Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Indo-Pak Conflict and Kashmir

(Why should the fate of Kashmiris be tied up with the establishment of Indo-Pak friendship?)

There are some very common refrains in regard to the solving of the most intractable and the longest pending political problem of Kashmir. In the global context, it is the necessity for a peaceful dialogue between the two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan, to solve all outstanding issues including Kashmir. In the Indian context, Kashmir is no issue as it is settled as an integral part of the Union of India. The only issue for them is to recover the parts of the state illegally occupied by Pakistan and China. For Pakistanis, Kashmir is the core issue and according to them, without its settlement, there can be no peace in the sub-continent.  

For last 70 years the two newly created countries of India and Pakistan have been in a continuous state of conflict. The most glaring example of conflict is in Kashmir. The Line of Control between the two countries is these days “Hot” with almost daily exchanges of artillery and other fire. There are daily casualties of both the soldiers and the civilians on the two sides of the line. It is totally senseless violence, and in fact, a very tragic story for the sub-continent. If one goes deeper in reality, Kashmir is only the symptom and the disease is different. The real conflict is ideological or rather it is a religious conflict. India is a Hindu country and Pakistan is a Muslim country and both seem to have no meeting ground in the present context because of the past. There is absolute basic mistrust of each other. The governments on two sides survive on this mistrust. Unfortunately, the reins of power on both sides are with the elite which survive by keeping teeming millions down under. On the Indian side it is the 5% Brahmin elite which controls everything. On the Pakistani side it is the feudal landlords who have a stranglehold. The most common refrain on this side is the Hindutva Nationalism. The objective is to make India a Hindu Rashtra. There is absolute mistrust and hatred of Pakistan. On the other side, it is the universal Jehad to uphold the Islamic principles. On this side we see the Trishul wielding RSS workers in their traditional knickers. On the other side there is abundance of suicide bombers blasting everything coming in their way.

Next in line is Kashmir which has somehow got entangled in this perennial Indo-Pak conflict. However, the moot point is why should the fate of Kashmiris be made a hostage to Indo-Pak friendship? Kashmir in the entire sub-continent has probably the longest history as an independent sovereign Kingdom from the ancient times. Many ancient chronicles of Greeks, Arabs and Chinese mention Kashmir as a Kingdom in the Himalayan Mountains. Till twelfth century it was a Hindu Kingdom. Then Islam as a religion was brought here by religious preachers and not by conquerors. The religion appealed to the local population so much that all except the 2% ruling elite converted to Islam and with the conversion of the last ruler Rincin Shah, it became a Muslim State. Rincin Shah after conversion took the name of Sadaruddin and became the first Muslim King of Kashmir. Till sixteenth century it remained an independent sovereign kingdom and then the Mughal King Akbar annexed it through treachery to the Mughal Empire. After that there was continuous slavery of Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras for the Kashmiris. A movement for the emancipation from the centuries of bondage and slavery rose in Kashmir in early thirties of the last century. In 1947 when Kashmiris were nearing their goal of freedom, because of their misfortune and the ineptitude of their leaders, they got entangled in the ideological conflict of the sub-continent. Rather they were got enmeshed in this mess by the departing British for their own long term strategic reasons. With the change in the geo-political equations in the South Asian Region Kashmir is getting more and more entangled in a larger political mess because of its so called strategic location. Most of the claimants talk about its strategic location. There is hardly anyone interested in the fate of the people who have been living here for thousands of years!

The “Burhan Uprising” which was virtually a peaceful mass revolution throughout the length and the breadth of the valley, triggered by the killing of a militant freedom fighter, has sent a clear and direct message from Kashmir to all over the world! Kashmiris want their birthright to be restored to them. They want to live a life of dignity and honour. The slogan is simple, “Azadi”, the Freedom! Even though after a long time the world has woken up from a deep slumber, yet the response has not been as it should have been. Again the same dithering and the same refrain of dialogue between the two claimants of the piece of “real estate” rather than restoring the rights of the subjugated people. Within India, the common refrain from well-wishers is unconditional dialogue among all the stakeholders instead of a straight demand for taking care of the real stakeholders, the Kashmiris, suffering for the last 70 years! 

Apart from untying Kashmir from various strings like the Indo-Pak relations, one has to take notice of a new factor, the new emerging young leadership in Kashmir, which has made clear to one all that they cannot be taken for granted. They cannot also be held hostage to Indo-Pak friendship which may never materialise even in their lifetime! Two generations of Kashmiris have passed away waiting for the same. The present generation born and brought up in the conflict of nineties of the last century has seen the worst and has given the maximum sacrifices. It is they who need to be spoken to and not the so called “traditional” leaders of the so called various “streams”. Will someone take the initiative? Only on that depends the return of real peace and normalcy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kashmir’s Stakeholders!

