NEW YORK: The Kashmiri people’s struggle for freedom from India’s rule is “overwhelmingly homegrown”, The New York Times said in an in-depth dispatch from Indian occupied Kashmir where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) anti-Muslim policies have “spurred more people to turn against the government.”
“The conflict today is probably driven less by geopolitics than by internal Indian politics, which have increasingly taken an anti-Muslim direction,” Times’ Correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman wrote from Qasbayar, a Kashmiri village.
The report said that most of the fighters are young men who draw support from a population “deeply resentful of India’s governing party and years of occupation.”
“Kashmir sits on the frontier of India and Pakistan, and both countries have spilt rivers of blood over it, correspondent Gettleman wrote.
“Three times, they have gone to war, and tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. It is one of Asia’s most dangerous flash points, where a million troops have squared off along the disputed border. Both sides now wield nuclear arms. And the two sides are divided by religion, with Kashmir stuck in the middle,” he said.
The dispatch cited Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister-in-waiting, as saying that the Kashmiris’ struggle is now indigenous.
“Mr Khan, who clearly has a Pakistani perspective on the conflict, says he is determined to negotiate an end to it,” the report said.
“His persuasive election victory last month” and the fact that India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, made a friendly phone call to congratulate him suggests a breakthrough is possible.”
But the dispatch said, “India still loves to blame Pakistan for all its Kashmir problems. Many Indian politicians seem in denial that their own politics and policies might be a factor.”
Correspondent Gettleman wrote, “India’s swerve to the right in recent years, with the rise of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has deeply alienated its Muslim minority. Many top members of the ruling party have a very questionable record when it comes to treating Muslims fairly. This has emboldened Hindu supremacists across India, and in recent years, Hindu lynch mobs have targeted and killed Muslims, often based on false rumors. Many of the culprits are lightly punished, if at all, leaving India’s Muslims feeling exposed.”
“In the Indian-administered parts of Kashmir, where there was already a history of bitter conflict, the new politics have spurred more people to turn against the government. Some pick up guns, others rocks, but the root emotion is the same: Many Kashmiris now hate India.”
“This is what’s different,” Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri historian who earned his Ph.D from Harvard, was quoted as saying in the NYT dispatch.
“Before, in the 1990s, many Kashmiris felt we can negotiate this, we can talk.” “But nobody wants to be part of India now,” he said.
“Every Kashmiri is resisting today, in different ways.” The dispatch said, “The latest are children and grandmothers. At almost every recent security operation, as Indian officers closed in on houses where militants were believed to be hiding, they have had to reckon with seething crowds of residents of all ages acting as human shields.
“Walk through Kashmiri villages, where little apples are ripening on the trees and the air tastes clean and crisp, and ask people what they want.
“The most common response is independence. Some say they want to join Pakistan. None say anything good about India, at least not in public.”
“India’s steely response has pushed away even moderates,” the Times said.