Frontline World

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Kashmir: The Road to Peace? November 2004

 

 

FRONTLINE/World ultimately aims to create an online community where citizens, journalists and experts from around the world can post comments and engage in a thoughtful, lively dialogue. We invite you to email a comment. Please note that emails selected for posting may be edited for length, clarity and fairness.



Habeel Gazi - London, Ontario, Canada
I am from Srinagar and wish we could see more balanced and realistic coverage of the situation in Kashmir. This would at least help build momentum to send aid to help alleviate the suffering of the people.
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Raman - Phoenix, Arizona
Your documentary is the most biased version I have yet to see. I love PBS, but am dismayed by your projection of India and Indian Kashmir. What you show are cleverly designed half-truths meant to disguise the truth from gullible people who watch your program and form opinions. Two thirds of Kashmir was taken away by force from India by Pakistan and China. All Hindu Pundits have been driven away from this land, which originally belonged to them -- even before Islam arrived in the region. And the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Hindus killed or driven away from their homes is not even mentioned in your so-called documentary. These are a few *facts* that should have played a serious role in your film.

You should also consider the Indian side of the story. The Indian military is in Kashmir for a good reason -- Pakistan is sending armed militants to kill and maim people. Would the U.S. do anything different if faced with a similar situation? Sadly, your film has only accomplished more polarization.
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Ananth Halvi - Arlington, Texas
Your story does not make even a passing comment about the thousands of soldiers who have been killed while protecting innocent people. Stories like yours paint a really bad picture of India. As an Indian citizen, I strongly protest the false opinion the West holds that there are human rights abuses all the time in Kashmir. The other side of the story should be told.
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Monica - Tampa, Florida
Has India not surrendered enough to the Muslims when giving up a large portion of its land in 1947? My mom is from Kashmir and fondly remembers days where one was not a Muslim or a Hindu, but simply Kashmiris -- friends and neighbors. If there were a large population of, say, Germans, living in New York, does this give Germany the right to seize New York? Unfortunately, many of the Muslim Kashmiris fell into a Pakistani militant trap, which turned them against their Hindu friends and neighbors. This led to their own homes and lives being controlled by these militants. Kashmir always has been India and it has worked beautifully this way for so long. Why fix what isn't broken? The Indian government can do much more for Kashmir than Pakistan can. India is currently the world's fastest growing economy -- so your claim that it's a scar on the democratic world doesn't stand.

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Anonymous
Violence is always deplorable. A death or injury is painful whether it is to a Kashmiri Muslim, a Hindu from Jammu, a Buddhist from Ladakh or a soldier performing his duty in a democracy under trying circumstances. Unfortunately, you seem to be focusing on only one set of victims. Kashmiri Muslims who were either supportive or ambivalent to the federal government campaign of terror unleashed back in 1989. Last year's state election resulted in a 44 percent turnout, despite the death of more than 800 Kashmiri Muslims (mainly political party workers) in the weeks before the polls.

In your coverage, you mention all the soldiers you saw in the valley. This is the direct result of a more human approach adopted by the federal government. There are no aerial bombardments of the Fallujah kind, neither is there any attempt at a "shock and awe" campaign. As a direct consequence of putting "boots on the ground, thousands of troops have become part of the more than 50,000 casualties of this insurgency over the last 15 years. I wish you had also talked to the soldiers and their widows.
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Ganesan Krishnamoorthy - East Northport, New York
I was born in India, the undivided India of 1943. The partition of the country has broken it up in many ways. The only way to bring peace and prosperity to the region is to reunite the country. There are holy Hindu sites in Pakistan and holy Islamic shrines in India. Reunification of India will bring immediate joy to most of the people of the subcontinent; others will get used to it in time!

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Dr. Hari Krishen Koul - Denver, Colorado
Even a documentary like yours does not mention the minorities in Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pundits. Over the past 15 years, more than 700,000 of these men, women, and children -- the original inhabitants of the valley -- have been subjected to genocide and forced to flee their native land by the very people you call peace makers. I challenge you to have the courage to speak the truth on Kashmir and not be a mouthpiece of propaganda for the influential.
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Ali Aga - Chicago, Illinois
I liked it! Good Job. Thanks for such nice story.

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Anonymous - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Kashmir does not stand a chance at peace, not as long as pundits and policymakers continually frame the dispute as territorial; and not as long as Kashmiris are denied true representation (not self-appointed leaders). The dispute is intractable, not simply because there is long-standing enmity between India and Pakistan, but because Kashmiris believe in a right to exercise agency and to direct their own futures. No country thus far has recognized their right to self-determination and independence. Your piece was disappointing. I had hoped you might have avoided the simplistic presentation of the conflict in terms of "Islamic jihad", and prevented the use of loaded and irresponsible terms that are inapposite to the description of the reality on the ground in Kashmir.
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Bharat Kondeti - Arlington, Texas
You make a documentary, Kashmir: Road to Peace, but aren't you aware that the peace process was initiated by India? It is we Indians who started a bus route to Pakistan; it is we who started a train to Pakistan; it is we who gave a hand of friendship to Pakistan.

