Rahul Pandita - Burhan Wani-wali azadi? Leftists have succumbed to narrow view of Kashmir // Kunwar Khuldune Shahid - Disown jihadist ‘freedom fighters’ in Kashmir

From the discourse of the past two weeks on Kashmir, it would seem as if the people there have risen against India because of pellet guns. There is no doubt that these guns, used by the police and the paramilitary forces, have caused terrible injuries. Every act of cruelty undermines the legitimacy of the state even more, and fuels further radicalisation - and this is true of Kashmir as of anti-Maoist operations or operation against militants in the North East.

But it is also a fact that the security forces in Kashmir have had to deal with extremely hostile crowds. In the skirmishes of the last few days alone, over two thousand policemen and over one thousand personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been injured. Two policemen have lost their lives, one of them after his vehicle was pushed into the Jhelum River from a bridge by protestors. One CRPF jawan, hit by protestors on his head with a brick, is in a critical state. Dozens of police stations and army posts have been attacked by frenzied mobs.
It is still understandable that in a display of anger against the Indian state, or because they support Burhan Wani's vision, many Kashmiris came out to protest his death. But it is baffling why a section of leftists in India, who are advocates of azadi in Kashmir, would mourn the death of the commander of a terrorist organisation that has not only killed security personnel but unarmed Kashmiris as well, including many from the Hindu minority, in several cases dragging them out of buses and shooting them dead in cold blood.

No matter what stories are attributed to Wani's reason behind joining the militant ranks, their tautology serves the same purpose: the Indian State and its troops, whose numbers in Kashmir are highly exaggerated in this discourse, are responsible for innocent, young men like Wani turning into jihadis. But behind the decorous restraint of his father, the support for the path his son chose to adopt comes across very clearly. In comments after comments, including in this 2013 interview with the journalist Jason Burke, the senior Wani clearly says that he is proud of his son and that he is ready for him to die. In another interview, he says that Islam prepares them for only two things: victory or martyrdom, and that surrender could only be possible in front of Allah.

What do you say to such a man? Or to his son who, before he died, appeared in videos, asking young men to join him in his fight for establishing an Islamic caliphate? It is one thing to be in favour of azadi, but do the leftists realise that azadi in Kashmir means Burhan-wali azadi? Between Khalistanism and Kashmirism, the leftists seem to have forgotten some important lessons. In the heyday of the Khalistan utopia, a few comrades were of the opinion that the Sikhs are the core of the Punjab nationality. They dreamt of sustaining independent Khalistan's economy by growing Gobi (cauliflower) and selling it directly to Pakistan. But then sense prevailed, and a majority of the leftist spectrum opposed the idea of Khalistan. Several comrades lost their lives while resisting Khalistani extremists.

But on Kashmir, the comrades failed to take into account that the pro-azadi sentiment is confined mostly to the Kashmir Valley, and there too among certain groups, and that the views of the other people in the state also need to be taken into account. While haranguing about the Kashmiris' right to self-determination, they forgot that the 'self' is not only a particular section of Muslims.

As a result, they even forgot their own people in Kashmir who would have offered resistance to this 
amalgamation of religious and national identity. So, while communists in Punjab who sacrificed their lives resisting Khalistan were remembered, people like Abdul Sattar Ranjoor were forgotten (The veteran Kashmiri Communist leader was shot dead at his home in March 1990 on the orders of Hizbul Mujahideen – the same organisation to which Burhan Wani owed allegiance to).

As the azadi brigade in Kashmir led brutal ethnic cleansing against the minority Pandits, the communists remained silent. During Kashmir's Islamisation, hundreds of temples were vandalised or completely destroyed. There was not a whimper of protest on the exodus of 400,000 Pandits. Would the leftists be silent if four lakh Muslims or Dalits would be driven out of their homes and villages? And once they accepted religion as an ideological component of resistance, did they consider the fact that they would lose the moral grounds to oppose Savarakarite militarism?

