Lost and forgotten Kashmir

Published: August 7, 2010

The writer is head of the BBC Urdu Service aamer.khan@tribune.com.pk

At a time when President Asif Ali Zardari has just concluded a controversial visit to Britain and the worst floods in the country’s history have directly or indirectly affected over 12 million people, it may seem odd to talk about Kashmir. But over the last two months, it has evolved into one of the most fascinating political struggles of modern times.

Perhaps the most incomprehensible bit about Kashmir’s current situation is the world’s indifference towards it. Tune into any major international news channel and it is highly unlikely that you will come across even a mention of Kashmir, let alone any detailed coverage. It is utterly bizarre.

Srinagar has been under curfew for nearly two months. Shopkeepers, milkmen, those in need of groceries, relatives of the sick looking for medicines, all have to wait till late at night when it is dark enough to venture out without being spotted, and shot. In brief, the entire city’s economy wakes up long after the sun has set.

The only activity during the day is protests. A whole generation of young men and women who have grown up over the last decade have no idea of the kind of political normality that even we in Pakistan, despite the murderous campaign by Taliban bombers, take for granted. More than 50 protesters, mostly youngsters, have been shot dead by the security forces in these two months.

The youngest to be killed only a few days ago was a mere eight or nine-year-old.

Even housewives have joined the protests. There are protests every day in which men, women and children gather in small numbers wherever they can and pelt stones at the security forces. They know they will be met with bullets, they know they will be beaten to death if caught, they know that there is no immediate relief in sight, yet they risk their lives every day, day after day, despite the increasing number of security forces, despite the curfew, despite there being little hope of the situation turning in their favour.

The sheer relentlessness of their protest campaign is news in itself. Had it been happening anywhere else in the world, it would have been headline news. But Kashmir isn’t, not even inside India.

That part, though, is easy to understand. Indian journalism is nothing like the kind of journalism one comes across in the rest of the world — or at least that part of the world where the media remains relatively free. So strong is the consensus behind the Indian state in mainstream urban India that it seems to have robbed journalists of their ability to look at their country with a critical eye.

Perhaps they are still drunk on the India Shining philosophy that turned them blind towards the hundreds of farmers driven to suicide by sheer poverty and hopelessness. Perhaps they feel that (India being the world’s largest democracy and an emerging economic superpower) if people are unhappy with India then the fault must lie with the people and not with the affairs of the state.

Whatever their reasons may be, let us not argue with that. But what about the rest of the world?

Will it only wake up to what is happening in Kashmir when the unarmed protesters of today are driven to taking up arms against the state? Does it have to come to that? And even if it does, where is the guarantee that India will not be able to paint it as terrorism as opposed to a political struggle for basic rights? That, indeed, could be a very convenient way out for a government that seems to have nothing to offer to a part of itself that it incessantly describes as its atoot ang – its integral part.

The world owes this to the people of Kashmir. Before its stone-pelting youngsters become gun-toting rebels to be described by their political adversaries as foreign-funded terrorists, the world must wake up to the situation. India must be shamed for its inexplicable harshness towards Kashmir, just as Pakistan is shamed everyday for its scary softness towards violent religious ideologies.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2010.

Reader Comments (8)

  • hassan siddique
    Aug 8, 2010 - 2:16AM

    The writer presented the facts in a deserving manner, what is our media doing except PTV, I have never came across a single documentry on a private news channel on the Kashmir issue, except some slides of news.
    how many current affairs programs catered this issue. Why we blame Indian Media, its our responsibility at first.Recommend

  • Chandra
    Aug 8, 2010 - 7:29AM

    This guy does not even live in India, how does he know what the media is showing or talking about. The media here has been overstating the situation in Kashmir much to the irritation of most people in India. The Kashmiri people are condemned to disaster, whether anybody likes it or not. Recommend

  • Prasanth Nambiar
    Aug 8, 2010 - 9:03AM

    Aamer, you are spot on with your analysis. But have you ever wondered why world media simply ignored the grass root protests in Kashmir? Answer is simple and can be said in 2 words- Political Islam!
    World is simply scared of another Muslim majority state with fanatical Islamic leadership(gilani etc) right next to Afghanistan and Pakistan. World recognise that an independent Kashmir will more likely destabilise India and will in all probability inspire a thousand Jihadi movements across the world. So while you are correct in your assessment that ordinary Kashmiris hate India and coming out in streets for Azadi, they are unlikely to get it because world is simply scared of Political Islam. Recommend

  • Aug 8, 2010 - 10:28AM

    Please put some light on lost and forgotten Baluchistan also.Recommend

  • Aug 8, 2010 - 11:35AM

    stefen:

    don’t you know we obsess over what we don’t have at the expense of what we do have (and neglect)Recommend

  • Azad
    Aug 8, 2010 - 6:13PM

    Pakistani media should stop showing everything about floods, Karachi situation, marauding terrorists in the country, and rampant poverty, etc. The author would like the media should concentrate on Kashmir.
    I would rather prefer people talk about the problems in Pakistan instead of problems in Srinagar.Recommend

  • Nowsherwan
    Aug 8, 2010 - 6:39PM

    A great article indeed.The world needs to listen to the cries of innocent Kashmiris, else they will resort to gun, which will be completely justified.I am glad at least some journalists are still showing concern and voicing the miseries which inhabitants of the valley are facing. Recommend

  • Anoop
    Aug 8, 2010 - 7:20PM

    Writer should look at the past and realize that this obsession with Kashmir has ruined Pakistan. The money that could have gone to the flood victims is being eaten up by the Military expenditure and Loan interest payments.

    There can never be a Independent Kashmir. India will not allow its own partition on religious lines again. We are much wiser now.

    Dont get me wrong I condemn the violence in Kashmir and wish them all the success. I even favour granting autonomy but within the constitution of India. If anyone thinks after 63 years there could be another solution they are wrong. India was its weakest during the last 63 years and it couldn’t budge from Kashmir. Now, when its going to be a super power in the coming decades it will never give up.

    Wish Kashmiris well and wish they dont resort to violence. Recommend

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