Occupied Kashmir and climate of tolerance in Pakistan
Repression is an old saga in Occupied Kashmir. It has been going on for decades. The Kashmiris are sick and tired of Indian rule and the Indian army and other security agencies have used the most brutal methods, from torture to killings, to crush the spirit of the Kashmiri people. But what is happening today, the extent and level of brutality and coercion, is breaking all previous records.
And suddenly the world, for too long largely oblivious of this suffering, is waking up to this situation. Or perhaps it is truer to say that the courage and strength of the Kashmiri resistance to Indian brutality, and the ability of social media to convey to the outside world some sense of this situation, is bringing Kashmir to global attention.
There was an article by a Kashmiri author on the situation in Occupied Kashmir on the front page of the New York Times a few days ago and there have been other very good reporting stories carried by different news agencies. This was not always so but thanks to the reach of social media pictures and images not easily seen before are now more readily available. And they touch a wider audience. Not surprisingly the Indian authorities are trying to block social media like Facebook, but for how long?
The three parties most intensely interested in Kashmir are the Kashmiris themselves, India for obvious reasons because as the occupying power it wants to put a lid on this discontent, and Pakistan because of proximity, culture and history. It is interesting to note, however, that the best, the most revealing stories about the happenings in Occupied Kashmir are being written by outsiders—from the leading wire agencies.
The picture of the Kashmiri man strapped to a jeep to act as a human shield has spread around the globe. There are torture videos—of Kashmiris being brutally tortured—which have also spread on social media. But I personally find it strange that the outrage that should be expressed in Pakistan to these events is missing. We go through the motions…the Foreign Office comes out with a statement when the occasion demands, but that’s about it.
Our anger and rage should be genuine because the brutality being visited upon the Kashmiri people is all too real. But our leaders are silent, the prime minister and his party-men are probably too caught up in the travails connected to the Panama Papers scandal, and our religious figures too will talk about holy salvation and blasphemy, whether real or trumped up, but it is seldom that one comes across a holy father really moved about the plight of the Kashmiri people.
When riding our rhetorical horses we say wonderful things about Kashmir: that it is the unfinished business of Partition; that Kashmir is our jugular vein. Not that we should beat the drums of jingoism and bellicosity. Far from it but there is a real situation we are talking about…a situation which is not the result of Pakistani propaganda or the machinations of the ISI. It is a situation triggered by Indian repression and forged by the astounding courage of the Kashmiri people. This is a revolutionary upsurge and the Pakistani tragedy is that apart from pro forma noises we are strangely, abysmally disconnected from it.
Our lips go through the motions but does our national pulse race with the pulse of the Kashmiri people? Do our hearts beat in unison with theirs? At a national level, at the level of the political leadership, are we moved by the plight of the Kashmiri people?
Some vague accusation of blasphemy occurs somewhere—in an educational institution, a village or a mohallah—and there is no stopping our passion. Our powers of rational reasoning and observation are switched off and a blood-lust takes possession of our senses. But Kashmiri youth, Kashmiri women and children, are braving Indian bullets and facing the kind of repression that Israel hesitates to practice in its occupied territories and our leaders, to repeat the point once more, are largely mum, our divines are silent, our religious leaders can spare none of the passion they regularly reserve for obscurer causes.
No one is saying go to war with India. All that is required is genuine, sincere solidarity with the Kashmiri people and that from the Pakistani side is missing. We first have to feel for the Kashmiri people…only then will our words carry weight when we try to draw the world’s attention to the unspeakable horrors unleashed by the Indian army and other Indian agencies. We have to speak from the heart…only then will our voices carry conviction.
But we know the problem, or at least a part of it. How does a prime minister enmeshed in a corruption scandal speak convincingly about Kashmir or any other issue for that matter when he meets with foreign leaders? In his heart are lodged other concerns. His mind is preoccupied with other things. Kashmir does not really figure on his radar.
Imran Khan should have taken up this slack. A rally devoted exclusively to highlighting Indian excesses in Kashmir would have been wonderful. And he could have drawn a connection to our internal situation by pointing out that a prime minister facing corruption charges was a liability when it came to drawing world attention to Kashmir.
How strange that just when the world is becoming more aware of Kashmir, Pakistan, for all its verbal hectoring and sympathy, seems to be moving away from it.
We have to understand the larger issue: when Pakistan is made to seem like an unsafe and intolerant place for minorities; when a trumped-up blasphemy charge is made against a helpless Christian man or woman; when a Christian couple is thrown into a burning fire again on a vague accusation of blasphemy; when an Ahmedi is shot to death anywhere in Pakistan because of his faith; when a student like Mashal Khan is beaten to death by a mindless mob of students again on vague charges of blasphemy…it is not just that the individuals concerned suffer but Pakistan’s image takes a blow and its standing and voice are diminished.
No one listens to diminished voices. For the sake of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters then if not for our own sakes we must banish fear, religion-based hate and bigotry from our land. The world should be made to focus on Indian brutality in Occupied Kashmir. It should not be distracted by incidents such as Mashal Khan’s killing or blasphemy cases which more often than not have not even a passing relationship with the truth.
Anything that undermines Pakistan’s international standing, anything that gives us a bad name, every incident of bigotry, fanaticism and intolerance, every blog post or Facebook posting preaching hate and irrationality damages not just Pakistan but its ability to speak with conviction about the Kashmiri people.
When will we realize this?