Volume 6, No. 7, July 2005


Indo-Pak dialogue and Kashmir

For A Real Peace: Indian Army Quit Kashmir As First Step


Kashmir cries out for peace; for a real one. The people say that the cricket or bus diplomacy is not an answer to the Kashmir issue. If the neighbours want to be friends again and trade with each other for mutual benefit then no one has any objection to that. But if blood continues to flow down the rivers in the beautiful land of paradise as before, then the two countries won’t find peace altogether.

The national highway A-1 continues to be heavily lined with the military, with guns slung over soldiers’ shoulders and mounted on the vehicles; but without fingers on the trigger. The uniformed seem to be engaging themselves in smoothening and controlling the flow of traffic. The number of military convoys has not declined but the priority given to them to pass ahead of others is no longer there. This is the usual ‘mission healing touch’ before the routine security checks are again resumed and the guns start booming.

The guns, however, are roaring in the interiors of the whole land without respite. The military is on an increased offensive in the aftermath of the Indo-Pak "peace process". The so-called encounter killings by the armed forces have not seen a let-up in spite of the much blared clamour for bringing peace in the sub-continent. About 150 people were killed by security forces in the month of April. On May 3, 2005, the army killed 21 people in a single operation razing five houses to the ground and damaging a number of others. The next day six more bodies were recovered from under the rubble, of which two were of Indian army men. Seems to be a real encounter! But there is no information as to how many among the killed were civilians. Usually, most of the civilians killed are branded as militants while the rest are declared ‘died while caught in the crossfire’. So, the crime of killing civilians is exonerated. The world never comes to know the details of the cold blooded murders. The day Musharraf left Delhi after telling his hosts that India and Pakistan would jointly fight against the menace of "terrorism" the Indian security forces mounted up their offensive throughout the valley.

The army officers say that since the last few months the infiltration from across the border has come to naught. A good sign from the military regime of ‘notorious’ Pakistan who was always interested in fomenting trouble on the ‘Indian’ soil! Musharraf would have ordered strict control over all passages leading to this part of the occupied land as one of the confidence building measures (CBMs), months before his visit. The cricket series was planned to make the visit look like a sudden crashing-in of the Pakistani president into the gate of Ferozshah Kotla grounds, to send a message to the people that both the governments have acted responsibly by grabbing up the unexpected opportunity thrown in by the bowlers. Well, the opportunity is grabbed, and an offensive agreed on by both sides of the line of occupation, is unleashed on the Kashmiri people.

What Kashmiris Say about the Talks?

"It will not solve the issue of Kashmir unless the Kashmiris are involved in the resolution of the Kashmir issue" is the familiar answer which a broad cross-section of the Kashmiri people and leadership give. They say that these talks are between two states and have nothing to do with the issue of Kashmir. They are right. Even Prime Minister Manmohan said that "bilateral issues would come first and Kashmir can wait." Musharraf too demonstrated the same thoughts as he did not utter, even on a single occasion this time, that Kashmir was the "core issue and everything else comes afterwards."

He was non committal on Kashmir this time. Perhaps he learnt a lesson from the debacle of Agra or some bigger gun was dictating to him from behind the scenes. This time he was all smiles and contradicted the journalist who said that whenever America sneezes, India and Pakistan catch a bad cold. He said "America does not sneeze all the time. It is only when its national interest are involved". So the US had nothing to do with the current parleys between the two countries, he seemed to say.

But many in Kashmir agree that the US is the behind-the-back puppeteer puling at the strings and its ‘national interests’ in the Middle East and Central Asia demand that it sneeze on both of these sub-continental rivals. That is why Kashmir is no longer a core issue for Pakistan because the US ‘national’ interests demand it. Surely, the Kashmiris have understood it rightly that Pakistani’s support is taking a turn backwards.

The reality that the US is a behind the scene ring-master is too obvious. It is censoring the line of occupation from the satellites and providing information to both the countries dictating both what to do. The FBI, the internal intelligence agency of the US is operating in both the countries tracking down the movements of those who are anti-US imperialism. The crackdown in Pakistan on the militant forces continues under the active leadership and guidance of the US. At the same time, it is keeping the options open to push the two countries to a mutual war in future when its imperialist interests demand so. It is selling modern weaponry to both the armies. That is why there is no serious attempt to resolve the Kashmir tangle in a politically correct way. And a genuine initiative cannot come under the aegis of the US. Openings on the borders, without going for a political solution of the problem, can only help in some mutual trade treaties which will soon be signed. The governments of both the countries are dancing to the imperialist tunes from America, to serve its current strategic needs in Central Asia and the Middle-East. That is why the guns are silent on the border and activities of the freedom fighters are being curbed and suppressed on both the sides.

