Although terrorism is not a new phenomenon in the recorded history of the World, the modern discourse of terrorism has been originated, defined and theorized, predominantly, in post-9/11 security context. Regrettably, this hegemonic political discourse developed and/or influenced by the post-9/11 global threat perceptions has added further to the miseries of already deprived and neglected strata of society. For, the counterproductive results of the discourse have allegedly lessened the space for freedom of expression, versatility of opinion and humans’ legitimate struggle for their social, political and economic autonomy.
Undoubtedly, the discourse has benefitted the status-quo powers more rather than revisionists, political elite/statesmen more rather than masses, and state apparatus more rather than citizens. It has empowered the states to shun the socio-political rights of deprived and disgruntled masses, via labelling their legitimate struggles for political autonomy/freedom as ‘terrorists’ activities’. Thus, room for political dissent and debate has decreased. Against this backdrop, states’ machinery consider itself ‘legitimate enough’ to use lethal force against its own people if latter’s’ interests do not align with the former’s. Subsequently, the discourse has not only strengthened the very roots of modern state system but also its ‘ability’ to brutally violate the human rights. States’ right to use of force is actually abused in the form of state terrorism. The case I would highlight is of Kashmir Conflict- one of the oldest conflicts on the United Nations’ agenda. This article would not only analyze the Kashmir Conflict but also highlight that how the terrorism discourse has abetted the Indian State to crush the freedom struggle in Kashmir by labelling the freedom fighters as ‘terrorists’.
The Kashmir Conflict between India and Pakistan dates back to partition of the Indian Subcontinent. When the rulers of princely states were given the choice to accede freely, either to India or Pakistan. However, in case of accession to any of the two states, they were advised to consider their geographical proximity to the contiguous dominion, population’s will, affinity and ethnic issues.
Kashmir -a densely Muslim populated princely state, was then ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh who was reluctant to declare its accession to any of the state. However, the people of Kashmir were pro-Pakistan, due to their social and political affinity with the region and its leadership. Soon they anticipated that the Maharaja’s intentions were against the public opinion. This gave further momentum to anti-maharaja political agitation which had been occurring off and on in Poonch, Rawalakot, Dhirkot, Pulandri and certain other regions of Kashmir during 1947.
Subsequently, the Maharaja’s forces used force violently against the masses during their peaceful political demonstrations. Increased atrocities forced the locals to revolt in self-defense, thus, riots kicked off. Meanwhile, the tribal invasion of Kashmir further deteriorated the situation and things got out of the Maharaja’s control. The Maharaja already inclined to the Indian Government sought its military assistance to crush masses. The then Indian Government augmented political pressure on him and stated that military assistance could be permitted only if he would ‘sign’ an Instrument of Accession- a document which the Maharaja allegedly signed on October 26, 1947, as proclaimed by the Indian Government.
However, on the basis of archival records and available circumstantial evidences; many impartial researchers, authors, political activists and analysts have not only challenged the legitimacy of the instrument but they are also skeptic about the very existence and/or originality of any such document. Even, if the Maharaja provided any such instrument, it was made clear to him by Mountbatten -the then Governor General of India, via letter that once the law and order restored, “the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.”
Ultimately, by the end of 1947, India and Pakistan waged war over Kashmir. Subsequently, the then Indian Government took the issue to the UN in 1948. After the due discussions, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed an elaborated resolution on April 21st, 1948, in which a UN supervised free and impartial plebiscite was proposed. It was further decided that a commission be appointed and sent to the subcontinent for an on-spot inspection and make necessary recommendations to resolve the conflict. The commission later to be known as the UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) visited the region and made further recommendations which came in the form of two more resolutions, on August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949, respectively. The subsequent resolutions reiterated the Kashmiri’s right to self-determination through impartial plebiscite, thus, reinforced the UNSC resolution.
Consequently, the UN sponsored ceasefire was accomplished between the two states on January 1, 1949 and the ceasefire line was declared as Line of Control (LoC). To pursue the demilitarization of Kashmir, Pakistan followed its part as proposed by the UNCIP’s Resolutions i.e. to withdraw its forces from the region first. However, India had neither withdrawn its forces nor did it hold a plebiscite, let alone an impartial one. Had the withdrawal of both forces had been simultaneous, the situation might have been different. The discrimination in the timings of withdrawal is one of the drawbacks which hindered the implementation of UN proposed plebiscite. The stalemate, thus, originated in Kashmir had not only dominated but also laid the foundation of immensely strained Pakistan-India relations.
