The Crisis of Kashmir: Setting The Terms For A Solution By Haytham Mouzahem

The Crisis of Kashmir: Setting The Terms For A Solution

By Haytham Mouzahem

Dr. Ayyub Thakur is the president of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement, an organization that is responsible for coordinating at the international level for the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir. According to Thakur, the Kashmiris are guaranteed this right under U.N. Resolutions 38 (1948), 47 (1948), 51 (1948), 80 (1950), 91 (1950), 96 (1951), 98 (1952), 122 (1957), 123 (1957), 215 (1965), and 307 (1971).

“We use all peaceful and legal means for achieving our objective. At the same time, we are trying to mobilize the international community diplomatically to take note of the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and to facilitate relief for the victims of oppression in the occupied land and for a peaceful resolution to the conflict,” says Thakur, who was interviewed by Haytham Mouzahem and Ksenija Svalina for EWR. Following is the interview:

EWR: Can you give us a brief background on the conflict in Kashmir?

Thakur: This dispute has existed since 1947 when [colonial] Indian territory was divided between two countries, Pakistan and India. The Kashmiri people were not part of the British Empire. We were an administered state and we had an option to either go to Pakistan or join India. Our ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, was Hindu but the majority of Kashmiris were Muslim. According to the division of the subcontinent, we should have been part of Pakistan. But India pressured the local Hindu ruler to accede to India, under the condition that the people would be asked if they want to be part of India or not. But the people of Kashmir started a people’s resistance movement against that decision and they liberated one-third of their homeland, which they call Azzat Kashmir, and it was declared as an independent part of Kashmir on October 24th, 1947.

India realized that it could not hold onto the area that was under occupation and it knocked on the door of the U.N. and got resolutions passed through the Security Council that essentially say three things:

1) There should be a ceasefire in the forces, meaning the Indian forces and the forces on the Kashmiri side -- in other words, the Pakistani forces. So the ceasefire is operational up until today. And this was called the ceasefire line, but this name was changed to the “line of actual control” in 1971. The people of Kashmir do not consider this as a line of control, they consider it as a ceasefire, and they do not accept the division of the state. But that ceasefire is operational and the U.N. Military Observer Group is in force and monitoring that ceasefire at this time.

2) True sacrament. This means the withdrawal of troops, both Indian from occupied Kashmir, and Pakistani troops from Pakistani-administered Kashmir. The number of troops that India was supposed to keep in Kashmir was set between 12,000 to 18,000. Pakistan was supposed to keep troops of between 6,000 to 12,000. That did not take place.

3) There should be a referendum. The U.N. would appoint a plebiscite administrator and it would conduct a referendum in Kashmir, so that the people of Kashmir would determine their future in a free and fair manner. This is what the people of Kashmir demand. They want to determine the political future of their state through a referendum, convened and conducted by the U.N. Security Council so that the final settlement of Kashmir can be adopted.

EWR: Can you tell us about your movement?

Thakur: Our organization, the World Kashmir Freedom Movement, aims for a prideful resolution to the Kashmir conflict through U.N. resolutions. In this regard, we try to mobilize the world community, parliaments, senators, think tanks, institutions, human rights organizations, humanitarian agencies and the media, to educate them and create an atmosphere to pressure India to accept the implementation of U.N resolutions. In the U.K., we have a Kashmiri-British parliamentary group. This group is within the parliament and numbers more than a hundred. This group lobbies the government on the Kashmir issue and has on a number of occasions discussed the Kashmiri issue within the parliament. Similarly, we have our supporters in the U.S. Congress, who have spoken in favor of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom. We also have a parliamentary group on Kashmir in the European Parliament, which also speaks for a resolution of the Kashmiri problem according to wishes of the Kashmiri people. We also have representation of the Kashmiri people in the Organization of Islamic Countries.

We have people in institutions and the media who are sympathetic to the predicament of the Kashmiri people and who have warned that the Kashmir problem can turn India and Pakistan into a catastrophic situation – into a nuclear one. In order to avert that catastrophe, one needs to resolve the Kashmir issue.

EWR: There are several organizations in Kashmir, some militant and some political. How do you distinguish yourself from those movements?

Thakur: There are different aspects of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom. The first is diplomatic and international, and our organization takes care of this international front. We are not a militant organization in that way; neither do we operate inside Kashmir. We mobilize the international community for the Kashmir cause. But, we support the political fronts in Kashmir and there are two in Kashmir. One is called The All Parties Freedom Conference, which is based in Kashmir Valley. The other one is called the Freedom Movement, which is in Jammu province. So we try to promote those two political parties at the international level. We share the same objective: the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict through U.N. resolutions.

The third front consists of the Mujahideen. These Mujahideen are in Kashmir and are operating against the Indian army; while we don’t have control over the Mujahideen of Kashmir, we see that they are a very important factor in our struggle for freedom. The political leadership cannot take any decision unless they have the full confidence of the Mujahideen and at the same time, they should have the full support of the international community.

