Taimur agreed to be interviewed in very bad conditions, the electricity supply on his side was iffy, and the 10 hours difference means that he was typing his answers very late a night. We lost our connection several times and the time lag between each question and answer was long. Still, it is a huge pleasure for me to be able to share this interview with you. I believe that to listen to the point of view of somebody actually living in a conflict area is a great privilege and I am deeply grateful to Taimur for his time and patience.
I suppose that some readers will take issue with some of his statements, and that's fine. I ask them to post their comments and criticisms below, or to directly ask a question to Taimur who kindly agree to be available to provide his answers.
One particular request to my Indian readers: please contact me if you want to share with us your perspective on the topics discussed here. I would be delighted to interview you either by email or by IRC.
One of the primary aims of my blog is to provide good information, but good information is often also biased (there is nothing worse, at least in my experience, then the so-called "objective" or "non-biased" info we are fed by our corporate masters). This is why I often post stuff I don't agree with.
In this case, as with the case of the Kurdish conflict, I am too ignorant of it to really have an opinion. All I have is a strong desire to listen to all the sides.
Here is the *very minimally* edited transcript of my chat with Taimur (I just don't have the time to do even a halfway decent editing job now).
For convenience purpose, I am also including two maps of the region. Please click on them to get a useful resolution. BTW - maps are also a highly controversial subject in this conflict and, needless to say, I am presenting the two maps here purely FYI - without in any way endorsing anything in them.
The Saker: Hi Taimur : could you please introduce yourself in a couple of words? Where are you chatting from, how old are you, what do you do in life?
Taimur: I am 24 years old , doing my Engineering in Jammu and Kashmir. (On the Indian Side)
The Saker: What is your ethnicity and religion?
Taimur: I am Muslim and Asian
The Saker: Would you describe yourself as a Muslim by birth only, or a practicing Muslim?
Taimur: I am a Muslim by Birth and to some extend i do consider myself as Practicing Muslim
The Saker: Most of my readers know in the general lines about the long conflict in Kashmir, but in your own words, how would you describe it? What lies at the core of it?
The Saker: Is it about religion, politics, ethnicity? How do you, as a Kashmiri Muslim live it? What does this conflict mean to *you* personally?
Taimur: Yes it is combination of all of them. Kashmir is a Muslim dominated state and according to plan of partition of India, which divided the United India into a Muslim state and Hindu state, it should have acceded to Pakistan. But the ruler of Kashmir never wanted this to happen. So people in Jammu and Kashmir started to protest and demanded that they should be allowed to accede to Pakistan without delay but Maharaja Hari Singh the ruler of Kas ordered to crush the revolt against him. It was reported that around 200'000 people were massacred by Maharaja's army in Jammu. Then Pakistani tribesmen came to rescue Kashmiri Muslims but Maharaja sought help from India, India accepted on the condition that Kashmir be acceded to India which he did against the wishes of people of Kashmir. India had then promised plebiscite under UN supervision but never allowed it to happen. So the core of the conflict is this Right of Self Determination which India has denied to people of Kashmir since then.
Taimur: How do you, as a Kashmiri Muslim live it?
Taimur: It is very hard to live in an environment where you have 700'000 Indian Occupational forces always present to harass you every now and then. ID checkings, house searches, getting stranded on highways for hours due to Army convoy, curfews... every day you see unarmed civilians being killed because they demand their Right of self determination. It is really hard to resist such a torture.
The Saker: are there any Hindus or Buddhist where you live? If yes, how is your contact with them?
Taimur: No there are no Hindus in the area where i live, as all of them fled when the armed struggle against India started they now live in Jammu and in some parts of India. Buddhist live in Leh which is some 200 km away from Kashmir valley.
The Saker: are there local people who support the various security forces? are there Muslims inside the forces deployed in Kashmir?
Taimur: There are many agents who help the deployed forces, but they do it in a secret manner. But there are people who belong to pro-Indian Political parties, and they mainly provide the help that Indians need to prolong their presence in Kashmir.
The Saker: how much support do you think organizations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish e-Mohammed or Hizbul Mudjahedeen have among Muslims in Kashmir? Do most Kashmiris support the armed resistance groups, whether locally based or based in Pakistan?
Taimur: Yes they support them because they came into existence for the cause of people that is to free Kashmir from Indian Occupation.
The Saker: Does that, in turn mean, that most Muslim Kashmiris also support the type of Deobandi Islam or Wahabism which the Taliban and a strong segment of the Muslim population of Pakistan seem to adhere to?
