Dear Shahid Pervaiz Mir aslamo alaykam
Thank you for your email.
1. I wish our ‘leaders’ were accountable and we Kashmiris had courage to ask them what they are doing and have been doing in our name. I know when people know their leader is wrong, had taken illegal/ unconstitutional action or has betrayed the party or the movement many choose to remain silent because they don’t want to jeopardise their political aspirations. Or sometimes they give in to pressure of colleagues that it is not right time to ask him or hold him to task.
2. Fortunately or unfortunately my upbringing and political growth has been in a liberal and democratic society (Britain); and I have studied and taught politics as a subject. I learnt to call spade a spade and challenged party leaders and others when they were out of step, hence I made many enemies.
3. May be your struggle (and struggle of those whom you regard as leaders) is for ‘separatism’. My struggle on the contrary is not for ‘separatism’. In order to separate something that thing has to be part of something in first place, hence the process of ‘separation’. In my view Jammu and Kashmir is not part of either India or Pakistan, so there is no question of separation. My struggle is for unfettered right of self determination which has been denied to us.
4. I don’t know who you are, where you live and what you stand for; but you are no doubt an intelligent person who knows how to use words. But let me tell you that I started my struggle for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir at the age of 17. In 1977 I was among those who set up the JKLF in 1977, and at that time the struggle was not commercialised; and brief cases full of dollars were not going from one place to another.
5. During the course of this long struggle I must have made mistakes which did not appear mistakes at that time because of trust we bestowed to senior people, inexperience, and because of unavailability of true information at that time. However hand on my heart, I can sincerely and honestly say that I have not worked against the interests of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, or the Kashmiri struggle. I have not betrayed anyone; however I have been stabbed in the back more than once. While in the JKLF I and my colleagues worked hard to sort out problems of the JKLF and forge unity, but those who wanted the JKLF to be in pieces were more powerful and influential.
6. If you know what I know, or experience what I have experienced in the struggle then your perspective might also change. It is matter of perspective and experience, I am doing what I think is right, under the circumstances, and that is to expose those who have betrayed the blood of innocent people, who have betrayed the movement, who have made it a business. Also expose those who are under cover working for the status quo or accession to Pakistan.
7. You might think it is not appropriate time as it could split the movement or divert attention. This logic was given to us to silence us in 1990s not only by the JKLF people, but also by Pakistanis and at times by Pakistani agency people. Once in a meeting there were some Kashmiri leaders, Pakistani people and some agency people; and issue of working out a strategy against India was being discussed. I expressed my views which were in line with united and independent Jammu and Kashmir and to have a strategy against both occupiers; I talked of problems of people on both sides of the LOC; and requested that we should promote a strategy that the entire state looks disputed and not only the areas under India.
8. There was a strong opposition to my views in the meeting orchestrated by those who were close to the Pakistani agencies. The agency man first praised my skills and contribution, then said, ‘We have worked hard to hook India, and by your articles and statements you are diverting the attention from the Indian occupied Kashmir to this side. We need to focus world attention what goes on in the Valley’.
9. I disagreed with his approach and agenda. Whether you like me or dislike me, it doesn’t bother me a bit, but my struggle is not for the Valley only; and I have courage to say that openly. And I am least interested in what efforts Pakistan has made to ‘hook’ India, and would like to focus the world attention to the Valley and make it disputed. My struggle is to make the entire state disputed; and that fact that there is no militancy on this side of LOC does not make these areas less disputed.
10. In my opinion both parts are occupied, one by India and the other by Pakistan (we keep China out for the time being). I don’t deny (and have never done so in the past) that people of Kashmir have been through hell. They have been killed, tortured, raped and imprisoned. Of course there have been custodial deaths and targeted killings, and it is believed that more than 70 thousand people have lost their lives. It is a very big number, and Indian governments cannot deny human rights violations and killings in Jammu and Kashmir.
11. I don’t need to defend these atrocities, if anything I have always condemned them. But as a rational and practical person with a lot of study and experience I know wherever there is an armed struggle there is bound to be human rights abuse and killing of innocent people. We are not part of India, and we have taken a gun and training from Pakistan to use it against India. Did we expect flowers in return? Indian army did what all forces of occupation do.
12. Take example of Pakistan what did they do to their own Muslim brothers in East Pakistan when they asked for their genuine political rights in 1970/71. Those who fought there and were later imprisoned, tell horrific stories of atrocities, rapes, custodial deaths, in some cases alive burial of rebels, instructions were to kill indiscriminately as the army junta wanted Bengal and not Bengalis. It is estimated that around three million people were butchered.
