ONCE again, India-held Kashmir is in the grip of chaos. At least 30 people have died in the violence triggered by the killing last Friday of Burhan Wani, a young separatist militant, by the Indian army.
More bloodshed can be expected unless the security forces refrain from resorting to brute force that has included the use of live ammunition to disperse angry protesters.
It is a familiar scenario, with the usual condemnations emanating from Kashmiri leaders. But the latter can do little unless they come together to try and revive international interest in the Kashmir dispute by persistently pointing to the injustices inflicted on the ordinary public, and highlighting the Kashmir dilemma as a historical one that needs a political solution.
The key issue is that New Delhi has always looked upon the Kashmir unrest as a law and order problem. Its position that Pakistan fuels dissent within IHK is untenable, for while Islamabad did, in the past, actively encourage Kashmiri separatist groups, today it offers moral and diplomatic support.
Indeed, the current disaffection with New Delhi’s rule is very much an indigenous Kashmiri phenomenon, while India’s harsh methods are helping create a new generation of militants, such as the late Burhan Wani.
For nearly three decades, India’s approach has failed to pacify Kashmir.
Now new ideas are needed that can help bring peace to this troubled region. In Srinagar, the BJP rules in a coalition government with the PDP.
Considering that the BJP is in power both in Srinagar and at the centre, surely the party has a good idea of the Kashmiris’ suffering and can advise New Delhi accordingly.
Sadly, the ruling party, instead of working on ways to calm tensions, is focusing on plans such as diluting or removing Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which recognises Kashmir’s special status.
Such a move would only fuel further disaffection in the region. A wiser approach is needed — one which would involve discussing Kashmir in the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue with Islamabad, whenever that resumes — with the Kashmiris themselves taking an active part in the conversation.
A peaceful solution acceptable to Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir should be the goal arrived at on the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, it is unfortunate that the reaction on this side of the fence to the violence in IHK has been lukewarm.
While there has been condemnation by the Foreign Office, in Azad Kashmir, where leaders never tire of pledging their allegiance to the ‘Kashmir cause’, parties are too busy electioneering to raise a voice against injustices across the LoC.
Mainstream politicians, too, are barely moved. For example, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s comments about the Sharif-Modi friendship harming Kashmir’s cause appear to be aimed more at the PPP’s rivals than at raising genuine concern about the violence in IHK.
Pakistan’s position on Kashmir will only be undermined if leaders here resort to such politicking.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2016
2. Kashmir seethes again (Editorial: Express Tribune)
For much of the time Indian-administered Kashmir runs on an undercurrent of barely-contained anger as far as the general populace is concerned, but from time to time an event happens which causes the pot to boil over. It was the death of young separatist leader Burhan Wani that triggered the most recent incidents that have left 18 dead so far and a widely-defied curfew. It is alleged that Wani was a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen and he was a charismatic figure, one of the ‘new breed’ of separatist activists who have known nothing other than a life under Indian occupation. PM Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the killing of innocent people and the excessive use of force against those who were protesting.
The Kashmir issue remains the single greatest impediment to peaceful relations and regional development in the entire sub-continent. The UN in a Security Council resolution has affirmed the right of Kashmiris to self-determination. For all the difference it has made it might as well not have been passed at all. India is no more interested in compliance that it was decades ago and is sufficiently powerful to fly in the face of world opinion regarding human rights and prolonged injustice. The prospect of resolution through a plebiscite is nowhere in sight.
At the same time as events above were in train there was deadly violence in Azad Kashmir’s Haveli district, between supporters of the PPP and the PML-N who were supposedly jointly celebrating an Eid Milan party. Five died. Both parties appear to have opened fire on one another and there was widespread looting and burning of public property. Once again political differences led to death and wanton destruction and once again the tensions that underlie Azad Kashmir proved to be uncontainable. There is no prospect of that changing in the foreseeable future and Kashmir as a whole, whoever rules or administers it, appears condemned to a miserable existence. It could all have been so different, but bad history makes a pitiless master.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2016
3. The Kashmiri Spirit (Editorial: The Nation)
As death clouds circle Kashmir once again, the voices for freedom grow louder in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). The extra-judicial killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani, a prominent Kashmiri leader revered by the youth, by government forces in India-held Kashmir (IHK) has caused clashes between Indian troops and protesters in the region, killing 15. Indian authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in most parts of Kashmir on Saturday in order to prevent scores of people taking to the streets for the funeral. Despite that, hundreds of protesters came out in several neighbourhoods in southern Kashmir, chanting “Go India! Go back” and “We want freedom”.
The death of Burhan Wani may be considered a huge win for the Indian troops, but for the Kashmiri people it is nothing but the worst form of oppression and brutality. Burhan Wani had become a household name over the past five years, a young boy at 15, he had picked up arms due to the Indian troops cruelty towards his brother, and since then had become a prominent and respected leader within the separatist leaders’ ranks. His video clips and pictures were widely circulated among young people in Kashmir, whereby he would target the educated youth of Kashmir to the cause of freedom and liberation from the tyranny of the Indian regime. His death will only serve to consolidate his legacy and larger than life persona, and will cause many of his devoted followers to join the Kashmir militancy.
