Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Is struggle in Kashmir a nationalist one?

Is struggle in Kashmir a nationalist one?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 23 June 2006

There are many dimensions to the Kashmiri struggle, and perhaps it would be correct to say that no one has the whole picture in his view, as many aspects of the this struggle are still not in public domain. Different people see it in different light and draw opposing conclusions, hence we hear that the Kashmiri struggle is labeled as a 'terrorist campaign, fundamentalism, Jihadi crusade, Pakistan's proxy war, India's colonialism, ethnic cleansing, nationalist movement and movement for accession to Pakistan' etc.

There could be some truth in all of these 'labels' depending on from where one is viewing this; and moreover what is the source of information to view this struggle. A Kashmiri Muslim whose house was raided by Para- Military forces of India in which his love ones died will have a different view to that of a Kashmiri Pandit whose house was also raided, not by forces but by a fellow Kashmiri Muslims, in which his love ones also lost their lives.

A Jihadi enthusiast will claim that he has done nothing wrong as he is serving a 'cause of Islam' to fight 'infidels'; and is risking his life to 'liberate' Kashmir. Similarly a non Muslim citizen of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, fearful of 'Jihadi thinking' and intolerance exhibited by them will justify his actions in defence of 'freedom, pluralistic society and democratic values.

A nationalist Kashmir, despite shortfalls of the struggle to qualify to be a nationalist struggle, will view this as a genuine struggle for unification and independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. A pro Pakistan and Pro India Kashmiri will also find good reasons to pursue pro India or pro Pakistan politics. Similarly Pakistani and Indian nationals, whether in uniform or in civilian clothes, will also find strong reasons to justify their actions no matter how obnoxious they are to us Kashmiris or even to the outside world.

These conflicting interests and ideologies have made Jammu and Kashmir a living hell. All the combatants and protagonists claim to be fighting a 'just' war or campaign. In this scenario role of people with vested interest- those who have made 'business' out of this human tragedy, is very crucial. As they need the Kashmir pot to continue boiling, they ensure that all groups are led to believe that they are fighting a 'just war' and that they will be the ultimate victors.

I receive many emails daily, in which people ask questions, give their comments, criticise and even abuse me. A few days ago I received an email from a Kashmiri Pandit, which I think gives an alternative view and I want to share that with my readers.

'This mail is from a fellow Kashmiri who was born and brought up in Srinagar and in that way I feel glad to write to you? And because your VIEWS ARE BALANCED, UNLIKE SEPRATIST POLITICIANS FROM INDIAN SIDE OF KASHMIR.

I have read your articles in detail one on Al-jazeerah, other on an on-line and now the Kashmir times. In the first place, is the problem definition correct? If Kashmir is a National Problem, as you say, then I should have been part of it? And the fact is that in Kashmir, A Kashmiri Killed the fellow Kashmiri? It is sad truth but it is a fact?

Take the case of JKLF, its cadres were responsible for the murder of the Kashmiri Pandits. Well those persons who used to paste the threatening letters on our doors and on the electric poles near our house were our own neighbors, to tell you more bluntly our own Kashmiri Muslim neighbors.. The persons who entered in the KP's houses and killed those KP's by bullets or silting the throats were our own Kashmiri Muslims.. I have been told many a times that Jagmohan was responsible for our mass exodus, I have not seen Jagmohan for life till date but yes we have all seen those terrorists- masked & unmasked who lived in our own neighbourhood and their behavior, they are responsible for our exodus.'

'The only explanation that is given to us is that Muslims are being killed by security forces (which in any case I do not justify) but we KP's were killed by our own Koshur Musaalman, this is very much true. And if we raise our voice KP's are told that we are communal. One thing I agree there was a saner element in Muslims but damage has been
done by whom? The slogans that were given were Yahan Kyaa challega Nazzami Mustaffa? (What will prevail here a rule of Islam) in that where do the other non-Muslims fit in?'

'Take the case of the PAK Occupied Kashmir, how many Non-Muslims live there, according to my information none. NOW having stated the context to a fellow Kashmiri, today I want to say that I am not against Kashmiri Muslims. Time is a big healer, I wish them all the best, but the facts cannot be ignored and you need to draw a course in which all can participate; but at present it is what - just the completion of incomplete Pakistan and division of the State on the basis of religion in which no intelligent non-Muslim will like to be its part and it still be called by a specific population of Muslims in Valley to be the nationalistic movement. No I DO NOT AGREE, these are some of the basic questions that need to be answered first?'
Sandeep Raina, Mumbai (NOTE KP-KASHMIRI PANDIT)

Islam, as I understand it, is a peace loving and very tolerant religion and our beloved prophet PBUH practically demonstrated that time and again. It is sad that Muslims have failed to present a positive image of Islam, and Muslims are generally perceived as intolerant, anti democratic and narrow minded people.

Some people won't even like me forwarding grievances of a non Muslim, and on basis of that alone will target me that I am favoring or advocating Hindus. It is because of these narrow minded individuals that non Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir feel insecure and threatened. They have every right to oppose Kashmir's accession to Pakistan or any division on basis of religion, and they must not be punished for holding these views or practicing their religion.
No struggle could justify killing of minorities and promote hatred and division in name of religion, and we cannot allow any Muslim to claim monopoly our wisdom and Islam and use our religion to further their political and personal interest. And Mr Sandeep Raina, as a Kashmiri and as a member of an aggrieved community, has every right to critically
analyse what is going on in the name of struggle in his homeland; and disagree with it.

I remember once in early 1990s I questioned wisdom of targeting innocent Kashmiri Pandits and intimidating other minorities, I was told that they were not taking part in the struggle, and that they were 'traitors'. Even at that time I challenged the strategy to win their hearts- how could you win support of a minority, when your gun is pointing towards them? How could you win their support in name of religion and against their own religion?

If not taking part in this struggle is a crime for which they should be punished, then what about those Muslims who were not taking part in the struggle; why they were not targeted? This selected targeting and communalism demonstrated that this struggle was hijacked because the struggle we envisaged had no communal aspect to it.

The struggle we envisaged in 1977 was nationalistic in character, and was not based on religion. It was not against state of India or state of Pakistan, but against their policies on
Kashmir. In that sense our struggle was against both countries, as we wanted independence from both of them, but in 1987 JKLF Chairman, Amanullah Khan aligned himself with Pakistan by making a deal with the Pakistani secret agencies who wanted to open another front when they saw an end to the Afghan 'Jihad'.

Many people will blame 'Jihadi groups' for killing and targeting innocent Kashmiris, apart from targeting Kashmiri Pandits, they have also killed many innocent Muslims for very trivial reasons. Also they have provided reasons for Indian troops to kill and injure innocent Kashmiri people by shooting at the forces in public and in populated areas.

Kashmiri people had genuine grievances; they were against the state's division, lack of independence, and lack of opportunities made them to think that they have to fight for their right of self determination. They did not lack in sincerity or dedication, but they lacked in experience. They trusted those who had their own axe to grind, and their struggle for the cause of independence was changed to a 'proxy war', a war of communalism and hatred.

When we criticize government of India and Pakistan for wrong doings, and accuse militants and para - military forces for killings and human rights abuse we tend to exonerate those who provided this raw material of young men in to professional hands. This was done by the Kashmiri leadership after making deals with secret agencies of Pakistan.
Writer is Chairman of Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

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