By Umar Lateef Misgar
The word I am about to discuss in this essay is not a convenient group of alphabets. The un-deodorised exercise of it is confronted and unsuccessfully trampled by repressive machinery on this planet; from the Kurdish cities of Southeastern Turkey to seditious streets of Occupied Kashmir. Now, I won’t go into the etymology or geography or history of this word. As long as it has not been a rallying slogan for Nazis, Zionists, Racial Supremacists, Casteists, Misogynists and other practitioners of injustice through history and present, the origins of word Azadi don’t bother me. Everyone from my four-year old nephew to seventy year-old grandmother would intrinsically know the answer to the decades-old cry of “Hum Kya Chahtay?” (What do we want?)
Now, what the word means and doesn’t mean to me is clear. First, let’s unravel the latter part. Just a quick look at the desecration of Kashmiri life and body — as recorded by human rights agencies from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty and MSF – and a common Indian subject might translate Azadi into a call for equal revenge. Is it? Absolutely not! Well, at least it must mean equal revenge against the perpetrators of abuse, right? No! Doesn’t it even equate to calling for the downfall of Indian government? Not even that. So just what do we mean?
Broadly, Azadi in Kashmir contains two connotations: Right to Self Determination (RSD) and the long-sought, elusive justice for the victims of abuses purveyed by every belligerent in this occupied land; occupied by both nuclear India and nuclear Pakistan. RSD, a central precedent of modern international legislation, doesn’t, theoretically, mean India gives up Kashmir. In fact, not only is this assertion legally corrupt but morally too, because it dehumanises Kashmir into a “land without people”.
Here’s what the United Nations Security Council Resolution 47 (1948) has to say about self-determination in Kashmir, “Question of accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite (vote/election)”. The resolution, of course, doesn’t contain the now popular third option of a Kashmir, independent of both India and Pakistan, but the idea is that self-determination is an internationally guaranteed “right to vote” for a people to direct their real political aspirations, not civic ones like roads or municipal needs. Now, why this call for democratic process automatically translates into “we lose Kashmir” for Indian masses is a question that they need to pose to their infamous collective conscience.
Coming to the call for justice, the brutal methods practiced by Indian Occupation Forces deployed in Kashmir- Rape, Torture, Enforced Disappearances — as recorded by Human Rights Watch, an organisation surely not on the payrolls of Pakistan or Syed Ali Geelani; Torture and Crackdowns, as recorded by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), one of the world’s most-trusted medical-aid agencies (as long as Indians don’t believe Bashar Assad’s ludicrous claim that it’s an extension of French DGSE agency); and numerous other abuses reported by both International as well as Indian media agencies are well documented.
Although some Indian agencies might now try to disown their reports under the preposterous ultranationalist stereotype of “the rough 90s”, but we all know, Papa-II or Cargo are not Aghrabian dungeons. But wait, the crimes ‘recorded’ are mostly preceded by the fateful adjective “alleged”, right? Yes. And the only right way to acquit the “alleged” perpetrators is an independent, impartial, internationally-undertaken enquiry. So, why doesn’t India ratify the Rome Statute and give the International Criminal Court (ICC) a clear mandate to investigate all “alleged” crimes? Too many skeletons in the closet, fastened by ‘integral’ chains? Oh, come on! Every Kashmiri would be so humiliated when the “Vergheseian Hoax” is actually confirmed to be a hoax by the ICC. What a mind-boggling revelation would it be when a place, where even reporting sexual harassment in public transport buses is a stigma, would be successfully prosecuted by an international court for “concocting” a “massive-hoax” about hundreds of women being gang-raped on a single night in the hamlets of Kunan and Poshpora by Indian Occupation Forces.
Sarcasm apart, the question that the Indian collective conscience should pose to itself is: is it ready, to use the words of Eqbal Ahmed, for the chickens to come home and roost? Is every, or anyone of the “alleged” perpetrators ready to face an impartial, open investigation for crimes committed in Kashmir? Let alone prosecutions, unlike CONADEP and Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense in Argentina, Instituto de Medicina Legal in El Salvador, The Chilean Forensic Anthropology Team in Chile and Registro Nacional de Personas Extraviadas in Mexico, there are no governmental or non-governmental forensic institutes to investigate the cases of thousands of mass-graves and tens of thousands of disappeared in Kashmir.
The point of the matter is, whatever Mr. God’swami and wannabe-God’swamis might feed the Indian masses during their deafening nightly ‘sermons’, Azadi is neither a cry for blood of Indians, nor a slogan calling for the destruction of India. In practical terms, for India, Azadi is its test to hold onto the international political, prosecutorial and human-rights standards.
In conclusion, as steep as the struggle is for Kashmir, Azadi for India vis-à-vis Kashmir is as simple as mandating a couple of institutions – Electoral (For Plebiscite) and Investigative, while simultaneously demilitarising Kashmir as put forward by United Nations resolutions. However, let me, in my capacity; offer another concession to India – an inversion of the demilitarisation clause. Let India bring in three hundred thousand more troops into Kashmir, complete a whole-number of one million jackboots on Kashmiri soil, and then mandate a plebiscite. Sounds naïve? If nothing, this only goes to show that Kashmiris are not afraid of the A-word.
—The writer studies International Relations at Islamic University of Science and Technology