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Shun Violence

By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani

1 February 2010

In his Republic Day address on January 26, 2010 Chief Minister Omar Abdullah urged militants to shun violence and come for dialogue to resolve issues amicably. He said the gun culture in the last 20 years had caused enough bloodshed and destruction. Two days later on January 28 after addressing a seminar organised by the State Vigilance Organisation in Jammu he advocated that the suspension of dialogue process between two neighbouring countries was only benefiting anti-peace forces. He expressed the hope that better sense would prevail and militants would drop the guns. “This will be in their larger interest and that of the state and its people”.

Peace in Kashmir is everyone’s desire and chief minister as a State Subject is not an exception. He has a duty to provide a peaceful habitat for the man and woman in Kashmir. It includes people of all manner (including a militant). Facilitation of a dialogue between India and Pakistan is extraneous to his role. It would be more appropriate and in the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (including militants) if chief minister discharges his Constitutional duties to rehabilitate a peaceful habitat in Kashmir, where a citizen can feel a difference in the State attitude and the behaviour of non State actors. Chief Minister has to play a lead role in rehabilitating peaceful habitat in Kashmir. A clue how to discharge this duty embeds in London Conference on Afghanistan which was co-hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. World leaders pledged $140m (£87m) to ‘win over and integrate’ low-level Taliban fighters. Since there is a marked difference between the cause of a Kashmiri militant and an Afghan Taliban, a financial consideration has to be in full regard of the Right of Self Determination and not as a trade in.

A commitment to the financial rehabilitation of Kashmiri militants has more than one sensitive variable. It has to be as broad based as we saw at the Afghan Conference in London. In addition to State Government and Indian Government it should involve Pakistan and many other member nations of the UN under the discipline of United Nations. Such an arrangement would conserve the sense of pride and these militants would not be discriminated against by the administration or scorned as ‘renegades’.

It is unfortunate that a majority of militants who revised their association with the gun are finding it hard to reconcile with their choice. It is not only the J & K administration but there are many other vested interests that have made their lives far difficult for a routine. Non association with gun does not make them an enemy of the Right of Self Determination. These militants continue to keep their title to self determination. On the contrary there are many others in politics who volunteered to betray the cause of self determination and offered themselves to act as sales persons for Musharraf Government’s Kashmir policy on Pakistan. They became accomplices in harming the cause of the people and gainfully took upon a role against the Right of Self Determination.

Before a militant could consider to “shun violence and come for dialogue to resolve issues amicably”, chief minister has to look around and see whether he has discharged the promise made in his oath that, “he will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will”?

To remain credible in his invitation to militants the chief minister has to honestly consider the dilemma of those militants who gave up the use of gun and don’t seem to have made a gainful choice in their own interest or in the interests of the people. Over 5,000 ex-militants of Kupwara and Baramulla districts have been forced to form an association, namely, Peoples Rights Movement to voice their plight. They find themselves on the outskirts of a normal life and remain exposed to the adverse attention of troopers and the chagrin of their former colleagues. The choice to dissociate from militancy or to be part of it should be left to a voluntary choice. Both choices need to have a corresponding and associate reward in the interests of the people.

Kashmir police needs to revisit its wisdom believing that “Militants are militants. There is nothing called sleeping cells.” Police wisdom in this regard is flawed at core and does not fit in the scheme of evidence. Many militants have joined ‘separatist’ politics and some militants were even inducted by the State in the State Legislature as MLAs and MLCs. Law enforcing agencies should not stigmatise a State Subject in their own interest. Nor should fellow militants over do their moral muscle and stigmatise those who wish to exercise their choice and revise the manner of their participation in the Right of Self Determination.

It is time that the State Government does recognise the freedom of choice of those who have revised their association with gun. It has to be based on the fact that they need rehabilitation and their faith as State Subjects in self determination is respected. The practice under which many former militants on release after completing their terms in prison are required to show up at respective police stations needs to be dropped. The other concurrent practice to summon them to the army camps for questioning or any other cause needs to be stopped. First and the foremost duty remains that chief minister does not fail to remind the Government of India that her armies are in the State as a supplement and sub ordinate to the State administration. Their role is limited to protect ‘life’, ‘honour’ and ‘property’ of the people.

State should provide protection to ex-militants and their families under article 23 of the Constitution. The wisdom of this article needs to be relaxed beyond ‘special care’ to benefit this special group of State Subjects. Indian army should be sensitised of its role in protecting ‘life’ under the terms of bilateral agreement and the active militants need to be cautioned that death of a State Subject in Kashmir, is the numerical death of self determination. Therefore killing an ex-militant not only constitutes a common crime but it is crime against the self determination of a people.

The advice of the chief minister to “shun violence and come for dialogue to resolve issues amicably” could not be disputed in any manner. However, it remains a hollow political statement unless the State makes genuine efforts to involve its machinery, people, India, Pakistan and the discipline of UN to rehabilitate the ex militants without arousing any suspicion of prejudice against the jurisprudence of Rights Movement. The character and manner of the State and Militant should be distinguishable. Active, sleeping or an ex militant – all are State Subjects. Sinning against the habitat of Kashmir or the right to life of a State Subject, does ill fit even the motiveless malignity of Iago in Shakespeare’s play Othello? A Kashmiri militant or an Indian soldier, after all, has a defined role in Kashmir. Protection of ‘life’, ‘honour’ and ‘property’ are common and inescapable references.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. Email dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com



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