Why Do Kashmiris Have to Chose Between India or Pakistan

A Kashmiri activist of religious right Dukhtaran Millat in Srinagar

Dr Shabir Choudhry

LONDON, September 1(2005): Those who are pro Pakistan or pro India are relatively in safe hands, as they are appropriately rewarded and looked after either by Pakistan or India, in some cases by both. Even those who claim to be ‘championing’ the cause of an independent Kashmir, in some cases, have their loyalty ‘banked’ and ‘stored’ elsewhere.

Some of these leaders have made a career out of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute by promoting corruption, nepotism and destruction; and no surprise Jammu and Kashmir has ‘won’ a position as being the second most corrupt state.

Leaders like Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Sayeed on the Indian side and Sardar Qayyum, Sikandar Hayat and Sultan Mahmood on the Pakistani side, could be accused of being clever and opportunists as they benefit from ‘generosity’ of India and Pakistan respectively.

These leaders benefit from ‘generosity’ of one country and to some extent they perhaps believe in the ideology they adhere to, but we have some leaders who are not in the mainstream politics and they benefit from both governments and yet they are promoted and projected as ‘true representatives’ of Kashmiris.

Whereas in the view of many writers and Kashmir-watchers, these so called ‘true representatives’ and ‘nationalists’ are perhaps more corrupt, dishonest and hypocritical than those who are in the field of mainstream politics on both sides of the border. They have been assigned a task to ensure that no genuine leadership or nationalist force should emerge on either side of the divide.

And to rub salt in the wounds of the people they harass and terrorize members of the civil society and force them to project these leaders positively. Those who refuse to follow this dictation are disciplined by first sending the ‘goondas’, (toughies) as has happened with many including members of the media and if the person concerned shows obstinacy, hit squad is sent to ‘take out’ the target.

As both governments have their own agendas on Kashmir, and that surely differs with our agenda of united and independent Kashmir, both, at times, find no hesitation in joining hands to discredit and destroy the true forces of nationalism. And one way of discrediting true forces of nationalism is to promote and project those pseudo nationalists who have their loyalties safely stored either in Islamabad or in New Delhi.

For example, those who only want to liberate Indian side of the State and have no strategy and interest in liberating parts under Pakistan are hailed as champions of nationalism. Similarly those who have demanded implementation of the UN resolutions to resolve the Kashmir issue are also projected as nationalists. And anyone who has any knowledge of these UN resolutions knows that they only offer the people to choose between India and Pakistan, thus denying them a right to become independent.

In one extreme case where one so- called ‘nationalist leader’, who openly suggested a division of the State, more or less on communal lines, is also promoted as a senior leader of JKLF; hence tarnishing the image of the party and nationalism. Those who have vested interest in Kashmir and have control of the media want to project and impose them as Kashmiri leaders. This strategy is adopted not because of goodwill and honesty, but because they want to exploit weaknesses of these ‘leaders’, and later on use them as Hamid Karzai was used in Afghanistan.

Very recently I met an old ‘friend’, who unlike many so called experts on Kashmir, knows what the Kashmir dispute is but his interest lies with promoting and defending Pakistani stand on Kashmir. Clearly we disagree on various issues related to Kashmir, but still have respect for each other. For purposes of this article, we can call him Raj Sahib, as I will have to refer to him in order to explain certain points.

Raj Sahib thinks politics requires wisdom, patience and good planning; and a successful politician uses his brain, and energy and effort of others to achieve his target. And beauty of this approach is that other people regard this as their success and continue to support the ‘mission’ that was never theirs and they never had any control over it.

According to him very early on in the struggle it was decided that the Kashmir dispute would have only two dimensions: they had to choose between India and Pakistan. In other words they had to either support a Pakistani view point on Kashmir or that of India. Only people working within these parameters could be successful or get rewards. All those who operate outside these parameters are considered as ‘outsiders’ who are there to create trouble, and wish to disturb memoranda of understandings.

These memoranda of understandings have different levels. There is one level of understanding between India and Pakistan, one between Pakistan and pro Pakistan Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the divide. Similarly India has one level of understanding between those Kashmiris who are pro India, and one level of understanding between those who are apparently fighting against the Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

Raj Sahib said those Kashmiri nationalists who claim to be nationalists and yet enjoy lifestyle of princes; or are projected in the national media of Pakistan and India have locked – in their loyalty in brief cases of money provided by agencies of these countries.

‘Shabir Sahib I can appreciate your research, know-how and dedication to the cause of united and independent Kashmir, but it is a non-starter, as I have told you many times. No matter how hard you work and what sacrifices you make, you will get no where and you will not get any rewards, if anything, you are on decline because you have been turned into a controversial figure with certain allegations.’

Many years ago, perhaps in 1991, while discussing the Kashmiri struggle, Raj Sahib said to me that nothing was going to come out of this ‘freedom struggle’, and that I should say good bye to politics of JKLF and nationalism. Raj Sahib said, ‘Road to power and government (raj neeti) is paved by people like Raj’, he pointed index finger to his chest, and continued with his flattering conversation. ‘You are an educated and talented young man’, he said, ‘Provided you are on the right track and a person like me is behind you, you can reach to the top in Kashmiri politics.’ Raj Sahib further said, he has directed and put on track many people, and despite being less educated and less talented, they have made names in the Kashmiri politics.

I didn’t take much notice of his advice as I thought it was his ‘duty’ to speak against JKLF and Kashmiri nationalism; and try to dissuade and frustrate stalwarts of JKLF. During the course of this meeting, he reminded me of that conversation, and said, ‘Shabir Sahib no matter how fast you walk on a wrong path you will never reach your destination. You can work with sincerity, hard work and dedication for the cause of a united and an independent Kashmir, but you will get no appreciation and no rewards because you have annoyed too many influential people.’

I tried to put up a brave face and said that I didn’t need appreciation from anyone, and that for righteous cause people have to pay a price. He interrupted me, and rather harshly said, ‘Choudhry Sahib, don’t fool yourself. We all need recognition and appreciation, and you are no exception. I can see your frustration and bitterness; despite sincerity and hard work your work is not appreciated, and this is because you are on the wrong path.’

With a friendly smile Raj Sahib said, despite your education, research and practical experience in politics you didn’t understand that you belong to a place called Azad Kashmir; and you don’t have luxury of too many options there. People of Indian occupied Kashmir can get rewards by being pro India, and they can also get rewards for being pro Pakistan and pro independent.

But people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan could only get rewards for being pro Pakistan. For being pro independent they face wrath of authorities and doors of opportunities are closed to them, unless they have secretly aligned themselves with Islamabad. And there is absolutely no place for those who could possibly be pro India. Anyone suspected for being pro India will face imprisonment and possibly death; and that is the ground reality which you need to understand.

Unlike some of your critics, I think you are not pro India, even though some of your articles could benefit India and harm the Pakistani stand on Kashmir. I want you to understand this ground reality that in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan, there is absolutely no place for those who support Indian policy on Kashmir and this situation will continue until India takes over these areas which will not happen until doomsday.

Also you need to understand this ground reality that you live on the border of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan; and whatever is the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, these areas will always remain under control of Pakistan. In view of this bitter reality, you need to review your policy and understand this basic point that the Kashmir dispute has only two dimensions – pro India or pro Pakistan.

The writer is Chairman of Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and author of many books. He is also Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email: drshabirchoudhry@hotmail.com

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