Kashmir

Insight

” Jammu & Kashmir in the year 1947 was an independent country for all practical purposes. The Maharaja who ruled the State had signed agreements with both Pakistan and India to remain neutral and not be part of either country. India honoured that agreement but Pakistan did not.”

The newly independent was then invaded by the Pakistani army on 22nd October 1947 and the Maharaja Hari Singh, last ruling Maharaja of Kashmir, asked India to help, India agreed to help, under ‘specific conditions’.

This then gave way to the Instrument of Accession, a document acceding the state of Jammu and Kashmir to the dominion of India. The majority of the people of Jammu & Kashmir had protested against the accession, but the non-Kashmiri Dogra Maharaja signed the document and the fate of Kashmir. The Kashmiris were given the impression that once they had removed the Pakistani army and the hostilities had ceased, a referendum to confirm the accession would be held. This never happened.

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The Occupation of Kashmir
And here we are 70 years later, a country torn between Pakistan and India, the Pakistani occupied part called ‘Azad (Free) Kashmir’ and the Indian occupied part simply called ‘Jammu and Kashmir’.

Bradford Literature Festival

Over the weekend I attended an event in Bradford called ‘The View from Kashmir’ as part of the Bradford Literature Festival, as an ethnic Kashmiri with roots in Srinagar, the issue of independence and self-determination of the Kashmiris is one I hold close to my heart, how could I not attend?

The discussion was led by a panel which consisted of Masood Khan, President of Azad Jammu Kashmir, Dibyesh Anand, Professor of International Relation, Sasha Bhat, a British Kashmiri activist and chaired by activist and author of Residue, Nitasha Kaul.

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The conversation opened with Nitasha accurately describing the events that preceded and sealed the fate of Kashmir and asked the question; How is Administration different from Occupation? Dibyesh made a point of what he described as ‘problematic language’ used in the brochure for the event which stated part of Kashmir had gone to Pakistan, whilst the other part of Kashmir was disputed. He made a point which many Kashmiris on both sides of the border, more so the Indian side, wont shy away from, both India and Pakistan are indeed occupying Kashmir. The language of ownership was criticised by Nitasha as ‘two countries behaving like colonials’.

Sasha raised another point about language, how using words like ‘administered’ rather than ‘occupied’ is a great disservice to the Kashmiri people yet both India and Pakistan often refer to their parts of Kashmir as ‘administered’ and how social media is playing a major part in addressing and bringing the truth about Kashmir to the world. A state where there are curfews on the citizens leaving their homes and social media bans from time to time when there is an uprising, how can India claim it is a democracy?

See we are talking about one of the most militarised state in the world, where civilian death tolls have reached an alarming number surpassing that of any state in modern day India, whether we are referring to the murder of 55 Kashmiri civilians protesting in Sopore in 1993 or the mass rapes that have been carried out by the Indian Army, one of many incidents occurred in 1991 in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the Kupwara district of Kashmir where it is estimated over 100 women were gang raped by Indian soldiers posted in the region. The Investigation committee ruled the incident as a hoax and till date no one has been charged with the crimes.

Nitasha mentioned there are Kashmiris from the Valley, now in their 30s, who as children felt a great deal of anxiety when approached by soldiers in the region wondering if they have remembered to carry their identity card but the youths of today are not afraid and picking up stones and throwing them right at the occupying army. In Kashmir stone pelting is called ‘Kana Jung’ (Stone War) which youths see as their resistance to the occupation of their land.

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Young men engaged in kana jung
One of Nitasha’s closing statements addressing the audience stated, ‘Man will not understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it’

For me this was more than just about the governments of India and Pakistan but about the wider international community, the same community which is busy invading Middle Eastern countries to ‘liberate’ them of apparent dictatorship yet Kashmir remains an unsolved issue, an issue largely caused by the colonial British themselves.

President Masood Khan rejected the idea that Azad Kashmir is under Pakistani occupation and stated it was free, something a young man of Pahari descent from Azad Kashmir took offence to and referred to the numerous resources they felt were missing in villages in the Mirpur region in what Pakistan calls ‘Pakistani Administered Kashmir’. Another man also of the Pahari region of Azad Kashmir stated although their region provides a lot of electricity resources, they can be subjected to up to 12 hours of load-shedding (a common occurrence in Pakistan where people can go for hours without electricity to save energy).

Masood’s response was ‘insha’allah’ there will be less load-shedding in Azad Kashmir’, a response which was met with great amusement by those asking the questions. I did find it odd that such a strong statement had been made, but the President could not provide any solution or conversation other than ‘leave it to Gods will’.

