Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Interview with JKLF

This is an article on Kashmir. In 1993 I visited Kashmir where my British Raj grandparents married. I enjoyed the local hospitality and ironically met Islamic militants and in August 1998 I interviewed the UK General Secretary of the JKLF. As I hope you appreciate it was a long time ago that I visited Kashmir. However in light of September 11, the nuclear bomb tests in Pakistan and now Iran's nuclearisation, problems in Iraq and Afghanistan and now Benazir Bhutto's assassination in late 2007, I believe this story has some relevance to resolving the war on terror against fundamentalist Islamic faith as it seems to UOCA that Bin Laden's war stemmed more from Kashmir than Afghanistan or Palestine. The failure of the US to assist in Kashmir's independence particularly in the failed Pakistan invasion of 1999 I believe was a crucial factor leading to the plot to destroy the WTC, the election of Bush and his indifference to peace in any of the Islamic world, Bosnia, Palestine and Kashmir turned the plot fully operational with possibly the final go-ahead given by some one or group far higher up than Bin Laden in the Islamic power structure - most likely from a Saudi-Jordan aristocracy secret society. Kashmir was far closer to home for the Taliban than Israel. Therefore it is essential to understand Kashmir in order to understand Al Quaeda. Militants from the notorious drug haven of Swat valley near Pakistani Kashmir appear to have killed Bhutto, no doubt with links to foreign jehadi groups, Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah involved in Kashmir, who Bhutto had threatened to crack down on. Speaking by satellite phone from the South Waziristan tribal area, a senior militant commander named Haji Muhamad Omar called Bhutto an agent of Washington. "She doesn't come back by her own choice. The United States and Britain are bringing her back to fight against the mujahedin," he said just after she returned from exile. Perhaps the killers were more concerned about a general crackdown on their supply of arms and troops to Afghanistan, but unresolved Kashmir would also have driven them. In 2009, Pakistan came close to disintegration, however her husband in power and Obama as US President focused on Afgahnistan, retaliation began with the Swat Valley military operation by the Pakistani Army. This is almost over and one is beginning into the tribal lands of the Pathan in Waziristan to drive the Taliban out. This could spell the end for the Taliban as we know them and perhaps finallly Bin Laden will be captured. However the issue of Kashmir will not go away regardless. The fact that an Islamic state exists within India that should have been part of Pakistan cannot be ignored and once the Taliban has been defeated and more rational approaches to diplomacy are adopted then perhaps sense can come back to the whole region and a legal civilian approach be taken to resolving Kashmir.

Photographic slides of Kashmir available contact UOCA: tmmag1-1@yahoo.com.

Yours sincerely

James Travers-Murison

UOCA

Australian News Syndicate Freelance travel photojournalist in 2000, Pass No. 3104.


KASHMIR: INTERVIEW WITH A MUJHAIDIN

by

James Travers-Murison

In 1993 Anno Domini I visited Kashmir. The ride in the bus from Sonamarg past Zoja La pass had been broken up by at least 4 checkpoints, to show identity cards. The face of one old peasant Kashmiri man, wrinkled like a walnut, wide light brown eyes and most of his teeth missing, said it all - a sad, helpless and bewildered look. Two pleading men were taken away, identity cards not in order.

The passage into Srinagar had us lying on the seats of the bus, heads down, another strike and curfew. The driver would only let us ride if we hid from view. Half smiling, treating it almost as a game, the passengers all men beckoned us down under the worn seats. Military checkpoints lay like worn canvas on the streets corners, covered in sandbags with tense soldiers holding AK47s and semi-automatic rifles. The streets were empty apart from a few soldiers moving by.

Once out of the bus we could see Srinagar's wooden houses with slanted roofs, which gave it an almost European feel. We passed one patrol, spread out, and searching the few street vendors. Spending a night in a traditional British Raj houseboat we were virtually chased out when we decided to change boats. The next boat was bigger and cheaper, but maybe not as luxurious. The crew were somewhat more maliferous looking.

The militant's presence heightened during our three-week stay in Srinagar. We visited some surrounding villages by shikara boat using the canals and rivers to move as the area was under total curfew. The mood was sombre, punctuated by the wailing of people at the mosques. A village elder pressed me to tell the world what is happening here. "Why aren't you foreign people coming to our help, we need you?" He told us earlier this year two village girls were raped by soldiers. Furthermore he said several sons in the village suspected of being mujhaidins were "taken in" for interrogation and had disappeared. To be "taken in" is synonymous with torture.

A few days later we attempted to arrange an interview with one of the militant leaders. Luck seemed to be favouring us when a boat came to our houseboat. The boat was avoiding an Army water patrol. A sub-commander was on board. Overweight and looking extremely agitated, he eagerly agreed to arrange an interview with one of the leaders of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). The day after next, we waited patiently, but the meeting fell through. We never found out why, our hosts told us they were either too busy negotiating with the Indian government, or too afraid that we might be informers.