13. If that is in distant past just see what Pakistan army is doing in FATA and parts of Frontier. They are using F16 fighters, helicopter gun ships, tanks, armoured vehicles to kill and destroy people and houses. Their ‘jihad’ against their own Muslim population continued even in the month of Ramadan which resulted in thousands of deaths and uprooting of more than two lakh people. These victims are Pakistanis; and just imagine what will happen to us if people of Pakistani occupied Kashmir took gun in their hands to use it against Pakistan. Or just ask leaders and members of JK Plebiscite Front who were imprisoned after the Ganga hijacking what happened to them in the Pakistani torture cells.
14. The point I am trying to make is that armies are trained to kill and torture when they are ordered to do. We note that there is very little human rights abuse on the Pakistani side in comparison to the Indian side; and some Kashmiris are buoyant about it. What they forget is that there is no militancy on the Pakistani side as well, which is why there is little human rights abuse; otherwise situation of FATA and Frontier is enough to open eyes of all those who are realistic and are not on the pay role of Pakistan.
15. Now ask yourself why after so many sacrifices and years of bloody struggle Kashmir dispute is still a matter to be resolved by New Delhi and Islamabad. Why we are still not a party to it. It was never our struggle, only our shoulders were used; and we ended up paying huge sacrifices. What was sold as a JKLF struggle by the top JKLF leaders was in actual fact a policy of the Pakistani agencies to keep India engaged in Kashmir; that is why it is called a proxy war, purpose was to keep India bleeding in Kashmir to take revenge of 1971 war, and to ensure that there is no adventurism against the Pakistani borders.
16. Just think that in 1988 Indian side of Kashmir was much better and more advanced than the Pakistani side of Kashmir. We were worse off in every respect and ghulam of Pakistan. Gilgit and Baltistan was, and probably still is, in dark ages in comparison, and is far behind in facilities, development, education and social and political rights in every respect from Jammu and Kashmir, and even from AJK. Amanullah Khan who comes from that area and knows well about the situation and plight of the people was persuaded by the ISI to forget about their own ghulami and start jihad to liberate those who were better off than us.
17. To make matters from bad to worse the struggle was presented as an Islamic one with purpose of establishing an Islamic rule. For this purpose militants from other countries were brought in to Kashmir which changed the fundamental character of our struggle. It no longer appeared to be a Kashmiri struggle; it became part of the so called Islamic fundamentalist movement. This was done at a time when the entire world was against the Islamic fundamentalism; and in a state which is a multi religious and multi ethnic. Aim of those who were controlling the militancy and the struggle through their proxies was to divide the movement and deprive it of support it deserved.
18. Their strategy worked. The movement was divided; non Muslims who were not part of the struggle and perhaps were thinking whether to take part in it or stay out of it, got more alarmed. This strategy provided a powerful tool in hands of India to propagate that it was Pakistan pulling strings and bringing in Jihadis from different countries to create trouble in Kashmir.
19. We people are forcibly divided by the LOC, and we are occupied by two different countries with competing agendas. We face different situation and encounter different problems. Our experience in life helps us to formulate our policies and attitude to different things, therefore we cannot think alike. Our strategy should have been to make the struggle a national struggle. People under the Indian occupation struggle according to their situation; and people under the Pakistani occupation fight for their liberation according to their situation.
20. Of course they could have helped and supported each other, but when one ghulam forgets about his own plight, takes a gun from his occupier and goes across to liberate the other ghulam, it becomes a joke and world view that as a proxy war; especially when citizens of that occupier also pick up guns and join the fight.
21. Many of you and Pakistani governments and their agencies present APHC leaders as representative of the Kashmiri people; truth however is that they cannot win any election even if held under the UN supervision. They don’t even represent Muslims of Srinager, never mind all the Kashmiris. One senior APHC man (hate to call him a leader) Professor Ghani Bhat, openly advocated division of the State. Do you expect me to respect him and follow him - some one who is advocating division of my motherland? It is believed that the other men in the APHC are no different but they have no courage to speak out.
22. Don’t you think it is jihad to speak out against the people who have used the struggle to feather their own nests? Most of them get security from India, get rewards from them, and then question is against whom are they fighting? If Hamas leaders were provided security by the Israeli government would you still believe in their claim that they were fighting against Israel?
23. My friend it is time to open your eyes, and stop blind following. I am not asking you to stop your fight against the Indian rule; in that fight all my energies and abilities are at your disposal, but when you join hands with these proxies who are advancing their personal agenda and the agenda of Pakistan then I cannot remain silent. Allah SWT has bestowed me with education, ability to analyse, speak and write; and dedication to fight for rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. I want to honestly discharge that duty no matter what people think. I am answerable to my conscience and Allah SWT, and believe me despite threats and intimidation I have continued my jihad.
24. I hope you understand things bit better now. If however you still want to hold on to your guns, it is your prerogative. You carry on to do what you think is right I will continue with my jihad of speaking truth and exposing hypocrites and collaborators. And as for me it is an end to this discussion.
Dr Shabir Choudhry