Friday, 30 May 2008

‘You are not a Kashmiri’

‘You are not a Kashmiri’
By Dr Shabir Choudhry 02 October 2004

Not only I call myself a Kashmiri but I am proud to be a Kashmiri nationalist. Whereas an ordinary person living in Kashmir could be an Indian or Pakistani first and Kashmiri second, or he could not have developed consciousness of being a Kashmiri; but as a nationalist Kashmiri I am Kashmiri first and Kashmiri last.

And when someone tells me that I am not a Kashmiri just because I don’t speak a language which is spoken in one part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, I feel I have been humiliated or sworn at. It is insult to me that I have to prove my ‘Kashmiriyet’, and request others or persuade them to accept me as a Kashmiri.

A Pakistani friend told me that I was not a Kashmiri because I didn’t speak the Kashmiri language. I explained to him that I am a Kashmiri because I was born in Kashmir, and that the Kashmiri law recognise me as a Kashmiri.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir generally known as Kashmir consists of the Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. In all regions of Kashmir different languages are spoken by native people with Urdu being the language understood by nearly everyone. In other words, like other nation states in the world, Kashmir also has regional languages, and not every citizen of any country speaks all regional languages of his/her country.

If a person can’t speak Kashmiri, a language of the Valley, it doesn’t take away from him/her ‘Kashmiriyet’; and anyone who speaks the above language he/ she does not hold higher social status just because of this, or becomes a better Kashmiri. If and when a referendum is held we will all have one vote, and those with ability to speak Kashmiri will not have two votes.

This sense of humiliation gets deeper when a fellow Kashmiri with ability to speak Kashmiri doubts my ‘Kashmiriyet’ and calls me a ‘Punjabi. I speak Punjabi or more precisely Pahari, and I am proud of what I am; and this does not make my loyalty to the cause of united and independent Kashmir any weaker, if anything, it gives me additional sense of belonging.

India has hundreds of languages and not everyone speaks Hindi, but they are all Indians. Similarly there are many languages spoken in Pakistan and not everyone speaks all regional languages, and yet they are all Pakistanis; but when it comes to Kashmir anyone who cannot speak Kashmiri is sometimes not considered a Kashmiri.
Time and again we have explained that we are Kashmiris under the "State Subject" Definition Notification dated 20th April, 1927, according to which I am class one citizen; and no one can take this away from me. Definition for the term State Subject Class one reads as follows:
Class I : All persons born and residing within the State before the commencement of the reign of His Highness the late Maharaja Ghulab Singh, Sahib Bahadur, and also persons who settled therein before the commencement of Samvat year 1942, and have since been permanently residing therein.
And note two of this Notification clarifies this further:
Note11 : The descendants of the persons who have secured the status of any class of the State Subject will be entitled to become the State Subject of the same class. For example, if A is declared a State Subject of Class II his sons and grandsons will ipso facto acquire the status of the same Class (II) and not of Class I.
After this clear legal position about my Kashmiriyet, I don’t need a certificate from any Tom, Dick or Harry, especially from those who have confused sense of belonging and misplaced loyalty. I am a Kashmiri whether I speak Kashmiri, Balti, Gojri, Punjabi, Sheena or Pahari; and even if I don’t speak any of the above I am still a Kashmiri, as language is used to communicate with other fellow human beings rather than to ascertain some ones national identity.

Those Kashmiris who call themselves as Indians, do so because the Indian constitution regards Kashmir as part of India, but those Kashmiris who regards themselves as Pakistanis do so in contradiction to the Pakistani constitution which does not regard Kashmir as part of Pakistan. It is strange attitude of these Kashmiris who insist to be known as Pakistanis, yet the Pakistani constitution does not accept them as Pakistanis.

It further surprises the outside world when some notable Kashmiris claim that we are fighting Pakistan’s war; and what this means is that we are not fighting for our own rights and right of self determination, but we are fighting Pakistan’s ‘proxy war.’ After very clear message from notable Kashmiris we expect the world to help us that we can win this ‘proxy war’ based on religious sentiments and become part of Pakistan, which according to the outside world could give support to fanaticism and extremism.

Sardar Anwar Khan was a serving army general when decision was taken to appoint him as a President of Azad Kashmir, of course they had to make certain changes to laws before he became the President of this unfortunate territory. In his statement in New York published on 1 October 2004, he said, ‘In reality Kashmiris are fighting Pakistan’s war…, and that issue of fence on the LOC will be challenged in the International Court of Justice’.

I have dealt with the first part of his statement above, and second part is totally illogical, and yet I will deal with it. When the fence was in the process of being built no one cared to take it to the International Court of Justice to get it stopped, and now that it has been erected with tacit agreement and support of Pakistan, general Sahib threatens India with a court action.

I wonder if General Sahib knows that it is only the nation states who have right to take issues to the ICJ, and a territory over which he ‘presides’ is not recognised as a country; and he is merely considered as a ‘puppet’ of Pakistan. He should also know that Pakistan will not take this issue to ICJ because it was with clear agreement of Pakistan that India built this fence, and Pakistani government will not endanger its newly found friendship and much needed peace process.

In view of this who is our ‘talented’ and ‘all powerful’ president trying to fool? For the past 57 years we have been told that Pakistan is doing its best to get us ‘liberated’, and now we learn that Pakistan is only interested in getting some more territory, some more concessions and has agreed to division of the State. Is our President having us believed that Pakistan government will take this issue to International Court of Justice; or his he just playing with sentiments of divided and oppressed Kashmiris?

President of Azad Kashmir seems to be very concerned about rights of Kashmiri people on the other side of the divide, but he needs to be reminded that people of Gilgit and Baltistan are also Kashmiris; and that these people also deserve to enjoy political and social rights.

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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