Q2. What was the ideology of JKLF – its core agenda since inception, and how it changed over time?
Answer by Dr Shabir Choudhry
A. JKLF was formed in Birmingham, England in 1977. It believed in united and independent Jammu and Kashmir free from both countries, of course from China as well.
B. The JKLF Head Office was in Britain, but when Amanullah Khan was expelled in 1987, we transferred the JKLF Head Office to Pakistani Administered Kashmir. Perhaps that was the first serious tactical mistake we made, and I take responsibility for that as I forcefully advocated this change. Late Afzal Jatalvi and I were senior office bearers at that time, and we both agreed that it was in the best interest of the Party because we feared some action against the JKLF in Britain as a result of Mahtare Rawinder (Indian diplomat in Britain) kidnapping and subsequent killing in Britain.
C. JKLF believed in non communal politics- religion to us was a personal matter and state should have no role in it. We strongly believed in equality for all citizens, rule of law, democracy and liberal ideals.
D. To us both India and Pakistan were occupiers, hence equally bad as far as imperialism and occupation was concerned. Our struggle was against both.
E. But when Amanullah Khan was expelled from Britain and he had Head Office in Muzaffarabad, he decided to take help from one occupier (Pakistan) to fight against the other occupier (India). With that deal of JKLF and ISI began a gradual shift in the JKLF policy as the party was used as a vehicle to promote a proxy war. The JKLF officially still adhered to the old policy, but gradually walked in to the trap and was forced to support communalism, regionalism and terrorism against innocent people, which opened wounds of the partition of India. In Kashmir policy of religious hatred and intolerance was unleashed where non Muslims were targeted and the struggle was presented as a Muslim struggle.
F. Struggle for independence or right of self determination was transformed in to a ‘Jihad’ against Hindu rule or Hindus in which minorities were targeted. Cinemas, beauty parlours, tourists, religious festivals (Amar Nath Yatra) of other religions etc were targeted, not to mention targeting of other political views, even if held by Muslims. All this was against Islamic teaching, but unfortunately it happened, and the JKLF leadership unfortunately either remained quiet or became part of this communal game. From then onwards it became a Muslim struggle and not a Kashmiri struggle; and the JKLF groups while still wearing a secular hat became part of this game for various reasons.
G. Workers and lower to middle ranking leadership of the JKLF groups still sincerely believe that they are advancing the cause of an independent Kashmir. They wrongly think that the JKLF is still advancing policy of secularism and liberal democracy.
H. Those who sponsored this campaign of terror and gun culture in Kashmir brought in Jihadi warriors from other countries which changed the fundamental character of the struggle. It was no longer a Kashmiri struggle- it became part of the Islamic fundamentalism which provided a big propaganda stick in hands of India and Europe.
I. It is interesting to note that those who sponsored this campaign of terror or religious fanaticism had cinemas, beauty parlours, tourists etc in their own country but encouraged these extremists to target people who were using these services in Jammu and Kashmir. Aim was to promote religious hatred, intolerance, regionalism and communalism, and widen divisions among Kashmiris. They were successful in this. Freedom or independence of Jammu and Kashmir was never their aim, their hidden agenda was to ‘keep India engaged’ and ‘keep India bleeding’, and they were successful in that.
J. A senior government official who I know very well advised me in 1992 that I should do something else and make a career as there was nothing in this struggle of Kashmir. He said that I was talented and educated person and should not squander my time in this, as Kashmir will not get independence because those who planned this struggle never envisaged that. They only wanted to engage India. He said, he told them not to start it in Kashmir as Muslims will become target of Indian wrath, and that it was ok to do it in Punjab, Asam, Nagaland etc, but he was vetoed out.
K. I did not believe him as I thought he was just trying to discourage me; after all he was ISI man, and wanted to deprive the movement of my skills and talent. But by 1995/6, I was convinced that he was correct, and that we Kashmiris were taken for a ride by Pak agencies - they used us Kashmiris to keep the wolf away from their door. But it was too late.
L. Amanullah Khan also realised this that he was used to advance a Pakistani interest, but he is stubborn man who believes in dictatorship in the organisation and strong hold on all institutions of the party with trusted and ‘yes man’ kind of people holding various ceremonial positions. He with support of ISI managed to keep his stature and his JKLF group. Some critics believe that one of his tasks is to ensure that the JKLF remains divided; and that all nationalists are divided too. Anyone who dared to challenge him was expelled from the party on charges of working for either ISI or RAW. Reality however is that he is the one who closely worked with ISI and continues to do so.
M. Apart from that not all matters were under his control, as someone else called the shots. But being a stubborn man who was led to believe by flatterers that he is like Chairman Mao and infallible, he didn’t want to accept his mistakes or even abandon what he thought was a struggle. He thought once we get Kashmir internationalised perhaps we will get help from other countries and Pakistani influence could be neutralised, but he didn’t realise that the world has changed since 1970s. Mentally he is still living in 1970s. He failed to appreciate changes going on in the international politics, that the world DOES NOT help those who become proxy of other countries and promote agenda of a neighbouring country.
N. Pakistan has very strong hold on media and all aspects of life in Pakistani Administered Kashmir, and majority of people tend to believe what is presented to them as they have no other source of information. Anti India feelings are embedded in minds of people right from child hood; and the establishment regularly devise policies to intimidate people and fear of being called an ‘India agent’ disciplines rebel members and people at large.
O. But then there are dedicated and equally stubborn people like me who damn care what label is attached with their names - they fight their corner when they know they are right whether they win or lose. My friends and I have been fighting establishment policies on Kashmir and their stooges since 1992. We sincerely worked hard to unite factions of the JKLF, and correct wrongs in the JKLF. I have no hesitation in acknowledging our failure.
P. In 1995 when Yasin Malik and Amanullah Khan had power struggle and the JKLF once again suffered split, we thought may be Yasin Malik will be little better than Amanulla Khan and supported him. We thought we will be able to correct wrongs of the JKLF and put the JKLF and its ideology back on track. Alas he proved worse. This is another topic and needs a lot of time.
Q. When we realised that the top leadership of JKLF groups have abandoned ideology of Maqbool Butt, and that they are incorrigible, we decided to say good bye to the JKLF and formed Kashmir National Party to advance the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir.