For us, Azadi (independence) means not just getting rid of foreign occupation of our beloved motherland but also to remove hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease and to overcome economic and social deprivation. One day, we shall achieve that Azadi
—Maqbool Bhat, founder of JKLF, hanged by Indian authorities in Tihar jail in 1984
This blog is part of the Facebook group Kashmir Solidarity Network. It brings together new material on Kashmir in the form of writings, reportage, and poems, while also providing links to other sources of relevance.
Since its inception, Kashmir Solidarity Network (KSN) has evolved from being a forum for articulating Kashmiri political demands, like an end to the Indian military occupation and creation of conditions in which a just solution for ‘the Kashmir problem’ could emerge, with the hope to develop an informed international solidarity with the people of Kashmir (see the original note below), to an arena that primarily seeks to build a radically democratic and independent future for Kashmir. This future of freedom for Kashmir involves a deep external and internal transformation. Externally it involves a renegotiation of Kashmir’s ties with South Asia on the basis of equality and friendship, and a simultaneous re-situation of Kashmir’s place in its broader Asian context—a context that has been truncated by the 64 years of Indian rule and military colonization. Internally, to achieve for Kashmir a radically democratic future involves a continuous move toward and realization of an ethical vision that all of Kashmir’s inhabitants, in spite of differences, can equally belong to, and experience as real, substantive freedom, and which draws from the inclusive, open, and deeply loved of the Kashmir’s spiritual, scholarly, ethical and aesthetic traditions and their plural histories. This look inward, therefore, is at the same time a gesture of engagement with the world, which emerges from a profound sense of hospitality and responsibility, as well as a firm belief in the equality of all peoples around the world in charting their own futures.
For KSN, only Azadi has the ethical and political legitimacy required to adequately address the fundamental questions of justice in a multilingual, multireligious Kashmir. There can be no ethical or logical argument against Azadi, and therefore Azadi forms the point of departure for all political and philosophical discussions on Kashmir. This Azadi, which even in its inner polysemy remains firmly and inseparably based in the idea of freedom and independence, is that radical democratic future that KSN seeks to build, nurture, and achieve.
Any real solidarity, with its twin meanings of solidifying and putting ones scholarly, intellectual and artistic weight behind a movement, and at the same time suturing the breaches and fractures in Justice, with the people of Kashmir would involve a solidarity with the vision of Azadi.
Kashmir Solidarity Network (KSN) was formed in July 2010 to protest the killings of more than 15 civilians in Kashmir at the hands of Indian armed forces (the number of people killed has since risen to 115). These killings were systematic in nature, a consequence of long-standing military occupation of Kashmir, and Indian government’s deliberate manipulation of the Kashmir question as a law and order issue instead of one of national right to self-determination.
Indian government’s policies, directly and indirectly, muzzle democratic space and free deliberations in Kashmir. Severe restrictions that the Indian government has put in place for many years against people assembling and freely voicing their opinion, is always fraught with violent implications. KSN protests military responses to democratic expression of the people in Kashmir, and denounces the politically –motivated labeling of the legitimate dissent of Kashmiris as criminal. KSN believes that these policies deny any chance for a vast majority of people in India, and elsewhere, to engage in a meaningful and open dialogue with Kashmiris. KSN believes a democratic, deliberative political process, with Kashmiris as the primary constituents, conducted in a free and fair atmosphere, which requires immediate demilitarization, de-weaponization, and revoking of emergency laws, like AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act, is essential to create conditions in which solution to the political status and future of Kashmir and Kashmiris can emerge.
KSN sees struggles in Kashmir as intimately connected with movements of social and political justice in the rest of South Asia, movements that are crucial to creating and deepening people’s democracy in South Asia. It is to this end that KSN seeks to generate wider public interest in Kashmir, and help develop an educated and informed solidarity for the people of Kashmir across the world. KSN seeks to build alliances with other ongoing movements around the world that are struggling to achieve democracy, freedom and equality.