• TimePix photo of cover provided kindly from Time and Life Magazines without their permission in breach of copyright.


Kashmir's unholy war

By James Travers-Murison, Australian News Syndicate Freelance travel photojournalist Pass No. 3104.

Photographic slides of Kashmir available contact UOCA:


Indian soldier on border 1965 photo courtesy Life Magazine

                                                       Srinigar River dawn

This is an article on Kashmir. In 1993 I visited Kashmir where my British Raj grandparents married. I enjoyed the local hospitality and ironically met Islamic militants and in August 1998 I interviewed the UK General Secretary of the JKLF. I hope you appreciate it was a long time ago that I visited Kashmir. Slowly it is returning to peace again after 20 years of civil war. The main militant groups have rejected violence now. However in light of September 11, the nuclear bomb tests in Pakistan in 1999 and Benazir Bhutto's assassination in late 2007 and Iran's nuclearisation, problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, and the Jasmine revolution throughout the Middle East, I believe this story has some relevance to resolving the war on terror against fundamentalist Islamic faith as it seems that Bin Laden's war stemmed also from Kashmir and not just Afghanistan or Palestine.

The failure of the US to assist in Kashmir's independence particularly that indifference leading to the failed Pakistan invasion of 1999, I believe was a crucial factor leading to the plot to destroy the WTC though they had been trying to destroy the towers since an attempted bombing of the building in the mid 1990s. The election of Bush and his indifference to peace in any of the Islamic world and his desire to pull back US forces and become more isolationist, beginning with Bosnia, yet still keeping the presence of US soldiers in Saudi; the failure of the peace process in Palestine after Clinton and again Bush’s indifference to negotiating a deal there. All these cumulative factors may have turned what was just a general plan or plot into a fully operational attack on US soil with possibly the final go-ahead given by someone or group far higher up than Bin Laden in the Islamic power structure - most likely from a Saudi-Jordan aristocracy secret society given Bin Laden was from Saudi aristocracy and most of the hijackers were Saudis, there is no doubt S11 went far beyond Afghanistan and the Taliban; given the large sale of shares by wealthy Muslims on the stockmarket just prior to the attack many rich Muslims knew it was coming.

Kashmir is far closer to home for the Taliban than Israel. Therefore it is essential to understand Kashmir in order to understand Al Qaeda, which although an international terrorist organisation was based in fundamentalist Taliban controlled Afghanistan in 2001. Osama no doubt was also acting out of revenge for the Clinton cruise missile attack that killed Osama’s wife in Afghanistan after he had blown up the US embassies in Kenya. But it was essentially Islamic fundamentalism that viewed America as the devil full of promiscuity and evil freedoms to do as you please that ideologically propelled the Al Qaeda Jihad. Bin Laden must have been influenced by Kashmir’s plight being so close to that war zone in 2001 and he must have assisted the training of mujahedeen to go and fight there.

Militants from the notorious drug haven of Swat valley near Pakistani Kashmir appear to have killed Bhutto in 2007, no doubt with links to foreign jihadi groups, Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah involved in Kashmir, who Bhutto had threatened to crack down on. Speaking by satellite phone from the South Waziristan tribal area, a senior militant commander named Haji Muhamad Omar called Bhutto an agent of Washington. "She doesn't come back by her own choice. The United States and Britain are bringing her back to fight against the mujahedin," he said just after she returned from exile. Perhaps the killers were more concerned about a general crackdown on their tribal power bases in Pakistan, and also their ability to supply of arms and troops to the Taliban in Afghanistan, but unresolved Kashmir would also have driven them as Bhutto was for a more peaceful approach with resolving Kashmir with India.

In 2009, Pakistan came close to disintegration as civil war broke out as Bhutto’s husband Zardari in power fought major battles against the Pathan and Obama as US President focused on Afghanistan with the surge in 2010, retaliation began with the Swat Valley military operation by the Pakistani Army. This was almost over when he launched another assault into the tribal lands of the Pathan in Waziristan to drive the Taliban out. This hasn’t spelt the end for the Taliban as we know them, who are regrouping as Western forces leave Afghanistan and despite Bin Laden's death by US Forces in 2011. He was located near a military academy not far from Kashmir in Pakistan. The connections are too great to ignore.

