Sunday, 31 August 2008

New Phase of Kashmiri struggle

New Phase of Kashmiri struggle
Dr Shabir Choudhry 31 August 2008

People of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered for many decades; and their struggle for right of self – determination and national identity has seen many twists and turns. The new and probably the last phase of this long struggle has begun.

It is claimed that the new struggle is similar to the ‘Palestinian intifada’; and is peaceful in nature and was not led by any leadership but by the ordinary people. In this new struggle ordinary people - truck drivers fruit growers, fruit sellers, shop keepers etc, who were hitherto not part of the struggle are taking a lead role; and ‘leaders’ were obliged to take part in these processions to make themselves relevant.

The previous phase which started in 1988/9 had many dimensions and many phases within it. Some claim this militant phase ‘internationalised’ the Kashmir dispute, but it also brought suffering and disaster to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Sad thing is that despite all the suffering, deaths, torture, rapes and destruction the Kashmir dispute is still viewed as a bilateral dispute which has to be resolved by India and Pakistan.

The present uprising has astonished many Kashmir watchers and some think the authorities were also taken by surprise. But some experts think there is more than that to this uprising. Local Kashmiris I have spoken to claim that it is truly indigenous movement, but similar claims were made about the uprising of 1989, which was later proved that it was sponsored from outside.

Indian authorities thought they had probably seen the worst in Jammu and Kashmir and situation was gradually returning to some kind of normalcy. The peace process, although we Kashmiris were not part of it and it did not bring any tangible results to the solution, brought some relief to the people, especially to those living in border areas.

So to the Indian policy makers there was no need to make any concessions or to take any concrete steps to resolve the dispute. They perhaps thought that they can play for time until such time when situation is favourable to them or when Pakistan is in deep trouble, and has no time and resources left to continue tinkering with the Kashmir dispute; or even worse, when Pakistan because of political contradictions and internal divisions disintegrates as a nation state.

As a political analyst I want to read between the lines and try to see what is behind the headlines. I wonder if it is just the issue of transfer of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board or something else behind it. Or is it just an excuse to give this matter a religious flavouring that people could be provoked and motivated to take extreme actions in name of religion both in the Valley and in Jammu?

SAHB was established by a Jammu and Kashmiri government of Farooq Abdullah and rightly or wrongly the land was also transferred by a Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad. Apparent purpose of this land transfer was to provide facilities to visitors that pilgrimage is made easier, which will encourage more people to visit the Shrine. Tourism whether religious or leisure brings money and creates jobs and supports local economy; and when there is widespread unemployment in the Valley why oppose actions which will ultimately promote tourism and help to end unemployment?

In the past militants threatened to stop Amarnath Yatra which is clearly against teachings of Islam. Those who stopped religious festivals and adopted violent methods for it had no interest in the local economy or welfare of the people as they were mercenaries- those who are paid to execute a mission for monetary gains. Similarly APHC leaders and other leaders have no worries about bread and butter as they know they have accumulated enough wealth that their 5/6 generations don’t need to worry about their kitchen.

Those who have vested interest in affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, and want to maintain the status quo by ensuring that the Kashmir pot continues to boil, knew very well that the New World Order DOES NOT approve militancy and terrorism. They knew Kashmir pot could not continue to boil by use of gun for too long. A new strategy was desperately needed for this, and I indicated this in June 2008, in article: ‘They are back in Islamabad’.

It must be noted here that some kind of trouble or low level insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir suits many, which could be broadly termed as vested interest. This term vested interest encompass all those who, one way or the other, have benefited from this struggle and suffering of the people, and they are on both sides of the divide and include some members of the Kashmiri Diaspora. This ‘benefit’ could be in form of wealth, power, status, undue publicity etc, and beneficiaries include people in politics, militant groups, religious groups, army and corridors of power and policy makers. Peace, stability and resolution of the Kashmir dispute is not in the interest of those who have made it a commercial enterprise.

