Thursday, 29 May 2008

Kashmiri struggle and “violence”

Kashmiri struggle and “violence”
Shabir Choudhry, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs Written in 1998
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The present freedom struggle in Kashmir was started by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, an organisation which is considered as liberal and non sectarian. Its ideology of an independent and united Kashmir had great appeal for all sections of the Kashmiri people; and many countries in the world also respected its views.

The JKLF strategy was to fight at all levels- military, political, diplomatic and human rights. The aim was to bring about more awareness, and highlight the plight of the Kashmiri people. When the JKLF realised that its one objective of bringing the Kashmir dispute on the international agenda is achieved, it soon declared unilateral cease - fire.

The JKLF leadership very well knew that there could be no military solution of the dispute. The solution has to be negotiated by all three parties to the dispute, namely Pakistan Government, Indian Government and the Kashmiri leadership. To make the proposed dialogue more fruitful, JKLF suggested mediation by a third party; other Kashmiri organisations and Pakistan also demanded this.

The JKLF leaders knew that long drawn armed struggle has the following dangers:

• Suffering of the Kashmiri people with devastating consequences will continue
• People’s ability to continue paying sacrifices will be curtailed
• People could be disappointed and demoralised
• The struggle could be taken over by extremists
• The outside influence could increase to complicate the situation
• The international community can turn against senseless killing of innocent people

The JLKF leadership was criticised at that time by many quarters, even though it was the right approach. The JKLF policy makers knew that the world community would not “pressurise” India to start a meaningful dialogue in the presence of continued “violence”. Violence here can be characterised as Kashmiri and non- Kashmiri. Whereas it is possible to explain and justify the former, but it is difficult to justify the latter, as it gives India a propaganda stick to malign the freedom movement as a “fundamentalist” one.

In the eyes of the international community people from other countries have no right to interfere in the affairs of Kashmir to satisfy their sentiments for “Jehad”. Very recently I met a Western diplomat and while we were discussing the situation in Kashmir he said: “ I can see that Kashmiri people are suffering on both sides of the border but I cannot call this a Kashmiri struggle when militants from other countries are fighting there. We would not like talbanisation of Kashmir.”

JKLF leaders had the vision and they anticipated this kind of response from the international community, and that is why they emphasised on dialogue. It is pity that despite all the sacrifices the Kashmiri people have offered for the sake of independence, the world community sees the Kashmir dispute as India and Pakistan problem. And to rub salt in our wounds they say the problem has to be resolved bilaterally once the violence has ceased.

The question is why there is so much emphasis on the cessation of “violence”. One argument could be that PLO only got involved in a meaningful dialogue once it renounced violence. It was the case with IRA as well. Why is that it was acceptable to negotiate on Kashmir in the presence of “violence” some time ago and why is it not appropriate now. The reason is very simple. Prior to the Kargil incident both governments took certain confidence building measures, and that helped them to proceed, albeit cautiously, on the road of negotiation by setting up more CBMs.

All that changed with the Kargil factor. Also the democratically elected government in Pakistan with which India had certain level of understanding as a result of these CBMs, is replaced by the military government. India thinks that the Pakistan army was responsible for the Kargil incident, and this is another reason for not resuming talks. Many would call that the Kargil is the turning point in the Kashmir struggle. It was this incident which gave India high moral ground and international support. It was because of this that “sanctity” of Line of Control was emphasised and imposed.

It is unfortunate that a genuine freedom movement is wrongly associated with kidnapping, high- jacking, murder of innocent civilians. But before we blame the world community for this we need to be more realistic and honest. We need to analyse the whole situation and perhaps adopt more realistic and pragmatic strategy. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Kashmiri freedom fighters have killed innocent people, but the fact remains that innocent people are killed, some of them are Muslims and others are non Muslims. It is unfortunate that this “violence”, in one way or another, is associated with the Kashmiri struggle whether we are responsible for it or not. No religion, culture and society can justify these senseless killings of innocent people.

At one time it was believed that more violence and attacks on armed personnel in the Indian Occupied Kashmir would lead to international pressure on India to sit down and negotiate on Kashmir. It looks that the strategy has not worked. Sometimes you cannot force the other party to resume talks by pointing gun at its head, as this would be tantamount to surrender. Sometime one party wants to talk about a problem to resolve it, but when it realises that its adversary is employing threat and abuse then sometimes the first party for the sake of its ego will refuse to talk even though the current situation hurts it.

Bill Clinton as a leader of the free world has sent clear messages to the leaders of South Asia. He said, ‘there is no military solution to Kashmir. International sympathy, support and intervention cannot be won by provoking a bigger, bloodier conflict. On the contrary, sympathy and support will be lost and no matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians across the Line of Control.’

It is true that Bill Clinton has to look after the USA interest, and no one should blame him for that, but we have to look what is best for us. There is a message for the Kashmiri leadership as well. We need to understand it. We need to persuade India and Pakistan that continued hostility over Kashmir would ultimately prove disastrous for all of us. We need to ensure each other that we can all coexist side by side.

It is true that with the continued trouble in Kashmir India and Pakistan are also paying a price in the form of human lives and economic loss. May be they can afford it, but the question for Kashmiris is can we afford it? We have already lost too much. We need to change our strategy that we can assure the international community it is our national struggle; and that we are not fighting some one else’s fight.

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