Although Pakistan withdrew its forces, from time to time, it continued to support and recognize Kashmiris’ right to self-determination on international forums. Nevertheless, it is also true that largely, like the incumbent Pakistani Government, its predecessors have also remained unable to present their case vociferously. Over the decades, the prolonged freedom movement in Kashmir has taken manifolds. At times, its momentum faded, whereas, at times it resurrected. Though the Indian State has used its full force and machinery against the innocent civilians, it has failed to crush the resilience out of them.
For almost seven decades, Pakistan and the Kashmiris have been demanding the implementation of those resolutions. However, the succeeding Indian Governments have declared them as redundant. Interestingly, it was neither Pakistan nor Kashmiris, but India which took the Kashmir Conflict to the UN. Therefore, Indian claims that Kashmir is an ‘internal matter’ are utterly baseless.
In 2016, proportional rise and intensity in barbarism of the Indian State engulfed Kashmir in a new wave of freedom struggle. The agitation occurred in the aftermath of brutal murder of Burhan Wani- who could not bear the atrocities and humiliation he suffered (as a teenager) at the hands of the Indian Military. As a last resort, in the self-defense of his community he was inclined towards anti-status quo approach. As per the Huffington Post, although the “security forces couldn’t trace specific attacks on armed forces back to Burhan” his fearless vocal struggle was the real threat. Unlike many others, he dared enough to unravel his identity via social media and willingly owned the path he had chosen; which ultimately stirred his murder.
It further stated that “his overwhelming appeal among radicalized Kashmiri youth turned him into a security threat for the armed forces and other agencies.” Being a social activist and vocal proponent of Kashmiris’ civil and political liberties, he resented Indian armed presence in Kashmir and condemned Indian forces’ atrocities against unarmed Kashmiris. Thus, he ‘perfectly’ fit in the ‘assumed perception’ of ‘terrorist’ from perspective of the Indian State.
After his killing the situation escalated further when the Indian forces used bullets, the notorious pellet guns and tear gas against unarmed mourners and protesters. The Indian authorities not only suspended mobile and internet services but also banned the Kashmiri press for months. Moreover, as a ‘routine matter’ a prolonged curfew was also imposed.
Recently, in an unusual move, the Indian State has revoked Kashmir’s special status. The move coupled with grave human rights violation has once again transformed the region into a living hell. Reportedly, all pro-Kashmir political voices have been banned forcefully and means of communication blocked. Despite curfew, resilient masses have dared to protest peacefully for their rights. Subsequently, many have been brutally murdered, injured and hundreds are under arrest. The unrest is likely to increase so is the death toll and humanitarian crises. For, women are being raped and innocent kids are also being targeted for no reason. A recently published UN report (July 2019), indicated citing local data that in the Indian occupied Kashmir 586 people have been killed in 2018 alone, including 160 civilians. Whereas, it is believed that 2019 would provide even an increased figure.
Apparently, in its drive to siege the valley further Modi regime has gone frustrated. As reflected in its iron hands policy vis-à-vis unarmed protesters. Reportedly, the security forces have not spared even hospitals and ambulances which they raided and brutally attacked the injured too. The glaring reflection of state’s terrorism, systemic use of force and violence against innocent Kashmiri civilians is further evident in its use of pellet guns- the lethal weapon which has turned the bleeding eyes into blind eyes. This is a quick overview of most recent humanitarian crisis which has been unfolding in Kashmir due to the overwhelming militarization of the valley.
The foregoing discussion not only reflects that the armed forces have failed to shatter the Kashmiris determination and resilience but also their inflexibility in demanding right to self-determination, as guaranteed by the UN resolutions. Such criminal use of force is questioning efficacy of the global human rights proponents.
Given the dilemmas of the 21st Century, such as terrorism, the ‘legitimacy’ of states’ use of force- a concept engrained into the minds of global political thinkers, needs to be restructured. It is evident from the history that temporal changes do impact theoretical political discourses, their notions, and connotations attached to political concepts. Hence, it would not be an ideal demand to review and differentiate between the legitimacy of use of force and state terrorism. And, between political freedom struggle and terrorism.
If the global community wants to get rid of the menace of terrorism, it should eradicate its genesis which at least, in Kashmir’s case is rooted in state sponsored terrorism. Moreover, not only that its needs to unequivocally condemn such state behavior but should also hold its preparators accountable. In the 21st century there is dire need to restructure the terrorism discourse and to reevaluate the suppressive nature of modern statecraft which tilts humans towards radicalism. The grey margin between terrorism and freedom struggle needs to be defined in loud and clear. Otherwise, given the modernized lethal weapons, attempts to snub political variations would cost the humanity more in a ‘civilized age’ as it did in the past.