Paknews.com, Updated on 2002-01-04 22:51:46
Inside Kashmir: A Westerner's Eye Witness Account
Aisha Sarwari, producer PakNews.Com Web Radio program VERSA, interviews William Baker who is Director of CAMP (Christians And Muslims for Peace) via telephone.
Aisha: Mr. William W Baker: Thank you for
joining us on VERSA, Pakistan News Services Internet Radio
William Baker: Thank you its a pleasure and a blessing to be here.
Aisha: You have been very loyal and sincere to Kashmiris right of self-determination, your book has been very famous too, and has got many interesting reviews. Would you like to start with a little bit on that?
William Baker:Yes, it is amazing that out of all people the most glowing review has come from a Hindu.
Aisha: Really and who is that?
William Baker: Trinity Anath Ramia, a wonderful young man that I met at Utah State University when he was finishing his PhD in economics. We had a section there on Kashmir, some of the Indian students were objecting. He had an open mind and was honest at heart, he heard what I had to say and weve stayed in touch all these years now. He goes on many programs and all in shows and speaks on behalf of the Kashmiri people and the injustice perpetrated against them by the country of India. India occupied Kashmir. It is an amazing thing. It just shows you that truth and freedom when presented in the right fashion opens up hearts be they Indian, Pakistani American or whatever, and in this particular age, Muslim or Christian or Jew. When they are honest and objective they respond. He wrote a wonderful review to the book on Amazon.com. Amazon.com lists my book: Kashmir: Happy Valley, Valley of Death. With 5 stars recommended from their readers.
Aisha: Can you tell us the words he used in particular?
William Baker: Yes, he wrote that it is an amazing and startling exposé to the real situation of the Kashmiri people and the suffering by occupation forces of India because of the Nationalism of India itself, of the BJP party, Advani and others who are calling on Hindustan and speaking Hindi all the Muslims, Christians and Jews get out. This horrible nationalism that has reared its head in at al places in this land of Gandhi: this man of peace. Anyway, he wrote that and Id encourage any of our listeners to go to Amazon.com. Two of my books are there on Kashmir. There are also a couple of other wonderful comments about my book as well.
Aisha: I remember reading Al Gores and I was surprised.
William Baker: I am sure a lot of our listeners will join you in being surprised at that. I actually met Al Gore as Vice president and gave him one of the first copies of the book. As I shook his hand looking in his eyes I told him what I had just seen in Kashmir and what was going on there and how terrible it is. I saw the tears start to gather in the corner of his eyes. I said, Mr. Vice President, I am not going to give you a copy of this book if you are just going to pass it on to a staff person and you are not going to read it. You must read this book, you owe it to the Kashmiri people. He took my hand and said, I promise you I will. And of course he did. One of his statements on the front of the book is that the US deplores the excessive use of force deplored over civilians in Kashmir and urges the Government of India to reopen Kashmir to media, to human rights organizations and to various Red Cross and other relief groups. Then he concluded that the United States should provide humanitarian assistance to civilians in Kashmir during the crisis and encourages other governments to assist in relief efforts for them. That is pretty powerful.
Aisha: Now before we plunge into the definite questions, please tell us the struggles of the Kashmiri people as you have seen in your trips there.
William Baker: Well, I wish we had about 16 hours; they deserve it. Kashmiri people: Its one of the least known disputes in the whole world and of course one of the least known geographic places on earth. I have met very few people who know where Kashmir is located, what hemisphere etc. also in which continent. But on the one hand I have met once or twice few, very few Americans who have been to Kashmir. They had the same comments: This was many years ago and it was Shangri-La It was the most beautiful place theyd seen. They were still impressed with it many years latter. Then I tell them, let me tell you what it has become. As you may know, and as our listeners may know, Kashmir is known for centuries as The Happy Valley of The Happy People.
Kashmiri people much like the Palestinian indigenous people in Palestine fighting with the Israelis, they are happy, non-warring and peaceful people. They had no organized army no organized militia- Nothing! They had been occupied on and off for centuries by the Mongols, my book details that. But no one occupied them and brutalized them to the point that it forces them to pick up guns to defend their lives, their families and their faith: Islam. And indeed this is the difference, as I told the Vice president. I said, This is not the situation. That beautiful idyllic happy valley has turned into the valley of death and its death for the Kashmiri people. They are dying by the thousands and tortured. I documented of course for the fifteen days I lived on a houseboat. I had to secretly enter the country because it is sealed.
The Indian Government allows no one in and out of there without someone who is going to parrot the official position of India on Kashmir. Or should we just say a pro-Indian perspective? I was able to get in there for 15 days and survive coming close many time to being arrested and loosing my own life and being beaten to death. I documented with the camera and still shots hundreds of photographs, and probably 15 roles of film on a high aid video camera. I was able to document women who had been raped pregnant with Indian soldiers children. I documented children who had been shot, assassinated and killed. I photographed their bodies. I photographed dead children, these infants being burried in a martyred cemetery. There are so many cemeteries actually. They have a separate cemetery for children martyrs because they are so may killed. I tell you, on one of the cemeteries there is a famous inscription, Dont forget that we have given our today for your tomorrow.
I saw that in many places just as a little remembrance for those children. Also the young Kashmiris that have been killed defend their families, soil and Kashmir itself against the Indian forces. I witnessed this over and over and over. Again, do not forget that, we have given our today- in other world their lives for your tomorrow. That is on the cover of the back of my book in bold letters. I promised those people after the fifteen days that I was able to get out by the help of the love or God himself, or I would have never have made it out myself alive. I was able to get out and bring these things out.
I immediately went to the US congress and petitioned the senators and congressmen as well as the Vice president and president telling them of what I saw, documenting it; speaking to congressional committees and just doing everything that I promised the Kashmiris, if God permits me to live and get me out of here and back to America, I promise you youll have a voice and my voice will be your voice. The world will not forget you and I will speak for Kashmir. Indeed that is what I have done; I wrote the book I put photos in the book. The publisher said that the photos I wanted to put in the book were so terrible that he asked if he could at least put them in black and white and not in color because it is awful. So I did say ok, but even people who read it now and you and our listeners have probably looked at the book at least on the cover there is the dead body with bullet holes of Dr. Abdul Haq Guruh.
He was a wonderful man who spoke wonderful English well educated in the west: A heart specialist in Shirinagar. He helped me so many times into the homes of the people who had been injured, shot, maimed and raped. He told me he knew they would kill him one day. He was a non-violent man, he had never raised a hand in anger, never carried a gun or knife or anything. He was a classic Kashmiri really: World-renowned surgeon and the only one for 13 m people. And indeed they did assassinate him and I have photographs of his funeral cortège being attacked by Indian soldiers; His son-in-law, Atiq Hussain, who was trying to burry him and getting shot, and laying there next to the casket of Dr. Guruh, both of them dead on the street. I tell you these are the things that I saw; I saw things that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. I promised those people, I will speak if God saves my life; I will speak for you, and I am still doing it, thats why we are doing this program.
Aisha: Tell me what exactly is the death toll of the Kashmiris in your opinion? I have seen papers quote about 25,000?
William Baker: No. It is much more than that.
Aisha: How much more?
William Baker: Oh! Its more than that. Since 1988 there is upwards of 40- 45,000 at least. The death toll that you hear quoted is the one in which they can document the bodies, thousands upon thousands are missing, and have never been recovered. They have been taken away they have been executed in mass graves somewhere. As our listeners might know that is a massive area in the Himalayas. There is a lot of area there; a lot of huge areas where bodies can be placed in mass graves. The usual method over there that I have witnessed, you notice right away that there are no men, no young men or even middle aged anywhere. They have all either been taken or hiding for fear or left the area. Many men; missing men, no word is given on why they were arrested; they are taken away at night. Many times they are walking along the road and they are taken. Their families never see or hear from them again. Sometimes they show up in the Jehlum River, which is the river down near the capital center of Shrinagar.
Usually the bodies are left there floating in sacks or something and I have photographs of the bodies. Their families hear about it. They go down and pull them out of the water and you can just see the desecration of the body parts. I have a color photograph of an old grandfather probably in his late 70s or early 80s, his whole right arm has been torn off. Hed been stabbed and his whole chest has been ripped open. This is how they find their loved ones if they ever find them. There are literally thousands of Kashmiris, who no one has seen again. I smuggled out a list of those people. A list from Justice Farooqui who kept it all these years hoping that someone will come in some day from the west and will be able to get it out. And I was able to get those out and turn them over and testify in Geneva, the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty international and other human rights organization. Its a terrible story.
Aisha: At this point I think have to ask you what, in your definition is terrorism and at this point when there are so many insinuations about the Kashmir struggle begin perpetrated by Pakistan, or the Talibanization of the Kashmir struggle. How far is that true?
William Baker: Well, its not true at all. I say it very pointedly and very plainly. I was there. I am neither Indian nor Pakistani. I am Christian, not a Muslim, although I certainly love the Islamic people and have written a book about it: the common ground between myself as a Christian, and Islam. But still what I saw when I visited the camps of the Kashmiri Mujahideen up in the mountains: the resistance struggle fighters, and I must tell you they were all Kashmiris. I never saw Pakistanis there. What I did see was one million Hindu Indian soldiers: Armed to the teeth at every single block and every junction of every square of every city block and every street there is an Indian with an automatic weapon and sand bags and machine gun behind it. Every bridge has a machine gun emplacement on both: front and back as you exit and start on there. I mean there are guns on you every second of your life. Yet I hear, Pakistan is this and Pakistan is that, Pakistani agents and Talibanization as you say. This is Nonsense and nonsense means that there is no sense to it. That is what nonsense is! These are Kashmiri kids, Kashmiri people living, struggling and fighting and they are dying, not for Pakistan, they are dying for Kashmir. They are dying to be free.
You know there is a great statement that John F Kennedy made, certainly an icon hear in America people will always remember him. John F Kennedy said hat the most powerful force in the world today is neither communism, nor capitalism nor the H-bomb or guided missiles. He said its Mans eternal desire to be free. That is the summation of what I found in the Kashmiri people, there is no Taliban mentality.
In fact the Hurriat conference, which is an organization of all of the resistance groups that came together and said, well meet with India, well have a tri-part type meeting with Pakistan, India and the Kashmiri group. Lets all meet together and work this thing out. This is not fundamentalist/ extremism, its not a fundamentalist extremist who fights for his country and his family to protect his wife from being raped and his children form being tortured. There is a non-existent education. The schools are closed, the universities are closed and there are no jobs, no income and no cash flow. Its a country completely cut off and being strangled by the Indian government and isolated. This is the tragedy of it. So the answer is: Absolutely not! The young men that I was with and I saw them form one end to the other: all Kashmiri.
Aisha: I am trying to play devils advocate here. There was a Pakistani group that took responsibility for a recent bombing on, was it the Indian Consulate? Pakistan labeled that as terrorism but yet these things are taken as an example against Pakistan. So what are these other organizations, such as this terrorist organization that pollute the Kashmir cause and how can it be stopped?
William Baker: That is a very good question and a very important one too. I have spoken out against this publicly all these years and even more forcefully now that there are these groups. And yes, Pakistan has a political agenda and yes Pakistan is political with Kashmir. I have (inaudible) personally both prime ministers in the times that I have met them over there. I have just seized them both in the presence of their administration that you have to stop playing or using Kashmir as a political football for any of your agendas. And support the just cause of the Kashmiri people to choose their own destiny and if you do that then your hands are clean and the Indian accusation of manipulation and involvement will prove invalid. I have said that when Benazir Bhutto was there and Nawaz Sharif, whom I know personally, both of them. I said it in the presence of everybody and even on Pakistani television.
So, it is true that there are those who have always used any legitimate cause of those seeking justice in fighting for freedom. There are always those who will use and manipulate that just cause and use it for their own self and their own agenda. I have to say that Al Qaida and Bin Laden are doing the same thing. The Palestinian issue is a just issue for Palestinians ad they are quiet capable of working it out till they receive justice. Now for anyone to take that issue and say, now we are going to use that and tat is the reason we are going to commit terrorist act against the civilian population some place. In the name of Palestinians and Kashmiris, which is also by the way on the Al-Qaida list/agenda. The Kashmiri people are the first to denounce such activities. They are peace loving wonderful people and abhor such a thing as the world trade center and these activities as do true Muslims everywhere. But on the other hand the sad thing is, the political relailties are people such as these and other groups always latch on legitimate issues.
