Is the gun our friend or foe?

Like a good physician, a political leader keeps a constant watch over his people. He makes prescriptions according to the changing mood of the people as does the physician prescribe according to Health State of his patient.     
 
When a nation begins its struggle for realization of its rights, the leadership takes full care that the people are made to make as little sacrifice as is possible. If the objectives are not realized through civil disobedience, then the prescription for political struggle can be changed. In 1918, Gandhiji had launched the struggle against the colonial power. A crowd in Calcutta got enraged and set a police station on fire in which a few Englishmen and some local police personnel were killed.  Gandhiji immediately stopped his movement saying that he would not place the foundation of his freedom movement on the blood of innocent people. He knew that a violent movement would consume the lives of millions of people. 
 
Unfortunately, pseudo-leadership leads the people in Kashmir. It is neither able to diagnose the disease nor prescribe a proper remedy. Their prescription at the moment is violence and the use of gun, which serves the interests of many actors on the scene. They do not mind if the patient dies by inches just for the improper treatment meted out to him. In a struggle of violence when weapons are used, one with larger resources, weaponry, manpower and better technology has the upper hand. However, in some cases, the world opinion did help the weaker struggling nations to achieve their goal as in Vietnam and in Afghanistan. The truth is that at both the places, the real fighting was between two superpowers of the day, the USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union. 

What has the gun given to Kashmir’s? 

The gun has brought an end to the culture of coexistence in Kashmir society.It has exacerbated extremism and sown the seeds of communalism secular polity has been devoured by the monster of communalism. The gun has consumed the generation of Kashmiri youth in streets and market places, in mountains and gorges, in streams and over glaciers. Thousands of young women have been widowed and thousands of children have been rendered orphans. The gun has actually strengthened the criminal elements in society. Family feuds and personal vendetta are being settled through the use of gun. On the basis of gun, properties have been acquired forcibly and declared the act as legal and permissible. The weapon is being used for petty purposes and interests to the extent that under the fear of gun, matrimonial relations have been imposed upon unwilling partners. The gun has destroyed all such institutions as are essential infrastructure for the social and cultural development of a society like the schools, colleges, hospitals, bridges and other structures. The gun has closed the path to reason and found a short cut to the resolution of political differences by liquidating the political opponents. This difference of opinion has consumed many a distinguished scholar, intellectual, physician, and many others whom the society finds after centuries of waiting and expectation. What a tragedy that this enormous national treasure has been reduced to dust by the gun. 
 
Take whatever dimension of Kashmir politics during the last one decade, you will find that violence and gun culture have spread nothing but wholesale destruction of Kashmir and the new generation of Kashmir’s. Indian and Pakistani armies both claim to be the friends of Kashmir’s while painting each other as the enemy of the Kashmir’s. But when both of them play with ammunition and gunfire on the line of control, it is only the Kashmir’s who get destroyed, their houses are razed to ground, and their cattle are killed. Their fields are turned into ruins and their crops are set on fire. Thus Kashmir’s become the targets of the bullet of both the armies. A closer study reveals that while Pakistani army supplies guns to the Kashmir’s thus contriving his death, the Indian army guns him down while trying to disarm him. Kashmiri leadership has become a hostage to this death drama of Kashmir’s. Of course, while sitting in closed-door rooms, these leaders condemn the gun and call the violence as poison for political process.  
 
Every conscientious person is aware that killing any person on the basis of his political differences is in fact the butchering of the concept of political opposition. This in fact is the death of political evolution. Activists of National Conference are being killed on the basis of difference in political views. If this is the practice then what can stop National Conference activists meting out the same treatment to their political opponents? We know of such reprisals enacted by JKLF and Hizbul Mujahedeen groups some time back. This is what took place between the activists of Hizbul Mujahedeen and Kuka Parry group also. Today the renegades are being butchered and they respond in the same manner. How unfortunate that the entire Kashmiri nation is engaged in a fratricidal killing. We know of no other community that is so seriously engaged in destroying its own generation. If the tempo of this fratricide continues, what will be the end result for the Kashmiri nation? Where shall we find succor for our orphans and where shall we find suitable matches for our young girls of marriageable age? What will happen to our progeny?. And then the million dollar question shall remain, viz. the purpose for which we had taken up the gun, did we achieve it?  Have we achieved even ten per cent of our goal? Have we made any progress in making Kashmir part of Pakistan or independent? To what extent have we been able to mould world opinion in support of our cause? The simple answer to all these questions is a big NO. 
On the ground  :
 
