Kashmir Ripe for Endgame?
I have before me the full text of the report on Kashmir prepared by Beersman Paul, President, Human Rights Council, Geneva, submitted to the Council at its 12th session, 14th Sept.,-2nd October, 2009.
The report, which is titled "Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu & Kashmir: Solution Under the Indian Constitution," encapsulates the interactions and findings of Mr.Beersman during his "study tour through Jammu & Kashmir State from June 30-July 27, 2009.
After a brief, factual introductory, Beersman lists the individuals and organizations he interviewed during what must clearly have been an exhausting job of fact-finding, covering all three provinces of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and most shades of opinion, although I do not find any entries either for Syed Ali Shah Geelani (the only separatist leader who holds fast to the objective of accession of the state with Pakistan, via, no doubt the formality of self-determination), for Yaseen Malik (JKLF, who steadfastly espouses "independence" from both India and Pakistan) or any interview with a Kashmiri Pandit spokesperson (remembering that the Pandits, at the other end of the spectrum, want the state's accession to India to be unambiguously cemented.) The text can be accessed at http://basjak.org.
Hereunder is a bullet-point summation of the significant points made by some significant Valley leaders other than those whose allegiance to the accession with India remains firmly in place, often referred to as the "mainstream" parties and political groups. My catalogue is clearly not intended to reproduce the full text of what each individual/organization is recorded to have said in Beersman's report, but to highlight what seem to me the chief concerns of each.
Bilal Lone—member, Executive Council, All Parties Hurriyat Conference, (Moderate; APHC-M):
"I am convinced all these strikes, hartals, shut downs and demonstrations
"Unless India and Pakistan move closer, no prospects for Kashmir";
approves of back-channel diplomacy, and states that "Independence
Firdous Syed—former member, Legislative Council, surrendered militant:
"alienation of the masses with the system is profound"; the important
question is how to maintain contact with the people; the valley needs
Hashim Quereshi—J&K Liberal Democratic Party:
"against all hartals as they only harm the common man."
"no peace until Kashmir issue is discussed between the three parties."
Azam Inqilabi—of "Mahaz-e-Azadi, member, APHC-M; once founder of the
United Jehad Council (since headed by Syed Salauddin):
"it is time when ossified ideas about the Kashmir tangle should give way
to progressive, futuristic,viable, and practical concept of empowerment of
no to "prevarication, procrastination, recrimination, polemics";
"let Kashmir be demilitarized on either side of the LOC, let the two parts
be reunified. . .facilitate the installation of a genuinely elected parliament
where patriotic democrats will determine the nature and relations with the
neighbouring countries, especially India and Pakistan."
"free Kashmir" good for South Asia.
Bashir Manzar—ed., "Kashmir Images":
"victim mentality among Kashmiris always blaming Delhi instead of
"Omar Abdullah not close to ground level";
priority—"restore law & order";
chaos: APHC and perhaps PDP (People's Democratic Party led by
Mehbooba Mufti, which argues for "self-rule" without bringing Indian
sovereignty into question) responsible for misguiding young people;
Riyaz Punjabi—Vice-Chancellor, university of Kashmir:
"unemployment biggest challenge";
"other challenges": "environment, lakes, water resources, energy";
"militants lost public support': "people want peace, stability,
development & flourishing economy";
"most important aspect (for normalcy) is the return of the Pandits—
part and parcel of Kashmiri society"; "people want them to come back";
"should come back, join the mainstream as part of our society, and work
Hemlata Wakhloo—Secretary General, Indian National Congress:
"terrorism must be tackled";
"bring back secularism, mutual respect";
"Pakistan keeping the pot boiling"; "people not with militancy anymore";
no "communal killing since 2005"; random killing of "Village Defence
Zaffar Iqbal Khan—Sec., J&K State Academy of Art, Culture & Languages;
Member, Working Group on State-Centre relations:
approving of Omar Abdullah government;
corruption is a big problem; govt., should be at doorstep;
"political level to be attended by New Delhi";
M.Y.Tarigami—(CPIM; member, Legislative Assembly):
Pakistan supporting agitation to bring PDP back to power;
political change needed to accommodate "anguished youth";
"centre must come forward with political initiatives";
"talk to mainstream parties and separatists";
"democratic rights and civil liberties must be safeguarded";
time to "reduce disproportionate presence of security forces without
Bhawani Bashir Yasir—Chairman, & former Head of Diplomatic Wing &
Sec., General JKLF, Ammanullah, Founder of Ensemble Kashmir
"problem will continue until root cause not addressed";
"India and Pakistan are playing with us."