EWR: Is the Mujahideen organization in Kashmir the largest one?

Thakur: There are nearly 12 small organizations, the biggest one being Hibz-ul-Mujahideen. They are grouped under The United Jihad Council. They have made a lot of contributions toward our struggle for freedom, inflicting heavy losses on the Indian army and their troops in Kashmir. And for the last 13 years, it has not been possible for the Indian occupation forces to finish them off in Kashmir. This is because they have local support and this is how they survive.

EWR: Which one has been put on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations?

Thakur: From Indian-occupied Kashmir? None. But there are organizations on the list that are based and come from Pakistan to fight in Kashmir against the Indian army. They are Lashkar-e-Tayibba (Army of the Righteous), Jaish-e- Mohammed, Haraku –al-Ansar and Harakul Mujahideen.

EWR: What do you think of America putting them in the same basket as al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups?

Thakur: I think that they are slightly different from al-Qaeda. They don’t have a program to destroy America. They simply have a program to fight India. I don’t think that the Pakistani-based organizations have any intentions to fight America. The local militant Kashmiri organizations simply want independence from India. The Mujahideen in Kashmir are demanding that Indian state terrorism against the Kashmiri people stop and the people that have been killed, the ladies that have been raped, the young people who have been maimed, tortured [by the Indian army]…this whole process should be stopped. They [the Indian leadership responsible] should be tried be tried for war crimes by a war crimes tribunal, as they have done to [former Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic. So Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani should be tried for war and humanity crimes in Kashmir.

This is the demand of the Mujahideen. They are not an uneducated or illiterate people. They tried through peaceful and political means to achieve their objective. India stopped that, of course. For example, in 1987, Syed Salahuddin, who is chief commander of the United Jihad Council and the chief supreme commander of Hibzul Mujahideen, was contesting the election in Kashmir. The Indian occupation forces in Kashmir stopped the election process, rigged the elections and put Salahuddin into prison. In the year 2000, Hizbul Mujahideen called a two-week ceasefire, giving India ample time to talk, but New Delhi refused. So, they are not professional militants, they are just forced by circumstances to pick up the gun – but it is not their profession.

I think that we are not as reactionary to the West because we are not directly confronting the West. In Palestine, it is more direct. You have Israel, which is supported by America. In Kashmir, we have India, which is not supported as much by the U.S. We have a strong lobby that condemns India, and we have members of the British parliament, who in their statements do the same and say that the Kashmir problem should be solved. The fact that we are not in direct conflict with the West gives us a different outlook. We don’t want to lose friends in the media and in governments who support us.

EWR: What are your thoughts on the people of India?

Thakur: We have a number of human rights organizations, journalists and people in India who support us…but no political leaders. Politically, they have made this problem so emotional. Any political leader who speaks in favor of Kashmir would possibly lose his seat. In the last 54 years, they have lied about Kashmir; any political leader in private would probably accept that they have made a mistake but they do not say this publicly. Even though their soldiers are being killed and they have lost 400 million rupees in Kashmir…they try to hide it. They lose about 4 or 5 soldiers a day in Kashmir. India is also losing political leverage; it is no longer a guardian country. I think that it will take them more time to admit that this is a dispute and they need to leave Kashmir. They do say that this is a dispute and we need to talk but once they sit down at the table, they repeat the same story: that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

So what we need to do is some more hard work politically inside Kashmir and conduct more lobbying at the international level to press upon the upon the international community that the resolution of the Kashmir conflict is important. We need to also impress to the people of India that a resolution will bring peace, prosperity and peace to their country. This message needs to reach the people and I can say that to some extent, India is a democratic country and the people need to understand that Kashmir has held India’s economy hostage [inasmuch] as the Indian military buildup against Pakistan is in large part because of Kashmir. India’s image internationally has been compromised. I think that if the people of India realize this, they will support a party that will try to resolve the Kashmir problem. That is a big role that we have to play. The Indian people are very important to us.

EWR: What do you think a solution will be? What can the international community do?

Thakur: For me, India, Pakistan, America, Britain, the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly have provided a model for a resolution of the Kashmir conflict. They have discussed over several years the Kashmir issue. They have heard the Pakistani and Indian points of views and devised a formula for peace, which India and Pakistan signed and the people of Kashmir approved. We need to start from what has been accepted by all and then see what changes need to be made according to a consensus. So for our organization, the accepted solution to the Kashmir problem is the Security Council resolutions. No more and no less.

EWR: What role do you think that the International Criminal Court could play in bringing justice to your people by restricting India and Pakistan’s ‘sovereign imperialism’?

The Indian army in Kashmir is not under control; there is no law to control them and to punish them. They have been exempt from all punishment. There are public safety laws in Kashmir under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other military laws. Under those laws, no military personnel can be punished. But if one member of the Indian army can be taken to The Hague and punished, then I think that the rest of the army would be disciplined: they would not misuse force against the Kashmiri people, would not gang rape ladies in Kashmir and kill them. I think that this is a way to stop human rights violations and state terrorism in Kashmir. I think that this would generate a political momentum in Kashmir and help to resolve the Kashmir problem.