The ground reality is that a decade of unrelenting violence has rent asunder the fabric of our society and polity. Today we stand divided on ideological basis. Violence has rapidly increased the number of our graveyards, our widows and orphans. External elements have been provided full freedom to interfere in our affairs and matters. Today we are more than 85 per cent in the control of these external elements. Our economy has shattered. Educational institutions have seen decline and downfall. Ignorant elements deliver life threats to the honest journalists for saying the truth. In other words those leaders and political entrepreneurs claim to be the upholders of the birth right of Kashmir’s, namely the right to self-determination, are not ready to allow the Kashmir’s to speak the truth. Thus the permanent victims of gun and brutalities today in Kashmir are the youth and the truth.  
 
Calls for strike :                                                                              
 
Day in and day out, calls for hartals and strikes are given, The pseudo-leaders consider these calls and their results as a symbol of their power and strength although they knew it better than anybody else that these strikes are observed only out of fear of gun and not out of any sincere sentiment. A common Kashmiri is fed up with these calls and strikes. This is what could be gathered from the speech made by Yasin Malik, which he made at the grave of the martyrs after being released from the jail. He said,” people should take note talking of peace and peace alone, the outside world gets a wrong signal.” This means that ordinary people were now talking of peace only. Many years ago, I had advised the Kashmiri leadership to put only that they can carry much of burden on the shoulders of the people as without distress. If the people get the impression that they could not get anything in return of immense sacrifices they have made, then they would get disappointed and distance themselves from the struggle. This is precisely what is happening today. More than 35 thousand Kashmiri young boys and girls have migrated to other parts of India to receive education and training for career making. There are many chances that the Indians will benefit from this special manpower in final analysis. 
 
International public opinion
 
Human Rights Commission holds its meetings at Geneva twice a year. For last ten years, India and Pakistan along with some Kashmir’s on either side have been trading accusations of human rights violations against each other. Till date the UN did not appoint a Commission that would conduct inquiry into these allegations. The OIC raised hue and cry that in Indian part of Kashmir, the Indians subjected Kashmiri Muslims to repression. But with the passing of each day, these OIC member countries increased the quantum of their trade with India. Larger and larger labour force from India is coming to these countries and helping the home country with foreign exchange remittances. Thus India’s economy is receiving a boost through it. After Kargil fighting, India made it known to the whole world that whatever is happening in Kashmir is because of Pakistan’s interference. The world was convinced with India’s allegation of “cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan.” The pressure mounted on Pakistan by world opinion in the matter of Kargil shows that India had succeeded in making them concede what she had been alleging against Pakistan. 
 
Hijacking of an Indian airliner from Nepal by Kashmir related militants gave another handle in the hands of the Indians to tell the world that Pakistan was interfering in their matters and exporting terrorism in the country. Three persons set free against the released of the passengers went to Pakistan. 
 
Track II :
 
In today’s international political strategy, most of the matters are discussed under Track II dispensation. It means discussing in closed-door meetings on informal levels but with formal recognition. India has a host of evidences to prove that Pakistan is sending foreign Militants to fight in Kashmir and that she is providing training facilities to Kashmiri militants for “terrorist and subversive” acts. The world has not only accepted this stand of India but has turned a blind eye to the use of excessive force by Indian security forces to quell the movement in Kashmir. Of course, occasionally the Amnesty International or some other human rights organizations may speak a word or two to assuage the hurt feelings of the
 
Kashmir’s. However, India has been able to convince the world that human rights violations in Kashmir might occasionally take place because of the use of gun and the cross firing that follows it. When an infiltrator from the other side of the line of control seeks shelter in some house, the security forces arrest them. In the course of this action also some innocent people get killed because there is firing on both the sides.  In short on international level, it is confirmed that international opinion cannot be smoothened in favour of Kashmir struggle because of the indiscriminate violence to which the militants have resorted.  
 
