Friday, 30 May 2008

Politics of terror must end

Politics of terror must end
Dr Shabir Choudhry, London

Although distinction between what is known as ‘terrorism’ and ‘freedom struggle’ is increasingly becoming blurred, I still feel there is a clear difference between the two. In State of Jammu and Kashmir there is a clear case for ‘freedom struggle’, as the people of State are forcibly divided and deprived of right to determine their future; but there are powerful forces out there who are determined to ensure that the Kashmiri struggle is only seen as either ‘fundamentalist’ or violent movement touching borders of sheer terrorism.

A genuine freedom struggle would not target innocent fellow citizens and kill them, no matter what their religious and ethnic background is, but over the years we have seen systematic killing of innocent Kashmiri people of all shades and opinions from Muslim and non Muslim communities. This policy, in many ways, proved to be ‘waterloo’ for the genuine Kashmiri struggle.

Also this policy provided the much needed propaganda stick in the hands of Indian government to tarnish the Kashmiri struggle as a ‘fundamentalist’ and a ‘terrorist’ movement. One may question the motive of those in charge of militancy what they want to achieve by targeting innocent Kashmiris, especially non – Muslims. Don’t they know that every genuine freedom struggle needs support of the local people, and has to ensure that the local people DONOT suffer at the hands of militants?

People can put up with the state oppression provided they know that there is someone to fight for their cause, and caring hands are there to wipe their tears and look after their needs. When people feel that they are victims of both state oppression and target of militant killings as well, then they get disillusioned and frustrated. Prime responsibility of every state is to protect life and property of its citizens; and duty of genuine freedom fighters is to care for well being and honour of fellow citizens, but when state fails in its duty, and supposedly friendly and caring hand, instead of wiping tears, pulls out a gun and terrorise citizens, then what do the people do?

There will be many to point out that I am ‘accusing mujahids’. This is not true, and before they slur allegations at me, they need to understand that a true mujahid will never kill an innocent person. A true mujahid will protect lives to the best of his ability and even provide protection to his combatant enemies once they surrender. In Islam there is no question of killing any civilian, Muslim or non Muslim; and those in charge of militancy need to look at the fact that militants or so called mujahids, for various reasons have killed innocent citizens, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

No doubt more people have been killed by securities forces, but militants have also killed innocent people, and over the past years this has increased as more and more bombs are carelessly thrown in public places and placed in fruit markets and shops etc. And this act of placing bombs in fruit stalls and video shops could not be justified, and surely it is not part of any genuine freedom struggle. Purpose of this act is to inflict fear in public and create chaos; and it is because of acts like these that India labels the struggle as a ‘terrorist’, and the international community seems to be inclined to accept the Indian version.
This struggle started as a result of denial of rights to the Kashmiri people, and later on it was hijacked by people with vested interest, who have no interest in freedom or rights of the Kashmiri people. People with the vested interest don’t want any solution to the Kashmir dispute; they want the status quo to continue as this brings huge financial and political rewards to them. The question is what do the people of Kashmir get in return? They have suffered and have put up with all the injustice and oppression in hope that suffering will lead to most cherished and much desired goal of independence.

The purpose of armed struggle was to highlight the Kashmir issue and bring it on international agenda. Every one knows that this purpose has been adequately achieved and Kashmir issue together with Palestine is at the top of International Agenda. Also it is widely believed that there is no military solution to the dispute as both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and cannot force military solution; and if these powerful countries cannot enforce military solution then surely the Kashmiri people on their own cannot drive Indian forces out of Kashmir, and this point has to be understood by those who control militancy in Kashmir.

Now all parties to the dispute, India, Pakistan and the militants have to create appropriate environment that there is no fear and intimidation, and much needed dialogue could start. If we fail to take confidence building measures and insist on rejecting the ground realities and continue with the present policies then we will have more dead bodies, more destruction and more economic loss but no peace. And this kind of situation might suit those with vested interest, but surely it does not suit the people of Kashmir.

No dialogue could start or succeed when serious threat of war is looming, and under different pretexts, people are killed and terrorised by state and non- state actors. In a society and culture where people have no right to speak their mind because of fear of reprisals there could not be any plebiscite or referendum; in fact there shouldn’t be any plebiscite because true aspirations could not be ascertained because of threat of gun. This point could be best understood by looking at the following news item in which Al- Umar Mujahideen threatened Maulana Abbas Ansari:
SRINAGAR, Aug 26: Al-Umar Mujahideen today issued a stern warning to Hurriet Conference chairman Molvi Abbass Hussain Ansari asking him "to mend his ways or otherwise he will be treated as a traitor".In a statement, Al-Umar spokesman alleged that Ansari was bent upon to sabotage the ongoing movement on the directions of government of India." If the Hurriet chairman did not mend his ways, he will be included in the list of traitors. If he wants to continue in the movement, he will have to give up his personal thinking and work for the best interests of the movement", the spokesman said.
We all know what is the stand of Al Umar Mujahideen and who their mentors are. It is clear from the above that they want to even terrorise the APHC Chairman, even though he was also considered as one of ‘their man’, but his recent indication of holding talks with India without the participation of Pakistan proved to be very costly to him and the Kashmiri struggle.

Maulna Abbas Ansari is not an ordinary man, he represents the Shia community in Kashmir, and holds the post of the Chair of the APHC, and apart from that his age warrants respect from all civilised people; but what he gets is a ‘stern warning’, and threat of being declared a ‘traitor’. And what this in practise means is that after declaring him ‘traitor’ any one could kill him. Although I disagree with the policies of APHC and Maulana Abbas Ansari, but the man deserves some respect, and must not be harassed.

Important question worth asking is that if a person of his standing could be ‘terrorised’ and silenced, then what about the ordinary people, and what chance do they have to express their views. Those who encourage and promote culture of terror and intimidation need to think carefully what impact this policy will have on the ordinary people of Kashmir, and how would they express themselves, if and when promised plebiscite is held.

Even united APHC was not representative of the Kashmiri people, and this point was made by many writers and leaders, including myself, but those who call shots in the Kashmiri struggle wanted to ensure that even this platform is made a laughing stock, and people of Kashmir suffer another split in their ranks. Logic is very simple, divided people are easy to control and easy to manipulate; and when decisions are taken about the future of Kashmir it would be easy to keep them away from the negotiation table.

If the Kashmiri leaders want some role when future of Kashmir is determined then they have to ensure that they create atmosphere of trust and friendly relationship among themselves, and take all ethnic communities on board, and this could only be done when civilian are not terrorised and harassed.
Writer is a Chairman of JKLF Diplomatic Committee, and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

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