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq—Chairman, APHC-M, and religious head of Jamia mosque in Srinagar:
Only suppressive, military approach in use;
security forces receiving better equipment, more money;
"militant organizations receive money from Gulf states and
repeal draconian laws;
gradual demilitarization, starting with townships and cities;
encourage people to people contact; leaders of both sides should
encourage more trade;
India & Pakistan should jointly start a process reaching out to the
people; revive the peace process
Shabir Ahmed Shah—Chairman, J&K Democratic Freedom Party, member,
Centre does not want the two APHCs to unite;
political uncertainty; "people are killed, arrested, gangraped";
world order has changed; solutions through "peaceful, democratic means"
"world community must feel our pain."
Dr.Nusrat Andrabi—Member, J&K Muslim Waqf Board:
police should replace CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force);
infrastructure to be built;
environment to be protected;
water problems to be solved;
civil society to be strengthened;
centre must resume dialogue despite bad situation in Pakistan;
some peaceful solution to be found.
Ansari Masroor—President, Itehad -ul-Muslameen; member, APHC-M:
'separatists and authorities have no control over the people";
"agencies not wanting peace are deeply involved in agitations";
too many parties giving instructions;
"these strikes don't suite our struggle."
Five point programme:
India should accept it as a "disturbed area";
stepwise demilitarization & repeal of draconian laws;
free movement along LOC;
people to people contacts;
make borders irrelevant; "Kashmiris should be given chance of ruling themselves without interference from India and Pakistan." 1947 borders to be restored.
Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhatt—Chairman, J&K Muslim Conference; member, APHC-M:
"Geelani and his APHC are extremists";
"we are interdependent and have to create space for others";
"Kashmir problem must be solved. . .ensuring the survival of South
"our slogan remains azadi (independence)";
Irrelevant borders vis a vis people/trade;
Joint management by India, Pakistan, Kashmiris.
Dr.Siddiq Wahid—Vice-Chancellor, Islamic University of Science & Technology, Awantipoora:
bad if opposition practices negative politics;
Shakeel Qalander—President, Federation, Chambers of Industry:
"Kashmiri alienation from India is there";
"Abdullah always advocated an independent buffer state."
Mehbooba Mufti—Head, People's Democratic Party:
"fundamental problem is Kashmir issue";
So, "security forces should be withdrawn";
"internal and interregional self-rule";
"we want a solution within the Indian Constitution, without
Feroze Kacho—Executive Director, Kargil Development Project & State Sec.,
Thupstan Chhewang—Ladakh Union Territory Front:
It must have seemed to Beersman that extreme positions are scantily reflected in this swathe of opinion, which may be the reason that both the pro-Pakistan Geelani APHC and known pro-India forces, both in the Valley and in Jammu province find small space in his report.
Noting that J&K is at present under the rule of three countries—China controlling Aksai Chin and a territory of 5180 kms ceded by Pakistan, India in control of J&K state, comprising Jammu region, the Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh, and Pakistan in control of Azad Kashmir (POK), Gilgit & Baltistan (Northern Areas), Beersman makes the following concluding observations:
--J&K must remain united within 1947 borders, and a modus vivendi needs to be struck between the Valley and Jammu province;
--that violence stands rejected all across the board;
--"Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism and cross-border infiltration; stop sending money, ammunition, weapons, stop giving training. . . .As long as Pakistan supports terrorism, openly or covertly, there cannot be peace in J&K; without peace there cannot be a solution."
--priority must be given to the sufferings of Kashmiris; stop violence and deception; "Kashmiris are fed up with violence."
--"common bandits" are "taking advantage of situation"—"abducting people for money, raping, murdering, extorting money from business persons, using mafia practices under the cover of ‘the movement'";
--"it is easy to blame the security forces of all crimes that are committed";
--who should represent the population?
--"dissident leaders do not have a solution"; "'let a tripartite dialogue start and a solution will emerge automatically' ‘is their view'";
--"The Kashmiri Pandits are the original Kashmiri speaking inhabitants of the valley. They were hounded out of the valley by militancy in 1990: some 500,000. . .fled to safer places. This exodus changed drastically the demographic composition of the population in the valley. After more than 19 years, the return of the Kashmiri Pandits is more and more blurred. Nevertheless, they have their emotional attachment with their birth ground, their roots. They only can return when peace is there and when the rule of law, not the rule of the majority is installed."
--no doubt about human rights violations, both by security forces and militants:
"dissident leaders do not mention and are not critical on human rights violations committed by militants"; security forces should show restraint.
--"terrorism must be tackled. The government must bring back secularism and mutual respect."
--natural for youth in troubled times to be abnormal;
--"construction and reconstruction continues. . .roads, office buildings, medical dispensaries are being built"; "shopping centres, hotels, residential areas, houses, posh villas, etc.,are being built, renovated"; "mobile phone became common good, and is operative in remote areas, and car-park is completely westernized, and latest and most expensive models can be seen."