Might of the State: 
 
The world endorses the principle that those using the gun to get their demands accepted should be met with the full might of the state. All countries in the world apply this principle. In 1954-55, Pakistan, resorting to this option, brutally suppressed the rebellion in POK. The Punjab Constabulary blasted private house with detonators. Should I venture to write in detail about this event, readers may attribute it to my bias. As such, I shall refer to Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan’s book titled” Muqaddima Kashmir,” published by Jung Publishers in 1987 for the first time. Three or four times the President of PoK, Sardar Qayyum is an ardent supporter of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. He writes as this (pages 110 – 111):  “The entire area was given in the control of army. There was exchange of fire between the army and the rebels in Rawlakot, Barel and Palandhari and people on both sides got killed. Punjab Constabulary was deployed. The repression unleashed by this force on our people is too horrendous to recount. They indulged in misbehaviour and excesses to the farthest limit. In the bazaars of Palandhari, they put ropes in the necks of many an honourable citizen and dragged them along the streets like cattle. They would order their captives to give out a dog’s bark or a cat’s mew. Then they were subjected to lashing. They huddled no fewer than fifty persons in one prison cell normally made for one prisoner. They left no stone unturned to oppress and tyrannise the people ”. Sardar Qayyum writes:
 
The policemen would suspend a whip on a pole along the pathway and then order the people to salute it. This was one way of humiliating the people. They would under orders assemble the people in the locality and then make them hold their ear lobes.They were allowed to go back to their homes after dusk many people had to pawn their cattle and even their womenfolk to raise funds to pay the land tax. In many cases the taxes were realized for the fourth or fifth time because each revenue officer would want to realize it during his tenure.” 
 
Clinton’s visit :
 
President Clinton’s South Asian visit generated hope among the Kashmiri people. Some of the Kashmiri leaders even thought of fixing a meeting with President Clinton. They were heard saying that if India did not obstruct, the meeting had almost been fixed. This speaks for classical innocence of Kashmiri leadership. International protocol lay down that if the head of a state visits another state, nobody could stop even the staunchest of that state’s opponent from meeting the visit dignitary. Clinton did make a formal reference to Kashmir, which meant nothing. But of course, addressing the people of Pakistan on TV during his stopover, he exhorted them to give up violence and come out of the siege of Kashmir issue. The way in which President Clinton changed his airliner while landing in Pakistan gave a clear signal to the world that Pakistan was involved in the politics of terrorism. Nobody was left with any doubt about it.  
 
Those who do not try to understand international politics and those who do not see beyond the veil of human rights of western countries, they will not be able to know where the interests of these countries lie. An American Congressman said on TV that India talks business with the US while Pakistan talks of Kashmir. The US must decide in the light of her interests. This is what not only the Asian but also the people all over the world need to understand. Western countries care for their interests. That has been their policy in the past and shall remain in future as well.
 
 Religious extremism :
 
Religious extremism has engulfed the entire world. There is bloodshed in Algeria. There is terrorism in Egypt. There is fighting in Chechnya. There is talk about Osma bin Laden. There is the question violence in Kashmir and the Philippines. There has been the New York Trade Fair bomb blast. In all these incidents, there is reported to be the hand of religious extremists groups. The activities of religious extremists have brought a bad name to the Muslims all over the world. The impression everywhere is that Muslims are extremists. It is regrettable that a religion like Islam that teaches peace and which literally means peace should be tarnished by the unbecoming acts of the militants among the followers of this faith. How then can a common Muslim accept that these people are fighting a war for Islam? Moreover when we say that Islam is the second largest religion in the world, the question is what and where is the threat for Islam? Are these so called Islamic fighters bringing anything but death and destruction to Muslims?  More than 65 per cent of the total drugs produced in the world are produced in Afghanistan. But the rulers there claim to have established an Islamic theocratic regime.  How can one convince the world that Afghanistan is an Islamic state? What type of Islamic State is it when it brings death to the entire world in the shape of drugs? 
 
