April 2003 News

Kashmir disillusioned over Saddam's fall

14 April 2003
The Daily Times

SRINAGAR: The swift fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq has left Muslim hardliners in India's insurgency-hit state of Kashmir angry and disillusioned.The launch of the US-led assault against Iraq had triggered demonstrations and strikes in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a Muslim separatist insurgency has claimed more than 38,000 lives since 1989. The protesters condemned the military action and backed Saddam Hussein.'It was a good decision (by Saddam) not to leave the reins of power as was being sought by Washington and its allies,' said shopkeeper Mohammed Yusuf.'I as a Muslim appreciated Saddam Hussein's will-power to fight US-led forces as the invasion was carried on a meaningless pretext,' he added.But Yusuf said Saddam's image had taken a nosedive after the fall of his regime without any 'major resistance'. 'Where did Saddam's so-called loyal army vanish?' asked student Adil Bashir.'All the Muslim world was expecting a real fight over Baghdad, but that didn't happen,' he complained. His friend Burhan Ahmed said troops in other towns in Iraq had offered 'tougher resistance' than those in Baghdad.'For two days I couldn't believe my eyes that Baghdad had fallen,' he said. Both Bashir and Ahmed took part in anti-war protests in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, and admitted forcing people to close their business many times in strikes since the start of the war more than three weeks ago. 'Whatever sympathy was there for Saddam has vanished after Baghdad fell without any major resistance,' said Mushtaq Ahmed, a lecturer.However, he said he sympathised with the people of Iraq who had suffered due to the war and now had to deal with lawlessness and looting. Kashmiri separatists had also opposed US-led strikes against Iraq and led street demonstrations, in contrast to 2001 when they urged Kashmiris not to demonstrate against the US strikes on Afghanistan.'That time the issue was different. This time our revered religious sites were involved,' says Abass Ansari, a leading Shiite cleric and executive member of Kashmir's main separatist alliance the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Iraqi saint Abdul Qadir Geelani, who is buried in Baghdad, is revered in Muslim-majority Kashmir for his Sufi teachings. Some Kashmiri Muslims said they never had any love for Saddam. 'He was an invader himself, a ruthless dictator,' said Imtiaz Hussain, who said television pictures of people pulling down Saddam's statues in Baghdad showed their anger. -AFP


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