However, with the help of our friends I managed to talk to two mujhaidin freedom fighters. These people's names and descriptions have been changed to protect them. Mohammed, a handsome young boy of 22 from a village outside Srinagar and Fayez, his 28 year-old friend who was squat and swarthy with a bar-like moustache, light brown eyes and an unshaven face. Our Kashmiri friends translated as the militants spoke no English. Both said they had killed soldiers, Mohammed claimed 45 killed, Fayez 10 to 15 killed. The boy said he had used hand-grenades on some jeeps and the man a Kalishnakov to snipe down soldiers. The weapons came from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

They both said they wanted to be free from India, “we want Islamic country, Islamic law” he pleaded. He had never confessed to the BSF that he was a mujhaidin, despite being tortured by soldiers - beaten with rifles and given electric shocks. Fayez still had a scar across his chest from the torture he was subjected to. He was picked up during a crackdown. They felt no guilt about killing the soldiers and it was hard to know if they were telling the truth or it was tribal boasting. “They are Indian dogs,” Fayez smiled. Soon after our militant companions got edgy and decided to leave.

Wails and drumbeating were unbearable from the nearby village. Cries of anguish and hatred, a chant invoking a mystical strength to their trapped brothers, we were told. It continued along with a complete strike and a total curfew imposed by the Indian Army. Some trade in food and basic necessities still went on, as did the gentle sound of the small "shikara" boats paddling through the waters. I heard the distant rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire and later an explosion, dogs barking and through it all the haunting wails of the people.

A few days later with more than 2 weeks of continuous strike and a city suffocating from the curfew-- deserted streets and trigger-happy soldiers -- we made one last sojourn of the streets and then left. Every 10 meters we passed a soldier, until at last we were persuaded to turn back at a bridge surrounded by a dozen soldiers and barricaded in sandbags. The Sten gun and sour expression of the officer told me it was time to leave. A long nauseous bus ride winding up to the Jammu-Kashmir tunnel, past columns of army trucks and we were out of Kashmir.

While there I interviewed a mujhaidin, a young university graduate about why Kashmir wants independence and the possible consequences. As I was leaving the valley I pieced together what I could remember of our conversation - carrying notes in Srinagar of communications with militants could have seen me arrested. Please therefore accept any errors in transcription as due to my not faultless memory.


INTERVIEW WITH A UNIVERSITY MILITANT 1993

Why does India stay in Kashmir?

It is the most beautiful land in the world. And they know that if we go their whole false democracy will collapse. India has many problems, many other states want to rule themselves, there is still a war with the Sikhs in Punjab, the Tamils in the South. India is not united. It is ruled by very corrupt, wealthy politicians and businessmen.

What is your age?

28.

How long have you been a mujhaidin?

4 years.

What made you join?

I was a graduate unable to get a job watching my people being humiliated and abused by a foreign army, seeing Islamic values being ignored or defiled.

Have you killed people?

I would prefer not to answer this.

Why?

It is not something to be proud of. If I have or would do, it would only be in self-defence.

Has any of your family been killed?

Yes.

How does the presence of the Army affect the daily life in your village?

We are watched, searched, prevented from going out at night, have to carry IDs, many people are in fear as occasionally the army has a crackdown and many people are arrested and beaten. No reason is required. Some of my friends were kept for several years, no reasons given. Some have disappeared. We survive, it is not pleasant.

How has your standard of living been affected?

It is harder to survive, but we manage. It is very hard to get work; food is getting more expensive. But we will sacrifice everything if we have to.

What atrocities have the Indian Army conducted that you have personally witnessed?

I have seen houses burnt, women and children shot at. People being severely beaten. Friends of mine tortured, terrible bruising with electric burns to their body - chest, back, testicles and face. Soldiers have raped women in our town.

We have heard rumours that militants have used violence against Kashmiris to obtain money and food and co-operation. Can you explain why this is necessary and do you think that this is not also oppressive?

Some groups are doing this. Not ours, not the main groups. We have enough money, enough support. Some bad elements always try to take advantage.

We have heard of informers being killed, shopkeepers who break strikes being beaten up.

Those who betray their own people, own land, cause the deaths of their brothers for money, get what they deserve. Shopkeepers who are greedy and open their stores, breaking a strike, and often charging double prices to make a profit must be stopped. During this strike some shopkeepers tried to profit by tripling the price of rice, now they are selling it for 10% below its normal prices. We stop drugdealers and prostitutes, no one starves, and the towns are safe from crime. We must protect ourselves, we must remain united, and we cannot have a small number of greedy individuals harming us. If this is oppressive so be it.

We have been told that Indian newspapers have been reducing the number of people injured, killed, or imprisoned in Kashmir. Is this true?

If they report at all it is at least half or one quarter of the total figure.

Truthfully how many people have been killed in Kashmir if you know?

I don't know.

How many in prison?

At least 30,000.

How many soldiers are here?

At least 300,000.

How many have been killed?

I don't know.

Did you know any of the freedom fighters who were inside the Hazratbal Mosque?

Maybe.

Were you prepared to see them die?

It was not my wish, but they were prepared to give their lives if necessary.

What about the civilians who were in there, what choice did they have?

They understood it was necessary. They were willing to make the sacrifice. We do not want anyone to die, once the Indian Army leaves all in our country will be free.

How were you going to protect the civilians in there from dying?

They were protected. No one died inside.

But how long could they have survived in there if the Indian Army had not provided food and ended up agreeing to allow the militants to go free?

That is a hypothetical question.

How were you going to get them out?

That was up to the Indians.

But surely a sacred place should be free from violence?

Nothing is free from violence in Kashmir. The Indian Army brings its violence into our streets, our villages, our homes, and our mosques. Two weeks ago the Indian Army searched one of our holy mosques in Srinagar. No place is free from violence.

Do you ever feel that you've had enough?

No, there is a slogan: "We will sacrifice everything to obtain freedom." We will fight forever; we will never give up.

Is this really the wish of all Kashmiri people?

The Kashmiri people support us. They give us food, shelter, and money. We have the overwhelming support of the people. Listen in the night and you will hear the people cry for those in the Mosque. The people are angry and they want the Indians to leave.

I hear there are 35 groups fighting against India. What is your group?

I cannot tell you, but I can say we are one of the largest groups fighting for Kashmir.

What about trade?

This is a problem. Kashmir is surrounded by land, and we will have to trade through Pakistan and India anyway. India now provides most of our industrial products. We would be happy to continue trading with them and for them to visit us as tourists or friends. We do not want to fight with India. They want to fight with us. They came here in 1947 and took our country; we would like them to leave. And India's industry has prevented us developing our own industry. It keeps us dependent on them.

*


Kashmir's Violent History

Annexed by the newly independent India in the conflict, at the request of the provinces Sikh Maharajah, Hari Singh. The local Muslim Sheikh Abdullah, father of Farooq, supported him. But Kashmiri people never got to determine their own future.

Section 370 of India's constitution recognised Kashmir's special status as an occupied state pending final disposition in accordance with a UN mandated plebiscite. India subsequently amended its constitution. The Jammu and Kashmir assembly approved the changes that prevented the referendum despite UN resolutions in 1957. Two further wars, in 1965 and 1971 involving Pakistan, saw India refusing to let go of its most northerly state. This was at a considerable cost financially and in lives. Finally, possibly Kashmir's last conflict with India, has come more from within and like the Vietcong in Vietnam or the Intafada in Palestine, it may well be Kashmir's only hope to obtain independence.

Since 1989 this terrorist war waged with India. The Western world has largely ignored the conflict, which began on a wave of Shi-ite Islamic fundamentalism stemming from Iran's defeat of Iraq and the Soviet evacuation of Afghanistan. With atrocities mounting on both sides and no end in sight to the conflict, India has regarded it as an internal domestic issue. They appointed a hard-line governor to put down the revolt. The only semblance of democracy in Kashmir ended with the Chief Minister Abdullah resigning and the federal government assuming direct control in February 1990.

The JKLF's take-over of the White 'Hazratbal' Mosque in Srinagar in 1993 was without doubt an attempt to obtain world publicity, and inflame the people of Kashmir and surrounding Islamic nations.




Purportedly with a single hair of Mohammed's beard contained within its Islamic arches, it is one of the holiest Mosques in the subcontinent. The JKLF negotiated a release a month after the take-over; no hostages were killed. In March 1996 mujhaidins again took control of the mosque and again negotiated a release shortly afterwards. However this time the BSF rounded up and executed 30 militants two days after the siege ended.

The Kashmiri's were still using guerrilla tactics. While trekking in the mountains near Pahalgam in July 1995 six Western hostages were taken and all but one killed. In a turnaround of events in July 1996 Indian journalists were taken hostage by Ikhwan terrorists, counterinsurgents funded by India. For a change Hindus and not Muslims were using guerrilla warfare. In an act of altruism the Hindu journalists refused to leave their Muslim journalist friends until all were released. Surinder Oberoi, journalist reported on this in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in March 1997.