During Yeltsin’s president ship, Chechnya got autonomy and they chose their own President. They should have rebuilt their country, provided educational facilities to the people and worked towards their upliftment. They should have entered the computer age and become rivals of the Russians. But instead of this they blasted bombs in Moscow, or kidnapped the Russians in buses. The result was their total destruction. Russia razed it to the ground. In Algeria and Egypt, the Islamists mercilessly butchered their own men in buses, cars, on the roads and in houses. Bombs were planted which shattered buildings and cut people into pieces. What did the terrorists gain from it? What did the Muslims get from unleashing killing and loot and arson in Somalia? In Pakistan Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict consumed innocent lives in mosques, Imam Bargahs, market places and in crowded places. 
 
India is let off the hook: 
 
Violence and gun unleashed by the militancy give a free hand to India to perpetrate oppression. The proliferation of gun goes in favour of India. In the first place, India finds vast training field for its forces in guerrilla warfare in Kashmir. Like Afghans, no country in the world is prepared to provide political or military support to the Kashmiris. The arms supplied by Pakistan are of light caliber, which can be countered by India easily. India can continue with this type of conflict for a century. She has no dearth of manpower not of weaponry. The arms and ammunition seized by India from the militants in Kashmir can equip one full Brigade. The gun has given the Indians a clear opportunity of liquidating Kashmiri youth after arresting them on charges of colluding with militants. The security forces of the land where Ram and Sita and Gandhiji preached the lesson of non-violence learnt for the first time in Kashmir that they had a license to kill human beings and humanism. The outside world is a silent spectator to all this because there are vested interests. 
 
Pakistan’s role :
 
Pakistan has helped its people and nation to come to the brink of insolvency. Her military rulers and intelligence agencies have anchored their existence on fomented enmity against India. Entire Pakistani nation has been made a hostage to this scenario. No institution in Pakistan is safe from the jackboot of neither military nor it ever. So much so that even the Supreme Court too has been made hostage to the whims and wishes of the military dictators. Be it the verdict of Justice Munir in favour of Governor Ghulam Mohammad and against democracy or be it the verdict of “necessity” by Justice Anwarul Huqq during the regime of Zia, or be it the recent decision of the Supreme Court on the seizure of power by General Musharraf, the institutions of justice have always submitted to the power of the gun. Is it not unfortunate that the Supreme Court has given the military ruler a right to rule for three years and has thereby given the military rule the legal support for dismissal on October 12, 1999 of a democratically elected government? What is more, a gun wielding military man can now change the constitution unanimously framed during Z.A. Bhutto’s regime. Like this is not to found anywhere in the world. 
 
There have been rebellions. People in power have been assassinated. Constitutions have been abrogated. But the judiciary has seldom legitimized oppression. The question is how can Pakistani institutions speak of justice before her military rulers? The former Law Minister in Nawaz Sharif government namely Khalid Anwar was presenting the case against military intervention in the writ petition against the dismissal of Mian Sahib. He said that the army was the most corrupt institution in the country. He said that all the institutions in the country together spend nearly 69 billion rupees while as the army alone spends 145 billion rupees.
 
The Chief Executive remains outside the purview of Ehtesab or accountability. In this way, Pakistani army has found only one source to sustain itself on this huge expenditure and that is the Kashmir issue. How then can Pakistani army wish that Kashmir issue be resolved? If the Indian army is shelling from the control line and thus killing the people in PoK, why does the Pakistani army return fire when it know that only Kashmiris will be killed as a retaliatory action? Why don’t they shell the border villages in Punjab and Rajasthan so that not Kashmiris but Indians would be among the killed?  The politics of gun is a necessity with Pakistan army. Likewise Indian security forces and some Indian extremist politicians to find a necessity in continuing the policy of gun because the Indian security forces have found a training field in Kashmir. But have the Kashmiris and their leadership ever tried to ask what did they get out of this gun?. The answer is that they get nothing but death and destruction. 
 
Further division of Kashmir:  
 
Hurriyat Chairman Mr. Geelani has proposed further trifurcating of Kashmir. In truth he has not committed a crime by making such a statement. Jamaat-e-Islami never made a secret of the fact that it has been fighting for Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s plan called Operation Topic, the aim is to acquire Kashmir Valley. Will further division of Kashmir resolve the tangle? No, it can never happen. Therefore the only solution for Kashmir issue is that both India and Pakistan allow Kashmir to be united and Jammu and Kashmir becomes a secular state giving internal autonomy to all regions of which it is comprised. 
 
