Kashmir rebel's daughter looks to India for new life
28 April 2001
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Asma is no ordinary visitor to India, even though she may want to be one. Daughter of Amanullah Khan, the Pakistan-based high-profile Kashmiri separatist leader and daughter-in-law of Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone, she has come to India with an open mind to begin a new life here with husband Sajjad. Her wedding to Sajjad last November in Islamabad was touted as the ‘‘union of two Kashmirs’’. ‘‘I would not like to be influenced by what Indians think of my father,’’ Asma told The Indian Express just before leaving for Srinagar a few days back. ‘‘I wish my Abbu (father) was here for my valima (reception) but he can’t be,’’ she said wistfully, but added that she didn’t give it too much thought. Sajjad, who was earlier based in the Gulf, has decided to return to Kashmir. ‘‘My parents told me that I should not carry any prejudices to India,’’ Asma continued. ‘‘If you come with an open and objective mind there are more chances of you gaining from the experience.’’ Asma, born in Karachi to Amanullah Khan and his Shina (an ancient tribe based in POK and India) wife, is amazingly positive about India.Pakistanis are generally very inquisitive about India, said Asma, who herself has always wanted to come here to explore the country’s rich culture. For her, India is the cultural capital of the sub-continent. ‘‘Besides riding a shikara in Dal lake in Kashmir, I am so keen to see south India, particularly Kerala, and of course the Taj Mahal,’’ Asma said. She added that she spent her few days in Delhi browsing through the crafts bazaars and viewing Rashtrapati Bhavan, North and South Blocks from India Gate. But more interestingly, Asma says she was overawed by the ‘‘down-to-earth attitude’’ of ordinary Indians.‘‘My first encounter was with an immigration officer. While my husband went to collect our missing luggage, the officer kept me engaged in interesting conversation.’’ She finds Indian women much more open-minded than their Pakistani counterparts, who, according to her, are ‘‘not even used to going out alone’’. Unexpected sentiments, coming as they do from a girl who grew up with her father’s anti-India politics on Kashmir. ‘‘I remember it was going to be my first day in a high school in London’’ on 5 August, 1985, when the police swooped on their house and arrested Khan. Asma was traumatised by the experience and gradually, it started affecting her performance in school. ‘‘Though I respect my father for his courage of conviction, I also realise the complications politics creates for human beings as I myself have suffered,’’ she said. However, Asma clarifies that she has no interest in politics. ‘‘I wish both India and Pakistan get over with their obsession on Kashmir,’’ says the former fellow of the Pakistani Institute for Defence and Stragetic Studies. India, at least, has progressed but Pakistan is nowhere and therefore it owes it to its people to give up its engagement in Kashmir. ‘‘India, Pakistan and Kashmiris should get on with their lives to carve out a future,’’ she added. Asma is conscious of her political value in the ongoing Kashmiri politics as the moderates and hawks within the separatist ranks are falling out. ‘‘I don’t intend to join in the politics of Kashmir,’’ she asserted, adding that she would happy with just learning the Kashmiri language, exploring India and helping her husband set up his business once again.