Afzal Guru’s Execution to Invigorate Struggle for Liberation of J&K

By Usman Khalid, Director Rifah Institute of Foreign Affairs (RIFA)Usman_Khalid

Not many people know that Hindus are a minority in India. The number of those within the fold of chaturvarna i.e. four castes (Brahmin, Kashatri, Vesh and Shudara) are no more than 15% of the population of India – the same as the Muslims. The original inhabitants of India are treated as ‘untouchables’ like the shudras but their number is 65% of the population.

They are outside the caste system and were considered ‘outcastes’ until the British included them in the caste hierarchy. The indigenous outcastes, under the influence of Aryan settlers in the sub-continent, developed a caste system of their own but they did not practise Untouchability.

The indigenous outcastes are really the only real nation in India. However, the British, who had defeated the Muslim rulers to conquer the sub-continent, decided to unify the four castes with outcastes into one people. They classified the native people into three groups – Scheduled Castes (SC) 20%, Scheduled Tribes (ST) 10%, and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) 35%. Those who converted to Islam, Christianity, and the Sikh faith were called religious minorities under British rule. Over time, however, the converts also embraced a caste system of sorts. The Sikhs and Christians have separate gurudwaras and churches for lower castes. It is only the Muslims who have spurned the practice of Untouchability and the caste hierarchy.

The foreign policy of a country is the projection of its internal policy. Since the partition in 1947, the Muslims in India, who were more prosperous and socially advanced than Hindus, have fallen even below the Scheduled Castes. That is no accident; it is the result of the Muslims being treated as Untouchables and excluded from all spheres of life except the lowest.

The resentment against the high caste Hindu rulers exists not only among the Muslims but among ALL Untouchables. That would have been a potent force if sovereign Muslim states and erstwhile rulers of the sub-continent united against Hindu repression. To repress Muslims with impunity and to demonise Pakistan is the main plank of India’s policy. On occasions, in consequence of sustained subversion, collaborators of Hindus have been installed in power in every neighbouring country. When such rulers submit to the fiat of India, repression inside India becomes more severe; when they do not, India begins to talk up military threats.

Over the last five years India had its collaborators ruling in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. Bangladesh succumbed to Indian pressure and committed three grave crimes: 1) execution of officers who carried out a coup d’état on 15 August 1975 to save Bangladesh from being absorbed into India; 2) stalling on proper inquiry into Peelkhana massacre of February 2009 in which 53 senior officers of BDR were killed in a RAW sponsored clandestine operation, 3) to cover its being complicit in the massacre Hasina Administration started trial of Jamaat i Islami leaders who assisted the Pakistan Army in fighting Indian invasion in 1971.

Pakistan led by Asif Zardari kept quiet and acquiesced. The four party ruling coalition of Zardari League, MQM, ANP and JUI have interfaces for guidance and support in India. A propaganda offensive under the title of ‘aman ki aasha’ has been going on to delegitimize the Kashmiri struggle for freedom as ‘terrorism’. Zardari Administration has signed agreements to give India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia over its land compromising long held declared policy of not giving India MFN status or access to its roads until the people of J&K got their right of self determination.

But when it came to protecting Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, the military was in the driving seat and it did not allow Indian stratagem to succeed. Indian forces crossed the LoC in Kashmir to express its anger. The propaganda in the media was so shrill that another Indo-Pakistan War appeared imminent. But the nuclear deterrent of Pakistan is credible. Getting no encouragement from the USA, India backed off. But then it hanged Afzal Guru on February 9, 2013. His is a case of diabolical injustice.

The background of the case of Afzal Guru is very interesting. It was soon after 9/11 when Pakistan had a military ruler – General Musharraf – that India worked itself into frenzy with twin motives – liberating Pakistan from military rule and teaching the Pakistan Army a lesson. It needed evidence of ‘affront’ to work up a public frenzy. It decided that an attack on the Indian parliament would be ‘adequate affront’.

Several Pakistani prisoners which are plentiful in Indian jails were dressed in police uniform, driven to the lawns of the parliament building where they started shooting. Within five minutes the drama came to an end; all five ‘raiders’ were shot dead making oral evidence impossible. On the pretext of this ‘false flag’ operation, India moved the bulk of its armed forces to the border with Pakistan. The deployment lasted nearly a year but then senior generals of the Indian Army advised the Vajpayee Administration that no decisive or quick victory was possible.

