Kashmir Conference without Soul

The people of Kashmir are deeply concerned over the horrible conditions of basic human rights and civil liberties in their picturesque land, that in the bygone times was an abode of peace loving and God fearing saints of the land. Those great spiritual men were not fascinated by the pomp and show of the kings of their times. They would urge on rulers to serve mankind or leave  throne for the true servants of God and humanity. The character of the lovers of Allah and humanity is depicted in history books, for instance: once upon a time a Muslim king of Kashmir came to seek blessings of a saint in a village; he stood silent before him for a few moments. There was no question or answer from either side. This unusual situation forced the king, and it started to thaw, the king  said, “could I serve you in any manner.”  “You are standing before me; and depriving me of the sunshine, please keep aside,” came the instant reply. The picturesque valley is proud of producing one of the best cultures and civilizations– reshaped and ornamented by the Islamic perception of Eternity and humanity in the latter times. Nowadays we have lost all that peace and tranquility. Foreign occupation is very much responsible for our grief and gloom.

The global scenario of terrorism and war between state and non state actors is being used lavishly by India to  smoke screen its policy of rights’ abuses in Kashmir: continuous arrests and imprisonments of political leaders, and workers, restrictions on normal political activities, vindictive measures against freedom loving people and their relatives are some of the instances. Today, the Kashmir movement for freedom—a peaceful resistance against the foreign occupational forces is in whirlpool. Although it is a strong political movement based upon the message of generations and international pledges, yet looking like a boat cut adrift from its moorings. The Kashmiris have lost a brave and intelligent generation during the past 20years in their genuine quest for the right of self determination. The rest hit by a tornado, are adrift on a raft looking to Allah for their survival. The environment is characterized by hate and rage against Indian occupation forces, but the people seem aghast by indifference of the world. Nonetheless, they keep their fingers crossed. In this background, secret channel talks on Kashmir and Kashmir Conferences held under the aegis of the AJK Government and others in Muzaffarabad and elsewhere need to be examined; especially a call given by Maulana Fazle-Rehman Chairman Kashmir Committee, and Sardar Ateeq Ahmad Khan Prime minister of Azad Kashmir, to convene a Kashmir Conference in Islamabad to frame a national Kashmir Policy. Regardless of the need to organize one more Kashmir Conference in the tumultuous situation of the country, one is dismayed to point out that neither the Kashmir Committee nor the AJK Government has any policy on Kashmir. Pity, the Kashmiris are fighting for freedom and right of self determination and groaning under India’s repression, but still the Kashmir Committee has no policy to help their brethren. If the concerned institutions are still groping in  darkness, how then as heads of their respective institutions they would do justice with the 63 year old freedom struggle of the past century; what are their terms of reference, and who do they represent and what do they preach and plead when they make frequent trips around the world in the name of Jammu and Kashmir. Do they want something else in line with the secret channel diplomacy? Let them know that there is no ambiguity in Kashmir about the national goal of freedom.  The Kashmiris want a new Kashmir free from occupational forces. They   want withdrawal of Indian troops and right of self determination as promised with them by India, Pakistan and the UN.

Although there is only one clause in the constitution of Pakistan on Kashmir, it is self explanatory and significant. Fathers of the constitution had no two opinions on the destiny and struggle of the people of Kashmir. Similarly, a separate constitution and a unique status of Azad Kashmir derives its strength from the principle of plebiscite as envisaged in the UNCIP resolutions. It speaks volumes on Kashmir. Although the Indian constitution has not been shaped according to the international pledges, still the Article 370 puts some curbs on its application to Jammu and Kashmir. India may keep Kashmir under the dust and corrosion of time or may under play the significance of this struggle, it may not accept  fragility and sourness in its  thread of relations with the Kashmiris and Pakistan but she cannot silence so many voices of protest in Kashmir. India’s war against the Kashmiris has terribly tarnished its credentials as a secular democracy.

Pankaja Mishra has described Indian Prime Minister’s dilemma in these words, “One reason India hasn’t is that since 2004 it has had a prime minister, Manmohan Singh. Last month, he distanced himself from India’s Strangelovian military bosses and talking heads, and “a line of thinking” that he said was “mired in a mindset that is neither realistic nor productive.” Singh knows that the long-unresolved issue of Kashmir lies at the heart of the tense relationship between India and Pakistan. More than 70,000 people, mostly Muslim, have died in India-Held Kashmir. Any “Idiot’s Guide to South Asia” will tell you that peace in the region will remain a distant dream until India and Pakistan reach a solution acceptable to Kashmiri Muslims as well as nationalists in both countries. This will initially require, at the very least, India to shift troops out of the Kashmir valley, where during the past two summers hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers have confronted increasingly nonviolent and overwhelmingly young Muslim protesters. India’s new image in Europe and America as a rising power has diminished the Indian appetite for compromise and negotiation. Following Russia’s Example Singh faces a strident domestic constituency that believes in isolating and neutering Pakistan while striking Held-Kashmir with what a former Indian diplomat called, invoking Russia’s example in Chechnya, an “iron fist.” There is in India, as in Israel, a public opinion that recoils at the prospect of talking on equal terms with neighbors viewed as terrorists.”(Bloomberg/Nation, June 05-2011)

