THE KASHMIR PROBLEM
Kashmir, which was once described by Mahatma Gandhi as an island of secularism in the Indian sub-continent, has been in utter turmoil. The people of Kashmir have been suffering from the terrorist activities for long, with no sight in near future to get relief. Hundreds and thousands of innocent people have been killed so far by the Pakistan trained militants.
The turmoil in Kashmir has transcended the legalities of the accession of the state in 1947, and the insurgency is not a phenomenon of political dissent or a movement meant to change the government but it is a ‘jehad’, a religious crusade against the non-conformists. All Pakistani politicians, from the President downward, of any party, the state owned electronic media, as well as the print media, as a part of the disinformation campaign, speak in religious terms and the turmoil is called ‘Jehad-e-Kashmir’ and the terrorists are called ‘Mujahids’ (soldiers of Islam). The terrorists, killed in the Armed forces action are called Shaheeds (martyrs) and so on.
Pakistan still cherishes to get Kashmir merged in its territory. The covert objective of the so called jehad is to complete the ‘unfinished agenda of partition’ by incorporating the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan. The two nation theory that Hindus and Muslims constitute separate nations has already failed, with the creation of Bangladesh. Moreover, the ethnic and sectarian violence rocking several provinces in Pakistan and the bare fact that the Muslims, living in India are more in number than the Muslims in Pakistan and so have nullified the said two nation theory which was born out of political expediency when India got independence.
Pakistan has claimed for herself a role in speaking for the Indian Muslims, in general, and the Kashmiris in particular. It has claimed the right to extend moral and political support to them. Its covert support in terms of providing arms and training, to terrorists and subversives has already been well documented and exposed. Therefore, Pakistan has resorted to killing Hindus systematically, while at the same time introducing religious indoctrination, by misusing mosques and other available platforms, in a bid to frighten the secular Muslims.
As part of unleashing terror under the cover of self determination at the behest of Pakistan, the terrorists have virtually ransacked libraries in educational institutions and prohibited books which did not conform to their brand of knowledge. No wonder, more than 2003 titles were ‘pruned’. They included all books of knowledge, Milton’s Paradise Lost; G B Shaw’s plays etc. As part of the Islamization drive the terrorists used their gun power to convert the canteen hall of Kashmir University into a mosque. Classes where Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was taught were asked to close since it did not conform to the Islamic tenets.
So, many innocent persons fell prey to the bullets of terrorists in the Kashmir Valley. The victims included prominent educationists and subscribers to secular ideals. Professor Mushir-ul-Haq, Vice Chancellor, Kashmir University who was kidnapped and shot dead during ‘Ramajan’, the holy month of fasting in the Muslim calendar, Sarvanand Kaul ‘Premi’, a poet who used to take pride in reciting The Quran, P N Handoo, Assistant Director, Information and Octogenerarian Maulana Mohammed Syed Masoodi, a renowned Muslim scholar were among such victims at the hands of the terrorists.
The basic reasons to wipe out these scholars are very clear. They were liked by the people. They could see the game and had the courage and conviction to speak out against the evil designs and hence some of them had to be singled out for silencing all in the name of self-determination and human rights.
In the wake of terrorist’s violence, more than 50000 families have migrated from strife torn Kashmir valley and got themselves registered with the government authorities in various districts in Jammu region. Among them 45275 families were registered at Jammu itself: They included 215 Muslim, 8270 Sikh and 35459 Hindu (Kashmiri Pandit) families besides 1331 other families. Since then a good number of Muslim families have fled away from the Kashmir valley and barring a handful numbering not more than 100, no Hindus have been left in Srinagar city.