The US pull out of Afghanistan starting in 2012, halted in 2015 with 8,000 troops remaining due to the Taliban immediately regaining temporary control of cities such as Kunduz with a few hundred fighters against thousands of trained Afghan soldiers who have no will to fight as the government predictably began to collapse. Mutiny is a likely possibility. Reforms pushed through by Westerners including land reform which Karzai exploited have added to a lack of public support to the moderates. Ghani who replaced him has called for holy war against corruption. They are going to have to make peace with the moderates in the Taliban otherwise the corrupt current leader will fall just as the Soviet sponsored government collapsed in the early 90s.This is going to be a very long process as the Taliban is going to see no need to compromise if they can easily overthrow the regime, so to prevent this a regional peace keeping force is necessary coming from local Islamic nations to replace the NATO forces.

However the issue of Kashmir will not go away regardless. The fact that an Islamic state exists within India that should have been part of Pakistan cannot be ignored and once the extremists in the Taliban have been defeated and more rational approaches to diplomacy are adopted then perhaps sense can come back to the whole region and a legal civilian approach be taken to resolving Kashmir. One way to defeat the extremists may not be through force of arms but by addressing real greviences in the region. And this includes Kashmir.

Independence for Kashmir from India could be a strong negotiating tool in ending the war on terror that the Taliban moderates may understand as a fair exchange in ending terrorist attacks on the West. This combined with setting up an independent and prosperous Palestine excluding Israeli troops may seal the deal. And perhaps then the Jasmine Revolution will become a reality in bringing world peace as well as ending so much of the tyranny and exploitation within Islamic countries. To date things are not going well for that change in Islam. Initially there was hope with the people overthrowing tyrants in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and a major civil war against Assad in Syria. However, The Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt went a little too far in supporting rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and then imposing dictator like Presidential powers. A coupe resulted no doubt supported by the USA and a reversion back to the military right wing tyranny of the past. Libya ousted Gaddafi with Western airstrikes when he had rejected terrorism and made peace with the West. But quickly the situation turned to anarchy with Al Qaeda groups in partial control. The West as a result refused to support Syria’s revolution with airstrikes, but the result had been even worse. ISIS has developed invading Iraq with war between Sunni and Shi’ite in the most barbaric form. In 2014 rather than attack corrupt Assad, the West has been forced to launch airstrikes against ISIS. And in 2015, this led to Russia supporting Assad in airstrikes against everyone including moderates. A mass infrastructure collapse has occurred in Syria with millions of refugees now invading Europe. The worst scenario has eventuated for the world, and like Murphy’s law it had to happen. An entire nation has been destroyed and the worst form of Islamic fundamentalism has come to the fore.

The lesson may be that democracy and human rights don’t work in the Middle East. Better the tyrant you know than the terrorist organisation you don’t. It appears regardless that Obama in particular has failed disastrously in dealing with Islamic Middle East. The Jasmine Revolution is not over, but it has been hijacked by extremists. The question is whether it is possible to negotiate with them, or one has to simply destroy them. The West slowly seems to be taking the latter approach, not very successfully or decisively. The issue is how can the Jasmine Revolution by turned round so that it works for the benefit of all and creates democracy and tolerance rather than jihadis. The only way to answer this is to get in the minds of the extremists like ISIS and find out what makes them tick, whether there is any possibility of reasoning with them, and how that can be done through finding out what their real grievances are. Whether it is possible to have moderates change their organisations so peace is possible like with Islamic Brotherhood, or whether they are unchangeable in their goal to make the entire planet a fundamentalist Islamic state of medieval feudal lore.

