Thursday, 24 July 2008

Why I said good bye to JKLF?

Why I said good bye to JKLF?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 24 July 2008

Time and again people ask me why I left JKLF, or more precisely, why we dissolved the JKLF. They know I have worked hard for the party and jeopardised my future ambitions and academic career because of the JKLF and its ideology. After working so hard and making so many sacrifices why on earth I left the JKLF and became part a of new and smaller party Kashmir National Party.

Friends and colleagues have every right to ask these questions. People in public life must be open to criticism and accountability, as no one is above law or criticism. One reason why the JKLF has lost its appeal and is in many small groups is that there is no system of accountability in the party. Those who become Chair, even ad-hoc one, assumes that he is infallible and must remain in that position without any criticism or accountability.

Those who advocated accountability and transparency and wanted to strengthen institutions within the party that the party can flourish were projected as ‘agents’ and enemies of the party. These leaders became ‘Chair’ with idea of holding this title for life. When it becomes difficult to cling on as a result of opposition within the party, then either expel those ‘rebels’ or make structural changes and create another post which can give same unrivalled and unquestioned powers.

Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front was established in 1977 in England. I was among those who helped to set up this ‘unfortunate’ organisation and played vibrant and leading role to advance its ‘cause’. Despite differences and controversies and some what ‘rebellious’ attitude I remained among the senior and prominent leaders of the JKLF.

In my opinion there was nothing wrong in JKLF and its ideology, and until 1988 everyone worked sincerely to advance cause of the party which was based on democracy, liberalism and secularism with high level of importance attached to individual dignity and equality to all citizens of the State. Ideological and tactical change came with expulsion of then JKLF Chairman from England.

Frustrated, heart broken and disillusioned Chairman became easy prey of Pakistani secret agencies, hence a change of JKLF ideology. He secretly agreed to play their game of launching a ‘proxy war’ in the Valley which was presented as a war of liberation to us and the people of Kashmir. Result of this ideological somersault was unleashing of communalism, extremism, sectarianism, regionalism and violence, which later on Pakistani President said was ‘terrorism’, and that he would not allow it to continue from territory under his control.

It is a long and complicated story and one needs more than one volume to encompass all aspects of this ‘struggle’, ‘terrorism’ or a ‘proxy war’. My aim is just to enlighten people that the name of JKLF was maligned with kidnapping, innocent killings, extortions, promoting communalism, regionalism, nepotism, tribalism and advancing interest of our neighbours at the expense of interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many including me were seriously concerned about this, and we fought our corner within the organisation to put things right, but those who were giving dictations to the top JKLF leadership and those who directly benefited from this were too strong. Their personal interest demanded that this trend continues that they can reap benefits with both hands.

When the JKLF Chairman caused another split in 1995, once again ‘in the larger interest of the JKLF’, a new Chairman was announced from Srinagar on ad hoc basis (after thirteen years he still continues to hold that position, and no elections of any kind have taken place). Many hoped that the young man might put things right, but he proved to be no better than the old man - the other Chair, and both wanted to continue the same policies and were in competition to win favours of secret agencies. Net result of this was more splits within the JKLF ranks. Senior members either became inactive or they formed their own groups.

Furthermore the name of JKLF was further blackened with open flirting with secret agencies of both countries. If one leader of JKLF managed to get his photo taken with General Musharaf the other will try to outmanoeuvre him by getting his photo taken with Musharaf and the Indian Prime Minister. If one manages a ride in a land cruiser the other will try to get a ride in a helicopter provided by our occupiers.

General Musharaf presented a number of proposals for resolution of Kashmir dispute, and they all were revolved around division of the State on communal lines. Kashmiris who loved their mother land strongly criticised this, but one JKLF leader said Musharaf has shown his ‘love and affection towards Kashmiri people’ by presenting these proposals. Furthermore this leader or businessman highly appreciated Musharaf’s ‘courage and wisdom to offer new and creative thoughts’.

How can one remain in the fold of JKLF in situation like this, especially when one has loyalty to ideology of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, and not to these leaders who are exploiting sentiments of the people? For ordinary citizens it was the name of JKLF which was sacrosanct, and now when its name is associated with corruption, communalism and hatred it is name of JKLF which is blackened.

