A New Tack in Kashmir: Peaceful Protest Gains in Separatist Fight

A New Tack in Kashmir
Peaceful Protest Gains in Separatist Fight

By YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2008

SRINAGAR, India -- Lashkar-e-Taiba, the presumed perpetrator of last month's Mumbai attacks, sprang up from the bloody insurgency against Indian rule in predominantly Muslim Kashmir. While the plight of Kashmir has galvanized Islamic radicalism across South Asia, the decades-long armed struggle is waning in the disputed region itself.
India now largely faces a different, and potentially more challenging foe here: peaceful campaigners for self-determination, who borrow from Mahatma Gandhi's rule book of non-violent resistance.

"India is not scared of the guns here in Kashmir -- it has a thousand times more guns. What it is scared of is people coming out in the streets, people seeing the power of nonviolent struggle," says the Muslim Kashmiris' spiritual leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a key organizer of the civil disobedience campaign that began earlier this year. The number of armed attacks in the valley, meanwhile, has dropped to its lowest since the insurgency began in 1989, Indian officials say.

The former princely state known as Jammu and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, and has been claimed in its entirety by both ever since. It has long been the main axis of discord between the two neighbors, now both nuclear-armed.
Since the early 1990s, Pakistan's intelligence services trained and financed Kashmiri militant groups such as Lashkar, helping fuel a conflict that has cost 60,000 lives. Mr. Farooq's father was gunned down by suspected jihadi militants in 1990 for seeming too accommodating to India.

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