Posts Tagged ‘Kashmiris’

A Just Peace in Kashmir?

August 9, 2009

Reflections on Dynamics of Change

By Richard Shapiro | ZNet, Aug 8, 2009

Richard Shapiro’s ZSpace Page

What are the various roles that diverse constituencies must play to facilitate political processes that undo militarization and subjugation in Indian administered Kashmir? How can systemic structures that institutionalize violence, cultural annihilation, economic impoverishment, and political disempowerment be countered through non-violent, ethical resistance? What alliances are necessary to allow hope for overcoming cycles of oppression and breaking with histories of domination? How can international, national, and local actors and institutions work together to disrupt socially unnecessary suffering and ameliorate the conditions of existence? What forces must cohere to enable a just peace to emerge in a democratic Kashmir in the foreseeable future?

Numerous obstacles present tremendous challenges to movements for social justice. The current world order is predicated on systems of inequality that hierarchically divide countries, peoples, cultures, classes, genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and faith traditions to the benefit of the few and the detriment of the many. Dominant powers prescribe the rules of the game to their advantage and utilize knowledge, technology, and markets to structure social relations in their interests. The new global order presents itself as the best of all possible worlds in which sovereign nation-states organized through representative democracy, rule of law, free markets with government regulation, Enlightenment rationality, and human rights are promised as the solution to the problems of poverty, war, ecological devastation, genocide, and terrorism.

This dominant narrative of progress through the spread of capitalism organized in nation-states and guided by knowledge has attained hegemony as it has captured the imagination of postcolonial nations like India. Postcolonial nations have largely reproduced the structures of colonial oppression and organized themselves to become players in the existing global order as militarized, hyper-masculinized, nuclear powers measuring their worth on the basis of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Emerging middle-classes of massive proportion in postcolonial nations like India buttress this process of nation building that mirrors and enforces dynamics of globalization through the production of unparalleled poverty, massive and multiple dislocations, genocide of indigenous peoples, ecological disaster, and abundant psychological malaise. India is embraced by the international community, meaning largely the United States and Western Europe, precisely because it marches in step with the new world order. India amasses great cultural capital as “the world’s largest democracy” in spite of the fact that it is home to 40% of the worlds most economically destitute, and seeks to constitute itself as a nation through policies that disregard the needs of the vast majority of its population.

India is inventing nothing new in its self-constitution as a powerful nation-state. National identity is being fabricated through the equation of India with Hindus, in blatant form in entities like the RSS and BJP, and in more subtle form in the Congress and progressive Indian citizens for whom nationalism linked to ‘Hindu cultural reassertion’ is an unreflective response to a colonial past. The equation of Hinduism (unity in diversity) and Christianity with tolerance for difference, and Islam with terrorism, backwardness, and fanaticism, functions as a global trope supportive of unleashing disproportionate violence on Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine, as well as within the territory of India in Gujurat, Orissa, and in the ‘disputed territory’ of Kashmir. India forms itself as nation with unexamined Hindu majoritarianism at its base, just as unexamined Christian cultural dominance organizes the United States, rendering explorations of the links between religionization, nationalism and particular secularisms close to impossible. India is also typical in its self-formation as nation in fashioning internal and external enemies as crucial to defining itself, and super-exploiting its most proximate ‘others’ to fuel its prosperity. European nations had the Jew as internal enemy. The United States is founded on the backs of its twin others – enslaved Africans and massacred Native Americans.

India has as its main ‘internal other’ the Muslim, who can take no solace in also occupying the role as external enemy in India’s dominant narrative. This double site is what the state uses to legitimate the brutalization of the Kashmiri people. Firstly, there is India’s need for a majority Muslim state within its borders to legitimate itself as a progressive, pluralistic, secular nation. Without a Muslim majority state within India, India cannot as easily legitimate itself as a progressive member of the new global order. Secondly there is India’s need to establish national identities that take precedence over regional, local, traditional identities. As a nation, India is in the process of seeking: (1) to establish territorial dominion over the current boundaries of the nation, (2) attain a monopoly on the means of violence, and (3) organize human and natural resources to enhance the productivity and power of the nation. Every nation that has achieved the normative status of modern democracy has utilized sustained and prolific violence to realize these three imperatives and in the process establish its identity. India is in a very vulnerable moment in this process as is evident from an examination of the myriad territories and forces fighting for autonomy in some form from the Indian state. Part of the strategy to foster national identity, simultaneous to providing very little to the vast majority of its population, and in fact fostering mal-development that impoverishes and displaces poor, rural ‘citizens’, is to fabricate an ‘us’ that must protect itself from ‘them’. Without internal enemies India cannot unify itself as a nation.

This internal enemy is also resolutely claimed as integral to India. The state and its loyal subjects repeat the same refrain: ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India.’ ‘Kashmir is integral to India.’ Kashmir is the other that is integral to the self, a difference that is integral to the identity of India. How then does India treat this other, this integral difference? To debase, devalue, disrespect, destroy the people, culture, history, land, waters, aspirations, imaginations, passions, thoughts, of this other that is claimed as integral to self reveals much about India’s current state of existence. What other measure is available to us to assess ourselves as ethical entities than how we treat the other, how we engage the differences to which we are ethically obliged to respond? What nation has satisfactorily answered to this call? If a day arrives when Kashmir is ‘a nation unto itself’, independent and sovereign, an equal to all other nations, will Kashmir point the nation-state in a new direction? Will the differences integral to Kashmir be respected, affirmed, heard and engaged? Will ‘the other’ be the call to ‘the self’ to practice hospitality? Will the Gujur, the village woman who buried loved ones and waits in silence for words of/from other loved ones, the atheist, the ardent believer, the Shia, the Sufi, the pundit, the Buddhist, the differently abled, the homosexual, the beggar, the prostitute, be welcomed as participants in constructing a nation that will be ‘a light unto other nations’? Will the other be welcomed without the demand or structural incentive to assimilate, to mirror/mimic dominance to be recognized as human? These questions are too much, perhaps even unfair. Yet, is it not necessary to raise them?

Kashmir occupies a literal and imaginary border as inside and outside of India in ways that structure an impossible predicament. The state (and its elites and middle-classes) does not trust Kashmiris whose allegiance is always presumed to lie with Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, thus denying Kashmiris the rights of citizens of India, while asserting the inviolability of its sovereignty over Kashmir as a secular, democratic nation governed by equality under rule of law. The distrust legitimates military rule organized through special laws as necessary to provide law and order as a matter of internal security. Thus, on the basis of being part of a democratic state, the rights granted citizens of such a state are denied to Kashmiris. Inclusion in nation is coupled with dispossession from historical memory, rights, and life. India legitimates its mistreatment through a logic originating with European nation-states. This denial of civil and human rights, rule of law, and the freedoms of citizenship to Kashmiris is because the state must protect itself from forces within itself that threaten its character as a lawful, democratic nation. India must violate what is most inviolable, through a state of exception (the use of law to suspend law as definitive of sovereignty), to protect itself. The discourse requires the allegiance of the Kashmiri people to India, as proof that Kashmiris are not what the nation suspects – traitors and terrorists, as precondition to access to the rights of citizenship. These same rights of citizenship provided by the nation, while denied to Kashmiris, are used by India to justify its claims to being a legitimate state entitled to act as it does in Kashmir. As a legitimate state, India is predicated on civil rights and rule of law that it may legitimately suspend in the name of national security. Kashmiris must align with India given this legitimacy, while living as subjects without rights in so far as the state defines them as a threat to its sovereignty. India must violate what gives it legitimacy in order to protect itself from the internal enemy integral to it. India must destroy itself to protect itself. The state of exception produces a state of autoimmunity. India is also asserting itself as superior to other regional nation-states, and an emerging player in relation to Western Europe and the United States. Like other powerful democracies, India is entitled to do whatever is necessary to fight terrorism and strengthen itself as a powerful, sovereign, capitalist nation, aligned with the movement of progress (dominance).