In September 1996 the Indian government organised elections and once again restored the state government, but foreign observers were not invited to monitor the elections and the Muslim militants (now co-operating together under the All-Party Hurriyat Conference) boycotted it. World opinion generally considered the elections to be a sham. In May 1997 the JKLF itself came under attack from its own side in the form of the pro-Pakistan mujhaidin terrorists. Two JKLF members were assassinated. On June 23 1997 during the Pak-India Foreign Secretary level talks the Indians first agreed to the formation of a Joint Working Group on Kashmir with Pakistan.

On the 27th April 1998 in a small village called Bindala in the Bhinber district on the Indian controlled side of the border, 21 people died in a hail of bullets. A single note was left by the unknown killers, "Blood is dear to everyone - how does one's own blood feel?" That month Pakistan detonated its first Atomic bomb in response to India’s nuclear tests and the situation appeared to be deteriorating again.

Hope appeared the following February in 1999 after the Nawaz-Vajpayee Lahore summit, through the much under-reported back-channel diplomacy. But even after the February 22, 1999 Lahore Declaration there was no let up in Indian atrocities in Kashmir.

In June 1999 militants from Pakistan crossed the border near Drass in the high Himalayas, two Indian fighter jets were shot down and the fighting continued with Pakistani soldiers invading and taking Kargil. Pakistan withdrew and the militants felt betrayed. Kashmir was left under even more stringent control by the Indian government. Then UOCA believes the Taliban began the plot to use the jets as suicide weapons against the US which resulted in September 11 2001. The consequent mess resulting in the Middle East continues today and will probably only be resolved when Al Queda is negotiated with head to head to remove Indian occupation of Kashmir. This is far more dear to the Taliban than far away Palestine.

Ms NASIM ZEHR observed in Pakistan Defence Journal, Sep 2000, "Pakistan’s Kargil operation did not further strengthen Islamabad’s negotiating hand at the back-channel negotiations. Instead, international pressure combined with personalised and haphazard decision-making blew the back-channel negotiations involving both the Prime Ministers."

On July 4, 1999 Sharif had signed a very unpopular agreement in Washington to withdraw Pakistani military support and personnel from the Kargil area in Kashmir. In reality it was when Sharif started making overtures of peace as the Indian military machine began to roll back the Pakistanis, that he was removed by Musharraf, his Army Chief of Staff in a coup on 15 October 1999.

But ironically after the Kargil disaster the situation changed. The Kashmiri resistance reorganised itself into Jihad Council comprising sixteen (16) Jehadi groups. The command and control set-up of each Jehadi outfit is better than before. They are all highly motivated, trained and disciplined.

On March 20, 2000 an appalling massacre of Sikhs occurred. "The assailants of Chattisinghpora village were wearing combat uniforms and operated in Indian para-military style 'crackdown', which is well known to Kashmiris. They stormed into several houses, segregated the men from women, and announced that they were conducting a 'search' for 'Kashmiri militants'. All the men were taken to a nearby school and 23 were shot dead at close range. 15 others were killed outside the village Gurudwara and a woman died of shock. This Sikh village was allegedly controlled by armed Kashmiri groups who (had) abandoned the resistance movement and joined forces with the Indian army as an auxiliary 'counter-insurgency force'. The village was also surrounded by three BSF camps and yet the Indian armed forces took 8 hours to arrive at the scene," JKLF News reported. By May, Masif , Head of the JKLF was on hunger strike against not just the Indian occupation but Muslim atrocities.

Then a further massacre in August 2000 of 90 Indian pilgrims in Kashmir was believed to be the work of Kashmiri separatist guerrillas aiming to prompt the peace talks between the largest separatist organisation, Hizbul Mujahideen, and the Indian government Insaniyat’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Lakshar-e-Toiba (suspected of being behind the massacre), Al Badr, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and others are essentially Pakistani organisations, whose members have support from elements of the Pakistan Army. Fed up with the butchery Pakistan's General Parvez Musharraf appeared to now support the ceasefire in the valley, but the militants held off.

Lt Gen (Retd) SARDAR F.S. LODI of the Pakistan Army said in Pakistan Defence Journal, Sep 2000, "The Hizbul Mujahideen called off their ceasefire on August 8th 2000, because Vajpayee had talked about dialogue on the basis of humanness (‘Insaniyat’), but in the same breath had spoken about negotiations only within the framework of the Indian constitution." A Hizbul commander said India’s “rigidity” in not accepting tripartite dialogue with Kashmiris and Pakistan was too much. "The uproar in the Indian Parliament and Bal Takhray’s demand that Farooq Abdullah be dismissed and martial law be imposed on occupied Kashmir is a consequence of the heavy losses being suffered by Indian forces in Kashmir," said the general.

India responded with a unilateral ceasefire, allowed militants to go to Pakistan to discuss Kashmir's future and began talks including Pakistan. Now that India seemed to be easing off the moment seemed right for Kashmir to put pressure on them for complete independence. Kashmir was seemingly on the verge of a resolution and I was now in contact with the JKLF.

