Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Kashmir situation

I came upon an article by Michael Deibert on the Kashmir situation in India/Pakistan. Deibert tries to keep an even eye. However, his lack of specific examples of terrorist attacks in the late-80s, early-90s that perhaps lead to Indian Police excesses that he details suggests either a lack of information or some sympathy for Kashmiri militants. Also, in my recollection, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was initially a terrorist organization; of late, it has turned away from its militant ways, and has fallen out of favor with Pakistan over the JKLF's support for an independent Kashmir.

I would not disagree with much of what Deibert writes; undoubtedly, there have been egregious abuses of power by Indian police authorities in Kashmir. One reason why there has been no plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir is the presence of Pakistan-supported militants; also, Pakistani military occupies Pakistan-administered Kashmir while Indian military/police occupy Indian-administered Kashmir. Thus, a free and fair referendum on accession to either India or Pakistan, or even Kashmiri independence, seems unlikely.

A few years back while informally discussing politics at school, another Indian student objected strongly to my use of the terms "Indian-administered Kashmir" and "Pakistan-administered Kashmir." But that, in my opinion, reflects reality - after all, Kashmiris did not accede to Kashmir becoming a part of the Indian Union (the Hindu ruler of J&K signed an accession treaty with India); nor do they seem happy to join Pakistan. Then again, the Kashmir situation has colored Indo-Pak relations for over 50 years, and religious fanaticism has lately been on the rise in both Hindu-dominated India and Islamic Pakistan. Rational discussion can hardly be expected either side of the border, and strong emotions are the order of the day.

1 comment:

Michael Deibert said...

Hello Dissenting Indian, and thanks for reading my article on the situation in Kashmir.

I agreed with many of the points you raise here. The JKLF was indeed a terrorist organization in its early days (though one man’s terrorist is often another man’s freedom fighter), which I alluded to in my mention of Yasin Malik’s past.

Though there were indeed terrorist acts in Kashmir in the late 80s and early 90s (including the expulsion of most Pandits which amounted to little more than slow-motion ethnic cleansing in my eyes), I still don’t think that any of them excuse the human-rights disaster that the Indian occupation of Kashmir has entailed over the last 20 years (nor am I suggesting that you are arguing that it does).

As you correctly note, the Kashmiris never asked to become part of a country called India (nor a country called Pakistan, for that matter) and India, which exhibits pride in calling itself the world’s largest democracy, has a documented history of stealing and rigging elections in the region.

Traveling in Srinagar and the villages, as an outsider (non-Kashmiri, Indian or Pakistani), I found the vast majority of Kashmiris to be non-violent, hospitable, humble people who by and large favored some system of autonomy that would reunite both POK and India-administered Kashmir. Alas, though, no Indian administration has had the moral courage to put that desire to the test at the ballot box, and for certain sectors of Pakistan’s military, intelligence and political establishment, the continuation of the Jihad Inc. that has become their involvement in Pakistan is too appealing a way to tie down the Indian army at no coast to let go.

I think the Kashmiris have had the misfortune to be born in a hauntingly beautiful land (probably the most beautiful I have seen along with some areas of Guatemala and Nord Kivu province here in DR Congo) that two great powers have made into a symbol, and as we know, when politicians become enamored in symbols, flags, slogans, etc., logic (and humanity) are often the first casualties.

All best from Kinshasa,

Michael Deibert