If you dig up some of the history, you will know who started the Indo-Pakistan wars in 1966 and 1971. It was Pakistan. Even though India occupied much of Pakistan in 1971, we returned every bit of their land in the hope for peace.
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Anonymous - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Kashmir does not stand a chance at peace, not as long as pundits and policy makers continually frame the dispute as territorial, not as long as Kashmiris are denied true representation (not self-appointed leaders). The dispute is intractable not simply because there is long-standing enmity between India and Pakistan, but because Kashmiris believe in a right...to direct their own futures, and no country thus far has recognized their right to self-determination and independence. In a way, your piece was disappointing, as I had hoped that you might have perhaps avoided the simplistic presentation of the conflict in terms of "Islamic jihad"...
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Naga - No location given
Hi, I used to really like watch/read Frontline. But whenever I am watching a story about India/Pakistan issues, it is (Frontline or major news) always having the perception or mentality of cold war mentality. Always taking the sides. Instead of taking middle ground. Especially in Kashmir, nobody is taking about Kashmir Pandits who are the most suffered in the Kashmir valley. They [are] affected by both side (Extremists and politicians) because they are not having major vote banks, and different religion. At least I hoped that the Frontline take a common stand...

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Anonymous
I hate to bring out Phil Collins' song "You need to hear both sides of the story...", but I must. Your coverage is very comprehensive and perhaps brings out a lot of ground realities. I say "perhaps" because I have never been to J&K, and cannot comment on who is right and who is wrong. Maybe the army has been ruthless in dealing with innocent people, but maybe also there is more to it than simply that. Your coverage extends to the noticeably Muslim population of the state, and perhaps for good reason. The minorities have been driven out by the militants. What about the people who look at the army for protection? Should they just wither away in silence? J&K is as much a part of their lives as it is a part of the lives of the majority. A plebiscite cannot be a solution because there will always be a minority who will oppose what the majority decision will be and will thus be treated unfairly. Additionally, a lot of people have been driven out of J&K and you have not captured their views in your documentary. It would be wise to include insights from these individuals who also belong to J&K.
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FRONTLINE/World Fellows Sachi Cunningham and Jigar Mehta respond:

Thank you for your letters drawing attention to the complexities of the conflict in Kashmir.

The population of Kashmir changed drastically after 1989, when violence escalated over Indian control of the state, and hundreds of thousands of Hindu Kashmiris, known as "Pandits" (Hindu for teacher) were forced to flee the valley. The humanitarian violations were profound, and Kashmir's thousand-year old concept of a "Kashmiriat," or diverse cultural unity, was destroyed. The loss of the Hindu population continues to affect Kashmir and is an important part of a complex history that remains unresolved today. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently visited Kashmiri Pandit migrant camps, but was criticized for not offering long-term solutions for the displaced population.

Our story about Muzaffarrabad Road ("The Road to Peace?") was a report focused on the proposed re-opening of this route as a "confidence building measure" in India and Pakistan's ongoing negotiations about the future of Kashmir. We were looking at the current state of affairs on the ground. The story of the Hindu exodus from Kashmir is among many of the important humanitarian stories that should continue to be told.

For more information on the Pandit exodus and other stories of human rights violations in Kashmir please see the following Web sites:

Christian Science Monitor, "Once diverse, Kashmir is now a valley of Muslims"

Amnesty International
(Type "Kashmir" in the search box to get recent reports)

The Brookings Institution, "Kashmir: Redefining the U.S. Role"

Thank you for writing.
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Ravi Razdan, American Kashmir Society
This movie is an Jihadist propaganda film which completely suppresses the ethnic cleansing of native Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) by Islamists, and denies their existence. Pandits have been native to the Kashmir valley even before the spread of Islam there. Thus this film/website is thus highly injurious to our cause, and harms our right of return. Given this film's heavy focus on highlighting the suffering of local Muslims, and "human rights violation" of foreign terrorist, this exclusion seems very intentional. Having Quranic chants bellowing out from the web site on Kashmir while ignoring its few thousand year old Hindu/Shavic heritage is rude slap in our collective faces. It solidifies our cleansing in the virtual world too. Given the typical Berkeley outrage on the toxic mix of church & state this double standard is a good clue to the real agenda of this film. The site talks a lot about soldiers everywhere, but nothing about foreign Islamic terrorists the reason for the soldier presence, and nor the daily dirty deeds of massacres, head chopping, nose cutting, and acid splashing of the local population of both religions... We ask you to immediately rectify the situation by...making changes to the site/film to presenting a truthful, and a balanced perspective so as to avoid further injury to our community...