*

Five years after I visited I talked to a Kashmiri doctor living in Australia who has been prevented from obtaining a visa to visit his family in Kashmir by the Indian government. Although opposing violence he confirmed that this was still the situation there. Through the Internet I contacted Kashmiri liberationists in London and tried to contact the leader of the JKLF, Yasin Malik. He was under detention in Kashmir. However, through a number of intermediaries I managed to interview Azmat Khan, JKLF General Secretary UK, and obtain these answers to my questions over a period of two years.



INTERVIEW WITH AZMAT KHAN, General-Secretary of the JKLF in London February 2001.


I refer to an email I received from you in which you thought that I did not properly understand the situation in Kashmir. I think you must consider the possibility that there are always two sides to all conflicts and neither is necessarily absolutely right. These alterations I have made are to assist the peaceful transition to independence and Muslim rule for Kashmir. Language is an essential tool in communicating and achieving understanding. Using peaceful and caring language in negotiating a settlement is essential in creating a positive and realistic outcome that respects both sides. To obtain independence from India I strongly suggest that you adopt this approach and transition should be much quicker and with far less violence and pain for both sides. I will do everything I can to support independence and self determination for Kashmir. But you must allow me to help you to bring peace to the region. You are a doctor so you must realise how important it is to gain the trust of your patient. A trust gained through respect and caring that allows love to enter. We are all human beings including myself and all the Hindus and all of us deserve God’s love. You have devoted your life to healing the sick, not to causing more violence and hurt. Live that truth and try speaking with love and healing to the Indians and see if they listen. What have you to lose? A terrible civil war, domination by India, needless deaths… Is it pride that interposes? Hardly a virtue. You have tremendous power in your hands and if you can bring about peace in Kashmir then you may be one of the leaders of that country and I may one day say that I had the privilege to interview you.

HIGHLIGHTED IN BLUE AND

UNDERLINED ARE SUGESTED CHANGES

IN BRACKETS ARE SUGESTED DELETIONS

If I don't here from you I will assume these changes are ok.



Kashmiri people are peace loving, hospitable people. What made you resort to violence to make Kashmir independent?


We tried peaceful means to begin with. Before JKLF many political organizations had tried everything possible. Some of our members had even tried to change things by participating in Indian elections but it was difficult (nothing worked with India). Then there were many peaceful demonstrations and strikes, but they were often put (Indians put these) down with force and many soldiers came (to suppress us). This was while the UN military observers were sitting there. We attempted to negotiate a peaceful solution with both India and Pakistan, but (India blocked every move every time and) we failed.

Some Kashmiris came to the conclusion that the only way was to fight for freedom…it was not just JKLF members... when your homes are being searched, people are being arrested, newspapers are being controlled, soldiers are shooting at you, and your women are molested you have to do something (fight back).

JKLF was never in favour of violence in the early days...we still don’t subscribe to that philosophy. It is not our policy (... but India has pushed things too far).

How are you going to unite an Independent Kashmir with so many groups?

Many groups have the same goals. These groups are coming together... they only differ in strategy... I think its good to cover all aspects of the struggle, one group can’t possibly fight on all fronts. There is much more co-operation now. We realise we have to work together. In the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, formed in 1995 all the main groups were represented. We are combining forces we are even combining forces across the line of control which both Indians and Pakistanis are concerned about (never wanted us to do... they wanted permanent division).

Are you pushing Pakistan to also cede territory to an independent Kashmir?

PLEASE ANSWER

???

But isn't Pakistan helping to push for violence to be used in Kashmir?

I don’t think so... they may have their own reasons. But I don’t think anyone in Kashmir would do blindly what they want. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir. I think Pakistan has reasons to help us, we accept their help on our terms. But we don't want to become part of Pakistan, this is not their war, it is our fight and the militants, as the Indians call us, are Kashmiri people, some Pakistanis have come to fight with us, but it is not many.

You don't like the term militant?

Please do not use the word militant too much... The image of a militant in the West is not what Indians perceive it as. We are known locally as mujhaidins or freedom fighters.

But if you get independence how are you going to prevent the kind of civil war that has broken out in Afghanistan and Iraq? Or political turmoil such as is in Pakistan?

It won't happen, Kashmir is different to Afghanistan. The people are used to a democratic system. Srinagar is a very civilised modern city it is not like Kabul. And the larger groups already are beginning to work together. We do not want to fight ourselves - maybe there will be some problems with some of the smaller groups. We will resolve any problems peacefully. We have lived in Kashmir with its ethnic mix without any problems for centuries.

Why do you want an independent Kashmir?