Kashmiris are placed in a situation where allegiance to India as prerequisite to participation in a lawful democracy involves allegiance to a state that has no rational basis to demand or expect allegiance from the people of Kashmir. India needs to exaggerate the degree of cross-border infiltration and armed Islamist militancy to rationalize 500,000+ troops, blurred boundaries between police and army, and massive intervention in daily life through systematic surveillance, land seizures, checkpoints, torture, disappearances, gendered and sexualized violence, fake encounter deaths and countless daily humiliations calculated to break the spirit of the Kashmiri people. This reality is currently resisted through mass demonstrations, regular protests, strategic use of elections, strategic boycott of elections, navigating restrictions on ‘free press’, civil society mobilizations, legal cases, an International Tribunal, and regular acts of dignity, courage, and faith that characterize the present in Kashmir. India demonstrates the persona all too common in the ‘league of nations’ – to act with impunity and disregard for international law and local demands for justice. India uses this fiction of the Kashmiri as existing in the shadowy space of inside/outside the nation to legitimate an occupation that ignores the historical particularity of Kashmir and the promises made to the people of Kashmir to determine its own future. The plight of Kashmiri pundits also becomes an opportunity for the state to legitimate regularized violence and systematic oppression of Kashmiris. Were all Kashmiris, whether currently residing in the state of Jammu/Kashmir or elsewhere, to be given voice to express their will, free from coercion, retribution, and manipulation, the outcome would not be in doubt.

Kashmir is the longest standing disputed area in the United Nations, the most militarized spot on earth, and a drain on the hopes for prosperity, peace and freedom for people throughout the subcontinent, and the world. There is no moving toward peaceful coexistence between India and Pakistan, no stabilization of the region, no possibility for global nuclear disarmament, no hope for forms of development that prioritize sustainability and cultural survival over militarization, urbanization, and middle-class consumerism, no space for the impossible healing through mourning/memorializing the trauma of Partition, without granting self-determination to the people of Kashmir.

The realization of that which is demanded by rationality in service of justice and emancipation is always against the odds. In relation to Kashmir, a more peaceful future requires at least four interrelated movements: (1) Massive, non-violent, ethical dissent within Kashmiri civil society must continue and expand, attentive to alliances that build stronger relations between men and women, youth and adults, various faith communities, urban and rural, rich and poor, facilitative of inclusive forms of polity that enable a diverse, pluralistic movement for freedom. (2) Leadership must form a unified coalition that activates and learns from the multiple constituencies that make up Kashmiri society. Divergent desires and imaginations regarding the future of Kashmir should be encouraged and discussed, outside the search for homogeneity or conformity. A Kashmir free of subjugation should enable multiple forms of life through participatory democracy, just governance, and economic practice promoting health, education, and individual and collective prosperity. Natural resources, like water, should be both safeguarded, and utilized for sustainable development. Cultural heritage should be understood as an inheritance of all Kashmiris to fashion a unique society nurturing hospitality, innovation, and multicultural polity. (3) Education and mobilization to shift public opinion in India must be undertaken throughout civil society to expand pressure on the Indian state. Citizen delegations from the various states and communities of India must visit Kashmir to learn first hand about the atrocities, resistances, hopes, and concerns prevalent in Kashmir. Such delegations must bring their new understandings to their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and places of worship to facilitate discussion and reflection that expand the voices of those who demand that illegal and immoral action in Kashmir done in their name immediately cease. Institutions in India must sponsor delegations from Kashmir, composed of diverse peoples who constitute Kashmiri society, to share the realities they have suffered and the need for alliance toward justice. Hindu faith communities must forge relationships with social justice movements in civil society in Kashmir to oppose Hindu majoritarian dominance and insist that the Indian state demilitarize the state of Jammu & Kashmir, become accountable to international agreements, rule of law, and human rights as the first step on the road to affirming the right of Kashmir to self-determination. Universities and the press must play a strong role in addressing the history and present of Kashmir to empower students and the citizenry of India to participate as informed members of a democratic republic, whose resources and conscience are systematically misused and violated by their government. (4) International solidarities from citizens, governmental and non-governmental organizations, students, workers, professionals, public intellectuals, faith communities, and all interested parties must be organized to educate, inform, advocate, and mobilize for the liberation of Kashmir. International institutions must be both utilized and strengthened as legitimate sites able to hold nation-states legally accountable for their actions. Research, education, and publication on the reality of present-day Kashmir and its modern history must be supported by and within universities, think tanks, and civil society forums. Campuses must become sites where students mobilize themselves to exert public pressure to ethically resolve the situation in Kashmir. Resistance in all four ‘sites’ must struggle to establish alliances, clarify goals, mobilize resources, deconstruct desires, and carve out space where different forms of polity and community, promoting ethical dissent, may live.

To commit to these practices secures no guarantees. The process must draw from the resolve of Kashmiris to struggle for justice and strengthen this resolve through principled alliance that breaks the isolation and despair that accompanies any people subjected to brutal mistreatment. The multiple legacies that inspire and haunt us must become the very sustenance that, through sharing, nurtures our struggle. Allow me to conclude by drawing from a source common to the three Abrahamic traditions, and of universal relevance in the present, Deuteronomy 16:20, Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue.

Richard Shapiro is Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

Yasin Malik: Include Kashmiris in talks

July 16, 2009
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GK NEWS NETWORK

Srinagar, July 15: The chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Muhammad Yasin Malik, on Wednesday reiterated that bilateral talks between India and Pakistan couldn’t yield any result till Kashmiris were recognized as a principal party to the dispute and were included in the process.
Commenting on the forthcoming proposed meeting between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan scheduled  to be held at Sharm-ul-Sheikh in Egypt, the JKLF chairman said, “We welcome it and hope that this time the talks will prove constructive and will end on a positive note,” Malik, said in a statement.
“Three generations of Kashmiris have so far been destroyed due to non-resolution of this issue while crores of people in India and Pakistan have been forced to live in the state of continued restlessness and disquietude,” he added.
Malik said the Kashmiris widely known for their intellect, intelligence, hard work and industriousness, had not been provided any opportunity to decide their future. “History is witness to the fact that talks on Kashmir issue between India were always held to meet, talk and leave. There was never any serious and meaningful effort to resolve it,” he said, hoping that this time the prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the prime minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, would make a departure from their previous traditions and write a new history.
Malik said the Kashmir issue was not a border dispute between India and Pakistan but it was the matter concerning the determination of the future of Kashmiris. “So their participation in every decision making process is imperative,” he added.
Malik said Kashmiris in 2008 presented a unique example of peaceful and non-violent mass revolution. “So they deserve to be heard and reciprocated with respect and honour for this positive change and Kashmir issue should be resolved on priority,” he said.

