Kashmir is not a battleground, and everything is not fair in war.Yugoslavia violently disintegrated un the early 1990s. Around the same time Bosnia was bathed in blood, Kashmiri Muslims were killed in dozens after dozens, day after day. So it had a resonance. One, we were going through the chilling phase of state conducted violence, and two, in an “angry helplessness” we followed the news of Bosnian Muslims butchered by Serb military. When Ratko Mladic was sentenced, a fortnight back, to life in prison, it opened many a wound. All “hope has not fled our bosoms”, we raise our hands in this hour of seeming hopelessness, calling on the ultimate dispenser of justice for a suitable justice. Those who bathed in the blood of Kashmiri Muslims will one day have the noose of justice in their necks. Amen.
Beyond this emotional outburst, yet a human desire to seek justice, there are lessons in what happened at the UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) this week. Lessons for Kashmiri Muslims who have undertaken a struggle for a safe, secure, and self determined political future.
First, the world of political power is not necessarily divided into Muslim and Non-Muslim. The present global politics where Muslim populations face ruthless times is not necessarily to be seen in a theological construct. Those who always tend to create a binary of “Muslim” and “Kafir” are doing more harm to the political struggles in the Muslim populations than anyone else. This is not a hyperbole. This mindset has corrupted our political struggles, created false, and dangerous, divisions in Muslim societies, turning the peoples around the globe indignant towards these political struggles. The problem with this mindset is the application of wrong episteme.
This has afflicted the political struggle for self determination in Kashmir as well. The invocation of Al Kufru Millat ul Wahida is grossly misplaced, and makes the entire world our enemy. The teachings of Quran have a different emphasis, and God views human conduct from a different perspective. What we do is weird and vicious. We apply Newtonian physics to novel writing. We spoil both.
Muslims constitute a community of people that share history, sensibilities, cultural practices and are connected by the threads of a common faith. We cannot substitute Muslim for Islam. Islam is a universal message from God to mankind. We will be doing good to both, Islam and Muslims, if we understand the difference between the two. As a message, and as a faith, Islam belongs to all mankind. Contrary to this, Muslim history, Muslim politics, and Muslim cultural practices are the markers of identity for a particular community. The way there are identity markers for all other communities. In this plurality of communities there are some universal values, and shared principles. Justice is one such principle. If there are global institutions that work for this value, Kashmir Muslims need to reach out to it, regardless of the difference of faith, history, and politics. After all Bosnia is a Muslim case. If the global institutions can deliver there, why not here. If the blood spilled in Sarajevo is accounted for, why shouldn’t we remind the world of Srinagar. Our isolation, and hypocrisy, on this count is the best defence for the butchers of Srinagar.
Two, the discourse on Human Rights needs a serious consideration. Just after those mass killings in 1990, when the human rights activists started looking towards Kashmir, a debate kickstarted here. Has the Kashmir problem been reduced to human rights issue. This debate occasionally raises its head even now, and the entire talk of human rights momentarily sounds suspect. It’s true that the emergence of the human rights discourse was seen as an extension of a particular politics at the global level, and such discussions continue in the academic realm. But over a period of time the consciousness about the human rights has raised and it has helped the victims around the world. Though lot needs to be done globally to make human rights a universally applicable instrument, but it doesn’t mean we deny the importance of the institutions that work for these rights. Just recently human rights activism in Kashmir was recognised globally when Parveena Ahangar, and Parvez Imroz were awarded Norway’s Rafto Prize for Human Rights defense. This is a welcome development and we need to bank on this. After all, Kashmir issue is about human rights, and self determination is nothing but a political right of humans. So those who raise the questions over whether the human rights activism is overtaking the politics of resistance are mistaken, if not mischievous.
Finally, sentencing Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander known as the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ to life in prison is a message to all the tyrants, and oppressive states, that state sovereignty is not above human life. The human demand for justice must override state borders. Nation-State has become a curse, and it must now go. The Kashmir issue is a direct outcome of the workings of nation-state. Our Resistance Movement should prepare itself for thinking beyond nation-state. Unfortunately, both our Islamists and Freedomists, are hostage to the same mind set as reflected by the construct of nation-state.
PS: If the genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda and other places can make it to ICJ, why not Kashmir. Last month we commemorated the Jammu massacre. Any ideas of taking it to the international audience, and declare the culprits as criminals.