Going to the core of Islamic terrorism and theologically as well as ideologically understanding what is going on and then winning that battle of the mind is the only real solution. Like the Protestant Reformation, it was not easy and a few hundred years of bitter civil war ensued in Europe. How can we avoid that? European Christians had to learn to tolerate each other even if religious views differed and not to force others to believe their views even if they were convinced they were right. This has to be the change of consciousness necessary in Islamic thinking.  

... if the divine deck of destiny cards can be played correctly then a change in consciousness in Islam may manifest for the better. But it does not just depend on Islam, it depends equally on Hindu India and Jewish Israel - the two cradles and bastions of the opposing World religions. Everyone shall have to make a sacrifice if they want justice and peace. And the Pakies more than anyone else know how to fix a match... whether it's cricket or not. Imran Khan may be the man to hit the six and Malik giving up violence in the JKLF may just bowl the hat trick the world needs to have India relinquish the Ashes of Kashmir - perhaps through a special Commonwealth of the Sub Continent; Bangladesh, India, Kashmir, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

I return to Kashmir in order to glean an understanding of the Islamic mind and consciousness, that may assist in the process of negotiating that change in fundamentalist mentality that has created terror on this planet. I do this because Kashmir is clearly an example of failure of power by the United Nations that resulted in an injustice to a minority, failure in the British transitioning power to India, by ignoring human rights and votes and instead leaving decisions up to Maharajas. That was a product of Britain’s own unequal class structure in 1947. But one has to understand the history to understand the present. And it is out of valid injustice that the Kashmiri people seek independence from India. The failure in 70 years to rectify this lack of self determination for a people has led to continued civil strife. A BJP led by the anti-Muslimist Modi and communalism attacking Muslims in India for eating beef in 2015, has not helped ease the tensions forged by Congress. The fact is Hindus would never tolerate an entire region or state that was by vast majority Hindu, under Pakistan and would no doubt demand its return very forcefully. Double standards is in play with India.

So one has to factor into the Islamic mind the reality that they have been mistreated by others.  In Kashmir and also in Palestine and Bosnia. There are valid reasons for them to feel discriminated against. These are largely territorial disputes based on religion. But one has to go deeper than territory to the religion itself and to the way of perceiving the world. My discussions and experience in Kashmir in 1993 and later, gives an inkling as to the operation of their mind and way of doing things. Explains perhaps why they are so easily influenced by extremism, and how it triggers something in their brain associated with Allah, that can turn a normal person into a terrorist extremist. One has to go deep into the indoctrination of what it means to be a Muslim to garner this. One has to distinguish between truth and egoistic boasting and manipulation. Between propaganda spread on both sides to win an argument and what is objectively actually happening. One has to see the psychological state of the mind to control the emotions and the level of development that is at. The level of self control and the educative intelligence to not be manipulated by religion or even politics. The Kashmiris are very hospitable people, but like many Muslims a small slight can cause passions to rise quickly along with feuds. But they also settle down quickly as well. They are emotionally sensitive. They tend to boast even if it gets them into trouble unnecessarily. They have an aggressive violent side that seems to enjoy violence. They are devout to their religion, but happily breach its ethics and rules all the time to fulfil sense pleasure and greed. They have a form of brotherly loyalty though often fight each other. They are clever at business and tough negotiators, though love to charm and smooth a deal out. In many ways they are fair in their deals as they look more to what you have and being able to share it with them, rather than a fixed price, though this is often construed by people as cheating and greed – it is a fine line. They are not really fanatical Muslim believers out to die for a faith, more simply want to rule themselves in a fairly moderate friendly way. This may be partly due to their strong association with Hindus for a thousand years and adopting some of that yogic detachment. My time spent with them and interview of one of the more intelligent militants showed to me that they weren’t insane barbaric people. That they had practical grievances that anyone would be unhappy about. And that there were solutions possible.

