This is an account by award-winning & remarkably courageous Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra about the treacheries she faces going about her work of reporting on occupation. It’s timely because it’s being reported that Qazi Shibli, an editor of The Kashmiriyat, was called in for interrogation today. Last year, he served nine-months in prison under the Public Safety Act (PSA) which allows even children to be held indefinitely without charge. His ‘crime’ was reporting on the deployment of thousands of Indian troops just prior to the August 5th lockdown. Aasif Sultan who was arrested in August 2018 under the PSA remains in prison & was denied bail though no charges have been cited.
My Pictures Should Speak

According to a 2019 UNICEF report, 8.8 lakh (one lakh is a hundred thousand) Indian children under five-years-old died in 2018, 70 percent of them from malnutrition. If India withdrew its 900,000 troops from Kashmir, it could address child starvation & deaths in India. For every soldier in Kashmir, there is a starving Indian child.

‘How to celebrate Eid when your loved ones are either in graves or in jails without any crime! Day of Freedom will be our Eid.’

Indian troops can now forcibly take over land in Kashmir after Indian authorities scrapped a 1971 regulation. It resonates with the Oslo Accords & is part of the ‘Palestinization’ of occupied Kashmir turning both into settler-colonial states.

Kashmir has produced some remarkable & accomplished figures but pardon me for saying Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather is not among them. As India’s Air Attache in France, he’s become famous overnight as the Indian Air Force officer who flew the first batch of Rafale jets from France to an Indian air force base near Ladakh & the Pakistan border. He has been a career officer in the Indian military since 1988 with all sorts of medals & military distinctions to his name.
His middle-class family is from the Anantnag district where his father, who also served in the Indian Army, retired as a deputy superintendent of police. Indian media reports that tributes are pouring in from Kashmiri youth bursting with pride at his military accomplishments. Which Kashmiri youth would those be? The ones incarcerated & subject to torture by the Indian Army? The young mothers of kids abducted by Indian forces in nighttime home invasions? The thousands of young & old injured & disfigured by pellet guns? Do the thousands of young men forcibly disappeared & dumped in mass graves get a voice in the celebrations? The Times of India article says his family often faced threats, probably for being collaborators, & when Hilal got married he had to relocate to Jammu for safety reasons. Now, for piloting war planes he’s heralded as a hero? Don’t believe everything you read. Kashmiris have not suddenly lost their marbles overnight & gone gaga over a man who serves in the very military that is the agent of their oppression.
(Photo of Hilal Ahmad Rather by IANS)
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Indian fighter pilots trained in France flew the first five of 36 French Rafale fighter jets from France to the Ambala Air Base in Punjab close to Ladakh & the Pakistan border. India purchased the 36 jets built by Dassault Aviation in France in 2016 for USD $9.4 billion. Several charges were lodged & litigation filed in India over the corruption of Indian officials involved in Dassault’s choice of Indian company to partner with for future joint manufacturing. There were reports of delay in delivery due to the corona pandemic but Indian military officials put pressure on French military officials to ‘expedite’ Dassault after the conflict with Chinese forces in Ladakh & as part of saber-rattling against Pakistan over Kashmir.
Dassault is motivated by militarism & capitalist greed. But what are France’s motives in supporting Indian militarism against China, Pakistan, & Kashmir? On a state visit to India in May 2018, Macron reported that close to 1,000 French companies were presently investing in India. Bilateral trade was nearly USD $11 billion in 2017 & the two countries committed to increasing it to nearly $18 billion by 2022. As part of the EU, France is also attempting to revive the India-EU free trade agreement they’ve been negotiating since 2007 in the search for sweatshop labor.
According to Indian president Ram Noth Kovind who greeted Macron in 2018, France & India do not just have economic ties but also military, nuclear, maritime, counter-terrorism, & other interests all rooted in what is called the ‘military-industrial complex’. The entanglements between the two countries are complex but concern for human rights, especially in Kashmir, is not among them.
India will make a big splash about these fighter jets to warn China & Pakistan but also to intimidate Kashmiris. A BDS-type boycott of India may be absolutely necessary to weaken India’s threats.
(Photo of Macron & Modi from NDTV)
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