Our people are persecuted in their own land. (Indians are given) Government jobs need to be given, ahead of others, to our own people. (It is our land, not the Indians). We have our religion, our culture, our history, our hopes, our lives and these only have a (no) recent connection to India through Islam and the Moghuls (and never have). The Kashmiri people are almost all Muslims; we want to reflect that character in our national life, education and government. However, we want laws that protect minorities. We want control of our own economic and political life. India is a mostly Hindu country; it is not part of us. Their history is different, their way of life is different, and their thinking is different. We do not want to change them, we do not want to rule them, we do not want to educate them, we do not want to tell them what to do(, but they want to do all these things to us). We say to India let us do our thing and you do yours, let us be free, let us rule ourselves, let us have independence.

What about trade?

This is a problem. Kashmir is surrounded by land, and we will have to trade through Pakistan and India anyway. India now provides most of our industrial products. We would be happy to continue trading with them and for them to visit us as tourists or friends. We do not want to fight with India. They want to fight with us. They came here in 1947 and took our country; we would like them to leave. And India's industry has prevented us developing our own industry. It keeps us dependent on them.

If Kashmir becomes independent, how is it going to be different?

Different ... it is different, totally different. (There is nothing to compare to India and Indian rule. India is an aggressor).

Yes, but how will it be different from now?

Prosperity will return. We will be a model state in the Himalayas. In every way Kashmiri people will be ruling themselves, not Indians... jobs will return to Kashmiris. Education and laws will fit our national aspirations and our Islamic heritage will be protected. There will be freedom for all religions. We will be able to go to our mosques without fear, without interference in (Indian soldiers surrounding) our mosques.

Yes, but before 1989 did you not have this?

1989 was when we took up arms against the Indians, but before this we felt like second class citizens in our own land. Graduates from our universities could not get government jobs and Hindus were brought up from Delhi and Bombay instead. Islamic schools did not get proper government support. Nor did our mosques. Our state government has not been fairly elected (is a joke - India rigged our elections). There is a questionable (no) democracy here. We have effectively lost self-autonomy (been ruled from New Delhi) since 1965. Kashmir is a beautiful country and produces many beautiful things. We have the most beautiful silk carpets in the world. Our saffron is sold around the world. Dal Lake and our houseboats, from the times of the British, have attracted tourists from around the world. It should be a wealthy country, it is richer than Indian states, but the government needs to increase subsidies for manufacturing and high technology industry (Indians take much in taxes, they are greedy and corrupt. We pay taxes to pay for a foreign army to rape, rob and kill us. We want our own army, we will have our own army, but our army will look after our people, not kill them.) You can see Kashmir is poor now, India has not helped because its policy was not fully constructive in considering the emotional and psychological demographic (destroyed it).

But in 1989, many Kashmiris tell us they were doing very well financially, and this was under Indian rule?

It is true some Kashmiris were doing well from Indian rule. Some of these were houseboat owners who benefited from Indian tourists. Some are angry now because they are not making money. Five fingers are not the same; some Kashmiris care more about their pockets than our national status.

Still, many people are sick of the fighting. Do you think the Kashmiri people would be prepared now to negotiate with India?

We will talk to India. We have always been willing to talk to India. It is just that they were unable to see our point of view (don't want to talk to us). They were not unreservedly listening to our demands. They wanted Kashmir to be a part of India(be our masters). They were uncertain about letting us have (do not want us to have) independence. They wanted to keep us because they had some concerns about (hate) Pakistan. Understandably they were unwilling to let go of (They want) Kashmir's wealth and beauty. But recently there are signs that the Indian government is willing to give independence.

Would you accept an independent status within India?

No, the only independence is total independence. (Total freedom from India.) We will talk independence with them, but total independence.

Why not?

We were never really part of India. It was a forced marriage through invasions. Kashmir now does not want to be part of India. It has a different people, different culture, and different religion. You can see the people here look different, their skin, their face, and their eyes. We are more like central Asians. We are not Indians.

(We do not want to have any connections to India.)

Not at all?

No, except for possible trade and other neighbourly relations after we regain sovereignty.

But India was invited in 1947?

Sheik Abdullah (The British under Lord Mountbatten) persuaded the Hindu Maharajah to invite the Indians - not the Kashmiri people! And that was to stop Pakistan from taking the country, (not to give to India). We did not ask them to take us over.

What contact do you have with Pakistan and how much influence do they have on your movement?

Yes, we have contact with Pakistanis who want to come and help our peace movement (fight), but they are not the large numbers the newspapers (Indians) tell you we have. Almost all our fighters are Kashmiris, we accept arms for our cause from Pakistan and anyone else who wants to help us, but we don't want them to rule us. Our fight is also on a political and diplomatic level. Kashmiris all over the world are involved in this fight. We don't want India and we don't want Pakistan. We just want our country, free and independent. It is not what you think, we control our movements, and Pakistan and other Islamic countries help us. Even the United States, Bill Clinton, was trying to help and UK's Labour Party in a way has helped.

