Is Kashmiri Caught in a Crossfire?

As the movement in Kashmir continues unabated, new narratives are taking shape on social media. One such Kashmir-centric narrative goes: What is happening in Kashmir is a result of a war that has been imposed on Kashmiris by India and Pakistan, a war in which the victim is Kashmiri. In the following lines we will attempt to critically examine what does this mean.
On the face of it, Pakistan imposing a war is not a fact, and for that matter, India having imposed a war, too, is not a fact. In the strict sense of the term, no one has imposed anything on Kashmiris: what we are doing, whether picking up a gun, a small pebble/stone, speaking, writing, crying, praying before God, making a film, drawing a painting, writing a poem, dreaming---- any and every thing, it is all voluntary, we are self motivated, we do not want to be part of India, perhaps something we sucked from our mothers’ breasts, so our resistance comes from a sentiment deeply rooted in our being.

Having said that, let us dig a little deeper into this narrative to see if there is a point in it. Kashmiris, as I said, are driven by their own sentiment of freedom. This sentiment has found different sorts of expression at different points in history right from 1947 so much so that we can safely assert that a freedom movement or simply a ‘Movement’ has existed all along these past seven decades, and New Delhi has been dealing with it accordingly. From 1989, an important element of armed militancy has been added to the Movement, and furthermore, Pakistan has openly come out in support of the Movement, albeit, limiting it in words to ‘political, moral and diplomatic support’. This has triggered not just an equal or proportionate, but far harsher response from India. A war has thus ensued. This war is between India and the Movement. This time, however, unlike its past versions, the Movement is enhanced with the bite of armed militancy. 

Although in popular perception as well as state policy, this freedom sentiment, and the Movement have always been identified with a slant towards Pakistan (pro-Pakistan label given to any and every one not considered absolutely loyal to India), yet in its enhanced version India sees in the Movement an assertive Pakistan, and points its guns at it. Since Kashmiri people embody the Movement, the bullet fired at Pakistan hits the Kashmiri soul. In a nutshell, Pakistan is the aim, Kashmiris are the casualty. Now this is a point of extraordinary significance, and we need to clearly make up our minds on what it actually means. If one thinks we are an unwilling casualty, that would mean we are caught in a crossfire which in turn means we are caught in somebody else’s war or a war has been imposed on us against our wishes. On the other hand, if one thinks we are a willing casualty, that would mean we are fighting our own war against India with Pakistan’s support. Both these propositions, I would argue, are gross oversimplifications. Let us see how:

The former, which seemingly reduces us to pawns used for somebody else’s war, ignores some basic undeniable facts as under: 

(a) The sentiment of freedom from India is very much real and ingrained in Kashmiri psyche. 

(b)  A Movement, as mentioned earlier, without any enhancements from anywhere has always existed in Kashmir 

(c)  In early 1980s Kashmiri youth after the Khalistan Movement in Punjab and Islamic Revolution in Iran were getting extremely impatient with India’s ever increasing grip over Kashmir coupled with unsuccessful attempts to challenge it, and were showing not just readiness but a huge appetite for picking up arms.

So it is not right to say we are caught in a crossfire, that could be true only if we were entirely neutral in the conflict, had no interest or stakes involved, and most importantly, had no inherent wish to change our political status.
Now come to the latter. The position that we are a willing casualty puts us in the driving seat as if we planned and opted for a war---an armed struggle--- against India with Pakistan’s support. This begs some fundamental questions which if not properly answered makes this proposition a mere delusion. The questions are: 

(a)  Who is the Commander? 

(b)  We are losing, or let us say offering, our men and material in this war, who should we seek to ask about the returns of this. Who takes the ownership of this high-cost venture, and is shouldering the responsibility? Who shall we garland if successful, and who should we hold accountable if not? These are some simple, common sense questions. Though superficial, they are of great moral value and significance.

(c) At a deeper level, some relatively difficult, but nonetheless relevant questions can be asked. 

As earlier said, the Movement was always there, in 1989 it got a radical boost from Pakistan, and that resulted in escalation of tension with India, inside Kashmir as well as in overall Indo-Pak relations. This tension unless it is a necessary cost of Pakistan’s Kashmir advocacy, by itself suits none, least of all Kashmiri people. 

The question being raised now is this: is the enhancement of the Movement by Pakistan in 1989 really directed at the proper resolution of Kashmir Issue? In the resultant confrontation with India, is Kashmir the real issue the conflict is hinging on or a strategic pretext under which Pakistan is actually seeking to achieve its other interests? 

Regardless of the real truth, let us presume latter is the case, but what then? In any case the vital interests of Pakistan and Kashmir are aligned if not totally identical, so what is the issue here? Yes, Kashmiris are taking a huge brunt and that cannot be brushed aside, but apart from that it is not terribly alarming. What is deeply worrying however is if Pakistan, in the name of Kashmir, is pursuing someone else’s agenda which is neither its own, nor of Kashmiris and to top it all neither of Islam. This may have been a daft thought, if it was not a historical fact that Pakistan has been miserably involved in global power games, imperialistic agendas, and is still getting sucked into new regional and global unholy agendas creating problems for itself while solving those of others.  These are some apprehensions which per se are not our subject of discussion here, but nonetheless are critically important in deciding the  validity of the proposition now in question. 

For someone to claim that in the post- 89 enhanced phase of the Movement we are in the driving seat fighting a war with Pakistan’s support there has to be an absolute clarity of thought on this count---- what is Pakistan up to? The slightest of doubt would be enough to render this claim invalid. 

Dismissing the two propositions above as oversimplifications, the truth might have to be found somewhere in between. This would require a more detailed discussion at a future date. Enhancement is always welcome, but what is absolutely crucial is the core. What can be enhanced if there is no core? In the context of Kashmir, Movement is the core. However it needs to be underlined that political movements--- Movement being no exception----need to be constantly updated in view of changing times. The goalpost remains unchanged, but the methods and narratives are updated as we move on in real time. Failing this, movements become fossilized and gradually lose relevance and resonance. This is something we need to attend to. May Allah(SWT) be our Helper. 


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