Friday, 30 May 2008

The Real Issue in Kashmir

The Real Issue in Kashmir
Shabir Choudhry

Recently I wrote a series of articles on Kashmir and one article was on Pakistan’s ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir. After reading this article many people contacted me with different comments. Majority of the people appreciated the article and found new issues related to the Kashmir dispute. These are the issues which were not previously brought up by the Pakistani officials or highlighted by pro Pakistani Kashmiri leaders; and even not fully exploited by the pro independent camp.

Of course there were some who criticised me for raising these matters at this critical juncture. In view of these people we should focus our attention on criticising India and what they are doing in Kashmir; rather than bringing Pakistan’s role into equation and diverting from the ‘real issue’. When I asked him to elaborate what he meant by the ‘real issue’, he said: ‘Of course the real issue is to get rid of Hindu India…we want to end their domination in Kashmir’. Then he gave a detailed list of atrocities committed by the Indian forces in Kashmir, and stressed that we must help our Muslim Kashmiri brothers suffering because of the Indian imperialism.

I said let us assume for a moment that we have ended the Indian rule there, then what are we going to do. He said once we have achieved that goal then we would join Pakistan. ‘What about those Kashmiris who don’t want to join Pakistan’, I asked.
All Kashmiri Muslims want to join Pakistan and those who don’t want this, can go to hell and stay with their Hindu masters, he said angrily.

I tried to explain that not all Kashmiri Muslims wish to join Pakistan, and that Kashmir is multi religious and a motherland of many ethnic groups; and they surely don’t want to join Pakistan. I further said that we don’t want division of Kashmir on ethnic grounds, and one danger of division is that fire of communalism could engulf other parts of the Sub Continent. All Muslims and non- Muslims could live in peace and harmony in an independent Kashmir, and teach lesson of co existence and friendship to the rest of South Asia.

He didn’t like to hear what I said. An independent Kashmir could not survive, he said, and in any case there is no provision of an independent Kashmir in the UN Resolutions. ‘There is no provision of usurping Gilgit and Baltistan in the UN resolutions either’, I replied. ‘Also there is no provision in UN resolutions to keep the Kashmiri families divided, and kill and torture those who ask for freedom; and yet it has happened, and it continues to happen’. When India and Pakistan sincerely want to resolve the Kashmir dispute and have peace in the region, they will find a way to do it no matter what is or is not in the UN resolutions.

Of course we had disagreement on many aspects of the Kashmiri struggle, to me it was a struggle for national emancipation and that included all areas of the State; to him it was a struggle to get independence from India and joining Pakistan. To me India and Pakistan were both occupiers with territorial aims; and the fact that more human rights violations take place in the territory under India does not make territory under Pakistan less controversial or make it part of Pakistan.

People who live in a Kashmiri territory under Pakistan do not live in heaven, they are also subject to human rights violations, but these violations are different in nature. People of these areas have not taken arms against Pakistan and that is the main reason why there is less human rights violations on this side of the LOC. During this conversation he pointed out why is it that I don’t write about India and criticise atrocities there. I told him that it was a big lie, and propaganda of those who don’t like my ideology and my writings. Then I gave him details of my writings where I have criticised India for gross human rights violations in Kashmir; but at the same time I pointed out that I want to keep balance: criticise India where India is wrong but do not shy away to criticise Pakistan for her mistakes.

Apart from that there is another big difference, and people don’t seem to appreciate this. I write more about Pakistan to expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. The Indian policy on Kashmir is clear: they want to keep Kashmir no matter how many people die there and what is cost to India. In other words India is ‘enemy’ of those who want freedom from India; and once that is established then there is nothing more to write.

Pakistan on the other hand has many standards on Kashmir. Like India they want to keep the Kashmiri territory under their occupation; and get the rest of Kashmir. But they tell Kashmiri people that we are doing this for you…We are fighting to get you freedom….We are fighting in support of your right of self-determination etc. In other words Pakistan thinks it is in interest of the Kashmiri people to become part of Pakistan; and it is also in their interest not to ask for basic civil rights or even a right to vote in case of Gilgit and Baltistan.

We are asked not only to accept this but also to remain quiet and sing praises for Pakistan; and when we fail to do this then our ‘loyalty’ is in question, and we are criticised for being soft on India. In my view more time and effort needs to be spent on exposing unfriendly acts of a ‘friend’ rather than visible acts of an ‘enemy’; and in doing so if I have to pay a price than so be it.

I told him that real issue is the right of self- determination of the Kashmiri people, both India and Pakistan want to get the Kashmiri territory but they are not willing to concede the right of the people that they can have independence and sovereignty. In order to deny this right to the people of Kashmir both governments are using different methods and strategies, but the objective is same and that is to get Kashmir.

No matter how mildly you want to word it- call areas under Pakistan, Pakistani administered Kashmir, and call areas under India, occupied Kashmir, but the fact remains that in both parts Kashmiris don’t have a say; and it is will of New Delhi and Islamabad which prevails. India despite all the human rights violations and what they have done to Kashmir, is planning to hold elections in there; but we see no such signs that Islamabad will extend right of franchise to people of Gilgit and Baltistan.

If situation is that both countries have territorial aim in Kashmir, and welfare of the people is not on top of their agenda in Kashmir, then we need to learn from history and think as Kashmiris and fight for our rights. It would be unfortunate that if in 21st Century we still don’t understand what is freedom, and boast that we are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.
Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

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