There is one thing stronger than all armies of the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo

By Momin Iftikhar

Unarmed; but armed with conviction to see the light of freedom

The sight of throngs of Kashmiri young men defiantly throwing stones with an abandon, that only youth can muster, to express alienation with the Indian security apparatus evokes inevitable feeling of déjà vu. It was in 1989 when another upheaval took shape in the Indian Held Kashmir; Indian sponsored massive rigging to bring Farooq Abdullah, father of the incumbent Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, to power as Chief Minister in 1987 triggered the surge of militancy that rocked India for the next decade and a half. That blood drenched spell of militancy has spent itself but a new generation of Kashmiris that was raised in the shadows of the Indian reign of terror has come of age. In contrast to freedom fighters of the nineties this generation is suave and tempered by the realities of the contemporary world where any armed freedom struggle is likely to be equated with terrorism. No wonder then that the ongoing mass movement stands out as better organized and cognizant of the ground realities.

The change of strategy has made its mark; Omar Abdullah and his Indian mentors are beginning to realize that stone throwers have outdone the gun wielders by knocking down the walls of misperceptions that Indian propaganda had so assiduously fabricated over the years. By sacrificing over eighty youngsters to brutality of occupational forces, with no casualty to the security forces, the perception that grass root movement is non-violent has cemented, projecting the Kashmiri case in a new avatar. The result is that after a long time some fundamental dimensions of the Kashmiri struggle for self determination are now coming to fore with a new found clarity making a profound impact and eliciting better understanding from the world at large.

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First and foremost; Kashmir Issue is indigenous. It is not an outcome of the “cross border terrorism” nor is it sustained by ‘terrorist’ entities like Lashkar e Toiba. Indian assertions that ongoing unrest in Kashmir is stoked by Pakistan, only exposes the weakness of their case over Kashmir. On 6th August India’s Interior Minister alleged that Pakistan was behind the charged anti India protests that began on Jun 11th when a 17 year old youth was killed by a tear gas shell near Sri Nagar’s main mosque. “Pakistan appears to have altered its strategy in influencing events in Jammu and Kashmir.  It is possible that they believe that relying upon civilian unrest will pay them better dividends,” Chidambaram told the Parliament during a debate on the protests. Coming at a time when Pakistan is grappling with the worst natural disaster since its inception, such allegations come across as patently baseless ;only reflecting  a stance that is not only bereft of realism but of any moral mooring as well. It is worth mentioning that the youth whose death triggered the avalanche of protests was part of a demonstration that agitated against a fake encounter in Machchil Sector on the Line of Control in Kupwara District where three Kasmiri youth, from Nadihal Village in Baramula District were cold bloodedly killed by an Indian Army Unit and declared “cross border terrorists”.

Second, the grass root upheaval has emphatically demonstrated that the freedom movement in Kashmir has no terrorist leanings; as the Indians are wont to make the world believe. It poses no terrorism threat to India or to the world at large. It is worth recollecting that the Lahore Declaration in 1998, following Vajpaee’s bus mounted sojourn to Lahore, made no reference to existence of terrorism in the Kashmir context. The shift in the Indian propaganda, that currently reflects their state policy vis-à-vis Pakistan, only emerged in the post 9/11 period in which an attack on the Indian Parliament in Dec 2001 was brazenly exploited to subvert the armed Kashmiri struggle for the right of self determination as terrorist activity and project Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri separatist movement as illegitimate. Readers may find it interesting that the Parliament Attack Case after going through five year long cycle of judicial proceedings culminating in Supreme Court, failed to come up with a shred of evidence implicating Pakistan. Only Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri stands out as the ultimate fall guy who has been ordered to be hanged for abetting unknown “terrorists” for attacking the seat of Indian democracy. .

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Third, the uprising has brought under spot light the UN linkages to Kashmir that India has so persistently attempted to obliterate. The announcement by a UN spokesman on 13 Jul that the UN Secretary General was aware of the situation in the IHK since the unrest began a fortnight ago and was monitoring the situation came as a reassuring portent. It was, predictably, treated with scorn by India who has made it a point to unilaterally interpret the Kashmir Dispute as a strictly bilateral issue in the aftermath of the Simla Agreement; even as Pakistan objects to such an interpretation. India tends to gloss over the fact that there are active UN Resolutions covering the Kashmir Dispute and there are UN observers of the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), mandated to supervise the UN brokered Cease Fire Line, stationed in India and Pakistan. What is even stranger is that even though the UNMOGIP observers are present in India, they are not permitted to do their mandated job. If UN Resolutions on Kashmir are no longer valid, as India tends to take a stance, then why doesn’t she asks the UNSC for arranging repatriation of UNMOGIP observers and terminating their mission. India made a commitment before the UN to ensure a plebiscite for the Kashmiris in which they should exercise their right of self determination. Now that Kashmiri masses are asking for fulfilling that commitment, UN must play its own role in realizing Kashmiris’ legitimate aspirations.

The ongoing mass upheaval of Kashmiris’ protest against Indian occupation has found the Indian Government flatfooted because they have no tenable answer to the questions posed by the militating youth. Their premise that with the passage of time the coming generations of Kashmiris will get disoriented and assimilated in the Indian system of governance has failed to bear fruit. The young generation has acquired the baton for fighting the Indian oppression through passive resistance; a leaf straight out of Gandhi’s teachings. The swell of public pressure has begun to build up. How long will India stonewall the collective will of Kashmiris remains only a matter of time.

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Momin Iftikahr is a writer who prefers not to be known by his qualifications but through his writings. He is a South Asia expert with over 30 years of research in this field. He has been contributing to Opinion Maker for quite sometime now.

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