With the Pandits gone, a wave of intimidation silenced saner and liberal voices in Kashmir. Was there any attempt by the leftists to reach out to these voices? Did they make an attempt to say a word about veteran Pandit communist leaders like Motilal Misri and NN Raina, who founded and nurtured the communist movement in Kashmir? Did they ever try to resurrect the memory of the young Pandit comrade, Somnath Bira, who died while saving a group of Muslims from a mob of Hindu fanatics between Bhadarwah and Doda in Jammu 1947?

Instead of fighting Kashmir's descent into Theo-fascism, the leftists find no contradiction in calling a man like the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani to Delhi and elsewhere to their public meetings on democracy and civil rights – a man who has said publicly that he abhors socialism or secularism and that these are not meant for Kashmir, and that Islam alone will work there.

Look at a Facebook message posted by the pro-azadi filmmaker, Sanjay Kak on 9 July. He narrates an incident the morning after Wani's death when a Hindu man walked by a barricade in Kashmir manned by local policemen. The man was hoping to pass when he got slapped twice by one of the policemen who berated him for going to work on a day when Burhan Wani was "martyred.” (Quoting Kak: "It's only Saturday for you is it?” the cops said to him, "today is the day Burhan Wani was martyred”). Kak described it as an "anecdotal evidence to get a sense of the mood,” and it is clear that he approves of it.

Now, imagine a similar episode in Ahmedabad where a Hindu policeman is manning a barricade put up in the city immediately after the Godhra riots and slapping a Muslim worker. Actually, it is not a correct analogy. Imagine a Hindu policeman in Ahmedabad manning a barricade on the day Babu Bajrangi is being sentenced in the court and then slapping a Muslim worker saying, "It's only Saturday for you, is it? Today is the day when Babu Bajrangi has been sentenced to life imprisonment.” Is the slapping of a man by a policeman who thinks that a terrorist is a martyr a matter of upbeatness?

Are my pro-azadi friends okay with Kashmir becoming an Islamic state? When they say azadi for Kashmiris, do they even take into account the rights of the minorities in Kashmir, including the Pandits? When they felicitate their friend Geelani, do they ask him how the minorities will live in a place, which he says will be run not on secularism but according to Shariah?

In a recent, remarkable essay, the scholar Mukul Kesavan argues that the monument for India's pluralism is its Constitution and that "this is a claim to Indian exceptionalism (as opposed to the common identity of South Asia) because India's neighbours were either built on the wretched idea that nations are owned by religious communities or later succumbed to it.”

Why would those who claim to believe in India's pluralism succumb to the wretched idea of Kashmir being owned by one religious community? But that is what, sadly, the leftists in India have largely succumbed to.

The Nation - July 15, 2016
Disown jihadist ‘freedom fighters’ in Kashmir
by Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8 has resulted in absolute bedlam in the Kashmir Valley, with death toll rising to 39 as of yesterday evening. The 21-year-old commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen has been compared to Bhagat Singh – both to credit and discredit Wani’s struggle, depending on who’s doing the juxtaposition. But notwithstanding the often ignored evolution of the moral spectrum on the use of violence in contrasting eras, the crucial differential between the two was their ideological positions. Wani was the offspring of the global jihadist movement that emerged in the last quarter of the previous century, hammering Muslim-majority freedom movements into Islamist struggles wherever the occupying force was ‘non-Muslim’– including Palestine, Kashmir and East Turkestan. And the problem with any Islamist ‘freedom’ movement is that it intrinsically contradicts the very idea of freedom.

Hizbul Mujahideen, whose supreme commander Syed Salahuddin had claimed responsibility for the Pathankot attack as the chairman of the United Jihad Council, is a jihadist organisation whose very vocal ambitions aren’t limited to ‘liberating’ Kashmir from India. Hizb overlaps with Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba that in turn work in tandem with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, to lay a radical Islamic network from South Asia to the Middle East, with Turkistan Islamic Movement and its Syrian branch combining with Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to fasten together this massive jihadist conglomerate. This expansionist jihadist superstructure feeds off movements like those in Kashmir and Palestine to discredit genuine struggles for self-recognition and battles for human rights.
The greatest partners in crime for Islamist terror-mongers masquerading as freedom fighters are often the left-leaning opinion-makers, the torchbearers of resistance against all kinds of colonialism, which (mis)use prevailing economic disparity and their dutiful obsession with demographical morality, to create alibis for violently imperialistic jihadism.

