THE conscience of India's liberal intelligentsia is gnawed by
the repressive policies of the Indian state in Kashmir. Two human
rights groups in India I've worked with for several years, the
Peoples Union of Civil Liberties and `Citizens' for Democracy, have
just returned from strife-torn Kashmir and reported on flagrant
violations of human rights there by Indian security agencies.
There have been instances of brutality that sully India's decent
record on the issue of human rights. For instance, last January the
border security forces killed some 50 people and destroyed 250
shops in the apple-growing town of Sopore in retaliation against a
small hand-grenade attack. A tale of courage and sacrifice has been
woven out of the Sopore incident. It is such tales that inspire the
Kashmiri people to fight the Indian state.
Yet apart from a small segment of the liberal intelligentsia,
the larger population and all political parties, including the
Communists and the rightists, support the present government's
policy of holding on to Kashmir at all cost. And the Indian state
that commands one of the largest militaries in the world has all
the power it needs to keep Kashmir in the union.
What makes the Indian position on Kashmir precarious is the
growing international disapproval of its approach. The United
States, an outside power with the greatest influence in South Asia,
now disputes India's and Pakistan's occupation of Kashmir and has
been hinting at a notion of an autonomous Kashmir under the joint
sovereignty of India and Pakistan.
The US also has repeatedly charged India with human rights
violations in Kashmir and criticized it for refusing to let Amnesty
International and other international human rights organizations
visit Kashmir. It is difficult for India to ward off American and
European pressures at a time when it is the world's fourth largest
debtor nation and when the success of its attempt to switch to a
market economy depends so much on Western support.
Pakistan's armed support for various resistance groups in
Kashmir adds a dangerous dimension to the Kashmir problem. Pakistan
has funded, trained, and armed Hizbul Mujahedin, a militant
resistance group with the largest influence in Kashmir politics. It
wields power by the sword but also by the invocation of the Islamic
faith. This greatly appeals to the Kashmiri people at a time when
their alienation from India is complete.
Pakistan undeniably supports armed insurgency in Kashmir;
America and other relatively impartial countries confirm this. …