Space for extremists

With militancy on decline and some kind of gradual normalcy returning to the Jammu and Kashmir, although still around half million armed personnel were there, political space for extremists was declining. Same was the case for the politics of APHC. They felt that days of their politics were numbered, and they would be badly exposed in the next elections which were just around the corner. They also knew that the people ignored calls of boycott at the time of the last election even situation was much worse than what it was in June 2008.

Similarly appeal of extremist politics in Jammu was on decline. Secular minded people and members of the Kashmiri civil society in Jammu and the Valley opposed forces of communalism, extremism and hatred. Extremists both in Jammu and the Valley wanted to create a political space for themselves by playing communal and regional cards.

The issue of land transfer has provided the opportunity to the extremists to assert themselves both in Jammu and in the Valley. They have used religion and regional grievances to make space for their politics, and it looks that extremists are in the driving seat in both regions, and space for secular minded people and members of the civil society is declining.

One can understand the disappointment of people with the progress of the peace process. One can also appreciate their frustration and alienation, not to mention the trauma and suffering they have endured since 1988/9; but does that mean we give in to forces of extremism? Does it mean that members of the civil society remain silent spectators and let extremists call shots in politics of Jammu and Kashmir?

People have once again expressed their feelings that they are not happy with the status quo, and I for one will welcome this peaceful struggle; but I am deeply concerned with the communalism and regionalism embedded in this new phase of the struggle. If this trend of communalism and regionalism is not checked soon my fear is that it will tarnish our struggle and perhaps lead to disintegration of the State on communal lines. Already there are talks that Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir should be divided in to three administrative units.

One Kashmir watcher said the new phase of the struggle may be peaceful, but tactics of the authorities are same as they were in 1989/90. It looks either the authorities have not learnt anything from the two decades old militant struggle or they have deliberately let the situation escalate. It is mind-blowing to think that authorities let the situation reach a certain point before taking any action, which is generally violent and result in human rights abuse and killings.

Authorities knew by being a silent spectator it only encourages the movement to have a snow ball affect. They also knew that by adopting harsh measures, as were adopted in 1989/90, they will breed more violence and further alienate people. People show their resentment and dissatisfaction by holding large peaceful processions, but that must not be construed as a support for Pakistan, as some Pakistani leaders are claiming.

They wave Pakistani flags to taunt and tease India, as they know Indian authorities will dislike it, but it doesn’t mean they want to join Pakistan. People of Jammu and Kashmir know what is going on in Pakistan. They know F16 and helicopters are in action every day to kill and destroy those Pakistanis who are demanding their rights and identity. It is wrong of Pakistani leaders to assume that Kashmiri struggle is for ‘completion of Pakistan’, when we know Pakistanis are working hard to destroy the remaining Pakistan.
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:

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Sunday, 17 August 2008

New trend in Kashmiri struggle

New trend in Kashmiri struggle
Dr Shabir Choudhry 17 August 2008

Situation in Pakistan is bothering everyone who has any interest or link with this region; and what worries people is that no one seems to be in control of the situation there, and no one knows future of the country. The situation started getting from bad to worse with Pakistan’s entry in the ‘war on terror’, which in view of many Pakistani experts was not Pakistan’s war, and if anything Pakistani agencies had their own history and experience of promoting and exporting this business.

Like politics of Pakistan it is difficult to predict future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and the on going struggle. The State is multi religious and multi ethnic; and has competing interests from various political, religious and armed groups. Politics of the State is controlled from outside of the State boundaries and people of the state suffer as a result of this control and interference.

In June when Yasin Malik and APHC leaders went to Islamabad for new ‘instructions’ and a new ‘mandate’, I wrote in article titled, ‘They are back in Islamabad’: ‘Since the new government has taken power in Pakistan role of secret agencies has reduced considerably. Pakistan is reviewing its policy on Kashmir and has said good bye to the policy of General Musharaf. New policy requires a new strategy; and new strategy has a considerable political input as well. Militancy in Jammu and Kashmir will increase and to support and justify this, political activities will be organised inside and outside Kashmir.’

