The Curse of the Kalashnikov!

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WHEN the Kalashnikov first made its appearance in Kashmir more than a quarter century ago, it was widely believed that it would get us ‘azadi’ and the peace-loving people of Kashmir cannot be blamed for warmly welcoming the gun.  Being simple and hence gullible, they were taken in by the extraordinary hype that was created by drawing parallels of an ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir with that of Afghanistan where the mighty Soviet army was defeated by US and Pak backed mujahideens. It is not that everyone was blinded by this unfounded optimism and there were many sane voices in Kashmir which warned the public that this new cult of violence would be the harbinger of an unprecedented human tragedy in the days to come! 

Unfortunately, instead of disproving those who denounced the ‘armed struggle’ through logical reasoning, the Kalashnikov wielding ‘freedom fighters’ found it more convenient to quickly silence their voices forever. Many renowned and respected religious preachers, scholars, academicians, professionals and even ordinary members of the civil society had to pay with their lives for having antagonised the ‘freedom fighters’ by condemning violence. In this way, the first victims of the gun (which was ostensibly meant to be used against our ‘oppressors’) were our own people whose only fault was that they were well meaning persons with a strong sense of social responsibility. And by spilling the blood of innocents, the ‘freedom fighters’ gave the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir an inauspicious beginning and this may have probably put the curse of the Kalashnikov upon us that continues to draw blood even today! 

None of those who support the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir have ever been able to cite even a single advantage of the same and their common refrain of promising to “taking the armed struggle to its logical conclusion” is absolutely confusing. If the ‘logical conclusion’ of the ‘armed struggle’ implies getting ‘azadi’ by driving out the five million strong security forces from Kashmir, then this conclusion is certainly not a logical one. And neither does the claim that since this ‘armed struggle’ has been thrust upon the people due to denial of their ‘right to self determination’ by an oppressive regime, it is ‘legitimate’ find any takers. Therefore, rather than indulge in mere rhetoric, those who approve of the ‘armed struggle’ need to introspect and honestly assess its contribution in resolving the Kashmir issue. 

The United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Sallahudin is convinced that ‘jihad’ (as he prefers to refer to the ‘armed struggle’) is the only way in which the Kashmir issue can be resolved. Though the separatists proclaim that they seek resolution of the Kashmir issue through peaceful means, they too univocally endorse the ‘armed struggle’. However, some statements made by the UJC chief as well as the Hurriyat leaders clearly indicate that all of them are fully aware of the limitations of the ‘armed struggle’. Sallahudin’s admission that “we are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir” reveals how Kashmiris are being used as pawns in the ongoing fight between India and Pakistan. 

The import of what the UJC chief has revealed is also contained in the recent statement made by a US administration official after the visit of US National Security Advisor Susan Rice that, “Rice noted that terrorist and other militant acts continue to emanate from Pakistani soil and that has developed into a key source of regional friction between Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India.” Therefore, the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is not being viewed by the international community as a righteous movement of a people struggling for their legitimate rights (as we are being told), but merely as “terrorist and other militant acts” that “continue to emanate from Pakistani soil!”   

The Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani too has painted a dismal picture about the prospects of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir by stating that “The ‘armed struggle’ won’t serve its purpose unless and until it is well-coordinated. It needs support of a country, which could provide supply of weapons, resources and training camps, which we don’t have…It, also needs ideologically perfect youth. It needs strategy. The militancy in Kashmir lacks these things. Since the eruption of armed movement, the militants couldn’t focus on these things.” It is no secret that Pakistan is covertly helping Sallahudin in waging an ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. However, since Islamabad can never afford to match the scale of Washington’s assistance to the mujahideen in Afghanistan, Sallahudin’s claim that “The deciding front which will compel India’s 750,000 (strong) army to quit our motherland is the ‘Jihadi’ front,” may be just wishful thinking!

By saying that “The dialogue process to resolve the Kashmir issue should be given a chance as efforts through military means have not achieved any results except creating more graveyards,” Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook has made an extremely significant point that exposes the impracticability of any ‘armed struggle’. Though those favouring the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir may disagree, yet in their hearts they would know for sure that while it may serve some other purposes, as far as achieving the ‘right to self determination’ is concerned, the contribution of ‘armed struggle’ has always been and will remain extremely suspect! 

Therefore, how can we afford to be mere spectators while our youth is being rapidly consumed in the wildfire of the ‘armed struggle’?  History bears testimony to the fact that even after more than two and a half decades during which making countless sacrifices have been made, the ‘armed struggle’ has failed to get us anywhere nearer to our goal of achieving the ‘right to self determination’. On the contrary, this movement has today got so inextricably stuck in the quagmire of the ‘armed struggle’ and overshadowed by it that no country wants to even touch the Kashmir issue with a bargepole. The lack of response by the UN, USA and the OIC to Pakistan’s recent appeal for intervention on the Kashmir issue shows just how badly the ‘armed struggle’ has damaged the movement for the ‘right to self determination’. 

The writing on the wall is clear- in case we are really serious about achieving our ‘right to self determination’, then we have no other choice but to rework our strategy. However, if we can be really convinced that it is only the ‘armed struggle’ that will get us our ‘right to self determination’, then I’m sure that every family in Kashmir would happily volunteer to send at least one young and able bodied male for picking up the gun. However, when the UJC chief as well as Hurriyat leaders have themselves not been able to motivate their own kith and kin to join the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir, how do they expect others to pick up the gun and die for something that would in no way help resolve the Kashmir issue?  

Niloofar Qureshi is a regular columnist for the Kashmir Observer. She can be reached at: niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com

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