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This react has been edited]
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FRONTLINE/World editors respond:
While we welcome a vigorous exchange of views on the reports we present, we have a policy of not publishing inflammatory rhetoric, personal attacks, or threats. The letter above has been edited to comply with those guidelines. Our report, "The Road to Peace?" is an eyewitness account of the situation today in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. It is a current events story, not a comprehensive history of the Kashmir conflict which has been ongoing since 1947. In that conflict, there have been human rights abuses and atrocities committed by all sides. As we said in the brief introduction to our story, Kashmir is a dangerous flashpoint between India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers. But in November 2003 India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire and listed a number of "confidence building measures" they hoped to carry out, including the re-opening of a key road across divided Kashmir. We thought it would be worthwhile to travel that road and see what people there were saying. The report offers a variety of viewpoints. We intended no slight to any group or religion in Kashmir, nor do we espouse a particular cause. Our sole purpose was to cast some light on conditions in Kashmir today and to focus on the proposed re-opening of the road as one tentative move toward a resolution of this protracted conflict. We no doubt will return to cover other important aspects of this story in the future.

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Muhammad Ahmed - Brooklyn, New York
World apathy to this tragedy is regretful. Is the world waiting for the last Kashmiri to die before any action is taken? I believe civilized world should take a united stand against India and pressurize it to quit Kashmir...I think India is a scar on face of democratic world. Imagine the out cry if such brutalities were committed by the U.S. forces...
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Bharat Kondeti - Arlington, Texas
You make a documentary on Kashmir: Road to Peace, aren't you aware that the peace process was initiated by then prime minister of India? It is we who started a bus route to Pakistan, It is we who started a train to Pakistan, It is we who gave a friendship hand to Pakistan... Even though we, India, occupied much of Pakistan in 1971 we returned back every bit of their land in hope for peace.... Since 1947 more than 50,000 innocent civilians were killed by militants in Kashmir and many more were killed by their bombings in all the other parts of India. It's only because peace and patience is in our culture and in our blood and we know that killing is not a solution for any thing, that Pakistan still exists. India is the only country where in you will find numerous cultures and great diversity. All the religions of the world are equally practiced in India...

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Jim Palmer - No location given
Here are some poignant questions:

  • Jammu & Kashmir had 700,000 Hindus, 100,000s of Buddhists, 1,000s of Sikhs, and 1,000s of Christians. Why are the Terrorists/Freedom Fighters only Muslim?
  • India has 150 Million Muslims. Why must their Future be made Insecure because 4 Million...[Muslims]...in Jammu & Kashmir are given special Privileges?
  • Pakistan has never held free and fair Elections in...Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
  • ...There has been no development what-so-ever in [Pakistan-occupied Kasmir].
  • Pakistan has illegally ceded 5000 sq KM of Jammu & Kashmir to China. Is that territory to be returned?
  • Accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India is Final. Those were the Rules in 1947. Politicans can promise the moon to their constituents, however only what is feasible can in reality be provided ...
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Neil Haran - San Francisco, California
Jim Palmer's points are most pertinent to this topic, and are never addressed by proponents of the Pakistani position. Pakistan is a state bordering on failure and collapse, to put it politely. The notion of a magical Muslim homeland collapsed after the 1971 Bangladesh war, and subsequent events in both Pakistan and Bangladesh suggest that democracy and the co-existence of diverse faiths is just not compatible with Muslim-majority nations. If Kashmir is the "unfinished" business of the devastating partition, then so are the millions of Muslims who reside and thrive in India today, and incidentally who out-number the Muslims in either Pakistan or Bangladesh. Pakistan and proponents of Pakistani-Kashmir have no legitimacy -- legal, moral or otherwise -- in wanting to eat their 2-nation cake and to have it at the same time. Frontline/World did a great disservice to freedom, liberty, democracy and religious co-existence by giving a one-sided voice to the very groups that oppose every one of these self-evident civilizational truths. Shame on you!

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Anonymous
Kashmir belongs to Pakistan. The Kashmiri people opted for Pakistan during separation. However, the prince was a Hindu who wanted to give Kashmir over to India. This situation led to war and now Kashmir is divided. I doubt peace will ever come to this region because Kashmir has come to symbolize the importance of the unity of the state of India and Pakistan. Both of these countries have problems with some of there provinces. If either side sacrifices Kashmir, it could cause other provinces in India or Pakistan, to ask for independence.
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