Since June we have seen many changes: rise in infiltration, rise in militancy, serious and violent agitation with strong communal flavour - first in the Valley then followed by in Jammu, and political conferences organised by pro Islamabad Kashmiris in various capitals of the world. This communal aspect of the Kashmir polity is so worrying that it could create situation similar to that of 1947.

Apart from that a new and interesting development is taking place on the Pakistani side of the divide, where the local people in the Neelam Valley are demonstrating against increased presence and activities of the militants. According to BBC report of 17 August 2008, this is the second such demonstration in the area in the past six weeks. The local people closed their shops and protested in hundreds on Saturday 16th in Athmaqaam in the Neelam Valley, and demanded that activities of these militants should be controlled as this could result in cross border shelling which could make life hell for the local people.

Munir Sharafat advocate on behalf of the demonstrators said, that for the past number of weeks we have noticed increased activities of these militants. Their facial features, language and behaviour tell us that they are not Kashmiris. We are seriously concerned about their presence, as it makes us vulnerable and potential target of the Indian retaliation. He said we have enjoyed peace since November 2003 and don’t want the hostilities to resume.

The demonstrators informed Deputy Commissioner about activities of these militants and potential threat they pose to the people of the area. Before the cease fire between India and Pakistan on the LOC, Neelam Valley was the worst hit area where hostilities are fierce and more frequent because of the terrain and close proximity of the rival forces which are only divided by the small river Neelam.

Some months ago one commentator said Kashmir dispute has been removed from the back burner as both countries are occupied with other priorities. But now Jammu and Kashmir is on fire with very dangerous trends. A Russian journalist in his email to me asked: ‘What is at heart of the recent escalation of conflict? Frankly, I find it hard to believe that 40 hectares of land could have stirred the communities to the boiling point. But then, I'm not an expert on the region, regrettably’.

So what is really behind this present uprising which some believe could be as nasty as the uprising of the 1989/90, if not worse? Is it that people are frustrated with the on going peace process, although it has brought peace to the region and better understanding between the both countries, but for the people of Jammu and Kashmir there are no tangible outcome of talks spread over many years.

Apart from that both countries still have paid no attention to the repeated demand of the Kashmiri people that they want to be part of the process that they can present their case and safeguard their interest. Also people feel that they been let down by their leadership, as they have no road map for solution of the dispute and they are busy with their personal gains and rewards with little or no attention to the problems of the suffering people.

When people are on streets and hold violent demonstrations that is not a sign of popularity of APHC leaders. All it shows is that people are not satisfied with the status quo - they are not happy with what India is doing, they are not happy with the government in Jammu and Kashmir, they are not happy with their leaders, they are not happy with large concentration of army, they are not happy with activities of the militants, they are not happy with lack of opportunities and unemployment; and demonstration is one way to show their anger and frustration.

Both India and Pakistan have their own game plan and agenda on Kashmir. Pakistan under General Musharaf a few years ago showed serious desperation and a clear change of policy on Kashmir. It looked he was desperate to have a ‘solution’ to have another feather in his cap to tell the world and his own countrymen that he has finally resolved the long standing dispute which was a source of instability in South Asia and which has held back our progress.

Because of his determination, drive and somersault on Kashmir many predicted that the Kashmir dispute would be ‘resolved’ by 2007. I was among those who discarded this claim, as in my view India would use General Musharaf to achieve maximum but would not make a deal on Kashmir with a man in uniform. Indian policy was to drag it on and take heat out of the militancy and rebellion. They have experience of dragging on talks for years and decades without giving anything in return.

But those Indian policy makers who thought that they can win the day by dragging their feet were wrong. They thought that the worst is over in Kashmir, and they can wrap up things by some window dressing and by some cosmetic changes. Perhaps they also thought that the other party to the dispute was sincere and both would jointly crush ‘terrorism’ and eradicate violence for ever, forgetting that both have contradictory claims on Kashmir and divergent interests both in South Asia and in the wider world. Interests of the parties and rules of game can change with changing situation and that is what has happened.

