I recall being in Kashmir during the winter of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant's attack on the Indian parliament in 2001. Fighter jets ripped through the crisp sky towards the Line of Control, LoC, separating Indian and Pakistan. Soldiers on the streets gripped their guns, eyes red with fear. Kashmiris waited, helplessly. It seemed the valley was bracing itself for its final breath, at the hands of its neighbors. Today, in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, India and Pakistan are right back where they were in 2001 and Kashmir is again bracing herself. It is alleged the terrorists were trained in Pakistan and member to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, which has staged operations against Indian forces in disputed Kashmir. These allegations, if true, may result in retaliatory measures by India, resulting in further militarization of the Line of Control in Kashmir thereby jeopardizing the security of Kashmiris helplessly sandwiched between the two rival nuclear powers, Indian and Pakistan.
As a Muslim, as a Kashmiri-American, as a human being, I am outraged at the actions of the terrorists who have killed more than a 150 innocent people and injured hundreds. I ask the extremists and their supporters reading this, what have your cowardly actions achieved? The terrorists' actions have again claimed innocent lives under the name of Islam. Their irrational behavior and inhumanity have marginalized the grievances of the very victims they claim to be acting on behalf of, such as those in Kashmir and Iraq. Terrorists have again contaminated the world's image of the religion they claim to surrender to, and the militants again exacerbate the political situation of the Muslim victims they claim to help. To the militants and their supporters I say, you have again worked against the very peace and stability Kashmiris in Indian-administered Kashmir yearn for, and have died for.
International media reports have sprinkled Kashmir within the coverage of the Mumbai attacks, claiming the terrorist's sympathy for the conflict in the embattled Muslim dominated region of Kashmir, where 70,000 Kashmiris have been killed, and over 8,000 Kashmiris have disappeared since 1989. We, as a Kashmiri community must make clear that Kashmiris are against violence on innocents, and we condemn the attacks in Mumbai. Kashmiris and the civil society of Kashmir have endured crimes against humanity and attacks like today's from both Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri militant groups, since 1989. Kashmiris, and the Kashmiri civil society seek justice and accountability and peace for Kashmir, all of India, and the region. An example of Kashmiri civil society's resolve for peace and justice can be seen from the mass civil demonstrations last August, in which over 50 unarmed Kashmiri protesters were killed by state security forces during non-violent demonstrations. Despite the beatings and shootings, Kashmiris marched on and the maintained non-violent protest in the face of bullets and batons. The actions of those brave marchers made manifest Kashmiris' desire for a peaceful, political solution to the conflict. In addition, since President Elect Obama's recent statements that he is looking to resolve the political roots of the Kashmir conflict, Kashmiris all over have been given hope for peace and justice. Kashmiris, therefore, see militant attacks, like the one witnessed in Mumbai, as jeopardizing the political efforts of Kashmiris and the international community.
What I hope the world understands is that Kashmiris are against terrorism being that Kashmiris are themselves victims of terror on a daily basis. The terrorists seek to skew the lines of religion and national identity, and humanity and their deplorable actions end up creating more enemies for the causes they to claim to die to for. And now, fear of an Indo-Pak war has returned.
I am reminded of the nature of India and Pakistan's relationship in a line from Inheritance of Loss, by acclaimed South Asian writer Kiran Desai: "This war was not, after all, satisfying; it could never go deep enough, the crick was never cracked, the itch was never scratched; the irritation built on itself, and the combatants itched all the more."
India and Pakistan may revisit talk of war and further endanger the region with tit-for-tat violence. Or, they may both realize that they battle the same forces of extremism and terrorism. First, Pakistan should take swift action to hunt down those involved with the Mumbai attacks. Second, India and Pakistan must work towards combating terrorist hideouts. Both nations, above all else, must not yield in their efforts for peace, a peace that should incorporate the views and wishes of the Kashmiri people whose lives will undoubtedly be affected by the decisions India and Pakistan will take henceforth.
Be they Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Christian; American, British, Indian, or Pakistani, we Kashmiris pray for what every man and woman desires: a collective humanity, living under peace, justice, and accountability.
I would like to extend my condolences and prayers to the victims and the families of those affected by the heinous terrorist acts in Mumbai this week.