The JKLF group with which I associated myself had highest number of founding members, and we all believed that the JKLF ideology has been hijacked, and its top leaders have betrayed the JKLF ideology. The present day JKLF ideology is similar to that of Muslim Conference with difference that the Muslim Conference leaders have guts to openly say that they are pro Pakistan and that they are pro Muslim and don’t believe in nationalist politics.

We strongly believed that the JKLF had lost its direction, and that its top leaders had their own agenda which had nothing to do with unification and independence of the State. Despite that we continued with our efforts to put the party back on ideological track, but once we realised that these top leaders are incorrigible and their followers either feel their leaders are infallible, or have no sense of right and wrong, we decided to say good bye to the JKLF.

We founders of the JKLF strongly believed in right of expression, accountability and equality for all. We advocated struggle and politics based on principles and democratic ideals and this could not continue in the kind of political environment created by tyrants within the JKLF. Curbs on right of expression, regionalism, tribalism and political suffocation encouraged and promoted within the party by the top leaders meant that only opportunists, flatterers, collaborators and yes men could survive in that kind of organisation.

I am not suggesting that there are no sincere members left in the JKLF. Still there are some honest, hard working and dedicated people in various groups of the JKLF. Either these people don’t know game plan of their leaders or they don’t realise that the struggle has been transformed into a business, and those with better business skills are having upper hand in this competition; or they still hope that with some miracle will change things for the better.

It was not easy for me to say good bye to the party I worked for so earnestly. Founding members of the JKLF decided to dissolve the party more than a year ago, as it no longer advanced the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, but I was dragging my feet and kept on delaying its implementation; but for how long- I also had to accept the ground reality and with heavy heart closed the chapter of the JKLF.

Our new party- Kashmir National Party is making a new start. We have a strategy in place and dedicated team which wants to advance politics of toleration, accountability and promote and protect rights and privileges of all citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. What progress we will make in a political culture which supports corruption, hypocrisy, communalism, regionalism and interests of our neighbours remains to be seen.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

To view other articles see my blog:

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Communalising Jammu and Kashmir

Communalising Jammu and Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry 07 July 2008

All those who want to divert attention from real issues, communalise the Kashmiri polity and divide the State on communal lines should be cheerful and in victorious mood because controversial Land Transfer to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has hit the nail on head. This allotment and subsequent cancellation over shadowed all other issues and deepened the communal divide in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

When I look at any issue relating to State of Jammu and Kashmir I leave my religious, ethnic and regional affiliations aside and analyse the issue as a Kashmiri nationalist and not as a religious extremist disguised as a nationalist. Apart from that I try to equate that with role and policy of the other occupier of the State and see if there is any difference in their approach and method.

Call it competition, rivalry or tension it has always been there between Jammu and the Valley; and in this competition most of the time people of the Valley, known as Kashmiris have had upper hand. The leadership of the Valley, from pro India to pro Pakistan and pro Independence disagrees on every issue, even they disagree on when to celebrate Eid, but get ‘united’ when there is a tug of war with Jammu.

The word Kashmir not only means the Valley but it also symbolises the State of Jammu and Kashmir, although some sections of the State resent this and don’t want to be called Kashmiris. Similarly some Valley people do not regard people of Jammu, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan as Kashmiris.

The Valley despite having overwhelming Muslim majority has deep divisions, and militancy and ‘jihadi politics’ have further deepened these divisions because aim of those who launched ‘jihadi forces in Kashmir was to intensify divisions by communalising Kashmiri politics and society.

Amarnath yatra is not something new. Amarnath caves are one of the most famous shrines in Hinduism which are located at the altitude of 12,760 ft about 88 miles away from Srinagar. Over the years it has become a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus, which attract about 400,000 during the festive season. There are two routes to the Cave one is via Pahalgam and the other is via Baltal.

Until recently, before the Jihadi politics destroyed religious and cultural harmony in Jammu and Kashmir, people welcomed tourists and religious tourists (Yatries) because of cultural and religious reasons. It is Islamic teaching to respect religion of others and not to destroy or harm their shrines or their followers.

Amarnath Yatra was conducted by State Tourism Department and Dharamarth Trust jointly, but in 2000 Farooq Abdullah set up the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board that devotees could be properly looked after during their journey.

