Saturday, 16 July 2011

Dr Shabir Choudhry said in June 1993

Dr Shabir Choudhry said in June 1993

Kashmir is not, I repeat, not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. The Kashmir dispute is about the basic human rights of the Kashmiri people, including the right to determine their own future. The people of Kashmir do not want to be treated like cattle, that others can decide our future. We are not in a business of selecting masters. We want to be masters of our own destiny. That means we want to live like a nation. We want to be independent of both India and Pakistan.

Read full speech:

5. Kashmir Issue in perspective.

Text of the speech made by Shabir Choudhry, General Secretary and head of Diplomatic Committee, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, at the Trade Union Council in Burnley.

The Kashmir dispute is a burning issue in today's world. In many ways it is a unique struggle where people of Kashmir are fighting India's half million well equipped army of occupation. It is unfortunate that the world community does not know much about what goes on in Kashmir, the reasons are as follow:

1. It is the success of the Indian diplomacy that they, to a large extent, persuaded the world community that Kashmir was her "integral part” and that there was some law and order problem, which was created by the Pakistani interference.

2. It is failure of the Pakistani diplomats who could not present the Kashmir problem in its true perspective. This failure is associated with their selfish attitude towards Kashmir.

3. Both India and Pakistan assumed the role of "advocators" of the Kashmiri people, and presented the Kashmir Issue as it suited their national interests. Both countries refused to allow the Kashmiri people to present their own case before the world community.

4. Although Kashmir is strategically very important place, but it has no known oil reserves, which makes it less attractive to the world community to interfere and annoy the Indian government which provides one of the biggest markets for the western products. We know this for sure these governments make their policies according to their interests. Moral and ethical issues have little value to them, especially when they cannot gain any political or economic benefits.

5. The European media is very Euro - Centric, and tends to concentrate on issues that concern them. But it is proven fact that it can play a leading role to highlight the issues when it is felt necessary.

6. The Indian government’s refusal to allow Amnesty International and other human rights organisations to go in Kashmir and investigate the scale of human rights violations creates serious problem. Foreign journalists are not welcome in Kashmir, and this means the world outside know very little what goes on there.

7. The large Kashmiri community is not active and united in presenting their national cause to the indigenous community and to the world.

Early on I said that the Kashmiri people's struggle is unique. It is unique in many ways. It is the only place in the world where civilian people are engaged in a struggle with more than half million army that has sophisticated weapons at its disposal; and no accountability how many people they have killed. Instead, the army men are rewarded with promotion and other facilities, if they can either kill or capture so called militants.

We know there is a war going on in Bosnia. It is very tragic. This war has also resulted in a lot of misery and human rights violations. It is an unequal struggle, but it is a struggle between three armies. There is a UN peacekeeping force, and human aid is also provided. Apart from that the world attention is focussed on this issue, although they have not been able to do much.

In contrast to this, the war in Kashmir is not between two armies. The people of Kashmir are fighting a larger army than in Bosnia. They don't have any comparable weapons or resources to continue the struggle. There is no peacekeeping army, although we have UN Observers there who helplessly watch the slaughter of innocent people of Kashmir.

The economy of Kashmir, which is mainly depended on tourism, is shattered because of the war. There is no help coming from anywhere. People are literally starving and freezing to death in harsh winter weather. There is no help available, either from the UN, the world community in general or the Islamic World.

People have no food or medicine. A lot of people die or permanently become disable because of a serious shortage of medicine. The army, after indiscriminate shooting in the crowd, stop medical staff to help the injured people, and if they persist to provide help, they are also shot dead.

Once I was told that there is a serious shortage of basic medical supplies, and I was requested to make arrangements to send some medicine. I asked my colleagues in America to send some medicine, and this medicine was sent back to America by the Indian authorities by saying that we have plenty of medicine in India.

