Niloofar Qureshi

 ‘Killing’ the ‘Self Determination’ Movement

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Our leaders may put up a brave front and claim that the struggle for ‘self determination’ in Kashmir is making rapid progress and well on its way to fructification. However, the reality is quite different as despite the humungous loss of human life and countless number of hartals since the nineties, the ‘self determination’ movement hasn’t made any visible headway. In fact with militancy now becoming the face of this movement and the complete absence of any political outreach by the Hurriyat has resulted in UN resolutions on Kashmir taking the backseat due to which we today stand isolated. And though our leaders continue to place implicit faith in Pakistan’s ability to play a decisive role in resolving the Kashmir logjam, but seeing Islamabad’s negligible influence in the international arena, such optimism may be grossly misplaced.

What’s really inexplicable is that when we have UN resolutions in our favour, then why have our leaders given a commanding space to the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir? And when we are well aware of the international community’s absolute aversion to any form of violence as a means to achieve a political objective, then doesn’t the joint resistance leadership (JRL) realise that by supporting militancy it’s only serving New Delhi’s interests? The JRL may say that the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is justified and cannot be equated with “terrorism” and this viewpoint may have support of Islamabad. However, in the end what matters aren’t our justifications but the international community’s perceptions and we all know what the world thinks about the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Surely both Islamabad and the JRL must also be aware of this as well!

In order to justify militancy, Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani has in the past drawn a parallel between the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir and the path of violence that Bhagat Singh and Subash Chandra Bose followed in India’s independence struggle.  However, while Geelani Sahib may have got his basic facts right but he has unfortunately overlooked to mention a very important issue that makes the Indian independence movement and Kashmir’s struggle for ‘azadi’ as different as oranges from apples. ‘Armed struggle’ was definitely a part of India’s independence movement but it was neither approved of nor eulogised by Mahatma Gandhi who was leading the mass movement for India’s independence.

Instead, Gandhi ensured that the public strictly adhered to peaceful methods of protests despite being brutalised by the state instead of defending mob violence by saying it was the result of the youth ‘pushed against the wall’. In fact in 1922, he called off the national non-cooperation movement when protesters in Chauri Chaura, a small town in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh turned violent and burnt down a police outpost that resulted in death of the policemen trapped inside. By abruptly terminating a national level movement just because of an isolated case of mob violence, Gandhi demonstrated his unconditional commitment to peaceful methods of protests and thus succeeded in giving India’s freedom struggle the necessary ideological advantage which earned it respect of the international community.

And though Gandhi praised the heroism of Bhagat Singh and his two associates who were hanged with him, but he never talked about taking their mission to its ‘logical conclusion’ and neither did he make any promises that the blood of martyrs would not be allowed to ‘go waste’. Instead, writing in ‘Young India’ after the execution of Bhagat Singh and his associates, Gandhi stated, “…we should not imitate their act. In our land of millions of destitute and crippled people, if we take to the practice of seeking justice through murder, there will be a terrifying situation. Our poor people will become victims of our atrocities. By making a dharma (religion) of violence, we shall be reaping the fruit of our own actions. Hence, though we praise the courage of these brave men, we should never countenance their activities. Our dharma is to swallow our anger, abide by the discipline of non-violence and carry out our duty.”

Thus, if the Hurriyat wants to use the example of India’s independence movement and expect the world to give the ‘self determination’ movement the same respect then it has to rethink its position on the ‘armed struggle’. However, for the JRL to now disassociate itself from the ‘armed struggle’ won’t be an easy thing to do because the Hurriyat leadership has itself been encouraging militancy by statements like “guns can be a permanent solution for J&K” and “we never denied or ignored the role of the gun in our struggle.”

Till this happens, the chances of the international community playing any serious role in getting New Delhi to agree and implement UN resolutions on Kashmir are extremely remote. The irony is that while the ‘armed struggle’ has (in Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook’s own words) “not achieved anything other than creating more graveyards,” it has undoubtedly helped New Delhi in portraying the upheaval in Kashmir as Pakistan sponsored terrorism. And unfortunately some of our own well wishers have also made New Delhi’s task of demonising the Kashmir movement far more easy!

By citing United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Salahuddin’s admission that he and his boys are “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir,” New Delhi is able to further strengthen its narrative regarding the unrest in Kashmir. And irresponsible statements made by people who have been in high places like former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s ex President and former army chief Gen (Retired) Pervez Musharraf, ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former ISI chief Lt Gen (Retired) Asad Durrani about Pakistan army’s role in supporting the ‘armed struggle’ has further weakened our case.

Surprisingly, Pakistan says that the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved peacefully and the Hurriyat says that there is no military solution to this problem. Yet, by saying ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir cannot be equated with terrorism, both are openly endorsing use of guns to achieve ‘self determination’. That’s why whenever either Islamabad or the Hurriyat demands implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir, no nation takes their pleas seriously. And when successive Pakistan army chiefs keep referring to Kashmir as the “unfinished agenda of partition” and its “jugular vein” even before the plebiscite for ‘self determination’ is held, then how can the international community be blamed for viewing the Kashmir imbroglio as just another petty Indo-Pak territorial dispute?

The ‘armed struggle’ that Islamabad and Hurriyat are so stoutly defending is unfortunately conveying the erroneous impression to the international community that instead of resolving the Kashmir issue peacefully in accordance with UN resolutions we have decided to find the solution to this problem all by ourselves with the help of the gun. This misperception is ‘killing’ the peaceful ‘self determination’ movement and only two options are available to our leaders. The first is to completely disassociate with the ‘armed struggle’ and solicit international support by making peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with UN resolutions the central and singular theme of the ‘self determination’ movement. The second option is to continue eulogising the ‘armed struggle’ and by doing so ‘kill’ the ‘self determination’ movement!

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