Wherever the aspirations of masses will be suppressed

Kashmir Times correspondent AKSHAY AZAD recently caught up with prominent civil rights activist, journalist and writer GAUTAM NAVLAKHA in Jallandhar during the huge three day congregation organized by Gaddar Party loyalists on the occasion of 19th annual Ghadar Party fair and spoke to him in detail about Kashmir crisis. Excerpts from the interview:

AKSHAY AZAD (AA): Is the Kashmir struggle genuine and how?

GAUTAM NAVLAKHA (GN): Wherever the aspirations of masses will be suppressed with brute use of force a movement against that oppression will definitely arise which is legitimate in every sense. Kashmir issue is not restricted within UN resolution or the Instrument of Accession signed between Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawahar Lal Nehru. The onus of making this struggle legitimate lies upon Indian government which used repressive and undemocratic means including bunglings of elections, unabated killings, rapes, molestation, disappearances and made Jammu & Kashmir economical dependent. All this resulted in the uprising of masses in valley.

AA: How do you view the leadership, divided between several options, in the Valley? Where does that lead us?
GN: Not a single man or party is leading the masses of Kashmir. In the last few years there has been witnessed a change of opinion among masses vis a vis the leaders. There may be some leaders who want to go with Pakistan, others with India or some may want J&K to remain independent. But the masses will decide about the future of Kashmir. There is also change in the opinion of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who admitted that opinion of masses is different from his personal opinion and he would respect the opinion of masses.

AA: By considering the Kashmir struggle legitimate are you raising fingers on the integrity of India?
GN: It is the masses who build a nation and nation’s integrity will not be disintegrated by accepting the demand of self determination of masses. It is the Indian State not the people which are endangering the integrity of the nation. After 63 years of independence 80 percent population is unable to spend Rs. 20 per day, 45 percent children between 0-6 age are malnourished. Life of majority population is moving towards darkness. Mentally and practically Indian state is very careless about the issues of masses and in this perspective slogans of ‘Integrity of Nation’ are false propaganda of Indian state.
AA: The government’s perception is that stone pelters are being paid by separatists and Pakistani agencies including Lashka-e-Toiba. What is your take?

GN: Three months earlier Indian intelligence agencies and corporate media propagated that Lashkar-e-Toiba was behind the stone pelting but now Indian state led by P Chidambaram is saying that stone pelters are being paid. Whether the Indian Government was actually right three months earlier or now? For a second, if we assume that the propaganda of Indian media and government was right, is it possible that a person will come out on the road and be ready to die only for Rs. 500? Is it possible for merely Rs. 500 Kashmiri youth are ready to die?

AA: Stones are replacing weapons. Is Kashmir moment is going in the right direction?
GN: One can never decide the ways of peoples protest. Its very easy in Kashmir to get armed training but Kashmiris want to organize peaceful protest demonstrations, seminars, discussions, meetings but are restricted from doing so. Inspite of restrictions they are not taking up guns which is a very wise step of Kashmiris. Kashmiris are so much intelligent and wise that now they have made a platform of their own for projecting their demand not only in India but in the entire world. Kashmir moment is going in an absolutely right direction.

AA: Is Kashmir is not an integral part of India?
GN: Only in slogans Kashmir is considered as integral part of India but if someone goes through the atrocities committed by forces in valley and other states, stone pelters were tackled by weapons only in Kashmir not in other states. In the last 20 years the massacre of thousands of people, unprecedented rapes and murders, illegal confinements, disappearances, gang rapes, besides other brutal atrocities have been committed by forces in Kashmir valley, against which none of the country’s citizens had raised voice. But on the other side if such atrocities are committed in any other part of country whether in Bastar, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, many people come forward but not in case of Kashmir. Then how it can be deemed a part of India? It was also the failure of us peace loving people of India who didn’t raise voice against the atrocities. Kashmir was always treated as a colony and all atrocities are being committed upon the colonised people of Kashmir by the Coloniser Indian state forces.

AA: But don’t you think heeding voices of separatism in Kashmir or resolving the Kashmir issue on lines of some kind of independence will lead to disintegration of India?

GN: India is a union of several nationalities and if some nationality will be acceded in the Union by its choice, other will have the right to remain independent if it wants. Indian government should consider the demand of freedom of Kashmiris.
AA: Majority masses of Jammu and Ladakh do not support the ongoing moment of Kashmir and are quite against it. Then what about their aspirations?

GN: Right to self determination of people of Jammu and Ladakh must be considered in the resolution of Kashmir issue. Firstly the opinion of masses of entire state including all regions of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh must be considered during the resolution of issue.

AA: What do you think of Pakistan’s role in Kashmir and designs of Pakistan establishment?
GN: Due to the unwise and undemocratic decisions implemented in Kashmir by Indian state, Pakistan got a chance to claim about Kashmir. In the last three years situation in Pakistan was also out of control from Pakistan government and Pakistan role in Kashmir moment has become negligible. Putting the onus of entire movement on Pakistan is totally false. Kashmir moment is an indigeneous moment and in the prevailing situations Kashmiris left the weapons and took out protests to projecting their demands.