We are ready for dialogue with India: Kashmiri leader

March 17, 2009

‘But It Should Be Aimed At Resolving The Kashmir Dipute’

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| Greater Kashmir

Srinagar, Mar 16: The chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said on Monday Hurriyat was ready to resume talks with New Delhi, but maintained that the dialogue should be meaningful and aimed at resolution of the Kashmir dispute, rather than being a mere formality.
“We want the talks should be held in a conducive atmosphere. However, before the talks, we expect New Delhi to release political prisoners and thousands of Kashmiri youth languishing in its jails, revoke the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and stop harassment of people. Killings and talks can’t go together,” Mirwaiz said, adding that the talks would be possible after formation of the new government at the centre.

“We are for any dialogue which is aimed at resolution of Kashmir dispute. We believe that meaningful talks only can help resolve the dispute and are ready to take the process to its logical end,” Mirwaiz told Greater Kashmir.
Mirwaiz blamed the successive regimes of India for delaying Kashmir resolution by holding elections in the state. “New Delhi can’t afford to linger on the dispute. It has to come out of its denial mode and escapism,” he said.
In 2004, Mirwaiz said, New Delhi had to recognize the Hurriyat Conference as the representatives of Kashmiris and initiate talks on Kashmir. “But after a few rounds the dialogue process was stopped apparently to hamper Kashmir resolution. Elections can’t be an alternative to the Kashmir resolution. Polls have given birth to a government which doesn’t have even power to initiate probe against the erring armed forces,” he said.

Mirwaiz warned that any delay in resolution of the Kashmir dispute could have serious repercussions. “If India and Pakistan keep talking only with each other, they can’t achieve any breakthrough. Kashmiris have borne the brunt of animosity between them. They are the principal party to the dispute and the two countries have to talk to them to achieve a lasting and amicable solution,” he said.

Referring to the recent statement of chief minister, Omar Abdullah, in which he had stressed initiation of the dialogue with pro-freedom leadership without drawing boundaries, Mirwaiz said, “now New Delhi’s representatives too are raising their voice for resolution of the Kashmir dispute through dialogue.”

Mirwaiz expressed satisfaction over the interest of international community, particularly the United States president, Barrack Hussain Obama, for supporting peaceful resolution of Kashmir.

India’s Long But Sure Revolution

December 15, 2008

I

Few things about contemporary India have been as consequential as the excruciating churning among Indian Muslims. Consequential, as I suggested in an earlier column, as well for Muslims worldwide (see my “Fatwa Against Terrorism,” ZNet, June 8, 2008).

Remarkably, where vested segments among Hindu organizations have sought to move the majority community towards undemocratic closures, it is the beleaguered Muslim counterparts that have been showing the way to greater democratic consolidations.

Transcending a clutch of grievance and hurt, Indian Muslims are today truly in the leadership of Indian democracy—a day I have been wishing for and writing about for over two decades and now live to see.

And this long revolution that is underway is no sham or tactical occurrence. There is stern substance to the Muslim resolve not merely to appeal to the Constitutional regime as supplicants but indeed to function as its foremost guarantors in close clasp with secular and democratic Indians across communities.

There is to me something heroic in the way in which India’s Muslim citizens have over the last two years especially sought to redefine themselves in relation to the worldwide ummah and the nation at home. All that despite the most irksome provocation.

It is the rigour of that introspection which today translates un-selfconsciously into a rejection of ungodly mayhem carried out ostensibly in defence of the faith, even as Indian Muslims along with millions of other Indians remain cognizant, as they ought to, of the oppressive forces that alternately both create and denigrate religious and cultural reaction—forces that reside both outside India and among comprador social interests at home.

II

If the discovery earlier of terrorist perpetrators with Hindu names had paradoxically helped to relieve the unmitigated odium vented on Muslims, obliging right-wing fascists, rather abjectly, to mirror a helpless Muslim discourse in their defence, the vanguard role played by Indian Muslims in condemning the attack on Mumbai on behalf not just of common humanity but of India has led to a still more far-reaching historical consequence.

This watershed secular assertion has had the effect of taking the stuffing out of what electoral expectations the right-wing Hindu BJP came to harbour in the wake of the Mumbai attack.

Its emphatic losses in the states that went to the polls after the terrorist strike scream a grassroot rejection of its communal politics. And of the ugly callousness that informs it.

However wedded to the BJP, India’s corporate media have had the sense to welcome this occurrence, as it now banners the slogan that terror must never be politicized. Better late than never.

It will not be long before the residual interests of India’s capitalist class and collaborative elites in retaining denominational politics, notwithstanding their often disingenuous noises against communalism, will also have to yield to propagating secular democracy in more convincing ways.

Always wary of class consolidations from “below”, India’s political class will, nonetheless, sooner than later, find it as expedient to be in the forefront of the fight against communalist politics as they are now against terrorism.

And, as these histories ripen and fructify, the credit in overwhelming measure will go to Indian Muslims and to the leadership they are now furnishing.

Prophesies can come good only as products of dedicated human labour. As India’s Muslims now come together with the great mass of other secular Indians, that labour is truly underway and destined to succeed.

III

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attack, this writer, like many others, has received agonizing notes from compatriots in Pakistan.

And they ask the question: can any Pakistanis truly have been involved? Is this again a “nationalist” outcry from India? Do we not realize how wistfully fragile the democratic experiment in Pakistan is, and how ambushed from all ends?

I say to them that Indian Muslims truly show the way as much to Pakistan now as they do to India.

If their leadership in India helps to render toothless and dysfunctional entrenched evils at home, it carries an equally important message to Muslims in Pakistan.

Do not simply jerk into unanalysed, Pavlonian “Muslim nationalist” reactions to what has happened.

Go rather back to the insight that Jinnah had voiced in his address to the very first session of the Assembly of the new nation of Pakistan.

In short, however the partition of India may have been brought about by vested interests on all sides, revisit the “two-nation” theory, revise the Constitution, and be reborn as a secular nation-state. In that future alone resides the well-being of the subcontinent and of much more.

Same must be the counsel for Bangladesh, indeed more especially. Given that the territory could not stay put as part of an “Islamic Pakistan,” it is an irony that upon that severance Bangladesh should still want to espouse a theocratic statehood.

If Nepal could do it why not others?

IV

Meanwhile, it is gratifying that the UPA regime in Delhi has thus far not succumbed to the brainless jingoism of the South Mumbai crowd and those in the establishment who view that jingoism with favour.

