March 2005 News

Kashmir Bus Service 'important Step'

21 March 2005
The Nation

Washington DC: Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director of the Kashmiri-American Council (KAC) Sunday lauded the decision to start Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service. 'It is a very important step in the right direction,' he stated. In a statement, he said, 'this very important step may lead us to the final and ultimate goal.' He, however, said that it was not the ultimate goal by itself. 'It is a very important means -it is a dream of every Kashmiri- how to cross this 'line of conflict' (the ceasefire line), but, it is a very important means in order to achieve an end- but, the bus service by itself is not an end.' 'what is the end?. 'The end is a day when the people of Kashmir from either side of the ceasefire line are going to be given a choice so that they can decide future of their land,in an atmosphere which is free from external coercion and intimidation.' Dr. Fai said, 'when that day comes, that is going to guarantee peace and stability- not only in the (occupied) state of Jammu and Kashmir, that is going to guarantee the peace and stability in the region of South Asia.' The noted Kashmiri leader said 'we do believe that that India and Pakistan must take important steps so that Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) succeed. These CBMs are very small steps, but these very small steps can create an atmosphere of goodwill, they can create an atmosphere for dialogue, so that people-to-people contacts are established.' 'I believe, peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable,' he stated, 'but, only and only, if all parties to the dispute -be it Government of India, the Government of Pakistan, the Kashmiri leadership- make some concessions.' 'They have to make some concessions, some sacrifices and some modifications.' As a Kashmiri American, he stated that this was his personal individual opinion that 'it is almost impossible to find the solution of the Kashmir problem that respects all the sensitivities of India, that values all the sentiments of Pakistan, and at the same time, keeps intact the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir.' He said, 'one thing I want to make clear- when we are talking of the issue of Kashmir- we have to really keep it in mind that we are not talking about an issue, which is a fight between Hindus and Muslims, we are not talking about an issue that is the struggle between the theocracy and secularism, we are not talking about an issue that is a border dispute between India and Pakistan.' 'We are talking about an issue that basically is about the hopes, it is about the rights, it is about the future of 14 million people of Kashmir, who are residing on either side of ceasefire line- be they Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or Budhists.' Dr. Fai rejected as 'absurd' the portrayal of Kashmir issue as that of fundamentalism. Clearing the perception, he said 'one thing I would like to make it clear that is from the history of Kashmir- that, it is really very painful for any Kashmiri when they hear that the struggle in Kashmir is being portrayed as a struggle about fundamentalism.' 'This very word- fundamentalism- it may be applicable even in the United States of America, but the history of 5000 years of Kashmir justifies that word fundamentalism is not applicable in the Kashmiri society.' He said: 'one of the proud distinctions of Kashmir has been the sustained tradition of tolerance, the sustained tradition of amity, and the sustained tradition of goodwill between the members of different religious community.' In this respect, he referred to the stalwart Kashmiri leaders who stood for Kashmir's freedom struggle, but they were not Muslims. Naming these founding fathers, he referred to the names of Ramchandar Cok and Premnath Bazzaz, both of whom were Hindus, but whose credentials for Kashmir struggle were 'enviable and worth emulation.' He said, no historian could forget their names. Ramchandar, he stated was the prime minister of the Maharaja at the time partition of Kashmir- 'he was a great man, he was a Kashmiri, but he was not a Muslim, he was a Hindu.' Dr. Fai said history cannot ignore mentioning the name of Premnath Bazzaz, 'a person who was really controlling and shaping the minds and the hearts of the Kashmiri people.' He quoted Bazzaz having said: 'Is it a crime to become the shapers of your own society?. Is it a crime to become the makers of your own community that India, Pakistan and Kashmiris sit together'. Again, he said, Premnath was 'a great historian, he was a great Kashmiri, he was not a Muslim, he was a Kashmiri Hindu.' He also referred to the theme chosen for the Fourth International Kashmir Peace Conference held in New York on February 24 and 25- i.e.'Peace Initiatives in South Asia: Exploring Possible Options for Kashmir.' The theme, he added, was chosen with a purpose, because this was a theme 'that has given new hope not only to the 14 million people of Kashmir, this theme has given new optimism to more than 1.2 billion people of South Asia, that is home to one fifth of total humanity.' 'The theme was very important because this very theme was agreed upon between Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh and President General Pervez Musharraf, in New York, on September 24, 2004.' 'We, the Kashmiri Americans, and for that matter, the people of Kashmir, whole-heartedly support the joint statement between India and Pakistan, particularly, when it says that they will try to reach a peaceful negotiated settlement. But, we also hope that India and Pakistan understand that there cannot be any peaceful negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue without the participation of and the involvement of the leadership of the people of Kashmir from both sides of the ceasefire line and also the leaderships of the people at the international scene.' About the successful Kashmir Conference, he said that the participants had not gathered to find a solution of Kashmir problem. 'We are not there to come up with some road map for the settlement of this issue, and we were not there to reach some formal or informal agreements. But, definitely, we were there in order to create an atmosphere so that all parties to the dispute are going to listen to each others' point of view, and much more important than that, they are going to listen to each others' point of view with respect and with dignity.'


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