WEB DESK: One of the first things India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who built his political career as Muslim hater and Pakistan basher – did after coming to office was to initiate a move to scrap Article 370 of his country’s constitution which assigns special status to Jammu and Kashmir, only to make a retreat in the face of strong resistance from opinion leaders within the country as a well as pro-India parties in the restive state. Still the mantra’ Kashmir is an integral part of India’ went on as he tried to consolidate control over the Valley with the help of the two-faced Mufti Sayeed’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – headed by his daughter Mehbooba Mufti after his demise – and the use of brutal military force to suppress an ongoing freedom movement.
In so doing, Modi and the others in his country – including many otherwise sensible Indians – ignore the important lesson of history that oppression has seldom succeeded in suppressing a people’s urge to win freedom from what they regard alien rule. An important contemporary example is that of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation, which is aided and abetted by some of the world’s mightiest powers and yet the struggle goes on. Another is that of Chechnya which after intermittent centuries-long military campaigns by the Russians was finally occupied and made a part of the Soviet Union in 1921.
Who would have thought that one day it would be possible for the Chechen people to declare independence from a superpower? Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Chechens rose once again, achieving de facto independence until they made the mistake of encouraging Dagestan to follow suit. That led Moscow under Vladimir Putin to wage its second Chechen war to regain control at a colossal cost in terms of death and destruction – for which it continues to face a backlash in the form of horrific murderous assaults on Russian civilians while every now and then fighting erupts in the republic’s mountains and southern regions. The point of it all is that state violence has a limited effect in quelling a people’s longing for freedom.
India of course blames Pakistan for its troubles in Kashmir. Indeed, Pakistan in the past has fought wars and tried militant infiltration as well, but that has not helped. In fact, few dispute that the 1989 uprising in the Valley started as an indigenous movement, and Pakistan’s jumping into the fray via militant infiltration harmed rather than helped the cause. In any event, the post-9/11 environment did not allow continuation of the activity.
And in 2004 the then president General Pervez Musharraf publicly assured the visiting Prime Minister Vajpayee in a joint statement that he won’t “permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for terrorism in any manner” paving the way for the peace talks aimed at resolution of the Kashmir dispute. The two sides had almost clinched a negotiated deal, when it was thwarted by the hawks in his party, the BJP.
Regardless of the ups and downs in the Pak-India peace process, during the last 17 years hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris have sacrificed their lives for independence from Indian rule. International and India’s own human rights organisations reports have recorded worst atrocities, including custodial deaths, discovery of mass graves, use of rape as a tool of war, and demolition of houses.
These people could not have endured so much suffering at the instigation of Pakistan as India would have the world believe. It is worthwhile to recall here what a former Indian national security adviser M.K. Narayan had to say on the subject in a newspaper article last May, predicting a new wave of uprising that unfolded after the July 8 killing of a young resistance fighter, Burhan Wani, at the hands of Indian security forces.
This is what he wrote: “in several places across the State, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between militant youth and security forces is today in evidence. Perhaps for the first time since the 1990s, local citizens are openly confronting and preventing the security forces from carrying out anti-terror operations. The Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police has been thwarted on more than one occasion when trying to arrest or deal with a suspect militant.”
What followed the killing of Wani and two companions therefore is hardly surprising. Despite constant curfew, crackdowns, cutting of internet and mobile services, thousands of protesters have kept coming out chanting ‘azadi’ (freedom) slogans and throwing stones at the security forces.
Nearly a hundred have been killed and some 8000 injured. Scores of young protesters have been partially or completely blinded by the security forces’ use of pellet guns. Yet the Indian state has failed to establish control. New Delhi is now using last Saturday’s attack on its military camp at Uri that left 18 soldiers dead to accuse Pakistan of cross-border terrorism. The accusation was levelled as soon as the incident took place without any investigation, in a clear attempt to turn world attention away from the situation in the Valley and also to try and impose international isolation on this country.
The allegation does not hold much water considering that: one, India has built fences, including an electric one, all along the LoC, making infiltration impossible. Second and more importantly, Pakistan would be foolish to do any such thing at this point in time when the international community, including the UN Secretary General, has been expressing serious concern over the situation in the Valley, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has offered to send fact-finding missions to Kashmir on either side of the LoC.
India of course has denied access, thus indirectly acknowledging that what is happening there constitutes grave human rights violations, and also that the freedom movement is a purely indigenous affair.
As for the Uri attack, it needs to be remembered that the hero of the current uprising, Burhan Wani, was a commander of the militant organisation, Hizbul Mujahideen. The Hizb surely had other militants to take the fight forward. It could well be behind the Uri attack. It is hardly surprising if those in the militant outfit see soldiers killing their people as a legitimate target. Any loss of life, including that of soldiers, is sad and regrettable, indeed. But then fighting is all about killing; and as the old saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Modi’s strategy to whip up anti- Pakistan frenzy by painting the country as the poster boy of bad behaviour has brought him pressure to take some kind of military action, which is undoable for obvious reasons. Presiding over a meeting of his security officials, including the army chief, on Monday, he told them not to resort to any knee-jerk reaction against the Uri incident, asking them to find “clear evidence of Pakistan’s complicity” that can be used in the ongoing UN General Assembly session to isolate the country. He has set himself an unrealistic goal.
Realism demands that he recognise the problem for what it is, and act accordingly. For a start, he needs to stop military oppression in Kashmir and consider reviving the peace proposal initiated, along with General Musharraf, by his BJP predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee and supported by his successor, Dr Manmohan Singh.
Source: Business Recorder