Should Kashmiris thank the Ashoka Chakra, so to speak, for being nationals of India? One does not know what to do, laugh or cry on reports that Kashmiri protesters Wednesday led by separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat had chanted “Kashmir banega Pakistan,” or Kashmir will become part of Pakistan, slogans.
India Today, released a video that showed Bhat chanting slogan, with the apt caption, “The Democracy that is India. Here Masarat Alam can chant “meri jaan Pakistan” and “Kashmir banega Pakistan fearlessly!” The reason why I felt crying was I was told by Baloch sources in my native Balochistan that Pakistan launched its first drone attack in Mekran Friday afternoon around the same time protests were being held in Srinagar. Some sections of the media also reported that Bhat had raised Pakistan flags, but others question this charge as frivolous. However, after Bhat is clearly heard saying “meri jaan Pakistan” whether or not he raised the Pakistan flag becomes irrelevant. Bhat, who was protesting the controversial killing of two Kashmiri youths in Tral on Monday, was put under arrest Friday. Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani was also arrested. There were reports of violence and Indian flag burning after Friday prayers in Srinagar.
There are striking similarities between Kashmir and Balochistan, where people have arisen against Islamabad in armed uprisings five times during the last nearly seven decades of Pakistani occupation since March 1948. Monday, April 13, almost similar things happened on exactly the same day in Balochistan and Kashmir. Arrests of the separatist Kashmiri leaders came just hours before Hurriyat’s planned march to Tral area of Pulwama district where the two youths had been killed in an alleged army operation. “Locals have alleged the two were killed in a staged encounter, while the army insisted they were militants shot down in a gun-battle,” DNA reported.
The same day in Gebun, in Kech district of coastal Mekran division in Balochistan, Pakistan security forces too killed at least five people in, what the Pakistani men in uniform, described as hours of pitched battle with Baloch Liberation Front, which is led by gold medal-winning medic Dr Allah Nazar. Pakistan security forces claimed killing 13 BLF militants in the armed clashes. However, the truth was one of the victims was a wheelchair bound handicapped man, who was dragged out of his home and killed execution style, while the other four were victims of Pakistan ongoing policy of enforced disappearances and were already in custody of Pakistan’s intelligence and security services in torture chambers that dot the length and breadth of Balochistan’s landscape.
As tragic and dismal the situation in Jammu and Kashmir may look at this point, the reason why Kashmiris may thank the Ashoka Chakra is the avenue for popular protests that still exists in Kashmir. However, in Balochistan no such march to Gebun is possible because of the military’s draconian and deadly way of handling popular protests. A Baloch leader raising slogan in favour of India like Bhat did two days ago is unimaginable, not that there is any dearth of such leaders. A climate of fear pervades Balochistan. Baloch may raise slogans or tweet in favour of India, only outside Pakistan when they are far away from the long and deadly arms of ISI injustice.
Had Bhat been in Pakistan and behaved the way he did Wednesday, he would have completely disappeared from the face of earth just like Ghulam Mohammed Baloch and Lala Munir Baloch of Baloch National Movement and Sher Mohammed Baloch of Baloch Republican Party were disappeared from their lawyer’s chamber in Turbat town six years ago in April. The three were not only tortured and killed execution style, but their bodies were thrown from army choppers in Pidarak a few days later; their lawyer Kachkol Ali had to flee Pakistan after the incident and now lives in exile.
Last December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election campaigning in Jammu and Kashmir unruffled quite a few feathers when he declared that the army for the first time owned up to the mistake of gunning down two innocent youth and action was taken against those who opened fire. Modi, who was lavishly praised by President Barack Obama in TIME magazine two days ago — “he transcends the ancient and the modern” – had declared in Kashmir, “Ye Modi sarkar ka kaamal hai. Ye mere nek iradon ka saboot hai. (This is the wonder of Modi government. It is a proof of my honest intentions).” The wonder, Modi spoke of, should continue, rather than be suppressed.
Historically, there are many similarities between Kashmir and Balochistan. Both states had signed instruments of accession, with India and Pakistan, respectively. The key difference was the ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, did it on his own volition, necessitated by the invasive situation arising out of the Pakistan army blitzkrieg, while the Balochistan ruler at the time Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmadyar Khan, was forced to sign Kalat’s instruments of accession to Pakistan at gunpoint. The Baloch ruler was left to deal with the situation on his own wherewithal amid an All India Radio report, which was later denied, that modern India’s founder Jawaharlal Nehru had shot down a Kalat state request for accession as unfeasible.
Major General Akbar Khan is a common denominator between Kashmir and Balochistan; he is the army general who played the lead role in the forced accession of Balochistan on March 27, 1948 and slicing off one-third of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, some months earlier.
Secular Kashmiris like Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri had a near miss with tragedy after he was abducted by the ISI many years ago, even though he never raised the slogan “Kashmir banega Hindustan.” He now lives in Switzerland in exile, and says in the preamble of the controversial 1974 Act that defines Azad Kashmir status in Pakistan, the territory has been officially declared as a base camp or training camp to free the rest of Kashmir from India. He says, “Only those who raise slogans for Pakistan can live there.”
Some sections of the Jammu and Kashmir populace seem to have been deceived, rather royally, by Islamabad and the best way for India to deal with the tragedy is to use the silver bullet and Modi sarkar ka kamaal , rather than to act emotional over chanting of “Kashmir banega Pakistan” slogans and make giants of pygmies.
Meanwhile, Hafiz Saeed of JuD came out in support of Bhat and announced he will fully support Pakistan army’s jihad in Kashmir.