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What lies beneath Kashmir violence?

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(source: Press TV)

Indian-administered Kashmir has been engulfed in a series of anti-government protests since June. The demonstrations on occasions have turned violent, leaving more than 40 people killed.

The following is the transcript Press TV’s discussion with Muzzammil Ayyub Thakur from the World Kashmir Freedom Movement and Amitabh Mattoo, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, regarding the recent violence in Kashmir.

Press TV: The protests — and the violent crackdown — seem to have suddenly escalated in recent days. Twenty-seven of the at least 41 deaths have occurred since Friday. Is the situation spiraling out of control?

Thakur: Absolutely. The only answer is yes. Beyond that, the only thing that I can say is, the same thing that the people of Kashmir are currently saying, which is, "GO INDIA GO, QUICK KASHMIR."

Beyond that, there is nothing left to say. You cannot kill students and young people. It does not matter what age they are. It does not matter where they are from, it does not matter who they are, whether they are male or female. They (the Indian police) are mercilessly killing our youth and our people of Kashmir indiscriminately.

Press TV: The central government flew 1,500 extra troops to the region after the region’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, asked for further assistance in a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday. But even pro-Indian politicians like the head of the People’s Democratic Party have denounced the decision to summon extra troops. They say that is not the right way to go. So is it the right move or not?

Mattoo: I think Omar Abdullah and the government is really in a dilemma. On the one hand, you want to show that these protests are contained, and yet you do not want to provoke further anger. Initially the decision by Omar Abdullah and the government, to call in the Indian army was a way…to show that their people disrespected the curfew. Thakur: Why should people respect the curfew? Why is there a curfew enforced in the first place? Mattoo: Obviously there is a view, let us remember also that a year and a half ago Omar Abdullah was elected by over 60 percent of the population in and outside Srinagar. Thakur: And two years ago security forced killed Sheik Abdul Aziz. Mattoo: I do not want to get involved into a provocative, political discussion. All I am stating is the facts, that Omar Abdullah was elected a year and a half ago, with the significant number of people from the valley also coming out to vote. Since then, it is clear that there is a degree of disillusionment, a degree of angst and a degree of alienation that has seeped in. And you have a problem; you have a serious situation on the ground, so I would not try and simplify it in terms of slogans, which my colleague seems to be doing. I think it is a very complex situation. Press TV: How else can India control the situation? Is there another option right now? Thakur: Yes, leave the valley. Mattoo: I think the option is obviously to reach out to these young people, who are angry, on the streets in the valley of Kashmir. I think it is important to try and find out the reason for their anger. These are children, kids, and teenagers. They will grow up in these years of conflicts having seen this violence, often harassment, having no sense of hope for the future. I think it is important to give them hope for the future. I think it is important to do that even when you try and show that there are no other killings. I think no innocent Kashmiri, irrespective of cast, creed, and religion should be killed. Press TV: Mr. Thakur, you jumped in there and said "leave the valley." India as it stands right now is not going to do that. So, will extending a hand right now and talking to those people on the ground that are protesting, in some form of negotiation — or anything in that form of discussion — will it ease the situation at all or are we past that point? Thakur: We are very, very, very past that point. Unfortunately, the situation right now is that people's anger is not just towards the paramilitary forces, it is also towards the Indian state itself, the government. They have been mercilessly killing. I mean just a couple of days ago, a seven-year-old was beaten mercilessly, and then he was killed. A gentleman has been tied up, not even a gentleman, a young boy has been tied up to a pole and the entire region has been threatened that, anyone that tries to untie him is going to be shot dead. He will only stay here as long as we wish. You cannot do anything about it. This is simple ruthlessness towards the Kashmiris. What kind of negotiation can India or even the public regime of Omar Abdullah do towards the Kashmiris? The Kashmiris are fighting not just for independence they are [also] fighting for human rights. Mass graves have been seen in Kashmir. People have been killed. People are having thrown security measures against them, for example the PSA (Public Safety Act). People are being jailed 1,400 youths are currently in jail for nothing, for no reason. Simply because they hold a stone; it is bullets for stones at the moment. And I do not understand, nor does any one else in the world. Press TV: One thing that Kashmiris in that area have been asking for, for many years is a referendum on who should govern the area, whether they should be independent or not. There has been continuous opposition from the Indian side to this. Is the violence that we are seeing now, any different to the other sparks of violence that we have seen in the last few decades? Do you think now, India is really facing a situation where they might have to concede to do some of the demands of the Kashmiri side? Mattoo: I think any one who follows the politics of the subcontinent will recognize that … we are not just talking about the valley of Kashmir, we are talking about Jammu, which has a Hindu majority, and Ladakh which has a Buddhist majority; a homogeneous infinite entity. Secondly, you are living in a cloud cuckoo land if you believe that India will allow a referendum in Kashmir. India will not agree to that, also because the situation is so complex and because they believe that they have a completely clear legal case on Kashmir. [Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez] Musharraf had a certain understanding that without actually changing borders you should be able to provide political space on both sides of the Line of Control, to both Indian Kashmiris and Pakistani Kashmiris, you allow them to create autonomy. You should have institutions on both sides of the Line of Control. And unfortunately that understanding collapsed when Musharraf had to leave Pakistan … it is not possible to revive that understanding easily. I think that provides the best hope for the future. Press TV: Mr. Thakur, it is a complex situation, whatever your opinion might be, professor picked up on some important points of how regional politics is playing a part in Pakistan, and India is not likely to suddenly turn around tomorrow and call for a referendum. And neither is it [India] most likely to turn around tomorrow and leave the area. So, how do you see this conflict now progressing as it goes forward? Thakur: This is not a bilateral issue, this is a tripartite issue…the majority party is the Kashmiris, you must understand that the Kashmiris are the major players in the situation. India should have a voice, Pakistan should have a voice, but Kashmiris must have the final decision. If they want independence, the same way that India received its independence from the British Raj, why [Kashmiris] should not be able to do that? East Timor have got their independence, Palestine are fighting for their independence. Not only that, India has broken every single UN resolution, even when they considered that this is an issue, and they took it to the UN and the UN passed a resolution and these people have continued to fail to enforce the UN resolutions. And when you mention the fact that they will not leave Kashmir that is exactly what the British Raj thought; that they would never leave Kashmir and we cannot do anything without India, they need it as a part of India and they need it to be a part of the British Raj. Fortunately or unfortunately, they left, and Kashmir is the same situation. Of course it is a very sensitive issue. Of course this is a political issue. Of course there are many other factors inside it. But for the first part, Pakistan is a non-entity at the moment. This is a completely indignant movement. People are using stones against bullets; you must understand this, regardless of everything, all the complicatedness, and all the messiness of the Kashmiri politics. You must address the core issue, which is human rights; you must address the core issue, which are paramilitary forces in Kashmir and an excess of force being used in Kashmir; Draconian laws being used in Kashmir. It is nonsense to say this is a Pakistan dispute, an India dispute, Pakistan [don't even] have their house in order. At least communicate with the Kashmiri legion. There is, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, there is Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, there is Yasin Malik, I mean there are a countless number of names. You cannot possibly tell me this issue cannot be resolved and India will not let Kashmir go. If India refuses to let Kashmir go, we will force ourselves to remove ourselves from India.