Is Gaddafi’s U.N. speech winning him a fan base in Kashmir?
A street vendor in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital, sold hundreds of framed portraits of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the last one week.
Kashmiri separatists and many residents are all praise for Gaddafi after his maiden address to the U.N. General Assembly last week in which he said Kashmir should be an “independent state.”
It was a diplomatic embarrassment for India but has Gaddafi’s U.N. speech actually won him an enthusiastic fan base in strife-weary Kashmir where Muslim militants are fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989.
The Libyan leader told the U.N. General Assembly last week that Kashmir should be an independent state, not Indian, not Pakistani.
Last week, dozens of Kashmiris carried placards reading “Gaddafi The Lion of Desert II” referring to the 1981 Hollywood movie “Lion of the Desert”, which is about Omar Mukhtar, who led the rebellion against Italian rule in Libya and was captured and hanged in 1931.
The movie on Omar Mukhtar encouraged rebellion in Kashmir in 1985. This is for the first time in recent times a Muslim leader outside the Indian sub-continent has advocated Kashmir’s complete independence both from India and Pakistan.
The two countries claim the region in full but rule in parts.
Encouraged by the speech, separatist leaders say Gaddafi’s statement in the U.N. General Assembly should serve as an eye-opener for Indian and Pakistani leaders.
Despite two wars over Kashmir, India and Pakistan have so far failed to find a solution to the more than six-decade-old dispute over Kashmir.
New Delhi has so far largely struggled to win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir, where anti-India sentiment still runs deep.
Gaddafi also opposed the expansion of the U.N. Security Council by including countries like India. New Delhi, which has downplayed Gaddafi’s statement, has not yet reacted officially.
Has Gaddafi’s U.N. speech on Kashmir’s “freedom” won him foes in India and friends in Kashmir?