Taimur: No, these organizations are what Hizbollah is to Lebanon or Hamas and Fatah are to Palestine. In Pakistan Lashker may have different agenda but here People only support them because they are liberators for them.
The Saker: But do you not fear that, as has happened in Bosnia and Chechnya, a Muslim national liberation movement might get taken over by Wahabi elements which would, if successful, push Kashmir into the type of nightmare which "free Republic of Ichkeria" in Chechnya turned into?
The Saker: Would they not "Talibanize" Kashmir if given the chance to?
Taimur: Kashmir is different from these "Talibanised" places it is spiritually secular, and they are mostly tolerant towards other religious minorities their present struggle is first for the liberation of Kashmir and then to establish a just-socio-monetary state. The Talibanised kind of mentality is not found in Kashmir except in small minorities.
The Saker: What is your understanding of what has really happened in the Mumbai attacks? What was the reaction in Kashmir to these attacks and did these attacks impact your daily conditions?
Taimur: It is very unfortunate that so many innocent people have been killed due few maniacs. It has in effect Kashmir because it has derailed the peace process between India and Pakistan, which in no way is good for the cause of Kashmir and if God forbid there is Kashmir will be devastated badly.
The Saker: Do you believe that Lashkar-e-Toiba was behind these attacks? Some people, many in Pakistan, have claimed that these attacks are a "false flag' operation by the CIA, Israel or the Indians themselves
Taimur: Kashmir was shocked like rest of the world and these attacks have created anxiety in the people of Kashmir about their future. It can't be proven [who is responsible] before a proper judicial investigation is done. We can just speculate. But as far as the ideology of Lashker-e-toiba goes they don't believe in targeting civilians even in Kashmir they have never targeted Indian forces near civilian population.
The Saker: how about the attacks on the Indian Parliament? was that not the action of Kashmiris?
Taimur: Could have been but no evidences has so far been found.
The Saker: you are a student, right?
The Saker: what percentage of students do you believe are involved in political actions (whether peaceful or armed)?
Taimur: In the recent uprising which was termed as second Intefada of Kashmir....there were hundreds and thousand of young students who came out in support of Azadi (freedom)... from that i would put the number in between 50-75%
The Saker: how about those who never were involved in *any* way. have they also be detained or interrogated by the security forces?
Taimur: Yes, there are many incidents were minors of age 8 were picked up by Army and they never returned. Civil societies say that there are some 10,000 people who have been picked up or arrested by Army which never returned back and neither their whereabouts could be verified.
The Saker: I am going to ask you a cruel question: how many people do you *personally* know who were a) killed/disappeared b) detained/kidnapped and released c) tortured d) lawfully arrested, interrogated by not mistreated
Taimur: How can i say there are hundreds of them.....
The Saker: no, I mean among people you know personally, among your relatives, friends and neighbors and fellow students
Taimur: My paternal Uncle was arrested, tortured and then released. My friend was arrested during a protest and lated released with broken rib and arm, One of my neighbors throat was slit during a curfew when he was moving out to get some food for his family. there are many I cant count them all
The Saker: would you say that this also applies to most families in Kashmir?
Taimur: Almost all, everybody has lost someone and everybody has been tortured in one way or other, One of my cousins was burnt alive on National Highway, far back in early 90's
The Saker: is the situation different in Jammu and, if yes, in what way?
Taimur: Yes, it is different because it is a Hindu dominated area. before 1947 it had some 60% Muslim population but on October 10, 1947 the Maharaja, under `his own supervision, got assassinated 237,000 Muslims, using military forces, in Jammu area. The editor of "Statesman" Ian Stephen, in his book "Horned Moon" wrote that till the end of autumn 1947, more than 200,000 Muslims were assassinated. Rest fled to Pakistan. Now there is only 30-40%
Taimur: population in Jammu which lives in villages and far off places.
The Saker: do people travel from Jammu and Kashmir back and forth? have you been there? is there a contact between the Hindus from Jammu and the Muslims in Kashmir? And would you say that the situation is better or worse for Muslims in Jammu
Taimur: Yes, It is actually winter capital of Kashmir and all the Government offices are shifted to Jammu. I do visit Jammu and there are contacts between Hindus and Muslims. But Muslims of Jammu ( not those who go there during winters on official duty ) are not at all better because they are in constant threat of communal violence that erupts sometimes. During the recent uprising which occurred due to blockade of Kashmir by Hindus of Jammu, it was reported that many houses of Muslims have been burnt, many fled to Kashmir Valley. So, it won't be correct to say that they are better off than Muslim from Kashmir Valley.