The case of Kashmir that we are talking about is such a just case, a clear case of human rights and self determination, the desire to be free and it doesnt need to be clouded over by people like Bin Laden or anyone, weather they be Pakistani, Arabs, Indians or who ever. Everybody is making political movements out of Kashmir.
Aisha: President Musharraf has like I mentioned condemned these acts and has been very quick to try his best to clean up these organizations. He has gone out of his way to ban illegal weapons and organizations that collect money for Jehad. Do you think he is sincere and do you think this is a step for confidence building measures?
William Baker: Well, I must say I havent met the General to my knowledge. I have met many generals as I was in and out of Pakistan for many years. I am due for another trip back to Pakistan. I love those people and country. They are a great people they are not represented correctly in the media in my opinion here in the west. Again I think it is slanted and twisted and there is a spin put on the promotion of, who are the Pakistanis. They only show the handful in the streets demonstrating in favor of Osama bin Laden or whatever, they never show the high academic and educational institutions and so on. Again in a political agenda over here in the west, it plays into what they want the American people to see. With that said, I am not sure if I have met the general, he may have been in some of the meetings when they launched my book in the Urdu language in 1996, I believe. All of the administration and cabinet members were there. And it is very well possible that General Musharraf was there and if he was, he knows as Nawaz Sherif once told me, you know Professor baker, if you were to run for Prime Minister here in Pakistan you would win. (Laughs) He said, Every Pakistani and every Kashmiri here knows you, youve been on our television and we know your book and we know you risked your life to go to Kashmir and that you are an honest man.
Aisha: How well are you known in India?
William Baker: It is interesting, I met not long ago in the UN meeting this year of the world, there were 80 countries there. I gave an address there and I mentioned Kashmir. I met with an Indian University Professor along with a couple of other active members of the Indian Government and one parliament member. Actually we had quiet a discussion on Kashmir and they absolutely agreed with me. They agreed with me that there has been a wrong committed against the Kashmiris and the only solution is to allow the Kashmiri people to determine their own destiny and their own future, weather they want to be part of Pakistan or India or neither, if they want to be the neutral Switzerland between both countries. It is for the Kashmiris now to decide and they need to get their forces out of Kashmir, they need get out and quit harassing and occupying and brutalizing these people because this does noting.
I told them if there was ever a time, I told the Indian people whom I talked with also in the Geneva Convention. I said, listen if you all had given them the plebiscite you would have a just cause to be at least talking about their succession to India, but since you never even permitted them the right to take the plebiscite, weather they wanted to be part of Pakistan or India, they never really were part of India. You never gave them a chance to be. So quit talking about integral part of India. That is just political language. You know I am very direct when asked a question. Because I am speaking for the Kashmiri people who can never get out of Kashmir, who have no voice and my voice is their voice and I promised them.
I hope I have an opportunity to meet General Musharraf. I got an invitation from Islamabad last year and I have not been able to go though I do want to go Id love to go, I feel there is a lot I can do to promote peace between Muslims and Christians and the people have suffered enough, they need an economy to feed their children and find education and employment and that country has great potential. It just has to happen. I think the general has done the right thing by standing up for justice here on the issue of terrorism and any by trying to stop the funding of the extremist groups that are indeed there but they are also everywhere else I have been, so its not to justify it but they are extremist groups everywhere.
I think he (Musharraf) is doing the right thing, I think he is trying to bring Pakistan into the new century as a partner of world peace. I think he knows that the rewards of the west and Europe are many. That there are people who want to help Pakistan, who recognize that Pakistan has been a friendly country to America for many many years, the only country who allowed to fly our spy planes over the Soviet Union and then Afghanistan over the 10 year occupation by the Soviets over Afghanistan. So Pakistan has been a pro-American country since its existence, when it was created. I would like to meet this General and have a discussion with him about the Image of Pakistan in the West or whatever he wanted to talk with. Not being presumptuous to know all these things but I do know that part of the world and those people and I am concerned. This is the most important thing we can say in this interview, I think the west needs to wake up with the rest of he world that thats the most dangerous nuclear flash point in the world; India and Pakistan over the issues of Kashmir. Two conventional wars have been fought over Kashmir by these two countries, if there is a third believe me it will be a nuclear war. Everybody looses then and it is too late for the UN to jump in and the US to want to barter a peace accord and a just solution. They need to pay attention now.
