Monday, 26 April 2010

Role of Kashmiri leaders

Role of Kashmiri leaders 20 April 2010

Text of Dr Shabir Choudhry’s speech for a Conference organised by International Forum for Justice and Human Rights Forum Jammu and Kashmir at 11 AM on April 21, 2010 at Hotel, Taj Lal Chock, Srinagar.

Mr Chairman, friends, colleagues and honourable Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabeer Ahmad Shah, Mohmmad Yaseen Malik, Advocate Mian Abdul Quyoom, Mohatrama Asiya Andrabi and others aslamo alaykam.

I am grateful to International Forum for Justice and Human Rights Forum and Eng. Mehmood for providing this opportunity to speak to this august gathering on a topic which is extremely important to people of Jammu and Kashmir and our struggle.

It was my wish to be physically present in this important conference, interact with the people, and learn more about the situation there. However, due to short notice, and problems encountered to air industry by the Iceland volcano eruption it was not possible for me to be physically present in this important Conference. I hope that the organisers of this conference will read my short message to the audience.

Title of this conference is very interesting: “THE ROLE OF PRO-FREEDOM LEADERS VIS-À-VIS KASHMIR ISSUE”.

But before we go any further we need to establish what we mean by ‘pro freedom leaders’? Does it mean leaders who promote freedom? But what kind of freedom we have in mind? Do we mean freedom to hold certain views, freedom to travel, freedom to assemble and freedom to preach etc? Or are we confusing the term ‘freedom’ with independence.

What we need is not freedom, but independence. We want right of self determination and not right of accession with another country. We need to be clear in our political terms and ideologies. It is the job of the leaders to ensure that they don’t confuse the masses. They must have clear vision. They must know what they want to achieve; and how they should achieve it.

The role of leaders is to lead, but not in to difficulties and problems. Their duty is to lead people to clearly defined and set out destination; a destination, which can bring peace, dignity and honour to the Kashmiri nation, and which can enhance our national identity and sense of belonging.

Those who lead people to misery and quandary could not be called leaders. They could be called opportunists and collaborators. The role of leaders is to boost morale of the people. The job of leaders is to protect life, liberty, honour and property of the people; and not to test their patience and promote their politics while people are suffering.

You have right to disagree with me, but in my opinion, the last leader we people of Jammu and Kashmir had was Sheikh Abdullah. As a human being he also made some mistakes, but he was the tallest leader Kashmiris ever had; and enjoyed support of all sections and regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is sad that we don’t have any leader in todays Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of a leader we have many regional, tribal, sectarian and religious leaders, each having its small area of influence and its own small undemocratic and autocratic party.

It is bad luck of the nation that some of these leaders and parties are not promoting interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They do not promote unity and Kashmiri culture of tolerance and coexistence. They seem to be more interested in either promoting interests of our neighbours or interests of their parties, regions and sects.

Some of these leaders pursue this kind of politics not because it is in the interest of the people or supports the Kashmiri freedom struggle, but because it advances their personal agenda. Moreover they get rewards for doing this from certain quarters, as these policies divide people and make the struggle and the people of Jammu and Kashmir weaker.

The policies these leaders advance do not unite people of Jammu and Kashmir; rather they divide them on ethnic, regional and religious lines. These policies might suit some leaders or certain groups and neighbours of Jammu and Kashmir, but certainly do not suit people of Jammu and Kashmir. These policies divide people of Jammu and Kashmir. They weaken our struggle. They antagonise communities and help those who want to divide our motherland on communal or regional lines.

I am sure those who regard themselves as leaders would not like what I have stated. They will be angry with me, but they should know that in public life people are accountable for their actions. Apart from that someone need to tell them that their policies are wrong; and their strategies are out of step with requirement of the Kashmiri struggle.

They also need to have appraisal of their policies and politics they promote. Why is that after more than two decades of the struggle, and enormous sacrifices we are no nearer to our most cherished goal of independence. Why is it that despite tens of thousands of deaths of Kashmiri people the Kashmiri struggle is seen in the context of India and Pakistan? Why is it that the Kashmir dispute is to be resolved by India and Pakistan; and people of Jammu and Kashmir or their leaders are not part of any negotiations?

Does it not prove that there is something wrong with the strategy in operation since 1947? Does it not show, to outside world that the dispute is between India and Pakistan?

We have to present our struggle as a struggle of people of Jammu and Kashmir – a struggle which is for unfettered right of self determination; and not to join Pakistan. We have to tell the world that it is not a religious struggle or struggle of one region. By making it a struggle to join Pakistan we may get some favours from Pakistan, but we are harming the interests of the Kashmiri nation. We are excluding non Muslims and some regions from our struggle and paving the way for division of the State on religious or ethnic lines.

South Asia still has not recovered from the wounds of religious divisions which took place in 1947; and by advancing another division on religious lines we are not doing any favour to the Kashmiri nation or people of South Asia.

Furthermore, when this impression is given that people of Kashmir are giving all these sacrifices to join Pakistan, the international community laugh at our wisdom. Which Pakistan people of Kashmir want to join, they question? Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan is no longer there, and the remaining Pakistan is going through a civil war and is in deep crises.

Does it show our political maturity or naivety when we say that we want to be part of this Pakistan? Nations and ethnic groups fight to preserve their traditions, their history their identity and their culture; and what will happen to our identity and culture when and if we join Pakistan?

Apart from that these leaders appear to be leaders of some sections of the Muslim community in the Valley, as not all Muslims support them. So question is what is their credibility? When and how did they establish their credibility? Having a demonstration against India does not prove their credentials, as that is resentment of people against India and against what they have endured for many years.

Also it was the same people who defied their calls to boycott the last elections and used their votes in large numbers to demonstrate that these leaders were out of touch with changing mood of the people and their requirements. So a big demonstration or a strike action does not establish leadership credentials.

All these respected leaders have to sincerely analyse their policies and make a new strategy which should include how to reach out to all regions of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It is for them to decide if they want to limit their influence to some towns of the Valley and make it a Valley centric struggle or reach out to the people of other regions and try to win their confidence.

They need to speak out that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is occupied and appropriate strategy needs to be formulated to fight this occupation. A strategy which is perhaps appropriate for conditions in the Valley, might not be appropriate in Gilgit Baltistan which is occupied by Pakistan.

Among the leaders sitting here include those who I have known for many years. I hope that they won’t be annoyed by observations I have made very sincerely. I wish you all the best with this conference, and sincerely hope that the leaders present here will be able to formulate a policy which will be suitable to our struggle for unification and independence of the State.

Dr Shabir Choudhry
A leader of Kashmir National Party, writer, author and political analyst.

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