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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Will the Sageer Report Gain Traction?

Sajjad thinks Justice Sageer's report will end up where the previous four reports of PM's Working Groups have landed

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 45, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

Eliminating ‘Azadi’

In the name of inching closer to the resolution of Kashmir issue, yet another scene was created when the fifth working group on Jammu and Kashmir set up by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh submitted its report a few days back and has recommended that the people of the state decide whether it should retain the special status under Article 370 of the Constitution or not "to see the 60 year old matter being settled once and for all”. The group has also recommended that the "the question of autonomy and its demand can be examined in the light of the Kashmir Accord or in some other manner or on the basis of some other formula as the present Prime Minister may deem fit and appropriate so as to restore the autonomy to the extent possible".

The big surprise was that the report was submitted by Justice (retd) Sageer Ahmad, heading the working group, to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah instead of handing it over to the Prime Minster. And the most important message through this report is that ‘freedom’ is not only a distant dream, but impossible for Kashmir. Notably, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in 2006 set up five working groups on confidence building in Jammu and Kashmir and to improve relations between the state and the Central government. Four working groups appointed to develop an agreed vision of Jammu and Kashmir's future had presented their recommendations to the third round table conference. Now taking into the account the recommendations of all working groups, it is evident that these working groups have ducked hard political questions and their recommendations have maintained a significant distance in addressing the issues raised by the separatist cadres.

For example the National Minorities Commission chairman Muhammad Hamid Ansari's working group on confidence-building measures, had asserted that "certain laws made operational during the period of militancy (the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Disturbed Areas Act) impinge on [the] fundamental rights of citizens and adversely affect the public." It demands that the laws "should be reviewed and revoked." In addition, the working group had suggested that the "cases of all persons in jail should be reviewed, and a general amnesty given to those under trial for minor offences or who are innocent." What has happened in this regard is known to all. It ignited a debate which later on died down as the Government of India shelved the recommendations in the name of security to the national integrity.

Former Foreign Secretary M.K. Rasgotra's working group on strengthening cross-Line of Control relations, suggested that "a joint consultative group or committee of 10 members each of the legislatures of both sides may be constituted to exchange views periodically on social, economic, cultural and trade-related matters of mutual interest." In addition, "joint consultative groups of professionals may be set up for horticulture, tourism promotion and environment protection." The implementation of these recommendations too were ignored.

Even former Planning Commission member N.C. Saxena's working group on good governance noted that "the State Human Rights Commission requires strengthening" and calls for the creation of "a high-powered committee (including political representatives and civil society members) for enforcing human rights." Notably, despite strong recommendations of these working groups, repeal of special laws and respect for human rights continue to remain big issues.

Now the fifth group’s recommendations have pushed NC and PDP into the ring to battle for autonomy or self rule. Interestingly, the separatist cadres have been put outside the ring as mute spectators and their ‘azadi’ fantasy has been pushed out of the race. Here emerges a vital question. Is strengthening of state centre relation a solution to Kashmir problem. I don’t think so and I am sure it will further create dusty atmosphere and only prolong the sufferings of people. What to negotiate, what to demand, what to revive, are the questions that no party engaged in Kashmir affairs has been able to explain. This only reflects that confusion looms large at the cost of common Kashmiri comfort.

Remarkably, PDP has been playing its cards very cautiously and created waves when it suggested that the currencies of both India and Pakistan should be used in J&K and Pakistan administered Kashmir and there should be common control of India and Pakistan on certain subjects as would pertain to these two parts of Kashmir. This way PDP succeeded in sentimentally exploiting the Kashmiri masses. But at the same time PDP has defined the Self Rule flowing through Article 370 and instrument of Accession and the Constitution of India. Here self rule agenda is more directed to take PDP to international scene not much behind the separatists in the name of settlement of Kashmir dispute. But on thing is clear, PDP has so far succeeded in handling the Kashmiri masses emotionally.

Precisely, appointing committees and groups in the name of addressing the core Kashmir issue, has proved wastage of time. Most of the time, these groups and committees have ducked hard political questions. But in both cases autonomy and self rule - the basics of the Kashmir dispute remain unattended. In the first instance, I don’t see any such thing happening at the hands of Government of India as they have mastered to keep the tradition of betrayal and deceit alive here by promising world and then delivering nothing. If at all such a thing happens, joint mechanism or changing nomenclature from chief minister to prime minister is not what constitutes Kashmir dispute.

It is notable that autonomy or self rule did not need any participation of Pakistan. Nor did these issues need any participation of separatist elements. Article 370 so often comes in the news. The Sageer committee recommendations can also be taken as an indication that its abrogation cannot be ruled out in the name of strengthening the state-centre relation. Constitutionally it can be abrogated by the Parliament of India.

If Government of India is serious and above all sincere about resolution of Kashmir dispute, it must stop scripting anti people agenda. They should not undermine dissent and come out with initiatives not to drive the conflict but to ensure miseries and sufferings of Kashmiris are put to a halt. Deceit and betrayal will only lead to further destruction for both – oppressed and oppressor.

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