(Dialogue among all the “Stakeholders” is the present refrain but one could ask who the real “Stakeholders” are and what stakes they have?)

Kashmir’s Stakeholders!
The “Burhan Uprising” has shaken not only people in the sub-continent but across the world. It is for the first time in the recent history of the Kashmir’s Movement for the right of self-determination that the people all round are making efforts to understand and attempt to solve the basic political problem which has been plaguing the sub-continent right from the time of its partition in 1947. There is universal suggestion for a dialogue among the “Stakeholders” to sort out the problem. Unfortunately, mentioning the word “Stakeholder” gives a feeling as if it is piece of the real estate which needs to be divided among various claimants. It sounds more like “Shareholders” or rather the “Booty Sharers”! That is the misfortune of Kashmiris that there are now many “Shareholders” claiming a piece of their motherland where they themselves have been living right from the birth of man! The living example is the dwelling pits of the new Stone Age in Burzahom.

Before one comes to the present set up, it would be useful to refresh the historical perspective. India is a very ancient land. It has been in existence from the earliest times. It was referred to by Arabs as the Al Hind because it was the land of the Hindus, a very ancient religion. Then Muslims came to South India as preachers especially to Kochi in Kerala but to the North they came mostly as conquerors and some settled here adopting it as their homeland. Muslims ruled over India for 800 years. However, ultimately, the British made it their colony to rule over it for 200 years. Muslims and Hindus had been living more or less peacefully till the British thought of a plan to keep their indirect presence in the area even after their departure. The result was the partition of India and creation of Pakistan. These western colonialists even after their departures have worked out such intelligent plans that all their earlier colonies remain perpetually in turmoil needing their continuous intervention. The story is same in Africa, South America, Far East, Middle East and South Asia.

For last 70 years the two newly created countries of India and Pakistan have been in a continuous state of conflict. In fact, India is not now the historical India mentioned in the ancient chronicles! It is now Bharat, the land of the Hindus which according to statement of RSS leader would be totally free of Muslims by 2021! It will again become the ancient land of Hindus which is the aim of the present ruling dispensation. Pakistan did not exist till 1947 and was created by the British to keep a hold on the sub-continent. It was then further divided in two countries by the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The recent declassification of some secret documents of the partition days clearly establishes the existence of a western conspiracy to divide the sub-continent and create a perennial dispute among them enabling continuous western interference in their continued existence.

Kashmir in the entire sub-continent has probably the longest history and a sizeable part of it from the earliest times recorded in writing. Many ancient chronicles of Greeks, Arabs and Chinese mention Kashmir as a Kingdom in the Himalayan Mountains. Till twelfth century it was a Hindu Kingdom. Then Islam as a religion was brought here by religious preachers and not by conquerors. The religion appealed to the local population so much that all except the 2% ruling elite converted to Islam and with the conversion of the last ruler Rincin Shah, it became a Muslim State. Rincin Shah after conversion took the name of Sadaruddin and became the first Muslim King of Kashmir. Till sixteenth century it remained an independent sovereign kingdom and then the Mughal King Akbar annexed it through treachery to the Mughal Empire. After that there was continuous slavery of Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras for the Kashmiris. A movement for the emancipation from the centuries of bondage and slavery rose in Kashmir in early thirties of the last century. In 1947 when Kashmiris were nearing their goal of freedom, because of their misfortune and the ineptitude of their leaders, they got entangled in the ideological conflict of the sub-continent. Rather they were got enmeshed by the departing British.

During the last 70 years both the countries have created their vested interests or so called “Stakeholders” to pursue their agendas of claims on the land. One side calls it the jugular vein which because of the water may be true while the other side because of its Hindu past calls it the crown of India. Unfortunately, the real “Stakeholders”, the Kashmiris are getting crushed like the grass in the arena where the two bulls have been fighting. The sufferings of Kashmiris for last 70 years and especially the last of couple of decades have not been seen by any of the dwellers in any part of the entire sub-continent. In the real sense of the word, they are the only “Stakeholders” and need to be given the basic right of living an honourable and dignified life. This right of theirs has been accepted not only by the two warring countries apparently fighting for the real estate but by the entire world through the commitments given time and again through different international and national organisations. The sooner it is restored, the better for all. Otherwise, because of the new “Burhan Generation”, there may be no stakes left for any of the “Stakeholders”! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sadbhavana to Scorched Earth!