Things don’t always work out as we plan or expect them to happen. India had full control of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir for decades and very popular leaders sincerely helped them to make progress in Jammu and Kashmir. Then question is what went wrong? We can say Pakistani agencies also had hand in the matter but Indian policy makers also need to have a serious appraisal of their Kashmir policy, as one can only put so much under the carpet or continue to blame others.

Kashmir dispute is a serious matter although some have made a business out of it; and it needs serious and sincere attention. It has to be understood in its true perspective and appropriate strategy needs to be in place to resolve it. If we continue to play with sentiments of the people and continue to treat it as a territorial dispute or a religious matter then we could have another partition on communal lines.

We must remember that wounds of the communal partition which took place in 1947 have not been healed yet, and some people have let the communal genie out of a bottle again, and fear is that it will claim many innocent lives and destroy peace and harmony in the State. Those who believe in humanity, liberal and democratic rights for all, need to tell all concerned that Jammu and Kashmir is one political entity, and we would not allow division of the State; and that our struggle is for unification and independence.
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:

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Kashmiri struggle in 2008

Kashmiri struggle in 2008
Dr Shabir Choudhry 13 August 2008

New phase of the Kashmiri struggle or whatever we want to call it in view of communalism, proxy war and terrorism, has been going on since 1947; and yet we people of Jammu and Kashmir have not been able to put our priorities right. We have not been able to differentiate between freedom and occupation. We have also failed to understand designs of both countries on Kashmir, and formulate appropriate policies to promote and advance a Kashmiri interest.

In view of the above can we make a valid claim to get independence and be recognised as a free nation and play our due role in comity of nations, especially when what are known as Kashmiri leaders, at best have been acting as puppets of either one country or the other and promoting and defending interest of either India or Pakistan?

Despite lack of democracy and encroachment of civil liberties the State of Jammu and Kashmir was one political entity in 1947. People of the State irrespective of their religious and cultural affiliations regarded themselves as Kashmiris, distinctly different from India and Pakistan; and wanted to maintain that difference.

Today the unfortunate State is forcibly divided in many parts, and people of the State are divided on religious, cultural, regional and ethnic lines. These divisions have never been so deep and so frightening in the history of the State, and it looks that those powers who are behind these moves are paving the way for the division of the state on communal and regional lines.

Call it armed struggle, jihad, terrorism or a proxy war it destroyed fundamental character of the Kashmiri society, and Kashmiri struggle for right of self determination. This armed struggle which was initiated, supported and promoted by secret agencies of Pakistan resulted in human rights violations and deepened the divisions in the Kashmiri society.

In this struggle a Pakistani gun and agenda was implemented by using a Kashmiri shoulder. It was presented to us by Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership as a Kashmiri struggle for liberation; and with hindsight we see that we Kashmiris were used as a raw material in this proxy war, and it added to our misery and suffering.

A few days ago a ‘friend’ who is still part of controversial nationalist group of JKLF invited me to take part in a picket outside an Indian High Commission on 15th August. According to him it was to demonstrate that India got independence on this date and they have occupied our country - Jammu and Kashmir. I said to him that Pakistan got independence one day before India, and Pakistan has also occupied some parts of Jammu and Kashmir; wouldn’t it be better to have a demonstration outside Pakistani High Commission first followed by one outside the Indian High Commission.

This friend said, how can we have a demonstration outside Pakistani High Commission, they are helping us against Indian occupation, can’t you see how the Indian army has killed innocent people who were peacefully proceeding towards LOC. I said to him that I condemned this brutal killing. There was no need to kill and torture people like that, but the Pakistani army did the same thing in1992 and more than 8 innocent people lost their lives.

I explained to him that in 1992 the JKLF people tried to cross the LOC from the AJK side and they were also innocent and wanted to proceed to the LOC peacefully, they were killed by the Pakistani army. Prior to this tragedy, National Students Federation members who were trying to cross the LOC were also killed and tortured by the Pakistan army. When it comes to enforcing ‘law and order’ or enforcing ‘writ of government’ army is trained to kill and torture, as it is happening in Jammu and Kashmir and in Swat, Balochistan, North West Frontier and FATA; or as it happened when Red Mosque was invaded and destroyed in name of enforcing ‘writ of government’.

I further said India virtually lost Kashmir Valley in 1990/1, however despite other heavy handedness India did not use helicopter gun ships or air force against Muslim militants; in Pakistan on the other hand helicopter gun ships and F 16 are regularly used to target alleged Muslim ‘terrorists’ in which innocent Pakistani Muslims are killed and their houses are destroyed. If you need any further evidence how Pakistani forces behave when asked to deal with ‘rebels’ or with those who demand rights then read history of East Pakistan or Bangladesh; or even ask members of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front how they were treated in 1970/1 during investigations regarding Ganga Hijacking.

I said without being pro this or anti that one can see a nation whose leadership takes pride in ‘selling’ their (Pakistani) sons and daughters for sake of American dollars, just take example of Dr Afia Sadiqqi who was arrested in Karachi with her three young children and has ended up in America, and where - about of her three young children is still not known. Do you expect any mercy or better treatment from rulers and establishment of this country? If they treat their own people like butchers and regard them as an economic commodity don’t expect that they will treat us Kashmiris differently.

Knowledge of this friend was limited and he was having difficulty in justifying his argument, so he surrendered by saying that he could not compete with me in knowledge and argument. He said he was a loyal member of the JKLF and wanted to follow the party decision and the JKLF leaders. I appreciated his ‘loyalty’ but added that loyalty of his leaders is not with the JKLF or its ideology. Their loyalty is with agencies of our neighbours who reward them handsomely.

I said decision to hold a picket outside an Indian High commission was taken else where but only endorsed in your meeting. Your leadership discussed it with relevant quarters, agreed certain terms and conditions and then brought this issue to your meeting to be approved. Normally committee of personal and party loyalists do not disagree with any decision which is presented to them as approved by the top leadership, especially there is always hundred per cent unanimity when any actions is related to India.

This friend agreed with almost everything I said, but added that ‘you have always been critical of top JKLF leadership and Pakistan. And now that I have left the JKLF I should not criticise JKLF and its policies, as it hurts us and that we will also criticise you and make allegations against you’.

Whether he or some one else criticise me or not it is immaterial, what is important is the attitude of the Kashmiri people and especially that of ‘nationalist’ parties. It is unfortunate to note that despite this long struggle, sacrifices, and suffering on massive scale we as a nation have not been able to decide our priorities. We Kashmiris still have not been able to decide who is enemy of our independence and who is deceiving us in name of religion and brotherhood. It is unfortunate that many of us still view Kashmir dispute in the context of Muslims and non Muslims, and accept whatever is presented to us by media and organisations controlled by Islamabad.

My colleagues and I have always regarded Jammu and Kashmir as one political entity, and have promoted cause of united and independent Kashmir, and advanced non - communal politics as Kashmir dispute is not a religious one. But it is unfortunate to note that in 2008 we Kashmiris are more divided and more communalised then we were in 1947; and gulf between the regions and communities is widening.

Jammu and the Valley have different priorities and are playing in hands of those who want to play a religious card in order to divide the people on communal lines and advance their politics. Ladakh apart from the ‘Kargil war’ has not bee affected by the militancy; and has different agenda and has no interest with what is going on in other two regions. Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan have no contact with each other and have different priorities and interests. People of Azad Kashmir, forgetting their own miseries and problems are seemed to be more concerned with what goes on across the LOC, and virtually accept everything what is presented to them by the Pakistani media.

By promoting religious politics are we not playing in hands of extremists who want to justify Two Nations Theory that Muslims and non Muslims cannot live together, hence pave way for division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines.

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: