Current Affairs event “Kashmir: Breaking the Silence”

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Current Affairs forum KIRKHS, held a program on Kashmir entitled “Kashmir: Breaking The Silence”, on Friday, October 14, 2016, from 3 pm-5pm, at ADM LT3, IIUM.

The speakers at the event were from varied backgrounds with expertise on the issue and bitter personal experiences to share with the audience. The speakers included Prof. Abdullah al-Ahsan, Dept. of History and Civilization, IIUM, Junaid Ahmed, an expert on the region from the organisation JUST, and M Kaiser and Muhammad Kashmiri, students who shared their personal experiences and their memories in Kashmir.

The program began with detailed, interactive and very lively presentations by the two students about the latest chronology of events of the crisis faced by Muslims in Kashmir, including eyewitness accounts, facts, statistics and the challenges to the covering of the issue in media and popular narrative.

Prof. Ahsan outlined the history of the unrest in Kashmir, focusing on the historic roots of the various conflicts surrounding the region, mainly between India and Pakistan, and the problem of the lack of self representation or self determination of the people of Kashmir. He also explained the various contexts of the current crisis in the region and outlined ways towards the future resolution. The final speaker, Junaid Ahmad of JUST, wrapped up the discussion by explaining the issue in regional context and in the context of the wider international global sphere.

The program was attended by students and faculty from various departments and nationalities, followed by a lively Q&A session. It was moderated by Dr. Khairil Izamin on behalf of the Current Affairs Forum.

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ANALYSIS: Kashmir is burning

The death of Burhan Wani in July this year has focused attention on conflict between Indian forces and Kashmiris

Dr. Abdullah Al Ahsan

KUALA LUMPUR

Kashmir is again burning. Since the killing of Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old Kashmiri, by the Indian security forces on July 8 every day one or two Kashmiris are being killed.

“Who Was Burhan Wani and Why Is Kashmir Mourning Him?” — a Huffington Post article — provides some background information.

According to the article, on YouTube on 7 June this year, about a month before his death, Burhan Wani explained why he took up arms against the Indian authorities.

Although the Indian authorities took little notice of Burhan Wani’s warning, the people of Kashmir seem to have taken him seriously. That is why the Indian authorities are currently experiencing trouble in maintaining what they call law and order.

Why did Burhan Wani take up arms against India? One needs to know history of the territory, how Indian troops got involved in Kashmir and what kind of treatment the people of Kashmir receive from the Indian occupying forces.

Indian involvement in Kashmir

The story of Kashmir dispute is long and well-known as one of the oldest unresolved conflicts in UN history. In 1948 alone, the UN Security Council adopted six resolutions on Kashmir but achieved little in securing peace on the ground.

In one resolution the UN decided to hold a plebiscite for the Kashmiri people to decide their future, but this never happened.

The first chief of the UN mission in Kashmir, Sir Owen Dixon — a senior Australian judge — later wrote in a report he was not able to hold the plebiscite because of the presence of “large numbers of regular soldiers of the Indian Army as well as the State Militia and police” in the state.

“I could not expose a plebiscite conducted under the authority of the United Nations to the dangers which I believed certainly to exist,” he said.

India landed its regular troops in Sri Nagar, Kashmir’s capital city, on Oct. 27, 1947 on the pretext of helping the Maharaja to quell a tribal revolt. Ignoring UN resolutions on the subject, in October 1949 the Indian Constituent Assembly incorporated an article in its constitution declaring Kashmir within Indian jurisdiction.

In 1951 India conducted an election in which 73 out of 75 seats in Kashmir Assembly were elected uncontested. Why and how so many seats were won uncontested? The authorities simply did not allow any opposition to join any democratic process. Then in October 1956 the same Assembly adopted a resolution declaring Kashmir as an integral part of India.

However, it must be noted that not all Indian officials working in Kashmir were brutal and cruel. B. K. Nehru, who served as Delhi’s appointed governor of Kashmir from 1981 to 1984, said in a statement: “From 1953 to 1975, Chief Ministers of that State [of J&K] had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimized by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress party led by Delhi’s nominee was elected by huge majorities.”

In fact, the situation in Kashmir did improve significantly for some years. However, it deteriorated significantly after 1987 when the Delhi administration went back to its old ploy.

A Newsweek article has pointed out that: “When New Delhi has used a heavy hand — most notably, throughout the 1990s — this has resulted in increased popular alienation and increased Pakistani support both for indigenous Kashmir militants and for non-Kashmir attackers infiltrated across the LOC Line of Control between Azad Kashmir which is administered by Pakistan and Indian-occupied Kashmir.”

However, the Indian authorities continued to blame Pakistan for the unrest in Kashmir. Recently the conflict escalated following Burhan Wani’s death.