(Goodwill of late nineties has been replaced by the worst form of repression reminiscent of the Scorched Earth policies of retreating armies in the Second World War!)
The decade of the nineties of the last century witnessed the most violent period in the recent history of Kashmir. It was the decade of the armed uprising. There was violence all around. Thousands of boys had crossed the line of control and got weapons to fight the Indian security forces. With the total immunity granted under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the forces went berserk. There were massacres and mass rapes. Everyday there were armed encounters in different parts of the valley. Cordon and search operations were continued endlessly all over Kashmir. These were necessitated by the total collapse of the intelligence network resultant from the mass migration of the “sources” who would keep a tag on all activities. In those days, the Time Magazine carried a front page story written by Edward Desmond describing Kashmir as enemy territory for the Indian Army! The excesses of the Army during the nineties have been depicted as confessions of some officers by Kishalay Bhattacharjee in his book, the “Blood on my Hands”! The Army which had landed in Kashmir in 1947 as saviours against the marauding tribesmen unleashed on Kashmir by Pakistan, turned totally into an Army of occupation. A wide gulf developed between the Army and the civil population.

Once the armed uprising was subdued after killing of (officially admitted) over 50,000 Kashmiris, and wounding and disabling of thousands with the total disappearance of over 10,000 persons, the Indian Government tried to revive a local government in 1996 by motivating Dr. Farooq Abdullah to stand for elections. A National Conference Government headed by him was virtually installed as people were compelled to vote. The government started two pronged activity. On one hand attention was given on various civic amenities and revival of various activities including tourism. Simultaneously, an army of renegades was created to keep the remaining militants in check. Even though efforts were started to restore normalcy, yet the counter insurgency outfits of the Army and Police continued their targeting of the youth all over the valley. The generation of the nineties which had grown up in the worst atmosphere of violence in the recent history of Kashmir, refused to be cowed down. Thus, the volcano of Kashmir’s unrest simmered under the surface. Allegedly, the state and the central agencies turned the targeting of the youth into a very lucrative business.

At the same time, the Army started its goodwill programs called the “Sadhbhavana”. Many facilities like Medical Camps, building of infrastructure like bridges and taking groups on all India tours was started. Clubs for the youth, schools and other facilities were set up. The aim was to win over the civilian population by bridging the gulf created during the years of peak militancy. Army did succeed in creating new goodwill among the population in rural areas by these programs.

However, as mentioned earlier, the targeting and witch hunting of the youth continued which gave rise to a new kind of unrest. Even though militancy had almost disappeared, this new deliberate persecution forced the youth to join the ranks of militants. Burhan was one of these new educated and highly motivated militants. Through the use of the social networking sites like the Facebook, he became a hero of resistance against the excesses of the security forces. His alleged extra-judicial killing which even Muzaffar Baig of PDP has described as a conspiracy to topple the PDP government headed by Mehbooba Mufti triggered the bursting of a simmering volcano. There was a mass uprising all over the valley. However, it was an unarmed expression of grief which was put down with the use of brutal force by the authorities. The uprising failed to subside and the State had to request Army help to curtail freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution. However, as was evident from the press conference of the Army Commander General Hooda, they were reluctant to do it. In spite of that the Political Bosses ordered them to start the “Operation Calm Down”. The result has been a virtual “Scorched Earth Policy”! The Sadbhavana has been forgotten totally!

There have been allegedly widespread instances of vandalizing of homes, destruction of household goods, private vehicles, burning of stacked and harvested crops, destruction of apples and beating up of the inmates from all over the valley. Even in a number of places electric transformers have been damaged by intentional targeting. Such behavior by Security Forces in a conflict zone is totally banned under the Geneva Convention. Article 54 of Protocol I of 1977 Geneva Conventions reads, “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive”.

Both the strategies, the “Sadbhavana” and the “Operation Calm Down” which in reality is “Operation Cow Down” cannot restore normalcy and peace. These fail to touch the basic political problem simmering for last 70 years. As pointed out by the Army Commander, peace and normalcy can only be restored by taking on board all stakeholders including the “Separatists”. Need is for problem solution and not for problem management. One cannot prevent a boiling cauldron from bursting out by simply putting a lid over it. On the other side continuous shutdowns cannot materialize a solution. Shutdowns without end amount to a mass suicide. An unconditional dialogue among all stakeholders is the only way out of the impasse. The million dollar question is how this can be materialized?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Cat’s Paw Syndrome!