The fact is if Kashmir were resolved it would largely end the cold war between India and Pakistan. The stabilisation caused by that would have an influence on Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and bringing regional stability there if the Taliban could be appeased by a regional peace deal involving Kashmir. With Iran controlling its nuclear program and sanctions ending allowing normalisation to occur there. Then the flow on effect to Iraq and Syria, if combined with a Palestine state deal with Israel, may alter the balance of power against ISIS. ISIS being such hardline fundamentalists it is hard to envision negotiating with them, however a fracture in the organisation if it is under severe pressure to survive, may see it break apart and Muslims that are wanting peace and more capable of rational thought from ISIS, if Assad can be persuaded to stand down and allow elections monitored by the UN, there may be a chance of an implosion of ISIS and a ceasefire in Syria followed by a truth and reconciliation commission to end the conflict. If the Kurds and Iraqis can be brought into that along with Turkey, then a Kurdish state could be formed and Turkey may have to relinquish some territory for that as well. A complete reorganisation of borders along ethnic religious lines is required in the Middle East to end this global war on terror. Probably Iraq is best split into north and south along Sunni and Shi’ite lines. And out of this the UN needs to be empowered with a new constitution giving new definitions to human rights and in particular create UN Force to intervene quickly where a nation is in gross breaches of human rights. The initial means to achieve these massive goals and changes in state boundaries, may well first need to come in Kashmir and with India proving and setting the example of tolerance, justice and non-violent self determination as their Hindu religion professes so strongly.

Osama escaped and lived effectively in Pakistan controlled Kashmir with covert support from the locals and no doubt the local military commanders. Hence the US didn’t inform Pakistan of the mission to kill him. He fled there because he knew he had support, so there is no doubt that Osama had good relations with Kashmiris training them for years. How much he was influenced to attack the US for the failed war in Kashmir in 1999 is conjecture. No doubt it was a factor along with many others. But not long after his death in May 2011, the JKLF decided to make peace with India. His removal and influence on the Kashmiris being gone, may have been a factor in Malik’s decision.

Srinagar, July 28 2011: The Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Muhammad Yasin Malik said Kashmiris, on the call of international community, made a positive historical transition from violence to non-violence and were now struggling very peacefully and in a democratic way. "Now it is the responsibility of the international community to persuade India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue, he said.

JULY 22, 2002 / VOL. 160 NO. 2
'I Never Feel Scared' Exclusive Interview: TIME talks to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf

TIME: What would it take to make progress on the Kashmir issue?

Musharraf: Nothing is going to happen if there is no sincerity. We are killing each other every day. So what nonsense is this that there is no issue? And that is where, I would say, the United States comes in. U.S. involvementreally, it must be there.

SRINAGAR, Kashmir (CNN) 02.0ct.2001 -- A suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into the main gate of the state legislature building in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Monday afternoon. At least 29 people were killed in the explosion and subsequent fighting with rebels...

Security officials said there was some intelligence information suggesting that many of the rebels, who include Afghan fighters, had been asked to withdraw to their home base to fight a possible strike by the United States on Afghanistan.

Guerrilla groups, however, have denied that any of the Islamic fighters were heading out of Kashmir Valley.

Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani was quoted as saying the global war on terrorism would eventually target Pakistani bases of guerrillas operating in Kashmir.

Advani told the Business Standard newspaper that the United States had assured the government it would strike against camps in Pakistan where Muslim guerrillas fighting Indian forces in Kashmir are trained.

"Phase two will include operations against cross-border terrorism in Kashmir," he said. "At the end of this chapter, militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is bound to lose its sting."

map courtesy BBC News


KASHMIR 1993: INTERVIEW WITH A MUJHAIDIN stop, story with pics available now stop.TIME LIFE MAG.

By James Travers-Murison

Kashmir was seemingly on the verge of a resolution, when Vajpayee, the Indian Prime Minister, in early 2001 was talking about involvement in a negotiated peace with Pakistan, allowed militants to go to Pakistan to discuss Kashmir's future and declared a unilateral ceasefire. But after a gradual erosion of action by Vajpayee, culminating in the WTC attack and U.S. led anti-terrorism alliance, prospects for peaceful talks looked dim. 10 years on and Kashmir may look somewhat irrelevant due to the the wars and upheavals in the Middle East, yet the reality may be that it with Israel-Palestine is in fact the key to world peace and to explain this perhaps my experiences in the Valley almost 18 years back are worth recalling...

