The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Fresh civilian deaths should ring alarm bells in Kashmir

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Deja vu

Seven people – two soldiers, one civilian and four militants – died in Kashmir’s Kulgam district after security forces engaged in a 12-hour gunfight on Sunday. The incident was followed by large protests against the security forces’ action in the area, which also led to clashes between locals and the police, leaving one civilian dead and many more injured.

A joint team of local police and central security forces acted on a tip-off about four militants and launched a search operation on Saturday night, with the police control room in Kulgam claiming that the encounter began after the militants opened fire. While most of the encounter itself seemed to have wound up overnight, with forces saying three other militants escaped, the incident prompted dozens of people from the area to protest. The ensuing clashes and stone-pelting saw police firing at the crowd in an attempt to disperse it.

Militants dying in encounters with security forces may not be uncommon in Kashmir, but the death of civilians in Kulgam has caused outrage in the valley. Separatists have called for a shutdown on Monday and a march to Kulgam to protest against what they called the “brute force” used against civilians. The Opposition National Conference is demanding an investigation into the civilian deaths.

If all of this seems depressingly familiar, it is because it has happened before. Almost exactly a year ago, in Pulwama district, the same script played out, with civilians dying close to the site of an encounter. The police then claimed that the civilians either died in the crossfire or because they were throwing stones at the forces. Witnesses, however, insisted that the Army men simply opened fire on the civilian crowds. The same contention led to the calls for a shutdown and protests in the Valley on Sunday.

The presence of civilians around the sites of encounters has now become commonplace. As the forces attempt to flush out militants, crowds who hear about the action gather at the site and attempt to distract the forces, often hurling stones at them. This often leads to retaliation and civilians end up dead, prompting further outrage in the Valley, bringing up the question of whether the government’s encounter policy is the best strategy to deal with militancy.

This question becomes even more urgent as the state emerges from its brief wintry respite from violence. With the snow melting, there are rumours again of unrest and incidents like the one in Kulgam will only fan the flames. If the government uses security forces to try and quell protests, as it did in 2016, it will most likely see a repeat of the standoff that was in place for much of last year, with many civilian deaths in protests and an even bigger build up of public anger.

By most accounts, the government has done little to use the brief lull of the winter to reach out to people beyond the political and separatist leadership, and attempt to find a solution. If it fails to actively make an effort to talk to the public, the anger that built up over 2016 will turn into unrest yet again – and Kashmir will once again have to grapple with a year full of violence and civilian deaths.

The Big Scroll

  • Ipsita Chakravarty and Rayan Naqash give you the anatomy of a militant encounter in Kashmir, which quickly turns into clashes between the public and the forces.

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Punditry

  1. Swati Narayan in the Indian Express reminds us why Aadhaar may have been sold as the best way to ensure welfare delivery, but it is by no means succeeding at that.
  2. An unsigned report in The Wire points out that Dainik Jagran published what for all practical purposes appeared to be an exit poll for the first phase of Uttar Pradesh elections, showing the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead and violating Election Commission rules.
  3. Sex offender registries have shown no significant impact on sexual offences in the countries where they have been implemented, writes Shruthi Ramakrishnan in the Hindu, calling on the Indian government to reconsider its plan to implement one.
  4. “Three weeks into the Trump administration, council staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them,” write David E Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Peter Baker in the New York Times.

Giggles

Don’t miss

Meghna Mukherjee looks at the cost rural women have to bear in terms of mental, physical pain and monetary loss when they are exposed to unhygienic conditions.

“In a typical rural setup, where there are limited financial resources and a lot of mouths to feed, prioritizing of needs comes into play. Women are more likely to face health insecurities than men, so it is far more important for women to seek medical care. But in such situations where they face the risk of infections, they forgo the decision to visit a doctor, as doing so would mean additional resource strain for her family. So for her, the opportunity cost of choosing medical care would mean losing out on her family’s needs. For them feeding their family, educating their children and making their home a better place to live is more important to them than their health. It is because of this that in many parts of the country, women still go and bathe outside but fetch water to their homes so that their daughters can live comfortably.” 

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.