The so-called friendship between the two countries is only transitory and farcical. It is just a hullabaloo, masquerading sinister scheming against the Kashmiri people; a discharge that has come along with the US sneezing on both the states. But one thing is definite: that the current process between the two would not affect the struggle for freedom as Pakistan is not the initiator or main architect of the Kashmir liberation movement, that the movement in Kashmir is based on and represents the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, it has risen up from the soil of Kashmir as an answer to national oppression by India. They say that even if Pakistan moves away from supporting it, it won’t die down as the rulers of India expect.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a Hurriayat leader, says the Kashmir movement is indigenous and self sustaining. He is for a final solution that decides the fate of Kashmir through a plebiscite to be either with India or Pakistan, and is confident that the process of CBMs has nothing to do with the resolution of the Kashmir issue. None of the Kashmiri leaders associated with the freedom movement is against "friendship" between the two countries. But, the solving of the Kashmir problem would require an altogether different approach.

The Bus, on a Heavily Protected Road to Muzaffrabad

But the line of occupation these days is being fast lined with a fence to prevent the people from meeting each other across the line. Again a confidence building measure! This fence is a tacit agreement between the two countries to keep Kashmir permanently under their control, obstructing the Kashmiri freedom movement from gathering support from both sides of the forcedly divided land. The much advertised weekly bus is not at all popular in the valley. The people say: why they are putting up the fence if they want people to meet each other across the border? The hill people have hundreds of winding hilly paths leading to the other side to meet their dear ones. These were there before their land was occupied and were occasionally used by the people even during the last 17 years of bloody conflict. Even in dangerous conditions of occupation they could arrange and attend marriages at will. Now all that is being blocked and the bus service is being trumpeted as the opening of an opportunity to visit relatives. The Kashmiri people say that the bus service was there before their land was occupied, and scornfully ask: who were they if not the aggressors who had stopped the bus and all other traffic to their brethren across the border? Now they need it again to perpetuate the same occupation. It does not signify any change of heart. It is a tactic in the new conditions to hoodwink the people here and around the world.

Only one way, from Srinagar to Muzaffrabad is opened while there are ten more roads where buses can ply. The people are not against the bus service but they say it has no role to play in the resolution of the Kashmir problem. The Kashmir problem is not a bus. The bus is essentially between India and Pakistan running through Kashmir to ease tensions among themselves whether it goes from Amritsar to Lahore or across Gujarat or the Rajasthan border, makes little difference. The peop[le of Kashmir say that they may construct one gas pipeline or a dozen, but the freedom movement in Kashmir will continue unabated. One may have doubted this statement given the Pakistani support to militancy in the earlier years, but it shows their conviction that neither India nor Pakistan can prevent the coming into being of an independent Kashmir because in the conflict Kashmiris are the principal party whose land has been divided among bigger states. Some compare their condition to that of the Kurds who are divided in six adjoining countries and have no homeland of their own.

The road to Muzaffrabad is like the notorious NH No-1A where every segment of the road is barricaded. It is an irony that there is only one road that links Kashmir with India which has been instrumental in the occupation and still bleeds and burn with blood and fire. Similar is the story of the road from Srinagar to Muzaffrabad. One deadly road and such is the situation in Kashmir. Had there been more, the story would have been more horrendous. The people despise this road. On the other hand, there are eleven roads linking Pakistan with Kashmir, and the people think that Pakistan is a friend. One can gauge the magnitude of the atrocities the Indian armed forces have committed that it has almost become an idiom in Kashmir that there are eleven roads to Pakistan while there is only one linking India with Kashmir. The distance that has come to stay in the psyche of the Kashmiris seems unbridgeable. The coming new generation feels nothing in common with India. This is the correct image reflected by the objective reality in the hearts of the Kashmiri people. Of course real freedom can only be achieved by the people of that land by creating a truly democratic Kashmir, free from all foreign oppressors.

The recent visit of some Hurriyat leaders, many of whom have sold out to the Indian government, were sent to Pakistan in a bid to isolate the militants, and give these elements legitimacy with the Pakistani rulers. The recent peace overtures between the two countries, at the behest of the imperialists, particularly the US, in the interests of furthering international trade and oil and gas pipelines, is resulting in the Pakistani government stabbing the Kashmiri movement in the back. Earlier it sought to use the freedom aspirations of the Kashmiri people for its own interests; now in the international scenario it acts differently. It is this new turn of events that has resulted in the so-called moderates getting a new-found legitimacy with the Pakistani rulers. The settlement of the freedom aspiration of the Kashmiri people cannot be resolved through deals between the two countries.

