Police charge Kashmir officials over critical text

AP News
Posted: Dec 20, 2011 2:32 AM
Police charge Kashmir officials over critical text

Indian authorities have filed charges against Kashmir education officials over a textbook for first graders that illustrates the word "oppressor" with a sketch resembling an Indian police officer.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the Indian-controlled part of the disputed Himalayan region, where violent confrontations routinely erupt between stone-throwing protesters and baton-wielding police.

Police official Shailandra Mishra said Tuesday that authorities were angered by an Urdu-language textbook illustrating the word "zalim," or oppressor, with a drawing of a mustachioed man wearing a cap and uniform and carrying a bamboo club similar to those carried by Indian police.

Police charged officials responsible for the creation and publication of the book, along with the head of the government-run board of education, with criminal conspiracy, sedition and defamation Monday. The charges could carry a 10-year sentence.

Mishra also said the word was inappropriate in a book for such young students.

Sheikh Bashir, chairman of the board of education, said the body had already issued a notice to delete the picture from the textbook.

"We've initiated a departmental inquiry to know why the mistake occurred. Let me assure that it was not a deliberate attempt or a conspiracy to defame the police," he said.

Last year, police arrested a college lecturer on charges he gave his students an English exam filled with questions attacking a crackdown on demonstrations challenging Indian rule in the region. Police accused the lecturer of promoting secession and spreading disaffection against the state.

Kashmir is divided between Hindu-majority India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan, but claimed by both in its entirety. Though many living in Indian-controlled Kashmir are agitating for independence or merger with Pakistan, India considers it illegal to question the country's claim to the region.

Indian forces have largely suppressed a violent rebellion that broke out in 1989, but Kashmiris have turned instead to holding street protests. More than 68,000 people have died in the conflict.