By Mohammed Sirajuddeen :
A civil rights activist for decades and a well-known lawyer, Parvez Imroz is the chief of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and possesses a long-standing experience of human rights activism in Kashmir.
He also represents the ‘International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir’ and has been accorded with international recognitions for his efforts to bring anomalies of the conflict in Kashmir to the outside world.
Kashmir many-a-times witnessed state-sponsored attacks on human rights organisations, activists and lawyers. Last year, Khurram Parvez, another leading figure of JKCCS was arrested and prevented from boarding his flight to Switzerland. This was directed by the Intelligence Bureau even though he was in possession of a valid Visa with an official invitation to attend a session organised by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Parvez Imroz had then led the delegation and sought to build opinion in support of their efforts. In early 2005, he had stated in a press conference that the Indian Army and the Government are conspiring to kill him.
Mohammed Sirajuddeen, a doctoral researcher at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU, interacted with Parvez Imroz in February, 2017 at the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) Office in Srinagar.
Mohammed Sirajuddeen (MS): Why are people getting mobilised given the fact that security establishment is tough in every corner of Kashmir?
Parvez Imroz (PI): No doubt the history of Government conduct has been tough. The element of fear is gone in Kashmiris to the extent that the stake of remaining silent is more costly than resistance. The young generation is politically mature in their struggle. Palestine is an example in front of us and Israeli settlement is the model of Indian occupation. Kashmir does not need a ‘Palestinisation’. RSS Chief believes that demographic changes are the only solution to Kashmir problem. Now, the ‘Article 370’ is being diluted even by judicial acts. A process to that direction has started. There is a conservative turn globally and a globalisation of mediocrity. No concrete solutions are coming from Indian authorities.
MS: How will you characterise the behaviour of Indian Armed Forces?
PI: The army is getting communalised and with the coming of the Modi government, that process has intensified. Defense Ministry took an aggressive stand. Army camps in Kashmir have succumbed to ‘mandir culture’ and the State is hell-bent on bringing radical ‘Hinduisation’ of army ranks. Even though the aggressive attitude of army men existed earlier, the communalisation process is a recent phenomenon and in many cases, it is reported that the behaviour of army men hailing from the northern belt of the Indian mainland has been belligerent towards Kashmiri people. Hence, even after 25 years, we witness no delivery of justice, and institutional mechanisms also prove inadequate.
MS: Will you compare Kashmir with Palestine?
PI: The world has condemned atrocities in Palestine and Israel was vetoed in the UN. The government cannot be as brazen as Israel because the Indian ruling class is different. For Kashmir, the ‘Pakistan factor’ is pertinent and therefore, there cannot be a plain comparison with Palestine. While Palestine has a 4 million ‘diaspora’, Kashmir lacks a diaspora and Palestine has also received global support. At the same time, we have seen parallels in patterns of state atrocities in both the places.
MS: What are your views on ‘Indian Left’ since it said that the only spectrum that speaks for Kashmir is ‘Left’ groups in India?
PI: We have seen vibrant left movement in Palestine like that of The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP). Kashmir is the only national liberation movement where there is an absence of a left movement. The only visible left group in Kashmir is represented by Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami and he functioned as a collaborator much like mainstream Indian political parties. From experience, for Kashmiris, ‘left’ and ‘right’ political groups in India stand as two sides of the same coin. The Indian left has played a treacherous role with respect to the need of resolving the Kashmir question. Barring Maoists and radical humanists, all streams of the parliamentary left in India didn’t care about Kashmir and confined themselves to rhetoric.
MS: There are criticisms that if granted freedom, Kashmir will become an ‘Islamic State’. Any comments?
PI: Many scientific surveys in the past few years pointed out that the majority of Kashmiris aspired to ‘azadi’. Since there are no non-Muslim entities and notable non-Muslim figures in Kashmir’s resistance movement, vested interests in India sought to frame it otherwise. But in reality, we cannot ignore the role of religion in Kashmir. Those who criticise Kashmir forget the fact that India can also be considered a ‘Brahminical Hindu’ state. Though there are Bhutan and Nepal, they say that Kashmir will be at peril if given freedom, that too at the hands of Pakistan and China. This is colonial British-like logic and we reject it.
It is a ‘self-defeating’ proposition that Kashmir is becoming an ‘Islamic state’. Those who argue this leave no scope for ‘self-determination’ and they undermine our cause. Unlike other South Asian turmoil, outfits like ‘Taliban’ do not have much influence in Kashmir and the visible militant group Hizbul Mujahideen is based on an indigenous cadre base. While in Pakistan, electoral politics witness no more than 3% support for religious political parties, India mandated a Hindu party with more than a 31% mandate. India represents as a burning pot of 16,000 communal riots and a history of mass atrocities against minorities. The condition of Muslims is worse than the situation of Dalits and they are considered second-class citizens. Here in Kashmir, Hindus are over-represented institutionally and we believe in brotherhood.
MS: What is your vision of ‘Azadi’?
PI: During the early 1990s, militancy was a result of an emotional outburst, a sentimental reaction and the State responded with a heavy hand and it was an ugly phase. Even after the militancy receded and reached a low point in terms of scale and scope, state repression continued unabated. Militancy in present Kashmir is organised by Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Their methods are qualitatively different in the sense that they rely on ‘romanticism’ and ‘glorification’ techniques to gain mass support. The question of freedom is a ‘dream’, our primary concern is to put the military out and a majority in Kashmir believe that Pakistan is an option which is a lesser evil than the present regime.
The author is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. This interview was first published here