Kashmir’s Azadi…

The slogan of azadi reveberates throughout the valley once again. The struggle for seperation from India once again is there up and strong. Its curfew today. The Indian armed forces are everywhere. People break the curfew and in unision say out loud and clear “Hum kya chahtay azadi”.

Everyone is on the streets. Kashmir is asking for freedom.

What is ironical is that the media coverage (except the local media) of what the masses in Kashmir want and what they are bearing with — in terms of Indian armed forces agression — is minimal.

What is even more ironical is that the same Indians who celebrated their own independence day on 15th of August cant show even an iota of respect towards the Kashmiris who are also asking for what is rightfully theirs — the right to freedom — the right to choose whether or not they want to stay with India or not. Ofcourse like any agressor, India too doesnt see what is clearly the choice of the Kashmiris — separation from India. Even thought there might be some dispute with regards to whether all Kashmiris want to join Pakistan or stay Independent, the choice is loud and clear — we dont want India.

The Indian media wants to downplay the whole Azadi sentiment by making it sound like the issue is limited to the transfer of land to Amarnath Yatra Board, or the opening of trade route to Pakistan, but any one who chooses not to be blind would see it clearly that for the past 20 years or so, it hasnt been just this — what are Kashmriis fighting for?

There have been many attempts to communalise the whole Kashmiri struggle movement. Making it sound like the Kashmiri muslims suddenly decided to get up and run a killing spree against the Hindus and the Sikhs. There are others who speak of voilence and attach it to the Kashmiri struggle.

Tragic! Tragic indeed is the fact that even though Kashmiris did take up voilence, the recent mass uprising has been non-violent. Ofcourse the voilence came from the Indian side who did not flinch from using ammunition against unarmed masses who had taken to a peaceful protest.

The world community has shut up.

They are deaf, dumb and blind. Deaf to the cries, dumb for want of “politically correct words” and blind to the inhumanity that would shake any human consceince.

Muslim Nationalist!

Can a Muslim be a nationalist? Can a Muslim harbor a certain pride in being born in a particular place? Is it possible that a Muslim thinks that he is superior to another just on account of his/her color, language, nationality?

Look back at the definition of a Muslim (that is defined very clearly by the Quran & the Sunnah – way of the Prophet (s.a.w.)), and you would realize it is impossible for a Muslim (in the true sense) to be nationalistic. Just like you can’t be a capitalistic communist, you can’t be a nationalistic Muslim.

And that is exactly where tragedy strikes the self-proclaimed Muslims today. I say self-proclaimed because I am not so sure whether we are really worthy of being called Muslims… especially when the highest standards of morality have been laid down by the blessed Prophet (s.a.w.).

Anyway, the issue that we are looking at today is Nationalism. An ideology that has seeped right into the Muslim societies – breaking the social infrastructure, causing rivalries where none should exist. While all Muslims would say, yes all humans are equal as it has been clearly outlined in the Quran, there is much to be achieved when it comes to the practicalities.

O mankind! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. Quran 49:13

Muslims exist all over the world – from the wild wild west to the Javanese tropical rain forests. And the vast majority identify with a certain nationality and take pride in it. Some hollow pride at being born in a certain place (I say hollow because nobody chooses what place he/she is born in). And yet we cling on to this identity – which is accentuated by a distinct culture and way of living.

While all Muslims do know that the reply of “Assalamualikum” will be “Waalikumassalam” – wherever the other Muslim is from, somehow they don’t appreciate the overwhelming implication of it. While the Muslim leaders oft speak of “Ummah” – or a body of Muslims across all nations, there is a stark contrast when selfish, nationalistic interests actually make them make decisions against that very Ummah. What they don’t realize is that whatever is beneficial for the Ummah as a whole, trickles down and is beneficial for every Muslim in every part of the globe.

The issue where I really see the confused muddle of ideologies is where the word ‘Jihad’ is used. Muslims have used ‘Jihad’ to label any struggle that they make, for whatever reasons that they are making it. Kashmiris for e.g. call their struggle Jihad, while at the same time what has been going on for the past 18 years is a mixture of so many things. Islam is ‘hot’ and using it to fuel a struggle makes things easy for many. But strangely, if Islam was the reason for the struggle, the Muslims in Kashmir wouldn’t and shouldn’t have any issues with Muslims who happen to be Indians. Supposing Kashmir was “independent”, would it be ready to embrace the Indian Muslims who wish to migrate to this ‘supposed’ Muslim land?

