Friday, July 10, 2009

Continuing Down Ghandi’s Path

The steadfast campaign of non-violence conducted by Ghandi and his colleagues for independence from colonial England was the reason for India’s independence. Regardless of the extreme violence perpetrated by their British occupiers, they remained non-violent. This broke the back of the British stance that they were the more civilized based on Judeo Christian orthodoxy of enlightenment, peace and justice. Just as Britain did to the Indians, the Indian Hindu hardliners, are following down the same path as their former colonial master, and justifying the Kashmiri call for self-determination. The Indian hardliner claims that Kashmiri Muslims are violent militants has shown to be shortsighted and racist in general. The abuse of the past year has eclipsed that of any other, yet the Kashmiri population refrains from taking up arms. Unfortunately, the world is not watching. After all, how could a country born out of the stance of non-violence, become even more ruthless than the former Garrisons of colonial Britain?

Today, the tenth body of a raped and murdered woman was recently discovered in the Kupwara District of Kashmir. Confirmed by investigators, due to the proximity of the crimes to military instillations and the circumstances regarding how the victims were killed, the perpetrators are either members of the police force (CPRF) or military personnel. The results of the past six weeks are testing the limits of the Kashmiri leadership’s ability to maintain their stance of non-violence. Due to the lack of press coverage of all things Kashmir, these are obvious attempts by the occupying forces to break the back of the non-violence movement, and gain the sensational press coverage regarding ‘radical Muslim militants’.

This all began on May 30th, when two women, one being pregnant, were discovered in a canal raped and killed in the village of Shopian. The CPRF claimed that the women had not been raped or killed, then said they “died from an accident.” Following the autopsy, it was determined that the two women were raped and murdered. Given the proximity to the military instillation, there could be no other conclusion other than the perpetrator being from the occupying forces. This has been confirmed as of late, yet an arrest has not been made. Since then, there have been confirmed reports of murdered young boys and girls throughout the Valley in similar fashion, which raises the question, why?

The non-violent movement of the Muslim majority Valley, occupied by more than 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary personnel (1 troop per 13 Kashmiri) has taken hold in the Valley. The success of the movement led by three separatist leaders, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik, and the leaders of the All Parties Hurryiet Conference, yet separate factions, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Sheikh Syed Ali Geelani has Indian authorities in Kashmir reeling. Their combined organization skills for peaceful protest and steadfast leadership must have Ghandi himself smiling. Moreover, just like Britian did with Ghandi and his colleagues, India has placed under house arrest, jailed or limited the movements of the three separatist leaders. One jailing almost resulted in the death of Mr. Malik, whose appendix burst while jailed without charge and was refused medical treatment until the judiciary stepped in and forced the state to give him the medical treatment and operation necessary to save is life. If India really wants to understand why they are losing this battle, they must look at their own history.

India has always justified the troop levels as necessary to combat an invasion by their prickly neighbor Pakistan and the militants that Pakistan does send across the borders to fight Indian soldiers. Make no mistake, there is violence perpetrated against the Indian military in Kashmir by groups based in Azad Kashmir, or Pakistani Occupied Kashmir. Moreover, the Mumbai attacks perpetrated by Pakistani’s and more than likely funded by the Pakistani Intelligence Services (ISI) and hardline factions of the Pakistani Military; do have camps in Azad Kashmir. However, these militants are not Kashmiri. They are Pakistani’s, or to be more specific, Punjabi, residents from the district of Punjab. Regardless, the violence perpetrated by these Pakistani militants has continued as justification for the campaign of violence against the Kashmiri population in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Due to his former days as a militant, Mr. Malik knows first hand that picking up the gun and turning to a life of hatred and violence is the easy path. Fortunately, he continues to keep the youth population from turning to the same life he did as a young student in the 1980’s. Violence in most conflict zones has a cyclical dynamic in which violence perpetrated by one side tends to be reciprocated out of a need or desire for vindication and honor. Mr. Malik and Mr. Farooq have instilled in the youth the non-violent teachings of Sufi Islam. Specifically, that the greatest form of martyrdom and access to the kingdom of God is found through peaceful resistance. The unjustified killing of young men in Kashmir by the military and CPRF was nothing new. However, the raping and killing of women at such a high frequency is new and the most treacherous in the human psyche. A crime typically used to justify reciprocity.

The ability to stay the course and condemn any violent action is a testament to all of the leadership. Typically associated with Mahatma Ghandi or His Holiness the Dali Lama, the consistent calls for non-violence by Mr. Malik, Mr. Farooq and Mr. Geelani must be commended. Moreover, the time has come that these three leaders get their due recognition as Muslims leaders practicing non-violence and appealing to the masses to do the same via Islamic teachings, especially Mr. Malik and Mr. Geelani. Mr. Malik being a former militant and Mr. Geelani historically being known as a ‘hardliner’, who at one time advocated violence and militancy, are a testament to the Ghandian path of non-violence, and understand now the power that this stance holds. Hopefully it will continue.

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