By Paul Beersmans
a. The general feeling is that militancy and the presence of terrorist organisations went down and is under control. Nevertheless, a hard-core group is still there and if felt necessary ‘new blood’ can be inducted. There are many trained, brainwashed militants waiting on the other side of the LoC to cross to the Indian side. Initiative is in their hands. Only by drying up the source of terrorism in Pakistan, violence will stop in J&K State. Attacking and killing terrorists in J&K State is there but it is not sufficient as those who are killed can be replaced easily.
b. Islamic fundamentalist organisations, supported ‘from across the border’, operating in J&K State, have their own agenda. For them the Kashmir-issue is an occasion, a motive, a cover-up for spreading their ideas. They have nothing to do with a genuine nationalist movement. In their eyes, a secular, democratic approach is not a solution and even if one presumes that a solution could be worked out between India and Pakistan, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiris, it is clear they will not stop their activities as the Kashmir-issue is not their final goal, it is just a phase.
c. If we like it or not (and of course we don’t like it), bandits and criminals are there in every society. In J&K State however, they are taking advantage of the troubled situation. They are abducting people for money, raping, murdering, extorting money, using mafia practices, etc. under the cover of ‘the movement’. For them this is a lucrative industry and under the present circumstances, it is easy to blame the security forces of all crimes that are committed.
d. In the eyes of the separatist leaders, Indian security forces are oppressing the Kashmiris. There is no democracy, there is no freedom, there are human rights violations, people are suffering, etc. Stability can only be there if the Kashmir-issue is solved. All of them agreed violence would not bring a solution: let there be peaceful negotiations between India and Pakistan. Negotiations can be suspended, can be put on a low level but eventually they have to be resumed. Let them find a solution taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiris: the right of self-determination must be granted.
e. There is no doubt that human rights violations are being committed by the security forces and by the militants. There is also no doubt that not all cases of human rights violations committed by the security forces are disclosed or prosecuted. It is also a fact that the security forces always are blamed if something happens. Separatist leaders are not critical on human rights violations committed by militants: a few months back two teenage sisters were abducted by militants and shot dead in cold blood ‘to teach them a lesson’. Nobody dared to criticise this heinous crime.
f. According to the separatist leaders, J&K must remain united within the 1947 borders. If they are serious, it is high time for representatives of all regions of J&K to sit together and have a discussion in depth. Developments have shown that there is a deep rift between Jammu Region and Kashmir. If they should remain united, a compromise must be found based on mutual respect and trust. In addition, Ladakh may not be forgotten: a dialogue in depth and compromise is needed, as Ladakhis more than ever stress the need for obtaining Union Territory status. In addition, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan must be involved.
g. Priority must be given to restore normalcy. This can only be realised by stopping violence and misleading people. Kashmiris want to have a future and jobs for themselves and their children. After 21 years of militancy, it is high time to give the growing up generation a chance to have a normal youth and education. The Kashmiris are fed up with violence. A peaceful, lasting solution for Kashmir, accepted by India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris, is the only way out of this uncertain situation.
h. Corruption adds to the misery and sufferings of the common Kashmiri and has a destabilising effect on the normal functioning of the civil society. Kashmiris who have responsible jobs in the police, in the judicial system, in the administration, etc. are supposed to look after the well functioning of the society. By indulging into corruption, they are betraying their own compatriots. At all levels in J&K State a serious effort must be made to tackle corruption. It is too easy to point to the Centre as being the origin of all evils. One should have the courage and the honesty to recognise the shortcomings in the own system and take the necessary steps to redress the situation.
i. Because of the prevailing peaceful situation, all energy of the Government headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah can be spent on development and improvement of the general living conditions. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is young, has a vision, hard working, honest, listening to the demands of the people and paying attention to their basic needs. The challenges are multiple: eradicate corruption and improve the functioning of the administration, the educational system, health care, etc. Terrorism must be tackled. The government must bring back secularism, mutual respect.
j. Panchayat elections were held successfully. Participation was very high (80%) clearly indicating that people want peace and good governance. Through panchayat rule, the grass root level has been empowered and democracy strengthened. Municipal elections will be held soon: anything indicates that they will be as successful as the panchayat elections.
k. The Amarnath yatra went on smoothly. Over 700.000 yatris (pilgrims) made the long journey to the Amarnath cave situated in Kashmir at an altitude of 3.888 m. Because of the peaceful situation, many of them stayed a few days longer in the Valley to have a houseboat experience. Kashmiris are very happy with this evolution and hope this will continue and lead to normalcy.
l. Construction and reconstruction continues:
- in Kashmir, a 119 km long railway links Qasigund (in the east) with Baramulla (in the west). The train is a success story: always a full-booked train, much cheaper, much faster, less pollution and traffic;
- new roads are constructed, existing roads are being repaired, improved and enlarged;
- tourist infrastructures, official buildings, hospitals, medical dispensations, schools, etc. are being built;
- historical monuments are being restored or under renovation;
- shopping centres, hotels, residential areas, houses, posh villas, etc. are being built, renovated;
- mobile phone became common good and is operative in the remotest areas, and
- the car park is completely modernised: the latest and most expensive models can be seen.