--Private industry can come up only when peace is restored;
-- the "cry for self-determination by some parties is supported by Pakistan";
"However, accession to Pakistan is (at bottom) the only... option" desired;
"Indeed, according to the Azad J&K, Interim Constitution Act, 1974, Part 7(2), ‘no person or political party in Azad Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the state's accession to Pakistan."
--"all options should be left open, such as accession to India...to Pakistan, Azadi, total independence, partition";
--"Pakistan has no stand in J&K. Pakistan raided J&K and is at the origin of the de facto partitioning of the state. As early as 13th August, 1948, the UN Commission for India and Pakistan requested Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the state as a precondition for organizing the Plebiscite. The same Commission in its Resolution of 5th January, 1949 repeated the request. Until this date Pakistan has not withdrawn its armed forces, and consequently the Plebiscite has not been held."
--"This conclusion is confirmed by the ‘Report on Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects' of Rapporteur, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Vice Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Union, and almost unanimously adopted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs (March, 2007)."
The Beersman interviews (of which all are not included here) and his conclusions thereof taken together, alongwith other historical inputs, and this writers's repeated visits to the valley would seem to make the following inferences germane and valid:
--that whatever hopes may have been vested in the praxis of violence on whichever side have come to naught;
--that Kashmiris are truly and finally sickened of killings, whoever be the killers;
--that the longing for peace and stability is a felt one, impelled also by the aspiration among young and talented Kashmiris to make a future for themselves;
--that most hanker for a credible internal democracy, informed by transparent and just governance that can be trusted to redress the groud-level livelihood and developmental needs of Kashmiris;
--that alongwith peace and democracy, the desire to see the back of draconian laws and of the security forces is overwhelming and ubiquitous;
--that most Kashmiris wish to see the LOC made irrelevant for purposes of travel and trade, even as no one argues for any partition or separation on the basis of region, religion or ethnic diversity;
--that most Kashmiris recognize (after Bangladesh and the current turmoil in Pakistan) that religion does not make a viable basis for nationhood;
--that, despite the tragic exodus of the Pandits, they continue to find home and hospitality whenever they visit the valley, and that Muslim Kashmiris would like to see them return, not into sequestered ghettos but as they used to be; just as Muslim Kashmiris also wish to see them assume their allegiance to the valley, sharing the suffering and the risk;
--that most organized groups hold dearly, variously, to concepts like "self-rule" and "greater autonomy" without challenge to Indian sovereignty;
--that Muslim Kashmiris harbour a just grievance about opportunities in the mainland remaining opaque to them because of sectarian politics and prejudice;
There has been some evidence recently that the government of India is beginning to be more accepting of concretizing more fully the "special status" that the state of J&K has under the Constitutional dispensation. There remains a doubt as to how far Pakistan which fully dictates political and administrative functions in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir may stretch itself with regard to according a matching autonomy to territory held by it.
Nonetheless, given the climate of opinion all around, including the global zeitgeist, there is no reason why India should dither from making bold expansions of autonomy in J&K state, coupling those moves with effective and concrete transformations in law and the constitution to ensure that the regions also are accorded internal autonomy in as many functions as feasible by consent.
A greatly useful first move would be to send the army back to border areas, and leave the policing of cities and towns to the local police whose efficiency and training could be vastly invested in and upgraded.
A general amnesty for those undertrials against whom, after all, no proof of any substance exists could be another confidence building measure, making sure that work is found for them.
An open and unbiased calling to account of those involved in extra-judicial killings would seem a most restorative step, especially when accompanied by a repeal in most part of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
As Beersman and some of his interviewees have argued, no normalcy can be credible and genuine until as many Pandits return to the valley as want to. Ways have to be conjointly found, in consultation with the people at large, to make this a reality. Even as the Pandits need to realize that their claim to being Kashmiris must remain wobbly till such time as they do not take the plunge to assume the valley again, and do their part to revive traditions of syncretism still lauded the world over.
Just as right-wing Hindutva forces in the mainland need to recognize that the Muslim Indians who stayed back at partition time—or, for that matter, the bulk of ordinary Muslims who fled to the new state of Pakistan—cannot be held responsible either for the Partition or for the mayhem that went with it, Kashmiri Pandits need to understand that the mayhem of 1990 did not involve the general will of Kashmiri Muslims, although they might have done more than they did to meet that mayhem.
But, all in all, the relative performance of the Indian and Pakistani states, the protracted experience of Kashmiris of all communities, the state of dysfunction and regression across the LOC, the complete failure of the politics of violence—with or without cross-border terrorism—the new avenues of advancement of secularism as an idea (in inverse proportion to the disasters wrought world-wide by sectarian/religious ideologies), coupled with the wonderful world of science and technology—all of that makes the moment propitious for all parties to the Kashmir stalemate to push for an endgame.
To my own intuition, permit me to say an agnostic's "amen."