May be there is plenty of medicine in India, but the question is, is there sufficient supply of necessary medicine in Kashmir? Does the Kashmiri doctors, who want to treat everyone irrespective of peoples political and religious views, have an access to this medicine?

It would be pertinent to explain the background to the Kashmir dispute that you can understand why all this is happening. Because of the position taken by both India and Pakistan, many people believe that Kashmir is a "territorial dispute" between the both countries. This is not true. Kashmir is not, I repeat, not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.

The Kashmir issue is about the basic human rights of the Kashmiri people, including the right to determine their own future. The people of Kashmir do not want to be treated like cattle, that others can decide our future. We are not in a business of selecting masters. We want to be masters of our own destiny. That means we want to live like a nation. We want to be independent of both India and Pakistan.

Kashmir had a glorious past. The history of Kashmir can be traced back to five centuries. We lived the life of a nation - proud of its history, culture and prosperity. Kashmir was centre of trade, culture and learning. Students from other countries used to come to study in Kashmir. The boundaries of Kashmir stretched as far as Afghanistan and Punjab. But due to civil war and treachery the Moghul emperor, Akbar the Great, invaded Kashmir in 1586.

Since then Kashmir has been under different foreign rulers. After the Moghuls, the Afghans became masters of Kashmir, followed by Sikhs; and then in 1846, the British defeated Sikhs. The British, in order to recover their financial losses in the war, and also to reward the treachery of Ghulab Singh, who helped them in the war against Sikhs, sold Kashmir to him for the price of 375,000 rupees. The Maharaja and his dynasty ruled Kashmir throughout the British Raj.

Before the British left India, they divided the Indian Sub - Continent on the basis of Two-Nation Theory. That meant, areas which had Muslim majority were to become a part of the new state of Pakistan, and the remaining areas were to be part of India. This let many people to believe that, since Kashmir was a Muslim majority state, it should have become a part of Pakistan. Pakistani claim on Kashmir rests on this false theory. They further support their case by putting forward strategic and economic reasons. But they deliberately ignore the fact that the Two-nation Theory was not applicable to Kashmir and other Princely States.

The British Raj in India consisted of two units; the British India which was directly ruled by the British, and the British Princely India, which was separate from the British India and had separate treaty arrangements. These Princely States were semi autonomous. For example, in case of Kashmir, which was one of the largest states with total area of more than 84,000 sq miles, was autonomous in the running of its affairs. By arrangement, the British were responsible for foreign affairs, defence and communications.

The Indian Independence Act clearly said that it was applicable to the British India only, and the Princely States had three options available to them, namely accession to India, accession to Pakistan or some kind of independence. It was agreed that the states must decide their future, taking in to account their geographic situation, and wishes of the people, before the lapse of paramoutcy on 15 August 1947.

The overwhelming number of states acceded before this date, but the Maharaja of Kashmir decided not to accede to any of the states. The British Raj ended on 15 August 1947, and with it all the treaty relations with Kashmir ended too. It was because of these treaty relations Kashmir did not enjoy full independent status. Once the British Raj ended, technically and legally the state of Kashmir became independent in its true sense.

Later on towards the end of August, the people Poonch region, started a war against the Maharaja's autocratic rule, but it was mainly related to some local issues including unfair taxes. They were encouraged and supported by Pakistan to do this, as Pakistan wanted to use this as a pressure tactic to force the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan.

The Maharajah government was struggling to put down this rebellion; and to make matters worse the senior officials of the Pakistan government sent tribesmen from the North West Frontier on 22 October 1947, to capture Srinagar, capital of Jammu and Kashmir. This incident is now known as the "Tribal invasion".

When the Maharaja realised that he is on the verge of defeat he requested the Indian government for help. India pressurised the Maharaja for accession of the state in exchange of military help. Indian army landed in Kashmir on 27October 1947, and India claimed that the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on 26th October 1947.

However, the latest research by a prominent British historian and scholar, Alistair Lamb, claims that the Maharaja never signed any accession agreement. This is why India has never shown this document to anyone. In other words the accession never took place and the Indian government mislead the world about it.

