Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kashmir: Separating the Greys from the Blacks

Ek dal do panchhi re betha
Kaun guru, kaun chela?
Guru ki karni chela bharega
Ood ja hans akela.
(Folk-pop song from south Rajasthan)

In his Independence Day address, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had called upon the Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to participate in the the 3rd Round Table conference to be held soon. He also extended to call to militant groups, asking them to lay down their weapons in favour of talks. The call was immediately turned down by the APHC as well as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the latter being one of the largest militant groups in Kashmir.

What caught my eye in this report was one of the pre-conditions laid down by the Hizb for any kind of talks. It demands that the struggle in Kashmir be called a freedom struggle instead of terrorism. As if to smack this condition in the face, the article is titled "Terrorists turn down CM's appeal". Of course, the newspaper didnt go out of its way to underline this ridicule, it being standard practice in the our press to brand all Kashmiri militants as terrorists. Further, very rarely would you come across journalists making the distinction between Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (largely made up of indigenous Kashmiris) versus, for instance, Lashkar-e-Toiba (largely foreign; spawned from the Afghan/Pakistani anti-Soviet mujahideen).

Another interesting titbit of news was APHC Chairman Maulvi Umar Farooq's announcement that he would be visiting Ireland soon to study the peace process there. The Kashmiri problem (and probably its solution) has often been compared to the northern Ireland issue, and had been extensively discussed in the book Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace reviewed here.

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