Solution of Kashmir issue – Stimulus to peace
10 December 2008, Bruxelles
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I would like to take this opportunity to thank Baroness Emma Nicholson on behalf of the Kashmiri people for her commendable and eminent role in creating awareness about the Kashmir problem in Europe and especially among the establishment of the European Union. I would also like to make use of this stage to thank the European Parliament for the fact that it has shown a certain amount of interest in the sufferings of my people, which were unheard for most of the past 60 years.
As far as the recent political developments are concerned, I am of the opinion that the political situation in Kashmir is disastrous. This has formed the base of daily miseries and created a lack of peace. Kashmir can be best compared with a volcano, where an explosive eruption is inevitable. There was such an eruption in June of this year, when millions of Kashmiris came out on the streets to reiterate their demand of Self-Determination, only to be crushed brutally by the establishment. More than 60 peaceful demonstrators were killed and over a thousand were injured. Numerous arrests were carried out in order to prevent a revolution.
But Kashmiris have successfully showed the world that they are fed-up. Fed up by humiliation, fed up by the tortures, fed up by state terrorism, fed up by the violence, fed up by the discrimination and fed up by the continuous rape of their identity and cultural heritage. Whereas the Indian Government has trivialized this exhibition of dissatisfaction, many renowned and respected writers and intellectuals like Arundhati Roy, Vir Sanghvi and Swaminathan Aiyar have tried to bring the recent developments in Kashmir to the common man in India and made Kashmir’s secession a matter of common debate. Instead of extending that debate into a political spectrum, the Indian Government called for elections in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
I agree with the thought that elections are the base of a democratic setup, but elections on their own are not the only ingredient of democracy. The elections in Kashmir are being held simultaneously with imposed curfew. While in one district polling is conducted, other districts are paralyzed by indefinite curfew. Voting is a democratic right, which implies that not voting is also a democratic right. People advocating for a boycott of the elections on the basis of the recent atrocities committed by security forces in Kashmir are taken into custody and slapped with cases under draconian laws like the Public Safety Act.
Democracy is an institution based upon the majorities rule, but in this manner no minority is allowed to exist to keep the public opinion balanced. For the last 5 Fridays the Jamia Masjid has been closed for prayers, because the security forces have sealed the mosque and prohibit people from assembling. Heavily armed security personnel are seen at polling booths which bares witness to the fact that these elections are conducted in an atmosphere of turbulence. If the Kashmir problem could be solved by holding elections only, then 11 elections were held before the recent one and in one of them Sheikh Abdullah had even derived a heavy mandate when the total voter turnout was almost 80%. Still no solution could be considered, because of the fact that the elections in Kashmir are only a way to assemble governing bodies in order to govern the state. Political parties participating in the elections have over and over again propagated that elections are not the way to solve the Kashmir problem and that they are only participating in the election process to govern the state and provide people basic necessities.
Election manifestos in Europe and America contain topics like better roads, better tax policies, better and more jobs and better education. Whereas election manifestos in Kashmir are an assembly of points which promise roads, jobs, water, electricity and education. After 60 years of holding elections in Kashmir, political parties are not talking of bettering these basic needs like in Europe, they are talking about providing them. 60 years of elections in my country have failed to provide people the basic needs like water, electricity, jobs and education. As a result of this
almost 1 million youth, is unemployed in Kashmir.
Kashmir issue can only be solved by conducive talks between the three parties to the issue. India, Pakistan and Kashmiris should talk together and if one of these parties is left out, the issue will continue to boil. Peace and a solution to the Kashmir issue are necessary for South Asia to flourish and to prevent growing attacks of terrorism like the recent barbaric attack on helpless civilians in Mumbai. We must acknowledge that some radical and fundamental elements in South Asia will continue to justify their inhuman and diseased activities on the fact that Kashmir issue is not yet solved. In this way Kashmir will increase in becoming a reason for terrorism. The fact that people who have abandoned the path of violence are still tortured, humiliated and harassed by the security forces in Kashmir will only contribute to this phenomenon.
I, myself am a living example of this process. I have committed a violent act more than 35 years ago for which I have spent more than 12 years in jail, and I have been preaching peace for the last 25 years, but still I have a case pending against me in India of being a Pakistani agent. It is a cruel irony that I spent 10 years in Pakistani jails because they sentenced me according to their allegation that I am an Indian agent. Even with international constitutional rights like Double Jeopardy, my faith as a Kashmiri is that neither India nor Pakistan will sit still until they both have sentenced me for being an agent of the Kashmiri people. We all should encourage the youth who has left the path of violence instead of pushing them against the wall, so that they, in their frustration, are compelled to seek violence’s refuge again.
