Friday, 30 May 2008

"We have lost Kashmir".

"We have lost Kashmir".
Shabir Choudhry

When the tribesmen and the Kashmiri freedom fighters were approaching Srinager, the Ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh was urged by VP Menon to leave his Summer Capital and move to Jammu. Very reluctantly he left Srinager with his family and personal belongings. According to his son, Karan Singh, the Maharaja did not speak to anyone on his way to Jammu, and after reaching his palace in Jammu he, 'uttered but one sentence - "We have lost Kashmir"'.

A lot has happened since that time. Kashmir is not same since, and it will never be same again. Prior to that the people of Kashmir, especially Muslims, had many problems- in fact they were victims of the Maharaja's maladministration. But the State of Jammu and Kashmir was one political entity. Now the State is split into four parts, and the people of this unfortunate and forcibly divided State are not any better off. They are still oppressed, tortured and are deprived of their basic human rights including their most cherished and inalienable right of self determination.

Not long ago when the present armed struggle was at its peak, and mainly consisted of the Kashmiri groups, we thought that the independence was just around the corner. There were many reasons for believing that. The moral of the people was very high, they were, especially the people of Valley, taking full part in the struggle, India was on the defensive and the international opinion was favourable to the Kashmiris.

Now that we are in twelfth years of the struggle and we have lost more than 70 thousand lives, lost the honour and dignity of thousands of women and have gone through worst kind of oppression, torture and suppression where do we find us. If we adopt an ostrich like attitude then we are still winning and India is about to collapse at any time. But if we analyse the situation realistically then it appears that the tide has turned against us.

But the problem is you cannot say that, as it is not liked by certain quarters. You cannot even realistically analyse the situation, and if you dare do that you would be portrayed as working against the "Movement". Apart from the international press, some Pakistani and Kashmiri papers have started saying that the "tide" has turned in favour of India, especially after the Kargil fiasco, but we are still expected to bury our heads in sand.

Despite our great sacrifices in the view of the international community Kashmir is an issue between India and Pakistan which has to be resolved bilaterally. No matter who was responsible for the Kargil fiasco, Nawaz Sharif or General Pervaiz Musharaf, the fact is that it has proved to be a "Waterloo" for the Kashmiri struggle. One important but undesirable gift of the Kargil conflict is that the international community does not like any breach of Line of Control; and their emphasis is that sanctity of LOC must be maintained.

Apart from that international leaders are indicating that India and Pakistan should find a solution while keeping the sanctity of LOC. This practically means the division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. And to rub salt in our wounds some Pakistani leaders and writers have also started talking of division of Kashmir. The people of Kashmir did not pay huge sacrifices for the division of Kashmir. All political parties of Kashmir, irrespective of their political ideologies believe in the unity of the State that existed at the time of partition of India. The division of Kashmir is not a solution and if it is imposed on us then surely it will prove to be a recipe for future disaster is South Asia.

I am not one of those who joined the freedom bandwagon in 1990s; I am one of the founding members of the JKLF and a writer on Kashmir. I am closely involved in the present struggle, and for many years, like others I used to tell people that independence is around the corner. Over the years my optimism has gradually changed. It is not that I am too old now (I am still in mid 40s) or have lost interest in the struggle. But I have become more experienced and pragmatic now. My pragmatism and experience tell me that situation has changed for the worse. I cannot see light at the end of long tunnel. We must analyse and see what went wrong.

But important question to me is what do I tell my family now. Since 1973 when I started taking active part in the Kashmiri struggle, I have badly neglected my wife and children. I always told them, especially in the 1990s that my organisation and the Kashmiri struggle need my services; and that independence is just around the corner.

The Maharaja of Kashmir found himself in that situation in 1947, largely due to his own mistakes, but he had courage to tell his son and wife that "We have lost Kashmir". I wonder what I tell my wife and children who have badly suffered because of my political activities. Many other people who find themselves in this quandary have to sincerely ask themselves this question, and see what went wrong and how it could be put right.

Shabir Choudhry

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