Kashmiris have for long deluded themselves into believing that some day Pakistan or the United States would help them in realizing their long cherished dream of independence. Granted that every liberation struggle needs allies, supporters and cheerleaders but external support cannot and must not be seen as the blood of a resistance. Whenever the leaders of India and Pakistan get together for the so-called peace talks, we wrongly assume that Kashmir is the theme of deliberations between the two and it is only a matter of a few months that some breakthrough would be achieved.
Our politically infantile leadership loses no time in hailing the meetings between Indian and Pakistani leaders or diplomats, with a naïve hope that the two countries would soon start behaving and let the battered Kashmiri people have some watered down version of freedom.
A national liberation movement cannot be expected to walk on crutches. The resistance movement has to learn to walk alone when there is no forthcoming international solidarity and until the time such solidarity is earned through relentless efforts. It is high time for the younger Kashmiri generation to take full charge of the political landscape and chart new paths of non-violent and creative resistance, which are not dependent on the signposts erected by Pakistan or any other State.
Steve Coll, recently wrote a piece, “Backchannel Diplomacy”, which revealed that in 2007 India and Pakistan had almost agreed on some kind of demilitarization in Kashmir, which was to be followed by ‘self rule’ and a soft border in the form of free trade and movement of Kashmiris across the Line of control. We have also seen news reports that majority of our so called independentist leadership had agreed to be midwives for selling the proposal to hapless Kashmiris, provided India could formally commit to the idea and guarantee its deliverance.
It is depressing to see our leadership nodding their heads in affirmative to almost every sound that emanates from the durbars of Delhi and Islamabad. We are a nation bereft of any independent agency. It is very important for us to stop breathing the air of expectancy, hope against hope that Indians and Pakistanis would soon start loving each other soon and spare us their shackles. Freedom is not a dole to be received but an ideal to be realized through an unflinching commitment to uphold human dignity, justice and liberty.
We have historically outsourced our freedom struggle to Pakistan and now we are reaping the bitter harvest. Kashmir liberation struggle remains unrecognized by the world and to the extent it is recognized, it is only seen as an inter-State conflict. Beyond a few informed or concerned journalists, academics or policy makers in England and the United States, Kashmir remains an oblivious idea. Some Europeans think that it is just the name of a particular type of a fabric, Cashmere and for the few news hungry ones on the globe it is some border conflict between India and Pakistan. If one were to randomly scan European, Latin American or African media, for news on Kashmir, it should not come as a surprise that Kashmir story does not exist and if it does exceptionally, it is about rising Indo-Pak tensions on a border region called Kashmir .We may ascribe this to our unfavourable geo-political reality or ill luck but the question that must stare us in the face is what have our leaders and intellectuals done to address the almost total lack of awareness about the Kashmiri freedom struggle across the globe? The cocooned reality of our leadership deludes it into believing that a barrage of pro freedom statements in the Kashmiri media makes the world stand up and take notice.
How many awareness campaigns have been launched by our leaders to sensitize the civil society of at least the world powers if not the globe about the grim happenings in Kashmir. Reading a few news reports in local newspapers about one or two conferences that are held in the United States or Belgium should not lull us into complacence and make us believe that the whole world is discussing Kashmir. The sad story is: It isn’t.
Of all the major recognized academic works on conflicts across the world, Kashmir constitutes the subject matter of a very few. Nearly all major works on ethnic/inter State conflicts or nationality movements do not register Kashmir. Kashmir has not captured the imagination of major theorists of nationalism or ethnicity like Kedourie, Homi Bhaba, Ernest Gellner, Anthony Smith, Benedict Anderson, Donald Horowitz, Thomas Hyland Erikson, John Brueilly, Milton J Esman, Michael Billig, etc.
Even if we concede the point that the conflict in Northern Ireland –with roughly 3700 deaths as compared to around 60,000-70,000 deaths in Kashmir- enjoyed a lot of global academia and media attention as it pertained to a globally dominant continent of Europe and that Global media is awash with happenings in Palestine, owing to the geopolitical importance of the Middle East. But how does one explain the virtual absence of Kashmir in the global academic discourse, when Kurdish national movement, Tamil nationality movement in Sri Lanka, figure much more prominently in world academia than Kashmir.
Even if Kashmir does get noticed, it is seen as more as a raison d’etre of a conflict between two nuclearized States, a nuclear flashpoint and not as a national liberation movement waged by a Stateless nation of Kashmiris.
As far as the campuses of international universities go, Kashmir is missing from the student debates and discussions. There are hundreds and hundreds of student solidarity groups and networks across world’s famed universities, in support of many a nationality movements, especially in the cases of the Palestine, Tibet and not surprisingly Kashmir and Kashmiris are invisible there as well.
Except for a few good men, most of our intellectuals have chosen not to speak truth to power. Many yes men in our academia, journalism and NGOs, to safeguard their interests, have largely maintained silence on the repression unleashed by India in Kashmir or at worst have become the apologists of the Indian colonial enterprise. Most of our academics tend to hide behind a ridiculous veil of so called “academic neutrality” and refuse to term the Indian military control of Kashmir as military occupation. What they articulate is actually an affirmation of an oppressive State’s position on Kashmir, a garrisoned territory, with no freedom of association or dissent, controlled by half a million soldiers. Majority of our meek and self-centered academics have often discouraged their students from critical thinking and many times prevented them from expressing political dissent on college or university campuses. They have been singing paeans in the honour of the men in power. Not surprisingly some of them end up misrepresenting the mass sentiment for Azaadi as demilitarization, self rule etc. In contrast, world renowned Palestinian academics like Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Walid Khalidi, Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, Nur Masalha never minced words whenever they spoke about the Israeli occupation of Palestine.They have authored seminal works on the Palestinian question and convincingly demolished the warped Zionist discourse on Palestine.
Kashmir is still waiting for its own Khalidis and a Said, for organic intellectuals who can lead the people out of the current morass and steer the nation towards a complete liberation. We are yet to see the emergence of an indigenous Kashmiri narrative that could resonate across the globe. When a nation’s intellectuals and leaders have lost their moral compass, it is bound to give birth to flawed forms of resistance.
The Kurdish national leader, Abdullah Ocalan once said, I have struggled to develop a new kind of a Kurdish person, a new identity among Kurds, one that is informed and capable of making a stand for Kurdish demands. This is what I have been preparing my people for. Hope our leadership and intellectuals can draw some lessons.