Develop individuality and self-confidence

The uprising which resulted after the killing of Burhan Wani has entered into the fifth month. Everything continues to be virtually at a standstill. The massive and spontaneous uprising throughout the valley has sent a clear message to the world that everything is not alright in Kashmir as claimed by some ultra-nationalists in India. In the meantime, the two neighbouring countries are escalating the tensions with the possibility of a clash which could be disastrous for one and all. They have a long history of destructive clashes. However, the worst sufferers are the Kashmiris who have been facing the brunt for last 70 years or so. The conflict in the sub-continent resembles what is known as a “Cat’s Paw Syndrome”!

An ancient fable tells the story of a monkey who came upon some chestnuts roasting in a fire. Lacking the means to retrieve the tasty chestnuts from the fire, the clever monkey managed to convince a somewhat dim cat to reach into the flames with his paw and fetch them. The monkey got his chestnuts, the cat was rewarded with a nasty hotfoot, and a metaphor for "chump" was born. While the original "cat's paw" was someone who is tricked into doing something dangerous or foolish on behalf of someone else, the term has broadened somewhat over the years. Today's "cat’s paw" may know very well what he or she is doing. The Kashmiri Cat has been facing two monkeys fighting for the chest nuts. The two monkeys who are each other’s neighbours have been making Kashmiris pull their chestnuts out of the fire. In the process, the Kashmiris have always only been burning their paws!

One monkey’s chest nut is called the “Two Nation Theory” while as the other monkey’s chest nut is called the “Secularism”! These two sub-continental monkeys in turn have become cats for bigger monkeys like USA, Russia, and Britain. Thus there is a chain of monkeys and cats in the sub-continent pulling out chest nuts from the fire which has been raging for last seven decades. The fire was originally started by the British colonizers by dividing the sub-continent into two antagonistic countries. In fact, as revealed by the declassification of documents relating to partition, the whole plan was engineered by the British who went to great lengths not only to start a fire but ensured its perennial burning! The chest nuts these foreign monkeys are pulling out of the sub-continent are massive defence contracts.

India is at the moment biggest buyer of foreign weapons. Prime Minister Narinder Modi is desperate to get all weapons of destruction from all over the world. Fighter jets, anti-air missiles, submarines and whatever is available for killing human beings and destroying habitations. He has been striking deals with the Americans, the Russians and so on. These imports cost billions of dollars which could easily be used to ameliorate the lot of the teeming millions living below the poverty line. Pakistanis are receiving more military aid than urgently needed economic aid. The world armament market is a $1,000 billion and American share may be more than half! Probably, armaments are the only means to keep their economy going? To keep on retrieving these sweet chest nuts these powers need to keep the fire in Kashmir burning. This explains their apologetic attitude in refusing to mediate in the dispute. If they wanted they could get the things straightened out in a matter of days. However, they would never like the conflict of which they are the main beneficiaries to die down!

One positive attribute of the present uprising is that a large number of youth appear to be disillusioned from both the monkeys. Quite often slogans have been raised, “No India, No Pakistan; We want Freedom”! “Azadi” which means total and complete freedom is the buzz word. Unfortunately, some traditional leaders still look towards outsiders even beyond the borders of the sub-continent to bail them out. The new generation brought up in the conflict of last two decades is totally disillusioned with both the countries of the sub-continent. However, unless the Kashmiris ask both the monkeys to get lost and are prepared to sort out their problems themselves, their ills will not go away. The ideal for Kashmiris is neither to become themselves the “Cat’s Paw” nor use others as their “Cat’s Paw”! They have to develop the individuality and the self-confidence to be totally on their own. That is the first and the foremost quality of an independent nation! Let us hope and pray that the new generation is able to do so!


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Barometers of Political Normalcy

The reality of the ground situation cannot be hidden by using some activities as barometers of Political Normalcy

 Image result for kashmir valley school

Kashmir has been facing a perennial situation of political uncertainty right from 1947. Various activities projected as normalcy have always failed to hide the ground reality which has a habit of bursting out off and on. After the dethroning of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the first Prime Minister of Kashmir in 1953, the Government of India has continuously tried to hide the real ground situation regarding the basic political problem by various activities projected worldwide through media. There have been many periods when Kashmir was really normal and the people had forgotten about the basic political problem. They had been totally engaged in commercial activities. In fact, after 1953 money was rushed in with other material goodies to make people forget the basic problem. Simultaneously, the “elements” who were supposed to be reminding people about the basic political problem were ruthlessly dealt with. Sheikh Abdullah had to spend 11 years in jail before the holy relic agitation woke up the people. During those years the most well-known barometer to show political normalcy was the “Festival of Kashmir”!