...The face of one old peasant Kashmiri man, wrinkled like a walnut, wide light brown eyes and most of his teeth missing, said it all - a sad, helpless and bewildered look. It was October 1993.

Two pleading men were taken away by the notorious BSF Indian Security Forces, there identity cards were not in order. That was at a checkpoint in the ride in the bus from Sonamarg Zoja La pass. The journey had been broken up by at least 4 checkpoints, to show identity cards.

The passage into Srinagar had us lying on the seats of the bus, heads down, another strike and curfew. The driver would only let us ride if we hid from view. I crouched under the seat huddling up to Christina, a young American teacher. Half smiling, treating it almost as a game, the passengers all men beckoned us down under the worn seats.


Military checkpoints lay with tops of worn canvas on the streets corners, covered in sandbags with tense soldiers nearby holding AK47s and semi-automatic rifles. The streets were practically empty with only a few soldiers and some hurriedly moving passers-by. Once out of the bus we could see Srinagar's wooden houses with slanted roofs, which gave it an almost European feel. We passed one patrol, spread out, and searching the few street vendors. The militant's presence heightened during our three-week stay in Srinagar.

On our second day while on a boat tour by shikara of Dal Lake, we headed from the Mogul gardens across the lake to the White Mosque. The smell of the red and yellow flowers blooming filled the air. This was where Sultans had romanced their beloveds for centuries. As we got closer we could see plumes of smoke billowing up from the white Islamic dome and long curved arches of the Mosque. Sounds of mortar fire and our old guide refused to take the boat further. The White Mosque was under siege again. The very day we were going to visit, the militants overran it.


We visited some surrounding villages by shikara boat using the canals and rivers to move as the area was under total curfew. We moved like royalty as lovers on a grand holy tour under Josef, our guide, who kept a watchful eye out.

Trailing through the canals in the middle of Srinagar we saw children living on rubbish dumps on the side. Ducks quacking beside poor houses on stilts by the river and poverty was driven home. The mood was sombre, punctuated by the wailing of people at the mosques. A village elder pressed me to tell the world what is happening here. "Why aren't you foreign people coming to our help, we need you?" He told us earlier this year two village girls were raped by soldiers. Furthermore he said several sons in the village suspected of being mujhaidins were "taken in" for interrogation and had disappeared. To be "taken in" is synonymous with torture.

A faith healer of the Islamic variety was the basis of our trip. He gave me a signet to wear around my neck that did not cure a disease I had in my right eye.

In one small town, in a bizarre coincidence, I made contact with a man near our camping ground who turned out to be militant. He was an extremely dignified young University graduate who spoke fluent English. It was through him that I began to learn of the extent of the Indian Army's atrocities. That very day demonstrators had approached the white Mosque and those refusing to turn back had been fired upon by the Indian Army (BSF). Seven people had been killed. In a separate much worse incident , at Bijbehara, a small town near Srinagar, 37 people were killed and scores more injured when their protest march was fired upon by BSF soldiers. This interview is a recollection of what we said compiling together also other conversations with Kashmiris and checking the facts through later research. He may not have said these exact words but it fairly accurately gives the conversation and the picture then.


Why does India stay in Kashmir?

It is the most beautiful land in the world. And they know that if we go their united democracy may collapse. India has many problems, many other states want to rule themselves, and there is still conflict with the Sikhs in Punjab, the Tamils in the South, Muslims in Assam. India is not united.

It is ruled by often corrupt, wealthy politicians and businessmen. The rich maintain more wealth per capita than any other country in the world, in other words they do not look after their people by an effective redistribution or social welfare system. They claim to be the spiritual centre of the world, yet they have created the poorest and financially most unequal nation in the world.

