By Dr Shabir Choudhry
A new phase of the Kashmiri struggle or whatever we want to call it in view of communalism, proxy war and terrorism has been going on since 1947; and yet we the people of Jammu and Kashmir have not been able to put our priorities right. We have not been able to differentiate between freedom and occupation. We have also failed to understand the designs of both countries on Kashmir, and formulate appropriate policies to promote and advance a Kashmiri interest.
In view of the above, can we make a valid claim to get independence and be recognised as a free nation and play our due role in comity of nations, especially when what are known as Kashmiri leaders at best have been acting as puppets of either one country or the other and promoting and defending interest of either India or Pakistan?
Despite lack of democracy and encroachment of civil liberties the State of Jammu and Kashmir was one political entity in 1947. People of the state irrespective of their religious and cultural affiliations regarded themselves as Kashmiris, distinctly different from India and Pakistan; and wanted to maintain that difference.
Today the unfortunate state is forcibly divided in many parts, and people of the state are divided on religious, cultural, regional and ethnic lines. These divisions have never been so deep and so frightening in the history of the state, and it looks that those powers who are behind these moves are paving the way for the division of the state on communal and regional lines.
Call it armed struggle, jihad, terrorism or a proxy war it destroyed fundamental characters of the Kashmiri society and Kashmiri struggle for right of self-determination. This armed struggle which was initiated, supported and promoted by secret agencies of Pakistan resulted in human rights violations and deepened the divisions in the Kashmiri society.
In this struggle, a Pakistani gun, agenda was implemented by using a Kashmiri shoulder. It was presented to us by Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership as a Kashmiri struggle for liberation; and with hindsight we see that we Kashmiris were used as a raw material in this proxy war, and it added to our misery and suffering.
A few days ago a ‘friend’ who is still part of controversial nationalist group of JKLF invited me to take part in a picket outside an Indian High Commission on 15th August. According to him it was to demonstrate that India got independence on this date and they have occupied our country – Jammu and Kashmir. I said to him that Pakistan got independence one day before India and Pakistan has also occupied some parts of Jammu and Kashmir; wouldn’t it be better to have a demonstration outside Pakistani High Commission first followed by one outside the Indian High Commission.
This friend said how can we have a demonstration outside Pakistani High Commission, they are helping us against Indian occupation, can’t you see how the Indian army has killed innocent people who were peacefully proceeding towards LOC. I said to him that I condemned this brutal killing. There was no need to kill and torture people like that but the Pakistani army did the same thing in 1992 and more than eight innocent people lost their lives.
I explained to him that in 1992 the JKLF people tried to cross the LOC from the AJK side and they were also innocent and wanted to proceed to the LOC peacefully, they were killed by the Pakistan army. Prior to this tragedy, National Students Federation members who were trying to cross the LOC were also killed and tortured by the Pakistan army. When it comes to enforcing ‘law and order’ or enforcing ‘writ of government’ army is trained to kill and torture, as it is happening in Jammu and Kashmir and in Swat, Balochistan, North West Frontier and FATA; or as it happened when Red Mosque was invaded and destroyed in name of enforcing ‘writ of government’.
I further said India virtually lost Kashmir Valley in 1990-1, however despite other heavy handedness India did not use gunship helicopters or air force against Muslim militants. In Pakistan on the other hand gunship helicopters and F 16 are regularly used to target alleged Muslim ‘terrorists’ in which innocent Pakistani Muslims are killed and their houses are destroyed. If you need any further evidence how Pakistani forces behave when asked to deal with ‘rebels’ or with those who demand rights then read history of East Pakistan or Bangladesh; or even ask members of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front how they were treated in 1970/1 during investigations regarding Ganga Hijacking.
I said without being pro this or anti that one can see a nation whose leadership takes pride in ‘selling’ their (Pakistani) sons and daughters for sake of American dollars, just take example of Dr Afia Sadiqqi who was arrested in Karachi with her three young children and has ended up in America, and the whereabouts of her three young children is still not known. Do you expect any mercy or better treatment from rulers and establishment of this country? If they treat their own people like butchers and regard them as an economic commodity don’t expect that they will treat us Kashmiris differently.
Knowledge of this friend was limited and he was having difficulty in justifying his argument, so he surrendered by saying that he could not compete with me in knowledge and argument. He said he was a loyal member of the JKLF and wanted to follow the party decision and the JKLF leaders. I appreciated his ‘loyalty’ but added that loyalty of his leaders is not with the JKLF or its ideology. Their loyalty is with agencies of our neighbours who reward them handsomely. I said decision to hold a picket outside an Indian High commission was taken elsewhere but only endorsed in your meeting. Your leadership discussed it with relevant quarters, agreed certain terms and conditions and then brought this issue to your meeting to be approved. Normally committee of personal and party loyalists do not disagree with any decision which is presented to them as approved by the top leadership, especially there is always hundred per cent unanimity when any actions is related to India.
This friend agreed with almost everything I said but added that ‘you have always been critical of top JKLF leadership and Pakistan. And now that I have left the JKLF I should not criticise JKLF and its policies, as it hurts us and that we will also criticise you and make allegations against you’.
Whether he or someone else criticises me or not it is immaterial, what is important is the attitude of the Kashmiri people and especially that of ‘nationalist’ parties. It is unfortunate to note that despite this long struggle, sacrifices and suffering on massive scale we as a nation have not been able to decide our priorities. We Kashmiris still have not been able to decide who is enemy of our independence and who is deceiving us in name of religion and brotherhood. It is unfortunate that many of us still view Kashmir dispute in the context of Muslims and non Muslims, and accept whatever is presented to us by media and organisations controlled by Islamabad.
My colleagues and I have always regarded Jammu and Kashmir as one political entity, and have promoted cause of united and independent Kashmir , and advanced non – communal politics as Kashmir dispute is not a religious one. But it is unfortunate to note that in 2008 we Kashmiris are more divided and more communalised then we were in 1947; and gulf between the regions and communities is widening. Jammu and the Valley have different priorities and are playing in hands of those who want to play a religious card in order to divide the people on communal lines and advance their politics. Ladakh apart from the ‘Kargil war’ has not bee affected by the militancy; and has different agenda and has no interest with what is going on in other two regions. Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan have no contact with each other and have different priorities and interests. People of Azad Kashmir, forgetting their own miseries and problems are seemed to be more concerned with what goes on across the LOC, and virtually accept everything what is presented to them by the Pakistani media.
By promoting religious politics are we not playing in the hands of extremists who want to justify the Two Nations Theory that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot live together, hence pave way for division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines.
(The writer is spokesman Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. He is also Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email: drshabirchoudhry@ gmail.com