Wednesday, 28 May 2008

If not self determination then what: article?

If not self determination then what?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 01August 2006

Right of self determination is a right bestowed to nations that they can determine their future. This right if properly used helps to end colonialism, and encourage other oppressed nations to continue their struggle for national emancipation. In other word this is anti imperial and anti oppression; and countries with colonial mind - set do not like this right.

We thought we were a separate nation with history going back to thousands of years; and that we were not part of British India, and the Two Nations Theory did not apply to us. People of Jammu and Kashmir and our ruler, despotic as he was, didn't want to be part of new countries which were to emerge after the division of the British India in accordance with the Two Nations Theory.

Both new countries- India and Pakistan- spoke of democracy and principles, but with regard to Jammu and Kashmir both had imperialist aims as both wanted to get Kashmir by hook or crook. It was clash of their imperialistic designs which resulted in division of Jammu and Kashmir, hence continued tension, hostility and wars since 1947. This struggle to get Jammu and Kashmir and control affairs of these areas has brought suffering and misery to the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and it has also caused many problems for both India and Pakistan.

What should be the future of Jammu and Kashmir could only be determined by the people of the State by using their right to self determination. Internationally accepted concept of right to self determination was not in the best interest of Pakistan, as by its exercise Jammu and Kashmir could have become an independent state, so Pakistani government in 1948/9 circumscribed the concept by limiting the choice of Kashmiris to choose between India and Pakistan.

Our struggle has been for unfettered right of self determination that people of Jammu and Kashmir could decide if they want to join India, Pakistan or become independent. After fifty eight years of continued struggle, suffering and destruction, now we are told by some 'Kashmiri leaders' that the term 'self determination' should not be even included in any resolution. In highly propagated 'Kashmir Conference' last week in Washington, some 'leaders' opposed self determination and others decided to abstain when the issue came to voting. What a U turn?

They now claim that in place of self determination other methods could be used to ascertain what people want. By this they probably mean some kind of elections. But until recently this pro Pakistan group has fiercely opposed elections in the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir, and received huge rewards for this 'deed'.

They have always seen Kashmir and its solution through the eyes of Islamabad; and when Pakistan claimed that 'what satisfies Islamabad will ultimately satisfy the Kashmiri people' they surely had these Kashmiris in mind. This somersault in Kashmir policy is not of their choosing especially if we see it in the light of President Musharaf's statements about 'self rule' and 'autonomy'.

New task of these 'warriors' is to prepare the public in favour of self rule and autonomy in place of self determination. Their previous tasks were to tell people that UN Resolutions, militancy, jihad, self determination and opposition to elections on the Indian side were in their best interest. Now they have to persuade the people that India doesn't like self determination (as if they liked militancy and jihad) so we should not use this term. They have to persuade people that 'self rule' and 'autonomy' is the best way forward.

Does it mean that they have abandoned their struggle to get right of self determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir ? Or does it mean that they think right of self determination is no longer appropriate to the Kashmiri struggle- what ever it means if we take the concept of right of self determination away from it?

If they think right of self determination is no longer appropriate to the Kashmir dispute then struggle in one sense is over. The State of Jammu and Kashmir is practically divided between India and Pakistan with claims from both sides that they have given autonomy to areas under their control with no legitimate government on the other side. In view of this scenario what needs to be done is to work out future relationship with the respective governments; and both are more than happy to work out new relationship with areas under their control as long as legal status of these areas do not change.

This arrangement will surely satisfy India, Pakistan and all those 'leaders' , political activists and militants who have either 'attached' themselves with India or Pakistan; but what about majority of the people who were not happy with the status quo and who wanted to determine their own future by exercising unfettered right of self determination.

This reminds me that Majid Tramboo arranged a conference on right of self determination in Geneva in 1999. I was President of JKLF UK & Europe at that time, and Yasin Malik was Chairman. Yasin Malik was in hospital in New Delhi and was to address the conference on phone. I drafted his speech which included a phrase that we wanted united and independent Kashmir. Majid Tramboo asked me to take this phrase out as his 'friends' won't like it. I refused to do so as it was fundamental to the JKLF ideology.

This and other issues resulted in serious disagreements and I together with Azmat Khan, Abbas Butt, Asim Mirza and Saghir Ahmed (Secretary General, Central Committee members and Publicity Secretary respectively) walked out of the conference. We later on learnt that in place of united and independent Kashmir, a term 'self rule' was used, which of course is different to independence.

Therefore it is no surprise that some people wearing the JKLF cap have changed their stance on Kashmir as it suits their commercial and political interests, hence we hear one 'JKLF stalwart' promoting self governance as advocated by President Musharaf. This man used to boast, 'JKLF is in my pocket, 'Yasin Malik is in my pocket'; and now he says, "Self-governance is a developing concept which is seen more positive, extensive, humane and forward looking than classical self-determination'.

He and some others who have hitherto happily danced on every tune played by Islamabad, might have started paying some attention to the music emanating from New Delhi as well. It is because of this change that new theories are being discussed and promoted instead of our inherent right of self determination; and interestingly these new concepts suit both Islamabad and New Delhi .

Not long ago demand of Kashmiri leaders from the Valley was to have a dialogue with the Prime Minister of India. Indian Prime Minister had meetings with some groups and some individual leader and then decided to have a conference where all leaders- big and small could take part and discuss future of Jammu and Kashmir.

This call unnerved these leaders. They didn't know what to do or what to say as they had no plan or strategy for the resolution of Jammu and Kashmir. This conference could have exposed them so they decided to boycott it. Earlier call of these leaders to boycott the elections was boycotted by the people telling them what importance they had.

When these leaders with distorted vision about future of Jammu and Kashmir, and no strategy for resolution of the dispute boycotted the conference, ordinary people questioned their motives as to what exactly they wanted to achieve. And in view of many diplomats and Kashmir watchers this has tarnished their sincerity and commitment to the Kashmir cause.

With passage of time these people who have made business out of the Kashmir dispute are being exposed. Their credibility and sincerity is under scrutiny; and their popularity is fast diminishing. In some political parties there are no workers and all they have is a few 'leaders', and yet they claim to represent the entire Kashmiri nation. This joke must end; and these people must not be allowed to play with sentiments of the people and future of Jammu and Kashmir.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at:

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