Apart from the religious harmony this manifested, it was also a valuable source of income which is generally associated with any kind of tourism be it religious tourism or cultural and leisure. Religious beliefs aside, Amarnath Yatra is like Pakistan looking after Sikh Yatries visiting various places in Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia looking after Muslims when they go for Umra and Hajj. These visits bring communities closer to each other; and also boost local economy by provide employment and development.

The Cabinet of Jammu and Kashmir government, which is elected and was a coalition government decided to transfer 40 acres of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board that they can set up temporary shelters and other facilities for Hindu pilgrims. Leaving aside whether it was a good decision or bad one, it was taken by a cabinet after some consultation with relevant departments; and initial opposition to this was not religious in nature but some environmental concerns. Some environmental experts believed that this would affect region's delicate ecological balance.

Environment issues are important to human life but people pay little attention to this. It is obvious when new roads are built or other devlopments take place green areas or forest land are destroyed, as was the case in the construction of a road linking Poonch to Rajouri, but no environmentalist group spoke against it. Similarly when developmental projects are initiated in the Valley forest land or green belts are destroyed, but there were no protests like we have seen over the land which government claims was ‘barren and inhospitable’.

This make people believe that leaders in Jammu and Kashmir were using the issue to divide the State on communal lines. Religion is the only issue over which people will get agitated and sacrifice their lives, so religious sentiments were injected in this with idea of deepening the gulf between Muslims and Hindus on one hand and between Jammu and the Valley on the other hand. This land transfer was projected as a direct ‘attack on the Muslim character of the Valley’, which would leave a ‘permanent Hindu footprint in the inhospitable mountain range’. The protesters claimed they wanted to protect our ‘land, identity, ecology and our age old tradition of human values’.

APHC leaders and other leaders who have always avoided ballot which is internationally recognised method of proving political credibility, have always been keen on disrupting the democratic process on behest of outside forces, were having serious problems with regard to their political standing. Their recent Islamabad Yatra was supposed to provide them with new ideas and new incentive, but they were still wondering how to revitalise their political life, then just out of blue came the issue of allotment- blessing in disguise for the struggling leaders.

These leaders, fresh with a new ‘mandate’ and new tasks felt energetic and wanted to prove their worth, and government of Jammu and Kashmir foolishly provided the opportunity to them to assert their positions and further communalise politics of Jammu and Kashmir. Divisions between Jammu and the Valley and between Muslims and Hindus were never so deep before this controversial issue of Land Transfer.

The reaction to this land transfer was very fierce, reminiscent of protests of early 1990s, which crippled the Valley and some people also lost their lives. These protests not only unnerved the Jammu and Kashmir government but also got New Delhi worried; hence a hasty retreat and cancelled the land transfer. PDP was not only part of the coalition but also part of the controversial decision, panikked and deepened crises further by withdrawing its support to the State government leaving the ruling INC as a minority in the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly.

This retreat was a clear victory for those who championed opposition to this land transfer, but it seriously annoyed Hindu extremists who converged to Jammu and protested against cancellation of the land transfer. Protests in Jammu are also very hostile and have communalised the polity of Jammu which has worried all those who believe in peace and harmony and unity of the State.

This land transfer and its subsequent cancellation have caused enormous damage to the social fabric of the society. It has caused colossal economic damage to a fragile economy, and moreover it gave a new lease of life to APHC leaders who were fast losing their credibility and standing. Communalisation of the Kashmiri politics will only strengthen hands of those who are against unification and independence of the State, and I hope that common sense prevails and peace returns in Jammu.

APHC leaders and their mentors want to present them as leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, but their interest is only confined to the Valley. They need to be reminded that boundaries of the State which they claim to represent stretch outside the Valley. And one such area is called Azad Kashmir where WAPDA, a Pakistani organisation established to cater for interest of Pakistan, illegally acquired vast area of Mirpur and constructed a Dam known as Mangla Dam in which entire city of Mirpur and adjacent areas were drowned. It uprooted tens of thousands of local people in 1967, and some of them are still not being properly compensated and settled.

Pakistan is not constructing dams inside Pakistani territory to meet its water and energy shortage, but WAPDA is upraising the Mangla dam which will uproot more than one hundred and twenty thousand people. I would like to see APHC leaders speaking against that and arranging protests against this illegal and forced construction. Only by speaking for rights of all parts of the State they can make claim to represent the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

To view other articles see my blog: