Friday, 30 May 2008

You know he has been to Delhi

You know he has been to Delhi
Shabir Choudhry

True Kashmiri nationalists have never been in good books of the Pakistani establishment; and as a Kashmiri nationalist who has since teenage days strongly opposed Kashmir’s accession to India and Pakistan, and have consistently advocated concept of united and independent Kashmir, I could never be in good books. And I have no qualms about this, as I know sincere adherence to this ideology would not win favours from those who regard it ‘against their national interest’.

Not all members of Pakistani establishment are sincere to Pakistan, and not all have love and care for Pakistan’s national interest; but I have very sincerely pursued the concept of an independent Kashmir, and this ideology is very close to my heart. Only thing I have to ensure is that I am loyal to my organisation, my ideology and the Kashmiri nation. I don’t have to be loyal to India and Pakistan and their national interests, and I don’t have to follow their dictation, and for this rebellious attitude I have always paid price in different forms and shapes.

Unlike some Kashmiri leaders I have habit of calling spade a spade. Whenever there is an opportunity to speak on Kashmir and explain the ideology of JKLF, I am always unequivocal and focused; and do my best to get the correct message across. My style and message does not change with change of venue and audience, and that sometimes annoys some people.

Apart from advocating and lobbying for an independent Kashmir, I have also very strongly opposed and criticised both India and Pakistan for their respective stands and actions in Kashmir, and I have done that honestly and sincerely and at every level, in writing and verbally. This further infuriated the parties concerned. Verbal opposition has its own importance but written opposition has much greater value, and as, according to someone, I am very ‘bold and foolish’ in my written criticism I have made a few more enemies.

A well-wisher told me that in a private gathering of some Pakistanis and Kashmiris, while discussing Kashmir, my articles and criticism of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy also came under discussion. In that meeting a senior officer of Pakistan’s High Commission was also present, and in order to be good in his eyes someone started criticising JKLF and me in particular. Among them was someone with moral strength and clear conscience, and in presence of this officer he not only defended JKLF but also defended my right to express. I was told, he said:

‘We have right to criticise JKLF and its ideology, but the fact remains that it is this thinking which is getting popular not only in Kashmiris, but internationally as well. As for Shabir is concerned I know he criticises Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, but in my opinion there is a lot of sense in what he says. We may dislike it but his criticism is always based on historical facts, and he has every right to express himself.’

Encouraged by this some other individuals also joined the discussion, and made some favourable contribution; and fearing that the debate could win a few sympathisers for the independent school of thought, the officer decided to take control of the debate, and he said:

‘We are not against JKLF or any other organisation which holds this ideology. Like any other Kashmiri party they have right to hold their views, but what we cannot accept is these people expressing anti Pakistan slogans and showing clear animosity to Pakistan. We have information that many senior leaders who believe in an independent Kashmir are anti Pakistan, and are actively pursuing the Indian agenda. Activities they do or things they say clearly shift attention away from what is happening in the Indian occupied Kashmir. As for Shabir is concern we know his agenda, why won’t he write all this – you know he has been to Delhi.’

His smile and style of conversation completely changed the situation, and people started asking various questions and they started criticising Indian actions in Kashmir, and conspiracies of Hindus, Jews and the Americans against Muslims and especially against Pakistan. Well done officer, with one master - stroke you won the show and completely changed the environment against us, but I wish I was there to respond to these silly allegations.

Another example will illustrate how busy is the Pakistani establishment in its ‘jihad’ against pro independent leaders and especially me. Not long ago I went to my local barber for hair cut. He knows me well and it is quite normal thing to discuss various issues while sitting there. After the hair cut he reluctantly asked me to come outside as he wanted to ask me something, and once outside he asked me: ‘Choudhry Sahib have you been to New Delhi’.

And when I asked him why he wanted to know this, he then told me a story which was similar to the one I have explained above. Only difference was that in this meeting there was no one from the High Commission present, but we all know that there are many who would happily project their point of view by adding little bit of spice to the story.

I told the barber that our message is clear and unambiguous. We have courage and moral strength to say the same thing in London, Islamabad and New Delhi. Yes I went to New Delhi in November 2000 to participate in a Peace Conference which was part of Track Two Diplomacy. This Conference was jointly organised by Islamabad based NGO Institute of Strategic Studies and an Indian NGO International Center for Peace Initiatives.

It is indeed an honour to be invited to such conferences as not every Tom, Dick and Harry is invited to participate in Track Two Diplomacy. Only those people are invited who have either made considerable contribution in their own field or who have some kind of expertise. Apart from me other 4-5 prominent Kashmiris were invited from Britain, including British Parliamentarian Lord Avebury who has made considerable contribution to the cause of Kashmir.

It was not a secret meeting, before I went I discussed it with my colleagues in the JKLF, even friends outside the organisation were consulted, and I issued a press statement before my departure. I discussed contents of my written speech which I was to make there with my colleagues, and even with hindsight I can say that it was a wise decision to go there. From Delhi I proceeded to Srinagar and this visit was in many ways an eye opener, as I was able to get first hand views of the people and parties concerned. A copy of my written speech was available to interested people in Delhi, Srinagar and London.

I wonder why there is so much fuss about my visit to Delhi and Kashmir. I am not the only person who has been to Delhi many other people have been there for various reasons. Every year thousands of Pakistanis either go to India for business or meet their relatives, and they stay there for weeks and months. Hundreds of Pakistani diplomats go there and stay there for 2-3 years. Visits of many journalists and artists take place on regular basis, and they stay there for weeks if not months; and loyalty of all these people who go there does not come into question, because they are Pakistanis.

But one week long visit of a nationalist Kashmiri is portrayed as a sin, even though I have a track record of working sincerely and honestly for the freedom struggle. As if I have given away Kashmir to India or changed my ideology since my return. Those sick - minded people who make such silly allegations need to understand that in this age of global village no one needs to travel to New Delhi to make some kind of deal. India and Pakistan have Embassies and diplomatic missions in nearly all the countries, and interested parties and individuals could make deals there.

It is open secret that some people travel to Geneva to make deals or renew terms of their contracts. Some even travel across the Atlantic and make deals in America; or negotiate new terms. In other words people who have made deals their identities are protected, but those have ‘refused to fall in line’ are used as scapegoats. Innocent Kashmiris and Pakistanis have been taken for a ride for too long, now this practise of ‘police encounters’ and character assassination must stop together with this silly propaganda against participants of the conference.

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