They send militants not to liberate us but to advance their agenda

They send militants not to liberate us but to advance their agenda – a discussion with a Kashmiri Muslim from Jammu by Dr Shabir Choudhry

While on a holiday in Qatar, I had interesting conversations with people and among them was a Kashmiri from Jammu. It was not the first time I spoke to him on the subject of Jammu and Kashmir. I always found him honest, knowledgeable and understanding. He was also very concerned with what was going on in Kashmir and wanted to help his people. We, of course, differed with each other on many points.

While talking about the Kashmiri struggle, he – Mr Anwaar  asked me to define violence. When I did that he said, ‘it means breaking windows of cars with stones and sticks, windows of houses, attacking ordinary people with sticks and stones, attacking policemen with sticks and stones, burning buildings and police stations also constitute violence’.

Yes, it is violence and intimidation, I replied. But using tear gas, gun pellets and gun bullets also constitute violence, and in view of some, state terrorism. Primary responsibility of a government is to protect life and property of people and not to compete in violence with citizens.

He said he agreed with me on this; but ‘we need to look at the reasons why tear gas and bullets are used. Is it that government and men in uniform are trigger happy, and want to torture and kill people; or is it that they find themselves in a situation created by Pakistan and their proxies that they have to respond to protect others and themselves too. I agree they don’t get it right all the time. It is also debateable if they have the required professional skills and know how to effectively deal with the situation they find themselves in’.

He continued, however, ‘You should not be so naive and ill-informed that you can’t understand that people with the vested interest want the Kashmir pot boiling as it serves their personal and political agenda. They create a situation in which men in the uniform have to react; and, at times, they do it wrong, which makes the bad situation worse’.

I said Jammu and Kashmir and India Pakistan relations are my areas of specialism. Also terrorism, extremism religious intolerance and hatred; regional conflicts and exploitation are my areas of special interest. I know Jammu and Kashmir has a great economic and strategic importance. I know apart from India, Pakistan and China, there are other countries that have keen interest in future of this region.

I said, ‘I want this bloodshed to stop. I want common sense to prevail. I don’t want people of Jammu and Kashmir to be a target of bullets and religious hatred, as that will create more problems for all of us and may divide the State of Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines’.

He interrupted me and said, ‘How can you stop bloodshed and control the religious intolerance when you have tens of thousands of religious warriors, some coming from across the LOC with weapons, ready to disrupt peace and intimidate Muslims and non Muslims who have different view on religion; and who want to have a social and political system which accommodates all citizens of Jammu and Kashmir’?

It was my turn to interrupt him. I said, ‘You can’t hold Pakistan responsible for all the wrongs of Jammu and Kashmir. Are not governments here responsible for some of the wrongs? Pakistan has interest in radicalising the society here, but was it not responsibility of those who rule here to win hearts and minds of the people? Outside involvement can only be effective when people are unhappy and frustrated with the governments and see no future’.

He said, ‘I agree that governments here have also been corrupt and ineffective. They had their own agenda. They also wanted uncertainty and chaos that they can blackmail New Delhi for more funds and resources, a bulk of which end up elsewhere’.

‘Despite that we are far ahead of you people in so called Azad Kashmir. I am here from the Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir as a professional. I have some respect here. I am in the Management team and make important decisions. I get a good salary. Tell me how many people of your Azad Kashmir are here as professionals? My heart bleeds when I see my fellow countrymen working here in very harsh conditions because they are here as manual labourers. They lack professional education and skills that enable them to get respect’.

I don’t know from where my regional instinct emerged. I said we also have educated people in Azad Kashmir. Literacy rate is very good, and colleges and universities are being established.

‘You may have a good literacy rate’, he interrupted me. ‘Anyone with a Matriculation, FA or BA is considered as an educated person; but can you get a job abroad with these certificates? These certificates don’t even get you a job in Azad Kashmir as a clerk. Tell me how many medical specialists do you produce in a year? How many Civil Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, how many computer experts and Software Engineers do you produce? Sometimes people have certificates but no skills that can enable them to compete in the job market’.

He paused for a moment and said, ‘If Azad Kashmir or an independent Kashmir has given you what I see on the roads of various countries of the Middle East; then please leave me a Ghulam – enslaved person. Instead of competing with us in the field of education and development you people started sending militants here to disrupt our lives here’.

I said, ‘You have a point, but can’t you see how badly people are treated here. They are killed, tortured and women raped. All that is not acceptable to any civilised society’.

He interrupted me and said, ‘I strongly condemn human rights abuses and rapes. Tell me; is Pakistan free of rapes and human rights abuses? Tell me why all these human rights abuses are taking place in the Valley of Kashmir? Why Jammu and Ladakh are spared? I am a Muslim too, and I feel safe in Jammu where I live. It is not that the government is targeting all Muslims. They are targeting bad Muslims who use name of religion to advance agenda of Pakistan. You come from London, will your government – civilised and a democratic government, allow some people with guns and extreme views to disrupt peace and stability there’?

‘You may not agree with me, but a bitter fact is that Pakistan is not sincere in resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. They send militants not to liberate us but to advance their agenda. They need the Kashmir dispute for their survival and for recruitment of more militants that they can export to other countries to disrupt peace and stability and to hold back progress and development which they failed to achieve’.

I know for sure, India will not give an inch of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan. However, for argument sake if India was to give the Valley of Kashmir where the problem is, to Pakistan, Pakistan will refuse to accept that because they want the Kashmir dispute and not Kashmir. If they take Kashmir, they know they will get a problem, these people are not easy to satisfy; and moreover, Pakistan needs the Kashmir dispute for its survival and a large army’.

What he said made a lot of sense, but citizen of Azad (independent) Kashmir should not let a citizen of Ghulam (occupied) Kashmir win a debate; so by using my experience and knowledge I started shifting goal post and topic. With a friendly smile, he said now you are behaving like a typical Pakistani/ Azad Kashmiri who is never wrong; and who thinks all their problems are because of foreign conspiracies against them.

Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

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