Saturday, 31 May 2008

Kashmir needs change of heart

Kashmir needs change of heart

Although situation has changed due to on going peace process, and especially after the deadly earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan; but we must remember that at one time, Kashmir Dispute was referred as a ‘flash point’. This ‘flash point’ could have lead two hostile nuclear neighbours to full scale conventional, and possibly ‘non conventional’ armed conflict. It is argued by many that it is because of this ‘grave danger’ the Kashmir dispute has to be resolved.

No doubt the Kashmir dispute is one of the oldest, and it poses a serious threat to peace and stability of South Asia. And we Kashmiris more than anyone else want peace and stability in the region and want the Kashmir dispute to be resolved; but it should not be resolved just because the status quo is a threat to the peace of South Asia. Also that the status quo is in way of a larger interest of certain interested parties.

The Kashmir dispute must be resolved in its own right, as a case of Kashmiri peoples unfettered right of self- determination, a right that has been denied to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for many decades. It should be taken as an issue of a nation, forcibly divided, oppressed and denied basic humane rights, not of a territorial dispute, and a bone of contention between the two countries.

By taking this approach we do not only think of Kashmiri regions disturbed by the on going armed struggle, but also take the State of Jammu and Kashmir as whole being disputed. We ought to look for a solution of the whole State, not find a solution based on districts and regions because of the trouble in those places. If unfortunately we followed this route then it would surely lead to more trouble and chaos in future.

Those people who wish to resolve this dispute must also realise that by attempting to find a solution on regional bases, hence forcing a division of the State, is tantamount to sowing seeds for future trouble and instability. Also they need to understand that this approach of dealing the dispute as a territorial one, would not only be unjust and denial of rights to the people of Kashmir, but it would also not provide much desired security and stability in the region.

It is unfortunate that some of those who are entrusted to resolve the dispute do not have basic understanding of it; and what makes it more difficult is their arrogance and allusion that they know it all. They wrongly assume that they have monopoly in wisdom and refuse to learn, listen to anything that is different to their view, or make any effort to acquaint themselves to the ground realities.

Kashmir belongs to the Kashmiri people, and they are principal party to the dispute with inalienable right and a ‘title’. India and Pakistan on the other hand, have ‘claim’ to the State of Jammu and Kashmir because of being our neighbours, and because of their national interest. They are party to the dispute because of their de facto control of parts of the State. Pakistan had claim to state of Junagadh, in fact, this state acceded to Pakistan, and Pakistan accepted that accession, but just because Pakistan had no physical control over any part of the state that claim is no longer there.

Similarly present day Bangladesh was yesterdays East Pakistan, an integral part of state of Pakistan, but when West Pakistan lost physical control of its integral part, they abandoned their claim over that territory, and no one speaks about it as a Pakistani territory any more. So it is the physical control of parts of the state on which Pakistan rests its case on Kashmir; and India rests its case on the provisional accession, validity of which has been in dispute ever since.

Pro Kashmiri stand

Both countries wanted to get Kashmir and worked out different strategies for this, so both presented the Kashmir case as it suited their ‘national interest’, not what suited the people of Kashmir. Both established their puppet governments in the areas under their respective controls, and also set up their “A” and “B” teams, which either propagated Indian point of view or Pakistani point of view.

The Kashmiri voice was simply not present; there were no platforms where the people of Kashmir could present their case. Those Kashmiris who were ‘provided’ with an opportunity to speak on behalf of the Kashmiri people had either Indian or Pakistani baggage with them, and that certainly did not help the matter. This resulted in confusion at every level, and the Kashmir was seen as a territorial dispute between the contestants.

It is because of this confusion and lack of clarity that despite losing more than 50,000 lives, at international level the Kashmir dispute is seen as a ‘matter between India and Pakistan’, which they have to resolve bilaterally. In other words Kashmir dispute is seen through eyes of either Islamabad or New Delhi, and those Kashmiris who were trying to put forward the Kashmiri perspective were, until very recently, dismissed as being ‘anti movement’.

No matter what Pakistani and Kashmiris leaders say for public consumption, when it comes to discuss the solution of Kashmir, at international level term of reference are not UN resolutions but Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration. This means these so-called specialists occupying seats in ‘Foreigners Office’ have done a serious damage to the cause of Kashmir.

Some people think India is to be blamed for all the ills in Kashmir, therefore, all criticism should be targeted against India; others think ‘source of trouble is Pakistan’, and they only criticise Pakistan. Both these approaches are wrong. We can spend rest of our lives yelling against India on every street corner in every city of the world, and it wouldn’t make iota of difference to the Kashmir dispute, if anything members of the international community could see this approach as ‘Pakistani sponsored’, and that would not only take steam out of this but also create problems for Pakistan.