The last few conferences in Muzaffarabad have achieved nothing good for the people of Kashmir–neither diplomatically,  politically nor from the human rights angle because, the meetings were without goal and soul. May Conference was simply forerunner to the Pugwash Conference of India-Pakistan Track-11 parliamentarians, held at  Islamabad on 26-27,May 2011, quite hidden from the watchful eye of the Pakistani media. How can the same mind set deliver a compatible and popular solution, if it does not know the bench mark of the popular struggle. People and organizations claiming their role in the future solution of Kashmir must first gain that acumen. Kashmiris struggle cannot be viewed only from some major  world events of the last 20years.It is a long drawn grass-root struggle of the United Nations’ charter, and its principles and resolutions. Unfortunately some NGOs and institutions that have recently jumped into the fray to come out with their formulas have no relationship or interaction with the real forces of the freedom in the part of the Kashmir under Indian control.

Azad Kashmir is a part of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. As per its aims and objectives it is also known as the base camp of freedom struggle. So under all conditions it must stand by the freedom loving people of Kashmir, and never beg or act as a political- broker in the Kashmir settlement. A state or a nation gains clout only when it works in union with its fountainhead and origin. The conferences that were hosted twice by the AJK authorities during the last three months in Muzaffarabad were not up to the mark and thus failed to do justice to the subjugated people of Kashmir.  If  the Azad Kashmir Government have limitations to affiliate itself with  the struggle against the Indian occupation in Kashmir, then let us politely tell its rulers  to  address  so many other economic and good governance  issues in this part of the state: post-earthquake problems of unemployment, corruption-infested economy, high cost of living, and education, alarming price-rise, rehabilitation problems, unrest among the Kashmiri Refugees, increasing gap between haves and have-nots, economy of dependence and exploitation, etc. The people on both sides of the divide are wary of self rule-interpretation of freedom movement, hollow CBMs for Kashmiris without human rights, trade devoid of international fiscal guarantees, political fall-out of trade across the LOC, humiliating conditions of the  Kashmiris living under the notorious AFSPA, and JK PSA. At the same time the regime should not feel sick of the concept of unity and right of self determination across the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. It must  ardently advocate and support the stand point of millions for the right of self determination. Without that it will be doing disservice to its own existence. Trade is good between free nations but not with those who kill your country men and rape your women, and commit crimes against humanity. There is no freedom with foreign troops on your heads; no difference if your dividing line is renamed irrelevant border, and It  makes   no difference, if you can’t change your bottle of wine by a bottle of milk.

The Kashmir conferences hosted indirectly by the AJK Government in Muzaffarabad in March,2011, and May 2011, and addressed also by some pro-Indians did not represent the freedom movement. It didn’t throw light on the human rights violations by occupation forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Its agenda did not match with the struggle of the Kashmiris inside Kashmir. Except a few lone voices the rest looked indifferent to the right of self determination and the sacrifices of the people to achieve their national objective of freedom. Perhaps as usual the host organization thought that the issue of right to self determination would be carried in the speeches of some high profile dignitaries. Observers say that it was meant to keep the Kashmiris in good humor. The theme of the Conference was simply trade and travel across the LOC.  The slogan of people-to-people contact is mirage as it does not grant freedom to the suffering families of Kashmir. India is undoubtedly considered an occupying power in Kashmir. So the slogan of people –”to-people contact has a defined application and the majority is considered enemy by the occupying power. They are thus barred from travel facilities in contravention of the recognized international law. This is evident from the plight of many families and their children who suffer for want of passports because of India’s obduracy.

These are some of the humanitarian issues which the Muzaffarabad conference could  address. But not a word was uttered. Individual speeches however flamboyant do not matter. It is the collective decision which carries the real weight and message before the world.  No declaration or resolution was adopted to highlight the political struggle of the people, reiterate faith in the right of self determination and censure India for her draconian laws and call upon the world to compel India to repeal inhuman laws for a peaceful resolution of the 63 year old imbroglio.  No condemnation of the human rights violations in Kashmir and no hint to the State department’s report on state repression in the tormented region of Kashmir when the conference could at least  thank the international human rights organizations for showing concern on the worsening rights situation in Kashmir. Under these conditions the people of Kashmir are skeptic and they believe that no apologetic approach will ever bring soothing summer breeze to the region. Therefore any future conference on Kashmir (without political exploitation) must reflect urges and aspirations of the Kashmiris. The real solution lies in ending human rights crimes in every form and manifestation and recognizing the right of self determination for the subjugated people of Jammu and Kashmir. The debate of soft or irrelevant border is meaningless in a grossly militarized state. Politicians and businessmen must stop making people fools through sermons without heart and soul. Ultimately success comes to love, faith, sincerity and patriotism, as said, “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins–”not through strength but by perseverance.”