Niloofar Qureshi

‘Armed Struggle’ and ‘Self Determination’

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The joint resistance leadership (JLR) of the Hurriyat has repeatedly been telling New Delhi that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved by military means. However, it surprisingly doesn’t offer this sagacious advice to those who are waging an ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Instead, with Hurriyat (G) chairman AS Geelani declaring that “We (Hurriyat) never denied or ignored the role of gun in our struggle.” And reiterating how “Gun could be one of the options for permanent solution of the Kashmir issue besides other political means,” he has made it amply clear that the separatist conglomerate has no inhibitions in using military means to achieve the ‘right to self determination’.

However, while the JRL hasn’t clarified as to how it proposes to get the international community to support its unique policy of simultaneously using peaceful means and military action in the ‘self determination’ movement, yet it fiercely defends the ‘armed struggle’. Readers would recall that in February 2016, when a Pakistani parliamentary committee proposed that “Pakistan should not encourage calls for active support of armed, banned, militant groups in Kashmir,” it had greatly upset Geelani sahib. Readers would also recollect that the Hurriyat (G) chairman had reminded Islamabad at that time of how “All those groups busy in the freedom struggle of Kashmir have nothing to do with the terrorism but they are struggling for just and genuine demand of right to self determination for their nation.”

Just eight months later, Nawaz Sharif endorsed the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir by saying “India is mistaken if it considers that a freedom fight can be equated with terrorism” and even went on to say “No power in the world can stop us from supporting the freedom struggle of Kashmiris.” Unfortunately, though Islamabad has been paying a lot of lip service to the Kashmir issue, it hasn’t been able to get any country or organisation to support the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Why go far, despite being its founder member, Pakistan hasn’t even been able to get the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to accept ‘armed struggle’ as a legitimate means for attaining ‘self determination’. Consequently, even though we have the OIC on our side, its support is restricted solely to peaceful means to resolve the Kashmir issue and thus, the ‘armed struggle’ continues to be viewed as terrorism by the international community!

By waxing eloquent on the righteousness of ‘armed struggle’ but failing to get it international acceptability, Pakistan has created an awkward situation for ‘freedom fighters’. Encouraged by Islamabad’s public endorsement of the ‘armed struggle’, militant groups intensified their attacks. And as violence levels in Kashmir increased manifold, the security forces retaliated strongly and the last two years have seen heavy casualties on both sides. Unfortunately, militants crossed the ‘red line’ by abducting and executing security force personnel who had come home on leave as well as civilians whom they  suspected were working as informers, not even sparing women. While the Hurriyat has maintained a stoic silence on these incidents, the 2019 Human Rights Watch World Report on India has taken a serious note of such killings and mentions that:

  • Militants killed at least 32 policemen in 2018.
  • In August, in retaliation for the arrest of their relatives, militants in South Kashmir kidnapped 11 relatives of several policemen.
  • In November, militant group Hizbul Mujahideen killed a 17-year-old boy in Kashmir on suspicion that he was a police informer, and released the video of the killing as a warning to others.
  • Militants killed several other people in 2018 on suspicions of being police informers.

Similarly, the Pulwama suicide attack on a CRPF convoy carried out by a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant that killed 49 soldiers and injured several others may be the most lethal attack on security forces in Kashmir. However, there is no reason for militants to celebrate because this incident has also dealt the most telling blow to the three decade old ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir as the following fallouts indicate:

  • US, UK and France moved UNSC to declare JeM chief Masood Azhar a ‘global terrorist’. Though China put this proposal on “technical hold,” the fact that it had the support of 14 out of the 15 members reveals that the international community clearly disapproves of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. And Beijing’s unprecedented offer to discuss this issue with New Delhi is a very positive development for India.
  • Islamabad has been forced to act against the JeM and even if the curbs and arrests are just a sham to appease the international community, it’s still a big diplomatic victory for New Delhi as this has exposed the hollowness of Pakistan’s bold claim that “No power in the world can stop us from supporting the freedom struggle of Kashmiris.”
  • Islamabad had to abandon the high moral position it initially took by assuring New Delhi that it would act against Masood Azhar if solid proof was provided which was a clear indication that the JeM chief was present in Pakistan. Thereafter, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi revealed that JeM had been contacted and had confirmed that it wasn’t involved in the Pulwama suicide attack. He again confirmed Azar’s presence in Pakistan by disclosing that the JeM chief was unwell and hospitalised. However when the ISPR chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor announced that Azhar wasn’t present in Pakistan, Qureshi obediently toed the army’s line. By taking such quick ‘U turns’ Islamabad has eroded its own credibility within the international community.
  • After the Pulwama attack, New Delhi has once again received overwhelming support for fighting ‘terrorism’ in Kashmir from the international community which is an indirect endorsement of New Delhi’s ‘muscular policy’.
  • Islamabad may be proud of having made non committal statement on the Pulwama attack. However, its assertion that “We have always condemned acts of violence anywhere in the world,” is not merely a clear cut expression that disapproves of the Pulwama attack but also the ‘armed struggle’.

Our leaders maintain that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved by the intervention of UN and involvement of the international community. However, the international community despises violent incidents and its reaction to the Pulwama suicide attack has yet once again proved that violence in Kashmir is doing more harm than good to the ‘self determination’ movement. Therefore, in case Islamabad and the Hurriyat are really serious about resolving the Kashmir issue in accordance with UN resolutions and the aspirations of the people, then they have to get the international community on our side. However, this can only happen when violent means to achieve ‘self determination’ are abjured!

The ball is squarely in our court!

The writer is a Delhi based columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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