The government forces in Indian Held Kashmir are facing new challenges in the face of the brutality they have long exercised on the Kashmiri people. Senior police officers say that the uprising of the local people to become fearless and openly defying the troops in their efforts to help militants by putting themselves in harm’s way is a worrying recent development in the decades-long insurgency in the disputed territory. In March, a group of nine heavily armed rebels were trapped in an open field not far from Kakapora as troops moved in. Hundreds of villagers armed with stones descended on the field, as word quickly spread. In the absence of international outrage for the rights of the people of Kashmir, they are taking it upon themselves to speak out and defy Indian occupation in whatever capacity they can. Students, housewives, school principals, each and every Kashmiri is sick and tired of the violence against their loved ones and is rising to defend themselves and their land.
Published in The Nation, July 12th, 2016
4. Atrocities in Kashmir (Editorial: The News)
When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister of India in the early 2000s he promised that his country’s attitude towards Kashmir would change and they would treat the people of the occupied territory with ‘insaniyat’. Over the past few days, we have seen what form that insaniyat will take. The killing last week of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by security forces – in yet another example of India’s infamous ‘catch and kill’ policy in Kashmir – led to protests throughout the valley, leading to at least 30 killings. All of them were killed by Indian security forces. The Indian government has attempted to justify its use of wanton violence by accusing the protesters of being jihadis since they came out in support of a militant commander. What it fears to mention is that they were protesting the brutal occupation of their land by the Indian Army. The government also did not mention that the only reason the 22-year-old Burhan joined Hizbul Mujahideen at the age of 15 was because he felt that was his only option in resisting a dehumanising occupation and that last year the Indian Army tortured and killed his elder brother. By now it should be obvious to all that the Indian Army isn’t reacting to militancy, but is instead the largest contributor to it.
The force of the protests has taken India by surprise since Kashmir has been relatively peaceful since 2008. No one should be surprised that the suppressed rage of those who have been subjected to brutal occupation for nearly 70 years will occasionally boil over. In Occupied Kashmir, rape, looting and mass graves are a common occurrence of everyday life. Kashmiris have no rights and their right to self-determination has been repeatedly blocked by India. India used to claim that there was no indigenous movement for freedom in Kashmir and that militants sent from Pakistan were behind the ‘trouble’. The latest protests are the umpteenth example of that not being the case. Under the Modi government, such protests will only gain greater strength because of his ugly anti-Muslim rhetoric. But the problem lies not with one government or political party. It is the coloniser’s attitude that India has adopted towards Kashmir that ensures both the continuation of the insurgency and the angry frustration of Kashmiris.
Published in The News, July 12th, 2016
Indian authorities have imposed an indefinite curfew in most parts of Kashmir, following the killing of a top rebel commander in the disputed region. Indian officials have termed the killing of Burhan Wani, chief of operations of Indian Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, as a major success against the fighters opposed to the Indian rule. Thousands of armed police and paramilitary soldiers have fanned out across most towns and villages of the region.
Wani had become a well-known figure among the youth of Kashmir, whose pictures and video clips were widely circulated among the young Kashmiris. As the news of his death spread, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in several places in Kashmir, denouncing his death and chanting slogans against India. Indian officials, fearing a more violent reaction, suspended mobile phone services in the region to prevent anti-India demonstrators from gaining strength in numbers. Despite the curfew, at least 15 Kashmiris have died, and more than 100 are reportedly injured in the mass demonstrations in anti-India protests.
Many citizens in the Muslim-majority region have long resented the Indian presence, and support the “rebel” demand for independence or merging with Pakistan. The people of Kashmir continue to face the brunt of the policies of not just India but also Pakistan. While India continues to crackdown on the “separatist” forces, Pakistan has allegedly continued to support the rebel groups in the region. The reaction of the international community has been dismal on the issue despite reports of severe human rights violations by the Indian armed forces. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising, and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.
Kashmir is one of the major regional issues along with Afghanistan, the solution to which is necessary to achieve regional stability and peace. Although the international community is focussed on Afghanistan, yet not much has been done on the Kashmir issue by the West.Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir since 1947. Regardless of the fact whether peace is achieved in Afghanistan or not, Kashmir will continue to be a bone of contention between Pakistan and India, and with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects lined up, China will also be looking to protect its interests in the region.
The people of Kashmir should be given the right to choose whether they want to merge with Pakistan or India or be a separate nation. Although Pakistan has called for the solution of the problem through dialogue, India does not consider the separatist groups to be a stakeholder in the negotiations. The issue has led to perpetual stalemates in the dialogue between the two countries. Unless all the stakeholders are taken on board, and both Pakistan and India do not soften their stance on the issue, the people of the Valley will continue to suffer.
Too much bloodshed shadows the beautiful valley of Kashmir, and until the civilian and military establishments of both Pakistan and India look beyond their vested interests, and take into consideration the constant pain of Kashmiris, nothing will change. The people of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control are not political pawns but real people who suffer without any hope for things to change. Even if the demand of the Kashmiris to have a separate state is not practical or is ever going to see fruition, the least they deserve is respect. And someone to hear their voice amidst the deafening sound of screams of pain and gunshots.*
Published in Daily Times, July 12th, 2016