Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Can a Solution Work if the Problem is Partially Defined?

To Ashraf the glass is half full. To many, the glass is half empty and what is not addressed in his approach is the shadow of terrorism that has loomed large over Kashmir for two decades, and a subtle but steady erosion of minority rights creating fertile ground for religious chauvinism

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 69, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

Kashmir: Solution is possible?

The resolution of a chronic problem like Kashmir needs sincerity, open-mindedness and strong will by all the stakeholders, comments Dr Mirza Ashraf Beg.

It is interesting that today we are discussing Kashmir--the Way Forward an issue that was thought many a times a closed chapter. Better late than never let us accept the fact that Kashmir dispute, besides being a hindrance in the development of the State, has been a cause for the martyrdom of more than hundred thousand innocents and now is threatening the world peace with a nuclear catastrophe. That is why world powers have become conscious of this flash point in the subcontinent.

Kashmir an International Problem:
I will not like to take the Kashmir issue to the Yusuf Shah Chak era or to 1953 to prove that it is an international issue. That will be to beat about the bush. All of us are aware that the present tragedies of Jammu and Kashmir date back to 1947 when India and Pakistan became two separate countries. Both these new born sovereign states approached the United Nations to claim their childish rights on the state. These two nascent nations, it was felt at the international level, if allowed to be wary against each other, would definitely lead to various inconveniences, not only for these two countries, but also for the entire comity of nations. Peace overtures were initiated overtly or covertly at various levels. Both the countries agreed to settle the issue by an impartial plebiscite under the supervision of the United Nations and a number of resolutions were passed in favour of a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir issue is still on U.N. agenda and neither India nor Pakistan has withdrawn it from that forum. All these facts besides an additional development that both India and Pakistan were confronting each other with nuclear arsenal lend support to my argument that unsolved Kashmir is an international problem and needs immediate attention.

Role of Kashmiri Diaspora:
In the recent years of turmoil we have seen Kashmiris that have settled all over the world were a part and parcel of the on-going movement. No other political movement in the world has been as visible on the streets of New York, London, Toronto and other cities all over the world. All this was possible through the tireless efforts of half a million restless Kashmiris living in these countries. Besides that, two million Kashmiris are living as refugees in India and Pakistan (Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims). United Nations has promised the right of self-determination to the whole lot of people of Jammu and Kashmir wherever they are irrespective of their caste, creed and color. So the role of the Kashmiri Diaspora and the political organizations they have constituted anywhere in the world is essential and must be welcome.

Third country mediation:
In the present dialogue process it is apparent that countries like U.S and U.K are mediating by way of facilitating the process of dialogue. This practice of third country meditation has already been taken recourse to at the end of 1965 war when the erstwhile USSR facilitated the meeting of the then two heads of states resulting in Tashkent agreement. Every country has its political, economical and other national interests; with the result at times it becomes rather difficult to remain fair. Despite all this, the merits of third country mediation cannot be categorically understated.

SAARC Route To Resolutions:
While the world has become a global village it has for convenience sake simultaneously divided into several groups. Today we see Canada and U.S between them and Gulf countries amongst each other have soft borders for trade and other activities. European countries have gone a step further. Besides having soft borders they have evolved a common currency too. ‘Euro’, works in all these countries. Once the same doctrine is applied in SAARC countries and borders become irrelevant with Jammu & Kashmir as a constituent of SAARC it will definitely become a win-win situation for both India and Pakistan.

Human Rights Issues:
To find a negotiable solution to the Kashmir problem it is of paramount importance to safeguard the human rights of the civilian population, ‘the non-combatants of the ongoing armed rebellion.’ Unless and until there is an end to custodial killings, rapes and indiscriminate and unwarranted firings in public places, peace will be a distant dream. I mean a peaceful settlement of Kashmir problem too is equally distant. The onus of safeguarding the human rights obviously lies on seven hundred thousand Indian armed forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir as these are supposed to be under a proper and answerable command and control. Prime Minister Mahmohan Singh is on record to have argued for zero tolerance. Unfortunately the ground situation is different, with the result it becomes difficult for a common observer to find a liaison between the armed forces operating in Kashmir and Prime Minister. More than six thousand Kashmiris are languishing in different Indian jails and concentration camps where the conditions are worst than that in Abu Gharib and Guatemalan bay. Some of these prisoners are women and senior citizens in deplorable health conditions. Thousands are missing and there are no whereabouts. Someone has to answer these questions as a step towards peace and peaceful negotiations.