George Bush, has he been in touch?

ANSWER PLEASE??

Do you want a fundamentalist Islamic State?

We want an Islamic state. We are Islamic people so this is natural. Fundamentalist? What do you mean? We are not religious fanatics. We do not want to oppress people. We will tolerate others' beliefs. We have had enough of (India's) oppression; we do not want to oppress others.

You will have Islamic law?

Yes, why not?

Some of these laws seem oppressive to Westerners, such as women wearing veils and people being stoned for committing adultery.

You see in Srinagar many women not wearing veils that would be their choice. Stoning, throwing stones at people; this is not our way, not in the Koran. Believing in God, being loving, these are our laws.

If Kashmir becomes a fundamentalist Islamic State, are you not afraid that Western finance will not come, as well as tourists?

We don't intend to become a fundamentalist state if you mean fanatical. We are not religious fanatics. Kashmir will welcome foreigners and foreign help as it always has. We are not afraid. We need more help from you now.

And how will the Westernised Kashmiris in Srinagar feel about this?

Nobody will be persecuted for his or her beliefs, but it will be a Kashmir for all peoples.

What are your groups' policies on human rights?

We are fighting for them, for our human right to decide our future. I think you call it self-determination. It is in your United Nations. We will sacrifice everything for that right.

What about education?

This is very important. We believe it is essential for Kashmir to do well. We want our people to be literate and well educated in technology and science, which has been not adequately adressed (ignored) by India.

Islamic education?

Naturally. It needs our support, it is part of Muslim life.

What about the rights of women?

They have their place. Our culture is different to yours. We would encourage women in education if they wished. Our women are putting their efforts into our freedom fight. They are the throne of our society, pure and simple.

Are there women militants or mujhaidins?

That is not our way. They help in their own way, that is enough.

What do you think of America?

We like America. I think they are trying to help us, but they are not doing as much as they have done for other similar situations, for instance in Kosovo. Quite rightly they are putting their own national interests first. They will soon realise that their interests lie in stability and peace in the region, which will most likely come with Kashmir's independence. No-one could wish to increase the chances for a limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan (be in conflict with India).

What about Europe?

We like the EEC, we have no problem with the West, and we would like you to come to our country and enjoy your holidays here. European countries have a role to play here to bring about peace. It was the British who left too quickly in 1947 before the situation was stable (made a mess of things here); they have an ethical obligation (can now help) to kindly ensure the UN resolutions in the 50s on self determination for Kashmir are implimented according to principles of International justice as laid out in the UN Convention and the Hague Treaty (sort it out).

And Pakistan?

I told you, we do not want to become part of Pakistan. We have friendly relations, that is all we want. We don't think we will have a problem with Pakistan if India agrees to grant Independence.

A mosque is a sacred place. Why did you allow fighters to go inside the White Mosque with innocent civilians?

The White Mosque is a symbolic statement to the Muslim people of Kashmir and to the world. The mujhaidins are Muslims fighting for a free Islamic Kashmir, the White Mosque in Srinagar is the holiest mosque in Kashmir, and it symbolises our religion and our struggle. It is a sacred place for our people and we have held it twice (against the Indians) in 1993 and 1996. Until (they are out of) Kashmir is Islamic the mosque will not be absolutely holy (defiled). It is a sanctuary for us. It was the only place where we could enter without any fear, (but now India has changed our way of thinking).

Was your movement involved?

Yes, we took over control of the Hazratbal Mosque, because (Indians were abusing) its sanctity was being abused.

*



But after that interview a gradual erosion of action by Vajpayee, culminating in the WTC attack and U.S. led anti-terrorism alliance, prospects for peaceful talks looked dim once again.

SRINAGAR, Kashmir (CNN) 02.0ct.2001 -- A suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into the main gate of the state legislature building in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Monday afternoon. At least 29 people were killed in the explosion and subsequent fighting with rebels. Security officials said there was some intelligence information suggesting that many of the rebels, who include Afghan fighters, had been asked to withdraw to their home base to fight a possible strike by the United States on Afghanistan. Guerrilla groups, however, have denied that any of the Islamic fighters were heading out of Kashmir Valley. Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani was quoted as saying the global war on terrorism would eventually target Pakistani bases of guerrillas operating in Kashmir. Advani told the Business Standard newspaper that the United States had assured the government it would strike against camps in Pakistan where Muslim guerrillas fighting Indian forces in Kashmir are trained. "Phase two will include operations against cross-border terrorism in Kashmir," he said. "At the end of this chapter, militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is bound to lose its sting."

