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Kashmiris are not radical Islamists: Expert
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | November 03, 2006 01:57 IST
Professor William Baker, who heads the California-based organisation, Christians and Muslims for Peace, and is the author of Kashmir: Happy Valley, Valley of Death, says that people who live in the valley of Kashmir are not Islamic radicals out to establish a separate Islamic state.
Baker, who founded CAMP and is an ex-professor of archeology and sacred literature, said, "The people of Kashmir - those in the valley of Kashmir - are not radical Islamists wanting an Islamic state; they do not."
"They want a secular state, they want to be free to practice Islam but they do not want to force anyone to be Muslims and there's not going to be a chador or the hijab," he predicted.
Baker, who headlined the seminar held at the Marvin Center of George Washington University on 'Kashmir: Future Approaches', said, "These people are extremely educated and open and free-minded and I've never met any Kashmiris in the valley who did not say that they don't want to be owned by either country (India or Pakistan)."
"We are not cattle to be owned and purchased," he said they had told him when he had visited there, noting that they had 'relatives that (they) love in India and Pakistan and that these are their roots. And you know, after all, they were all in one country at one time'.
Baker has lived and studied in many parts of the world, including in the Middle East and Europe, and is also the author of Theft of a Nation, which is an examination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Islam and the West: Cutting Through the Propaganda.
"It's those damn British who were to blame for the continuing imbroglio in Kashmir," he said.
"Everywhere I go in the world where there are troubles and people suffering, you can almost always see the footprint of a British soldier or a British politician," he said.
He said, "They go in with their mandates and redraw the borders and make a state and now we've got civil wars and people suffering for ever."
"The British have left a legacy of death and destruction and disunity among people (of Kashmir) who were one at one time," he said.
"Whether you were Hindus or Muslims is not the issue; you were from the same origin. You were there living together and you can do it again," he told the nearly 100 members of the audience, who were largely Indian American and Pakistani American students with roots in Kashmir.
Baker declared that 'if that Berlin Wall can come down, Kashmir can be reconciled and the issue can be resolved'.
He said Americans who believe the Kashmir problem is not their problem should realize that 'it sure does involve America. The nuclear flashpoint of the world is not (Iranian President Mahmood) Ahmedinijad in Teheran. The nuclear flashpoint is most assuredly not the little South American gentleman who spoke to the United Nations, Hugo Chavez (who called President Bush 'a devil')."
"The nuclear flashpoint of the world has always been all these years in India and Pakistan - both nuclear-capable. They fought two wars, an incidental third war but all with conventional weapons," he said.
But, Baker warned, "If there's another one, someone just may push that button and the other must retaliate, and may Allah help all of us."
He said that he neither wanted to see India nor Pakistan harmed and said this is why it was imperative that 'we see Kashmir be the solution and end that thing (of tension between India and Pakistan)'.
At the outset, Baker said, "I want to make it clear that I am not paid by anyone to be here. I wasn't paid by anybody to go into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or other parts of Kashmir in India or to Srinagar."
"It broke my heart to be in both because they should be together; they are both the same people and I tell you that is foremost in my mind to see that both these peoples come together. Let the people of Kashmir be free as Kashmiris; that's it."
Baker claimed that he has been invited by many Indian groups to speak on Kashmir too, although on some occasions there had been demonstrators with slogans protesting his invitation.
"If one is an enemy if you oppose injustice, if one is an enemy is you oppose occupation, then okay, I am an enemy of anybody who occupies another country illegally or tortures or anything else, including my own country," he said.
He said if the United States 'is torturing people, then I am ashamed. And, I am a Marine veteran too by the way, so I know what I am talking about'.
"Politicians will talk about it for the next 100 years, but people - average citizens of the world - will get down to the issues of human rights and that's what it is all about in India, that's what it's all about in Kashmir and that's what it's all about all over the world," he added.