Friday, May 2, 2014

Determining the right to be Kashmiri or Baloch

Spoke to the boisterous Lateef Johar, who said with his mischievous smile that his mother thinks he is ignorant for not drinking juice as per the doctor's advice. Lateef belongs to Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) Azad. He is on a hunger strike. Sitting along with his comrades, in front of the Karachi Press Club for the past 12 days, he has not eaten anything. They are hopeful that someone will hear their pleas for justice and BSO Azad Chairman Zahid Baloch will be released. Their aim is to see their leader free of the shackles that have allegedly been put on by the Pakistani security agencies.

Banuk Kareema Baloch, the Vice-Chairperson of BSO Azad said that none of the mainstream political parties have shown their support so far. A thick register meant to record the voices in writing is progressing very slowly. When asked if she knew how many have signed it so far, she said she doesn't know, but the register was started only yesterday. She is a fierce voice among those who demand justice and freedom from the Pakistani State's oppression. Torture, threats, and illegal detentions are a norm, she said. The vociferous woman belongs to Turbat, a city located in southern Balochistan, within the Pakistani 'disputed territory'. Banok Kareema was awarded a five-year sentence on March 16, 2010 for arranging a protest rally on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day.

The region of Balochistan mainly includes southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran and a very small section of southwestern Afghanistan. Administratively divided between three countries - Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan - Pakistan holds the largest 'share' of the disputed territory. However, nationalists have never accepted any of the countries as their conquerors. The website run by BSO Azad clearly states that Pakistan occupied Balochistan on March 27, 1948.

The rational side of my brain says that while being a separatist and actively working against a state, expecting good behaviour either stems from naivety or extreme political savvy-ness. However, my emotional side, that grew up on feeling for the Kashmiris suffering at the hands of the Indian 'enemy', makes me want to lash out at the treatment being meted out to the Baloch. How does one strike a balance? How can I support Kashmiris and Palestinians, but forget the Baloch? If Kashmiris are suffering from illegal detentions and custodial disappearances, their bodies being dumped in unmarked graves, while women and children continue to suffer, should I not show solidarity with them? And if I do that, is it honest and justified to not extend the same to the people of Balochistan?

They say that the Indian authorities are brutal and have in the past tortured many of those who want to be independent, to death. Sometimes, they even shoot loved ones to teach a lesson. They only demand for their right of self-determination; nothing more, nothing less. Should we not stand in solidarity with our brothers in Balochistan, who are facing the same situation, but at the hands of India's enemy Pakistan?

Here is another story. Published on a Pakistani tv channel's website:
Kin of missing people in Kashmir sit on indefinite hunger strike (October 21, 2013)
Srinagar.Residents in Indian held Kashmir launched an indefinite hunger strike on Monday (October 21) to protest against the mysterious disappearances of their relatives from the strife-torn province.
People in Kashmir’s Srinagar city, took to streets with empty utensils and photographs of their missing family members who had been allegedly subjected to custodial disappearances since the eruption of militancy over the region in 1989.
Protesters said that the provincial government had been neglecting the issue and didn’t initiate any probe into the missing cases of several youths.
The protesters demanded an intervention by the federal government to deliver justice to the families of the missing people.
“Some people have been kidnapped, and a few are missing and we are unable to figure out whether they are alive or dead. We are urging the provincial government to put pressure on the federal government to find out these missing people,” a protester, Zahoor Ahmed Mir, said.
Reportedly, nearly 50,000 people have been killed and countless have disappeared in Kashmir since insurgency started in the region, which India claims is sponsored by Pakistan.
The 1958 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the country, which gives troops sweeping powers to kill suspected rebels and immunity from prosecution, applies only in Kashmir and insurgency-affected northeast India.
Human Rights groups say it has given the security forces a license to kill torture and rape with impunity in Kashmir.