I am very concerned that if we continue to ignore the Kashmir issue, the subcontinent and Pakistan and India. Indeed there are those on both sides who feel they can loose thirty or forty million people: Mumbai, Karachi; thats doable well survive the rest of us- thats a horrible way to think. I really believe the nuclear flash point of he world is not the Palestinian Israeli conflict, its not Sadam Hussain, its certainly not Osama Bin Laden it is Kashmir. The west needs to pay attention o start delving into this t get in there and promote peace with justice and especially first and foremost justice for the Kashmiri people. Convening a tripartite and this is all they have to do, the US is doing it in the Middle East its doing it in Afghanistan, its doing it in everywhere in the world even in Somalia, why cant we do it Kashmir.
Aisha: So tell me what are the barriers here? Why doesnt the US or the UN have more of a role in this struggle?
William Baker:The problem with the UN is that it is the UN. I am not one who derides the UN. I am thankful they are there, it is the only place in the world where people can talk, the only place on earth where countries talk to one another. The problem with the UN is that it always becomes a group of politicians who kind of sit around and say what should be done but no will to enforce the resolutions they pass. The examples are the resolutions that have already been passed, I have them in the book: the Shimla agreement and all kinds of other UN resolutions adopted by them going as far back as 1947, I have them listed by number. The thing is they can pass all these resolutions, but they dont have the will to say now that we have passed them we have to enforce them.
I call for that in my book: a UN buffer zone to move in now, to move into this line of control as it is called, it is really a cease fire line and there really is no ceasing of fire. There is still exchanging of artillery and small arms almost daily. People are dying between India and Pakistan. So why cant the UN begin right now and say, weve passed these resolutions as a world body, we want to come in, we are going to come in and now which side is going to drag its feet? This is of course the test to the rest of the world which government would not really want the UN to come and enforce these resolutions, which they agreed to themselves by the way. Both parties are signatories to these resolutions: India and Pakistan. Why not then the UN should come forward. The reason is because its political, the reason is because you have old friends in the UN, ambassadors who say listen you give us that on Kashmir and we will vote for you on the other issue. Thats what happens, it is not their will. If you had in the UN average hardworking people, just for representing their countries, like the Kashmiris should be there, if we had these kinds of people in the UN these kinds of resolutions would be passed.
This is the same problem with the US government. The new partner that they are discovering in the world is India, and we are trying to play with India and China both at the same time. China has no use for India, there is going to be a grudge match some day between those two. China leans towards support for Pakistan. The US like the UN has ignored the Subcontinent and the issue of Kashmir. It is sort of like what they did with Sadam Hussain on the Issue of Kuwait. When he asked the ambassador one week before he moved his forces into Kuwait what the US official position was. The ambassador wired the state department and got the answer she read it to him, I have a copy of it, it read we view the issue of Iraq and Kuwait to be an Arab to Arab issue and its not ours. So do what you want in other words, you have a green light, we dont care. As soon as he moved across the border weve got our president drawing a line in the sand and drawing a war on Iraq. This is the foolishness and nonsense of politicians and political agendas. They always lack human rights and justice and if everyone can put away their pettiness and political aspirations and say, what can we do to stop the killing and the suffering of the Kashmiri people and by the way enhance the economies of Pakistan and India.
Aisha: Isnt that the problem though? Isnt the problem Indias economy being greater, stronger and having a greater market there?
William Baker: Exactly, India has a greater market but you know what, Pakistan does too. And Pakistan in spite of all the things and arguments against its survival since 1948, has survived. I think it has angered some people who predicted that it wouldnt last 5 years. This shows me the resilience of the people and the desire to be free and to be a true country of true people. If we can get this Kashmiri issue resolved, both countries instead of spending so much, This is the primary and real issue between India and Pakistan: Kashmir. There is no reason on earth why they could not be trading partners; it would open up everything between India and Pakistan. Not only that can you imagine if Pakistan and India did not have to spend the billions of dollars on armament and military defenses against one another. Can you imagine if they were free to use these economies to build infrastructure, and they both need it. They both need roads for the farmers to get the corps to sell in the city.