Surgical strike

In response to the uprising of the people of Kashmir, India again accused Pakistan of sponsoring Kashmiri fighters from across the border. But the surgical strike seems to have backfired. Ever since the strike not only the violence has increased in Kashmir, it has created political uproar between the government and the opposition.

On Sept. 30 India claimed to have conducted and killed scores of “militants” in a surgical strike inside Azad Kashmir. Indian press and opposition parties were full of praise for the Indian Army. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal praised Narendra Modi “for strikes on militant bases across the Line of Control”.

He also “asked the prime minister to expose Pakistan, which has flatly denied the army operation across the de-facto border”.

Soon, however, this turned out to be a political controversy between the opposition and the government. Kejriwal was accused of being “Pakistan’s spokesperson”.

Prime Minister Modi also joined the debate. According to The Hindustan Times: “His word of caution came against the backdrop of demands that the government should present proof about the cross-LOC raids to counter the smear campaign by Pakistan.”

With patriotic sentiment running high amid soaring tensions with Pakistan, Union minister Uma Bharti said leaders who cast “doubt over the army’s surgical strike should take Pakistani citizenship”.

The “surgical strike” claim has also attracted international attention. The New York Times reported: “On Saturday, Mr. Rustam, 22, pointed in that direction and said the Indian troops never left their posts. ‘They are lying,’ he said. ‘They never crossed the LOC.’ A group of villagers standing nearby nodded in agreement.”

University of Chicago professor Paul Staniland in a Washington Post article has pointed out that: “The India-Pakistan crisis is not occurring in isolation.” He also highlighted how Pakistan was trying to downplay the escalation.

Indian diplomacy, propaganda

India, however, seems to have been engaged in a war in all fronts. On Sept. 22 Malaysian intellectual and human right activist Chandra Muzaffar made an appeal to the international community to stand up in support of the people of Kashmir.

In response, one Malaysia-based Indian diplomat wrote a letter in The Sun Daily claiming “the article is misinformed, misleading and lacks objectivity”. The Sun Daily conversely declined to publish a response to the diplomat.

Indian authorities are simply ignoring the real issue. The Newsweek article on the subject has rightly pointed out that: “For India, the key lesson is to address the root cause of its problem in Kashmir rather than merely blame its woes on Pakistani meddling. The root cause is Delhi’s inability to make the population of Jammu and Kashmir feel that they are truly part of the Indian nation.”

Naturally this approach has created frustration among the youth and there has been a sharp rise in extremism and violence in the region. Burhan Wani is a perfect example of the sort of frustration that the Muslim youth suffers today. The Huffington Post article narrates:

“Speaking to Youth Ki Awaaz, Muzaffer Ahmed Wani, Burhan’s father, explained why his son couldn’t be held back: ‘Almost everyone here has been beaten up by the Army. You also must have had your share. But everyone didn’t become a militant. It depends on how much one can take. Yeh aap ki ghairat pe depend karta hai (It depends on your self-respect). Someone’s ‘Ghairat’ got challenged time and again, so he decided to answer back. Others decided to stay quiet. My son couldn’t bear to see the atrocities and the humiliation, so he was forced to choose the path which he is on right now.’”

Rise of extremism

There is no doubt that extremism and fanaticism are on the rise in the world today. And yes, many Muslims are involved in many extremist and fanatic activities. The war on terror has only created more terror.

However, one must also admit that the world body, the UN, has failed to resolve the world’s two oldest conflicts — Palestine and Kashmir — to the satisfaction of Palestinians and of the people of Kashmir. Since the beginning of the new century conflicts have spread to Afghanistan, Iraq on the initiative of some Western powers and to Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and to many other parts of the world with the participation of many Muslim governments.

Attempts have been made to introduce democracy in the Muslim world which has ended up only with hypocrisy. Kashmir is a good example of such democracy. Some are suggesting to the people of Kashmir as well as to Pakistan to learn how to live with a big neighbor. The way Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim have accepted Indian supremacy; Pakistan also should learn to adopt a pragmatic approach toward India.

One fundamental matter that many observers and counter terrorism ‘experts’ do not seem to understand is that Islam not only rejects the idea of human beings are not born with sin and they are not born in lower-caste families because they committed sins in their previous life, Islam stands very strongly for human dignity and promotes justice, equality and transparency.

Burhan Wani seemed to have been motivated by Islamic teachings but unfortunately he did not receive proper guidance about how to respond to injustice, dishonor and indignity in his homeland. The faster the Indian administration and the rest of the civilized world learn to respect and implement human values such as human dignity and transparency, the faster they would recover from the current catastrophe.

*This article originally appeared on October 11, 2016 as an opinion piece for Anadolu Agency

*The writer is a professor of Comparative Civilization in the Department of History and Civilization at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).