But I think the real reason why India stays in Kashmir is that they think they will lose it to their archenemy Pakistan if they give us independence.

What is your age?


How long have you been a mujhaidin?

4 years.

photo courtesy JKLF News

What made you join?

I was a graduate unable to get a job watching my people being humiliated and abused by a foreign army, seeing Islamic values being ignored or defiled.

Have you killed people?

I would prefer not to answer this.


It is not something to be proud of. If I have or would do, it would only be in self-defence.

Has any of your family been killed?


How does the presence of the Army affect the daily life in your village?

We are watched, searched, prevented from going out at night, have to carry IDs, many people are in fear as occasionally the army has a crackdown and many people are arrested and beaten. No reason is required. Some of my friends were kept for several years, no reasons given. Some have disappeared. We survive. It is not pleasant.

How has your standard of living been affected?

It is harder to survive, but we manage. It is very hard to get work; food is getting more expensive. But we will sacrifice everything if we have to.

What atrocities have the Indian Army conducted that you have personally witnessed?

I have seen houses burnt, women and children shot at. People being severely beaten. Friends of mine tortured, terrible bruising with electric burns to their body - chest, back, testicles and face. Soldiers have raped women in our town.

We have heard rumours that militants have used violence against Kashmiris to obtain money and food and co-operation. Can you explain why this is necessary and do you think that this is not also oppressive?

Some groups are doing this. Not ours, not the main groups. We have enough money, enough support. Some bad elements always try to take advantage.

We have heard of informers being killed, shopkeepers who break strikes being beaten up.

Those who betray their own people, own land, cause the deaths of their brothers for money, get what they deserve. Shopkeepers who are greedy and open their stores, breaking a strike, and often charging double prices to make a profit must be stopped. During this strike some shopkeepers tried to profit by tripling the price of rice, now due to our encouragement they are selling it for 10% below its normal prices. We stop drugdealers and prostitutes, no one starves, and the towns are safe from crime. We must protect ourselves, we must remain united, and we cannot have a small number of greedy individuals harming us. If this is oppressive so be it.

We have been told that Indian newspapers have been reducing the number of people injured, killed, or imprisoned in Kashmir. Is this true?

If they report at all it is at least half or one quarter of the total figure.

Truthfully how many people have been killed in Kashmir if you know?

I don't know. The puppet chief minister Farooq Abdullah was quoted recently as saying that up to 60,000 have been killed.

How many in prison?

At least 30,000. Many of them have disappeared now, but their relatives still hope that they are alive. But in prisons. Mostly in remote Indian prisons where no one can visit and verify the figures.

How many soldiers are here?

At least 300,000.

How many have been killed?

I don't know.

Did you know any of the freedom fighters that are inside the Hazratbal Mosque?


Are you prepared to see them die?

It is not my wish, but they are prepared to give their lives if necessary. The decision was theirs ... they were prepared for any eventuality

What about the civilians who are in there, what choice did they have?

I believe all care was taken to ensure that no one was harmed.

They understood it was necessary. They were willing to make the sacrifice. We do not want anyone to die, once the Indian Army leaves all in our country will be free.

How are you going to protect the civilians in there from dying?

They are protected. No one has died inside.

But how long can they survive in there if the Indian Army stops providing food and ends up not agreeing to allow the militants to go free?

That is a hypothetical question. They did not provide food. The locals provided the food.

How are you going to get them out?

That is up to the Indians. The idea was to air our voice. For the world to listen to us.

But surely a sacred place should be free from violence?

Nothing is free from violence in Kashmir. The Indian Army brings its violence into our streets, our villages, our homes, and our mosques. Two weeks ago the Indian Army searched one of our holy mosques in Srinagar. No place is free from violence.

Is this really the wish of all Kashmiri people?

The Kashmiri people support us. They give us food, shelter, and money. We have the overwhelming support of the people. Listen in the night and you will hear the people cry for those in the Mosque. The people are angry and they want the Indians to leave.

I hear there are 35 groups fighting against India. What is your group?