AA: But isn’t Kashmir movement a religious one?
GN: The character of Indian state is Hindu in real sense. Take the example of banning the militant outfit of Maoists and students Organization SIMI but on the other side state has not banned the biggest Hindu fundamentalist private goons army of Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Sawayem Sewak Sangh (RSS), dozens of whose activists and leaders are inside bars for several crimes committed by them including planting bombs in mosques and other minority religious places in entire country. They had also planned massacre of minorities in many states of country, then why such outfits are not banned by Indian government. Sympathisiser of Hindu fundamentalist organizations are in state assemblies, in bureaucracy, intelligence agencies but moving freely and continue with heinous crimes but are not banned. What does it depict? Does this not represent the nature of Indian state which is Hindu in real sense. It could be obvious that the resentment against such religious states would be religious. But go through the series of events that happened in Kashmir in past 20 years. Since 1990, curfews were relaxed in valley on Friday and after Friday prayers, people gathered and held protest demonstrations and it was obvious that the language and slogans used by the protesters would be religious in nature. CRPF and Army personnel deputed on roads taunted the protesters with provocative slogans like "Hindustan Teri Mot Aai, Lashkar Aai, Lashkar Aai" (Lashkar means protesters). Someone can say that all protesters were Lashkars but no one favoured Lashkar in slogans till date and they always raised slogans of freedom "Hum Kaya Chahte Azadi". If one will talk to the people of Kashmir they always engage in political discussions, not talking about Lashkar.

Indian government should realize the resentment of Kashmiris who instead of atrocities and suppression are still favouring execution of real democracy. Except Manipur and Nagaland, most atrocities were committed by Indian forces in Kashmir but inspite of this, Kashmiri’s desire for freedom was not suppressed by Indian state. Then it is impossible to win the hearts of people of Kashmir by such means in future also.

AA: Is there any peaceful resolution of Kashmir problem which will be accepted by all masses.
GN: Majority of Indian masses and people of Jammu and Kashmir want peaceful resolution of Kashmir but the fanatic organizations like Bajrang Dal, Bhartiya Janta Party, other fundamentalist and also the Congress party don’t want resolution of Kashmir problem.

Indian government does not want to strengthen the roots of democracy in country. If the roots of democracy will be strengthened then the decisions against the will of majority masses will not be implemented. Then adivasis will not be evacuated from the jungles for the mining projects for the benefit of big corporate houses, farmer’s agriculture land will not be encroached on the name of SEZ’s, condition of education and health sector, public undertakings will not deteriorate in the country. If democracy will be strengthened profit motivated interests of corporate houses will be not be accomplished.
AA: If Indian government does not want resolution, then why is it sending interlocutors to J&K?

GN: Interlocutors visit, All Party Delegation, Prime Minister visit, Home Minister P Chidambaram visit all are the tactics adopted by Indian government to pacify and weaken the ongoing moment of Kashmir.

AA: Then who will solve the issue?
GN: Indian government is not serious in solving the issue so the responsibility lies upon the common masses and civil societies to compel the government to strengthen the democracy in country and in all states.
AA: What about the Kashmirs Pandits who were forced to migrate from Kashmir?

GN: Migration of Kashmiri Pandits was very unfortunate and onus of migration lies on Kashmiri majority population but not completely. Responsibility of migration of Kashmiri Pandits also lies on Indian state which inspite of providing assistance to Kashmiris in valley provide vehicles to leave the valley. Majority community of Kashmir had the responsibility to provide security to minorities during 90s but they failed to accomplish that responsibility. Many families of Sikhs and Hindus are still residing in Kashmir but they were not forced to migrate when militancy was at its peak in Kashmir. Kashmiri separatist leaders still consider Kashmiri Pandits as the integral part of their culture and visited Kashmiri pandits camps in Jammu.
AA: What about Arundhati Roy’s views about Kashmir?

GN: One can be satisfied or not with the views of someone but that does not mean people having divergent views have no space to express their views in democracy. Anyone who is not satisfied with Arundhati’s views should express his or her dissent with democratic ways but attacking her house and calling her antinational can never be justified in a democratic country. Why can’t people with divergent views hold press conference in Delhi to express themselves?

AA: Arundhati talks only about Kashmiris but not about Jammu and Ladakh?
GN: In a democracy every one has the right to express his personal views and if someone is not satisfied with someone’s views, he has the right to express his divergent views in a peaceful manner. That does not means that someone has the right to harm the person with divergent opinion. She raised voice in favour of Kashmiris along with Geelani; people of Jammu should have to come Delhi and expressed themselves.

*The author can be contacted at akshayazad23@gmail.com