Even when it comes to Palestine, an issue that all Muslims hold very close to their hearts, there are certain factions whose concern with Palestine is purely on nationalistic interests.

For that matter think of Pakistan – a state that was established in the name of Islam — how Islamic was it, that a part of it had to ask for separation on basis of a different language? Or how Islamic were the Muslim nations when United States went against the whole entire world community, without any proof and bombed Afghanistan?

There is a serious need for introspection, at the level of an individual to that of statehood. Where does the priority of Muslim nations lie? If nationalism drives them, then they prove without any doubt that they are Muslims just in name. If nationalism affects their decision making process, then ‘ummah’ is nothing for them, but just a word to lure the masses. If they think that their nationality, race or language makes them superior to any other human being, then Islam or submission to God’s will is something that they haven’t really understood.

And while I ask others to introspect, I need to question myself…. I claim to be a Muslim first, then a Kashmiri… but does it reflect in my thought and deed? Loving the place where you grew up is a natural emotion, but letting that cause biased opinions, leaving aside the ‘Muslim’ identity is where many of us have gone wrong….

The wrongs need to be put right. And right actions start from right thinking.

Are we thinking right?

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You should check: Kashmir, 1990: Islamic Revolt or Kashmiri Nationalism

Kashmir, 1990: Islamic Revolt or Kashmiri Nationalism

Kashmir Revoltworth reading!

93. Kashmir, 1990: Islamic Revolt or Kashmiri Nationalism
AKBAR S. AHMED
Professor Akbar S Ahmed is Visiting Fellow and Fellow of Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.

In an analysis of Muslims living as a minority in a non-Muslim state I had suggested that the traditional Muslim responses of hijra, migration, and jihad, holy war, to unsatisfactory circumstances were no longer possible in the modern era.’ A third alternative appeared to have been developing, that of accommodating as a minority in the modern state. Recent events in different parts of the world have challenged this assertion. Although the minority condition affects a large percentage of Muslims, as many as one-fourth of their total number, we will look at these in India, the USSR and Israel.
The central question we wish to address is whether the contemporary Kashmiri expression of independence in 1990 is part of a global Islamic pattern or yet another temporary reaction to some local provocation?2 If the former, is it linked to the uprisings in Israel and the Muslim Central Asian Republics of the USSR? We look for a link, not a direct political one but a conceptual one. What are the similarities, what identical patterns, what unifying principle may be identified, common to these movements? Numerous related questions arise. Is this a Kashmiri intifada? If the latter, what are the sources of disaffection, what are the objectives and what affect will they have—and arc having—on the fate of other Muslims in India? Also, how has the Kashmiri uprising fed communal feelings among the majority Hindus and thus reinforced parties like the BJP?

Let us attempt to discover the familiar topic running through the Muslim movements by identifying the structural similarities. We may identify seven features.

SENSE OF DEPRIVATION

A feeling of social, economic and political frustration exists in these areas. There is little industry, growth or economic opportunity. This stagnant economic picture is related to the feeling of being deliberately neglected-or discriminated against—by the central government. Kashmir has virtually no major industrial unit in the state. Tourism during the ‘season’ in its only source of income. The Kashmiri language and culture have been allowed to atrophy. Politically, Kashmiris have incessantly complained that their state is almost unique in India for not having— or almost never having—fair and free elections since independence. Its own local government is seen as corrupt and inefficient, imposed on them by Delhi. Promises, from those of Mountbatten to those of Nehru, for plebiscite have been ignored and forgotten. These grievances bring together the desperate Muslim ethnic groups in Kashmir, including Ladakhi Muslim and Jammu ones, although their political positions may be different. The concept of “Kashmiriat” as a distinct, local culture is thus fuelled.