There is now a political elite in India that requires ATM-like solutions to historical conundrums. Push in that card and pull out the required political currency, as it were. Drop the bomb and warn them not to drop their’s etc., All very profoundly slick, no doubt, but eminently ignorable. As in money-making, the shortest of short cuts is recommended—and with educated bluster in the English language.

Nonetheless, it is that Dhoni from Jharkhand who may be trusted with bringing victory to India, because less slick and more astute. And more hard-working as well. As much in politics as in cricket.

Luckily, there does exist a constituency in the Indian establishment that truly realizes that every Indians’ best interest is served if India serves the best interests of most Pakistanis. No easy job that, but increasingly both desirable and possible, since answering constituencies also speak up from Pakistan as they did not before with quite the same conviction.

Such a praxis on either side, and conjointly, must seek to isolate from public sympathy, public space, and all kinds of state favour those that find democracy ill-suited to their purposes, but misuse it nonetheless. Or make opportunist disclaimers when it suits them, as Sonal Shah is doing this minute, fearing she may be shunted out of the Obama transition team were she not to do so in time.

And it must equally seek to distance democracy in the subcontinent from superpower interests that work their nefarious way by alternately feeding the cupidities of entrenched classes or threatening disastrous military reprisals.

They ought to be referred back to the problems they have at home, dime a dozen, and indeed encouraged to change course.

In that context, President-elect Obama’s resolve to be sworn in not just as “Barack Obama” but as “Barack Hussein Obama” is a most worthy and visionary step in the right direction.

It is not that in so doing Obama will have become a Muslim; it is that he will be saying that religious denominations are simply the donnee of individual identity, and need have no bearing on our citizenship or entitlements thereof. As Colin Powell was to say honourably enough during the campaign.

The worry is, as John Pilger has pointed out in a recent ZNet article, that Obama’s appointments to the cabinet seem thus far to suggest a pattern of “continuity” rather than “change.” Surprised?

All the more reason therefore for us on the subcontinent to learn to consolidate our own lives and institutions along principles that bring the most benefit in terms of non-sectarian social and cultural cohesion, collective secular endeavour, and enlightened economic democracy spread amongst the widest commonality.

The more we embrace that sort of historical project together, India and Pakistan can begin to draw away from wasteful militarism that feeds the pockets only of those that retain a value for conflict and destruction, and learn to stand up to threats as two nation-states but one people.

And that includes the Kashmiris as well, who have just been demonstrating their allegiance to the principle of democracy in unprecedented ways.

Terror Indian Poll in Kashmir: A Vote for Independence

November 19, 2008

Dr Abdur Ruff Colachal, Nov 19, 2008

The larger world is quite unimpressed by the Indian polls in Kashmir by keeping the terror military threat more active. Unlike the great powers around, Kashmiris could be easily fooled by India and its agents in and around country by keeping them under its terror control and feeding false promise of freedom and development and also democracy to them. But Kashmiris have voted for both re-independence and development and they have hinted they would not like to antagonize India after achieving freedom from hegemonic India.

In view of prevailing mood of the Kashmiris seeking complete re-independence from occupier India, Indian poll action in JK on Nov 17 does not reflect the realities, though India keeps asking the USA and other powers to take note of the changing realities to accommodate its concerns. The state elections are being staggered over seven phases to allow authorities to mount a huge security operation to contain the freedom movement’s anti-poll campaign. In the first stage of elections, voting has been held in ten of the 87 state assembly segments.

India used force against the anti-poll campaign by the freedom leaders and tries to reduce the impact of the freedom struggle started form the Muzaffarabad March where several freedom strugglers including a major leader were killed by Indian terror forces. Indian agencies have made the poll possible as it feared international shame if polls are not held. Indian media is focused on the very conduct of polls. Turnout in the 10 seats contested across Jammu and Kashmir state was above average, but as expected by India. More surprising perhaps was a turnout of 59 percent in three seats contested in the Kashmir Valley, up from around 55 percent in the same seats in 2002. Previous elections have seen freedom fighters threatening violence to enforce their call for a boycott, and Indian soldiers trying to coerce people to vote. This time the freedom fighters did not resort to anti-state terror measures and said they would not interfere.

On the eve of the polls, the Indian government arrested and tortured freedom leaders and activists and terrorized the Kashmiris to vote. By conducting polls against the will and wishes of the freedom loving people and the freedom fighters by police and military threats, India has in fact killed democracy in Kashmir. The freedom fighters resisted from counter-force and the polls were “thus peaceful”. Four freedom activists and two army men were killed in two separate encounters on poll day in the State while another soldier was abducted after a gunfight in Poonch.

However surprising the turnout in Bandipora, voters in this picturesque Township insist their vote should not be misconstrued as “the vote against the movement”. Not just voters but the contestants also sought to reiterate that they did not seek vote in favour of any ideology but “exclusively for development. At least 42 people were shot dead by police when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims took to the streets this year shouting “Azadi” (freedom).

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the people are yearning for revival of the golden era of governance that the state had witnessed under the stewardship of Mufti Sayeed between 2002 and 2005. PDP says the people have decided to teach the National Conference, a pro-Hindutva party, a lesson for the power-hungry politics of deceit practiced by the party over the years and they came out in large number yesterday to do so

State Terror and Violations

Human rights and poll monitor groups are not spared by the forces. Those who had gone to monitor the “freeness and fairness of polls” are behind the bars. Prominent human rights activist Parvez Imroz, the president of Coalition of Civil Societies, was beaten and arrested by police at Bandipora. Bar association struck its work in high court and other courts here in protest against the beating and arrest of Imroz. That apart – the man has been of late been in news for his Coalition’s interest in monitoring elections in Jammu and Kashmir and India has been focused on his torture and silence.

Important here is the history of detentions that Imroz has faced in the past. Since 2002, J&K CCS has been monitoring elections in the state. Their 2002 Assembly election report and later the 2004 parliamentary election report was not taken well by the powers-that-be because it contained several references to how the police and the Army had coerced people to vote. Significantly, the coalition even lost one of its volunteers during the 2004 elections when the vehicle, in which she was traveling, was targeted in a mine blast. Kurram Pervez lost his leg in the accident. He had to get it amputated. The leader of human rights campaign in the valley, he has long been espousing the cause of the voiceless especially those killed in custody and those who disappeared over the past several years of conflict in the valley. Very recently, Imroz’s house was under attack from people who are yet to be identified and punished.

They voted for Re-independence

Independence is a separate issue from the need for a better life, which a good administration can provide. While it is too early to draw firm conclusions from Monday’s first stage in a seven-part election across a very diverse state, the turnout in parts of the mainly Muslim Kashmir Valley was a surprise for separatists who had heatedly called for a boycott. This year has seen some of the biggest anti-India protests in the Kashmir Valley since an insurgency began in 1989, but a 70-year-old man said they wanted to cast their ballots even though they had taken part in protest marches

A good turnout at the start of Indian Kashmir state elections may mean freedom fighters don’t want to cause death to Kashmir by Indian terror forces under guise of tackling the opposition by the ‘separatists’. In fact of late freedom leaders showed inclination for Kashmir development while gaining freedom back from India. However, talk of democracy is something neither Kashmiris nor Indians know for sure. For Kashmiris it is state terrorism that is shown to them as democracy. An effective poll mechanism of promising life and development of Kashmir along with pressure tactics have brought a lot people to vote for a new government, but they say in voice that they don’t vote for India.