Aspects and forms of sovereignty:
Jammu and Kashmir is located in the heart of south – central Asia and shares its borders with Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan. A small strip of Wakhan separates it from Soviet Union. The total area of the state is 85,000 square miles and thus is larger than 75 independent countries in the world. Nearly two third of its territory is at present under the control of India. The remaining area is mainly under supervision of Pakistan called Azad Kashmir and some area lies with China too. The population of the state is 14 million, including 2 million living as refugees in Pakistan and India .Half a million Kashmiri pundits in India and one and a half million in Pakistan. Besides that half a million are scattered all over the world. It is thus bigger than 100 sovereign countries of the world. Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory within the meaning of intentional law. United Nations has passed scores of resolutions in favour of a plebiscite in the state. Having said that the state with its vast resources in terms of forests agriculture and tourism as such is capable to sustain itself as a sovereign state like any other responsible member of the world community with friendly relations with both India and Pakistan. We have seen how successfully permit system has worked as a document of travel on Muzzafarabad – Srinagar road. The same doctrine of soft borders can easily be applied on other routes presently closed for human traffic and business activities between India, Pakistan and Jammu Kashmir.

Kashmir specific CBM’s:
Kashmir problem is in fact a trilateral issue. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, the government of India and government of Pakistan are parties to the issue. Hence the confidence building measures have to be between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the governments of India and Pakistan. Simultaneously there have to be CMB’s between India and Pakistan. A few of these Kashmir centric CBM’s can be identified as these;

Abolition of draconian laws:
All the laws such as AFPSA and Preventative Detention Act that give unbridled and pungent powers to the security forces need to be withdrawn forthwith. That way security forces will be saved from the human temptations of misuse of absolute power. At the same time will give the victimised Kashmiri nation a sense of security.

Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pundits:
Where the exodus of Kashmiri Pundits after the 1989 turmoil was painful it was equally unfortunate that pseudo intellectuals in the government facilitated them to dispose off their properties. These prosperities ought to have been left in the custody of already existing department of evacuee properties as was done with the properties of those who migrated to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan in 1947 from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. These migrants need to be welcomed back and rehabilitated properly and on priority. Kashmiri society has always been a mixed culture believing and practising secularism in letter and spirit. Muslims and non-Muslims have always lived side by side in this abode of Reshis and Munis. To make the housing colonies built for them habitable , graceful and secure these accommodations should be shared by both the communities and let the two communities live in close harmony with each other like they were living before the recent turmoil. Otherwise I am afraid these housing colonies will turn in to holiday homes and shall be a liability for the government.

Release of political prisoners:
Government of India should release all the political prisoners arrested under various draconian laws.

Disappeared people:
According to a rough estimate more than six thousand people are missing since 1989 as a result of the ongoing armed rebellion in the state. Governments of India and Pakistan shall devise ways and means to trace them or find their last authentic whereabouts. For this purpose they may utilize the services of impartial international organizations such as Red Cross etc.

Human rights Violations:
Human rights violations must stop forth with. Indian forces operating in the state of Jammu and Kashmir should respect Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s sentiments of ‘zero tolerance.’ The ground situation should collaborate with the verbal statements despite the fact that armed forces in Kashmir work under stress that is evident from the increasing number of suicides and killings of their fellow companions.

Withdrawal of the forces:
To begin with the number of armed forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir should come down to the level where it was in 1989 when the present armed rebellion started in the state. That will avoid the unnecessary friction between the civilians and the men in the uniform. Gradually the forces must go to their respectable places in barracks.

Dialogue between the political parties:
The present turmoil in the state has given the Kashmir problem some unique dimensions. People having the opinion that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India share the opinion that Kashmir needs a negotiated settlement with those who were banking on UN resolutions as a means of the solution.

Hence a dialogue between the so- called main stream political activists and those who rightly believe in the disputed nature of the state will be of a great help for peace and peaceful solution of the Kashmir problem. None of us can afford to have personal rivalries and egos at the cost of a suffering nation. We also need to work out a consensus on the negotiable solution and then the two groups can discuss the two thoughts of opinion. This exercise could narrow down the area of terms of reference at the time of arriving at the final solution of the problem.

Let me point out that solutions and settlements of chronic problems like the one we are talking about, need open- mindedness, freedom from bias, humiliation and sincere desire and then a firm will with catholic and democratic approach. Unless the two countries together with the victimized Kashmiris have a commitment to the principals of justice and co existence in the backdrop of the concept of globalization the problem cannot be solved. Having realised that all the methods of force and coercion have proved abortive, peaceful negotiations seem to be the only way forward. In the entire history of sixty years of this dispute, there has never come such an opportune time when all sections of society in India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir are fervently willing to solve the issue. If this chance is wasted and opportunity is allowed to slip away the present generation of politicians, intellectuals and so on shall be the criminals against human society for which the future generations should never forgive us.

1 comment:

Luli said...

An eye opener! These should seriously be addressed to, and soon. The Indian Government must take notice of this.