Pro pocket Kashmiris and self determination
Dr Shabir Choudhry 12 September 2006
Unlike other nations we Kashmiris have to be pro something. We have to identify ourselves as pro Pakistan, Pro India, Pro independent, Pro Kashmir, Pro struggle, Pro Jihad etc. A new term has entered a political dictionary of Kashmir to explain those people who don’t fall in to any of the above categories, and that is ‘Pro Pocket Kashmiris’.
I have respect for all those who sincerely conduct their politics, be it pro Pakistan, pro India or pro independent, even when they interpret right of self determination as accession to India or Pakistan.
Right of self determination is endowed to nations by nature – inherent and inalienable right that they can determine their future in accordance with their desires; and every person with dignity and conscience wants to enjoy fruits of freedom and live with honour. Self rule on the other hand is given by men – leaders of states who think they have right to control lives of others. They think because they have power they can dictate terms and exploit resources of other people.
Anwaar Raja is a young Kashmiri journalist who hosts a TV programme on Venus TV. He is also author of some books including two very good books on Kashmiri struggle. While discussing Kashmiri struggle he asked me about the political role of some Kashmiris and enquired if they were pro independent. I immediately said they were ‘pro pocket Kashmiris’. Anwaar Raja liked the term, but insisted that I should clarify who are these pro pocket Kashmiris.
I told him that Jammu and Kashmir is a multi religious and multi cultural state and has a strong and long tradition of tolerance. People of Jammu and Kashmir by and large oppose religious extremism and communalism. There are many people who genuinely believe that their future is safer with Pakistan and they sincerely pursue pro Pakistan politics. Similarly there are many people who sincerely believe that their future is safer with India because in their view India has secular and democratic traditions, and these people conduct pro India policy.
I disagree with both ideologies as in my considered opinion the State of Jammu and Kashmir should become an independent state. In my view pro India and pro Pakistan ideologies could lead to the division of Kashmir, as they have inherent religious and communal component. Despite my disagreement I still respect those people who sincerely believe that Kashmir’s future lies in acceding to one of our neighbours.
But I have no respect for those who are conducting pro India or pro Pakistan politics because of rewards, as these people are pro pocket Kashmiris. If the reward giving authority stops its ‘generosity’ then these pro pocket people don’t hesitate to change their tone and tell the concerned authority that we have other options as well. These pro pocket Kashmiris could be found in large numbers in traditional parties on both sides of the LOC
But it is unfortunate that nationalist parties are not immune from this. Many people have either infiltrated the ranks of pro independent parties or they have changed their ideology due to frustration or greed, and they also conduct pro pocket politics. Majority of people of Jammu and Kashmir welcomed the politics of pro independent Kashmir, based on liberal democratic ideals, but pro independent Kashmir leadership have badly let them down, hence have inflicted serious damage to the cause of an independent Kashmir.
In this regard senior leaders of JKLF must accept their responsibility and inadequacy as they could not rise to the occasion and lead the party let alone nation. They perhaps tried to match each other’s record of destroying JKLF institutions and causing splits in the JKLF ranks, and we see nearly half dozen groups working in the name of JKLF. Kashmiri nationalists and Kashmir watchers know very clearly that some of these groups are very sincerely promoting agenda of Kashmir’s occupiers. Yet leadership of these groups without any shame or sense of guilt, with help of official media projects themselves as followers of Maqbool Butt.
It is amazing that some Kashmiri human rights activists and ‘political leaders’ now oppose right of self determination, which is a fundamental right of every human being. Right of self determination is pivotal to the Kashmiri struggle, and if we take this away then the Kashmiri struggle has no legs to stand.
I told Anwaar Raja that it is opportunists who are termed as pro pocket Kashmiris because they have no commitment to any ideology. Their commitment is to their pockets and projection which is generally planned and executed by agencies through different media channels to promote them as Kashmiri leaders. They have in the past advocated rights of self determination in its limited sense; and now in its place are trying to sell ‘self rule’ and ‘joint management’.
Sardar Shakat Ali Kashmiri Chairman of PNP and Secretary General of IKA, during his recent visit to UK, while discussing the issue of right of self determination said: ‘It is unfortunate that those who had no ideological or political relationship with Shaheed Maqbool Butt and his mission, emerged as his successors and they deliberately tarnished his ideology. JKLF is wrongly seen as a party of Maqbool Butt, reality however is that he was never a member of the Front, and when Front was formed in 1977 he was in Tihar Jail.’
He further said, ‘People with no commitment to JKLF ideology and the Kashmiri struggle were planted in the JKLF by agencies to divert the movement, and tarnish its ideology. Amazingly people like Majid Tramboo who had close relationship with the Indian agencies some how made their space in the JKLF. Tramboo family is known to have close relationship with the Indian government and flourished because of their patronage. Tramboo family is known for its ‘business skills’, and they did not hesitate to ‘rent’ their hotel in Srinagar to the Indian army that they can conduct their actions against militants. For this ‘renting business’ Tramboo family have earned four cror rupees; and Majid Tramboo who also benefits from this ‘business’ has managed to woo the Pakistani agencies, and have started his business by becoming a mouth piece of Pakistan. It is shameful that person like Majid Tramboo claims to represent JKLF and ideology of Shaheed Maqbool Butt; and in the same breath he also speaks of self governance and joint management.’
Shaukat Kashmiri said many other things as well but I have only quoted those which are relevant to the topic of pro pocket Kashmiris. His main contention was that Maqbool Butt represented a sacred cause and people with business mentality have turned that in to a lucrative business. They have commercialised the Kashmiri struggle, and it appears that everything has a price tag. They are willing to sell anything that can bring them money. They have no commitment to any ideology. If the price is good they can discard right self determination by saying that it is ‘out dated’ and that self governance is ‘progressive’.
Both India and Pakistan have their national interests to protect and they formulate their policies accordingly. It is clear that both governments are not sincere with Kashmir, as they have their own interests. Both governments try to use different methods to achieve their aims and sabotage the Kashmiri struggle, and both have clearly announced that they will not allow people of Jammu and Kashmir to become independent. They have put their cards on the table. They have declared their aims with regard to future of Jammu and Kashmir, but we are still not sure what we want.
And before we accuse India and Pakistan for not being sincere with Kashmiris, we need to examine our role and ask ourselves if we have been sincere with Kashmir and the struggle. Kashmiris and the Kashmir cause have also suffered because of role of the Kashmiri leadership. They have suffered because the Kashmiri leadership betrayed them. This leadership was not pro Kashmir and not even pro independent. They were surely ‘pro pocket’ and all their efforts were to ensure that they pocket as much money as possible; and it was not important for them where the money came from.
Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org