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Old Tuesday, August 02, 2016
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Default The truth about the struggle of Kashmiris

The truth about the struggle of Kashmiris

This is with reference to an article titled “Can We Help Kashmir?” by Ayesha Siddiqa published in The Express Tribune on July 27. The learned author, out of naivety or ignorance of the history of Kashmir, has fallen into the trap laid by the Indian state. The Kashmiri nation has been fighting against foreign occupation since 1586, albeit spasmodically. The resistance against occupation, injustice and humiliation has acquired an organised form since 1931. The struggle for political emancipation, social justice and economic empowerment was throughout peaceful until 1989. Having exhausted all peaceful avenues of realising their inalienable right of self-determination, guaranteed by the UN charter, sanctified by the UN Security Council resolutions of 1948-49 and voluntarily pledged to the people of Jammu and Kashmir by both the states of India and Pakistan, the people of Kashmir were forced to pick up the gun as a last resort to seek justice.

The struggle of Kashmiris for justice and dignity predates the birth of the two nation-states of India and Pakistan. Our struggle is older than the equally just struggle of the Palestinian nation. Both struggles are much older than the Iranian revolution and the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation. And, of course, 9/11 is a comparatively recent affair as also are the phenomena of the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The Indian government has been trying, desperately of course, to craft excuses to deny us our birthright of self-determination. These excuses have varied from the most comical to the most absurd. One was that Pakistan had joined the military alliances of CENTO, SEATO and the Baghdad Pact and therefore Kashmiris have forfeited their rights. Another absurd argument was that since Pakistan is a theocracy, it can’t ask for implementation of UN resolutions in Jammu and Kashmir. Since Pakistan is an ‘aggressor’ in Kashmir, there can’t be a plebiscite there.

The 9/11 attacks provided the Indian state with the golden opportunity to bring the just struggle of Kashmiris under the definition of ‘terror’. Indians also utilised the tsunami of Islamophobia sweeping the West to discredit our movement, which is rooted in a quest for justice and dignity. I am amazed that our friends and sympathisers are effortlessly walking into the trap, cleverly and of course most dishonestly, laid by the Indians. Any hint or suggestion that our struggle could be equated with terrorism discounts history and is intellectually downright dishonest. This is a very crude attempt to criminalise and de-legitimise our righteous movement for justice and dignity.

India is using the most brutal ways to crush the legitimate rights and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. When the Indian Independence Act was announced in June 1947, the Indian National Congress leaders in collusion with Maharaja Hari Singh resorted to conspiracies to bring about a fraudulent ‘accession’ based on deceit and violence. Two-and-a-half lakh Muslims were brutally murdered in Jammu province by the Maharaja’s forces, actively aided by the extremist right-wing Hindu fundamentalist organisation called the RSS, from August 1947 to November 1947. This genocide gravely altered the demography of Jammu province to the detriment of Muslims. Killings of Muslim civilians in the state has been routine since 1947. The Kashmiris are passing through the most brutal crackdown at the hands of the Indian state since 1989. The number of deaths exceeds one lakh, the ‘disappeared’ number 10,000, orphans number more than one lakh, the number of widows runs into thousands, the number of unmarked mass graves is at least 7,000. Illegal detentions, detention without trial, extrajudicial killings, torture, molestation and rape of women, and widespread destruction of property, are the rule here under Indian dispensation. Kashmiris are bereft of elementary human rights; we are denied the right to life. We are governed under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides blanket immunity to the Indian forces to kill anybody, even on suspicion of being a militant. This is a lawless law, which has been denounced by international human rights organisations. The Indian Supreme Court has decreed the AFSPA unconstitutional and yet it is operative in the state. Could there be a greater proof of Indian brutality against the people here and their disdain for Kashmiris?

Kashmir is passing through a massive humanitarian crisis. Apart from death and destruction, the Indian state has the dubious distinction of contributing to world medical literature through its barbarous conduct in Kashmir. It has stolen kidneys of detainees, damaged kidneys of hundreds of youth through torture, which resulted in acute renal failure (in medical terminology, this is called rhabdomyolysis consequent on torture). A significant number of people are suffering from various mental illnesses like depression, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies and post-traumatic stress disorder — all because of the extreme anxiety, stress, humiliation, insecurity, morbidity and mortality of the near and dear ones.

The latest instalment of brutality delivered to us recently has already cost us 56 precious lives in the last three weeks, besides grievous injuries to at least 3,000 youth. The most agonising experience we are going through these days pertains to lethality of pellet guns being used against ordinary people. The Indian government, most dishonestly, touts pellet guns as “non-lethal” weapons. Their use has resulted in blinding of scores of youth and children who are disabled and disfigured for life. Apart from the massive and disproportionate use of force, including bullets, pellets, tear gas and pepper gas, the authorities have imposed a curfew for the last three weeks. Newspapers were stopped for five days, mobile telephony and internet facilities continue to be disrupted, and hospitals are overflowing with the injured.

This in brief is the wretched life to which Kashmiris have been condemned. To deflect the attention of their own people and of the international community from their brutal conduct in Kashmir, India is left with only a flimsy fig leaf, which it calls terrorism. To defame the Kashmiris’ just struggle for their rights and dignity, it even labels us as fundamentalists and extremists inspired by forces from across our borders. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our craving for a life of dignity based on our right to fashion our destiny is embedded in our DNA and cannot be extinguished by the ruthless use of force. We are victims of state terrorism. We don’t sin; we have been sinned against.

The writer is a leading civil society member of Kashmir based in Srinagar and author of Wounded Valley.

Source: The truth about the struggle of Kashmiris
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2016.
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