Kashmir: Eye witness reports

The situation is still very tense and if anything it is probably more tense since Blair’s visit to the Asian sub-continent writes a Kashmiri CWI member. Commentators have described Blair’s visit as a sightseeing tour and nothing more than that. In terms of Blair’s hope to defuse tension it has been a total flop. Shortly after Blair’s visit, Musharraf organised another meeting of his corps commanders – in the words of an army commentator: "to prepare for any eventuality". 

The Musharraf speech (his strongest condemning terrorism according to the British press) was hardly mentioned in Pakistan and was clearly for international consumption. It was reported in the Urdu press that there have been clashes on the international border (i.e. not in Kashmir) in the Sialkot sector. Other reports on the Urdu radio services mentioned the deaths of two Indian soldiers and a few mujahadeen fighters along the Line of Control (LOC), today. The reports over the last few days in the Pakistani press stated that last Thursday the two sides were within a hair’s breadth of a major armed confrontation along the LOC.

The Urdu media has raised the temperature over the last couple of days by reporting that the Indian government have totally rejected any outside intervention in the dispute. The Pakistani government has cut two Indian cable TV channels from being broadcast inside the country. This was reported at the same time as a speech of Bush who was quoted as saying that the two countries themselves could not resolve Indo-Pak tensions. The Pakistani media have also reported that the Indian government has demanded that the Musharraf government must claim the five bodies of the suicide bombers or it will have no option but to bury the bodies in India. The Pakistani press has widely reported the visit of Shimon Perez to India and his speech which equated the mujahadeen groups with the situation of "terrorists" in Palestine. Perez gave full support to the Indian government in the region. Today Musharraf arrested another 50 members of mujahadeen groups some of them in Lahore.

The Pakistani media has become much more bellicose and not surprisingly is openly developing war propaganda. India is portrayed as the aggressor. The mobilisation of the Indian troops is the same size as "Operation Brass Tacks" which was implemented under the Rajeev Ghandi government in 1986. Patriotic songs some from the 1965 war are beginning to be played on the radio. I saw a banner on the way home yesterday which read "Salaam to the Pakistani army – we are with you".

Along the LOC many villages lie empty and the press claims that over 100 000 have become internal refugees. Some families have refused to move and have said that we will live here or die here but we have nowhere to go. For those who have left to other parts of Pakistani Occupied Kashmir there is no government help. In Kotli, my local town, rent prices have rocketed as racketeers make profits out of the increased demand for houses from refugees.

The Pakistani authorities have set up a civil defence guard called the mujahed which a layer of youth have started to serve in. There have been the beginnings of a pro-Pakistan mood developing in Kasmiri society. Some people are saying that they do not support Pakistan but if it comes to fighting they will have to defend their homes. This is not surprising given the lack of any mass alternative. Jamal says that nationalist youth are still not pro-war but the developing tension is beginning to cause some confusion.

Military activity has become far more visible. For the first time in recent years in my area (which is further from the LOC), the army is involved in manouevres during the day. The army has commandeered all civilian trucks.

Consciousness is quite confused. There are even possibilities that an anti-war mood may be manipulated by different political forces to whip up anti-Indian nationalism. This is because in Pakistan and POK the Indian government is seen as the aggressor.

The NAP Kotli branch organised an anti-war demo on 25 December with about 100 people on it. This was a demo publicly called to oppose the possibility of war between India and Pakistan. We also launched our Free Education campaign at it and have decided to affiliate it to International Socialist Resistance. At the rally we proposed resolutions which were supported calling on the TUs on both sides of the national divide and in India and Pakistan to oppose the war because the working class and peasantry of the sub-continent had more in common with each other and would pay the full priceof the war. We will have another demo this Saturday.

Financial appeal for Kashmiri socialists

Our work is still enormously hampered by the lack of a computer to produce leaflets and material to put forward the case of a working class and socialist opposition to the possibility of another Indo-Pakistan war. We have to travel many hours to a local town to get use of computers and we have to spend large sums of our locally collected finances to work on computers in commercial enterprises. We are appealing to socialists internationally to make donations to buy a computer to improve our intervention. We calculate that £300 will be necessary. All donations (cheques, money orders or bank drafts in £ sterling) should be made payable to the CWI and sent to CWI, PO Box 3688, London, E11 1YE. Please send an e-mail to kashmir@worldsoc.co.uk giving details of your name, address and how much you have sent. All donations will be acknowledged.

Special financial appeal to all readers of socialistworld.net

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January 2002