The systematic process of killing the Hindu population began in 1990 when Mr. Tej Krishan, a Hindu was hanged to death at Yachikot Ladder near Pahelgam in Anantnag district of the Kashmir valley. On 22 April, the same year the body of Joginder Malhotra was recovered by the police from Safakadal locality in Srinagar city. He was found to have been hanged to death. After five days, terrorists intruded in the house of Bharat Bhushan, another Hindu who was a medical assistant. He was abducted by the terrorists. His body was later found hanging from a tree. The process continued. The list is a long one and the stories of torture unleashed on the Hindu population are heart rending. Three Probationary Officers of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), an autonomous body, were abducted by the terrorists from a public park on 23 June in 1991. They were severely tortured and locked in a vacant house of a Hindu migrant. The house was later set on fire. Two of them died in the fire while the lucky one was rescued by the police and rushed to the hospital. The same story repeated time and again. The terrorists even started upon setting fire to the vacant houses of the migrants in a systematic manner. On October nine, the Devi Temple at Baramulla was set on fire. The roof of the temple was gutted in the fire. The same day the house of a Hindu was gutted in Kupwara town, about 50 kms from Baramulla. It seemed that the terrorists after killing the entire Hindu population from the Kashmir valley wanted to dose down any process of return of the Hindu population by burning their vacant houses, their last link with the valley.
All this takes a close look at the situation in Kashmir and at Pakistan’s own track record as a ‘champion of Human Rights’. Can human rights, essentially a democratic concept, be applied selectively? Whose human rights are being violated anyway? What is Pakistan’s own record in respecting human rights and treatment of minorities? What does self-determination mean in an Islamic context?
The concept of Human Rights is a democratic one. It is based on the principle of the essential freedom of the human being and respect for his person. It is a concept in which it is believed that man has certain inalienable rights that are universal. Can a state such as Pakistan that does not believe in the equality of man and woman, where a woman’s testimony is only treated as half that of a man, talk about self-determination and human rights? In Pakistan, women who constitute about 52% of the population are legally treated as second class citizens. The minorities are legally treated as second class citizens. Even the Shia community among the Muslims who constitute about 20% of the population is not treated at par with other citizens. To cap it all, the denial of equal rights to each and every citizen is justified under the cover of Islam.
Obviously, such a system is the anti-thesis of democracy. In a system that does not permit opposition, how would the Human Rights of the opposition be treated? The passage of the Shariat Act, the ‘huddood’ and ‘zina’ ordinances in Pakistan are the pointers towards the direction in which Pakistan is heading. Under such circumstances, can Pakistan afford to talk about human rights? Would not the Kashmiris meet the same fate, if accession of the Kashmir valley with it is forced?
Pakistan is trying to focus exclusively on Indian Security Forces action against terrorism, masking the fact that state action cannot be treated as an isolated phenomenon of human rights violations in an atmosphere of continued terrorist’s violence. In fact, it is terrorists’ violence that ultimately determines the limits and extent of state action to contain it. Unfortunately, for all their efforts, the human rights organizations, too, have also focused almost exclusively on state action and not on the activities of the terrorists that prompted the state action in the first place. Terrorist’s violence is a violation of Human Rights. The resolution of the UN General Assembly on measures to prevent international terrorism, passed on 9th December in 1985 followed by the Security Council resolution after nine days, interalia, unequivocally condemned as criminal, all acts, methods and practices of terrorism wherever, and by whomever committed, including those who jeopardized the friendly relations between states.
Moreover, are Human Rights meant only to protect a few fundamentalist Muslims in Kashmir against the authority of the state. Do they not equally involve protection of the Hindus, Buddhists, Shia Muslims and others against the extermination, persecution and threat? Are they not to be allowed their traditional way of life or are they to be swept under by a religious crusade aiming for Islamization?
On the other hand, the report on the state of Human Rights in Pakistan during 1990 and 1991, prepared by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is an eye opener about denial of basic rights to the majority of the population.
According to the Commission
- The state has shown little interest in accepting the International Human Rights standards.
- The courts cannot invoke International Human Rights values as is being done in several countries such as India because the state does not acknowledge them.
- Lack of interest in bringing the country’s basic law in conformity with International Human Rights and norms, keeps alive the danger of new encroachments on whatever Fundamental Rights are provided in the Constitution, particularly through the exploitation of religion.
- A particularly reprehensible tendency is for the state to free itself of its Human Rights obligations on the pretext of the supremacy of belief, tradition or custom.
Similarly, Pakistan which smugly claims to be a champion of Human Rights in Kashmir has steadfastly and deliberately ignored the number of International conventions and protocols on Human Rights by declining to even sign them like, some of these Conventions and Protocols are, International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, Optional Protocol to the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, Second Optional Protocol to the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, International Convention against Apartheid in sports, Convention on the Non-applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against humanity Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages etc.
