Reading the news on Monday, I was struck by an editorial in The Nation on the Kashmir crisis. While nothing in the piece was particularly new, it was the tone of one sentence that grabbed my attention from the page:
While the Pakistani press calls these flag raisers “leaders”, the Indian media calls them “separatists”, and we know what happens to separatists.
Coming days after Gen Raheel gave serious warnings to anyone showing any modicum of sympathy for Baloch separatists, and soon after an academic conference on Balochistan was shut down by ISI, I could not help but to read this statement as having a threatening tone. However this editorial is not about Balochistan, it is about Kashmir.
The current situation in Balochistan is often compared to what took place in Bangladesh, and there are, sadly, many commonalities between the two. Reading this sentence in an editorial about Kashmir, though, I was reminded of how many commonalities there are between Indian oppression in that region and our own treatment of our Baloch brothers. Take this section of the editorial:
Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks revealed that the International Committee of the Red Cross had briefed US officials in Delhi in 2005 about the use of torture from 2002-2004 by security forces against hundreds of detainees suspected of being connected to or having information about militants in Kashmir. There is a long history of torture and abuse of Kashmiris.
On Sunday, two Indian policemen were arrested for the killing of a teenage boy during the weekend protests. Locals and rights groups feel that such investigations rarely yield results and are aimed only at calming public anger, the crisis of human rights will continue unabated. While Jammu and Kashmir may indeed have had mass participation in elections held under Indian auspices, the participation was not an act of choice due to the fact that voices of those like the Hurriyat are side-lined or silenced. Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP wants to bring the Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian mainstream, while its regional partner, the People Democratic Party, supports self rule.
In February 2014, the US State Department released its 2013 Human Rights Report: Pakistan which includes extensive discussion of Pakistan security forces committing acts of torture and extrajudicial killings against Baloch nationalists and other Pakistani citizens. Just as some dismiss the legitimacy of elections in Jammu and Kashmir under Indian auspices, so too were there protests against alleged rigging and manipulations in Balochistan elections. Just as we complain about the right to freedom of speech for Hurriyat leaders, we also dismiss the right to freedom of speech for Mama Qadeer and other Baloch activists.
Obviously, this comparison will be easily dismissed by those who subscribe to the belief that Kashmir is disputed territory assigned to India by an illegitimate British colonialist while Balochistan was given to Pakistan fair and square by Lord Mountbatten. The fact remains, though, that making policy from a position of political convenience instead of consistent principles cannot succeed. Otherwise, each time we say “…we know what happens to separatists”, we will be responded with, “yes, you certainly do…”