Friday, 30 May 2008

Why not write against India part 1

Why not write against India part 1
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Last week I had two important telephone conversations with two men, one with Islamabad based journalist, and the other with London based important Pakistani. Both men are very dedicated and loyal Pakistanis, and are in positions where they can influence other people. Both have friendly relationship with me and both are my regular readers.

After reading my latest articles on Azad Kashmir they had a complaint to make, even though they did not challenge the contents of these articles. They appreciated my hard work on Kashmir, especially written work to highlight the plight of the Kashmiri people, but questioned me why I don’t write against India. Their argument was that most of my articles deal with the situation in Azad Kashmir, and I pay less attention to the plight of the Kashmiris in ‘occupied Kashmir’; and in their view Azad Kashmir could do with less or no attention at all.

This is widely held view in Pakistan, Azad Kashmir and in some parts of the Indian occupied Kashmir, and there is some logic in this point of view as well. But there are many who think it is against their political struggle which is based on Kashmiri nationalism. To Kashmiri nationalists all parts of Kashmir are occupied and plight of all areas must be highlighted, that the struggle should be seen as a nationalist struggle, rather than a communal one based on religion and against one occupier only which happens to be non Muslim.

Also Kashmiri nationalists think that if we only concentrate to highlight what India is doing on that side of the LOC, and pay no attention to what goes on to the people on this side of the divide, then it would surely give wrong message to the world outside, and tarnish the struggle as it would be seen as an extension of the ‘Pakistani propaganda against India’. Moreover this is exactly what the Pakistani establishment wants – more concentration on what India is doing on that side, and complete silence what Pakistan is doing on this side of the forcibly divided State.

Similarly India would like to have less attention paid to what India does to Kashmiris in the area under its ‘occupation’, and more attention paid to what Pakistan does in ‘Pakistani Occupied Kashmir’. We want to speak against both, as role of both countries is disliked and opposed; surely there is difference in method, approach and degree of disagreement and opposition. Above all we don’t want to be seen as ‘stooges’ of either India or Pakistan, so we have to oppose positions of both countries.

That is what nationalist Kashmiris think and say regarding highlighting the issues related to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, but I have some more reasons for paying attention to these areas. Like they say charity begins at home, similarly your fight against injustice and unfair treatment begins at home. You cannot champion cause of human rights and fairness in other areas and other countries by abusing or ignoring human rights in your own home or in your own area.

Israel is abuser of human rights at home and has very little justification and moral authority to talk about human rights issues in other countries; and same applies to many other countries including India. If you are human rights abuser at home then you lose that moral authority to talk about human rights in other countries.

If injustice is done to people of my village and people of my district, then I should raise voices against that as well, not only talk of injustice done to the people in Doda and Srinagar. We need to speak against injustice and oppression wherever it takes place in the world, Doda and Srinagar are parts of the State and it is our duty to speak against oppression and injustice taking place in any part of State of Kashmir.

Because there is more oppression and injustice on that side of the LOC, as a result attention of the entire world is focussed on those areas; and there are many national, Indian, Pakistani and international human rights organisations to highlight human rights abuses there. Apart from that Kashmiri political parties and other groups from both sides of the divide, and many Pakistani groups are paying hundred percent attention to the plight of the people on that side of LOC.

In one sense this approach - all attention to the Indian side of Kashmir - has backfired our nationalist cause, because as far as the world outside is concerned Kashmir dispute is only related to the Indian side of Kashmir, and particularly to the Valley of Kashmir. It is because of this false impression all important governments, experts of conflict resolution and think tanks talk of solution of the area on that side of the LOC. Unfortunately this false impression is growing stronger with time, and people talk of some kind of solution for the areas under India by drawing a new Line Of Control.

This in practise means division of the State, and that is totally against my political beliefs and struggle spread over a few decades. And it hurts me more when I feel that we nationalists of Kashmir have contributed in creating this false impression that the problem is only related to the Indian side of the Kashmir, and on the Pakistani side of Kashmir everything is ‘rosy’.

We accept there is more oppression and human rights violations on that side of the divide, but that DOES NOT makes that area more disputed than the area under Pakistan. The entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed, and we need to design our policy to project that, and not continue with the policy which reinforces the false impression that only Indian side of Kashmir is disputed.

As far as contribution made by me and my colleagues is concerned, I don’t think I need any certificate of loyalty from anyone, especially from those who were (and perhaps still are) either benefiting from Indian or Pakistani establishment, when we were demonstrating outside different Indian High Commissions and on streets of Britain to project the cause of Kashmir.

However for the information of younger generation and especially those who discovered Kashmir in 1990s, I want to say that we started the struggle for united and independent Kashmir in 1973, that is four years before the JKLF was formed. It was the time when some of todays Mujahids were part and parcel of the system imposed by India and Pakistan in the divided parts of the State; and some were proudly sitting in Assemblies and holding senior posts by either taking oath of allegiance to India or Pakistan. At that time it was us who challenged the status quo and refused to give in to all sorts of pressures.

Since that date my colleagues and I have been part of the struggle and have organised and participated in hundreds of demonstrations and pickets against India, made hundreds of speeches and issued thousands of statements opposing and condemning Indian rule in Kashmir; not only that, in order to oppose custodial deaths and oppression I and other JKLF activists had hunger strikes outside Indian High Commission and British Prime Minister’s residence.

