrest it free of India…The insurgency petered out in the late 1990s, and the past few years have been largely free from armed struggle. But the act has remained in force and was a crucial catalyst for unarmed protests that have swelled in Kashmir almost every summer in recent years. Last year more than 100 people died in protests, most of them killed by security officers who fired into rock-throwing crowds.
But this summer was largely tranquil, and the state government has been slowly reducing the visibility of its security presence in the region, removing heavily armored bunkers and taking machine-gun-toting security officers off the streets.
Like many activists around the world who support the range of struggle from national liberation movements in earlier days, pro-democracy movements, nowadays – I sincerely hope the Indian government can make it past sectarian insurgencies to support full-blown democracy in a region long in the search for its own voice in governing.
This could be a start.