The Saker: what websites could you recommend to those who are interested in learning more about all the events you are describing and about what is going on on a daily basis in Kashmir and Jammu?
Taimur: There are many websites i will list some of them: www.kashmirwatch.com, www.kmsnews.org, www.hizbmedia.com, www. greaterkashmir.com, www.jkccs.org, www.jkth.org, www.kashmirobserver.com these are few of them where you can find about the history of Kashmir conflict and daily news.
The Saker: what do you think is the most important thing for us, outside Kashmir, to understand about what is going on?
Taimur: People living outside Kashmir should inform people about the Human Rights Violations in Kashmir, they should write letters to their leaders to pressure UN to implement the Resolutions passed by them about Kashmir, protest in front of Indian embassies in their countries and discourage Indian Occupation of Kashmir. They should show solidarity with the people of Kashmir whenever and wherever they can.
The Saker: What do you think is the most likely future for Pakistan, India and Kashmir? What do you think will happen in the next couple of years?
The Saker: best case? worst case? likely case?
Taimur: I would like to see Pakistan and India like America and Canada, neighbors and friends. But it doesn't seem to be happening like that sometimes it seems that a war may start start any time, but the most likely scenario may be a status quo or a political impasse, in which nobody wins and everybody loses.
The Saker: what about your personal hopes, for yourself? how do you see your future? are you considering leaving Kashmir and, if yes, where would you want to go and, if no, then what kind of life do you hope for in Kashmir?
Taimur: After finishing my studies I would like to move abroad as there are no avenues here in Kashmir, there are no jobs, there are no companies where i could get paid decently... But at the same time I feel that if I move out I would betray the blood of those who have laid there life for the sake of Kashmir
The Saker: being an Indian citizen, do you think that you could find a better life in the rest of India, away from the conflict zone?
Taimur: I don't consider my self as an Indian citizen.... but if I go out to India I would definitely find a better life .... but peace of mind ....i don't believe that can happen ..... haw can have peace of mind when people would be dying in my own country...
The Saker: I understand. But how would you, a Kashmiri Muslim expect to be treated in the rest of India? Would most Indians welcome you as they would another Indian Muslim or do you think that being a Kashmiri the security forces would still see you with suspicion?
Taimur: Yes there have been cases where many Kashmiri Muslims were arrested on mere suspicion by Indian Intelligence Agencies and it can or i may say will happen to me as well , but being a Muslim it will be same all over the world ....Muslims around the world are seen as terrorists.
The Saker: You say that Muslims around the world are seen as terrorists, and you are obviously correct, but whom do you blame for this?
Taimur: Corporate Media....
The Saker: and not Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, the Wahabis in Chechnya, the Talibans ,etc. etc. etc.?
Taimur: They are all creation of America.... Bin Laden was made hero of Afghan war by Americans, Taliban was brain child of the war-lords of Afghan war, and Wahabis came into existence only after Saudis were given the Kingdom ship of Arabia by England.
The Saker: You are absolutely right, I fully agree with you. But still, Wahabism/Deobandism/Salafism/Qutbism etc. were not ideological creations of the USA, were they? So there was an ideological streak in Sunni Islam which was a good basis for the USA to raise up these groups and their followers, no?
Taimur: next question
The Saker: ok
Taimur: Five hours from now Kashmir will be under curfew because people would protest against India after Friday prayers ...
The Saker: what kind of curfew will that be? what kind of conditions are imposed during a curfew?
Taimur: we are not allowed to move out of our houses.. it not an officially declared curfew but an unofficial on... if people come out they are beaten especially young. old ones can come out and get the necessary food items....actually there are elections going on... tomorrow is not election but it is Friday a day when Muslims gather in masses in the mosques... so there are greater chances of protest ... Indian forces simply impose curfew...
The Saker: but how do the authorities inform the population of an "unofficial" curfew?
Taimur: They don't inform us .... Army persnonel are present on every nook and corner of the city special the old city.... from sunrise to sunset
Taimur: they just don't allow us to move
The Saker: then how do you know they plan this for tomorrow? is that something which happens each Friday?
Taimur: Yes it happens on every Friday.. or some Leader visit from India ... or during election.... anything when they fear that people may come out on streets and protest.......recently when a boy was crushed on Lawaipora Road by and Indian Army vehicle..... People came out to protest Police came fired some teargases and dispersed the crowd took the body and later gave it to there parents in the evening so that they can bury them....
