Friday, September 12, 2008

Should we help Kashmir free itself?

Kashmir has haunted Muslims of India and Pakistan since long. Everyone you talk to in Pakistan feels a special heart beat for Kashmir no matter whether the person concerned has ever travelled to the land itself or not. In India, talking about Kashmir may be dangerous for a Muslim. But when those Muslims are here some of them free up and talk about it; others ignore the issue fearing certain consequences.

But Kashmir remains the core issue whether we like it or not and no matter what Indians call it. And now Indian side of Kashmir is on fire. This fire is much different from previous ones. Since 1989, Pakistan supported Mujahideens crossed LOC and attacked Indian soldiers to help free Kashmir. Kashmiri Muslims, being mild-mannered and educated, never really associated themselves with these foereign Mujahids. Therefore, the insurgency was only on the face and as a result Indian army got free hand to rape and kill Muslims at will. And off course most of the Muslims killed used to be Kashmiri Muslims and not the LOC crossers.

This time around insurgency and a voice for freedom is totally indigenous. The shout for freedom is coming from the homes and hearts of Kashmiris themselves. And the cause is a huge blunder of Indian govt. which alloted big and precious land to Hindu militant group (RSS type men). These Hindu extremists have been instrumental in killing over 3000 men and women in 2002 in Gujerat. These same people were responsible for killing Muslims and looting their property during riots in Bombay early in 1990s. Now, if these Hindus are firmly installed, in the name of Temple, in the heart of Kashmir, surely there is an issue which needs to be solved either by vote or by gun. Muslims have sensed that Hindu extremist group won't go away peacefully so they need to be pushed out. And the result is obvious: cry for freedom from Hindu yoke.

Should Pakistan support Kashmiri Muslims at such a crucial time in their freedom struggle?

First, the issues.

India is clearly supporting BLA, a terrorist organization which gets funding through Kabul. Many weapons originating in India have been caught by our army but no concrete action has ever been taken against them due to political reasons. India is clearly enjoying this. And Baluchistan celebrated India's independece this year; they held black day on 14th August. What a shame? Should we support Kashmiri Muslims by arming them so that they may be well equiped to blow up Indian defences and speed up freedom?

This year, in a fit of irony, Kashmiri Muslims (Indian side) overwhemingly celebrated 14th August as independece; 15th August was a black day!

We can arm Kashmiri Muslims across LOC through Kashmiris back home. We can send in ammunitions and maps of installations of Indian army at various crucial routes which joins larger Kashmir to mainland India. By doing this we can atleast cut out Indian Army travel route(s) during winter season and it would be really difficult for Indians to make a come back. But in a world where both countries are nuclear-armed, is this really feasible?

Answer, sadly, is no. We cannot do this openly. Satellites are watching our every moment and USA want a weak Pakistan not a country which adds up Occupied Kashmir as an added entity. And India won't be leaving Kashmir for all the wealth of this world. It is not only strategic location of Kashmir which India wants but its glacial waters. You can't do away with waters when rains are increasingly getting nasty or rusty.

Another option is to wait and see. Zardari told our journalists that they will hear something good on Kashmir. Benazir said a similar thing when she was PM. So no one takes these husband-wife team seriously on Kashmir. In fact, India is now such a powerful country that no one really thinks Pakistani politicians can do anything on the issue except covertly supporting the freedom movement there. And they won't drop their political mileage in Washington for Kashmir.

Another basic issue with freedom of Occupied Kashmir is that once that portion of Kashmir gets freedom Kasmiris this side of the border will start chanting for freedom. A common idea about Kashmiris in Pakistan is that they are not the type whom you can trust easily. Similar things are said about Punjabis and one can find hoardes of people from all walks of life saying exactly the same mantra. Therefore, intellectuals think it is not the best of times for Occupied Kashmir to get un-occupied. And we can just watch India and their Hindu Right Wing lobby.

Other option is total mess of the entire region. We can go for a war which will cost God-knows-what but we will ensure that finally India's attention would be diverted from Baluchistan to Kashmir. We will hopefully save our largest province without much ado.


Ameer Hamza said...

Ameer Hamza said...

What freedom means in Kashmir

By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Srinagar

The newspaper headlines in the mainly Muslim valley in India-administered Kashmir say it all.

'Freedom is sweet, no matter how it comes', says one. 'People pray for freedom,' chimes another, reporting on Friday prayers in the valley.

A row over transferring land for a Hindu pilgrimage escalated into a nationalist upsurge in the valley in recent months. Some 30 people have died after security forces fired on protests here. Many say the relative calm at present is just the lull before another storm.

In the eye of the storm is the demand for azadi (freedom) for people living in the valley; the latest bout of unrest has brought the contentious issue back into the limelight again.

