September 2016 News

Track-II Futile, Direct Dialogue Only Way Out: Concerned JK Citizens Write To President

7 September 2016
Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: As Kashmir continues to be in grip of massive protests and clashes over civilian killings, a group of concerned citizens from J&K on Wednesday petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee seeking an 'open and direct dialogue' for a 'lasting' solution to the Kashmir dispute. The citizens, from varied professional backgrounds, also made it clear that Track II initiatives are time-consuming and rarely yield any results and therefore not an option. In a five-page memorandum to Mukherjee, the citizens' group has written: 'An open dialogue with the representatives of those leading the ongoing movement and overall struggle for realization of political aspirations, without questioning the legitimacy of the leadership, is imperative.' The signatories to the memorandum include Muhammad Shafi Pandit, former Chairman of J&K Public Service Commission; Hasnain Masoodi, former Judge of J&K High Court; G R Sufi, former Chief Information Commissioner; Abdul Wahid, former Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University and founder Vice Chancellor of Central University Kashmir; Hashmatullah Khan, former Vice Chancellor of SKUAST; Fayaz A Kaloo, Editor-in-Chief, Greater Kashmir; Masood Hussain, Artist; Rafiq Masoodi, former Additional Director General, Doordarshan; Munshi Ghulam Hassan, former Chairman J&K Bank; Reyaz A Jan, former Advocate General; M Zaman Azurda, Professor, Former Dean & Head, Faculty of Arts; Nusrat Andrabi, Professor, former Principal Govt. College Nawakadal; Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor, Kashmir Times; Feroz Ahmad, former Commissioner-Secretary to Government; A R Khan, former Member State Human Rights Commission; Isfandayar Khan, former District Development Commissioner; Syed Noor-Ul-Hassan, former Pr. Chief Conservator of Forest; G H Kangu, former Pr. Chief Conservator of Forest; G H Rather, former Development Commissioner Power; Gazala Noor Amin, Entrepreneur; Krishan Lal, Entrepreneur, and GD Bakshi, Progressive Farmer. 'Jammu and Kashmir has been on the boil for the last eight weeks. The discontent and discord in the State may not be new. Its history is replete with umpteen incidents of mass uprising after brief intervals of lull, against suppression of political aspirations. The spread and magnitude of public anger, this time however, is without a parallel in its strife-torn history,' the Memorandum reads, adding: 'At no stage, of political struggle spread over seven decades, have been such a large number of people killed, maimed and blinded in various crowd control measures by the security forces and police, within a few weeks. The unrest has spread to Pir Panchal Region, Chenab Valley and Kargil Region. There is no sign of an early respite. The Central Armed Police Forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police have been wantonly firing pellet guns above waist, resulting in eye injuries to most of the victims. Till date, 75 people have been killed in the firing resorted to by the police and other security forces, more than 700 have been completely or partially blinded, and the number of injured has crossed ten thousand. Property-both public and private-worth millions has been damaged during protests or nocturnal raids - a weapon of reprisal, introduced of late. The loss to business and related activities, has crossed seven thousand crore rupees. The situation is alarming and, if left unaddressed, may have disastrous fallout not only on people of Jammu and Kashmir, but the entire region.' The group has written that Jammu and Kashmir dispute, commonly known as 'Kashmir Dispute' is not an administrative or developmental issue and people of Jammu and Kashmir with tourism, handicrafts, horticulture and agriculture, as backbone of their economy and higher per-capita income, are economically better placed as compared to the people of some other States. 'While making an effort to settle the dispute, focus therefore is not to remain merely on financial packages or administrative interventions. The 'Kashmir Dispute' is a political dispute, with its genesis in the broken promises made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, by the Government of India, from time to time since 1947, and non-implementation of UN Security Council and UNCIP Resolutions. The Dispute has its roots also in failure of India and Pakistan to carry forward dialogue contemplated under Tashkent Declaration of 1966, Shimla Agreement 1972, and bilateral talks held from time to time,' the Memorandum reads, adding: 'The Dispute, over the years, has consumed lives of thousands of people, left thousands orphans and widows, without a source of sustenance. Thousands have disappeared leaving behind, old aged parents, half widows and half orphans. In the last two and a half decades, more than hundred thousand people have lost their lives, because of the turmoil directly linked to non-resolution of the Dispute, simmering for the last seven decades. The value of property and resources lost runs into billions.' The Government of India, the memorandum reads, has been spending billions of rupees on acquisition of military hardware and maintenance of more than half a million troops and para-military forces in the State. 'The Dispute has, triggered arms race and, lately, nuclear proliferation in the subcontinent, making the State a nuclear flash point, threatening the security of the entire sub-continent. This leads to misallocation of precious and scarce resources, and perpetuates the state of poverty for the teeming millions, living below the poverty line. India and Pakistan have fought four wars over the Dispute and the two countries, with nuclear arsenal, cannot any more afford to get entangled in an armed conflict. We sincerely believe that a lasting solution of the Dispute through dialogue with all the stakeholders would be in the interest of people of the subcontinent in general and people of Jammu and Kashmir in particular.' Discarding Track-II initiatives as futile, the memorandum reads: 'Our experience teaches us that Track II initiatives are time-consuming, rarely yield any results and therefore not an option. Direct dialogue is the only way forward. An open dialogue with the representatives of those leading the ongoing movement and overall struggle for realization of political aspirations, without questioning the legitimacy of the leadership, is imperative. A confusion, grossly misplaced, is being created regarding the identity of those leading the ongoing movement and overall struggle for realization of political aspirations and therefore required to be associated with the proposed talks.' 'The Government of India headed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri Manmohan Singh has previously held dialogue at the highest level with important stakeholders. The Government of India should resume that process by restarting dialogue at that level and follow it up by broad-based institutional mechanisms for a holistic and lasting solution. The impression sought to be created that only 5% of population is associated with the movement is misleading and belied by the situation on ground. The current movement is a mass uprising and not the handiwork of a few people. Furthermore, dialogue is to be held with all the stakeholders without any preconditions. Once the Prime Minister has signified his intention to initiate dialogue within the ambit of Insaniyat - a concept higher than any law and even Constitution, for a lasting solution of the Dispute, there is no reason to make dialogue subject to any conditions,' it reads, adding: 'A meaningful dialogue will also help in moving towards a harmonious and dignified return of all the persons displaced because of conflict, to their native places. We, against above backdrop, implore and beseech Your Excellency, to impress upon the Government of India to initiate and announce, direct, immediate, purposeful and result-oriented dialogue with all the stakeholders especially those with whom such dialogues has been held in 2004 and 2007 for a lasting solution of 'Kashmir Dispute' within a reasonable time frame.' SUGGESTIONS ON CBMs In the meantime, the citizens have suggested that following confidence building measures be taken to create conducive atmosphere for conducting a successful dialogue. 1. To repeal or withdraw harsh laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978, J&K Disturbed Areas Act, and other laws, rules, notifications, orders in conflict with the concept of Rule of Law. 2. To reduce the footprints of Army, Para-military Forces and Security Forces, especially, in civilian areas, relocate such forces and make Jammu and Kashmir Police and Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police responsible for maintenance of law and order. 3. To immediately ban and stop use of pellet guns. 4. To appoint a Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India to inquire into all civilian killings, blindings (total and partial), maiming, grievous hurt caused by Security Forces and Police firing, other crowd control measures, and nocturnal raids, damage to movable and immovable property during such raids, on and after July 8th 2016 till the Commission initiates its proceedings, and to fix the responsibility for the excesses committed by the Security Forces and Police. 5. To ask the Inquiry Commission to determine compensation to be paid to the dependents of the deceased and each of the victims, and the persons whose property was damaged during nocturnal raids, having regard to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court and High Courts from time to time and to ask Central and State Governments to pay compensation so determined to the concerned. 6. To direct the Army, Security Forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police to strictly adhere to the guidelines laid down by Hon'ble Supreme Court in Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and another Vs. State of Maharashtra Criminal Appeal No. 1255 of 1999 decided on September 23, 2014 and Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association and another Vs. Union of India and another, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 129 of 2012, decided on July 8th 2016, and guidelines issued by COA known as Ten Commandments and noticed in EJEVFA case, during anti-militancy operations. The memorandum concludes with this note: 'We, respectfully, crave for Your Excellency's kind indulgence, at an earliest so that millions of people of Jammu and Kashmir, and subcontinent are saved from catastrophe, that may otherwise, befall them, without their fault. With utmost regards. Group of Concerned Citizens.'