I have been to both countries and its the same. I have been to New Delhi with this massive army and military and they have power outages 4-5 times a day. And I have seen people hungry outside the streets of the Delhi airport, getting run over by trucks from the worn pavement at night. This is outrageous. With Pakistan its the same you have such an impoverished areas of Pakistan and it should not be because both countries have natural resources and farming and industry that could really take off without this face down militarily over Kashmir, so I want to see these countries get with it.
They can help each other; I really hope to see in my lifetime, I hope to live long to see these countries have the Kashmiri people free and having no occupation forces, being Kashmiri and speaking Kashmiri if they wish and dealing with countries, having families in both countries and trade and open borders with both countries, and then Id really like to see the relations between India and Pakistan, because the relationship is there the roots are deep; the associations are very very long term between the Indian people and the Pakistani people. But they can never come together with the generations being raised with animosity and hostility towards each others countries over Kashmir. It just doesnt need to happen if we can just seek justice, everybody gets together in one room and say lets put away ourselves, lets talk about justice for Kashmiris how can we heal this land and people, and the by product will be a healing for the whole region.
Aisha: Lets put whats on the table here. There are some solid reasons why India has prevented and deferred and delayed a plebiscite in Kashmir and does not want to discuss the Kashmir issue at all and also doesnt want mediation on the Kashmir issue. So keeping these insecurities in mind even if they do keep these insecurities aside, what fulfills that void what can you do to replace that insecurity. You cant have a solution without thinking of what goes in that vacuum. So what do you think?
William Baker: You know what has happened as I view it frankly youve got a real problem in that, both India and Pakistan have suffered from a similar fate and its not unlike in the world. Political leadership feels that they cannot survive if they compromise on this major issue, if they even suggest that there is possibility of coming together on it, because you have such intransigence on either side. The Indians of course say, well all of India can unravel if we allow Kashmir to get away from us then we cannot stop the other states of our nation.
The problem is that all the other states got to decide and vote weather they wanted to be part of India or not. The Sikhs in Punjab and so on who want an independent area themselves and states want to be independent from India, thats an internal problem. By the way that is going on now weather Kashmir is given its right for a plebiscite or not. India is fragmenting anyway. They need too just pay attention to why are the Sikhs looking to get out of this democracy and not wanting to be part of this nation. Why do three other states want to withdraw? They need to deal with those issues and it has nothing to do with Kashmir. It is a matter of pride, it is a matter of saving face as you know and as many of our listeners might know saving face is such a foolish thing, but its everywhere in the world. Its here in America, its in the west. Politicians saving face by doing this or doing that even if it is wrong, even if its silly even if it perpetuates a war and death on people. We have the same thing in the subcontinent. To save face India says we dont want anybody to negotiate this issue because this is our issue- Well, its really not. They signed on for intervention as did Pakistan and frankly as I say in the book, they have to adhere to the very solutions that they agreed to weather its saving face or not. This concern for hegemony of - nobody is going to tell us, were going to do what were going to do- that isnt true, the world has shrunk since 1948 and prior to that since the dive for independence. We are a small world today and its getting smaller everyday.
No man and country lives by itself and to itself anymore. India has a big partner that it needs to start dealing with to resolve the Kashmir issue with Pakistan, well focus on that, its called China. China is emerging as a super power, it already is and even more so in the near future. China doesnt want this on its border, china doesnt want Kashmir to be a possible nuclear exchange flashpoint and as I said they certainly wont want in the wings and watch the fireworks form Beijing. They would enter into it. The fear of what you hear form the Indian government that it would unravel our whole country, there country is already. Those areas that are troubled are troubled, the Sikhs and so on, you need to deal with them, the Tamils that they created, they need to deal with them. They need some honesty and some integrity in their system and justice, and Pakistan the same way. The generals who in may cases are guided correctly; they mean well to save the country form slipping this left or right. They also need to understand the people cannot continue to sustain the militarism indefinitely for the sake of education of their children, for economic growth stimulation and survivability of families.
Aisha: Tell us a little about the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front?
William Baker: The JKLM is a genuine front. I am met both leaders-
Yes and Aman-ul-Haq and many others. I must say that was the one legitimate, of course there was Dr. Abdul Haq Guruh. Dr. Abdul Haq Guruh was a leading spokesman for the JKLF. It is not a terrorist organization. I mean here is Dr. Haq Guruh who has never even owned a knife, except a surgical knife. He was the most peace full man I have met all over the world: A loving, kind, compassionate, super educated and gentle soul.
