From 'terrorism' to freedom struggle

This Article was published in
Business Recorder (October 03, 2010)

By Sahibzada Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

In his message to the Congress on August 8, 1950, Harry Truman warned that "once a government is committed to silencing the voice of dissent, it has only one way to go. To employ increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." Nothing illustrates the Indian policy, vis-à-vis occupied Kashmir, better than the above quoted remark of the American leader.

Since its forcible occupation of valley of Jammu and Kashmir, the successive Indian governments have employed disproportionate state power to suppress the Kashmiris' demand for right to self-determination, thereby turning their back on the pledges of prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru about ascertaining the wishes of the Kashmiri people through a 'plebiscite.' The first Indian prime minister went to the extent of saying (June 26, 1952) that 'India would be prepared to change her constitution if Kashmiris do not want to be with India.'

While held Kashmir's summer of discontent and oppression enters its third season, the figures of those martyred and injured by the Indian security forces call the Indian bluff of portraying the Kashmir issue as a 'domestic problem.' As reported by the Kashmir Media Service, the total number of killings of the Kashmiris in the Indian custody are 72, including 37 men, 4 women and 31 children, only in the month of August, thereby taking the death toll to well over 100 since the second intifada began this June. More than 1505 people got seriously injured and 20 women were raped by the Indian soldiers.

Going by the Indian standards, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "was shocked and distressed to see young men and women-even children-joining the protest on the streets." He asked the Indian authorities to employ 'non-lethal' methods and deal with the protest demonstrations 'humanely'.

This underscores the magnitude of brutality demonstrated by the Indian security forces to muzzle the voice of the Kashmiris, who are up against the state might only with pebbles and stones. Two cabinet meetings and an all parties conferences on Kashmir, organised by the Indian government on September 15, 2010, failed to produce any political roadmap for resolution to the raging problem.

The only thing is that the all parties conference agreed on was sending the fact-finding delegation composed of members from all political parties to occupied Kashmir with a view to getting first hand information as to what caused unrest and turmoil at such a massive scale. The subsequent incentive package offered by the Indian authorities as bait to people of Kashmir has also failed to get any favourable response. Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Geelani was bang on target when he said that the Indian leadership failed to touch the core problem of the unrest. The issue is not economic but political ie question of right to self-determination, a point the successive Indian administrations are clueless about.

The civilian uprising of the Kashmiris has caused alarm bells in the Indian establishment, besides catching the world community and the Pakistani establishment unawares. While the resilience, courage and fortitude of the people of Kashmir would be chronicled in golden letters to the annals of history, the recent protests are accompanied by unmistakable aspects of the age-old Kashmiri struggle for political right to determine their future.

SOME POINTS ARE INSTRUCTIVE IN THIS REGARD: One, the most lethal aftermath of 9/11 was that lines differentiating between freedom struggle and terrorism got blurred. Consequently, freedom struggles being fought in Kashmir and Palestine came to be seen as terrorist campaigns in the Western world. What these demonstrations have served to remind the world of is the need for finding solutions to the political questions that involve future of those peoples.

The Kashmiris have rewritten the history and washed with their blood the allegations of terrorism raised against their freedom struggle. The world cannot shrug its responsibility any more by simply portraying these endeavours as reflections and manifestations of terrorism. If the cause of global peace is to be promoted, then addressing the root causes that spawn extremist tendencies is a sine qua non.

Two, the way the protesters have carried on their demonstrations and braved the might of the Indian security forces show that Kashmir is not the 'domestic issue' of India. The shifting of global media spotlight back on atrocities and gross violations of human rights by the Indian security forces has internationalised the Kashmir problem, forcing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to urge all sides "to show utmost restraint and address problems peacefully."

So unnerved has been the Indian establishment over this mild-worded concern of the UN Secretary General that it dubbed his call for calm as "gratuitous". India has been at pains to point to the international community that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between New Delhi and Islamabad and from this point, it has moved on to describe it as 'domestic issue', thereby forestalling any possibility of international intervention of account of Kashmir being a disputed issue.

It is a different matter that pending resolutions of the UN Security Council on Kashmir are enough to characterise it as a global issue much to chagrin of New Delhi. The Chinese refusal to grant visa to Lieutenant General B S Jaswal, chief of the Indian army's northern command, is also pregnant with implications for the Kashmir dispute.

Third and most significant aspect of these protests is their indigenous character. For long, India has been trying to implicate Pakistan holding it responsible for the militancy in Kashmir. The Pakistani Foreign Minister accurately said that "can Pakistan orchestrate thousands of people? Can Pakistan plan, sitting in Islamabad, a shutdown all over Kashmir?"

New York Times has described these protests as "an intifada-like popular revolt", which signalled "the failure of Indian effort to win the assent of Kashmiris, using just about any tool available; money, elections, and overwhelming force." What is even more remarkable is that these protests were neither planned nor led by established political parties. It is a youth-led indigenous movement born out of decade-old frustration over subjugation of their rights.

So far the response from the international community to the violations of human rights in Kashmir has been lukewarm. But the world can demonstrate this indifference only to its own peril. Sooner or later, it would come to realise the urgency of making a serious effort for resolution of the Kashmir dispute through a tripartite dialogue under the UN auspices. Nations cannot be kept in shackles of slavery for long when the old and the young take to street for getting their rights. This is the lesson history has imparted time and again.

(The writer is PhD candidate based in Australia)