Niloofar Qureshi

Violence will lead Kashmir nowhere

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When the Kalashnikov first made its appearance in Kashmir more than three decades ago, it was widely believed that it would finally get us ‘azadi’ (freedom) and so,the peace-loving people of Kashmir cannot be blamed for having enthusiastically welcomed the gun. Being simple and susceptible, they were beguiled by the extraordinary hype created about “azadi being just around the corner” and by drawing parallels of this new ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir with that of Afghanistan where the mighty Soviet army was humbled by US backed mujahideens.

However, not everyone was blinded by this unfounded optimism and there were many sane voices in Kashmir that warned the public that this new cult of violence would also be the harbinger of an unprecedented human tragedy in the days to come. However, the Kalashnikov wielding ‘freedom fighters’ weren’t the type who possessed intellect or patience to disprove their detractors with logical reasoning. Instead, they found it more convenient to permanently silence such voices forever. Numerous well-respected preachers, scholars, academicians, professionals and even ordinary citizens who had antagonised ‘freedom fighters’ by condemning violence ended up paying for doing so with their lives.

In this way, the first victims of the gun (which was ostensibly meant to be used against our ‘oppressors’) were our own people whose only fault was that they were all well-meaning and upright persons with a strong sense of social responsibility. And by spilling the blood of innocents, the ‘freedom fighters’ gave the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir an inauspicious beginning and this may have probably put the scourge of the Kalashnikov upon us that continues to bleed Kashmir even today! One has lost count of how many Kashmiris have died in the last three decades and while none of those who support the ‘armed struggle’ have ever been able to cite even a single advantage of the same, yet their talk about “taking the armed struggle to its logical conclusion” is confusing.

Even a novice will tell you that if the ‘logical conclusion’ of the ‘armed struggle’ implies getting ‘azadi’ by driving out the Indian army from Kashmir, then this is an impractical and unachievable option. Similarly, the justification that ‘armed struggle’ is ‘legitimate’ since it has been thrust upon people due to denial of their ‘right to self-determination’ by an oppressive regime is not legally or even morally sustainable. Being deprived of one’s rights or being oppressed doesn’t give a person or community the right to indulge in violence or take law into their own hands. Thus, rather than indulging in mere rhetoric, those who support the ‘armed struggle’ need to introspect and honestly assess its contribution in resolving the Kashmir issue.

The United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Salahuddin is convinced that ‘jihad’ (as he prefers to refer to the ‘armed struggle’) is the only way in which the Kashmir issue can be resolved. And though separatists proclaim seeking resolution of the Kashmir issue through peaceful means, but they too univocally endorse the ‘armed struggle’. However, certain statements made by the UJC chief as well as the Hurriyat leaders clearly indicate that all of them are fully aware of the limitations of the ‘armed struggle’. Salahuddin’s admission that “we are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir” reveals how Kashmiris are being used as pawns in the ongoing fight between India and Pakistan. Similarly, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s view that “military means have not achieved any results except creating more graveyards” reveals its futility.

In its ‘Country Reports on Terrorism’ for 2019, US State Department has noted that “Pakistan continued to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally focused terrorist groups.  It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan… as well as groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organizations, and JeM, to operate from its territory.” This observation supports UJC chief’s admission that Pakistan based militant groups are “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.” Therefore, the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is not being viewed by the international community as a ‘righteous movement’ of a people struggling for their legitimate rights (as we are being told), but merely as “terrorist and other militant acts” that “continue to emanate from Pakistani soil!”

In the past, even former Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani too had painted a dismal picture about the prospects of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. According to him, “The ‘armed struggle’ won’t serve its purpose unless and until it is well-coordinated. It needs support of a country, which could provide supply of weapons, resources and training camps, which we don’t have…It,  also needs ideologically perfect youth. It needs strategy. The militancy in Kashmir lacks these things. Since the eruption of armed movement, the militants couldn’t focus on these things.”

It is no secret that Pakistan is helping Salahuddin in waging his ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. However, the reality is that despite its assistance and assurances, Islamabad can never afford to match the scale of assistance which Washington provided to the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Therefore, while the UJC chief may have declared that “The deciding front which will compel India’s 750,000 (strong) army to quit our motherland is the ‘Jihadi’ front,” his belief is nothing more than just wishful thinking!

Therefore, how can we afford to be mere spectators while our youth is being rapidly consumed in the wildfire of the ‘armed struggle’?  History bears testimony to the fact that even after more than three decades during which countless sacrifices have been made, the ‘armed struggle’ has failed to get us anywhere nearer to our goal of achieving the ‘right to self-determination’. Conversely, the ‘K’ movement today has been so badly overshadowed by the ‘armed struggle’ that no country wants to even touch the Kashmir issue even with a bargepole. The lack of response by the UNSC, USA, OIC and the international community to Pakistan’s recent appeal for intervention on the Kashmir issue after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 shows just how badly the ‘armed struggle’ has had an adverse impact on world opinion on the issue of ‘self-determination’.

The writing on the wall is absolutely clear- in case we are really serious about the ‘right to self-determination’ movement, then we have no other choice but to abandon the ‘armed struggle’ for two reasons. One, because its aim is unachievable and two, the international community will only start listening to us once Kashmir is purged of the Kalashnikov’s scourge!

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