Let us assume for a minute, that the Maharaja did sign the instrument of accession, it was still a provisional. Lord Mountbatten as the first Governor General of Independent India accepted the so-called accession, and in his letter to the Maharaja he said:

'... It is my government's wish that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invaders, the question of the state’s accession should be settled by reference to the people...'

The main reason why Mountbatten accepted accession as a 'provisional' one was, because he believed that the Maharaja had effectively lost control of his state, and that his subjects were in rebellion against him. This view whether the accession was provisional or not was expressed by the Indian diplomat in the UN Security Council. As the head of the Indian delegation in the Security Council, Mr G. Ayyanger, said:

The question of the future status of Kashmire vis-a-vis her neighbours and the world at large, and a further question, namely, whether she would withdraw from her accession to India and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent with a right to claim admission as a member of the UN- all this has to be recognised to be a matter of unfettered decision' by the people of Kashmire, after normal life is restored to them.

Mr Nehru, the Indian Prime minister, in a radio broad cast said:

We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given and the Maharaja has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but also to the world. We will not and cannot come back out of it. We are prepared when peace and order have been established, to have a referendum held under international auspices like the UN. We want to it to be a fair and just reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict.

This clearly shows that even the Indian leaders and the government clearly knew the reality of this accession. If this accession was legal and final, as it was later claimed by the Indian government, then India would not have agreed to hold a referendum to decide the future status of the state, as no government can agree to hold such referendum on its own territory.

This view was taken by the UN Security Council and rejected the legality of the accession. It must be remembered here that it was the Indian government which took the case to the UN to get some help on her case.

The UN Security Council set up a Commission known as UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), which after detailed investigation decided that the State of Jammu and Kashmir was not ‘integral part’ of India. The UNCIP passed two Resolutions on Kashmir. In the first Resolution, the Security Council said, the ‘future status' of the State of Kashmir must be decided according to wishes of the Kashmiri people. When we talk of the ‘future status’, it can mean an accession to Pakistan, accession to India or an independent Kashmir.

It is unfortunate to note that it was the Pakistani government which opposed the idea of an independent Kashmir at that time, and the Pakistani foreign minister proposed that the phrase 'future status' should be changed to 'accession of the state with India or Pakistan'.

What that means in practise is that the government of Pakistan was not prepared to accept that people of Jammu and Kashmir could become independent and enjoy life as a nation; but was prepared to accept the State becoming part of India if the people had voted for that option. From then onwards the 'Kashmir Issue' was treated as a territorial dispute between the two countries, and not as an issue relating to Kashmiri people's right of self determination.

The government of Pakistan was not sure if they could win a plebiscite, especially when Sheikh Abdullah, most popular Kashmiri leader was at the helm of affairs; and India was allowed to keep some of her troops. Under the terms of the UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948, Pakistan had to withdraw all her troops, withdraw tribesmen and Pakistanis who went there for the purpose of fighting.

Faced with a prospect of losing the proposed plebiscite which could have only taken place after Pakistan had withdrawn her troops, Pakistani officials refused to withdraw her troops; and proposed that India should also withdraw her troops. A number of years were wasted on the issue of demilitarisation.

Later on in mid 1950s when Pakistan joined American led military alliances – SEATO and CENTO against the Communists, the government of India refused to hold a plebiscite and claimed Kashmir was her integral part. India also claimed that Pakistan’s membership in these military alliances has changed the situation in South Asia. The Kashmiri people and the international community rejected this claim.

Despite this claim, India on more than one occasion, started parleys with the government of Pakistan to find the permanent solution of the Kashmir dispute. This clearly shows that the Indian government knew that her claim and hold on Kashmir was not legal; and moreover, the Kashmiri people or the world community did not accept it.

