Of Paradise and Hell

Harried at home and abroad over the Kashmir imbroglio Modi’s hawkish stance seems to be selling well in Pakistan. So Pakistan’s Punjab Province Assembly adopted on August 23 an unanimous resolution condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on Balochistan and Gilgit-Biltistan and asked the federal government in Islamabad to take up the issue at international forums, including UN. Pakistan People’s Party legislator Khurram Watto even went to the extent of snapping trade ties with India. And in so doing his rationale behind the identification of the crisis was wide of the mark. The real problem, however, on both sides of the fence, was the projection of TINA—there is no alternative, and fanatically sticking to that premise. Meanwhile, Pakistan government was prompt enough to arrest top Baloch leaders who welcomed Modi’s overtures to their cause. Luckily for the Sindhis Modi didn’t refer to the Jiye Sindh Movement. Then there were anti-India protest marches including burning of Indian flags in Pakistan occupied Kashmir—or PoK. It is too easy to organise anti-India protest rallies in Pakistan because organisers get official patronage as it was acceptable and fashionable for the far left to organise anti-Soviet rallies in America during the Soviet days. But nothing positive will emerge from making petitions to international community, not excluding UN which in effect acts as an extension of US State department.

Close on the heels of Modi’s remarks and Pakistan’s hostile response to them the Uncle Sam made it clear once again that issues concerning Kashmir or Balsochistan should be decided by the ‘‘two parties involved’’. And US ambassador Richard Verma was candid enough to make his government’s point more opaque : ‘when it comes to Balochistan, or even increased tensions in Kashmir in particular, it is their policy to leave the matter to be decided by the two parties’. In other words Kashmiris have no choice but to look for options that they don’t want. For all practical purposes America is not going to oblige those Pakistani leaders who think they could resolve the Kashmir tangle in their favour by continually raising the Kashmir issue in international forums and asking Washington to mediate by obliging the Pakistani idea of Kashmiris’ future. There are so many UN resolutions on Palestine and yet justice for the Palestinians remains elusive for so many decades. What is more Palestinians have the support of the whole Arab world but for the Pakistanis who talk in jingoist language, such vast mass support even in South Asian region is unthinkable. Even Pakistan’s all weather friend China too is in favour of two-party solution.

Right now there are dozens of flash points across the globe and Kashmir is one of them. The so-called international community can live with them without showing any urgency to make this world a safer place for peace marchers.

Unlike Palestinians the Kashmiri agitationists are yet to garner popular support beyond Pakistan. In truth progressives including leftists and communists even within India try to maintain a calculated distance when it is the question of self-determination of Kashmiris. Many of them are even against Kashmir’s Special Status guaranteed under Article 370. These days they don’t support any kind of autonomy movement in any part of the country. They don’t differ much from the ruling dispensation in New Delhi in regard to Armed Forces Special Powers (AFSP) Act—the source of continuing conflict and violence in the North East and Kashmir. And Kashmiris don’t trust any mainstream political outfit. Nor do they show any inclination to mobilise public opinion for democratic space that is being systematically curbed under the specious plea of law and order, outside the valley as if such encounter with civic bodies elsewhere in India will jeopardise their idea of independence—‘integration with Pakistan’. They cannot continue their agitation for long in isolation. There are sane voices that are against continuing army rule in every state of India. Unless these voices are articulated to strengthen their cause army atrocities will mount. This is one reason security forces frequently resort to gross human rights violations with impunity. The hard reality is that the Kashmiris themselves are divided over how to chart the road to freedom while the international community favours a solution, without specifying a dialogue formula. They seem to be in favour of two-Kashmir formula which is not acceptable to Pakistan. Moderate Hurriat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq dismissed the idea of dialogue between India and Pakistan because he thinks it will be a dialogue between the deaf and dumb. But he didn’t elaborate much about the extent of involvement of Kashmiris themselves in any form of negotiations—local, regional or international. Instead he urged Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Imam Kaa’ba, Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati and others to mediate. The ‘holy’ people could at best issue sermons for peace and restraint without touching the real issue—the future of Kashmir. They cannot really decide on which course the Kashmiris would follow to attain peace and democracy.

Against the backdrop of current phase of Kashmir agitation Pakistan-bashing in India has reached a ridiculous stage that talking of friendship with the people of Pakistan may invite sedition charges. After a recent visit to Islamabad as part of a SAARC delegation of young lawmakers, actress turned politician Ramya said ‘‘Pakistan is not hell. People there are just like us. They treated us very well’’. But it was enough for the saffron brigade to create a hell for her as an advocate filed a sedition case against the actress for insulting ‘Indian Patriots’. Ramya’s remarks came as a veiled counter to comments of Defence Minister Monohar Parrikar, who while lashing out at Islamabad for exporting terror in Kashmir had said in no certain terms that going to Pakistan was same as going to hell. But the very term paradise no longer applies to Kashmir—it is a living hell for Kashmiris.

Vol. 49, No.9, Sep 4 - 10, 2016