Friday, 30 May 2008

You are a ‘failed man’

You are a ‘failed man’
By Dr Shabir Choudhry 08 October 2004

It looks that either my ‘Kashmiriyet’ is causing problems to some people or what I say and write is troubling them. During my recent private visit to Azad Kashmir, I had only one public function, and even that was about the launch of my new book, ‘Kashmir Dispute as I see it’. What I said in this function was widely appreciated, but surely disliked and opposed by those who have to be there even when not invited.

While I was there my aunty passed away, and on my return to London some friends came for a ‘fateah’. I knew two of them well but the third one was unfamiliar face. I welcomed them with traditional hospitality.

After ‘fateah’, as is the normal practice, we started discussing other things and during course of discussion my political struggle and Kashmiriyet was challenged. According to them I spoke Punjabi, eat Punjabi food, wear Punjabi dress and have similar culture to that of Jhelum and Gujrat, therefore I should stop talking about Kashmiri nationalism and independence of the entire State.

They further said independence of the State is not possible as Pakistan won’t allow this. Pakistan cannot survive without Kashmir, water from Kashmir is our life - line, and geographic situation of Kashmir provides us important strategic strength, and we cannot risk that by supporting an independent Kashmir.

Also they said that since I live in England and my children are likely to live here as well, so I should take part in politics in England that our interest as Muslims are protected here.

I tried to explain that I am a Kashmiri and that we Kashmiris have to first look after our interest, although we have sympathies with Pakistan’s problems… One guest interrupted me and said, ‘Shabir Sahib I know you like to argue things, and with your knowledge and experience on the topic you will probably win this debate, but I request you to listen to us without getting into a discussion.’

So I decided to remain quiet and just listen to them. What they said to me was quiet demoralising and frustrating, and in order to get it out off my system and to inform others, I am going to produce a summary of our conversation.

Their advice to me was that I should abandon my stand which has not given me anything apart from making some political enemies and losing my credibility in Azad Kashmiri and Pakistani communities. According to them I have only wasted my time and energy; and that it would be foolish to continue on the same path knowing full well that the dream of an independent Kashmir will never become a reality.

One gentleman seemed to know a quite bit about my ‘struggle’, my ‘talent’ and ‘contribution’, about the JKLF and senior colleagues of different JKLF factions. He said, ‘If you had given same kind of time to British politics, then you could have been in Parliament by now.’ He paused for a moment and continued with his sermon, ‘Even working for the right party in Kashmiri politics could have opened many doors for you.’

His conclusion was that I should not oppose policies of Pakistan, and that I should not oppose upraising of the Mangla Dam, as it is really essential for the economy of Pakistan; and take it from me he said, no matter the strength of opposition, Pakistan will go ahead with it.

If you want to be a winner learn to move with the tide. You do not win when you make establishment your enemy. By this animosity you are making it difficult not only for you but also for your family and future generations. Politics is an art of making compromises but your stubbornness will lead you no where.

What has the JKLF given to you? This is the party for which you have worked day and night since 1977; and the same party expelled you even though you were only projecting the cause of the Party. Those people who did not like your policies got you expelled, and even got you branded as an ‘agent’, and those very people who were your followers are pointing fingers at you. Ask yourself if this is a success or a failure; and with the JKLF split in many factions, do you think you will be successful in your struggle for independent Kashmir?

They stayed with me for more than an hour, and during this time I remained quiet most of the time. Before they left one gentleman said, ‘Shabir Sahib, I am your well wisher and I would like you to think very carefully about the issues I have raised. I think probably it is still not too late to make something out of your failed political life.’

I acknowledge there was a lot of sense in what they said, and after they had gone I was upset and demoralised as sense of being a ‘failure’ was having its impact on me. For some time I was thinking if I had not chosen the path I have, I could have made political future for me.

Then train of thought changed and I said to myself, but I made a deliberate choice to be what I am, and this struggle was not imposed upon me; and certainly I am not among those who joined the struggle after 1990 when bounty for doing so was very attractive.

I had an opportunity to become a Councillor from a very safe Labour seat in 1985, but I declined as I wanted to continue as the Secretary General of the JKLF; even though there were no financial gains to be made as the struggle was not commercialised at that time.

May be I am a failure in eyes of some because despite ability and hard work I could not climb the political ladder, or could not compete with my contemporaries on the wealth building mission. I know some of my relatives have ten times more wealth than what I have, and yet they have not passed tenth class from Azad Kashmir, and have no education from England either.

But my contention is that I was never in a race with them to make money. Some of my relatives and many others came to England as teenagers, and as under Matriculates; whereas they are still under Matriculate with a lot of money in banks, I have different kind of wealth, which no one can take away from me and which is not affected by any exchange rate.

It is true that the JKLF, for which I have worked since 1977, is in many groups and that is a setback to our struggle. But we must not under estimate power and influence of those who occupy us. They have power to make or break any group or alliance, or get some one defamed and removed from the political scene. The fact that we are still in the field projecting the nationalist cause of the JKLF, shows our determination and sincerity.

It is also true that those who were my ‘followers’ and those whom I showed how to walk in politics are today opposing me tooth and nail. With time people change, some change under influence of the propaganda unleashed by agencies, and others change due to attraction of the package offered to them.

But I cannot complain about this as I was warned about it many years ago. When I was President of the JKLF, I was cautioned by very high ranking Pakistani officer to abandon our plan of holding a demonstration outside Pakistani High Commission in London. I told him that we are holding this demonstration against closure of K2 newspaper, arrest of Kashmiri leaders in Rawalpindi and upraising of the Mangla Dam. He tried to persuade me that it will divert attention from what is going on in the Indian occupied Kashmir, hence it will be an indirect help to India. When I refused to follow his instructions he warned me that I ‘will have to pay a price for this’.

I could have avoided this defaming campaign against me and rebellion in the JKLF, if I had followed instructions of this senior Pakistani officer, but I chose to ignore him and deliberately invited wrath of Pakistani agencies. So I cannot complain that I was not aware of this, I chose to take on people with power and influence and result is before me.

As far as climbing the political ladder is concerned, I never wanted to become a professional politician, so there is no question of climbing any ladder. Unlike professional politicians my aim was and still is to work for liberation of my motherland which is forcibly divided and where people are oppressed and denied of basic rights. I wanted to fight forces of extremism and hatred. I wanted to have equality for all sections of the Kashmiri community leading to peace and stability in Kashmir and South Asia.

This is a gigantic task, it is idealism and which is not possible to achieve in one’s life time, but that does not mean one should not work for it. My response to all those who criticise me for what I am doing is that this is the right path, and I concede that I might not see fruits of this struggle in my life time, but it is this struggle which is worth fighting for and even to give life for it.

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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