m. It is often stressed that private industries should come to J&K, as they can create many jobs. This is only possible if prospects for a lasting peace are there. Private entrepreneurs only have faith in a peaceful solution. If there is no peace, there will be no investment: this goes hand in gloves. Prof. Nisar Ali, senior professor of economics at Kashmir University and a renowned economist of the State believes that the problem of unemployment can’t be solved only by attracting private industries: ‘The problem of unemployment is basically from the educated lot of the State, who want ‘white collar’ jobs (= government jobs) and do not consider other options. J&K is the only State that provides government employment to over 500.000 people, highest in the country, while as in other Indian states it is considerably less. The Government therefore has reached its saturation and can‘t, realistically, absorb the chunk of unemployed youth. The thing that people here want and consider government job as the final word is really aggravating the problem which needs to be tackled on all fronts beginning from changing the mindsets of the people’.
n. Kashmiri Pandits are the original Kashmiri speaking inhabitants of Kashmir. They were hounded out by militancy in 1990: some 500.000 of them fled to safer places. This exodus changed drastically the demographic composition of the population of Kashmir. After more than twenty years, efforts are made to make the return of Kashmiri Pandits possible. They have their emotional attachment with their birth ground, their roots. They can return when peace is there and when the rule of law, not the rule of majority is re-installed. It has to be seen if the efforts will be successful.
o. The Chinese factor becomes more and more visible. This is of concern for the Centre and the State Government. Chinese are present in large numbers in Gilgit-Baltistan, an area under Pakistani administration. According to Pakistan, they are civilians assisting in reconstruction caused by floods. According to the local population they are Chinese military personnel occupying their country. In Ladakh, so called Chinese nomads are slowly and steadily settling in areas that were until then considered to be Indian territory. This evolution will certainly have an impact on finding a solution for the Kashmir-issue.
p. Notwithstanding resumed negotiations between India and Pakistan, there is no fundamental change in the policy of Pakistan towards militancy and terrorism. Pakistan pretends to give only moral, diplomatic and political support to the Kashmir-issue. However, an open secret much more is on hand. Pakistan spends a lot of money to promote the Kashmir-issue as we have seen in the case of the Kashmir American Council: FBI estimates that this lobby group received not less than $ 4.000.000.000,- (indeed: four million US $) from Pakistan/ISI. The same goes for the militants who still have their training camps in Azad Kashmir and in Pakistan and who continue to receive all logistic and financial support that is needed: they are fighting a war to help Pakistan secure its lifeline: access to the water resources of Kashmir. Negotiations or peace talks between India and Pakistan don’t harm their cause, as they have not the slightest impact on Pakistan’s stand regarding the Kashmir-issue. Declarations regarding fighting terrorism and resolving the Kashmir-issue don’t have any value: they are just for the gallery, to appease the West, to reduce pressure on Pakistan.
q. Generally speaking, all agree that Kashmir is the ‘core component’ of any permanent solution, and its voice has a dominant influence on the final outcome although no one seriously believes that resolving the Kashmir-issue is only a matter of meeting Valley needs. The other regions of J&K and other constituencies of J&K factor equally in the final solution. Each region must engage with the other in a civil dialogue with mutual respect and with equal considerations. Failing that the status quo will continue. In order to find a permanent solution a dialogue is necessary on three levels, as we emphasise already since so many years:
- bilateral level: between India and Pakistan;
- national level: between the Government of India, the J&K State Government and the representatives of the civil society of the three regions;
- internal level: between the different regions of J&K.
r. Pakistan supports the cry for the right of self-determination of separatist leaders in Kashmir. However, accession to Pakistan is the only accepted option. Indeed, according to the Azad J&K, Interim Constitution Act, 1974, Par 7. (2): “No person or political party in Azad J&K shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan”. Thus, Pakistan limits the right of self-determination for the Kashmiris to accession to Pakistan. Other options such as accession to India, azadi (= freedom), total independence, partition or any other solution are totally excluded.
s. According to international law, Pakistan has no legal stand in J&K. Pakistan invaded J&K in October 1947. In doing so, Pakistan is at the origin of the de facto partitioning of the State. As early as 13 August 1948 the UN Commission for India and Pakistan requested Pakistan to end this illegal occupation and to withdraw its troops from the State as a pre-condition for organising the plebiscite. The same Commission repeated this request in its resolution of 5 January 1949. Until this date, Pakistan didn’t withdraw its armed forces and still occupies illegally Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Consequently, the plebiscite has not been held.
Adapted from study tour report of Paul Beersmans — President of the Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu & Kashmir — to J&K from 26/June to 23/July.
The Kashmir Telegraph is the publication of Pune-based, not for profit, think-tank, Kashmir Bachao Andolan. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org