What happened to Kashmiri nationalists?
Dr Shabir Choudhry
It must have been sigh of relief for all those who dislike demonstrations on 11th February, including officers of Scotland Yard who deal with demonstrations outside Indian High Commission. There was no demonstration, and even no application to hold such demonstration outside the Indian High Commission from any Kashmiri group this year.
There could be many reasons for this, and one reason is that Kashmiri people are fed up with these demonstrations, and feel that there is no need to ‘waste’ resources on these demonstrations. They argue no one pays any attention to these demonstrations, and it has just become ‘customary’ to hold a small demonstration outside the Indian High Commission.
They feel there could be other methods of projecting the cause of Kashmir, and it might not cost as much as well. And one such method could be holding small seminars in various towns and ‘educate’ people, print appropriate literature to develop Kashmiri nationalism and consciousness of being a Kashmiri rather than being an Indian and Pakistani.
Complete failure of much publicised and officially supported demonstration of Raabta Committee (International Kashmir Co Ordination Committee) on 26th January, also showed that the British Kashmiris are not much interested in holding demonstrations. Perhaps this in turn also influenced the thinking of the leadership of Kashmiri nationalist parties in Britain.
Since his martyrdom on 11th February 1984, there have been demonstrations outside the Indian High Commission every year. In fact these demonstrations or request to hold demonstration, caused considerable problems for officers of the Scotland Yard who grant permissions to hold demonstrations. Kashmiri nationalists although they claim adherence to Maqbool Butt’s ideology of united and independent Kashmir have deep divisions among them.
It was quite normal to have more than one applications to hold demonstrations, and
Kashmiri political parties, in 1990s, endeavoured to take lead to book a place first. And if one party booked it first the others refused to join them and demanded a separate permission and a place to take their dozens of supporters.
This disunity caused a lot of problem for the Scotland Yard officials, and they had to make alterative arrangements, at times persuading the groups to hold two small separate demonstrations twenty yards away from each other. And at times they had to change time of the demonstrations to accommodate two applications, for example, one demonstration starts at 12 and finish at 2pm, and the other one starts at 2pm.
These divisions were not only confined to Britain, in fact, root cause of this was, and is, the ‘home ground’. In majority of the cases it is the politics at home that created disunity; and when the British Kashmiris formed some kind of unity here to show a united front at international level, senior leadership based in Kashmir did not approve it.
It is believed that nationalists, whether they are Kashmiri nationalists or nationalists from elsewhere, are good at having divisions and splits. They also spend a lot of time calling each other ‘traitor’ and ‘agent’ and wasting their meagre resources fighting each other. This is partly because the occupying power, and in case of Kashmir, powers, deliberately create divisions and suspicions to weaken the movement against them. Of course it is in the national interest of agencies of occupying government/s to keep nationalists divided and they do it by giving impression that so and so is ‘our man’ or ‘their man’, or part of our ‘A’ or ‘B’ team, or their ‘A’ or ‘B’ team.
Nationalists tend to fall into this trap of agencies partly because it suits them for personal interest; their rival within the party or the rival group is linked up with an agency, and is ‘an agent’. This ‘labelling’ will suite some as it will give them an edge over a rival group or rival within the party, so they will do the rest by discreetly spreading it. Azam Inquilabi, a veteran Kashmiri freedom fighter, once said, when something goes wrong because of our follies or something that is beyond our comprehension, Kashmiri leaders say agencies have done this.
All Kashmiri nationalists claim to follow Maqbool Butt, but all of them like to have a separate group to project the message of their leader. We all talk of democracy but when decision, taken by the majority, is against us we don’t accept it, and go to the extent of having own little group.
We talk of non - communal politics, yet some of us are not prepared to give same rights to non Muslims of Kashmir; and one reason forwarded in support of this, is that they are not participating in the ‘Movement’. We are not interested in looking at perspective of non - Muslims of Kashmir, and expect them to join the Movement which apparently has strong Jihadi influence. It is like asking Muslims to join a movement to install anti Islam government.
Those who want to divide the State of Jammu and Kashmir wants to ensure that there are strong divisions among Muslims and non –Muslims of Kashmir. Geography of Kashmir and population is spread out in such way that if we don’t win confidence of minority non – Muslims then that will surely pave the way for a division of the State. And if we want to avoid such division of Kashmir then we, as a majority ethnic group, have to be more accommodating; and ensure that it is a struggle of the Kashmiri people rather than struggle of Kashmiri Muslims.
We claim to be fighting for united and independent Kashmir, and have taken arms against one occupier, or supported it, but are not even prepared to talk against the occupation of the other. We are not yet sure if we are Kashmiris, Azad Kashmiris or Pakistanis, and until we overcome these contradictions, it is difficult to make the required progress.
Issue of Mangla Dam is close to hearts of thousands of Kashmiris, especially people of District Mirpur, yet we are unable to organise a campaign. In Britain we have not been able to arrange a strong demonstration to show our anger and disagreement.
Similarly we oppose division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but when it comes to doing something constructive, or forging an alliance to oppose it, we simply issue a statement saying that we won’t allow division of the State, and think we have done our bit. Perhaps we are under this allusion that India and Pakistan would need our permission before going ahead with their partition plans.
Pakistani government before making plans to uplift the Mangla Dam, did not feel it necessary to ask or consult the Kashmiri parties, or speak to people of Mirpur, or the Azad Kashmiri government; similarly when both India and Pakistan have agreed on give and take, they would not ask us if they could go ahead with it. They fully know our strengths, if any, and weaknesses which are many, and they also know which strings to pull in order to get the desired results.
This is a wake up call for Kashmiri nationalists. All is not lost yet, we still have time to forget our differences and put up a united fight. And if we fail to wake up then we have only ourselves to blame, and like Allama Iqbal said, ‘Hamari dastaa’n be na ho gi dastaa’noo main’, meaning that even story of our demise might not be among the stories.
Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.