I cannot tell you, but I can say we are one of the largest groups fighting for Kashmir.

Do you ever feel that you've had enough?

No, there is a slogan: "We will sacrifice everything to obtain freedom. We will fight forever; we will never give up!"


On our way back I photographed an old Kashmiri fishing from his boat with his Shisha pipe by his side, oblivious to all the turmoil, he could have been there a thousand years ago.

A few days later we attempted to arrange an interview with one of the militant leaders. Luck seemed to be favouring us when a boat came to the houseboat we were staying at. The boat was avoiding an Army water patrol. A sub-commander was on board. Overweight and looking extremely agitated, he eagerly agreed to arrange an interview with one of the leaders of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). The day after next, we waited patiently, but the meeting fell through. We never found out why, our hosts told us they were either too busy negotiating with the Indian government, or too afraid that we might be informers. However, with the help of our friends I managed to talk to two mujhaidin freedom fighters.

These people's names and descriptions have been changed to protect them. Mohammed, a handsome young boy of 22 from a village outside Srinagar and Fayez, his 28 year-old friend who was squat and swarthy with a bar-like moustache, light brown eyes and an unshaven face. Our Kashmiri friends translated as the militants spoke no English. Both said they had killed soldiers, Mohammed claimed 45 killed, Fayez 10 to 15 killed. The boy said he had used hand-grenades on jeeps and the man a Kalishnakov to snipe soldiers. The weapons came from Pakistan and Afghanistan. They both said they wanted to be free from India, "we want Islamic country, Islamic law" he pleaded.

He had never confessed to the BSF that he was a mujhaidin, despite being tortured by soldiers - beaten with rifles and given electric shocks. Fayez had a scar across his chest from the torture he was subjected to. He was picked up during a crackdown. They felt no guilt about killing soldiers and it was hard to know if they were telling the truth or it was tribal boasting. "They are Indian dogs," Fayez smiled. Soon after our militant companions got edgy and decided to leave.

Every night the wails and drumbeating were unbearable from the nearby village. Cries of anguish and hatred, a chant invoking a mystical strength to their trapped brothers, we were told. It continued along with a complete strike and a total curfew imposed by the Indian Army. Some trade in food and basic necessities still went on, as did the gentle sound of the small "shikara" boats paddling through the waters. That afternoon, drinking Kashmiri tea and listening to the sounds of the birds crying as the sun set over a placid Dal Lake, we relaxed in our comfortable houseboat. That night I hoped for no more nightmares. During a late bath, I heard the distant rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire and later an explosion, dogs barking and through it all the haunting wails of the people.

Things then turned sour at our houseboat when we purchased some silk carpets from a competitor. A few days later at the beginning of November 1993, with more than 2 weeks of continuous strike and a city suffocating from the curfew-- deserted streets and trigger-happy soldiers -- we made one last sojourn of the streets and then left. Every 10 meters we passed a soldier, until at last we were persuaded to turn back at a bridge near a mosque surrounded by a dozen soldiers and barricaded in sandbags.

We chatted to a Sikh soldier who smiled and said he did not want to be there. The Sten gun and sour expression of the officer told me it was time to leave. A long nauseous bus ride winding up to the Jammu-Kashmir tunnel, past columns of army trucks and we were out of Kashmir.


Kashmir's history permeates the land. It was a Hindu then Buddhist, then Hindu Kingdom again, finally falling to Islamic raiders from Persia well over 700 years ago, when the crusades were dying out in the Holy Lands. The beautiful, cool Kashmir vale became the summer place for the Muslims' Mogul Emperors of India from 1585 to 1756 and has been staunchly Islamic ever since. Hindu-Sikh Maharajahs and the British have come and gone. The partition of the former British Raj into Pakistan and India brought on the first of Kashmir's modern day conflicts in 1947...

Next edition of we look at the history of the modern conflict and talk to Dr AZMAT KHAN, General-Secretary of the JKLF in London where we discuss why Kashmiri's seek independence.

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