French journalist’s exposé of Indian barbarism
S M Hali


India must listen to the voices of the world

French journalist Paul Comiti’s documentary Cachemire: la guerre sur le toit du monde (Kashmir: The War on the Roof of the World) exposes the massive genocide of the Kashmiris by the Indian forces in the Occupied Valley exposes the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian forces. M6, a major French private TV channel, aired the documentary on 1 April.

The hard-hitting documentary depicted very strong images of the usage of pellet guns (stills of the injuries, X-rays, blinded Kashmiris and numerous other horrifying visuals). A touching visual of an adolescent shot with a pellet gun by Indian forces was also shown. The unfortunate youth and thousands of others are handicapped for life because the lead shots, which have penetrated the lungs, kidney and liver cannot be extracted by surgeons because of the minute size of these pellets.

The 78-minute documentary shows Indian soldiers holding the pellet guns and chronicles the tension prevailing in the environment. Cachemire: la guerre sur le toit du monde showcases a “surveillance society” with cameras, drones and so on, filming crowds, demonstrations as well as funerals. Large paramilitary forcesare present everywhere. The daring French journalist, Paul Comiti, managed to show (and interview) the famous Kashmiri civilian who was strapped to an Indian military jeep. It may be recalled that the video of Ashraf Dar tied to the bonnet of an Indian Army jeep as a human shield in April 2017 had become viral. It had raised concerns over the violation of human rights by Indian armed forces in held Kashmir, but the perpetrator of the inhuman act, Major Nitin Gogol, was decorated for valour by the Indian Army Chief.

Coming in the backdrop of the Pulwama incident, the documentary is a strong depiction of the sentiments of local Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir

The documentary shows young boys– all of whom want to become freedom fighters. They are all motivated to pursue their right of self-determination according to the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. The funeral of a young man wrapped in the Pakistan flag with Kashmiris chanting slogans for freedom, is highly emotional and moving.

The filming team shows how Indian secret services followed them and how the director, Paul Comiti, was arrested. Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) called for the immediate release of Paul Comiti, who was arrested in December 2017, despite having complied with all the security requirements imposed by the Indian military. The 47-year-old filmmaker, who was in Kashmir to research for the documentary about the security situation in the troubled state, was arrested late on 9 December 2017 in Srinagar.

The police initially accused him of disturbing public order but later changed the charge to violating visa regulations. Comiti entered India on a Business visa, which he requested as a producer, rather than requesting a Journalist visa, which is almost impossible for foreign reporters to obtain because of very stringent conditions.

It may be recalled that Indian Occupied Kashmir, which is mostly Muslim, has been riven by a new wave of violent clashes between security forces and protesters since 8 July 2016, when the 23-year-old Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani was mercilessly gunned down by Indian soldiers. Over 400 Kashmiri youth have been martyred, while over 3600 have been permanently blinded.

Comiti came to Pakistan after his release from Indian prison. He was greeted civilly in Pakistan and permitted to film in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The documentary calls it an “Operation Communication” from Pakistan because of the stark contrast in the behaviour of Indian and Pakistani authorities.

A Pakistan Army team took Comiti and his crew to FATA (Miranshah) and showed them around the area, especially the captured command centre of the Taliban in that area. This was a depiction of the fact that Pakistan does not permit the Taliban to operate in Indian Occupied Kashmir and their hideouts in Pakistan have been destroyed.

Filming was also carried out in Poonch sector and shows a 14-year-old girl injured by Indian machinegun fire. The young girl later dies of her injuries. Her parents are interviewed, who tearfully inform of Indian indiscriminate firing from the Indian Occupied Kashmir side towards Azad Kashmir. There are also some touching scenes showing the fresh grave of the dead adolescent. The documentary also shows a local girl’s school totally destroyed by Indian artillery. But the teacher and girls are still motivated to carry on education.

The documentary moves on to the Wagah ceremony (from the Atari, Indian, side). Finally, there is an interview of Happymon Jacob, a frequent visitor of SciencesPo Paris and local correspondent of the French academic Christophe Jaffrelot. He refuses to take Kashmir as a religious struggle. He laims also that Indian PM Modi likes “spectacles” and this issue requires a long period of negotiations as well as diplomacy, and that this won’t happen with the Modi government.

Coming in the backdrop of the Pulwama incident, which nearly brought the two nuclear neighbours to the brink of war due to India’s jingoism, the documentary is a strong depiction of the sentiments of local Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir. India continues to blame Pakistan for the Pulwama incident but remains oblivious to the fact that Indian brutalities and the suppression of the residents of Indian Occupied Kashmir have led to the explosive situation. The Indian dossier of evidence of alleged Pakistani support to the Pulwama attack came a day after the failed Indian surgical strike at Balakot on 26 February. Pakistan struck back hard on 27 February, in which two Indian fighter aircraft were shot down by Pakistan.

The dossier of evidence was examined by Pakistan and returned by the Pakistani Foreign Office, since it failed to provide any evidence linking Pakistan to the attack.

In a strongly worded letter, 50 members of the European Union Parliament have sent a letter to Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister. Referring to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights-Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir, the honourable dignitaries, have expressed their grave concern about the past and ongoing human rights violations against people in Kashmir. The distinguished parliamentarians have articulated particular concern about the usage of pellet shotguns, responsible for blinding, killing and traumatizing hundreds of people in Kashmir. They have taken special note of the tragic case of the 19-month old child who was gravely injured by a pellet gun according to a BBC report. The EU Parliamentarians have shown grave concern that The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) provide security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation.

The 50 Members of the EU Parliament have urged the Indian government to take immediate steps, which include: 1. Immediately end the use of pellet-firing shotguns in Jammu and Kashmir and bring all relevant Indian laws into compliance with international human rights standards; 2. Urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 and amend the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 to ensure its compliance with international human rights law 3. Provide full and effective reparation and rehabilitation to those who have been injured by pellet-firing shotguns, and to the families of those killed; 4. Establish independent and impartial investigations into all accidents where the use of pellet-firing shotguns led to deaths or serious injuries.

India needs to pay heed to international voices.