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Kashmir yearns for azadi freedom

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* By Iqbal Jassat

Kashmir is on the boil once again as the occupying power India imposed direct control following widespread protests in the Muslim-dominated region resulted in the state governor dissolving the assembly.

Though Kashmir remains under occupation since 1948, this is the third time from the 1989 independence battle that New Delhi has enforced such control measures.

A controversial transfer of land to a Hindu shrine trust sparked the current revolt by the Kashmiris. Tens of thousands of Kashmiris came onto the streets after a decision by the state cabinet to give land to a trust to build temporary shelters for Hindu pilgrims for an annual pilgrimage to a cave in the Kashmir valley. Muslims in the valley protested that it was a ploy to settle Indian Hindus in the area.

Human Rights Watch [HRW] has documented the plight of Kashmiris and claim that more than 50,000 people have been killed in an armed conflict that erupted in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989.

In addition, thousands have gone missing which HRW attribute to “enforced disappearance” resulting from detentions, random arrests and killings. Members of India’s security forces admit that unidentified “militants” are executed by them and buried in unmarked graves.

Parvez Imroz, an award-winning human rights lawyer is the latest high-profile victim of India’s repressive security apparatus operating in Kashmir. Though he survived an armed attack in Srinagar, his ability to continue his civil rights activities is severely restricted. As president of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and a founder of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, he has been documenting abuses and filing court cases to address the widespread problem of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Kashmir.

A September 2006 report by the HRW found that the impunity provided to state forces and the failure to hold them accountable for human rights violations have created an atmosphere where violators believe they can get away with serious crimes. Despite a so-called “zero tolerance” policy for human rights abuses, the Indian government has yet to display serious attempts to transparently investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of abuses.

Indeed, the silence thus far from the Indian authorities on the attempt to kill Imroz by its paramilitary troops, raises questions about New Delhi’s commitment to protect human rights defenders.

The tragic tale of Kashmir is largely absent from the radar screens of many governments, including South Africa, whose energies are mainly focused on developing and expanding trade and political ties with India. Bilateral relations seem to ignore the question of Kashmiri occupation and freedom struggle. I have yet to read a single communiqué issued by Pretoria or the Office of SA’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebuking India or in diplomatic parlance, “raising” the issue of Kashmir!

Though historic ties were forged between the African National Congress and the Indian National Congress during their respective freedom struggles against apartheid and British colonialism, it remains unacceptable today that the ruling ANC government turns a blind eye to the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiris.

Unlike SA and India where Mahatma Gandhi featured as a bridge linking the continents and thereby justifiably intertwined the destinies of both people in heroic battles against British subjugation, it is bizarre that Israel would get into bed with India.

An overview of the Indo-Israeli nexus reveals that the Zionist regime is intensely involved in:

· Exchange of intelligence/counter insurgency techniques· Supply of military and defence equipment· Upgrading of India’s weapons, fighter jets and missiles

It is also a well-known fact that the Israeli intelligence agency “Mossad” retains clandestine operations in Indian held Kashmir, training and assisting Indian troops to crush the freedom struggle with brute force. Although India has attempted to shield her ties with Israel from public scrutiny, commentators and political analysts have successfully revealed how the two occupying powers have been hobnobbing since the early 1950s.

The failed state of Pakistan sticks out like a sore thumb in the Kashmir saga. Despite being a nuclear power, Pakistan remains weak, divided and overrun by feudal lords. The romanticism associated with its founding during the era of Mohammed Ali Jinnah has dwindled. So too has the expectation that Muslims, particularly the exploited and vulnerable will be accorded dignity.

The current circus and clowns such as Musharraf have eroded any vestige of respect that Pakistan’s founding fathers had anticipated. Shattered dreams and emotional odes in Urdu lyrics remain all that Pakistan offers today. Kashmiris too are aware that successive Pakistani governments have manipulated their liberation from Indian control. Yet the struggle continues.

* Iqbal JassatChairman: Media Review Network