Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi said that the idea of “Independent Kashmir was not based on reality.” He said this while interacting with students at the London School of Economics. This became a point of great debate across the sub-continent as one could see on social media.
Back home, while commemorating the 140th birthday of Allama Iqbal, Hurriyat patron Syed Ali Geelani said that Jammu and Kashmir was a natural part of Pakistan.
I read the two statements from these two important people connected to Kashmir dispute with a sense of great shock. I cannot go and persuade the Prime Minister of Pakistan with the sense of reality that he ignores but I can tell the Hurriyat Chief that he should not be doing this. I admire and respect the Hurriyat Chief but my sense of a humble refusal may be seen through the following justifications:
One, when you claim that Kashmir is a natural part of Pakistan because of its Muslim majority, many Muslim leaders of India also contest this question as a reason of Kashmir’s joining with India. Last year when MJ Akbar said that giving up Kashmir was surrendering Indian Muslims’ right, why was he questioned then?
Second, your statement is exploitative in nature because it further alienates the people of Ladakh and Jammu regions. It also puts an end to Kashmir’s struggle from becoming a people’s movement or a collective struggle of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, being the citizens of modern day democracies, we cannot afford to put an end to different schools of political thought. My freedom of thought cannot hamper someone else’s freedom.
Third, when the oppressor is in a divisive course of action in an oppressed society, we should not be following in his footsteps to lead our own ‘divide and rule’ of the society. By this, we become direct supporters of oppression. When we call Hurriyat an ‘amalgamation’, it must accommodate people of all religions, sects, castes and regions in its truest sense.
Fourth, no part of Kashmir is being ruled by its own choice. The political freedom of ‘Azad Kashmir’ is also yet to be seen. When Pakistan got hold of its territory of Occupied Kashmir, the first thing Mushtaq Gurmani, a Pakistani envoy, did was to divide and rule ‘Azad Kashmir’, followed by autocratic practices and feudal politics. Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas would often make complaints to Pakistani administration that the decisions taken by Pakistani envoys were taken without any consultation to the ‘Azad Kashmir’ government. Many ‘Azad Kashmir’ ministers and officials were treated by Pakistan as second-class citizens. (Source: The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir: Christopher Snedden) We cannot afford to escape from one occupation to the other and submit to this belittling treatment. If occupation on one side is a curse, the other cannot be thrust upon us as a blessing. Sardar Ibrahim, although having been a part of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ administration was a core supporter of plebiscite.
Five, when both India and Pakistan and their people are following a dangerous trend of war and terror we cannot become a part of any of these dangers. Both sides are oppressing minorities and running caste and sect politics which have been a basic aspect of typical South Asian politics. While on one side, children are being killed in trains (public trains, of course) for consumption of beef and wearing skullcaps, the other side is busy mob lynching promising young men who dissent. I cannot be a part of such republics; I can work in a way that inspires not only my own people, but also those who have ruined me for decades now. This belief alone can restore my identity and honour.
Six, when Pakistan launched its military operation in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), its Army killed millions of Bengalis and raped scores of women to suppress their call for freedom. This systematic violence, genocide, genocidal rape is a blot on Pakistan’s Army. Imagine ‘Azad Kashmir’ giving a call for freedom, how Pakistan deals with them is a matter of great debate, if I am not being judgmental.
The structure of power is always absolute. It is not humanized as our dreams of freedom are. Will the leadership recognize it and accept it as a part of the struggle?