Is hoisting extraterritorial flags really helping us?

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During last 8 years, the way Kashmiris have continued their struggle and the way they have brought one of the largest military power to its knees is not just commendable but also a clear evidence of the affiliation that Kashmiris have with the movement of independence. For innocent, unarmed Kashmiris to stand in front of India’s military might in Kashmir without any fear whatsoever is yet another indication of the truth that India does not want to accept: Kashmiris do not want to live with India under any circumstances.

However, the situation in Kashmir again begs the same question – why has a nation, continuously fighting for its rights for three decades, still not achieved what it has been aiming and fighting for. I can’t help but think that perhaps we have taken the movement in a wrong direction, or may be we just aren’t learning from our previous experiences and utilising them effectively to progress towards our destination, and independent Jammu Kashmir. The situation we are seeing now in Kashmir is quite similar to the situation we witnessed during 2008-10 unrests, when large numbers of unarmed Kashmiris took to the street to protest against Indian tyranny. The situation was, however, controlled by Indian forces after a few months.

Kashmiris are at  same crossroads and since the start of unrest in July 2016, they have been at the receiving end of  murders, tortures, and a variety of heinous crimes from Indian forces. Over 70 innocent people have been murdered for asking their basic human rights. Hundreds, including young children, have been blinded with pellet guns. They are helpless, they are unable to defend themselves and they are victims of atrocities and crimes by supposedly the ‘largest democracy’ in the world. However, it seems to me that we are taking the same direction that we took in 2008-10 and are heading towards the same outcome – suppression of Kashmiris’ demands by India once again. We are failing at the diplomatic level and based on what I have observed over the years, two key things are required to gain international diplomatic support: firstly, you have to prove yourself to be a victim of injustice and secondly (and perhaps more importantly), you have to show to your potential ‘saviours’ that there are benefits for them in helping.

Kashmiris are clearly victims of aggression from the occupiers. We have sacrificed thousands of innocent lives over the years in our movement against brutal and illegal occupation  of our country and yet, somehow, we are unable to prove this on the international stage. We are unable to garner any significant attention towards the crimes being committed in Kashmir, towards our right of self-determination.  The underlying reason is not only clear but blatantly obvious. Kashmir issue has always been seen as an issue between India and Pakistan. Instead of seeing as an independent movement of an illegally occupied nation, it is seen merely as a geographical, border dispute between India and Pakistan. India has been portraying Kashmiri movement as ‘terror from across the border’ before the world and we have allowed it to build a strong diplomatic stance over the issue despite being responsible for systematic rights abuse of Kashmiris for almost seven decades. We have allowed India to do this without any effort whatsoever – a couple of Pakistani flags in our protests or funeral processions have served India’s purpose very well. We have to stop this. We have to make this movement our own and until we don’t, it is hard to see Kashmir issue attracting any support from international community.

We are unable to garner any significant attention towards the crimes being committed in Kashmir, towards our right of self-determination.  The underlying reason is not only clear but blatantly obvious. Kashmir issue has always been seen as an issue between India and Pakistan.

Another thing that we have to acknowledge is that Kashmir is not an independent state and it isn’t in a position where key international players see benefits associated with an independent Kashmir. Hence why it has always been portrayed as an issue about the interests of India and Pakistan. The international players, the capitalists and strategists have their interests in numerous other larger and more profitable territories and for Kashmiris to think that a resolution of the issue can be achieved by simply portraying it as a dispute between India and Pakistan is, frankly, foolish and naïve. The only lasting solution of Kashmir will only be achieved when it is presented as an issue of Kashmiris, when the atrocities being committed against Kashmiris are highlighted in this context and when we Kashmiris start making it clear to India, Pakistan and rest of the world that this isn’t a dispute over a piece of land – it is a dispute which has taken thousands of innocent lives and continues to do so.

The courage, passion, bravery and determination that Kashmiris youth is showing right now is something every Kashmiri is proud of. There are not many nations in the world that show such determination under such circumstances for so long. However, we must pause for a moment and think whether these foreign flags that we waive just to show our loatheness towards India are actually damaging our own movement? Is waiving such flags and strengthening India’s illegal stance as a result beneficial to the cause of Kashmir? We have to make our demands clear. We have to get away from the emotional and sentimental elements and focus on the bright future we could have by freeing ourselves from all types of foreign occupations. We have to struggle and strive for an independent Kashmir where our rights, our futures and our lives are protected and respected. We have to strive for an independent nation which promotes peace, love and equality – something our occupiers are unable to provide and it has become abundantly clear over the years. One of the positives in recent weeks is the stance taken up by intellectuals, writers, activists and even some politicians in India and Pakistan that the most feasible, peaceful and lasting solution of the issue lies in the complete independence of Kashmir. Kashmiris have to support and promote this thought and the only way to do this is for us to send a clear message to the word – this is a movement by Kashmiris for their own rights and it will not be suppressed, nor will it be hijacked by anyone. We are at a crucial stage of our movement and right now is the time where we need to clearly identify our destination and the direction our movement is going to take. It is our future and unless we don’t try to make it better, no one will. Let’s use our movement to achieve our destiny, not merely for portraying our hate towards barbaric occupiers.

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