December 2007 News

Return To 1952, Solve Kashmir

23 December 2007
The Asian Age
Kuldip Nayar

Srinagar: Human rights violations have a lot to contribute to the uncertain future of Kashmir. They lie heavily on people’s mind. Their confidence is shaken and they do not see anything on the horizon in the shape of a settlement. They are tired and exasperated. Therefore, even a small incident raises the temperature. In Srinagar, human rights violations may have lessened, but in the countryside there is reportedly no let-up. The government may deny these allegations, but when a person like Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister of the state, repeatedly says that 'the killing of the innocent by the Army forces us to think whether signing of the Instrument of Accession by my father, Sheikh Abdullah and Maharaja Hari Singh, was fair, straight or not' it means that he too feels that the limit has been crossed. It is no use feeling horrified over his remark. He does not become 'anti-India' by saying that the guilty in the security forces must not be spared. He has just poured his heart out. The government should take note of his anguish. It can well be argued that the odd killing should not lead to questioning the basics. Even the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had endorsed the accession, and had said that the question of integration could not be reopened. I know the accession of Kashmir to India is a sensitive point with us. Anybody questioning it is criticised in the worst possible language. Yet, the fact remains that the accession does not condone the violation of human rights. The number of people tortured or killed is not small. It runs into thousands. In such a situation, in the Kashmir valley, it is but natural for the people to wonder whether their forefathers were right in opting for India. This does not mean that they want to join Pakistan. The question they ask after every human rights violation is: When will all this end? After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave an undertaking that there would be zero tolerance to human rights violation, it should have been so. True, cases have been booked against security men for reported excesses and investigations have also been held. Yet, Kashmiris shrug this off by saying that this is a familiar exercise which they have gone over many a time before. Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has not touched the question of accession but has said that 'they (security forces) kill with impunity and the law of the jungle prevails.' These are strong words, but he would have sounded more credible if he had condemned the killing of an Army major the other day. Individual terrorism is as bad as state terrorism. Kashmiri leaders attack the latter, not the former. Moreover, individual terrorism has come to be associated with fundamentalism all over the world, and attacked unequivocally. The Kashmiri leaders would get heard if they were to denounce extremism. Official inquiries are not believed. So New Delhi should request the South Asia Human Rights (SAHR), headed by former Prime Minister Inder Gujral, to look into the killings and other allegations. Hundreds of people are said to be missing. SAHR should go into their cases as well. However, whatever the inquiry and at whatever level, it will remain one-sided if the grievances of the Kashmiri Pandits are not heard. Thousands of them have been living in camps for years. They should be rehabilitated in the valley. If the Kashmiri leaders were to take this initiative, the misgivings about the Pandits in the valley would disappear. Some Kashmiri leaders told me once that the future of the Pandits would be decided when the future of Kashmir would be decided. I hope they have changed their mind, as they have said so. The settlement of Kashmir, as I see it, will be a long haul process. It is heartening to learn that India and Pakistan are discussing Kashmir. I do not know how far the back channel has helped them move forward. I was told by a high-up a few weeks ago that '80 per cent distance has been covered.' Whatever that means, it indicates a substantial progress. One salient feature of the understanding reached is that the Line of Control (LoC) will become a soft international border. When Sardar Abdul Qayum, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), was in Delhi last, he told me he would not oppose converting the LoC into a permanent border. Unstable domestic situation in Pakistan stalled the talks. I have learnt that the slowing down of the process was at the request of Islamabad. The outcome of the elections in Pakistan has to be awaited. Some may argue that the solution would have been concretised by now if President Pervez Musharraf’s proposals had been accepted. His proposal made the border between the two Kashmirs irrelevant and ruled out any division on the basis of religion. Such an arrangement would not have lasted without the involvement of Pakistan’s political leaders. I wish that political conditions in Pakistan would settle down by February-March, because India may go for a mid-term poll if the CPI(M) carries out its threat to withdraw its support to the Manmohan Singh government if talks on the India-US nuclear deal are not wound up by December 31. At some stage, the people of Jammu and Kashmir will have to be associated with the talks, so that the agreement, if and when reached, is endorsed by them. Any settlement without their involvement will be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. New Delhi has held one meeting with the Hurriyat leaders and some others. Islamabad has not yet talked to the people in POK and the Upper regions. The people in the two countries are yet to be told what the governments have been cooking. Even if the common man on both sides is sick and tired of the Kashmir problem, the elite, parochial and the prejudiced would like to have their pound of flesh. It seems that the solution which has evaded both countries for 60 years will be delayed further. It would have been better if New Delhi had unilaterally reverted to the 1952 status when Kashmir had with it all the subjects, except external affairs, defence and communications. Some parties like the BJP may oppose New Delhi going back to that status. Such opponents have to be brought round. I see no better solution than the 1952 one. Both countries should give to their side of Kashmir the type of autonomy which the Indian side of Kashmir had enjoyed before Sheikh Abdullah was arrested for asking New Delhi to make good its promise on autonomy. Yet, whatever the solution and whatever time it might take, human rights violations cannot be tolerated. The people in Kashmir feel helpless and shorn of dignity.


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