By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
India-Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOK) is under illegal occupation of India since 1947 and the people suffering under the oppressive rule denied of their basic rights desire freedom. They have been waging struggle for the last 63 years to get freedom from Indian yoke and have resorted to both democratic and violent means. Savage methods have been employed by Indian occupation forces to suppress the people and make them submit to Indian illegal occupation. Brutal force has failed to stifle the yearning desire for freedom which has now taken a new shape in the form of stone-throwing by teenagers. On the other hand, Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) was liberated from the hold of Maharaja Hari Singh’s Dogra Army and Indian Army by the freedom fighters of Kashmir and tribesmen from FATA/NWFP in October 1947.
People of AJK are living in complete freedom and enjoying all the concessions of an autonomous state. There has never been any movement for democratic rights or regional autonomy. Selig Harrison’s biased article appearing in Jewish controlled New York Times in August apart from creating a sensation through his false reporting of presence of large number of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Pakistan’s decision to hand over GB to China has also tried to equate the situation of AJK with IHK by stating that AJK is being brutally suppressed. There couldn’t have been a bigger lie than what has been fabricated by Harrison to please the Indians. Blinkered and prejudiced Harrison somehow cannot hear or see the cries of the Kashmiris in IHK. Through his colored glasses he sees Indian forces showering roses on Kashmiris and the latter gratified by their benevolence chanting pro-India slogans.
Pro-independence nonviolent movement which triggered on 11 June 2010 as a consequence to killing of a 17 year old boy by Indian occupation forces has turned into a mass movement. This is the third bout of political agitation by peaceful means since summer of 2008. In the last 3 ½ months, 107 innocent people have been killed by occupation forces, mostly young boys and women, and thousands injured. Police and paramilitary troops have been firing indiscriminately upon peaceful protestors chanting slogans of ‘Azadi’ and ‘go India go’ to suppress them. Brutal methods are being employed to break the momentum of the movement which has now spread to all parts of occupied Kashmir including some of the Muslim-majority districts of Jammu.
Police instead of using water canons or rubber bullets to disperse stone pelting protesters, aims tear gas shells at their
heads. This crude practice results in deaths. On August 2, a policeman thrust his baton in the mouth of an 8 year boy Sameer in Batmaloo due to which boy’s lungs ruptured and he is still fighting battle of life and death in critical condition. Besides using tear gas shells excessively, troops fire volleys of live bullets direct into the crowds and their rifles point towards chests and heads of the protestors. Many bystanders including some children playing in playgrounds have been killed because of wholesale firing.
The new generation having grown under the boots of Indian occupation forces has become fed up of the continued oppression of occupation forces. They hate their hypocritical Kashmiri rulers acting as puppets of India and want to get rid of them. They are disillusioned with other so-called moderate Kashmiri leaders of APHC who had been induced by Indian rulers and had agreed to indulge in fruitless talks. United Jihad Council chairman Sayyed Salahuddin’s effigy was burnt on 2 August since he had appealed to general public to show restraint and protest in a phased manner so as not to hamper schooling. Likewise when Syed Ali Shah Geelani sent a message of truce to the puppet government of Omar Abdullah and requested for lifting of curfew, the people got enraged and threatened to burn his house.
Young Kashmiris are extremely unhappy with rulers of Pakistan who since 2004 have stopped extending them even moral and diplomatic support and have been promoting Indian scheme of solving Kashmir dispute. Whatever arbitrary pro-Kashmir statements made is mere lip service. They have not forgotten Zardari equating Kashmiri freedom fighters with terrorists, or saying that India is a friend and Pakistan has no threat from it. Their disenchantment and frustration has reached such a high pitch that no amount of brutality inflicted upon them scares them away. Tender aged boys as small as 8 years are more enthusiastic and are seen leading the processions. Each death of their colleagues adds to their pent up anger and further steel their resolve to continue with their civil disobedience movement. Not knowing how to counter the hail of bullets, young boys hurl stones on the soldiers and police.
APHC leaders have joined the popular movement not as leaders but as followers of the youth. Pro-independence slogans resound in all cities, towns and even in remotest villages of Kashmir valley. Tens of thousands of demonstrators led by the youth and carrying banners of ‘Quit Jammu & Kashmir’ come on the streets daily. Women including young girls are also taking active part and shouting independence slogans. Their fervor and motivation is so high that people from all walks of life have joined the young ones. Scale and intensity of mass rebellion by stone-pelters has demolished Indian propaganda that freedom struggle in IHK is not indigenous but Pakistan sponsored. It has also negated Indian claim made after 2008 state elections that Kashmiris do not want freedom but want to remain part of Indian Union.
Kashmiris having been betrayed and oppressed for too long are least interested in futile talks aimed at buying time and getting out of difficult situation. They have rejected the offer of dialogue, autonomy and economic package. They want concrete steps to be taken before agreeing to hold talks. Outcome of abortive talks between foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in Islamabad is fresh in their minds. Krishna was remote controlled from New Delhi and had to refer back home even for minor points. Talking points given to him were confined to terrorism alone; he was specifically told not to touch upon any other issue. He was debarred from talking on core issues that were part of composite dialogue. It had exposed the hypocrisy of Indian leaders who had been stating repeatedly for several months that they were ready for talks and would talk on all issues. By narrowing the talks to terrorism only, it was a clear indication that India was interested in talks premised on secret arrangement worked out with Gen Musharraf led team and not otherwise. Krishna visited Islamabad only to while away time and to fulfill the requirement of USA.
Manmohan and Chidambaram flabbergasted by the building storm are resorting to old tactics of someway defusing it through a mix of sweet talk, brute force and blame game. They are still blaming Pakistan for having instigated Kashmiri youngsters to resort to stone throwing tactics. New methods are being devised how to suppress the stone throwers without killing them. A new laser gun has been manufactured to dazzle the protesting crowd but it has the potency to cause permanent blindness. Syed Geelani has spelled out that for creating conditions conducive for fruitful tripartite talks, India should first immediately stop the massacre of innocent Kashmiris, free political prisoners, nullify black laws which have given a license to kill to trigger-happy occupation forces, completely demilitarize the heavily militarized valley, accept Kashmir as an international dispute and stop singing nauseating song that Kashmir is integral part of India. Mir Waiz having judged the aggressive mood of the Kashmiris has endorsed what Geelani has said.
The UN and international community will have to rise to the occasion to urgently solve this oldest unsolved dispute which has caused immense pains to the people of Kashmir.
The writer is a retired Brig who has authored a book ‘Kashmir battles of 1948, 1965 &1971 and ongoing freedom struggle’; and his next book ‘Tangled knot of Kashmir is being published.