I am a bird flying over a battlefield, a dog drinking water from a pond filled with the mutilated human bodies, an old tree standing muted as an orphan silently weeps against my trunk, a gun that is slave to its master, today let me be TRUTH and let me reveal myself as I am. The story of Kashmir is so grotesque that an attempt to distil the good from the bad, the friend from the foe, the opportunist from the aimless will lead nowhere, as the boundary between them is so imperceptible and blurred. In Kashmir survival by being as obscure as possible, is an achievement worthy of appreciation, and then you need to be infinitely blessed to miss the bullets and dungeons. According Israeli film director Udi Aloni’s documentary KASHMIR: JOURNEY TO FREEDOM, the once paradise has the highest people to army ratio in the world. Since January 1989 to September 30, 2009 Total Killings 93,018 Custodial Killings 6,962 Civilians Arrested 116,437 Structures Arsoned/Destroyed 105,758 Women Widowed 22,706 Children Orphaned 107,280 Women gang-raped / Molested 9,888 Source: (http://www.kmsnews.org)
Most people do not take an interest in history; as a result, truth often eludes them, hence even a sincere debate on Kashmir will come to nothing as the discussion will miss a whole gamut of things that are pivotal in the shaping of the present day situation of Kashmir. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian Prime Minister in his address to the people of India from All India Radio, on November 2, 1947 said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given (and the Maharajah has supported it) not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have referendum held under international auspices like the UN. We want it to be a fair and just reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict. I can imagine no fairer and just offer”. Things were peaceful prior to the influx of militancy in 1989 yet no steps were taken by India to fulfil the promises it had made not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. In a recent interview, Mr. Yasin Malik, chairman of JKLF in his characteristic bland voice said that the reason behind the taking up of arms in 1989 was to convey to the world conscience and Indian conscience in particular that the people of Kashmir want the right to self-determination as promised in 1947. He alleged that it was the indifferent and non-cooperative policies of the Indian government towards a peaceful democratic freedom struggle that prompted and made it absolutely necessary for his fellowmen to seek answers from the barrel of the gun. According to him, the people of Kashmir should be involved in a process where their destiny is decided as all the decisions about their destiny have been made by others and later communicated to them.
In the aftermath of the 2008 Amarnath land row which brought the region on the brink of cataclysmic consequences, it would be asinine on the part of the Indian political system to paper over the cracks, rather it would be in the interests of India as much as the rest of the sub-continent, that is on the verge of incineration, to find an amicable and lasting solution to this sub-continental hot potato in honour of its own commitments. Approximately 62 years later people and political scientists alike are in an imbroglio over the course that the problem of Kashmir would take. The statistics already mentioned above belie India’s claims that the problem can be dealt internally without any foreign supervision, assistance or interference. While it has become evident after the overt demonstration of humungous peaceful protests that Kashmiris do not consider themselves to be a part of Indian republic, perchance too many resources & time have been used up in grasping such a crystalline fact. It took more than a decade & many Algerian lives before French intellectuals committed themselves to the Algerian cause. One thing that cannot be refuted by any rhetorical statement or performance is – Kashmir historically was never a part of any other territory in the subcontinent. The legality of this statement is hammered home by the fact that almost a million protestors gathered at Eidgah Srinagar, in August 2008 at the behest of Hurriyat Conference (a pro-freedom organization) to vehemently oppose the illegal occupation of their land.
Whose Kashmir? A question, highly debatable, yet, easily answerable. Assuming Kashmir to be an integral part of India, the logical deductions arrived at fulfil our appetite for clarity. If, in a democratic set-up like India, Kashmir is a part of India, it must be because of the willingness of the people of Kashmir. Therefore, the criterion for the state of a state is its own will, as is in most situations that are dealt with rationality From quarters unlinked to the reality of Kashmir, allegations of fanning the sparks have been raised against the separatists, which implicitly authenticate the presence of sparks. Fanning only imparts color to the sparks that are already present. The constant barrage of fear and human rights violations has left the people of Kashmir dehumanized, as Abdullah a laborer puts it,” Watching death and destruction from close quarters has made me numb towards emotions, now even though I want to feel sad, it seems as if I am a stone.