It is these same liberals – who might not have offered the same courtesy to Hafiz Saeed or Masood Azhar for example – that have bought the Islamist narrative making Wani the poster boy for Kashmiris’ fight. If Wani is representative of Kashmiri Muslims, their Islamic supremacist movement shouldn’t be confused with freedom-fighting. And if the Hizb commander does not reflect the average Muslim mindset, there’s no bigger disservice to the Kashmiri cause than extolling Wani’s ‘struggle’.

Wani, like countless other youngsters, unfortunately fell prey to jihadism in a land becoming increasingly fertile for radical Islam. Losing elder brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani at the hands of the Indian Army’s brutalities last year pushed him further toward militancy. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani has reduced the probability of his relatives being victimised by Indian forces, with both his sons living hundreds of kilometers away from Kashmir in Rawalpindi and Delhi. Meanwhile in October last year, Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq warned Kashmiris to “beware of the expansionist plan of the Ahmadis in Kashmir” in his latest call for Ahmadis to be declared non-Muslims in India, during the Friday khutba.

With Islamists like Geelani and Umar Farooq spearheading the Kashmir movement, and Wani becoming the face of resistance, little wonder that the struggle has continued to diminish in the recent past, mirroring the Palestinian movement being usurped by jihadism as well.

Just like Kashmiri leaders’ Islamist fantasies, the Palestinian National Authority embedded Sharia as the ‘main source of legislation’ in their Constitution framed after the Oslo Accords. In fact it is the Ottoman Land Code of 1858 – a persistent remnant of Palestine’s Islamist colonial past – which paradoxically facilitated Jewish settlements in West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.
Hamas’ takeover of Gaza has further exacerbated the plight of Palestinian Christians that have already been reduced to around 1% of the Palestinian Arab population from 8% in 1946. This is similar to the Pandits expulsion from Kashmir, with 99% of the total Pandit population (150,000 to 160,000) believed to have left the Kashmir Valley by 1990.

Both Palestinian Christians and Kashmiri Pandits have been – and many still are – strong proponents of their respective nation’s right to self-determination from Israeli and Indian occupation. But when those nations chose – and continue to choose – to define themselves along religious lines, the movement for freedom became a paradox. The Kurdish struggle for autonomy in Turkey – oft ignored by the Muslim world owing to the identical religious identities of the occupier and the occupied – is a classic example of modern-day freedom struggles striving on political nous more than militancy. The militant Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane’s (PKK) achievements are nonexistent compared to pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP). Balochistan pragmatists have long suggested that the quest for Baloch autonomy should take a similar route.

That HDP’s gains in June elections last year were undone by ISIS bombing the Turks into voting for the right-wing, security-driven Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the November reelections, perfectly outlines the discrepancy between political struggle for freedom and jihadist expansionism. A similar story can be found in the contrasting fates of the Hui and Uighur Muslims, despite the prevalence of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Western China.

None of this is to deny the brutalities and human rights abuse of Indian and Israeli (or Turkish, Chinese and Pakistani) occupations. But the geopolitical realities of the 21st century dictate that actual battles for freedom are fought in the political chambers, and not on the ground. Any struggle claiming to be a freedom movement would need to exhibit the ideals that it demands among its own ranks. Case in point: HDP’s persistent support for secular and liberal causes and human rights – spearheaded by women and LGBTQ rights.

And so, actual well-wishers of Kashmiris and Palestinians should be vocal in their denunciation of any form of supremacism and bigotry instead of misrepresenting jihadism as fight for freedom and summoning apologia for terror-mongering. For, armed liberation attempts aided by jihadist neighbours have failed in both territories for the past 70 odd years. Realism dictates abandoning the gun, and battling the opposition in the political arena. For, no occupier in the history of humankind has given up an inch of territory, just because it was the ‘right thing’ to do.

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