. Shujaat Bukhari: A Voice for the Victims of History | London Progressive Journal
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Shujaat Bukhari: A Voice for the Victims of History

Mon 2nd Jul 2018

‘If any question why we died,

Tell them, because our fathers lied.’

Rudyard Kipling

The sad and unexpected demise of one of Jammu Kashmir’s great sons of the soil, a moderate and sane voice amidst extremism and insanity, the editor-in-chief of Daily Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari, followed by the fall of the coalition government in the State, has raised a big question mark on the effectiveness of the so-called cease fire between the Indian Army and terrorists.

Under the growing influence of a false narrative propagated by Pakistani so-called Jihadists, quite a few of our local youth now seem infected by this venomous ideology. Figures published by the Press Trust of India on May 4 2018 according to which “45 youth have joined militancy in 2018”, (Rising Kashmir, May 4 2018) are a horrific reminder of the scale of violence that has engulfed our Valley in recent times. The fact that some of these young men joining Islamic terrorist groups such as the allegedly Pakistan-sponsored Hezb Ul Mujahidin, are of substantial family backgrounds, having acquired university/post-graduate degrees calls into question the effectiveness of the Indian central government’s tactics and strategy as well as the integrity of the peace strategy of the now defunct PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu Kashmir.

The division of Jammu Kashmir is a direct consequence of the hesitation of the ruler of the State of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja, Harri Singh, to declare the future course he would take after the signing of the 12 August 1947 Stand Still Agreement with the newly-born theocratic state of Pakistan. Historians now commonly agree that the Maharaja wanted to keep our State independent. However, on 22 October 1947, the Pakistan Army, assisted by the tribes of the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or KP) who had been promised a sum of 300,000 rupees, launched a surprise, five-point attack on the sovereign state. This forced Maharaja Harri Sign to sign a conditional accession agreement with India, which then permitted the Indian Army to enter Jammu Kashmir to push back the aggressor Pakistan Army.

After the cease-fire on 26 October 1947, Pakistan refused to pull out its troops from the occupied parts of Jammu and re-named the occupied territory, ‘Azad Kashmir’.

The only plausible reason for the usurper government of Pakistan to call the occupied parts of Jammu, ‘Azad’ Kashmir was to establish its claim to the Valley. Over the next 70 years, the Pakistan government (and its irredentist claim) resulted in an enforced new ethnic identity onto the local Jammu population now living as ‘Kashmiris’ under Pakistani occupation. This was cunningly meshed with Islamic religious ideological bondage with the people of the Valley who do not share a common border with the Pakistani-Occupied parts of Jammu. In doing so, the Muslim elite in ‘Azad’ Kashmir became willing junior partners of the Pakistani military establishment and became readily available to supress any dissent.

Pakistan’s irredentist claim to the rest of the State of Jammu and Kashmir was met by a passive desire from India to maintain the status quo. Stephen M. Saideman in his essay published in The India-Pakistan conflict defines irredentism as a term referring “to one of the two processes: the effort by states to annex territory considered theirs based on ethnic or historical grounds; or the effort by groups to be joined with their mother country”. (Saideman, Cambridge: 2005).

However, Saideman’s analysis of the conflict lacks an ethnographic analysis of Pakistan’s irredentist claim to the Valley of Kashmir. Providing such an analysis is key to refuting any assertion of Pakistan’s claim to the Valley of Kashmir. The people of Jammu have suffered the most since their land was and remains occupied by the Pakistani Army and has been ruled through various puppet governments in ‘Azad’ Kashmir. The occupation of Jammu resulted in the forced exodus of Hindu and Sikhs from Mirpur, Kotli, Muzafarabad and other cities and villages across occupied Jammu. This internal displacement of our population is the real historical calamity that has turned hundreds of thousands of our Hindu Dogras and Sikh Rajput into refugees.

In the aforementioned scenario, Shujaat Bukhari was a voice for the victims of history. While celebrating every occasion that brought ceasefire on the Line of Control, Shujaat would criticise with equal fervour the failure of India and Pakistan to hold on to their cease-fire agreements. He showed the same vigour to oppose the high handedness of the Indian Army or the atrocities committed by the terrorists. Shujaat was a voice of reason in our valley where political discourse that had gone absurd.

The claim on the part of the people of Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir that the lost land of Jammu be reclaimed and reunited with the original entity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is a valid assertion. However, the political narrative marinated with self-pity and apathy that has been inducted in the Muslim-dominant population of the Valley of Kashmir has become the biggest obstacle in establishing the true nature of the conflict of Kashmir.

It must be pointed out that Shujaat Bukhari was critical of the Army Special Powers Act that gives the Indian security forces impunity from any crimes it might commit. He was aware that the huge presence of Indian security forces in Kashmir is a constant source of provocation for the local population and provides a pretext for the Jihadists to recruit local terrorists. However, one must be reminded that the Indian security forces began to arrive in the Valley only after the Pakistani Army attacked our State on 22 October 1947 and later in large numbers during the late 1980s and 1990s when the Afghan War had come to an end and returning Inter services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate-trained terrorist mujahidin were to be assigned a new role. The passive nature of the claim to Jammu Kashmir by the Indian establishment and the active pursuit of the Valley by the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani Military-Mullah alliance have created a perfect environment in which the Islamic jihadists can flourish.

Commemorating the tenth anniversary of his daily Bukhari had written in his editorial in Rising Kashmir only three months ago, ‘survival is the first challenge for any journalism venture in Kashmir’. As I write these lines the 1984 infamous ‘Operation Blue Star’ National Security Guards (NSG) is being sent out to march on the streets of Kashmir Valley. More repression of the civilian population in the guise of countering terrorism seems to be the writing on the wall. However, in what way is the NSG going to challenge the religious-political narrative that has been ingrained into the political and social discourse of the everyday life of the Kashmiri Muslim population and without developing a counter cultural and political narrative that boldly identifies the historical facts is not yet clear.

The struggle to build the above mentioned counter cultural and political narrative on both sides of the dividing line, in my opinion, would be the greatest tribute one could pay to the sacrifice of our dearest friend Shujaat Bukhari.

The writer is a Glasgow based author from Mirpur in POK. He can be reached at shaboroze@gmail.com

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