The US invaded Afghanistan, but the militants did not pull out of Kashmir however and in fact on December 13, 2001 suicide attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi killing 12 people. India blamed Pakistan and closed the border and talks ceased completely. In July 22, 2002 Volume 160 No. 2, Time Magazine talked to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
TIME: What would it take to make progress on the Kashmir issue?
Musharraf: Nothing is going to happen if there is no sincerity. We are killing each other every day. So what nonsense is this that there is no issue? And that is where, I would say, the United States comes in. U.S. involvement—really, it must be there.

However the US under Bush never really showed much interest in Kashmir and became annoyed at Pakistans lack of cooperation in locating Bin Laden. Kashmir seemed to drop out of the equation after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which failed to draw any Islamic nations into the coalition of the willing including Pakistan. When Congress defeated the BJP in May 13, 2004, Prime Minister Singh opened up new dialogues with the Mujhaidin about self autonomy. The US began to illicit far greater support from India into forming an alliance against Islamic terrorism, this culminated in 2006 with Bush's visit and the defacto acceptance of trading with a nuclear India, so reducing further the chance of US help. Meanwhile Kashmir was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2005. Human rights groups began to report that Kashmiri's seeking independence in Pakistan were now being persecuted by the Pakistanis. Violence has much diminished despite a general strike on India's 60th anniversary in 2007. Indian polls now claim fairly fatuously only a bare majority of Kashmiris do not want to remain part of India [36.2 prefer India, 53.9 wish to secede from the union (Synovate India)]. Now Benazir Bhutto's assassination in late December 2007, who was likely to become the prime minister of the winning socialist party in the first democratic elections in Pakistan for almost ten years, led to civil war in Pakistan in early 2009 and most certainly Kashmir is on the table. Musharif is out and Bhutto's husband is leader and struggling to control his country. Jahadis suicide attacks in Pakistan and in particular Islamabad, ended their being partially tolerated and gave him the chance to launch a military offensive in Swat. Obama's pressure on Pakistan to end the jahadis supplying Afghanistan's war and the Pakis themselves getting fed up with the Taliban, have boosted Bhutto's popularity. With her dead and despite her husband's corrupt past, her young son who is now a nominal leader still looks in for a tall order. Could Kashmiris pull off a deal with the Bhuttos and India to support independence for them or will it be a return to the thug tactics Musharif adopted on pro-independence supporters in Pakistan now that the Taliban, the Kashmiri's supporters, are being dealt with?

In Cyprus in the 1950s, a guerrilla war broke out to rid the country of the British. The population was 20% Turk, the rest Greek and the Greeks wanted unification with Greece. The British underestimated the resolve of the Cypriots and although not hating the British, they believed the only way the British could see their sincerity was by shedding blood. My father was with the Gordon Highlanders sent there and testified to the slightly mad Cypriot attitude of love and hate for the Queen. Lawrence Durrell in 'Bitter Lemons of Cyprus' summed it up at the end of his book when the taxi driver says, "yes, even Dighenis, though he fights the British, really loves them. But he will have to go on killing them - with regret, even with affection." Within three years they had independence from Britain, but because they had not resolved their problems with the Turkish community, in the mid 70s Turkey invaded the northern part of the island.

Therefore even if Kashmir is granted independence it will be extremely important that she protects and maintains equality for all minorities, otherwise India or even Pakistan may invade on the pretext of protecting minority groups. This historically, has only been successful when these rights are protected in a democratic constitution upheld by an independent judiciary and executive.

But despite the Indian Congress' overtures Kashmir is still unresolved - should the West sit by with indifference while human rights are denied by the world's largest so-called democratic nation? Should we not be reviewing "our" economic ties with India? Perhaps India needs a positive economic incentive before she can release Kashmir. Improved trading status may be a solution or accepting her as a legitimate nuclear power as the carrot in return for releasing Kashmir - after all everything comes down to a trade especially in these places, much like the carpets I bought many a year ago. But one thing is true is can we truly regard our nations as supporting the right to self-determination, as expressed in the constitution of the United Nations if we continue to do nothing? Food for thought in the New World order.

*

My interview with the University graduate in 1993 finished as follows:

There was a demonstration today (22 October 1993), where many people were killed or injured. What happened?

Peaceful civilian demonstrators, men, women, children were marching towards the White Mosque in Srinagar to offer support to those in the mosque The Army attempted to stop the demonstration. As far as I know they baton-charged, then used teargas, and finally opened fire on them. I was not there. Thousands have been injured and about 60 people killed.

Were militants there?

Yes, but as peaceful demonstrators.

Did they fire on soldiers?

No, not to my knowledge, that would be self-defeating.