Kashmir: The Neglected Conflict
Before forming an opinion about a subject or an issue, especially a geopolitical one, a sensible person commenting over it is expected to have a nuanced understanding and be well informed about the subject under discussion. Moreover in case of a dispute, that involves a conflict between nuclear-armed rival states, a principled person is expected to listen to all the stakeholders carefully, and then, after thorough evaluation over contemporary and historic facts, makes a decision regarding who is right and justified and which side is guilty of transgression.
Unfortunately, in the case of Kashmir, the international community is not doing so, it is guilty of bias and selective concern for humanity. India calls the freedom movement ‘terrorism’ and the world repeats the same rhetoric. The media uses the word ‘terrorists’ for the Kashmiri freedom fighters for no reason other than Indian authorities using the same word. For the audience, this one word is often enough to dehumanize the other side, failing to recognize any sacrifice or motive they may have. Today, there is no one for the advocacy of the oppressed Kashmiri people, whereas, India is a state engaged in the spread of nonstop propaganda for decades regarding the conflict, letting the world hear its side of the story only.
Jammu-Kashmir in the Pages of History
The Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India dates back to the partition of British India into two independent states in August 1947. At the time, the princely states under British suzerainty but not directly ruled by the British Government opted for joining either Pakistan or India taking into account their contiguity to one or the other country and the wishes of their people. In the case of Jammu Kashmir, the ruler was Hindu while the population was overwhelmingly Muslim and wanted to join Pakistan. India consistently pressurized the Hindu ruler to accede to India. Apprehending that the Hindu ruler, who himself was instituted as a nonhereditary successor by the British and contrary to the aspirations of the people, was likely to succumb to Indian pressure, the people of Jammu Kashmir rose up against him, forcing him to flee from Srinagar. On 24th October 1947 they formed their own government. On 27th October, the government of India announced that the Hindu ruler had acceded to India. This claim was made on the basis of a fraudulent instrument of accession against the will of the people.
The Muslims of Kashmir had witnessed the genocide perpetrated against the Muslims of Jammu where historians estimate upto 500,000 Muslims could have been killed while 200,000 went missing. It was planned by the extremist faction RSS, to completely alter the demographics of the region. Hindu intentions were clear and this had further instigated the Muslims of the valley to rise up. On an illegal pretext, India sent its forces into the state and occupied a large part of Jammu Kashmir.
A. Jinnah ordered the Pakistani army to fight. The public was enthusiastic and were well aware of the consequences of a total Indian occupation. People from different areas of the homeland helped their Kashmiri brothers and fought at their own will, and succeeded in pushing the Indian army back to free almost half of the territory, which include Gilgit, Baltistan and AJK. The situation grew so desperate for India that it ran to the United Nations to intervene and got a stay on the Mujahideen activity in the valley. Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, solemnly declared then that the people of the state would decide the final status of Jammu Kashmir. The UN promised to have the matter resolved diplomatically through a plebiscite, which of course has not happened to date.
India took the matter to the UN Security Council in 1948. The UN Security Council through its Security Council Resolutions no. 47 (1948), 51 (1948), 80 (1950) and the United Commission for India and Pakistan resolutions of 13th August 1948 and 5th January 1949 declared that accession of Jammu Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite. These UN resolutions were accepted by both India and Pakistan. Nehru declared before the Indian parliament that India was committed to holding a free and fair plebiscite in Kashmir. However, India reneged on its commitment to hold plebiscite over one fraudulent pretexts and excuses that continues till present. In fact it is they now who arbitrarily declare the very same resolutions as outdated.
70 years have passed, but this promise remains unfulfilled. Why has India not conducted plebiscite? The answer is simple. The Kashmiri people want to be a part of Pakistan. The land does not belong to India by any means, and it is being continually shown the door by the people of Jammu Kashmir. Despite the pressure, there is one reason that compels India to prolong its illegal occupation. It is the idea of a secular-diverse Hindustan itself that will fall apart if Kashmir accedes to Pakistan, as it was meant to be. They fear that the ideology of India could be defeated by the ideology of Pakistan and the two-nation theory; the theory that formed the basis of Pakistan and partition. The theory that Jinnah used to justify partition, which states that the religious and cultural values of the Hindus and Muslims are antagonistic to each other that makes them two distinct nations unable to co-exist without one majority (Hindus) trying to usurp the rights of the minority (Muslims), something we see in India every day since then. If the idea of India falls apart and the two nation theory is validated, it means all the minorities of India would seek their own independence, as there is nothing to unite them under an India anymore. The Hindu extremists themselves will be empowered by this to call for a Hindu Rashtra state that has no place for the Muslims or other minorities. India would no longer be the India as it is today. Pakistan would have won, the ideology of Pakistan would be vindicated by the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan, this is something unbearable and intolerable for any Indian government, who could then never dream of coming into power again.
What has been Happening in Held Kashmir Since Then?
It is not just an occupation; the forces have been killing, raping, blinding, arresting, and torturing the public. Houses are being burned and mosques are being demolished. It would not be wrong to say that every single Kashmiri has faced atrocities in one way or the other. All of them have suffered. Every house has its own tragic stories. They all have buried their loved ones. And the killings are still increasing with each passing day. The reports issued by various internationally recognized human rights organizations are there for anyone to read. It is not just the brutality but the impunity through which these acts of brutality are committed, where no perpetrator is made accountable, done as a tactic to induce sheer fear and terror in the people. It is a Muslim majority state, where the Muslims are barred from their Friday prayers, something not hindered even by the most repressive regimes in history.
Under these circumstances, what is a Kashmiri supposed to do? The unheard Kashmiris initially launched the movement with peaceful protests. Shutter down strikes, rallies and slogans,
‘Kashmir bany ga Pakistan!’ (Kashmir shall become Pakistan!)
‘Hum kya Chahtay Azadi!’ (What do we seek? Freedom!),
‘Azadi ka matlab kia, La ilaha il Allah’ (What does freedom mean. No diety worthy of worship except the One true God!).
The struggle remained largely unarmed. It kept happening for decades. Then they realized that they have to do something different in order to get heard. After a generation or two, an armed struggle was initiated.
India was violating human rights. The forces were killing unarmed innocent people for no reason other than to suppress, terrorise and to maim. Their crime was that they were Muslims. India would not conduct a plebiscite unless the Muslim majority turned into a minority. For this, the Indian policy was and still is, to depopulate Muslims and to increase the population of Hindus by settling them in the region. India is continuously working on changing the population statistics. The effort has yet to succeed.
Were the Kashmiris supposed to sit and wait for their turn to be killed? They protested peacefully for decades but remained unheard. They chanted slogans to get attention but the ‘world’s largest democracy’ killed them in return. They showed videos of Indian brutalities to the world but their internet was shut down by Modi’s ‘digital India’. What were they supposed to do then? Remain silent? For how many more years more? For how many more generations? By all laws and by all norms, they were absolutely allowed to initiate an armed struggle against their killers.
Invoking morality or ethical behaviour to claim that all armed struggles involve violence and are therefore, essentially evil, and justifying taking away one’s right to armed struggle by that reasoning is fallacious. For if there were no right to armed struggle, predatory states would be emboldened to subjugate weak nations. And if a people under occupation have no right to seek and receive support from outside sources, they will be unable to engage in any effective resistance. The occupying states wish to change the law and morality of armed struggle so that they can easily crush the will of the occupied.
Solution Proposed by the UN and OIC
In 1974, the United Nations General Assembly passed historic Resolution 3314, adopting the definition of aggression that includes the right to armed struggle. The definition forbids states and coalitions of states from “any military occupation, however temporary.” It also prohibits bombardments, blockades, or forced annexations of any lands. The definition warns that no consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, justifies aggression. It further states that “Nothing in this definition of aggression could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence of peoples forcibly deprived of that right, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination: nor the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and to seek and receive support.”
The stance of the United Nations on leading a freedom struggle was formally embodied in a new resolution after borrowing the definition of aggression from the earlier resolution no. 3314 and others. The UN allowed legitimate armed struggle against foreign aggression in a resolution (No. A/RES/37/43) passed on 3rd December 1982. This resolution justifies the use of armed struggle by people for liberation of their land from foreign occupation. The said resolution is reproduced here: “This House reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including ARMED STRUGGLE”.
The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an organization of 56 Muslim states, is most forthcoming in its recognition of the right to armed struggle. The OIC Convention on Combating International Terrorism (1998) states in unambiguous terms that “Peoples’ struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law shall not be considered a terrorist crime.”
Islam is a practical religion that guides the believers into dealing with any kind of situation, common in human’s individual or social behaviour. The religion clearly and unapologetically allows the oppressed people to fight. It is well established in Islamic jurisprudence that if the Muslims of a certain region are attacked and unable to protect their lives, honour, land, or the sovereignty of their faith, then it is incumbent upon other Muslims to provide them with whatever support is needed.
The purpose of armed jihad in Islam is to protect the rights of the innocent, to defend from aggression, and to ensure people are given the opportunity to freely practice Islam. The Quran, the Sunnah, and the majority of scholars from the beginning of Islam until today permit armed jihad as a response to aggression and persecution. As history stands witness, the Muslims have fought jihad even to liberate non-Muslims from oppression.
Allah SWT says in the Quran: “Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory. [They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah.” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” (Qur’an, 22:39-40)
According to Tafseer Ibn-e-Kathir, the verses were revealed for fighting against the Quraysh who wronged and persecuted the believers for thirteen years. From the above verses, we deduce the following facts:
(1) The Muslims were given permission to fight because others had been fighting them.
(2) This permission was given because the Muslims were “wronged” i.e., persecuted for over 13 years and continued even when the Muslims lived in Madinah.
(3) The Muslims were exiled out of their homes without any right only because they believed that God is One.
(4) And had it not been for God to give permission to fight against tyrants and persecutors, many monasteries, Churches, Synagogues and Mosques in which God’s name is proclaimed would have been destroyed.
“When the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) was expelled from Makkah, Abu Bakr (RA) said: ‘They have driven out their Prophet to their own doom.’ So Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala), most High, revealed: ‘Permission (to fight) is given to those who are fought against, because they have been wronged; and surely, Allah is able to give them victory (22:39).’ So Abu Bakr said: ‘Then I knew that there would be fighting.’” (Tirmidhi, 3171)
Tariq bin Ziyad fought against the ruler of Spain to rescue a Christian lady. Musa bin Nusair, who was in Africa then, received the request for help by a governor of Spain. His daughter had been raped and abducted by the king. The governor said he had heard about the repute of Muslims, that they were caretakers of dignity and honor. Musa bin Nusair welcomed his request and sent 7000 Berbers under the commandership of Tariq bin Ziyad. The troops reached and decided to burn their boats to ashes. A historic move. The lady and several other women were all rescued after having heavy fighting against the ruler’s forces.
It was the same era when Muhammad bin Qasim was fighting in Hind. The reason of his jihad was a letter, which was sent to Hajjaj bin Yousuf by a lady who was looted and abducted by Raja Dahir. Muhammad bin Qasim, who was the son-in-law of Hajjaj, was sent for help. Muhammad bin Qasim fought a historic war there. He used catapults that could throw large stones on the enemy. Raja Dahir’s flag was knocked down with the help of catapults. This was a signal of defeat. The people were rescued by the young hero.
Therefore, it is only natural that Islam places the responsibility on its followers to rescue people from oppression and injustice. Seeing the Kashmiri people suffering under a brutal occupation, remind the believer of the command of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) in the Quran where He says:
“And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help.” (4:75 An-Nisaa)
Other Struggles in History
The Cuban Revolution was an armed struggle conducted by Fidel Castro against the right-wing authoritarian government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, and continued sporadically until Castro finally ousted Batista on 1 January 1959, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is yet another example. The IRA and other political, social and paramilitary organizations and movements associated with it, did exactly the same as the Kashmiris are doing today.
Bhagat Singh is championed as a hero of the Indian colonial era, remembered for his heroic fight against the British Raj, seen, remembered and hailed even today as a freedom fighter.
The question one begs to ask is, if Syed Ali Geelani, Aasiya Andrabi and MirWaiz Umar Farooq are all terrorists, how about Nelson Mandela? The list of such movements and individuals is long, and the above was just to mention a few as a reminder.
Who is a Terrorist?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the word ‘terrorist’ is:
A person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
The definition makes things clear when presented against facts.
Firstly, Kashmiris are not doing anything ‘unlawful’, as per International law as the UN clearly allows them to engage in armed struggle. Secondly, their act cannot be termed as ‘violence’, because they are fighting only their killers. Thirdly, they have not intended harm against ‘civilians’ (local populace) in the entire history of the movement. They cannot be accused of targeting civilian targets to realise any political or strategic objective. Fourthly, their effort is not for any other ‘political aims’, except freedom from an illegal hostile occupation.
These freedom fighters could not be deemed ‘terrorists’ by any law. They are heroes of their nation, as individuals fighting against regular fully armed occupying soldiers that have been busy killing and oppressing their nation for over 70 years. To resist against aggression, to put an end to their injustice, it is fully justified as a legitimate, righteous struggle and not terrorism.
Do terrorists receive an overwhelming heroes’ reception as we see in Kashmir during their funerals? Do the people of Kashmir feel terrorised by these fighters or do they feel terrorised by the Indian army? The Kashmiris indeed are fighting to save their generations. They have to fight in order to save themselves from genocide and extinction, to not suffer the fate of their ancestors at Jammu in 1947. The people of Kashmir fight among themselves over which village will get to bury the martyr who died fighting Indian occupying forces. Such is their love and admiration for these heroes. The space in large public places shrinks in comparison to the turnout of the people who come from all over Jammu Kashmir to just catch a glimpse of the final moments and participate in the final funeral rites of their beloved Mujahid-freedom fighters. Often the funeral prayers have to be repeated 5 to 10 times to accommodate all the attendees.
Do unarmed public run towards encounter sites to save a ‘terrorist’ from being killed? The facts are clear for all those who wish to understand.
Moreover according to the same definition, Indian forces and their handlers, including Narendra Modi or Ajit Doval could be termed terrorists. Firstly, their presence is ‘unlawful’. Their occupation is illegal. Secondly, the killing of uncountable innocents is ‘unlawful violence’. Thirdly, their violence is against ‘civilians’. Fourthly, they are doing all this butchery to achieve ‘political aims’.
They have terrorized a nation, they have killed thousands, they have burned schools, they have raped women as a war tactic, they have tortured people into eating their own flesh, they have burnt entire villages, they have desecrated the martyrs’ bodies with chemicals to make them unrecognisable, they pick random civilians out and beat them until they chant ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ (Death to Pakistan), they have deliberately mass-blinded people, they have arrested and jailed thousands of people including women, they have used a young Kashmiri as a human shield for which their army chief rewarded his soldier, they have used pellet guns on the protestors, which is again unlawful, and they have snatched internet from Kashmiris and cut off their communication so that all of those crimes go unchecked and remain undocumented, the list goes on and on.
As we discuss definitions over who to classify a terrorist or not, Glenn Greenwald, a notable American journalist talking about governments designating individuals or groups as a terrorist, puts it this way:
“The application of the term “terrorist” by the U.S. Government has nothing to do with how that term is commonly understood, but is instead exploited solely as a means to punish those who defy U.S. dictates and reward those who advance American interests and those of its allies (especially Israel). Thus, this terror group is complying with U.S. demands, has been previously trained by the U.S. itself, and is perpetrating its violence on behalf of a key American client state and against a key American enemy, and — presto — it is no longer a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Kashmir is a serious issue which must be resolved according to the will of the people living there. Plebiscite must be conducted. The right of self-determination must not be denied to the Kashmiris. The UN is responsible for this continued violence, by remaining a silent spectator. Implementation of the UN’s own resolutions are impeded by political and economic interests of the member nations. A freedom movement in Kashmir needs international attention and support. The people are bearing brutal occupation for 70 years. If the UN fails to implement its own resolutions then all recent criticisms against it are justified, for it has become only a political mouthpiece for a few global powers, unable to resolve conflicts and irrelevant to modern conflicts.
Individuals as well as governments are supposed to understand the case of Kashmir, break their silence and get the issue resolved. It is not Pakistan’s issue alone. It is a human issue; it is a Muslim issue. The Ummah as a whole and especially the Muslims of India must speak out actively and raise their voice at all levels. If the UN does not want to solve the issue, then Indeed Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) has shown us Muslims the way. It is our duty to save innocent lives. Kashmir is as important as Palestine and Syria – a test for the Ummah.
The Government of Pakistan, instead of adopting an apologetic attitude, must lead the effort in legitimising the freedom struggle in the eyes of the world. If the Pakistani government deems the cause of the Kashmiris as justified and legitimate then it should openly support the Kashmiris both financially and militarily, instead of settling only for moral, diplomatic or political support. The Pakistani government must make it known to the world that the armed struggle of the Kashmiris is perfectly legitimate, in light of international law, as well as the law of the Quran, and therefore, it is a moral obligation to support them in it. Governments of the world boast of supporting moderate oppositions against a tyrannical regime, why must Pakistan then be shy and apologetic about Kashmir?