POLICY OF REPRESSION

The central governments in each case have clearly shown their bankruptcy in their dealings with these movements. Failed methods, exhausted ideas and cultural stereotypes emanate from government. The bankruptcy has ensured the over-reaction. They have neither understood the mood nor its causes. The problem is seen in simplistic terms, as one of law and order, one linked to terrorism, one created by fanatics, “fundamentalists”. Bullets and batons have been too frequently used.
The impatient reaction of the government is linked to its fear of the international implications of foreign involvement and possible future developments. All three Muslim areas are situated on sensitive international borders with a history of dispute and restlessness. The state simply cannot compromise on these areas without a genuine possibility and fear of unravelling its own fabric. The USSR fears that its Islamic Republics may one day break away, Israel is concerned about a separate Palestinian state and India about Kashmir joining Pakistan or becoming independent. The impact of Kashmir breaking away from India would be devastating for its 100 million Muslims. It would confirm the BJP argument that Muslims cannot be trusted and must either ‘Hinduize’ or leave the country. Forty years on, Muslims in India again face uncertainty, the old wounds have opened. Religion, politics and communalism are inextricably mingled in India, affecting every aspect of life, even the popular cinema.3

These fears ensure the extraordinarily harsh measures of the state. The brutal handling by Moscow of the Azerbaijanis is contrasted to its gentility with the Lithuanians; in one place tanks and killing, in the other, talks and promises of concessions. The Israelis have lost considerable support among their traditional allies in the West for their repressive handling of the intifada. And the Indian government is critcised even by Indians for its unprecedented heavy-handedness in Kashmir. The point is not that government-inspired agencies did or did not kill Mir Waiz; the important point is the people in Kashmir believe he was killed by them. Unending curfew, total disruption of life, escalating violence and reports of rape and torture as reported.4 Again, let us not isolate events in Kashmir from the rest of India. The last years have seen an increase in the trends mentioned above.5

To be fair to the Indian government, it is important to point out that their actions in Kashmir must not be seen as specifically designed for Muslims. The response to Sikh assertion of independence was, and is, similarly harsh.6 It is the deep-rooted central government nightmare of disintegration which is linked to the events of 1947. The only reaction to assertion of identity is suppression. “Pakistan” must never be allowed to happen again.

Hum Kya Chahtay — Azadi!

The slogan that has fuelled the Kashmiri struggle for ‘freedom’ – continues to elude us even after years of bloodshed, agony and pain. We – ‘hum’ refers to all who happen to live in Kashmir and cry out for… ‘Azadi’ – Freedom.

As ironical as it sounds each person who lives in Kashmir or identifies himself to this concept of Azadi continues to live on thinking that we want Azadi not knowing what exactly this means to them as a nation, as a people.

This need for freedom goes from individual level to the level of a nation – and at each level taking different meanings – remaining elusive, abstract, and unattainable.

As a nation, politically speaking – Kashmir wants freedom from Indian occupation. The reason is an amalgam of many reasons that not necessarily all the Kashmiris would agree upon. The reason ranges from the facts that are burried in the historical documents and events, to nationalistic reasons of seperation on basis of language, skin colour and a distinct culture, moving to immense hatred for India and its policies, to reasons which seem to be having a semblance to ‘need of a separate state based on ideology and religion.’ In reality nobody is quite sure of the reason(s).

The only thing we are sure of as a nation is that we have clung fast to this slogan from its very inception and have used it as a binding force, as a fuel to the so called freedom struggle. Today it loses much of its meaning, it loses the fervour it used to cause, it loses all the passion and emotion that it used to generate. The slogan is lost, just as the hope to achieve freedom is lost somewhere.

There have been politically master planned attempts to have people Kashmiris get rid of this slogan and take another… for e.g. I remember Mehbooba Mufti’s attempt to change to slogan to “Hum kya chahtay – shanti” (shanti for peace), and more recently I saw photographs of a “jaloos” with a placard with “Hum kya chahtay – insaaf” (insaaf for justice). Ironically, none of these is going to stay as an identity to the Kashmiri struggle. … and paradoxically, there cant be any semblance of peace and justice without freedom.

And freedom not just at the political front, but freedom of the nation — politically, economically, socially, religiously – and the freedom at the national level trickling down to the individual level.

Freedom from poverty, freedom from fear of going out of home after 6.00 p.m., freedom from the lies, freedom of expression, freedom from helplessness, freedom from that lump that rises in the throat and sends down tears…freedom to live life…

Truly we need freedom…
… for we are trapped
Trapped in our own desires…
…. unfulfilled, unaccounted for
Taunted by the fences…
… our freedom waits with
Tears in its eyes…
… for the hope
That is lost…

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