The Saker: how often do Fridays turn into open clashes between the population and the security forces or between the security forces and the armed groups? How often do Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish e Mohammed or Hizbul Mudjahedeen attack the security forces?
Taimur: There are regular Friday protests and the are worst that those we saw in Greece at least they get media coverage here Media has been banned from showing that.. Lashker, Hizbul Mudjahedeen, and others don't do that they attack Army sometimes in their camps or on an army convoy.... these protests are between unarmed protesters and Indian Forces And Police
The Saker: so all of Kashmir comes to a standstill each Friday?
Taimur: Not all but main towns, where there are big mosques and only at few places it is not like a Filmy war but Palestinian type of stone war .... .........Hundreds of boys get injured but they don't provide us Ambulances people take them on bikes .... you see in Palestine at least there they have the Red Cross and Red Crescent
The Saker: do the security forces then raid the hospitals or clinics to arrest the participants?
Taimur: Not always because it will definitely create a chain reaction of protests.... During recent uprising I was present at SHMS hospital where hundreds of protesters were being treated who got injured in a rally...... Police threw teargas shells into emergency ward ...Doctors couldn't do anything... it was all smoke and tears...
The Saker: how is the situation with communications in Kashmir? Where does the population get most of its information? Can you watch Pakistani TV or Pakistani radios or at they jammed?
The Saker: how many people have access to the Internet and how many actually use it to communicate or get information?
Taimur: We have cable TV and those Direct To Home services available here....... we can get information from any part of the world Pakistani Radio is Jammed but Pakistani Channels can be watched but sometimes they are banned.......... internet came only few years back ...almost 3 or 4 years back...so internet penetration is less... cities have the facility....
Taimur: But the news from other parts of Kashmir is hard to get those news items are banned or blacked out...
The Saker: how about communications *inside* Kashmir? Do the armed opposition groups have any means to contact the general population? Underground papers for example?
Taimur: There are actually Political Wings and Armed Wings.... Armed wings do not communicate with people it is the Job of Political wings.
The Saker: ok. but are the political wings legal?
Taimur: I don't know about their legality that is if they are registered with the government .. i will tell you later about that... but they do exist openly.... but mostly the Leaders of these groups are arrested or put under house arrest... they are not allowed to hold rallies when they do that ... Army comes and disperses them by force and arrest the leaders...
Taimur: There is a single amalgamation of Rebel parties Known as All Parties Hurryat (freedom) Conference that leads the struggle
Taimur: by rebel i mean rebel against Indian Regime, of course
The Saker: In Turkey there is a law which actually makes it illegal to in any way undermine the unity of Turkey. How about India, which is considered the "biggest democracy on the planet"? If it legal to peacefully advocate a) human rights in Kashmir b) autonomy for Kashmir c) a secession of Kashmir?
The Saker: Are there laws (as opposed to policies) in India against separatism?
Taimur: Kashmir is not technically part of India... It Holds a special status.. it has its own constitution and own flag..... It was temporarily acceded to India which was only responsible for Defense, External affairs and currency.... but they made it their colony...they promised a Plebiscite but they have denied it since then... that is what we are fighting for
The Saker: I understand. But would it be legal for an Indian political party *outside Kashmir* to advocate the secession of Kashmir? And what about a Kashmiri political party inside Kashmir, could is openly and legally advocate secession?
Taimur: No Indian Party outside Kashmir advocates secession of Kashmir.....and all those who advocate it inside Kashmir are presently in Jail ... or under house arrest... rather whole of Kashmir is under house arrest ( a collective imprisonment) so where comes this legality . it is a mess out here there are no laws no Legalities nothing ....... it is a jungle.......
The Saker: In Palestine there is an amazing Israeli human right organization called B'Tselem which monitors the human right situation in occupied Palestine. Are there similar Indian organizations which monitor the human right situation in Kashmir and Jammu?
Taimur: There are activists like Arundhati Roy, Gautam Navlakha, and others who write about Human rights Violations in Kashmir. Many civil societies also do keep some kind of record but there is no such organization like Bait u Saleem
Taimur: In Kashmir there is one JKCCS.org but their activists are attacked by unknown persons and all sorts of things are done to them. One of their activists was Asiya jeelani killed in a blast in her vehicle ...Parveez Imroz was attacked recently at that time activists from Delhi had come who also were detained for a long time......he heads jkccs
The Saker: one more question: after a publish this interview, would you be available to answer any follow-up questions to you in the comments section of my blog, under our chat?
Taimur: okay... i will be available
The Saker: Many many thanks for your time and patience!
The Saker: bye and good night. Peace to you!