Offer for talks :
 
The release of Hurriyat leaders from the Indian prisons created the worldwide impression that India is talking to the people. Some of them are reported to have secret talks also. A 100-minute secret meeting was held in the private residence of the Kashmir University Vice Chancellor between a senior Hurriyat leader and the Indian Defence Minister. But at the same time the APHC has put the entire Kashmiri nation into confusion in regard to their talks with the Government of India. The State Department of the US has appreciated India’s initiative of talking to the Hurriyat leaders. Pakistani leaders have expressed their indifference to these talks thereby adding to the confusion of Hurriyat. It is out of this confusion and chaos that the Hurriyat has demanded tripartite talks. From this the entire world community got a signal that by demanding inclusion of Pakistan in the talks, Hurriyat is performing the role of a supporter of Pakistan.  
 
The question is not that APHC has made any wrong demand because Pakistan is a party to Kashmir dispute because she has occupied Gilgit, Baltistan and PoK. The question is that in the context of Indian part of Kashmir, talks will take place between India and the Kashmiris on that side. Pakistan joining the talks at a certain stage is but natural. But why should Kashmiri leaders advocate the case of Pakistan? Therefore the demand of the Hurriyat betrays lack of political sagacity. At the same time, why should not Pakistan offer the PoK leadership to talk with Islamabad as is done by the Indian government? If India gives Hurriyat leaders to meet anybody including the Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi, why should not Pakistan given the same freedom to PoK dissidents to meet the Indian High commissioner in Islamabad? 
 
If there is no gun?  
 
Kashmir and Kashmiri leadership should immediately reject the politics of gun. Not only that, they should declare gun as the enemy number one of Kashmiris. They should declare that the gun and violence are the worst enemies of their movement. They should adopt the path of non-violence as their line of action to bring them to their cherished goal. Yasin Malik and his colleagues have presented an example to this effect in recent days. When the Kashmiri nation rejects gun and gun politics in letter and in spirit, then the only sources responsible for violence in Kashmir would be the Indian and Pakistani forces. Kashmiri youth will no more be victimised for border crossing, arrest for alleged gun running and of custodial killings. But in civil disobedience scenario, killing of innocent and unarmed people will strengthen international opinion in favour of Kashmir’s. Indian rulers will not more find an excuse to tell her people and the world at large that she is obliged to fight terrorism in Kashmir. This will also bring to an end the business of those who are making fast buck from gun diplomacy. Any oppression or repression against the journalists will go into the account of Indian or Pakistani forces or renegades. At the top of it, Kashmiri intellectuals will find space and confidence to write the truth and convey it to the people. Those who have left Kashmir will find opportunity conducive for returning to their places of origin. Kashmiri nation will not be tarnished for alleged murders on the basis of political differences and more women and girls of our land will be saved from becoming widows and orphans. No more graves will have to be dug for the Kashmiri youth.  
 
The last thing that I think I have a right to say in the capacity of the son of the soil. The pain that has accumulated within my breast for Kashmir and Kashmir’s is that Kashmiri leadership should try to realize the pain and suffering of a common Kashmiri. The pain inflicted by a prospect of arrest or by becoming a victim of terrorism or getting killed in the process. The pain that is inflicted by the dark prison cell turns the black nights into a monster. They should realize the pain suffered by a widow who is obliged to look after the orphans. They should realize what it means to the young generation of Kashmir’s who find nothing to sustain them. They should realize what happens to the parents of those dear ones who have been put to eternal sleep in their graves. This all is beckoning them to play the role of an efficient physician, diagnose the disease and make the proper prescription. The prescription of gun has brought the Kashmiri nation to the brink of disaster. This is the time that strategy should be changed keeping in view the ground realities. This is the time that non-violent movement is given a chance. This is my appeal to the leadership and I hope they will listen.               
 
        Above article was published in various Newspapers in India Pakistan and Jammu Kashmir.
written by :  Hashim Qureshi
 
  01Jan-2008