Identifying with Kashmiris’ struggle
Momin Iftikhar
2/3/2011

 

From all the information that I have, 95 percent of Kashmiri Muslims do not wish to be or remain Indian citizens. I doubt therefore the wisdom of trying to ‘keep’ people by force where they don’t wish to stay.

Jayaprakash Narayan in a letter to Nehru; May 1, 1956. Following the course of Kashmiris’ resistance in the backdrop of September Eleven paradigm shift in the global politics, it is manifest that the Movement has undergone a substantive change. The armed rebellion that burst out into open in December 1989 was indicative of the fact that the Kashmiris had lost patience with the charade of electoral exercise that India had been presenting to the world as ‘proof’ of their exercise of right of self-determination. Their four decades long experience with India had shown that unless Kashmiris resorted to extreme measures their political demands would continue to be treated with disdain; even contempt.

Such a realization had been long in coming. India’s founding fathers had tended to highly underrate Kashmiris’ determination for actualizing their political ambitions and had a poor opinion of the “Kashmiri masses”.

Indira Gandhi wrote to Nehru from Sri Nagar on May 14, 1948; “All this political talk would count for nothing, after all the people are concerned with only one thing - they want to sell their goods and to have food and salt.” The people had no mind and no soul, Nehru repeated this view to Sheikh Abdullah on Aug 25, 1952; “The common people are primarily interested in a few things - an honest administration and cheap and adequate food.”

This attitude of taking Kashmiri masses for granted was to cost India dearly when the magnitude of the electoral malpractices in 1987 crossed all limits. The backlash saw the young political firebrands like Shabbir Shah, Yasin Malik and Javed Mir taking to gun and going underground to seek ‘azadi’ from India by throwing a gauntlet to India’s military might.

The armed resistance gathered its momentum till 2001 when September Eleven provided a windfall to Indian politicians to equate the Kashmiri armed resistance as terrorism.

The dynamics of the war on terrorism tended to discredit the claims by the Kashmiri militants that they were engaged in waging a struggle for securing their internationally sanctioned cause of self-determination. The Kashmir centric militant organizations like LeT and Jaish-e-Muhammad were designated by the US as terrorist organizations reinforcing India’s contentions that Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination was illegitimate.

The New York Times speculated that President Bush seemed to be siding with India over Kashmir telling the Pakistanis “that any further backing for armed Islamic militant groups operating in held Kashmir will be tantamount to supporting terrorism.” But Indian jubilations over such fortuitous developments were short lived.

What happened next couldn’t have been gauged by the Indian leadership; the guns could be fought and controlled by deploying boots on ground but the changing global environment set free the much under-rated political aspirations of the masses in Kashmir.

The 9/11 had transformed the nature of Kashmiri freedom movement - changing in character from essentially an armed resistance to embrace the tactics of non-violence. This was manifest in the summer of 2008 when a transfer of 100 acres of Kashmiri forest land to Shri Amar Nath Shrine Board for construction of staging facilities for the Hindu pilgrims, caused a mass upheaval.

This was certainly a portent of things to come since Yatra, a pilgrimage to a cave holding a stalagmite icicle shaped as a Hindu deity had been going on for over a century under the stewardship of Kashmiri Muslims; duly welcomed and facilitated by the local population.

The strength of the collective resistance was in full view when on 11 August, 500,000 people participated in a rally that marched towards the LoC; threatening to breach it. Fifteen people were killed when the police opened fire but the event rocked the IHK with the fury of a mighty volcano coming alive; the coalition government of Congress and PDP crumbled in face of mounting public anger and frustration. A watershed had been reached.

According to Shobna Sonpar, an eminent Delhi based psychologist, and author of an incisive book on Kashmir; Violent Activism, following the Amar Nath land row Kashmir is simmering with palpable anger across the valley, particularly among the youth.

“What is different now compared to some years ago is that the sense of victimization, the hyper sensitivity to threats to Muslim identity, the outrage at human rights violations by security forces are being publicly expressed by large segments of Kashmiri society, including women and children and not just those who took up the militancy,” she says.

Kashmir is simmering with anger and instead of bullets the youngsters expressing their alienation with Indian occupation are doing so by hurling stones at the police and paramilitary forces.

This is indicative of the dawn of a new era whereby a generation raised on a diet of Indian atrocities and thoroughly alienated with India has come of age. The civil society of Kashmir is getting organized to challenge the Indian state authority and the power of mass non-violent resistance has shown that it is way stronger and more effective as compared to the impact of armed struggle launched by a small yet determined band of freedom fighters.

The mass uprising has laid bare the Indian claims that the Kashmiris have thrown in their lot with India consequent to the exercise of sham elections. If one was to believe the Indian stance then why are the tumultuous throngs of Kashmiris shouting at India to set them free? One might ask.

Pakistan’s diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris, in their struggle for freedom from India, is a great source of strength for the Kashmiri masses. Now that India has joined the two years term as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, and aspires to be inducted as a permanent member, Pakistan must project her double speak and the exploitation of Kashmiris and the brazen manner in which it is subverting their call to exercise the UN promised right of self-determination. It is a golden opportunity, which needs to be seized to expose the true face of India’s hegemonic credentials, as it aspires to mark its rising profile at the global forum.