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Article, The Other View

Forgotten Promise – Pankaj Mishra on Kashmir

Pankaj Mishra writes about the neglect of the Kashmir issue on the wide political scale, especially in light of increased focus on the AfPak area from the West that always seems to mention the Kashmir issue as a basis to the problem but never addresses it directly (similarly to the Nuclear Arms threat that Seymour Hersh has recently picked up). Read the article here.

Pankaj Mishra has earlier, nearly 10 years back written an article-triptychon in the Review on Kashmir.

The first in the series (Death in Kashmir, September 2000) dealt with then recent lethal encounters between Muslim separatists, Indian army and civilians. A long, sad insight into the Indian misconception of happenings there and the burden lying on the Kashmiri’s shoulders.

The second part (The Birth of a Nation, October 2000) deals with the history from Partition to the 90s, from Iqbal’s ideas for a Muslim state and Nehru’s assertion that Kashmir needed to be with India (both have Kashmiri roots) to Sheikh Abdullah and the creation of Islamic Groups on the Pakistani side infiltrating over the LoC.

On where the disillusioned Kashmiris could turn Mishra writes:

Pakistan was a natural choice. It had tried to liberate Kashmir by force twice by sending in armed infiltrators—first in 1948 and then in 1965—and on both occasions had failed to muster enough support among the local population, which, though not entirely happy with Indian rule, was also wary of Pakistan. But the fast-growing disillusionment with Indian rule through the 1980s made many Kashmiris look toward Pakistan for assistance: it was the only country in the world that consistently affirmed, at least rhetorically, the Kashmiri “right to self-determination.”

Looking at the Pakistani Kashmir today, especially the situation of Kashmiris from the Indian part who live in AJK without a legal status, often in tin sheds since years is dire (ironically these people suffered less in the Earthquake of 2005, since they didn’t have houses that could collapse over their heads). The Mohajrs from Indian Kashmir I know mock the Pakistani term Azad Kashmir and call it “Azab (azab-al-qabr being the hellfire) Kashmir” themselves.

What is missing from the Pakistani side in any case, is an assessment of the Pakistani Kashmir in the style of Mishra’s articles on the Indian part. While DAWN regularly writes about incidents on the Indian side of Kashmir, apart from AJK Cabinet reshufflings one never reads about the Pakistani part. While I respect figures like Yasin Malik who is given ample air time on Pakistani Talk shows, coverage of Kashmiri figures from this side of the fence is restricted to sad post-zalzala stories and I guess it would just be fair to hear their side of the story as well. The job would not be too hard, it’s not a case for self-criticism or pouring oil into a nationalist debate. Mishra has managed to give an unbiased account from “his” side – so could a Pakistani in Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Neelum.

The last part (Kashmir: The Unending War, November 2000) looks at the 90s and offers an outlook and some more insight into the plight of the local people.

The cycle of violence and destruction has been so swift and severe in Kashmir; the insurgency has poisoned and destroyed so many lives. Yet the insurgents’ political cause remains as lonely and hopeless as before. Independence, which a majority of Kashmiris seem to want, or integration with Pakistan, which for many Kashmiris is the second-best option after independence, are not possibilities that any Indian government can ever consider without immediately losing the support of the Hindu middle classes. The European Union and the US are unlikely to risk antagonizing India, with its lucrative markets and resources and the trappings of a democracy, by taking up the Kashmiri cause.

About Jakob Steiner

... lived, worked and studied in Australia, Europe and Asia.


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December 2009


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