It is only democracy that provides an outlet whereby, political grievances can be aired, positions narrowed and accommodation achieved. A democracy can deal with a movement of political dissent by talking, discussing and acting. It cannot happen when the other side does not believe in talking, does not believe in an opposition or representative government, in fact does not believe in democracy itself.
Kashmir, therefore, represents a major challenge to Indian democracy, in fact to all democracies. How can a democracy confront a non-democratic system that only uses catchy democratic phrases such as Human Rights, self-determination, etc, in the furtherance of its ’cause’ while denying all such democratic values itself? How can a democracy take on a religious crusade, “Jehad”, that does not believe in democratic tenets but exploits them to the hilt for advancing its vested interests?
The Bush administration condemned as “horrific” the terrorist attacks in Srinagar and time and again reiterated that violence would not solve the problem of Kashmir.
The Kargil War was the third attempt in the history of Independent India that Pakistan tried to occupy the Kashmir by assisting or backing the infiltrators the first time just after independence in 1947, a second time in 1965, as part of operation Gibraltar, that lead to Indo Pak second war and the third time through Kargil. But, Pakistan could not succeed in her efforts.
Washington has also said that dialogue between India and Pakistan remains a ‘crucial element’ in the normalization process between the two countries. Kashmiri State Government led by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed also tried its best to restore peace and religious harmony in the troubled state. It was felt that violence would not solve Kashmir’s problems. Continuance of violence in the valley was intended to disrupt the programme of the State Government in Kashmir, which was attempting to reduce tensions and promote reconciliation.
India is already facing insurgency in six states. In case of independent Kashmir such tendency may spread to other parts of India and may lead to balkanization of India. Many in India view independence as a risk and regard it, as a time bomb and therefore there is stiff resistance against the idea. The idea of Independence for state Kashmir takes too many things for granted like surrender of authority and sovereignty to Kashmir by India. It is not possible for India to relinquish parts of its claimed territory to earn good will in search of peace.
Some People Suggest a UN Supervised Plebiscite in Kashmir, as a Solution
India may declare that it will hold a UN supervised plebiscite and grant full independence to the Kashmir Valley after five years of the plebiscite, if the majority of the people of the Valley vote for it. However, no plebiscite will be held in the Jammu and Ladakh Regions and these areas will be amalgamated into India without any special status as States or Union Territories. No Muslim will be allowed to migrate from the Kashmir Valley to Jammu or Ladakh unless they have property there. In any case they will not be granted refugee status and will not be entitled to financial assistance. However, Muslims of Jammu and Ladakh region will be allowed to migrate to the valley. If the people of the Kashmir valley opt for independence, the next five years should be used to plan a smooth transition. Some steps would be
Redrawing of boundaries between Republic of Kashmir and Jammu and Ladakh regions so that the new border along the Pir Panjal Range and Zanskar Range is defensible against Pakistani attack.
The Amarnath Shrine and Poonch are to be a part of India. Redeployment of Indian Army and BSF from Uri and Dras Sectors and the valley to new locations along the new border and inside India. For this, new permanent defences and accommodation for the Army and BSF would have to be constructed on priority. A new road and rail system would develop to improve communication to cater for defence requirements and lateral communications between Jammu, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh.
A section of population of the Kashmir valley is anti-Indian and has little gratitude for the Indian lives that have been sacrificed to protect them and the Indian money that has been spent to make their lives more livable. Despite the persecution and discrimination against Indian Muslim migrants in Pakistan, they still look upon that country as their saviour. So, if the majority of the people of the valley want independence, let them have it.
A divorce is better than a painful and unworkable marriage. It must also be made clear that India would not intervene if Pakistan attacks The Republic of Kashmir nor will allow refugees to flee into India. But to get this solution accepted and approved by the Indian Government is a herculean task. We have to realize that thousands of people have sacrificed their lives and killed by militants, crores of rupees have spent by the Government of India and all kinds of efforts have since been made, but no solution seems in sight. Keeping in view all this, if we are sincere to find a solution then the suggested solution as above may be considered.