Will Pak PM ‘Smash’ Indian Narrative at UNGA? Kashmiris Speak Up
Before PM Modi & PM Imran Khan speak at UNGA, here’s what Kashmiris have to say.
Much like they expected a ‘miracle’ from the then US President Barrack Obama’s speech at the Indian Parliament in 2010, many of the separatism-leaning Kashmiris are today hopeful of a hot innings from the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s bat, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York.
At the crescendo of a violent street turbulence 9 years ago, people in the Valley had been assured by their separatist leadership, that the visiting US President would ‘force’ New Delhi to resolve the Kashmir dispute ‘as per the aspirations of the Kashmiris’. With that, the four-month-long mayhem would come to an end. It did — but with disappointment — as Obama didn’t utter a word about Kashmir, and shops opened in Srinagar for a peaceful period of six long years.
“Confident that Imran Khan Will Demolish Indian Narrative at UNGA”
The lockdown that had begun with the scrapping of Article 370 on 5 August 2019, has now turned into an unending shutdown for which, unlike 2010, nobody has given a call. In the absence of politics and the politicians (most of who are in detention), expectations are pinned on none other than the firebrand cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
“We are pretty much confident that Imran will demolish the Indian narrative with his forceful speech at the UN, and turn the world in our favour. He has significantly made himself very important for America with his influence over Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is because of him that Trump has been repeatedly pitching mediation between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute,” said a political science professor from the University of Kashmir, on condition of anonymity.
Fearing reprisals — from the government, from the unruly crowds, from the unfettered militants — few in the Valley today dare to identify themselves in media while speaking on politics.
‘Anybody can cause any trouble’ is the invariable refrain. Even if someone agrees to speak ‘on record’, he or she takes utmost caution to ensure that not a punctuation mark goes contrary to the separatist narrative stirred afresh by scrapping of Article 370 over 50 days ago. “Hundreds have been arrested by police. Some have been shot by militants,” one argues.
“The World Will Listen to Imran Khan”
“This time, Imran has gone (to the UN) well prepared with something that should be acceptable to the world. In 2016, (then Pakistani PM) Nawaz Sharif, eulogised the militant Burhan Wani, as the Kashmiris’ ‘popular leader’ at the UNGA. Imran has just said that anybody going to Kashmir with arms would be doing a disservice to the Kashmiris and their cause. He is not belligerent, and speaks against terrorism. The world will naturally listen to him,” says Rakhshanda (name changed), a student of journalism and mass communication at the University of Kashmir.
“And did you notice his spiritual reinforcement,” said a woman ‘fan’ of Imran, referring to the rosary of hundred beads Imran is believed to have acquired from his wife Bushra. Kashmiris have clearly noticed a prayer on Imrans hands and lips, during his meetings and press conference in New York.
“Expecting Both India & Pakistan to Achieve Breakthrough on Kashmir”
Food processing entrepreneur, a leading spices exporter and General Secretary of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Farooq Amin, asserted, “We are expecting both India and Pakistan to achieve a breakthrough in resolving this festering problem with the help of American mediation, and inclusion of the people of Kashmir. We are hopeful of some positive results this time”.
Amin claimed that the Valley was suffering losses worth Rs 100 crore (approx) a day due to the continued shutdown since 5 August.
“We have already lost 200,000 jobs in tourism, industries and handicrafts. Now that the MSME (medium, small and micro enterprise) is breaking down, we are going to lose another 50,000 jobs,” Amin said, with a dry laugh, over the Governor’s announcement to ‘create’ 50,000 jobs.
“Now horticulture is facing the brunt,” Amin said referring to the threat to Kashmir’s Rs 12,000-crore fresh fruit industry.
Kashmir Issue: “Solution Lies in War”
“Kashmir has already suffered due to hartal and curfew for over 2,000 days in the last 30 years. Our separatist leaders tell us that it is the only tool of protest in their hands and it should continue. But the fact is that our two generations have been ruined, and the third generation is now experiencing worse. A full academic year has been spoiled. We wish they do something at the UN this time around to end it for good,” a trader who has businesses spread across Srinagar asserted.
One of the students from Pulwama at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora, sounded cynical.
“We have been watching this drama at UN since long. UN has failed to resolve the Kashmir dispute as per its own resolutions. We believe the solution lies in nothing but war and militancy. That’s the popular sentiment today,” the post-graduation student Irshad said, referring to the detained separatist Sarjan Barkati’s slogan: ‘There’s only one solution: gun solution, gun solution’, heard recently at some animated demonstrations in Anchar (Soura) area of downtown Srinagar.
“India’s Image Destroyed by Media”
A young journalist, on the condition of anonymity, said that India’s image as a democratic country had been “completely destroyed” by recent reports, editorials and documentaries in the world’s top newspapers and TV channels. He referred to scores of articles and editorials in New York Times, Washington Post, etc, as also the reports and documentaries on BBC, CNN, Aljazeerah, Press TV and other news channels. He also referred to a barrage of tweets from India’s own leading journalists and activists, asserting that this campaign over “human rights abuse” had dented India’s image.
“This will definitely have an impact at the UN,” said the journalist, reporting for an Indian newspaper.
“Pakistan Will Bite the Dust at UNGA”
Suneem Khan, a Kashmiri doctor working with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) holds a contrary view. “India is not only a nuclear military power and the largest democracy in the world, but also the biggest world market after China. It’s the economy and the market, not sentiments and aspirations, that determine today’s politics and diplomacy,” he asserted.
According to him, Pakistan had been completely isolated because of its double standards on terrorism, and would only bite the dust at the UN.
Dr Khan, also working on the 5th generation warfare (influence operations), claimed that nobody in the world would take notice of certain media reports that, according to him, were “nothing but a well-coordinated and concerted campaign to paint India black for the UNGA session”.
“These are all one-sided reports and documentaries. I have seen totally baseless stories and crass fiction being projected as ground reports. Lockdown lasted just 10 or 15 days. Thereafter, it has been clearly a shutdown. Shops and schools are not opening and buses are not plying only due to the fear of the militants, threatening posters and letters and the stone pelting crowds. How can you call it a ‘siege’ and hold India responsible for it?... How long can they peddle lies to mislead the world and the UN?” Dr Khan added.
He said it was because of the fear of FATF blacklisting that Imran Khan had started disowning the militants “trained and pushed in by his country” over the last 30 years.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)
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