The event heated up near the end, one man shouting, ‘our people are dying, they are suffering’ a Kashmiri man obviously worked up from the atrocities committed in Indian Occupied Kashmir, but like Nitasha replied, ‘if we cannot conduct a civil conversation in a room about such topics, then we can’t reach a solution’

I am a Kashmiri

I wholeheartedly agreed with her statement but equally felt the pain of the Kashmiri man, who may have been overcome by emotion and acted in such a manner because like myself, he may have yearned to have visited his Motherland, he may have struggled all his life with the conflict of identity like myself, born to a Pakistani national of ethnic Kashmiri descent, what is my identity?

Am I Kashmiri because that is my ethnicity? Or do I call myself Pakistani because my Father was born there even though he is ethnically a Kashmiri? Some of my friends joked ‘You’re Indian then’ a comment which used to cut like a knife, to label me with the same identity my people were resisting against!

The same weekend I also spoke with a man named Shashi Tharoor, a member of Parliament of Lok Sabha in India. He was discussing his book ‘Inglorious Empires’, an interesting piece of writing about India’s ex colonial masters. A question about his stance on the Kashmir issue was asked and Shashi stated he did not see Kashmir as occupied and further rejected the notion of Kashmiri self -determination as they were never, he claimed, an independent nation. I reminded Shashi his statement was incorrect as the people of Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir chose independence from India and the newly formed Pakistan in 1947. He claimed Kashmir was not really a truly independent nation and was more concerned about clearing Kashmir of its terrorists, I asked who are the terrorists in Kashmir? ‘The men with the guns’ he replied, I wondered, did he mean the militant separatists or the nearly 500,000 soldiers deployed in the Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Kashmir Valley enclave?

Many Indians claim Kashmir is an integral part of India, is it just the land India feels a connection with or the people too? The roars from the other side ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan (Kashmir will become part of Pakistan)’ are no better, don’t these people hear our cries for Independence?

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Sentiments of local Kashmiris
The recent rapes of young women in large Indian cities raised an international outrage and media publicity which resulted in numerous protests and female activists protesting in India against its ‘rape culture’. Although one can only commend these reactions as positive, one must also ponder why there is not equal outrage or media coverage for the mass rapes occurring in the ‘integral part of India’ called Kashmir?

Why are angry mobs of youths in Kashmir dispersed by means of rubber pellet bullets yet in other cities in India they only use water to break up mobs? Most importantly which state in India has even as half as much military presence as Kashmir?

Dibyesh has made a point of how many secular Hindus in India as well as religious Hindus agreed on the Kashmir issue, in that they do not believe in the right of self-determination of Kashmiris. Yet there are also those who are afraid of being outcast as anti-nationalists like activist Arundathi Roy, an advocate for the independence of Kashmir who was even charged with sedition when she stated, ‘Kashmir has never been an integral part of India, it is a historical fact, even the Indian government has accepted this’. The charges were thrown out.

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Protests against Kashmiri atrocities within India by other minorities
But as Sasha pointed out, the Kashmiri people have been dehumanised in the media. We talk about stats and numbers of victims of those raped, abducted, murdered, but do people for even 1 minute remember they are talking about other human beings, whose families are affected by these atrocities?

The events really made me think about my own involvement in the Kashmiri freedom movement, am I doing enough as a Kashmiri? Yes, we talk about the International community but that is also whom we are a part of. It is obvious that most of the people who really care about the status of Kashmir are fellow Kashmiris, non-Kashmiris have often made it clear they are impartial, it is up to us to keep raising awareness, to keep questioning so called leaders who choose to turn a blind to the atrocities.

Self-determination is a RIGHT and it is our right as Kashmiris. I had not always understood the importance in my Dad taking me along to ‘Free Kashmir’ rallies as a kid, with banners and slogans parked outside the Indian embassies in England as well as Paris.

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9 year old me on the left outside the Indian Embassy in Paris ‘1993’
I was taught from a young age that as Kashmiris self-determination is a right, no matter what corner of the world we live in and it was at the age of 9 as we travelled on a ferry from Dover to Calais followed by a 3-hour journey to Paris to protest outside the Indian Embassy against the atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir, shouting ‘Liberer la Kashmir’, I realised we had a voice that needed to be heard and we would not quieten down until Kashmir was liberated and our people free.

 

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BLACK

So following on from my last post…
Is it time to talk about the anti-Black sentiments amongst South Asians?

I think it’s time!

I have to start by saying this ain’t about racism, as we’re aware racism is a systematic form of oppression where one group of people benefits from the privileges they have over others, now that we’ve cleared that!

As mentioned in my last post, light skin is revered on the subcontinent where people were and still are predominantly dark skinned.

“Colour prejudice is an offshoot of the bigger evil of casteism in India,” says Udit Raj, leader of the Indian Justice Party, which represents Dalits or the oppressed tribes and castes in the traditional political system.