This is not a terrorist, this is a man who truly was a freedom fighter who lost his life and gave it as a Muslim. Inshallah he said he believed it and it happened. Again the people who are carrying out the issues, who are dying are the youth as it always is in every war. Everywhere I went there were JKLF people weather they were educators, weather they were religious leaders they were all promoting the JKLF. I felt that that, that was a very legitimate representation collectively of the Kashmiri people. I met Jamat-e-Islami, I met them all but the JKLF was in the forefront in Newspapers in educating the public and the world attempting to portray the realities of the occupation and what they were going though.
Much of what I say is from my notes and my memory from Kashmiris themselves. I mean men of stature like Abdul Ghani Lone, Ali Ghilani, Abaas Ansari and of course Abdul Haq Guruh and more. These are the people who have the right to speak for the Kashmiri people and these are their words, much of what youve heard me say. They are not property to be owned by either country. They wanted to trade, to care and be part of both at the same time and the only way of course is neutrality or an independent Kashmir with open borders to both Pakistan and India.
Aisha: I have a quote here by Mr. Ghilani. This is a struggle based on fact, on reality and no might on earth can defeat the hard realities, you cant demolish the Himalaya.
William Baker: That is exactly right. I was so impressed with him. Of course I was blessed and fortunate while I was in Kashmir to meet all of these wonderful and outstanding leaders. I met the young mujahids of the JKLF of the Jamat-e-Islami I met them all. He stood out and still does, I remember him saying, The Indians are trying to eradicate our culture but culture is tied to Islam, they attack Islam and we will continue to preach and educate Islam as a way of life and Law. We shall never give up our faith and our struggle to be free. And another quote, and I love this because I am a Christian, It is time for all believers in one God to join hands and oppose all the evils of the evil doers in the world. We Kashmiris have been in the clutches of India since 1947. When the British left the empire to two nations and two religions, Hindus and Muslims, India and Pakistan, we will never surrender or cease in our struggle for freedom not only to practice our religion Islam but of self-determination.
Aisha: Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir is known to be a freckles playboy by Kashmiris by Indians and Pakistanis alike, why is he then the only leader in Kashmir that New Delhi is ready to do business with?
Well he wants to be a parliamentarian, a member of the Indian congress.
Aisha: And that can get him to negotiate with India?
Its power its political materialism, he doesnt represent the Kashmiri people. A true leader of the Kashmiri people doesnt need to be defended by Indian Guards and troops. You follow me? A leader who is loved and respected by his people anywhere on earth doesnt need that, the fact that he is one of the most despised person in Kashmir-
Aisha: And Anti-Pakistan?
William Baker: Oh Absolutely anti-Pakistan. Its obvious he wants to be a member of Indian congress and feather his own nest where he has a plush plump position as a laky for the BJP, Advani and the rest. Anytime they need some statement about Kashmir he gives it dutifully. This is outrageous. Let the people of Kashmir have an honest vote and see if the Kashmiri people would vote for him or his party. You would see in an instant he would be no more. He is a strictly a front person for the wishes and whims of the Indian government. And not all, I have met educators, especially educators in various parts of the world, In the UN, In Geneva, in NY who have actually invited me to talk in India as we are talking here. There are Indian within India who are tired of it, they see the economic drain and they see frankly the injustice of whats going on. They dont support it, they are not part of it. How any of them can ever get their collective voices together, I dont know. It gives me hope that there are reasonable people around who we can appeal to and one day Almighty God would put them in a position of leadership.
Aisha: Today Reuters had a report on Kashmir, it was entitled Indias Vietnam or Pakistans proxy war? By Ann Landers. Id like to bring to your attention this particular line I found interesting, But to New Delhi its a proxy war fought by Pakistan to destabilize India in revenge for 1947 which left it dwarfed by its bigger neighbor. Now I remember around this time I believe last year it was in your lecture at San Jose State University you said, India has never forgiven Pakistan for being created. I want to ask you, isnt this a naive view, or is this tit for tat violence so rooted in hatred of the previous generations that it perhaps only escalates from here?
