Hizb-ul Mujahideen in ‘Kashmir’ 24 September 2013
The anti-Indian uprising in Indian-administered Kashmir has now been underway for a quarter of a century. Civilians began protests there in 1988; militants instigated armed activities the following year; things got really ‘hot’ from 1990. While levels of violence, the tally of ‘incidents’ and the number of deaths have all subsided significantly in recent years, an interesting interview in Al Jazeera with a ‘senior Kashmiri independence fighter’ in the ‘Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’, which ‘has widespread membership … [in] Indian-administered Kashmir’ suggests that, for them, the insurgency is not yet over. If I were a Kashmiri, however, I would not be taking a lot of succour, or inspiration, from this interview.
(See www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/09/2013920153418770798.html. I thank Michael Dwyer at Hurst and Co., London, for sending me this link.)
According to the ‘independence fighter’, ‘anti-US and anti-state fighters in Afghanistan owe Kashmiris “a debt”, … that he expects … will be paid “on [Kashmiris’] terms” after the planned US military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014’. Such support by these ‘anti-state fighters’, most of whom will be Afghans, is a distinct possibility, although it will not happen soon. Almost certainly, it will take them—if they can do so at all—some time to establish the type of hardline government that they may want in Afghanistan. One major reason for this is that the vast majority of Afghans do not want another hardline, anti-social government imposed on them. Nevertheless, should these Afghans succeed, this could free up ‘Muslim’ fighters to go to Kashmir to fight ‘Hindu’ Indians. Equally, in satisfying their supposed ‘religious duty’, these men may be inspired to go to Syria, Chechnya, western China, or other places where they perceive that Muslims are being suppressed—including in neighbouring Pakistan, which has a real, major and ongoing problem of its own dealing with hardline ‘anti-US and anti-state fighters’. Equally, if Indian intelligence and border security forces are operating effectively, they should be able to anticipate, and cope with, the arrival of such hostile forces.
Equally, as the ‘senior Kashmiri independence fighter’ acknowledges, it is now difficult to cross the Line of Control (LoC) with ‘this border-crossing activity [being] two to three percent of our operations. Now our real focus is on operating within [Indian-administered] Kashmir … [with] mujahideen in every [sic] district and sub-district of Jammu and Kashmir’. This almost certainly overstates their capability and operational strength. Interestingly, he also claims that the killing of six Indian soldiers ‘6km inside the LoC, in the Poonch area’ in August was the work of the ‘mujahideen’, not the Pakistan Army. This also appears to be an ambitious claim.
The article is interesting for a number of other reasons. First, the author, Asad Hashim (who is a Pakistani, I think), incorrectly refers to Muzaffarabad as ‘the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir’. It’s amazing how many people, including many Indians, would not baulk at this statement. However, Muzaffarabad is the capital of Azad Kashmir, which, together with the neighbouring Gilgit-Baltistan region to its north, comprises ‘Pakistan-administered Kashmir’. For some time, Islamabad has cleverly been trying to suggest that the Kashmir dispute does not include Gilgit-Baltistan—when it certainly does. Legally, this region was part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in August 1947.
The ‘senior Kashmiri independence fighter’ also states that ‘The UN resolution passed on January 5, 1949, speaks of … the Kashmiri people, and their right to choose between Pakistan, India and independence’. He is incorrect. Independence is not mentioned at all in any United Nations resolutions. Furthermore, he may need to come to grips with the following observation: in almost 30 years of researching and studying the Kashmir dispute, the only thing that I have found that India and Pakistan agree on in their entire dispute over Jammu and Kashmir is that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can become independent. This will make it exceedingly difficult for this ‘independence fighter’ and his ilk to obtain their aim of ‘Kashmiri independence’, whatever they mean by that concept. It also explains Hizb-ul Mujahideen’s difficult military situation—as he hints in the article—of not receiving significant military assistance from Pakistan. Islamabad has long favoured supporting insurgent groups such as ‘Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’ that want Indian J&K’s integration into Pakistan, not independence. Islamabad tolerates, and provides some support to, Hizbul Mujahideen because they are anti-Indian.
The ‘Kashmiri independence fighter’ also states that ‘Pakistan, India and Kashmiris are the three involved in this [dispute], and it is important that they sit together to find a solution’. By ‘Kashmiris’, I presume that he means the people of J&K, whom I call ‘J&K-ites’, as the terms ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Kashmiri’ mean different things in India, Pakistan and J&K. In India and Indian J&K, they generally refer to ethnic Kashmiris from the region of Kashmir, that is, the Kashmir Valley. In Pakistan and Pakistan-administered J&K, they generally refer to anyone, regardless of their ethnicity, from the former princely state of J&K, or ‘Kashmir’ as it was popularly known.
I agree with the independence fighter’s statement that there are ‘three [parties] involved’ in the Kashmir dispute. History, however, shows us that two of these parties, India and Pakistan, have not been able to resolve this issue. Equally, other third parties, such as the United Nations or the United States, either have been totally ineffective (UN) or have been uninterested or disallowed from participation by India (US). For too long, the legitimate and valid third party to this dispute, J&K-ites—who actually are the first party to the Kashmir dispute as they instigated it—have been ignored. Involving J&K-ites in resolution attempts not only is fair and important, but also it could lead, as I have argued in The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir, to the Kashmir dispute being resolved. Given its focus on the Kashmir Valley, the Hizbul Mujahideen almost certainly does not represent many J&K-ites. Equally, if its senior leader is to be believed, the militant group will be around for some time causing trouble, or trying to cause trouble, for India.
24 September 2013