The worst part of the whole thing is that both India and Pakistan have never taken the Kashmiri people in confidence and never allowed them to participate in either bilateral talks on Kashmir or allowed them to present their case to the world community. In other words, the Kashmiri people who are the main party to the dispute were never consulted on the Kashmir issue, and it was taken for granted that whatever decision made by the bureaucrats of India and Pakistan will be accepted by the Kashmiri people.

The people of Kashmir waited a long time, 46 years, for the peaceful solution of Kashmir. They realised that it was not forthcoming, as both India and Pakistan have their own vested interests; and the world in general was not prepared to take sides in a dispute which was considered as a "territorial dispute". As a result of deep frustration, they decided not to look towards Pakistan, the UN or the world community for the solution of Kashmir and began their armed struggle against forces of occupation. I want to remind the audience that armed struggle is justified by the UN, if all other peaceful measures are blocked by the forces of occupation.

We the people of Kashmir do not want bloodshed. We are peaceful people, and that we have shown by 46 years long peaceful struggle. Apart from that peace, tolerance, humbleness and love for others is our tradition and part of our culture. But, at the same time we have shown that the Kashmir is not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, it is about the Kashmiri peoples inherent, inalienable, and most cherished right of self-determination, for which we are prepared to die. It must be made clear to both India and Pakistan that we are fighting for our freedom and we will not accept any decision to be forced upon us. We cannot allow the bureaucrats of Islamabad and New Delhi to decide the future of Kashmir. If any such decision is taken, we will resist it. We cannot and will not accept the division of Kashmir.

We are prepared to enter in to negotiations with India and Pakistan to decide the future of Kashmir. We can, perhaps, invite other nations to hep us to arrange such talks. When deciding the future of Kashmir, we must make sure that the solution of Kashmir must fulfil three objectives:

1. It must end human rights violations in Kashmir, and people are relieved from the present intolerable misery;

2. It must provide right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir that they can decide if they want to accede to another country or they want to become independent;

3. It must provide peace and stability in the area, as we DONOT want another war between India and Pakistan. We believe war will not provide any solution, if anything, it will exacerbate the situation.

We Kashmiri people have paid a heavy price in this struggle. We have only one choice and that is to continue the struggle until the people of Kashmir achieve their national independence. What price we are paying could be seen by a report of the leading Indian newspaper, The Tribune Chandigar. The paper in its report on March 25, 1990 wrote:

'....The dehumanising process touched its lowest when a bride and her chambermaid were pulled from a bus by the para - military forces and raped... This is the most deplorable aspect of the whole situation. In house-to-house searches and so called 'operations' women are being tortured, molested and raped. This is often done in the presence of their family members. Recently a procession of schoolgirls was fired on and this resulted in a number of casualties. The jawans of the Indian forces are acting like animals and their high - up are not bothered.'

I can give you hundreds of examples of like this, but I have already taken too much of your time, and it is not very pleasant repeating these tragic events. Therefore, I want to conclude my speech by saying that, can we allow India to continue to inflict atrocities on innocent people of Kashmir? Can we remain silent spectators and let the people of Kashmir go through this inhuman and unjustified treatment? My appeal is to the conscience of free world, please help us. If India is not checked and pressurised to allow the Kashmiri people to determine their own future, then there can be another war between India and Pakistan, and this time it could well be a nuclear war.

Is that what we have to offer to our future generations? I don't need to explain the kind of misery and suffering a nuclear war might bring for the people. If we want to avoid all this than we have to act fast, and tell the world community that the Kashmir dispute needs urgent attention. We must find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute. But we must remember that Kashmir is one political entity and it must remain so whatever the solution of Kashmir. If we divide Kashmir, as has been suggested by some people, it will not solve the problem, because the Kashmiri people have not paid all these sacrifices for the partition of their motherland.

I hope that you will support our struggle for right of self-determination, and help us in every possible way. Once again, I thank you for providing this opportunity to speak to you. Long live the Kashmiri struggle for independence.

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