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The Dalits of India
Even the Indian God Krishna (Krsna meaning dark or black) is dark blue.
As well as Goddess Kali (literally means Black female).
But casteism and Colonialism had us hating ourselves, is it any wonder that same mindset became the monster it has creating anti-Black sentiments amongst the South Asian diaspora, even here in England amongst the 2nd and 3rd generation?

I remember aged 13 asking a girl out and her words, ‘I like you but my Dad doesn’t like Black guys, he would go nuts’
Her friend butted in ‘he ain’t Black though’, her response, ‘Ye but it’s the same thing innit’!

I refer to another occasion recently where a friend of mine (Indian heritage) messaged me infuriated.
He overheard his co-workers make a joke about the word n****r, all three of them laughed and then looked at my friend and said ‘sorry’.
He said ‘Why the hell are they apologising to me for, the guy behind me is actually Black, apologise to him, I ain’t Black’
Wake up, if you ain’t White, you’re Black.

Both situations prove we are one and the same, that doesn’t mean shun your South Asian or African heritage, it means acknowledge you have one struggle, you don’t hear Scottish people saying Polish people aren’t White, we have to understand there is a difference between culture and skin politics.
Even my grandmother refers to us as ‘kalay’ when differentiating between us and White people, we don’t call ourselves ‘Brown’, when was the last time you heard the elders calling themselves ‘Bhoora’ (Hindi and Urdu for Brown) 😒

Let’s take a look at the Muslim world and the issue of marriage, everybody wants to acknowledge what sometimes comes across as the token ‘Black Muslim’ Bilal (a companion of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) but they don’t acknowledge the Prophets before him who were most likely what we would today consider ‘Black’, from Moses to Jesus, the latter even described in the Bible as a Dark Skinned dude with Wooly hair;

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Jesus was Bronze skinned with wool like hair according to the book of Revelations
But would Asian parents be cool with an African son or daughter in law?
Some would? But the majority? Let’s be real!                               

But wasn’t one of the Prophet’s messages pretty clear about no White man being above a Black man? How soon we forget and let our pathetic biases blind us.

Growing up I’ve heard it all as I’m sure many of you did, Kalay (Blacks) are wild, thieves, drug dealers who sleep around and love smoking weed, pretty sure we could apply those same stereotypes to many Pakistani brothers and sisters today, but that’s none of my business! But it is!

When will we wake up and see these stereotypes are enforced on us through media, day in day out?

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Some ‘woke’ sisters acknowledging the struggle
The Black lives matter movement, a time we’re supposed to come together, but again the amount of people of colour who couldn’t help but refer to black on black crime to counteract the argument for the movement, how is that even a comparison?
We’re talking about people who are supposed to protect and serve, murdering Black kids, don’t chat to me about black on black crime, ain’t no comparison!

Historically the struggle was ONE!
South Asian and Afro-Caribbeans in the 70s and 80s were under the ‘Black’ banner, they even raised arms together, rioted, protested and laid the foundations for a lot of the rights we have in society today.

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ONE
The Asian Youth Movements (AYMs) of the 1970s and 1980s were powerful examples of political movements influenced by black politics and a version of secularism that became a unifying force between different religious communities.

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But what happened? We started creating sanctions amongst ourselves, Black became Afro-Caribbean, African, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, now we even have Kashmiri.
They say Strength in numbers, now if the powers that be wanted to break down that wall of power, what’s the best way?
The good old divide and conquer tool.
And it worked!

So where do we go from here?
We don’t go anywhere!
But we start reclaiming that one-ness, that unity and the united stand that our 1st and 2nd generation took to make things easier for us.

“Black is Brown and Brown is Black severed by attitudes of how we perceive ourselves”

Until the next one -.

Angry Asian Guy

A good article is one that is written with at least a weeks worth of focus on the subject at hand, bruh, I’m going to go ahead and write about something I have acknowledged since 5 years old, so technically this blog will be the shit!!

Let me introduce myself, I’m an Actor, Writer, Rapper turned Spoken Word Artist, why?
Because it’s sexier and means I ain’t got to jack beats or fear a shitty trap beat overpowering my word.
My lyrical content?
Race, religion, spirituality, race, religion, more spirituality, self growth and some politics.

See I believe growing up in the North of England in a working class City called Bradford made me hostile, one could say it even gave me a chip on my shoulder and I wear that chip proud like a badge.
We grew up four siblings in a terrace house in the City.
My neighbourhood, my world, hanging out, teasing the local weirdos, occasionally catching a chase from the older bullies, jumping over walls whilst avoiding the dirty needles, seeing the local drug dealers hard at work, laughing and making jokes about what we thought was ‘sex’, being dragged to the Mosque to recite a language we didn’t understand, oh and Nickelodeon was life.

Now you can probably relate right?
If you grew up working class in Bradford, it’s the same story, don’t take no shit, mind ya business and always keep your guard up.

