Kashmir: an inconvenient truth
By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
Kashmir is internationally recognized as a disputed territory whose final status is yet to be determined by the people. Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and have fought three wars during the past half-century. This is a matter that urgently needs to be put on a road to find a just and viable solution.
The heart of the matter is that Kashmir is an occupied country. Its sovereignty and right to self-determination is being ignored. India insists that this state, which is nestled in the Himalayas between Pakistan and India, is an integral part of India and refuses to negotiate in any manner with the people of Kashmir or with Pakistan. The claim is rejected not only by the people of Kashmir but also by the international community.
Any effort to resolve the conflict requires confronting the issue directly and honestly, and that is something that seems difficult for the Government of India to do. India does not want to resolve the Kashmir conflict but to dissolve it. India wants Kashmir issue to be buried under the rug when the issue is raised in the international community by alleging that it is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and no one else’s business. It could be strictly a bilateral issue if forthrightness was involved.
The sanctity of the Kashmir issue can be understood by the fact that both former President Obama and President Trump wished to play a role in resolving this conflict. President Obama did not do anything practically but at least in principle he is on record to have said on November 9, 2010 in New Delhi that the resolution of Kashmir is in the interest of United States. President Donald Trump asserted on the campaign trail in October 2016 that he would be willing to mediate in addressing the “very, very hot tinderbox” of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. “If it was necessary I would do that. If we could get India and Pakistan getting along, I would be honored to do that. That would be a tremendous achievement … I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator,” Donald Trump added.
Just recently, on June 21, 2017, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, suggested that his meetings between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could help resolve the ongoing conflict in Kashmir. Predictably, the Indian government in so many words told Guterres to mind his own business since agreements had long been in place establishing the conflict as strictly a bilateral issue. We are amazed that the Secretary General of the United Nations took the ‘no’ of India as an answer.
It may be mentioned here that India presents a wholly false picture of the situation in Kashmir. The agenda of the Indian government and its various mouthpieces to mislead the public about the conflict in and about Kashmir continues on unimpeded. At the same time the people of Kashmir face the kind and extent of suffering that has not been inflicted on any other people in that part of the world. This is a direct result both of Indian sadism and international apathy. It is sad indeed that despite the fact that the entire world is fully aware of the magnitude of the tragedy in Kashmir, no power or group of powers have uttered a word, nor have they come forward to stop this modern day holocaust in Kashmir. As unarmed peace-loving Kashmiri civilians continue to be massacred, India draws strength and encouragement from the passivity and inaction of the international community.
This is a great disappointment to those who would like to end the killings, the suffering and great humiliation of Kashmiris. India seems to agree with Joseph Goebbels that “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Therefore, India has tried her best to portray Kashmir as an integral part of India and as an issue of separatism, fundamentalism and terrorism. The irresponsibility of these allegations is borne out by the following facts:
Kashmir is not and cannot be regarded as an internal matter of India because under all international agreements, agreed by both India and Pakistan, negotiated by the United Nations, endorsed by the Security Council and accepted by the international community, Kashmir is a disputed territory and does not belong to any member state of the United Nations. If that is true, then the claim of India that Kashmir is an integral part of India does not stand. So if Kashmir is not an integral part of India, then how can Kashmir secede from a country like India to which it has never acceded to in the first place. So Kashmiris cannot be called separatists or secessionists.
Is Kashmir issue of fundamentalism? A hallmark of Kashmir has been its long tradition of tolerance, amity, good will, and friendships across religious and cultural boundaries. Its five chief religious groups Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and tiny minority of Christians – have for centuries flourished in harmony and mutual bond: no religious ghettoes; no religious apartheid; no economic or sharp cultural divides. All religious persuasions rejoiced at each other’s holiday’s and times of joy, attended social gatherings together, lived as neighbors in harmony, and treasured their mutual trust.
The various faiths of Kashmir eschew fanatical or extremist dogmas that distort and debauch their doctrinal origins. Tolerance and mutual respect are their watchwords. For example, Kashmiri Sikhs feature no antagonism towards other religions. Indeed, their trust in Muslims is so strong that they have refused bribes from Indian army to blame Muslims for the killings of 36 Sikhs at Chittisinghpura, Kashmir on March 20, 2000 during President Bill Clinton’s visit to New Delhi that had been covertly organized by the Indian military itself.
Kashmir has been haloed as the land of saints. Its culture celebrates diversity, and Kashmir has been the confluence of a rich mixture of philosophies and ways of life that merge without losing their distinct identities.
Now what about terrorism? The proposition that the United States tilted towards India because of its successful propaganda campaign maligning the Kashmiri resistance as largely Afghan Arab terrorists and fanatics seems unconvincing.
Kashmiri culture is neither vengeful nor retributive. It has a long tradition of non-violence. It teaches sympathy and compassion for all humans of whatever station, religion, ethnicity, or ideological persuasion. Kashmiris are deeply empathetic towards the victims of terrorism and other manifestations of human rights abuses because they daily experience the horrors themselves: extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, abductions, mutilation, plunder, arbitrary detentions, and ruthless suppression of political expression.
Contrary to some pundits who revel in teaching what they don’t know, the Kashmiri conflict is not fueled by Afghan-led terrorism. It began decades ago in 1931 before the so-called “Afghan Arabs” appeared on the international terrorism and before Islamic “fundamentalism” was even minted by the Western press; the resistance displays no particular affection for any country.
During the latest phase of the freedom struggle, virtually all the citizenry of Srinagar (capital city of Kashmir) – men, women and children – came out multiple times on the streets to lodge a non-violent protest against the continuance of Indian occupation. At times more than a million Kashmiris demonstrated during these protests and the number of memoranda, submitted to the office of UNMOGIP has exceeded 400. Certainly, terrorists cannot compose the entire populations of the major towns of Kashmir. Moreover, a terrorist does not believe in marching to the office of the UN, presenting memoranda and reminding the UN to fulfill her pledge toward Kashmir.
The people of Kashmir genuinely believe that terrorism is an evil because it debases the perpetrator, just as it was recognized in the United States that slavery besmirched the moral lives of the slave holders. As Abraham Lincoln lectured, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” How can any human being look a brother in the eye, slit his neck to advance a political objective, and yet retain a heart that has not turned to stone? If such creatures exist, they can be counted on one hand with several fingers left over. And what good can come in any land that is populated, dominated, or swayed by such savages? A nation gained by terrorism is not worth having. And a life that indulges terrorism is not worth living. That must be our shining creed for today, tomorrow, and forever. Can anyone think of anything more ennobling?
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness