What is going on in Kashmir: The interview with Muzammil A. Thakur
More news about the “forgotten wound of the Ummah” Kashmir have recently taken part in global media compared to the past. It was obvious that some crucial incidents were happening in Kashmir because we were getting the good and bad news in sequence even though Kashmir, which has been suffering for decades under the opression of Indian Government, had usually been forgotten. However, the demonstrations against Indian PM Modi during his visit to the UK aroused the global media’s and public curiousity more about Kashmir issue. Some Kashmiri leaders’ sudden visit to Pakistan (subsequent to Modi’s visit to the UK) and their statements after that visit brought up Kashmir issue to the agenda thoroughly.
After these hectic days I wanted to talk to my dear friend Myzzammil Ayoub Thakur, who is the president of Kashmir Institute of International Affairs and the representer of Kashmir in OIC, in order to understand what is going on in Kashmir:
Deniz Baran: The recent news coming from Kashmir are not good, we can observe that there is more oppressive atmosphere there. What is going on?
Muzzamil Thakur: The sad thing is its nothing new. Its the same story we have seen for decades. There was a hope with the new prime minister of india who is part of the BJP party, would continue the good work his predecessor had done when the BJP was last in power under Vajpayee. İt was considered to be the best times for Kashmir as dialogue was more open and chances were greater for a solution. But with PM Modi, the situation is such that not just Kashmir but the whole of India is in shambles. Minorities everywhere are scared and feeling more opressed. Lets take the example of the beef ban. Based on suspicion, an angry hindu mob lynched a man to death, and he didnt even have beef in his home. The irony is, that India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world. India is a paradox. And when you have a conflict zone such as Kashmir, you can imagine the situation when looking at whats currently going on in India. İts not just Muslims being persecuted but all minorities. And with this BJP in power who have a radical extremist background from teh RSS, it is only expected that Kashmir will once again continue to suffer.
Deniz Baran:We heard that the public figures of Kashmir avoid appearing so much nowadays and even Syed Ali Geelani under house arrest. Are these true and if true why?
Muzzamil Thakur: Lets have a look at what happened before the elections in Kashmir. Nearly all the pro freedom leaders were put in jail or hosue arrest, and the police detained many many young people they felt would boycot or cause problems during the elections. This is the rule fo law in Kashmir, based on suspicion and arbitrary laws, they jail and detain people who have committed no crime. Mr Geelani has been under house arrest for the last 5 years according to the Indian Express newspaper, and has not been permitted to pray his Jummah salat. Because these leaders are prominent we hear about their sufferings but the common man suffers too. There are children – CHILDREN – as yougn as 8 who are put in jail for years without trial according to draconian laws, or worse, are killed. Recently we had a 3 year old shot dead while sitting in his fathers lap. Other kids shot with so called non lethal weapons like pellet guns but under skins, its revelaed those pellets explode inside the body and remain there, surgeons cannot remove them because they fear the patient will not survive. Every family in Kashmir has a similar or worse story. Noone is untouched.
Deniz Baran: A few weeks ago I read some news saying that Hindutva movement (Hindu paramilitar nationalist movements) was increasing and it is conducted, supported by “a secret hand”. What do you think of this issue?
Its well docuemnted what their ideology is. To kill Muslims and non Hindus. They believe they are a superior race, no different than what the Nazis thought. They are trained to use weapons, trained to kill, educated about exremist values. And are rarely held accountable when they carry out their actions based on their beliefs. Recently Mehdi Hasan interviewed a BJP/RSS leader Ram Madhav for Al Jazeera and exposed the reality of what India is under their regime. A racist, bigotted and extremist organisation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=m1W-oXZ_31U) This Hindutva movement is no less dangerous than Daesh (or ISIL) as both want to expand their borders and kill people who do not agree with them and are minorities.
Deniz Baran: While Modi, the current President of India was being eleceted, he got supported by Pakistan as well although he had participated Gujarat Massacare once upon a time. Why did Navaz Sherif’s Government support him and could Modi do really something to build peace after Pakistan Government’s support? Or is the oppression over Kashmir increasing due to Modi?
Muzzamil Thakur: It comes back to the same reason why Kashmiri leaders expected better situation under Modi, because the last time a BJP government was in power, it was under Vaypayee who was willing to negotiate and prepared for dialogue. But it seems Mr Modi has betrayed that legacy and wants to forge his own, believing in his roots of Hindutva and extremist RSS background. PM Nawaz Sharif may have also held the same hopes as the Kashmiri leaders, but let us also not forget, in the greater political scenario, India and Pakistan are enemies and have animosity towards each other. It is very possible that Pakistans Prime Minister was extending an olive branch of peace, offering a friendly hand to start a fresh and cordial friendship with India, one where both would benefit each other, economically, politically, diplomatically and mililatrily. Because of Kashmir, both countries suffer enormously. And I believe Nawaz Sharif, who is ancestrally from Kashmir, wanted to end the hositility these two superpowers have for each other. İt is natural to want peace, and for teh greater good, I hope these two countries put their differences and ego’s aside.
Deniz Baran: When Modi visited the UK, remarkable demonstrations occured against him and you were the one of them. Can you tell me about these demonstrations, could it give you any positive result?
Muzzamil Thakur: I believe the protest sent a strong message to India and its Prime Minister. Not one of hate and hostility but one of hope, expectations and a demand for justice, peace and security. It was not just Kashmiris and Muslims that came to protest, it was Sıkhs, Christians, Gujaratis, Punjabi’s, etc. Protests may not create a direct impact but in the case of this demonstration it was highlighted in mainstream media in the west as well as India, therefore addressing the concerns of those who attended. It forces people to talk, debate, consider, and atleast highlight the issues people have to those people who dont have any knowledge. Since then, the topic of Kashmir has been addressed not just in India but also the UK and USA, where lectures have been organised by all stake holders, and even news channels like Al Jazeera have engaged in this matter, as mentioned earlier.
When a flood happened in Kashmir last year, Kashmir Government was too passiv and dysfunctional to manage the crisis. Are they still like this in differenet cases? Can Kashmir Government take initiative when Kashmiri people have internal or external troubles and change the game even sometimes?
One must remember that the Kashmir Government is not an indepednent entity, consider it like a city within a country. It has certain autonomous powers but ultimately takes orders from the head of the country. Similarly, the Kashmir state government is completely dependent on the Central Government, i.e. India. It’s also worth noting that all budgets and directions are given by the centre. Therefore the incompetence during and after the floods is not just of the Kashmiri government, but also of the Indian government, who had promised a budget for victims but never actually fulfilled that promise.
As for Kashmir Government, the only options people have are between parties who all believe in the same thing. Union with India. People vote for them nto because they want to be with India but beasue they need basic things in life such as roads, water, electricity, healthcare, edication etc. But even these things are rarely given to the people who vote. There are long term objectives, such as resolution of the Kashmir issue, and there are short to medium term goals, such as bettering peoples lives. Neither are being addressed succesfully, and we are at the mercy of India for everything, or atleast NGO’s to support local people to provide basic needs to people.
Deniz Baran: We know that some Kashmir leaders visited Pakistan. What was their agenda and requests from Pakistan Government?
Muzzamil Thakur: International support and advocating the Kashmir problem. Pakistan has long been an ally to the people fo Kashmir and the leaders represent the aspirations of the people, discussing with Pakistan government the issues and potential strategies. Pakistan is also facing its own problems be it in the Afghanistan belt or in its southen part of Sind, and ofcourse the eastern parts of Kashmir. Their support for Kashmir has been essential to bring notice of governments around the world to the issues we face. Pakistan has supported many nations especially Muslim members of the OIC in history, be it Saudi Arabia or Azerbaijan, but rarely have other countries come to the support and aid of Pakistan. Kashmiris believe that without Pakistan, we would have suffered even more, but we also feel it is the respobility of everyone around the world to advocate and support Kashmir, as they have doen for Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Sudan etc.
Deniz Baran:When we did interview last, Al Qaide had just opened their branch in India-Kashmir region and I asked you a question: Given the persistent suppressive and oppressive treatment of India can Al Qaida find big amount of supporters in Kashmir? You said “No.” without hesitating. Yet we have witnessed that the movements like Al Qaida increased their influence exceedingly in many regions where has oppression against Muslims. So I’m repeating my question again, are you sure?
Muzzamil Thakur: Al Qaida now seems to be more reasonable since the last time you asked the question, because of Daesh/ISIL. But even now, I will remain consistent in my statement and say Kashmiris by nature are not violent and extreme, our rich history, culture and traditon is proof of that. We come from a Sufi heritage and are naturally inclined to peace and harmony. Before the conflict, we had many minorities in Kashmir such as Hindus Sıkhs Buddhists and Christians and we all lived happily together in communal harmony. Yes, there are fringe elements that advocate and promote extremism but not enough to notice and worth mentioning. They are close to being non existant.
Deniz Baran: Modi has just visited Pakistan on 25. December. Let's accept it is big step in bileteral relation between Pakistan and India. But what does this visit mean for Kashmir?
Muzzamil Thakur: We hope it means an opportunity to move forward towards peace and dialogue. It was an unexpected visit, but we expect that the leaders of these two nations discuss a strategy, formulate a plan and involve the Kashmiris in negotiations to end this conflict that has potential to beocme a nuclear conflict.
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