– by Dr Shabir Choudhry
Story of Kashmiri struggle is a long and tragic story of suffering of human beings on both sides of the forcibly divided State of Jammu and Kashmir. During our study tour of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, I met a ‘leader’ of Kashmiri militants who still live in Azad Kashmir. Before giving details of their plight it is imperative to give short summary to the on going armed struggle.
They were young, energetic and full of life; but they were frustrated and not satisfied with what life had to offer them. They wanted change; and they were led to believe that the change could only come from a barrel of gun, which did not grow on Kashmiri trees. The gun and training needed to bring about the desired change could only be gained from Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, so they crossed the Line of Control to get guns, training and ammunition that they could fight the Indian forces stationed in Kashmir.
Between 1989 and 1991 tens of thousands of Kashmiri youths crossed over the Line of Control and went to a land of their dreams – Pakistan, which many of them thought was a place where there was justice, peace and tranquillity. Pakistan, for many of them, was just like a second Makkah, a country established in name of Islam and where, according to them, all was well.
Many of them thought their Kashmiri brothers living under control of Pakistan were living in heaven; and enjoyed life much better than them. Their dreams were shattered when they crossed over. Many of them lost their lives while walking to land of their dreams. Those who made it across the LOC reached there exhausted and in some cases needed urgent medical help.
On arrival they were not greeted with flowers. They all had to go through rigorous security checks, interrogation and, at times, humiliation. Many soon got frustrated and went back empty handed. On way back, they either got killed or adapted to new life style in presence of gun culture, oppression, large army, fear and intimidation.