EWR: The people of Kashmir have two or three choices: to join Pakistan, to stay under Indian control, or to be an independent state. Which one do you think that they would chose if a plebiscite was conducted?

Thakur: There are two parts to Kashmir. Two-thirds of Kashmir is under Indian occupation and one-third is under Pakistani administration. Under the latter area, there is no struggle for freedom. The people are happy there. If I talk about an independent Kashmir, then Pakistan would have to leave, but why should be talk about Pakistan leaving? When we talk about independent Kashmir, it is only in the Indian-occupied area. Why should the people who are under Pakistani administration take part in a plebiscite on whether or not Kashmir should be independent or autonomous under Indian rule? They are not a part of the problem. And why should Pakistan leave if there is no struggle against Pakistani administration? For all practical purposes, it remains that independent Kashmir should be independent from Indian forces.

EWR: You mean that India should accept the idea that Kashmir, which is now under Indian control, be an independent state linked to Pakistan?

Thakur: If India were prepared to give us independence, I would be the first person to accept it. We already have autonomy, although they have changed that autonomy a little bit. We are fighting for independence.

EWR: And you would not accept a confederation with India?

Thakur: Later, once we are free. When we are free, then we can decide if we want to have a confederation with India or a unity like the European Union -- I don’t mind. But we can’t decide anything under occupation.

EWR: Do you expect that the confrontation between India and Pakistan could lead to a nuclear war?

Thakur: If the Kashmir issue is there, it will, because India has failed to suppress and end the struggle for freedom in Kashmir. Now, India is frustrated because it cannot end it. And that is why it takes its troops to the border and tells Pakistan to stop. India cannot do anything. It thinks that if there is a war between India and Pakistan then the struggle for freedom in Kashmir would stop. It will not, even if there is a nuclear war; the struggle for freedom would continue. It has nothing to do with a nuclear war or any war between India and Pakistan; it has to do with the rights of the Kashmiri people. What matters is that 80,000 people have been killed, women have been raped and thousands maimed and tortured. A whole nation has been abused and humiliated. So, we cannot just say that if there were a nuclear war that we would end our struggle. But we do not want any war. What we really want is peace and peace will only come with the resolution of the Kashmir conflict.

EWR: What about a nuclear war being averted if Pakistan prevents the Mujahideen from entering Kashmir?

Thakur: Pakistan cannot stop the Mujahideen. If India cannot stop the Mujaideen entering from Pakistan, then Pakistan has no capability to do so. How can they do it? You have mines on the Indian border, there are mines everywhere; you have searchlights as well as other methods. So, India with 7,000 troops cannot stop people coming across the border. How is Pakistan, with a few thousand along the border, supposed to stop the Mujahideen crossing? Also, it is the people of Kashmir that are fighting, to be honest with you. It doesn’t matter how many Mujahideen from Pakistan come in. If there is a will in Kashmir, if the people are determined to fight, Pakistan cannot stop it.

EWR: What do you say about the accusations that Osama Bin Laden has a role in supporting the Kashmiri Mujahideen?

Thakur: He cannot support himself, so how can he support the Mujahideen? It is all Indian propaganda. He cannot defend himself. Osama Bin Laden is hiding somewhere, so how can he support Kashmir? Once the Northern Alliance took over Kabul, they captured some Pakistanis that were there and transported 120 of them to India. And sometimes they claim that they have Afghanis there that are part of al-Qaeda, when they are Pakistani nationals. There are no al-Qaeda people in Kashmir…how would they get there? How can Osama Bin Laden support Kashmir if he has no communication and he is hiding somewhere?

EWR: How does the Mujahideen finance itself?

Thakur: Unless you have support from the local community you cannot acquire funds. The struggle in Kashmir is not so sophisticated as to warrant a lot of funding. For instance, how much do you need to throw a grenade at Indian soldiers? So basically, in Kashmir, you don’t need the kind of sophistication that Osama Bin Laden can provide. I repeat, let him defend himself. And how can Osama Bin Laden have the type of sophistication as to conduct the attacks that occurred on September 11th? This is all myth. It is all a hoax.

The Kashmiris fight their own war [against occupation] as the Palestinians and the Chechens are doing and the Lebanese did and so on.

EWR: What do the Kashmiri people expect from the Arab and Muslim world?

Thakur: From the Arab and Muslim governments, we expect nothing, because if we expect anything we are fools. Before their own eyes, their own people are killed and what do they do? They just watch on TV. They can’t do anything. But we pray for our neighbor Pakistan and the people of Pakistan who provide us with moral, political and diplomatic support and who take a strong stand against India. As for the Arab and Muslim people, yes, we ask them to pray for us and to keep our cause alive in the media.


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