If Hindu-terrorists are harassed by the state, the Hindutva forces come to their rescue. Breaking his silence over the Maharashtra anti-terror squad (ATS) probing the September 29 Malegaon bomb blasts that killed six persons, Lok Sabha Opposition leader LK Advani on 17Nov expressed “shock and outrage” over the way Sadhvi Pragya was “physically and psychologically tortured and abused in obscene language by her interrogators.” Advani should not realize the way the Muslims of India and Kashmir are being ill-treated by Indian forces and jail authorities. This is main reason how Kashmir poll was peaceful so far.

Illegal Indian Polls

Current Indian poll in JK is ilegal and immoral. The chairmen of Hurriyat factions, senior freedom leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that the sanctity of elections have been lost in presence of 7 lakhs troops. Reacting to the statement of authorities that 55 per cent people voted in first phase of election, Geelani said that the claim of free and fair elections ‘is a sheer joke’. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference which had called for a boycott, questioned the official figures and said free and fair voting was impossible in the presence of hundreds of thousands of troops. But more mainstream political parties appeared to have won some listeners by arguing that the need to choose good government that can build roads and improve civic amenities would not necessarily undermine the independence movement. Many voters said they still wanted independence as firmly as ever, but experts said a successful election across Kashmir would give the state and central government the chance to offer better governance and defuse the independence movement to some extent.

Some Observations

One does not clearly know if the current governor Vohra has difference of opinion over the poll show when he met the big bosses in New Delhi recently, but as an appointed agent of New Delhi as governor of JK, he still continues to work for Indian case in JK by ensuring the poll at any cost by using the terror forces taking positions street by street.  It was a common knowledge that the occupying Indians would go all about presenting a pro-India image for the watching world and with the waste resources wasted on poll machinations in JK, the task would not have been a total flop given a sort of neutral posture adopted by the freedom leaders. But the trend would fast change.

US president-elect Obama’s passion for a free Kashmir must have given the Kashmiris and their freedom leaders a fresh boost in pursuing their goals in non-confrontational manner. But, the unexpected turnout in 10 assembly constituencies that went to polls on Monday has given a boost to the pro-India so-called “mainstream” parties. Each party in JK wants to claim some credit for the polls. They believe massive participation of people will set a trend for the rest of the polling, especially in Srinagar and will give a confidence to candidates as well as voters. That is the joke being played out by New Delhi’s strategists, quit tragically, if not pathetically.

Does it all mean that India would not surrender sovereignty back to Kashmir in a peaceful manner? Does it mean Kashmir is permanently under Indian brute control? As a mark of support for Kashmir vote for re-independence, six mini trucks carrying goods from Pakistani Kashmir crossed the border in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir.

However, it is quite clear that Kashmiris have voted not for Indian terrorist-rule in Kashmir, but, on the contrary, to get rid of India oppression and gain freedom. Kashmiris have showcased their strength once again in making the vote as a declaration for gaining independence from India. India should read the message quite correctly and not to day-dream about keeping JK under its terror custody forever!

Kashmir Freedom seems to be fast approaching!

Kashmiris seek independence now, not Indian poll!

October 12, 2008

Not by Curfews alone, Mr. Governor!

By Dr Abdul Ruff Colachal | Kashmir Watch, Oct 11, 2008, Part 32

Muslims are being tortured and killed almost everywhere, in conservative countries, autocracies and the so-called democracies.  Anti-Islamic regimes kill them to quench their blood thirst, while the Muslim nations do the same in order to appease the terrorist nations led by the USA which many developing countries vie to gain nuclear contracts. Muslims are being butchered in Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and yet none is capable to raise their serious concern against those waging poisonous tails against Muslims. In anti-Muslim Hindu conservative India, even Muslims are made to be work against their own legitimate interests.

Terrorist India that occupies its neighbor Jammu Kashmir by brutal force has over decades created a terror force to kill Kashmiris and groomed a band of anti-Muslim militant-minded journalists to pursue the state agenda of anti-Muslimism who in the name of combating terrorism only keep the inter-civilization wedge intact  if no t further fueling it. They promote only anti-Islamic opinions in the media under their control and influence abroad especially in developing world, more importantly in Middle East. Indian journalists, thriving on “terrorism” cash, see only terrorism in Indian and Kashmir Muslims in one form or the other. They denounce anything “not pro-India’ and term them as ” anti-India” and terrorize even the non-Muslim journalists who make living on terrorism theme.

India is country of hidden agendas at home and abroad. State terrorism has remained the hallmark of Indian policy. As soon as it clinched the nuclerism with USA, it went further to showcase its power to Jammu Kashmir. Indian leaders, including the military top brass, are yet to admit the fact that terror forces are illegally occupying Jammu Kashmir. India has repeatedly asked Pakistan to stay away from Kashmir issue and let the Kashmiris seek independence all by themselves. It is very particular that Kashmir is kept out of purview of any bilateral talks between them. Will India, then, resolve the issue now and surrender Kashmir for good?

Indian and JK governments have complicated the life of freedom leaders particularly Syed Ali Geelani who is being repeated arrested and mentally tortured. During the recent curfew clamped by Vohra regime in Srinagar has further deteriorated the health of this veteran leader.  The Majlis Shoura of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC-G) has appointed Ghulam Nabi Sumji as acting chairman of the amalgam because of the ill-health of Chairman Shah Geelani, who has been advised to get his pacemaker replaced and is being shifted to Delhi for treatment. The condition of Geelani had deteriorated because of his continuous detention and house arrest. He was admitted to a local hospital on October 5.

Geelani criticized the authorities for imposing curfew in the valley and arresting separatist leaders and asked the people not to heed rumors and foil any attempt by miscreants to harm unity. However, in a message to the people of Kashmir, he stressed the need for unity among all pro liberation groups.

People’s power is indeed great and purposeful. Kashmiris have shown that if people are united and fight for a just cause the rulers would be ruined sooner than later.

Discovered by UK in 19th century, the Amarnath temple structure outside India has all of sudden become a Hindutva symbol of Hindus in India and Jammu region of Kashmir. India and its Hindu representatives in Jammu Kashmir seem to have accorded to the Amarnath the status of NRI. After the destruction of Babri Mosque on the pretext that it was once Hindu structure, the Hindu India has taken up a new agenda in Hinduizing occupied Jammu Kashmir. They were under illusion that what they want to do in India and Jammu Kashmir will have to be accepted by Muslims as the final law. But Muslims Kashmir are totally different form those in India made with completely pro-Hindu mindset, and they don’t want to be a part of terrorist India that has killed over lakh [100,000] Kashmiris so far.

Unlike the slavery minded Muslims in India who even don’t have the capacity to fight for the reconstruction of the Babri Mosque demolished by Indian Hindu terrorists, Kashmiris continue to demand freedom from occupying India. Muzaffarabad March sacrificed a prominent freedom leader among others, but it evoked the inner consciousness of freedom seeking Kashmiris who are overwhelming in Jammu Kashmir.  After protestors thronged the United Nations Military Observer Group’s (UNIMOGIP’S) office in Srinagar demanding the resolution of Kashmir dispute the United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has formulated plans to pay a visit to India towards the end of this month or early November. Ban has criticized the India terrorism in Kashmir but, as usual, prompted resented by India. UN chiefs visit to India will be closely watched by the pro liberation camp in the Valley. Many pro liberation leaders are planning to seek a rendezvous with the UN chief and plead for his intervention in resolving the six decades old Kashmir sovereignty issue.

Pertinent to mention that freedom leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had during a rally held at TRC grounds on August 18 asked Ban Ki-moon to pay a visit to the Valley and ascertain the facts, besides getting a firsthand account on the uprising in Kashmir. Hopefully, UN chief’s visit to this “democracy’ killing Kashmiris for fun will pave way for freedom of Jammu Kashmir.

Not by Curfew alone!

A high level meeting held in New Delhi discussed the Kashmir situation and unanimously decided to impose curfew in the Valley to scuttle the Lal Chowk March. The security agencies were already directed to erect long iron-made barricades at various entry points including Kokerbazar, Amira Kadal, Jehangir Chowk, Regal Chowk to prevent people from marching towards Lal Chowk. “Massive deployment of troops has already been put in place and Lal Chowk will be made out of bound for the people. Meanwhile, authorities have imposed section 144 in Ganderbal and Baramulla districts of Kashmir to prevent assembling of more than four persons at a place.

The curfew comes in the wake of Lal Chowk Chalo March call given by Coordination Committee, a freedom conglomerate, to press for its demands which include opening of Line of Control roads for trade, release of all detainees and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. A number of freedom leaders, including Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yaseen Malik were put under preventive custody. Hardline freedom leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was shifted to a hospital after he complained of pain in lower abdomen. Among those placed under house arrest were Chairman of moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith chief Maulana Showkat besides senior separatist leaders Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone and Sajjad Lone.

A virtual siege was laid around Lal Chowk as a large posse of gun-toting security personnel took up position in and around the area. All entry and exit points in Srinagar city have been sealed. There were some sporadic protests when the paramilitary forces refused to entertain curfew passes. However, the issue was resolved later. The new anti-riot vehicles, procured by the Jammu and Kashmir Police recently, were positioned at strategic locations, especially those which had witnessed violence earlier. Due to indefinite curfew imposed by the authorities in Srinagar and elsewhere in Kashmir and the government’s failure to provide adequate number of curfew passes to our staff, distributors and hawkers, the print editions. Some of the local newspapers failed to hit the stands as publishers decided not to print them accusing the government of not providing enough curfew passes to their staff, a charge denied by the government. A private television channel — Sen TV– was banned for allegedly inciting people to disturb public peace and tranquility.

Indian agents in Jammu Kashmir headed by Governor Vohra are trying all tricks including state terrorism techniques to quell the freedom move in Jammu Kashmir by clamping curfews intermittently adding more harm to the Kashmiris. After creating enough trouble for the Kashmir Muslims the Hindu “brethren” in Jammu region are enjoying life by being agents of New Delhi.

Continued . . .

Right time for the freedom of Kashmir: Arundati Roy

September 19, 2008


-‘It is the biggest chance Kashmiris have’

Source: Kashmir Watch

Srinagar, September 18 (Newsline Monitoring Desk):  Arundati Roy, noted human rights activist and writer, in an interview, has suggested “the time has come for the people of Kashmir to ask for Azadi (freedom) from India”

“I think it’s the biggest chance Kashmiris have had in their struggle for Azadi in a very long time” she however said she is skeptical that “a spontaneous uprising can ‘down-rise’ just as spontaneously as it ‘up-rose’ and hence the people need to act fast”

Calling the security forces as “state forces” Arundhati opined the minute people retreat, these forces will take back the streets. “People cannot go on forever without a clear idea of where it’s all going. Right now the Coordination Committee is very fragile and the Intelligence Agencies are trying very hard to break it up” she said.

Arundati said New Delhi has still not learnt its lesson and instead used the same old methods to deal with the situation in Kashmir. “I don’t think the Indian state is even now willing to listen to what people are saying” she said “It is trying to work out a way to defuse the situation and how to manage crowds and send them back home”

The booker prize winner writer believes India does not want the vicious cycle of violence to end in Kashmir. “The United Jehad Council has unanimously declared that militants must silence their guns. But the Deep State in India wants nothing more than the return of an armed militancy” she averred “So if real militants don’t appear, I think the Deep State will manufacture some”

Arundati maintained that as a right thinking person of the society she will always try to speak out and reveal the truth about issues. Emphasising that sentiments of Kashmiris be respected she said “Some people said I should be charged for the offense of sedition. If so it implies millions of Kashmir’s should be charged too. Instead if only I am charged and not them, it would mean a tacit acceptance of the fact that Kashmir is not a part of India”

While stressing that anybody who has ever walked the streets of Srinagar cannot but see the moral legitimacy of what people are demanding she said “It’s the least I could do for those who have faced so many years of terror, torture and disappearances. I don’t think there could be a single Kashmiri in the valley who has not been humiliated in some way by the occupation

Anatomy of the Kashmir crisis

September 8, 2008

Interview: Sanjay Kak

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Kashmir as Indian security forces impose a round-the-clock curfew across the valley.

More than 30 unarmed Kashmiri protesters have been killed by Indian forces in the last few weeks in an effort to stamp out mass demonstrations that have shaken the disputed region, which is partitioned by India and Pakistan, and where India has maintained a military occupation in the section it controls.

The demonstrations were sparked by the announcement of the transfer of 100 acres of public land to the Amarnath Shrine Board, but have since snowballed into a province-wide revolt. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have taken to the streets demanding “azadi” (freedom) and their right to self-determination. In response, Indian military and paramilitary forces imposed a curfew and media blackout, and have fired on large, unarmed rallies, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.

Sanjay Kak is a filmmaker whose recently completed documentary, Jashn-e-Azadi (How We Celebrate Freedom) was made over a period of several years in Kashmir. On August 16, days after the mass protests erupted, he spoke with Nagesh Rao.

Protesters demanding "azadi" confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in KashmirProtesters demanding “azadi” confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in Kashmir

WHAT IS the significance of the Kashmiri uprising?

I THINK part of the problem is that in India, our attention always comes in at the tail end of the story. Here it comes in when there is an explosion of resentment against the granting of lands to the Amarnath Shrine Board, and then we all act mystified: “How can there be so much resentment against something so small?”

That’s because no one paid attention to what’s been happening in the year prior, or the five years prior or, indeed, 18 years prior to this event. So there’s a kind of structured amnesia about what events bring us to this place.

And this is not an accident. Particularly when it comes to Kashmir, in India, it is a structured amnesia.

You’ve got more than 500,000 Indian soldiers in Kashmir. They are sitting in literally every street and village and by-lane and crossing and water-point, and then you begin thinking that peace has returned to Kashmir. But it hasn’t. You’re just sitting on top of people.

Then the media dutifully starts wheeling out the spin, and you’re told, “Oh, tourists are returning to Kashmir, all is well, the militancy is gone.” And everybody begins to believe it.

I once had a conversation with an army officer, and he said, “Things are very peaceful here now. As a Kashmiri, you should come and visit, as often as you like.” “Peaceful” is not a word I would use to describe what was around us, even where were sitting, in the officers’ mess, with a breathtaking view of the grand Wular Lake.

“But colonel, there’s a soldier with an AK-47 every 30 feet,” I said.

“No, no,” he said, “we’ve got the situation under control.”

“So when will you leave?” I said, “You know, troop reductions–cut by, say, 20 percent?”

“No, no, that’s out of the question,” he replied. “Everybody would be out on the streets, there would be an uprising.”

On the ground, that colonel commanding a military unit in Kashmir knows the score. The Indian security apparatus has taken 18 years to build a stranglehold on Kashmir, to control every aspect of daily life over there. That is the kind of “peace” that they hammered onto Kashmir.

In the wake of the armed uprising of the 1990s, which was represented as “terrorism” and an “Islamic jihad,” they managed to do what they had to do, because Indians–and the rest of the world–were a little confused about what was happening. But what are they going to do now, when there are no weapons in this uprising? There are just hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets. What are they going to do? Are they going to just start firing? And how many will they kill?

This is the real significance of what we are seeing. Until now, even ostensibly sympathetic Indians would throw the question at the Kashmiris: “Why did you take to the gun? You took to the gun, and you alienated the Indian people.”

This time around, they haven’t brought the gun out. They are coming out in vast numbers and demonstrating for what they believe in. They are coming out in the ways that Indian democracy ought to believe in. Only this time, the same liberal intelligentsia who wanted them to give up the gun are now calling these vast assemblies “violent mobs” of “extremists”!

In a sense, the Indian state is hoisted on its own petard, flummoxed. [Indian rulers] do not know how to react to this situation.

Continued . . .

Oh the Pangs of Reunion: Reversing 1947

August 11, 2008

Tanveer Ahmed, August 8, 2008

Blunt realism can lead one to the depths of darkness and despair, idealism invariably provides scope for hope…

Indeed, it’s time for people in Jammu and the Valley to trade in their verminous polemics and self-destructing demeanour to prepare for the lofty heights of economic dynamism, communal cohesion and environmental revitalisation. Meanwhile, the governments of India and Pakistan should each swallow an ample dose of sober medication and realise it’s time to confess; “We tried for almost 61 years to control the tempo, fracture the identity and dictate the destiny of Kashmir: We’re terribly sorry, it hasn’t worked out well for any of us, not least because we attempted to defy nature: It’s over to you folks, we both hereby concede that you’re more than capable of reversing the mess we’ve put you in.”

(An imaginary and quite wishful quote no doubt – but to paraphrase the venerable Kashmiri pandit film-maker Sanjay Kak “The obnoxious silence has to break.”)

Background

The Kashmiri people, be they Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist, are an incredibly accommodating lot. Judging by how they’ve overlooked and tolerated the rule of ‘outsiders’ in these past few centuries; functioning as a tug of the pernicious post ‘47 two-nation theory was an absolute given. Pakistan tried in earnest to make the Muslim much more of a Muslim than he needed to be while India gradually did much the same to the Hindu. Where did that leave the poor Hindus in Pakistan or the hapless Muslims in India? Marooned in their very own ancestral abode!

The millions of ‘desis’ that had been forcibly uprooted from either side of the un-natural divide, found it excruciatingly difficult to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones, left behind or killed in cold-blooded communal frenzy. The Sikh of Rawalpindi (undivided India and post partition Pakistan) who escaped with his bare life to Jallandhar (India), didn’t merely change his address in the Punjab, it was a blood-soaked divided Punjab. His centuries old identity and ancestral roots were ripped in exchange for a new identity, which defined his roots as enemy territory. The Muslim from pre-‘47 Agra (India) led a contorted existence in Karachi (Pakistan), her family members who didn’t migrate with her became her nascent nation’s enemies.

As the decades passed by, progress and development for India and Pakistan was a laborious struggle. Amongst other factors, unprecedented population growth and unhealthy military expenditure made post-colonial restructuring nigh on impossible for both countries. Whilst poverty in the region rippled; education, health and infrastructure were coldly sacrificed. Intellectual and artistic advancement was and still is sadly, deemed a luxury, ill-affordable to a pair of overly paranoid nation states.

Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India were an existential threat to each other and so sermonised Doordarshan and PTV, not to forget Radio Pakistan or All-India Radio. Their favourite playground for battle was of course Kashmir, attrition after attrition. The intelligence agencies of India and Pakistan, in conjunction with local lackeys; ensured that the Kashmiris were forever obliging hosts. Dissension or god-forbid obstruction was never an option. Pakistan’s “Jugular Vein” (Shah Ragh-Urdu) and India’s “Integral Part” (Atoot Ang-Hindi) were loaded oxymorons that quite literally made morons of the Kashmiri mentality.

Setting aside the moral liability of nuclearisation for just a moment, 1998 was a year of technological accomplishment for the region. Both countries demonstrated vigour to defy the “International Community”. Nevertheless, Kashmir as an issue that accompanied the creation of Pakistan and independence of a crippled India was the perfect binary foil that prevented the “International Community” from prolonging its dismay. The “Islamic” and “Hindu” bombs were here to stay.

1999 and Kargil’s fiasco; followed by 9/11 have mercifully in retrospect, changed the modus operandi, if not modus vivendi, from the proverbial ‘war-war’ to ‘jaw-jaw’.

Dialogue and communication as a means of conflict resolution, is not only plausible, efficient, cost-effective and positively natural. For Kashmiris of whatever persuasion, it’s the only possible method; an alternative simply did not and will not exist. It would be far too rich and ludicrous for either India or Pakistan to suggest any indigenous provocation of violence. Contrary to what some Kashmiris and others have suggested, there is little evidence of any of the many ethnicities in Kashmir espousing martial instincts.

Moving on to the “irreversible Peace Process” initiated in January 2004; this has thankfully proven to be the freshest of fresh airs since 1947. Both entities have shown an element of maturity and resolve, tit-for-tat provocations notwithstanding. Dialogue between Indian and Pakistani civil society has invoked and propelled fresh thinking as well as nostalgia of an un-divided past. Ruefully, at the insistence of both countries, most of this ‘dialogue’ has taken place outside the region in the wider “International Community”. Both governments still feel it un-nerving and unsafe for barrier-breaking intra-dialogue and initiatives to take root in the region.

