Wednesday, December 22, 2010

India Needs Freedom from Kashmir

'India Needs Freedom from Kashmir'

Hameed Abdul Karim

The Kashmir valley has exploded - again. This time it began when the Indian Para military force, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), shot dead a school going child in Sopore. The Kashmiris came out on to streets in protest which in turn led to the deaths of more than eight unarmed civilians - mostly youth when Indian forces fired live bullets to suppress the protests.

The valley echoes with the familiar sounds of gun fire and shouts of Azadi (freedom) mingled with the heartbreaking wails of mothers who mourn the deaths of more of their sons in this latest bout of violence that India has generated with its occupation of Kashmir. And all that an uncaring government can do is look for scapegoats to blame for a fault that is its own.

Home Minister Chidambaram, the darling of big business, says the Lashkar-e-Taiba is behind the fresh round violence. Never for a moment does he turn the search light inwards and look for others that might be responsible for the blood letting in Kashmir. In any military occupation, it is the occupying power that must be held responsible for any breach of its law. The Indian leaders at the time they were fighting for freedom from the British quite rightly blamed the occupying power for the violence. They argued that if there was no occupation there would be no violence. Why doesn't the same rule apply to the occupying power in Kashmir, which in this case is India?

Kashmir was never a part of India at any time in history. Kashmir's tragedy came about, as Nehru describes it in his master piece of a book 'Glimpses of World History', when the British sold the state to Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu for a bargain price much the same way commodities are sold at supermarkets during 'Sales'. At no time were the 'poor Kashmiris ever consulted in the various transactions that took place' as Nehru puts it so sorrowfully. Shockingly, the same Nehru, this time as Prime Minister, rigged three elections in Kashmir according to India's Frontline magazine of August 11, 2006. Wonder if he 'consulted the poor Kashmiris' in this 'transaction'? But then you can't blame Nehru. He was, after all, an incurable politician like most of his breed all over the world. It's about time apolitical peace activists got some space with politicians to sort out issues like the Kashmir conflict. 

In 1947 Hari Singh, to prevent a Pashtun takeover of Kashmir, ceded the state to India on the advice of the ever cunning Lord Mountbatten. Ever since then India has occupied Kashmir crushing any freedom struggle with brute force, ironically, in much the same way Britain used to put down Indian uprisings. India has an army of no less than 500,000 men armed to the teeth in Kashmir making the region the most densely militarised zone in the world. 

It was Kashmir, along with Mysore and Travancore, that rose up against the British even before the word 'Pakistan' became popular in the subcontinents' vocabulary.

If you were to put the theft of Kashmir in simple terms, Britain sold a stolen property to a buyer who in turn gifted it to India just to save his skin. Under criminal law in any civilised society all three would have been guilty of a crime. But under the giddy complexities of international politics such crimes don't amount to anything.

Talking of crimes, India has, quite rightly, asked Britain to return the Kohinoor diamond that it (Britain) stole during its occupation of India. Why is it, then, those very same Indian leaders don't wish to return Kashmir to the Kashmiris using the same logic? 

India put paid to any hopes any Kashmiri would have had of a reasonable and a non-violent settlement of the issue when it forged closer links with Israel and opted for the Jewish state's support to crush the Kashmiris' aspirations of an independent state. Muslims, and an ever growing number of those who are not, view Israel as a pariah state.

As the latest round of hostilities abide a quite but uncertain quiet will come about. But the discontent will simmer until the next flare up. In this background perhaps, Arundathi Roy, the erudite Indian peace activist, is right when she says India needs Azadi from Kashmir as much, if not more, than Kashmir needs Azadi from India.

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