We need to have a balanced approach, but when someone tries to have this and endeavours to put forward a view that is against the policy of Islamabad, certain quarters in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir swing into action, and make wild allegations. These people claim to have monopoly over wisdom and loyalty, simply fail to distinguish between a government and a state. In their view a criticism against the Kashmir policy of a Pakistani government, especially made by a Kashmiri, is opposition to the state of Pakistan, hence regarded as a treasonable act.

As noted above, the world knows a Pakistani view on Kashmir and they also know an Indian version; and during my struggle for the cause of an independent Kashmir, I have tried to give a different perspective in my speeches, articles and books.
The present book, ‘Kashmir needs change of heart’, consists of my articles, written during course of my struggle since June 2004 for the Kashmir cause. These articles are on various aspects of the struggle and readers would note that I have not supported either Indian or Pakistani view - point. I have attempted to have a balanced approach, and have not gone out of way to criticise or demonise one contestant at the expense of the other; and in doing so I have tried to ensure that I project the Kashmiri point of view, and be pro Kashmir rather than be pro Pakistan or pro India.

Do not hide truth

The environment in which we are living and conducting our activities for the unification and complete independence of entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, it is a tall order to keep a balanced approach and continue with the work because of severe pressures and coercion. It is because of this, at times, I had to defend my approach and react to events as I thought appropriate and in the best interest of our ideology.

I must also point out to the readers that I am one of the founders of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, and have held various senior posts, including the posts of General Secretary and President for UK & Europe. I started my political struggle in 1973, when I was only a teenager; and that my struggle is not post 1990 when people witnessed a mushroom growth of Jihadi and other organisation and ‘freedom fighters’.

This mushroom growth was artificial, and more appropriately it was engineered with certain tasks in mind, and people were handsomely ‘rewarded’ for setting up these organisations and carrying forward an agenda which in essence was communal, anti people and deeply divisive. In nutshell, this was not a Kashmiri agenda and it attacked and destroyed social fabrics of the Kashmiri society, and ideals of tolerance, peace and harmony appeared thing of the past.

My friends advise me not to ‘stick out’ my head as it could land me in hot water, but I think I have a duty to pass on the knowledge I have gained after years of research and hard work. I have been told again and again to keep my work and research to myself, in other words sit on the information I have. Whereas Islam says do not hide truth in layers of lies, and that it is crime to conceal knowledge. Prophet Mohammed PBUH said, "He who is asked about something he knows and conceals it, will have a bridle of fire put on him on the Day of Resurrection" (Narrated by Abu Hurairah (r.a.a). Collected by Ahmad, Abu Dawood, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim).

I believe Allah Almighty has put me in a privileged position where I had an opportunity to educate myself and gain knowledge on Kashmir and Indo Pakistan relations. Now is it correct way to thank Allah for his kindness to me by concealing truth, telling lies and holding back facts, just because there are powerful groups in society who don’t like what I do? In my pinion the best way to thank is to ‘educate’ others and disseminate information that people are better informed; and when it comes to taking some decisions they are not in dark.

I do not expect every one to agree with point of view I have expressed in these articles, but I hope that they will respect my right to hold an opinion and express it. A writer is a product of society and environment he lives in, and reacts to situation or situations he encounters, and readers do not always have advantage of knowing that background.

Despite this I hope that my new book would give readers a different perspective, it would give them information which they might not have; and which powerful groups with great vested interest don’t like them to have, as it challenges their stand on Kashmir. To me it is Jihad to speak out against oppression and injustice, especially when powerful and influential people are in favour of keeping people ‘ignorant’. It is encouraging to note that I am not alone in this Jihad as more and more people are joining it.

I hope that after reading this book, readers will have better understanding of the Kashmir dispute; and that they will support Kashmiri peoples unfettered right of self – determination. I also hope that, as always, I will have some feedback from my readers that I can improve myself.

Change of heart

Whereas world politics had changed with disintegration of the Soviet Union, and especially after the fall of Twin Towers, but we in South Asia were slow to acknowledge these changes and make appropriate changes to our policies. With heads in sand we were happy to continue with the same policies, which meant more confrontation and hatred for each other; and which nearly brought South Asia edge to a nuclear disaster.

However it is encouraging to note that situation in Jammu and Kashmir and in South Asia is also changing fast. If we want to make a positive contribution to our communities and to the region we live in, then we will have to make changes to our approach in problem solving. We cannot continue dialogue with guns pointing at each other, never mind solving sensitive issues.

With entrenched positions and fingers at triggers, we have only caused death, destruction and have brought pain and misery to the people we were supposed to serve and make happy. If we continue with the same mind- set, then we don’t need a rocket scientist to tell us our fate.

But I am sure that won’t happen as we are thinking people, and have the ability to solve our problems without use of gun and outside help. This approach will require change of mind and change of heart; and I hope that we will change our mind and heart for the sake of peace, stability and prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir and South Asia.

Dr Shabir Choudhry 12 November 2005

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