Why not write against India part 2
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Also I have travelled to different countries to project the Kashmir cause and highlight human rights abuse in the Indian side of Kashmir. Like many other Kashmiris I thought by exposing Indian abuse in Kashmir and by focussing our attention on that side of Kashmir we were doing service to the Kashmir cause, and our nationalist cause.

But as my colleagues and I got more experience and political maturity, and we directly interacted with diplomats and political activists of different countries, we realised that if Kashmir is occupied by more than one country then we are not doing any service to the cause by opposing one country only.

When we focus all our energy to criticise and condemn the role of one country, and remain silent over the role of the other, then the world outside see us with scepticism, and regard us as a ‘B team’. So we decided to have balance in our approach and try to shun this image of a ‘B team’, and criticise both countries for their role in Kashmir. We thought it was only appropriate that people in the area where injustice and oppression is taking place lead the opposition against the country guilty of this injustice, and people working at the international level support it.

Despite this ‘balanced approach’ we adopted in mid 1990s, I have participated in only one demonstration against Pakistani role in the State, and that was against the upraising of Mangla Dam, arrest and detention of political activists in Islamabad and closure of K2, the only newspaper in Gilgit and Baltistan. This is to be compared with hundreds of demonstrations I have organised and participated against India, and if still people think I am anti Pakistan then I can only pray for them.

In many articles and booklets, hundreds of Statements and public speeches I have condemned atrocities in the ‘Indian occupied Kashmir’, and strongly opposed Indian presence there. On this side of the divide, which is increasingly known as ‘Pakistani occupied Kashmir’, I have never condemned Pakistani presence there, however I have tried to expose duplicity in the Pakistani stand on Kashmir.

At the beginning like Pakistan, Indian stand on Kashmir was also full of duplicity and contradictions. Both had territorial aims but both were trying to get Kashmir in name of helping the people of Kashmir, and being their well - wishers and friends.

In 1950s India decided to end this duplicity by declaring that Kashmir is ‘Atoot Ang’, integral part of India. To the Kashmiri people it was a declaration from India that we are usurpers of your independence. Whatever India did in Kashmir after that was to bolster its position there, and could not even pretend that it was done in the best interest of the people.

Once it is established that a country, a group or an individual is enemy, then you don’t need any more elaborations or explanations- enemy is enemy and that is end of it. In view of many people there is no need to spend time and effort to prove that India is enemy of Kashmiri peoples independence, and to best of my knowledge, for many years, India has not claimed that its actions in Kashmir are to get the people their national independence.

Pakistan on the other hand, still has territorial aims in Kashmir, but wants to do everything in the name of Kashmiri peoples independence. Agenda of the Pakistani territorial aims is conducted in the name of ‘Islamic brotherhood’, ‘friend’, and ‘well – wisher’ of the Kashmiri people; but in view of nationalist Kashmiris it is an ‘imperialism’ dressed up in Islamic clothing.

It is because of this duplicity and clear contradiction in the Pakistani stand on Kashmir that nationalist Kashmiris think we need to expose this by explaining legal and constitutional position in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. We need to tell people that Pakistan is also interested in Kashmiri territory; independence of Kashmir and welfare of the people is not close to hearts of the Pakistani elite.

It is quite logical, once a clear distinction is made that Mr X is a friend and Mr Y is an enemy then it becomes easier to formulate a policy to deal with them appropriately. The people of Kashmir have understood India’s role in Kashmir, and they have formulated a policy to deal with that; but despite 55 years of experience and maltreatment in some respects, they are not too sure about the role of Pakistan. So it is imperative that facts are made available to them that in the light of undeniable facts people of Kashmir could formulate an appropriate policy for Pakistan.

No one can deny about gross human rights violations on the Indian side of the divide, even some Indians are acknowledging that now, but does that mean Pakistan should once again get a free hand to uproot people of Mirpur in order to satisfy needs of Landlords and industrialists of Pakistan? Does it also mean that people of Gilgit and Baltistan should be denied their basic rights, even a right to vote?

When Kashmiris protest against this unfair treatment their loyalty to the Kashmiri movement becomes questionable. In other words to be ‘loyal’ to the Kashmiri movement we have to remain quiet whatever Pakistan does, and swallow every pill given to us. Kashmiri patriots are not going to accept this ‘prescription’ and ‘dose’ anymore, because as thinking people they know best what is good for the Kashmir and the Kashmiri movement for unification and independence.

This new thinking was clearly visible in a demonstration against upraising of the Mangla Dam in Manchester, where Kashmiris said, if India is guilty of killing Kashmiris, Pakistan is guilty of drowning them and uprooting them. It would be foolish to adopt ostrich like attitude and dismiss this by saying it is only a few troublemakers. Demonstrations against Pakistani policies have been held in various cities of the world, including every major town of Azad Kashmir.

Because of clear contradictions and duplicity in the Pakistani policy on Kashmir, apart from other nationalist Kashmiris, my colleagues and I thought more effort should be made to expose the Pakistani stand on Kashmir. After all it is not only India that occupies the Kashmiri territory; and it is not only India from whom we are seeking independence. We Kashmiris need to learn from our past mistakes and call spade a spade; and our Pakistani brothers need to be a little more understanding and accommodating, and they must realise that we are not against Pakistan but against Pakistan’s Kashmir policy which is affecting our lives. END

Writer is a Chairman of Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and author of many books and booklets. Also he is a Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

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