William Baker: I think its both, I think its also a naive view but its also associated with that same attitude of Pakistan how dare you leave us when we become India, a country in the partition And they said well, youll never make it, youll never last on your own. The fact that it has and it continues to survive. IT comes back to what we talked about quiet a bit earlier in our discussion, the element of saving face and national pride and political pride of Oh My Gosh they cannot govern without us and they have and continue to.
Aisha: What kind of confidence building measures can we put in place now?
William Baker:The confidence building will have to be lead by the west. I am sorry to say. I believe the two parties; India and Pakistan are feeling that they cannot move forward towards making any kind of proposal or compromise or even to talk together about the issue of Kashmir, to convene the tripartite. They cannot comfortably do this with the population uneducated about the realities of Kashmir. I find people in both countries who dont even know the background of how Kashmir became the Issue that it is. You know there is a lot of non-education in both countries and illiteracy is very widespread in both countries.
So here are the facts we have, 465-mile line of Control that sees about 10-15 deaths per day. There was hope that perhaps Pakistan could convince the US to mediate on the Issue.
The US can go to the UN if it wanted to. This is what I have solicited the congressmen and senators to do and will continue to do so. When I have the opportunity to meet the Presidents and Vise Presidents, I say the exact same thing. Its in Americas interest to have peace in that part of the world. The new economic openings for India, this 1 Billion people and China on the border, you want relations with Pakistan who is always going to be a player in that part of the world not only geographically but also because of its military and again its priorities for its own security on its boundaries. Its in Americas interest to take the lead again; I say that in the conclusion of the book. I dont just write books and say heres a terrible situation and here are some terrible photographs.
I spent a lot of my time in that last chapter talking about solutions. What India must do, what Pakistan must do, what UN must do and what the rest of the world must do. And then what America must do. Right now America must take the lead like it does anywhere when it wants to. Weve got there UN resolutions on the table for 53 years, lets get a UN force in here, We know Indias not going to like it, we know Vajpayee and Advani, youre not going to like it but you know what, were going to do it because you signed on. Just because there is another regime in power doesnt make null and void the signatures of your former president and parliament. You were both signatories to these resolutions we are going to bring it in. Now I dont believe Pakistan would argue that much.
I dont know if I should give an opinion here but, Ill try and be detached and speak as a Pakistani student, most of us are of the view that Kashmiris right of self -determination must be addressed, weather they choose to be Independent or they choose to be with India or with Pakistan, that its suffered too much and I think that has been the official position of Pakistan.
Well it hasnt been, I have to say. When Ms. Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minster she did voice opinion with me in Cyprus and elsewhere publicly. She started including and using the term, or the right to be an independent country. I had to break through quiet a wall. I dont know how successful I have been in Pakistan as we are talking about Pakistan, because as I said I addressed many secessions of members of parliament and members of the senate as well; The president, Farooq Leghari and others. I was probably the first, as I said I spoke for the Kashmiri people. In Islamabad at the holiday Inn, when we had the president and foreign ambassadors there I said, Ladies and gentlemen, you leaders of Pakistan must stop using the 1948 furbish of Kashmir has a right of plebiscite to choose us, Pakistan or India. There is a new element they fought and bled and died for and that is Independent belonging to neither one. This is their plan and it has been drafted, its known that they want a relationship with both countries, like I said open borders. To anwer your question weather the political leadership of Pakistan has finally adopted as a profile public statement includingthe term, or the right of self-determination of an independent state.
It definitely should, and I hope that everyone has got that message through what youve said today.
I want to thank you this has been wonderful. I hope all listeners, weather they are upset or angry, thats ok, at least we got you thinking of this subject. Id like to encourage everyone listening to this program to get a copy of my book. Not to make money, not at all. If I wanted that I wouldnt be writing books on Kashmir or anything like this. I would like them to read the subject to be honest, objective and analytical, try to forget what they were taught at home by families and the usual lies of their countries, but to consider just the merit of the Kashmiri people: Their struggles to be free people. If they do that they will come up with the right decision and theyll come down on the right side of this issue.
And I thank you for the interview.
Aisha: Thank you for being with us. Along with this interview we have a link to your book. Can you provide a contact so that listeners can get in touch with you regarding the book?
William Baker: I would be happy to correspond with anybody, If theyd like to follow up and get the book they can order it through there. The main thing is to get the message out as you have done today. Getting these facts out, because its one of the least known areas and its the most dangerous nuclear flashpoint.