Bilal Kotru, who has lost four of his brothers in the days since the movement began in 1989, one killed by militants and others killed by the security forces in the so-called cross-fire, says his land will achieve freedom one day and the whole of Kashmir would be united. He wants the pre-October 1947 borders of the independent Jammu and Kashmir State to be re-established. And this idea is emerging in the new situation and slowly gaining support among Hindu and Muslim intelligentsia in both the Kashmir valley and Jammu region. They accuse both the neighbours of being oppressors. For them the bus is no answer to an intricate problem like Kashmir.

On the contrary, the army men admit that they have greatly benefited from the fence which could not have been possible to construct in the ongoing insurgency in a terrain like Kashmir without the tacit co-operation from Pakistan. This benefit is being translated into military advantage in a bid to control the movement of the people and in the stepped up offensive of daily killings by the security forces after Musharraf went back. These killings remind one of the Punjab of 1993, when the state launched a spate of killings of peasantry in the name of crushing Sikh ‘terrorism’ after large scale penetration into their ranks by the moles, the so-called black cats. One can conclude that both India and Pakistan are in collaboration to crush the militancy in Kashmir. Hence, we might see more bloodshed in the coming days. The water flowing in the gushing rivers of Kashmir will become more red as a consequence. The hell which is now Kashmir is set to surpass all previous records. The so-called current peace process entails the peace of the graveyard.

Peace of the Graveyard

Visit the graveyard of the martyrs who have died at the hands of the Indian security forces and you will find that there are more than one thousand graves, some even containing bodies of two people. Lying in the vicinity of Srinagar, the paradise for tourists, it is a grim monument of the dead which is a living example of the cruelties of the security forces. Now this graveyard is full and when more bodies arrive it will be further extended to accommodate the dead. The Indian army has a plan to arrest, intimidate and destroy the over-ground structure of the freedom movement. This includes students, youth, scribes and political activists who are vocal and spearhead the movement openly among the masses. They are on the newly formed hit list of the army and comprise nearly 4,500 people. The very name of the Security Forces is a dreaded word and means death and destruction. This word has nothing to do with the security of the people. The army works like an occupation force and not as a security force. Any midnight knock is sufficient to instil fear among the residents of a house and the very next idea that comes into mind is: the family’s next visit will be to this place with the coffin of a dear one.

Those who are buried here all belonged either to Srinagar or lived in the villages around this ghost city. All have been the victims of the security forces. Some of the buried are children only a few months of age, some small brother and sister lie in a single grave. You also find there those who were only to die in a few months or years, being on the threshold of death due to old age, but the security forces were too merciful to let them wait for natural death. There lie heroes of the Kashmiri people like Maqbool Ahmed Batt and Jalil Andrabi. This graveyard of the dead will live forever in the memories of the Kashmiri people. It is a living monument of the dead! Except for this graveyard, peace lies nowhere in the valley.

Millions in India, who have been to Kashmir or are likely to visit it for sight seeing and merry making, never go to see this bleeding site in the gashed belly of Kashmir. The rulers of India have been successful in corroding off the human concern of the inhabitants of our vast land, with only a few voices of solidarity for the Kashmiri cause.

And if you hear the stories of those who have neither been seen or buried by their relatives it turns out to be even more ghastly. These are about the disappeared persons who are routinely picked up by the Indian armed forces in the dead of night as well as in broad day light. They never return to their homes and are lost for ever. They are disappeared persons murdered and disposed off secretly. Their numbers surpass: Ten Thousand. The parents continue to look towards the horizon in the never ending hope that one day their son would come back to unite with them. Brothers never reconcile with the thought that their dear ones are no more. Wives are neither widowed nor can be considered as married. It is like an eternal anguish of a devastated woman. They are left to live and bring up their children unaided. Many such peasant women are living in penury despite the hard labour which they put into their fields to eek out an existence. The movement is yet to devise plans to help them to build their lives again. And the suffering of their children is beyond description. The hope and wait of these people refuse to die.

The land where ninety thousands have been killed, ten thousand disappeared, twenty five thousand orphaned, can only burn like an inferno. The land of Chinars and mighty rivers is in torment because their neighbours are cold-blooded real estate dons having criminal hordes of marauding armies at their command. When autumn sets up in winter the Chinars turn into infernos as if mountains are on fire and their fury would engulf everything that would come near them. Their leaves turn blood red in colour when they dry up. Hence, the name: Chinar i.e. Yeh kaisi aag hai !

The valley today is on fire in the real sense of the term. The peace loving, secular sufi people are burning with the aspiration of freedom. They are furious. They say: "The friendship between India and Pakistan is okay but we want our land in our hands. We are not for bloodshed, we want peace, BUT the Indian army will have to leave. Only then a real peace can return to this land."




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