Monday, 8 June 2009

Another own goal

Another own goal
Dr Shabir Choudhry 08 June 2009

A friend phoned me and asked me about this tragic incident in Shopian where two innocent girls were allegedly raped and killed. ‘It was tragic and blatant abuse of human rights’, I said to him.

He said, “If you really think it was human rights abuse and you condemn it then why have you not written against it?” I told him no one can say it was not human rights abuse; and every person with conscience will condemn that; but do we need to write an article on every rape and every murder which takes place?

Tragic is the incident of Shopian – it must be very agonising for the relatives and friends of the families concerned, but is it not true that in most Third World countries- and even in so called advanced and civilised countries - human rights abuse, rapes and murders are common. Does that mean one has to write an article to demonstrate that he/she condemns it?

Kashmir, especially the Valley has been unfortunate in this context where tens of thousands of people have lost their lives and people are imprisoned, killed in torture cells and women suffered rapes and humiliation. I and many other people including human rights activists condemn all this; and demand that the culprits must be punished for these crimes.

While no one can justify rape and murder, but at the same time we have to ask ourselves why all this is taking place. Did Indian forces burst in to houses of civilians in Kashmir, killed people, harassed them, torture them and raped women before 1988/9. Or all this started when we Kashmiris agreed to wage a ‘proxy war’ - in name of Jihad and freedom struggle on behalf of Islamabad that they can settle an old score with their arch foe India.

Now even in view of Islamabad that struggle or jihad is ‘terrorism’; but at that time both parties were happy with the arrangements: we Kashmiris agreed to get gun from ISI, get their training, take their money and other rewards and shot at the targets selected by them. Pakistani agencies were happy to provide all the above and more that India could be taught a lesson. By doing this did we people of Jammu and Kashmir expected that India will award us with bravery medals and welcome us with flowers?

India reacted to this just like any other power of occupation does, and we people of the State suffered immensely because of this. No doubt people of the Valley suffered more than others, and we all feel for that, but is it not true that the Kashmiri leadership also has to share the blame for suffering and misery of the people. The leadership failed to lead, because they were not leaders rather most of them were ‘proxies’; and were on pay role of agencies and lacked vision and clarity.

This is not to mitigate the offences or crimes committed in Kashmir, but the fact is that all forces of occupation commit human rights abuse. Even those countries who claim to be champions of human rights and call themselves civilized nations are culprits in this regard; and one only has to see what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan to judge their lofty claims. But they are clever and have developed a sophisticated system to influence people; and even when they kill thousands of innocent people, with help of their powerful media it is presented as a service to humanity, democracy and justice.

What India has done in Kashmir cannot be justified, and I will be the last person to justify that; but as a thinking person who has ability to analyse and make comparisons, I can visualise how Pakistan would have reacted if people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir or people of Gilgit and Baltistan had borrowed guns from India and waged a war against a Pakistani rule.

One only has to see what is going on in Swat, various parts of FATA and Balochistan, where helicopter gunships, jet fighters, heavy guns, tanks and commandoes are in action to kill Pakistanis and Muslims. More than 3 million people are made homeless and they are suffering in camps in this heat with enormous problems, and with very little support form the authorities. Some displaced people complain that they have been uprooted for the past 5 weeks and still there is no help from the government.

The Pakistani government and the army reacted in the same manner in 1970/1, when people of East Pakistan asked for their democratic rights. It is claimed that millions of people were made homeless, thousands women were raped and around three million lost their lives.

In Swat majority of people were not against Pakistan, and yet they suffered this ordeal. It is claimed by the displaced people that more people have lost their lives because of the army shelling and aerial bombardment than at hands of the Taliban. People had no choice but to flee for their lives and leave everything behind.

In the Kashmir Valley on the other hand majority of the people were against the Indian rule, and during 1990/1 it looked as India had lost. The system of government had totally collapsed, with militants calling the shots. Yet I could not remember Indian army or para military forces using jet fighters, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery, and tanks etc. Yes they were brutal. They killed, they tortured, there were custodial deaths and there were rapes; and none of that could be justified.

But if past history of Pakistan army, and present on going war and tragedy is anything to go by, then Pakistani army and agencies would have been no better. If they can do that to their own Pakistani Muslims, what will they do to us Kashmiris who are not part of Pakistan and who DONOT want to be part of Pakistan?

It is alleged that culprits in the Shopian tragedy are members of CRPF who have bases in the area, but there is no conclusive evidence to assert this claim. This tragic incident has once again demonstrated that human rights abuse still goes on there, and that people of the Valley are still angry. Despite the large turn out in the recent elections (which was to exercise their democratic right and elect their Assembly Members that they can help them in every day problems), the people of the Valley do not hesitate to express their resentment against New Delhi.

People of Kashmir have expressed their anger against this tragic incident. The government promised to take strong and quick action against the culprits, but there hasn’t been any visible progress on this matter which is fuelling public anger.

All parties connected to the Kashmir dispute have scored own goals. The Kashmiri leadership from 1947 to date have many own goals to their credit. The Government of India have many times scored own goals; and it looks that from time to time they score own goals. The last own goal was related to Amar Nath Cave and the land transfer issue. The Shopian incident, tragic as it is, has strengthened the defunct APHC, and it is viewed by some as another own goal by New Delhi.

It is not clear whether these own goals are scored by accidents and negligence or they are scored to provide new lease of life to the defunct APHC and its leadership which is generally out of step with demands of the independence struggle and geo political situation of the area.

Whoever is the culprit in this tragedy must be found and punished. The government of India is accustomed to scoring own goals and get away with the consequences. The government of Omar Abdullah is new and people have many hopes from it as well; but if it fails to investigate and punish the culprits then it will be an own goal, which could prove very costly.

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.
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