For many Indians the demand strikes at the heart of the 'idea of India', of a nation that is capable of handling diversity and staying united.

State of mind

But for many of the majority Muslims living in the valley, freedom is the only way to get their pride back. It is the only way, they say, India can redeem itself in the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri.

No wonder, the streets in the valley were agog with cries for freedom during the huge protest processions that the recent crisis triggered off.

People have waved Pakistani flags and belted out pro-Pakistani slogans although, as Booker-prize winning writer Arundhati Roy says, it "would be a mistake to assume that the public expression of affection for Pakistan automatically translates into a desire to accede to Pakistan".

This time, the call for Kashmiri freedom is coming from a generation of young and restless men and women who grew up during the troubled 1990's when the valley was wracked by separatist insurgency.

On Kashmir streets, the yearning for freedom is a state of mind.

In a middle-class neighbourhood in Budgam where two young men were killed by security forces during recent protests, Sheikh Suhail, a 24-year-old mass communications student, makes no bones about it.

"We want azadi ," he says, days after he buried a friend who was shot down in the protest.

"Nobody quite knows what it will mean for us. We don't know whether we will survive it. I only know that we want freedom from both India and Pakistan," he says.

Across town, in the bustling Dalgate area, Sayed Zubair, a government school teacher, is seething after the security forces shot down his elderly neighbour during a recent curfew.

"We live in fear. A free Kashmir is the only solution to make us feel safe," he says.

His neighbour, Hilal Ahmed, a bank manager, says freedom can help Kashmiris get rid of a twin "stigma".

"India says it is the biggest democracy in the world. Living in Kashmir, we do not get any sense of that. Being a Kashmiri is a curse, being a Muslim is a crime. So we are doubly disadvantaged in these troubled times.

"The only way to set things right is to India get out of our lives and leave us free."

So what does freedom mean for most Kashmiris?

Does it mean a sovereign state? Or does it mean greater autonomy? Many people here say that they prefer a form of self-rule. Does freedom from India mean accession with Pakistan? Or does freedom mean India pulling out its half a million or so troops in the state?

Eroded autonomy

For people like Suhail freedom is an intense sentiment. It is, they say, a breaking off from the "oppressive shackles" of the Indian state. For others like political scientist Dr Noor Ahmad Baba and women's activist Dr Hameeda Nayeem, it is something more substantial.

Many analysts say that the autonomy that Kashmir enjoys under the Indian constitution has been eroded considerably and it is time that the Indian government worked out a new deal for its people.

Dr Noor Ahmed Baba says that when most Kashmiris say they want freedom, they do not necessarily mean seceding from India.

"The overwhelming people here want independence. But it does not mean a sovereign state. It could be a higher degree of autonomy rooted in a larger understanding with India and Pakistan, both of whom who would pledge not to interfere.

"For us freedom also means more choices about reviving our old trade, cultural and economic roots. We want to come out of seclusion," he says.

Dr Hameeda Nayeem says Kashmiris want self-governance and great internal sovereignty - that is what freedom could essentially mean.

"Let us define self-governance. Whether it will be more autonomy or self-rule. Our borders could be jointly managed by India and Pakistan. We want soft borders and free flow of goods."

She points to the example of the tiny kingdom of Bhutan and wonders why Kashmir cannot have the status of a "protected state" of India like Bhutan.

How could a beautiful valley - with an approximate area 15,520 sq km, only a sixth of the size of Bhutan - cope as an independent country?

'Not realistic'

Omar Abdullah, head of the mainstream National Conference party, admits that that "freedom sentiment" is serious, but has grave doubts about its feasibility.

"How realistic is it? Will Kashmir ever be really free even if it becomes independent, surrounded as it is by India, China and Pakistan?" he wonders.

"How free can it be? What happens to Pakistan-administered Kashmir?

"Freedom is not an option. I have yet to see a model of freedom which convinces me that Jammu and Kashmir as a viable independent entity".

The irony is that nothing that is being debated in the valley is new.

The builder of modern India and its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, spoke about a plebiscite in Kashmir and independence for the state with its defence guaranteed by both India and Pakistan.

And Mr Nehru's letter to the maharajah of Kashmir four months after India's independence in 1947 was also chillingly prescient.

"It is of the most vital importance that Kashmir should remain with the Indian Union," he wrote.

"But, however much we may want this, it cannot be done except through the goodwill of the mass of the population.

"Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while a later consequence may be a strong reaction against this.

"Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel they will be benefited by being in the Indian Union.

"If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe and secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere. Our basic policy must keep this in view, or else we fail."
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/09/06 14:56:46 GMT