Of utter frustration to the Kashmiri is that any peace dividends that have accrued so far have been primarily gobbled up by the Indian and Pakistani national. Movement between the two countries has increased exponentially while between the two parts of Kashmir, it’s still barely a trickle. The contrast is startling if one considers that many ‘well-connected’ Indians and Pakistanis have travelled to each other’s country on numerous occasions and at will, to “merry-make” while there are ample Kashmiris belonging to divided families, who have yet to meet their siblings after 61 years!

Intra-Kashmir movement and dialogue, though unprecedented has been lacklustre to say the least. By extension, reference may be extended to economic activity, cultural interaction, administrative reform and well…the list is endless. In short, India and Pakistan have not kept pace with global socio-economic/geo-political changes: Elements of an ‘Iron Curtain’ reminiscent of the ‘Cold War’ are starkly evident, particularly in Kashmir. Their respective administrative mechanisms are not quite equipped or even focused on speeding things up, both having a tendency of getting bogged down in inevitable cul-de-sacs. Old habits do die hard!

A bit of historical perspective

It’s an indisputable fact that pre-colonial India was an economic powerhouse of global proportion (in relative terms, way ahead of it’s current trajectory) and a fabulous specimen of world-class culture and art; driven by an amazing array of diversity in food, clothes, language and construction; organised and administered by a harmonious fusion of Hindu/Muslim spirit.

Ideas, people, goods and services in whatever dimension flowed freely. If an artisan of Attock (NWFP/Punjab-Pakistan) decided one day that he wished to venture East for work…his destination may well have been no less than modern day Myanmar….traversing the breadth of modern day Pakistan, India and Bangladesh…others of his ilk had little hesitation in setting up home en-route, if a place took their fancy…indeed, Tagore’s “The Kabuli Wallah” fails to escape reminiscence.

Symptoms

In its current collective predicament and despite modern advancement in transport and information networks, the region has poisoned itself with a mad concoction of Westphalia and inappropriate religious fuel, amidst a rotten basket of other self-inflicted ills. As a consequence, entities within the historic ‘whole’, repeatedly fail to recognise the humane aspirations of those it has been programmed to categorise as the ‘other’, this blinds it from visualising the stupendous potential; that a harmonised region with an efficient governing structure can deliver.

Pakistan and India, despite their vast potential, have cultivated fractured societies with fault-lines in every direction. Pro & anti-US, extremist-moderate, local-national, Muslim-Hindu, pro-establishment & anti, Punjabi-Other, progressive-traditional, spiritual-material, Aryan-Dravidian even etc etc. Though both are unanimous on progress, they are blinkered on any form of reform or revision: In the meantime, those who consider themselves victimised and/or isolated, are screaming out for recognition and opportunity.

A major irritant is the glut of misinformation that public opinion is subjected to. There is only one way to make democracy work: to provide accurate, unbiased information and contextual education, particularly of our common history.

An example from another tormented region may be apt: Alan Hart is a seasoned British journalist with arguably unrivalled exposure to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The following is an excerpt from an interview he gave to worldpress.org last month.

URL reference> http://www.worldpress.org/Mideast/3206.cfm

“Most citizens throughout the Judeo-Christian world are totally ignorant about the truth of history. I’m a classic example. I came out of my mother’s womb conditioned by Zionism’s version of history. It took me 12 to 15 years of being an ITN TV reporter to actually get to the other side of the story. I can understand how people who didn’t have my exposure to it don’t challenge.”

The Kashmiris are akin to being stuck in a sardine can, compelled to either defer to India or Pakistan. Lack of freedom to evolve their own identity, traps them in the communal mess that we repeatedly witness.

Fears

The current crisis in Indian-administered Kashmir has the un-needed potential of repeating the horrors of 1947. The symptoms are all clearly visible. There is ample human potential in the region, forever un-utilised and repressed; conditions perfect for dancing towards collective doom.

The peace process at its current pace is blatantly ill-equipped to neutralise the situation. India and Pakistan simply do not have the requisite time or the broad strategy necessary to solve a problem which has thus far, exasperated them and caused an unwanted shift of focus from their respective schedules. If anything, a hands-on approach on their part could exacerbate the tension. When people are suffocating on one side (Valley) and lava-laden on the other (Jammu), military instruction/obstruction or ‘intelligent’ manipulation could cause an uncontrollable eruption.

There is ample evidence to suggest that Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir are galvanising and by extension contemplating isolation of the minority Hindu community. As death tolls rise and economic activity on the Jammu road from the Valley dwindles to a complete halt, consequential blocking of India’s only surface route in and out of Kashmir could be a precursor to a communal division of the state. Anathema for the construction of a global “super-power”, forever exposing the region to become servile to the machinations of ‘others’.

Recommendations

Solidifying the whole region; not on communal lines but by re-aligning diversity to the whole region. Pakistan and India need to get over the idea of restricting movement via borders and imposing separate identities. It is important for both to not come across as inveterate narcissists who do not like to be crossed. They should provide an historic opportunity for Kashmiris to demonstrate how calmly they can, through penetrating dialogue and inspiring initiative, solve problems that have afflicted the State. This will change the perception of seeing the Kashmiris as a liability to witnessing them as a force that cements the region together.

Thus far, political rhetoric alluding to some of the above has not been translated into practice. Those who can instigate a change in approach are metaphorically tied in chains e.g. writers, artists, activists and other energetic members of civil society. Whereas, lackadaisical technocrats and bureaucrats, wearing the badge of either country are given the duty of enacting the rhetoric.

That doesn’t work. It raises false hopes at best and repeatedly exemplifies a frustrating inability to bridge the gap between political decisions and implementation on the ground. We’re not living in the 5th century BC; this is the age of instant communication, overt round-the-clock economic consciousness and unbridled movement of people and ideas.

If one were to sincerely make an effort to convert looming tragedy into benign opportunity, the current scenario could be viewed as “The Pangs of Reunion”, an actual desire by the public to revert the region back to it’s natural formation, minus borders of course.

A broad strategy could focus on provisioning a return of religious space to the Hindus and Sikhs who were forced to leave Pakistan and Pak-administered Kashmir. Hence re-vitalising their ancestral roots and giving those areas the much-needed diversity they have sorely lacked for 61 years. L.K. Advani and others should work vigorously with the Pakistani establishment to re-create Hindu space in Pakistan, especially in his home province of Sindh where remaining Hindus live in isolation.

Giving the Hindus and Sikhs who live in the border areas of Indian-administered Kashmir, an opportunity to rebuild their mandirs and gurdwaras in their ancestral land in Pak-administered Kashmir is a crucial part of this suggestion.

In light of all above, Amarnath is but a minor issue, perhaps not worth the environmental degradation and political agitation that it has evoked. Symbolising it as a landmark of the re-union of the sub-continent could have unlimited positive consequences.

The 61 year old Indo-Pak mess could be transformed into giving the Kashmiris what the Moghuls, Afghans, Ranjit’s Sikhs, the Brits and Dogra rule couldn’t give them…the freedom to utilise their abundance of talent.

The writer is a freelance journalist, activist and consultant

E: sahaafi@gmail.com

W: maloomaat.net


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