But I was forced to question many things from an early age, my skin colour was one. I remember the first time I was called a Paki by a White kid. I was 5 years old, this kid had just called me something I didn’t understand, the only way to respond was obviously say ‘NO, you’re a Paki’!
But the teachers reaction when she overheard that shit, I knew this was deeper. But it wasn’t anything new, we had heard stories from Uncles and Parents about the skinheads that roamed our streets in the 70s and 80s looking for Pakistani people to beat up, they had a name for it ‘Paki-bashing’, but what’s in an ‘innocent little word’ huh?

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2 years later walking home from school with my Mum and Auntie and there it was, I heard it again. This time it was some dirty old White men at the local Pub ‘Fuck off you Black Bastards, Fucking Pakis go home’ they jeered in their drunken mess.

I remember my Mum bravely telling these so called Men to ‘go fuck themselves’, middle fingers up, a Strong woman with little tolerance or patience for bullshit, more on her later.

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But it didn’t stop there, every now and then I was reminded even in a predominant South Asian neighbourhood where people looked like me, ignorance raised its head and there I would hear that word, followed by more ignorant shit.

I remember the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993. I remember as a kid, feeling hurt, angry, they killed him because he was of a different skin tone, his family had origins elsewhere like mine so they killed him, cowards!
But it wasn’t a simple arrest, these sick bastards got a trial to prove their innocence and everything, political? Yup!
Every time I opened a newspaper or heard about people of colour in England being attacked, hearing those words in my head ‘Paki’ ‘Black Bastards’, it would make my blood boil, now it was beginning to make me an angry kid, angry at the state of affairs, angry at White people.

First day of high school, there it was again, now in a predominant White body setting, I heard it, I dunno, at least 5 times a day!

I started reading about what race was, what did all this shit mean, what is Black?
The only word I could compare ‘Paki’ to was ‘N****r’ but many claimed that it was different, Paki was just short for Pakistan surely? Or so the White kids in school moaned as they tried to reason with me about the use of a derogative against people of my origins.
See the ‘N’ word is a variation of the word ‘negro’ meaning black in Spanish, it came from a non derogatory nature.
However it also serves as a prime example of how a ‘variation’ or the shortening of a word can be problematic, so no, I’m sorry I don’t buy the ‘it’s short for Pakistan’ bullshit, especially when we look at the history behind the words usage in England starting around the 60s, more on this next time I promise!

I soon came across the autobiography of the late Great Malik El Shabbaz and got to know him as Malcolm Little, Detroit Red and later Malcolm X.

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I started educating myself at an early age, equipping myself with knowledge and the words of a Man who had it much worse than me, living at a time of real hardship, but he persevered.
I observed him, his life, I respected him, wished I had met him when he was alive.
What would he recommend I do? Should I trust White people?

By now Hip Hop was a major part of my life, I used writing raps to unleash my anger, my stress, I remember my earliest lyrical content, a mixture of unnecessary expletives mixed with a real disdain for White people, especially figures of authority.
My excuse was plain, you guys don’t like us, so fuck you too, I was really mad.
In High School I encountered ignorance not only from the students but racist teachers, the indirect insults, the mocking and the disrespect, one teacher even told me to grow my hair back because my ‘skinhead’ look was intimidating the White students! Wait what?
Yeah, exactly!

I was officially the angry, intimidating Asian kid!

And then in 2001 of course we had the Summer of Race riots up and down the North of UK in predominant Pakistani and Bangladeshi towns, a response to the racist EDL marches through our hometowns again protesting against the presence of my people. I remember standing in the middle of my city depicting a warzone, this didn’t look like the Bradford I knew.

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Cops on horseback launching at people, youths throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, torched cars and businesses.                       But it gave me a sense of pride, amidst the looting and criminal behaviour I finally felt like I knew what Malcolm X meant when he said “by any means necessary”. Fascists had tried to march into our hometowns and we weren’t having none of it and this wasn’t even the first Race riot in Bradford, 1995 we rioted against Police brutality in the city.

See race politics isn’t a topic of conversation for me, nor is it my excuse to play a victim or ‘play the race card’ (does anybody know what the FUCK a race card is or where I can get one?)
Race politics is what we people of colour LIVE, BREATHE AND FEEL!
My skin colour, my identity, my appearance itself in this current climate and society of modern day England IS Political.
Sound crazy? I would love for someone to tell me otherwise.

So No, I cannot and will not place my identity in a little box and lock it away so we can ignore the obvious.
No I will not remove the badge of my shoulder, the chip I wear with Pride, the chip that says ‘We’re cool, but DON’T fuck with me on this subject or You will know’

I end this with a quote from one of my Heroes;

Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.
Malcolm X

It’s been real, until next time…

I AM Bradford -.