By Sajjad Shaukat

Kashmiris fighting for their rights

On one hand, India claims that Kashmir uprising has slowed down and the situation is returning towards normalisation, while on the other, Kashmir movement has intensified in the recent weeks.

In this connection, on July 10 this year, a rigid curfew was imposed in most of Indian-held Kashmir (IHK), while shops and businesses were closed and public transport was off the roads after All Parties Hurriyat Conference declared a strike. During the strike, it was a total news blackout.  Of the nearly 60 newspapers, not a single paper was published from Srinagar for four days.

The clampdown in IHK has come after street protests and clashes, surged in the controlled territories, and more than 30 people have died over the past six weeks in shootings by the police and paramilitary battalions. Despite curfew-like restrictions, arrests and detentions, Kashmir movement continues unabated.

Rocked by violence and unrest, the intensification of the uprising in the Indian controlled Kashmir could be judged from the fact that the Valley is now facing the threat of a civil disobedience, as seven senior civil and police officers have refused to take up their duties. A large number of officers have refused to accept challenging assignments in different districts including Srinagar, Baramulla and Kupwara; they preferred being posted in some relatively peaceful areas of the state. Following the killing of a youth in Baramulla district, the state government has ordered a reshuffle in the police administration.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has urged India to immediately release two jailed lawyers in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and repeal a harsh law that allows detention for up to two years without trial. Under the pretext of terror, India has passed some draconian laws like POTA (Prevention Of Terrorism Act) that even Israel the modern measure of brutality can not match. POTA is a free license to snatch any ones liberty and freedom.

Now the Kashmir movement has entered the stage of ‘now or never’ due to the failure of Indian continued tactics of state terrorism such as curfew, firing at innocent Kashmiris, killings and arrests which could not reduce the strong determination of the people of the Valley, calling for freedom of their land.

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The current phase of Kashmir struggle began on August 12, 2008 when Indian forces killed Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz along with five other persons who were Sheikh Abdul Aziz, a member of the Hurriyat Conference, an influential coalition of separatist parties, was killed as about 100,000 Muslim Kashmiris made an unprecedented attempt to breach the line of control that splits the fiercely contested region between India and Pakistan.

Since then more than 300 innocent people have been massacred by the Indian security forces in the controlled territories of Kashmir. It also includes the people killed by the Indian forces in the fake encounters. Now the issue has moved much beyond sparking a massive movement of Kashmiris, calling for their genuine right of self-determination.

Unlike the past, this time Indian occupied Kashmir has become a special focus of world’s attention including India itself.

In this regard, Washington Post had reported on August 28, 2008, “Despite the government’s use of force, many Muslims in Indian controlled Kashmir seem determined to find peaceful ways to voice their aspirations as the nonviolent movement by the unarmed protesters flourishes, especially among the young.”

New critical situation has also affected other parts of India and its gravity could be judged from the fact that even Indian intellectuals have favoured the independence of the occupied Kashmir.

In its editorial, the editor of The Times of India wrote, “On August 15, India celebrated independence from the British Raj. A day symbolising the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolising Indian colonialism in the Valley.”

The editor further elaborated, “We promised Kashmiris a plebiscite six decades ago. Let us hold one now, and let Kashmiris decide the outcome, not the politicians and armies of India”. It was also admitted that subsequent state elections were also rigged in support of leaders nominated by New Delhi.

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On August 16, 2008, Hindustan Times wrote: “Nothing has really changed since 1990s. A single spark such as the dispute over Amarnath land can set the whole valley on fire—Indian forces are treated as an army of occupation. New Delhi is seen as the oppressor.” The paper further indicated, “The current crisis in Kashmir is a consequence of Indian establishment, raising the confrontation to a new level.” It realised that during the present demonstrations, “There is active hatred of India, threatening to further internationalise the present crisis. The world looks at us with dismay.” This Indian newspaper clearly suggested a referendum in the Valley, writing, “Let the Kashmiris determine their own destiny—whatever happens, how can India lose? If you believe in democracy, then giving Kashmiris the right of self-determination is the correct thing to do.”

It is of particular attention that demanding immediate withdrawal of Indian Army from the Indian controlled Kashmir, a renowned Indian author and book prize winner, Arundhati Roy, while criticizing the Indian media had already pointed out in 2005 that it failed to highlight the plight of ordinary Kashmiris, exposed to brutalities perpetrated by the Indian security forces.

As regards Indian delaying tactics regarding the solution of Kashmir dispute, it has become fashion to blame Pakistan and its intelligence agency ISI for infiltration, using it as a pretext to crush the Kashmiri’s war of liberation which is indigenous as now recognized even by Indian media.

Under the cover of ISI, New Delhi also wants to distract the attention of the west from her atrocities, being perpetrated on the Kashmiris. In the recent past, hundreds of unidentified graves with more than 3000 bodies were discovered in the Indian-held Kashmir. Sources have accused Indian RAW of the custodial killings of the Kashmiri people through brutal methods. In this context, even the European Parliament has passed a resolution, condemning New Delhi for human rights violations.

Since 1989, India has deployed more than 500000 troops to quell the freedom movement of Kashmiris, but it cannot eliminate it at present as it could not do so through many years of oppression. Instead, a study report, prepared by Indian government revealed that Kashmir violence has been affecting Indian forces’ psyche. In this connection, the report has disclosed that disturbances in Jammu and Kashmir have had adverse psychological problems found especially among the officers and Jawans such as an increase in short tempers, quarrelsome attitude, mental disorders and abnormal behaviour. Sometimes, the situation leads to suicide attempts or attacks on their seniors and colleagues.

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Now, it is a turning point for the liberation of Kashmir as the Valley is burning and bleeding. It is ample clear that India still wants to equate the innocent Kashmiris with terrorism and is keen to continue her state terrorism in Kashmir. She does not show any serious willingness to settle this issue in accordance with the wishes of struggling Kashmiris. Every body will agree that it is the right hour to resolve this old dispute on which Pakistan and India fought three wars.

However, the magnitude of the current movement is unprecedented in the history. The slogans for liberation in every nook and corner of India have strained New Delhi since independence. No doubt, Kashmir has reached the phase of solution. Taking cognizance of the new developments seriously at this sensitive juncture, Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders must take steps, making combined efforts to resolve this thorny issue. In this respect, Pakistani government, Kashmir leadership, other Kashmiris, living in the Sub-continent and abroad must keep the tea pot boiling by highlighting the dispute, voicing the aspirations of the people for freedom. It is hoped that the day is not far away when the Kashmiris will be blessed with the fruits of independence.

Sajjad Shaukat is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker. He writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.