Filmmaker, journalist and human rights activist Tapan K Bose visited Kashmir to report on the state of civil liberties in the 1990s when the aircrafts from Delhi flew over with troops and ammunition. He has not forgotten those trips as this interview explains:
KASHMIR LIFE (KL): As a frequent visitor to Kashmir in the 1990s, what are your memories of those dark days?
TAPAN K BOSE (TKB): I was coming to Kashmir for a long time, since mid-1980’s. But in 1990, when the whole thing exploded, I got a few calls from friends who said they were going to get killed or butchered and nobody in India was going to bother about them. It was a very disturbing call. I informed my three other friends and discussed it with them. Then, Jagmohan was the governor. Finally, we landed up here. It was very cold, I remember.
As we got out on the streets we found the place was completely locked down. There were no people except the army, BSF and paramilitary forces. Kashmiris were off the streets. We went to TRC as we could not have stayed anywhere due to the unfavourable circumstances around. We managed curfew passes and a vehicle. We wanted to go to a different place but could not go to far off places. We went to Bemina and Barzulla. We wanted to go to Chrar-i-Sharif. There were checks and frisks at every point. At some places, we lost our cool while confronting the army. But the person who helped us that time was Mufti Bahauddin Farooqi, the retired High Court judge.
We went to Gaw Kadal where the massacre had taken place and met some victims. We investigated Bemina, and Zakura massacres. People were just getting killed.
Apart from what the majority was experiencing, we also investigated the plight of the Pandits – the whole mystery of the January 24, the night when the Pandits were driven out of the state. Jagmohan had too written about the night like getting calls from frightened families. It remains a mystery because January 24, is also the night of the crackdown. The whole valley was under the crackdown. Nobody was allowed to move out of their homes. In protest against that crackdown, on January 25, people came out. They were massacred on Gaw Kadal Bridge same like the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre.
KL: Who do you think was responsible for the Pandit migration?
TKB: The Pandits getting driven out was something which is not known how that actually happened. However, authors like Rahul Pandit had written that they all (majority population) were involved in the act. That night a massive crackdown was going on, people were not allowed to come out of their homes. So, I find no real evidence to what had happened exactly.
We also went to Jammu, met with several Pandit families at Gita Bahwan and at other places. It was totally a confusing picture.
One thing that is clear is that the Pandits were driven out in a systematic manner. It was not possible to get such a number of people in a few days out of the valley when there were no buses plying, no good means of transportation available. But it is not also clear that who transported them to Jammu, whether it was the army, BSF or the state government, the mystery is yet to be resolved.
The other thing that I remember was regarding boys getting to the other side (of LoC) for arms training. Every day we were hearing that boys were going across. But the one thing that I could not understand was what the army was doing at the border? In front of their sight, the boys were going across. Why didn’t the army stop them? It was the first job of the army and governor to stop them from crossing to that side. I think there was collaboration to let them go. The subsequent claims by Jagmohan, which Watali has also written in his book, that he did not know that the boys were going across the border, what a joke!
KL: How do you see the people were living through all this?
TKB: Several irregularities and illegalities were created and perpetrated upon – for example, all the injured people brought to the hospitals. No record was maintained. The medical-legal registers were removed. Once you introduce such kind of illegal things, the idea was very clear that they did not want to maintain any kind of record about the crimes security forces had committed, the kind of bullet injuries and the excessive use of the force. Some of the doctors in the hospital had maintained that record but I came to know later that it was also taken away from them. So we don’t really have any record about exact atrocities that were perpetrated.
We visited Chanapora in Srinagar which was specifically targeted for the unknown reasons. The army and BSF would not only take away people with them and beat them but they would destroy everything in their houses. I remember what that locality had to go through the harsh winters-breaking up the window panes, destroying whatever foodstuff they would find during a cordon and search operations. They would pull people in the cold nights out of their beds and even did not allow them to put on the protective clothings.
This was basically the process of terrorisation and torturing people at Papa 2.
KL: What was the government response to your findings?
TKB: Jagmohan always refused to meet us. We met the chief secretary and he denied everything. We gave him all the figures and briefed him about the ground reality. At that point in time, there was no government, even police were under pressure. (Amar) Kapoor once told me that whole valley was turned Pakistani. I asked him how! He told that he did the helicopter survey and what he found was green flags all around.
KL: Did you face any problem with being blunt on Kashmir?
TKB: They threatened to take us to court on our remarks for Bemina massacre report where they contested our claims. But I think the law department told them not to do it. We were not anti-India. We wanted the constitution to be upheld.
If the army and police turn like the militants who are against the law then what is the difference.
KL: In 1995, you visited the Chrar town after it went up in flames?
TKB: The attack on the Chrar-i-Sharif and burning down of the shrine and the town was a very tragic one. It is very clear that these attacks were actually aimed at destroying some of the cultural and historical symbols of the Kashmiri people. The Nund Reshi Ziyaart is a very important place in Kashmir. So it disturbed the Kashmiris. Seven days after the burning of the town, I went there. It looked like Germany after the World War-II, the burnt buildings all around. It was a deliberate and targeted attack and destruction. Sopore’s Iqbal market was also burnt which I think was a message sent to whole apple growing community. It was planned in a way of making the Kashmiris understand that we can destroy you if we want.
The impression I developed those days was that Delhi’s approach was that flood the place with troops, change the whole situation, make the civilian government completely dysfunctional and hold the people with massive force.
The other objective of the massive use of the force was to ensure that JKLF boys get isolated from militancy, and they managed and succeeded in it. That is the reason they came with the unilateral ceasefire later.
They also wanted Kashmir militancy to look as Pakistan sponsored militancy which it was till 1995.
KL: Is it not Pakistan sponsored now?
TKB: Even now BJP is trying to make believe that whatever is happening in Kashmir it is Pak sponsored. It basically was at that time when the foreign militants were highly respected.
But I believe that Pakistan has nothing to do with militancy today. They even do not know what is happening in Kashmir. It is a completely indigenous movement today, Pakistan, I think, has a very little role in it.
KL: What is Delhi’s Kashmir Policy between sky is the limit and within Insaniyat?
TKB: To understand how Delhi is thinking about Kashmir, we need to go back to Nehru era. The Kashmir policy was framed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Till 1957, Nehru took every decision. It was he who took the Kashmir issue to UN asking Pakistan be named as the aggressor but the UN did not do that. Nehru was very clear that Kashmir should remain with India. In June 1947, Sardar Patel told Lord Mountbatten, who was here to see Hari Singh, that he can accede to Pakistan but Nehru was keen and wanted Kashmir to be part of India. He also influenced Mountbatten to talk to Redcliff to change the alignment. If you read the writing of Pandit Nehru he has stated that situation has changed altogether and there is a question of the plebiscite and Pakistanis must vacate the other part of Kashmir. The constitution says that no part of the nation can be alienated, you can only add to it. Nehru was secular but territorially focused.
So these slogans will never allow Kashmir to be free. These are mere slogans and nothing else, what happened to autonomy resolution, what happened to the interlocutor’s report, nothing was acted upon They are bound by the logic of the state. I think if Kashmir will be given autonomy it asks for they will get more integrated to India than before.
KL: What is the net difference and similarities between the BJP and Congress on Kashmir?
TKB: The political position of the Congress, BJP and the Left has been the same that Kashmir should remain as an integral part of India. The differences lie in how to deal with the people. Kashmir issue is basically the creation of the Congress misrule.
We have now the radical right-wing party which is die-hard anti-Muslim party. They will only deal Kashmir through force and nothing else.