In 1975 when the Kashmir’s tallest leader made a somersault and rejoined the State Government as the Chief Minister, the most important activity was Tourism. Kashmir did enjoy almost a decade and a half of internal stability. The valley became the most important tourism destination throughout the world. Apart from foreign tourists from all over the world, a number of important dignitaries visited the state. In spite of the external stability and apparent peace, the basic political problem continued to simmer under the surface. Tourism did become a very lucrative activity. However, during this period no one projected Tourism as a symbol of normalcy. It was taken to be a normal economic activity. By late eighties more than half a million tourists including seventy thousand foreigners visited Kashmir every year. Then the whole thing disappeared due to the armed upheaval of 1990. For almost decade there were very few tourists. It started picking up by late nineties but again as a normal economic activity without any political overtones. However, after the installation of a new government in 2003, the activity was converted into a barometer of political normalcy which gave many setbacks in which some tourists also suffered. There are many hot spots in the world where the activity of Tourism continues in spite of the local problems as the politicians there do not use it as a barometer of political normalcy. Here also, it is in the long term interests of the state, if both sides leave this activity alone especially in view of the approaching winter season.

During the current uprising which is spread all over Kashmir and as an anti-climax is more a rural phenomenon than the earlier urban ones, Tourism has suffered a severe setback. It has virtually come to a complete halt. Some people have estimated a loss of Rs. 4,000 crores! Its full revival is possible only when complete peace prevails. It could not be used as a barometer of normalcy. So the politicians chose a new barometer of “Political Normalcy”, the Education. The sudden mass uprising mostly comprised of teens bulk of who are students. Burhan for them had become a “Poster Boy” through social networking. Had the peaceful movement been allowed to run its course like the holy relic agitation of 1963, it may have cooled down after some time. However, it was put down with the harshest and the most brutal force seen in Kashmir in recent history. Over a hundred were killed, thousands were injured and hundreds were deprived of eye-sight by the use of so called non-lethal pallet guns. The forces took these students virtually for ducks and pigeons. After such a mayhem and when all the educational institutions were totally shut for months on end, the authorities had the temerity to announce an examination schedule. This amounts to sprinkling salt on the wounds of these teenagers thousands of whom are in prison and some are detained under the black law of the Public Safety Act. On the face of it one can clearly see the motive was not the welfare of students but a very crude attempt to use education as a barometer of political normalcy. In fact, the government has taken over the direct control of the Board of School Education as the members of the organization were probably reluctant to go ahead with the mockery of examinations.

The most ironic and pathetic instance in this affair is the Prime Minister asking the Home Minister to ensure the opening of the Schools. He appears totally oblivious of the mayhem going on in Kashmir. He does not seem to be bothered about the other happenings. There is no government visible in Kashmir for last four months. The pity is that the collaborators for the mayhem as well as for pursuing this new barometer of political normalcy are the very persons who started as “healers” and formed the vanguard of the “Azadi” movement in the nineties of the last century. Well, unfortunately, Kashmir has a tradition or rather the history of such collaborators from the very first year of its subjugation four centuries back. There is a Kashmiri saying, “O, log of wood what split you? The wedge made from own wood!” Some time back the Prime Minister in a speech had said that the Kashmiri students should be holding laptops in their hands instead of stones! He needs to be updated that the Kashmiri students who were already with laptops are throwing these away and are looking for and snatching AK 47s! He needs to face the ground reality and come out of the Cuckoo’s world!

The most immediate thing is to stop the burning of educational institutions by all means by people from all sides. It is a well-known fact that all school buildings have round the clock watchmen. This phenomenon is happening for last few months. It is strange that with so much force and umpteen security agencies at its command, the government has failed to arrest and unmask the perpetrators. There are allegations that certain agencies and elements interested in keeping the pot boiling are indulging in these activities. The entire society needs to wake up and protect these institutions of learning. The ultimate “Azadi” would be of no use for a Valley of Illiterate Apes!

Even the traditional leaders of the “Azadi” movement are at a loss to know the way out. The continuous shut down is becoming a bear hug for them. Even if they want to let go, the bear won’t allow them to go like the other Kashmiri saying of the Kakun Haputh! The only way out of the logjam is for the government to forget all artificial barometers of political normalcy. They must end all suppression, release all the arrested persons, restore all basic human rights and go for an unconditional dialogue with all stakeholders to sort out the basic political problem. The present “Scorched Earth Policy” being followed all over the valley, which has previously been indulged in history by retreating armies, not bothered about the alienation and the hostility of the local population, of which the happenings in Rohomo, Pulwama on October 31st are the latest example, is not going to end the mayhem! It is rather going to add fuel to the burning fire!