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Bleeding Kashmir

By: 
Junaid S. Ahmad
Date Published: 
October 10, 2002

The Indian government’s decision to hold elections in the State of Jammu and Kashmir this month is neither new nor remotely promising. Once again, Kashmiris are forced to abandon their long-held aspirations of self-determination and independence from all imperialisms, regional and global, and be content with elections that the Indian government has staged and rigged on myriad previous occasions. Increased American and British interference in the region, under the guise of the “war on terror,” has only added to the list of powers attempting to gain a strategic foothold in Kashmir and from it, to the rest of Asia. Three years ago, President Bill Clinton declared Kashmir the “most dangerous place on earth.” Oddly enough, this did not stop the US and Britain from arming both Pakistan and India to the teeth and hence tacitly supporting the increasing militarism in both countries. Notwithstanding their anti-nuclear and pro-peace rhetoric—hypocritical as it clearly was—American intelligence and defense personnel have been busy in high level contact and joint training with both India and Pakistan. Before September 11, India’s importance in US global and regional strategic designs far surpassed that of Pakistan’s. The events of September 11 and the subsequent US “war on terror” brought Pakistan back into US strategic designs. The timing of a spate of recent massacres and attacks in Kashmir has conveniently coincided with visits to South Asia by high-level US or British officials. Visits from US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage have become a routine affair. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s recent visit caused an uproar in the Indian Parliament when he described what “free and fair” elections in Kashmir should look like. The Indian ruling establishment, which believed that both nations should accommodate each other’s hegemonic and imperial interests, learned a hard lesson. In Islamabad, US officials’ statements are as diplomatic as they usually are in New Dehli, true to the US’s policy of “engaging and seeking partnership” with both countries and establishing its own foothold in both India and Pakistan, and potentially in Kashmir and beyond as well. Bleak as ever Meanwhile, the situation in Kashmir remains as bleak as ever. The vicious cycle of state repression and terrorism is steadily spiraling up. The atmosphere is characterized by extra-judicial killings, indiscriminate arrests and detentions of senior Kashmiri leaders, and continued Indian state terror against the people of Kashmir, especially against the youth, in order to crush their democratic aspirations. It is widely known that in putative “response” to Pakistan-backed terrorist outfits, the Indian armed forces in Kashmir have been given a free hand to organize “encounter killings” and massive assaults on the civilian population. It is no longer a secret that Indian intelligence agencies have organized their own terrorist outfits to kill political opponents as well as to spread mayhem and terrorize the population. How can anyone believe that elections will be free or fair in such a situation? The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting to exercise their right to self-determination ever since 1947. They have been fighting to reunite their homeland, which has been partitioned as well as annexed against their will by India and Pakistan. The US, Britain, and most certainly the ruling elites of India and Pakistan are opposed to fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, they have turned the state into a prison house and a mass graveyard for its people. Terrorism and the use of force have been favored weapons in the hands of the rulers of India and Pakistan to prevent a political solution to the Kashmir question. People cannot expect protection from state terrorism from the sponsors of state terrorism. The problem in Jammu and Kashmir is a political problem. Its solution can only be a political solution. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, on both sides of the Line of Control that divides the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir, must be allowed to chart their own destiny free from the political and military interference of India, Pakistan as well as the growing American interference. The upcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be no different from past ones, unless of course the Indian government all of a sudden decides to do the following: grant general amnesty to all political prisoners; restore political and civil liberties; revoke all the draconian and reactionary laws; and withdraw the army and other central paramilitary forces from the state. This is highly unlikely and that is why elections held under the auspices of the Indian state can never fulfill the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. There has never been a more urgent time to extend full and unstinted support to the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to self-determination. About the Author Junaid S. Ahmad is a a member of INSAF (International South Asia Forum) and the Progressive Muslims Network. He can be reached at: junaid.ahmad(at)cox.net.