| by Shabir Choudhry
( February 02, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Kashmir is not only known for its natural beauty; but was also famous for culture of tolerance, peace and co existence. All this was shattered when backed by Pakistani secret agencies culture of gun, violence, fear and intimidation was introduced in 1988/89. As if that was not enough non Kashmiris, totally alien to Kashmiri culture and ethos, were also sent in with gun that they can impose new culture and values on people of Jammu and Kashmir.
This culture of fear and intimidation was first introduced in to the Valley of Kashmir with disastrous consequences. Anyone who opposed this was silenced irrespective of his race or religion. Under that prevailing culture, ‘liberal minded’ Yasin Malik, Chairman of JKLF, also proved intolerant when highly respected journalist Tahir Mohiuldin criticised him in ‘Weekly ‘Chattan’, and a group of JKLF members stormed his office, broke his furniture and beat him up.
Later on, this alien culture of hate and intimidation was ‘exported’ to other parts of Jammu and Kashmir and where ever people of Jammu and Kashmir lived, whether it was London, New York or Toronto. Attempts were made to silence all voices which criticised those who introduced this monster of hate and advanced it for personal, ideological or material gains. I salute all those who stood their ground and spoke against this culture of violence, hatred, fear and intimidation.
Despite threats to my life, personal abuse and unfounded allegations to malign me, I have been doing my jihad against those who promoted violence, sectarianism, regionalism, tribalism and hate. For many years I have advanced a non violent struggle, equality for all and rule of law; and how sad that now I am accused of being ‘racist’ and playing the ‘tribal’ card. I DO NOT have a shred of racism and tribalism in me, even at that time when I was young and immature in many ways; I opposed regionalism and tribalism and always sided with the weak and poor.
I have criticised those who have harmed our struggle for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, and continue to harm it under different slogans. And on my part no matter what people call me, I will continue with my jihad of writing against them and exposing them. This sponsored criticism of some misguided people who either don’t understand the situation or are touts of those who want us to remain occupied and forcibly divided is not going to intimidate me.
It was not the first time I was under attack by face book warriors; and it won’t be the last. What made difference this time was the unfortunate posts of someone using ID of ‘paki power’, whose agenda was to muddy the water, create confusion among Kashmiris and alienate me from my friends and colleagues. To a large extent he was successful, as some people thought I was using this ID. Allah Almighty knows best; however, once again I say that it is not my ID and I DID NOT use this ID. There is no need to. I am quite used to these smear campaigns against me; and know how to handle them, hence no need to use any fake ID. Allah has given me enough courage and strength of character to say spade a spade and face the consequences.
Unfortunately some of my colleagues and friends were also swayed by this; and they erroneously assumed that I have attacked their tribe by using this fake ID. Their loyalty to their tribe made them emotional and they forgot that in my articles and speeches I have highly praised contribution made by their tribe for the cause f an independent Jammu and Kashmir. Some of these colleagues have worked with me since 1977; and despite heated debates and disagreements they know I have never used a ‘racist card’ or a ‘tribal card’.
I set up a face book group called, ‘Views on Jammu and Kashmir’. It has 4613 members. Policy of this group is to ‘advance the cause of Jammu and Kashmir, and promote peace, tolerance and democratic values. We allow members to express their views as long as they do not spread hate, make personal attacks and insult any religion or abuse people or countries.’
I have been repeatedly attacked and abused by few members with real and fake ID’s. They have made unfounded allegations against me and they have not given any evidence to support their allegations; and yet I have not banned them, hoping that common sense will prevail and sensible members will understand what is going on and how politics of fear and intimidation is prevalent on face book as well.
Even at the height of this campaign there were about ten ID’s speaking against me and about the same number either speaking in my support or trying to provide alternative view point. My maths is not good, but 10 members out of 4613 is not significant, but their foul language and arrogance turned the tide in my favour, because after making few clarifications, most of time I did not reply and sensible members realised there was some agenda for this campaign.
Support came from those quarters from where it was not expected; and from it was expected they decided to sit on the fence – after all no one wants to come in the firing line, and become a ‘bad boy’. However, I have received more than 200 private messages and many telephone calls and they all ‘appreciated my work and urged me to continue my struggle against forces of occupation, extremism, communalism, regionalism and hatred. Most of them said you must be doing something right and hitting in the right place to deserve this much attention and opposition. If you were not having any significance then no one has time to waste and write against you.’
Some critics on face book called my articles ‘crap’, even though my articles are published in many publications and in more than one country; and are widely read and used by those interested in Kashmir dispute and India Pakistan relations. Out of many comments I have received, I am only producing some to show what my readers say.
In reference to my article, ‘Kashmiri struggle and politics of Black Day’ Dr Nazir Gilani wrote: ‘Well written article. K H Khurshid (Jammu Kashmir Liberation League), Khaliq Ansari (Plebiscite Front), Maqbool Bhat (PF) and all other nationalists were branded as Indian agents or anti Pakistan by Muslim Conference in AJK, for self serving political interests………You are right there has been a problem with our nationalists in understanding nationalism. Nationalists want to perform in reference to Pro Pakistan propaganda. Their conviction and ideological basis is shaky. Your article has consolidated a valuable comparison.’
Tahir Sayyed from Srinagar wrote: ‘Dr Shabir Choudhry Aslamu Alikum
I have read some of your arguments with great interest. Your articles are informative and have strong and logical arguments. You are doing good work with sincerity, keep it up; and don’t get intimidated by your critics.’
Elizabeth Simon del Sol wrote: Shabir Choudhry, a good summary about Pakistan’s reality. One should ask why religious extremism and intolerance have increased in Pakistan. It seems clear that the policy of this country is based on strengthening its military power. Perhaps the most immediate needs for this country were not security and defence; if not economic growth, the education, children schooling and exclusion and poverty…’
Syes Sadre Uddin Hussain wrote: This is a good article and worth reading. Religious extremism was promoted by General Zia, the great exploiter of Islam to fool the masses and gain support of the Mullahs to rule Pakistan till death. The solution lies in nationalising all Masajids and Madrassahs and banning all religious groups, Tehriks and parties which are exploiting Islam for their selfish ends and creating divisions in the society and promoting extremism sectarianism, killings, Maslak and Fiqah, differences etc, in the name of Islam instead of promoting unity…..’
On the issue of telling truth and facing pressure, Elizabeth Simon del Sol wrote:
‘Shabir Choudhry, you are not the only one who is suffering from abusive language. Anyone who tells the truth by shining words is heavily persecuted. When we are choosing a difficult way, we must be aware and mature enough to deal with its consequences. Truth produces large enemies and hard obstacles. Everything in life has a price. I do not expect anything from anyone from life itself. Just thank God every morning to be alive….’
In another message, Elizabeth Simon del Sol wrote: ‘Shabir Choudhry, you are seeing a truth or reality that others do not see or don’t want to see. You and your friends are being the witness of a chain of events that are beating you, while all others are mere actors or protagonists of these events. But unfortunately, life is a fight, and even though it seems like you’re going to get knocked out, you must keep on fighting. If you are not willing to fight and die for your own life you’re never going to be able to fully live. The whole situation so full of obstacles and enemies, reminds me the wise words of King Solomon: “This too shall pass. In life, nothing is certain and nothing is perfect. Just rise above the challenge.”
There are many more quotes which I could produce to show what sensible people say about my work; and I don’t care what people with myopic view and misplaced loyalty say. I assure all my readers, friends and colleagues that my struggle for independence of Jammu and Kashmir, equality, peace and rule of law will continue; and I will not be intimidated.
Writer is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:email@example.com