The fact that Kashmir problem could not be solved in the past 60 years has contributed towards the decline of our culture and its rich heritage. The political turmoil and violence in Kashmir has opened doors of corruption, malpractice and bad governance in recent years. This has resulted into the fact that our lakes are shrinking day by day and are now less than half of their original size. The Dal lake has shrunk from its original 58 sq km to 11 sq km. Wular lake, which once was Asia’ largest fresh water lake was 217 sq km in 1911, now it has been reduced to 86.71 sq km. all because of pollution and encroachment. Even the pillar of our culture, Kashmiriat, has fallen prey to the enemies of peace. Our centuries old custom of tolerance was destroyed when our Pandit brothers left Kashmir. Since that unfortunate event, no government has even tried to formulate a plan for bringing them back. A project of 4000 crores has been initiated to build flats for them in New Delhi. These flats could also be built in Kashmir, so that the Kashmiri Pandits could be given an honorable and dignified return to their motherland. It is my firm belief that the culture and its heritage cannot be preserved until and unless a political solution is achieved concerning the Kashmir issue. I can say that because the current situation has proved to be a money minting business for some in Kashmir who do not care about human lives, let alone the culture.
I would like to add here that although I appreciate the effort to hold this conference in the European Parliament about Kashmir’s Cultural Heritage, maybe a conference on the Human Rights Abuses, Disappearances, Unnamed Graves or the denial of freedom of speech or freedom of movement would have been a more appropriate subject during these times of political turmoil. Maybe a conference on such topics conducted in the European Parliament could diplomatically compel India and Pakistan to review their oppressive approach in Kashmir.
The use of war was indeed philosophically described by Aristotle when he said that war sometimes is necessary and that men make war, so that they can live in peace. The people of Kashmir are the victims of a proxy war for the last 60 years, yet there seems no peace at the end of the tunnel. The saying of Aristotle does not apply in Kashmir, India and Pakistan are not fighting a war, in order to live in peace. On the contrary, they are ready to continue their war and spent huge amounts of their budget on it just for the sake of so-called prestige. In the meantime they are neglecting the fact that Kashmir as well as their own innocent citizens are suffering from hunger, violence, financial instability, sickness and poverty.
The relation between peace and stability can be best compared to the stimulus-response model. Stability is impossible as long as there is no peace, but peace means more than just the absence of war. Peace means peace of mind and the right to make use of basic human rights without the fear of being prosecuted. Peace means the pursuit of happiness and a climate of freedom. The International community as well as India and Pakistan have made mistakes in the past by concluding that Kashmir is peaceful as soon as violence decreases, only to discover that that so-called peace is just silence before another storm.
I agree with the fact that two major wars in the world, the huge financial crisis and the threat of terrorism have created a sense of political and economical instability in the world. The rapidly spreading consequences of these events throughout the whole world bear witness to the fact that the world has become a small place and that we all are dependent on each other. Times have changed now, and the West cannot afford not to care about what is happening in the East and vice versa. The changing of the world into a Global Village has become more and more reason for us to safeguard stability throughout the world and not just in our own backyards.
I am of the opinion that terrorism is one of the biggest challenges humankind needs to win and in order to achieve that, we should change our approach. The world has recognized that South Asia is a region which is vulnerable to radicalization and fundamentalism, which eventually could be translated into terrorism. As mentioned above, the fact that Pakistan and India are spending huge amounts of their budget just to keep their hostility alive, creates elements in their own society who feel either dissatisfied, discriminated or left alone. These elements are an easy prey to radicalization and fundamentalism.
The pending Kashmir issue also contributes to this radicalization process, as there are many elements in India and Pakistan who for whatever reason, be it solidarity with the Muslim majority in Kashmir, be it rebellion against injustice in the state or be it just based on political survival, use the Kashmir issue as an excuse to justify terrorism. Therefore finding a solution to the Kashmir problem according to the wishes and aspirations of the majority of the people living in Jammu & Kashmir, which includes Pakistan Administrated Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir Valley, has become a necessity for a peaceful region as well as a peaceful world. Any solution which is thrust upon the Kashmiri people will eventually have a negative influence and could lead into violent eruptions again. I think that the President Elect of the USA, Mr. Obama, has rightfully observed that solution of the Kashmir issue is the key to peace in South Asia. Hopefully Mr. Obama will consider the wishes of the people of Kashmir when he talks of a solution, because otherwise the whole issue could backfire. The sooner the world recognizes the fact that Kashmir could be the reason for a nuclear conflict or even a third World War, the better it would be for all of us, especially the Kashmiri people.
Before concluding I would like to place a humble request before the European Parliament and its members. Whenever Kosovo, Bosnia and East-Timor are on the agenda, the European Parliament has taken the moral responsibility upon itself to think and act through the perspective of the occupied nations, but whenever Kashmir comes to discussion the international community has always trivialized the issue by saying it is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. This has resulted in deep anguish and dissatisfaction among the Kashmiri nation and they have feel neglected by the international community, because of this approach. The international community and especially the European Union should take the moral responsibility to mediate in the Kashmir issue through the perspective of the oppressed Kashmiris and assist them in settling this dispute by granting hem their right of Self-Determination, just like they did in Bosnia, Kosovo and East-Timor. Here I would like to quote a wise saying of Martin Luther King Jr. which should illuminate and inspire us all: ‘The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people’. We all are human beings and just like others, we Kashmiris are heirs to some inalienable rights. I would like to appeal to the safeguards of peace and prosperity to consider the genuine demand of my people and act and intervene accordingly.