After having blamed Pakistan for the raid on the parliament, it was necessary to coin a new story in which Kashmiri freedom fighters were blamed. Afzal Guru, a former militant who had surrendered and was being ‘rehabilitated’ was indicted for being the ‘master mind’ of the attack on the parliament. The charge was absurd because he was overtly under watch. He was in Srinagar at the time and he named the police officer who took him from Srinagar to Delhi. That officer was never questioned by the investigators or the courts.

This would have been a perfect alibi in any other country but it was never even considered. The conviction of Afzal Guru was the subject of an appeal in the high court and the Supreme Court of India. At no stage, the cast iron defence of Afzal Guru was given proper hearing. He made mercy appeals to two Presidents – one Muslim, one Hindu – but his appeal was rejected. He remained on death row for eight years after his last appeal ton the Supreme Court was rejected in 2005.

But his execution was delayed because it was thought that death sentence after so obviously a flawed trial would draw serious reaction in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Clearly, India has chosen to hang Afzal Guru because its intent has changed. India no longer relies on collaborators to achieve its objectives; it seeks to use pressure and blackmail in order to “teach every one a lesson”.

India is back on course of using ‘internal repression’ as a tool of ‘regional hegemony’. India is one country in the world which does not seek friendly relations with its neighbours but seeks to use the abject poverty of Kashmiris, Muslims and its outcastes with kins in neighbouring countries to establish and maintain its regional hegemony. Its foreign policy is the extension of the ‘internal hegemony’ on which the Hindu caste system is based.

New Delhi is afraid that friendly neighbours and foreign policy based on ‘sovereign equality’ of nations would exert such powerful influence within India that ‘equality’ between members of different faiths and castes would inevitably prevail. That is why arbitrary exercise of power – social as well as state power – and continuous repression, are the hallmark of the Indian society. The Hindu high castes ‘condition’ the lower castes to habitual acceptance of abuse, cruelty and excess. When there is protest or resistance, the Hindu elite resorts to what they call ‘teaching them a lesson’. This is reflected in the language of political discourse – in the press, on TV screens, in parliamentary debate, and generally in all employer-employee relations. The over-dog is forever engaged in ‘teaching the underdog a lesson’.

Since ‘teaching a lesson’ requires evidence of affront, its absence calls for Channakian techniques of distortion, outright lies and vicious propaganda. All organs of the state including the police and the judiciary see it their duty to create evidence of affront. The heavy losses in 1965 War so soon after the defeat at the hands of China in 1962, was affront enough for 1971 invasion of East Pakistan and 1973 explosion of nuclear devices. Pakistan has responded well on the battlefield but has been no match for India in the use of soft power for propaganda and subversion.

The raids across the LoC by Indian forces, the execution of Afzal Guru, mal-treatment Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, the systematic impoverishment of Muslims in India, and the colonisation of Bangladesh continue without any serious challenge from Pakistan. India sees the military of Pakistan as the power centre that stands in the way of Bangladeshization of Pakistan. That is also the line of the PPP as well as PML(N) but they call it ‘resentment and resistance’ of civil control. The people of Pakistan know the truth and repeatedly express their loyalty and love for the armed forces that have stood up to India when even their own leaders were ready to compromise and acquiesce.

India miscalculated in 1971 when it pronounced that the Two Nation Theory has been sunk in the Bay of Bengal. It miscalculated in 1973 when it thought that its nuclear bomb would give it regional hegemony in perpetuity. It tried to take advantage of outright western support over Kargil War and was overjoyed when the USA invaded Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. After the installation of collaborators in power in Bangladesh and Pakistan, India thought that its domination over the sub-continent would be unchallenged. But it got challenged well before it was established. India would continue to draw comfort from its collaborators in politics and the media. But it should learn a lesson from its campaign ‘aman ki aasha’ which unexpectedly created an environment of trust between the Untouchable majority and the Muslims.

India appears to have decided to opt for the stick instead of the carrot. The execution of Afzal Guru is yet another miscalculation. It is not going to suppress the Kashmiri struggle for freedom; it marks the beginning of another very different phase in Kashmiri fight for freedom. Henceforth, it would resemble the struggle of Afghans first against Soviet occupation and then against American occupation. No one has said it wants to teach India a lesson. But if India is to avoid a prolonged war of liberation in J&K it would follow the example of Great Britain, France and more recently of the Soviet Union and pack its bags in Kashmir before the cost of occupation became too high.

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