Kashmiris feel that, their being branded as ‘REBELS’ is often used derogatorily, the same word holding awe and inspiration when used for people like Martin Luther King or Che Guevara who also stood up for the right causes. Albert Camus defines in his book, The Rebel, defines rebel as a man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation. He is also a man who says yes; from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion. A slave who has taken orders all his life suddenly decides that he cannot obey some new command. What does he mean by saying “no”? He means for example, that “this has been going too far,” or, again, “there is a limit beyond which you shall not go.” Camus these lines sum up the general mindset of the people of Kashmir, who after suffering at the hands of Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras are revelling in their newfound way of saying, NO. All issues can be settled by peaceful talks and that sounds like a solution that will last the test of various issues but to keep away from political naivety, one has to lift the eyes off philosophical discourses & look around. Gun that glues Kashmir to India also brings people to round tables for talks, as in the final analysis the struggle between the parties concerned draws focus towards the axis of power. Do oppressed deserve help or should policy of non-interference be followed, as in a jungle. If that were the case then deletion of chapters on international brotherhood from children’s books needs implementation straight away to lessen their academic burden. In present day world if people irrespective of their origins try to show concern for some international violations of human rights, the words that surface on our TV screens are intrusion, war on democracy, victims of international terrorism.
No act of terrorism on people, not even remotely responsible for the cause, of the act of terrorism, is justified because justification of a crime is worse than the original offence. Since people who obey the inner commands usually do not come under the purview of a “powerful-state” agency hence the term “terrorist.” I remember a small story from Noam Chomsky book; Pirates and Emperors, Old and New. A captured pirate was presented before Alexander the Great. Their conversation; ATG – How he dares molest the sea.PIRATE – How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a little ship, I am called a thief; you doing it with a great navy, are called an Emperor. What is freedom for Kashmiris? An idea to live with and to die for. If India talks of peaceful measures of arriving at a solution that is in harmony with the aspirations of the unarmed people of Kashmir, what are 0.7 million Indian security personnel doing there. Perhaps checking & ascertaining the identity of people who own, love & die for their land. What laws prohibit the taking up of arms against aggression that crush the right to live & do people need to follow laws when the same laws permit a soldier to “kill at whim.” The question of what if every other state in India starts asking for independence has strangulated the reason of most policy makers. Babur invaded India not because it was a conglomerate of small states, but mutually fighting states. A geographical fact that will be of help later is that England’s total area is approximately equal to that of Tamil Nadu. Had these states stood united perhaps history might have been different but union by dissolving boundaries is absurd unless a common idea runs like a thread through them that makes them one people. Lack of a common motive, leads to the negation of the idea of one for all & all for one. British are credited with uniting the Indian subcontinent, which is in fact a serious fallacy of perception, since what was an imperialistic ambition of controlling as many resources & land, is seen as an act of uniting diverse cultures.
The thing is that a single administrative system was prevalent, which has often been confused by historians with unity. India was made because of its freedom struggle, it was not. Relations between India & Kashmir carry lot of ambiguity & misconceptions. It is possible to tell a person by his laugh & a nation by its policies. India has failed to force Kashmir to be its integral part, even though it claims to have done everything possible for them. Hence an implicit agreement to the fact that some force is being applied. Further, a barter relation between freedom & its price is presented where price being equal to the disappearance of huge amount of subsidies & special rights under Article 370. India’s policies in Kashmir are at best slipshod, even in terms of its own interests. The policies that have failed to force Kashmir to be a part of India are zero industrial growth, unaccountability in govt. depts., gradual infusion of large number of beggars from various parts of India, resulting in various nefarious activities, responsible for the gradual weakening of the moral fabric of the society, extreme unemployment, etc. India’s great expectations of winning over the hearts of people with such policies have met with the only result possible i.e. volcanic rebuttals in the form of mass protests that have thrown the garrulous media along with the issues of economic blockade and Amarnath land transfer into the muck. Like most things, freedom comes at a price. What is the price of freedom in the valley? Here we face difficulty, with regard to the mode of payment of this price. Not only is the mode of payment different, rather, more than the price has already been paid. No measuring rod can establish parity between, ‘huge subsidies & special rights under Article 370′ & deaths of more than one lakh innocent people, thousands of widows and orphans and the delayed economic development which in the present scenario takes trifling importance. Views are as diverse as people are, over the development in a probable independent Kashmir. Kashmir in an independent state will have to take a path of development in tune with its resources & potential for growth. The level of development that would be achieved, whether high or low would be by far acceptable to the present status of stagnation & slavery. Hence, the question of going back to India is not an option worth bothering about. What is important to note is the nature of the Kashmir problem, which is highly political. A noteworthy observation is the realization among the people of Kashmir of the eternal wisdom What is done for you, let it be done for you What you must do yourself, make sure you do it.
Yasir Yousuf Bhat
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wattsdave/123138356/]