Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The disaster of ‘triumph'

It's the story of depriving a people of the right they are born with. The relationship between New Delhi and Kashmir has been that of an oppressor and the oppressed, comments Hassan Zainagiri.

 It's been a story of deceit and perfidy. With lords in New Delhi doing the trick, Kashmir has always been the receiver. What has happened Delhi scripted it all. It can aptly be called the disaster of “triumph”It drew all moral strength out of the people who called the shots. It was all a camouflage. They played hide and seek. They blew hot and cold in the same breath thereby redefining statecraft and giving politics a meaning it deserved. 

 First making people of Kashmir and world believe its democratic credentials and have faith on its plebiscite pledge. Then with this innocuous portrait it strutted with its neck high. Only to consolidate its military gains and look to “exit strategy”of reneging from its commitment. And waiting for time to come to its rescue to heal the gushing wounds of betrayal it inflicted on credulous Kashmiris.

 But sixty years down the line people of this persecuted land have refused to concede to Indian plea that Kashmir is an “integral part”of India. To give a lie to this claim they have, from time to time, risen in defiance. From 1989, the blood-stained struggle, that enjoyed mass support and engulfed nearly one lakh people, has unveiled the faces. And demystified the mantra of “secular democracy”It is plain now. Unmistakably clear. What lies behind the slogans and tall claims.

 Garroting unwilling people and keeping them in perpetual bind might provoke you to puff with pride. But when cooled in emotions and purged of virulent nationalism, the “victory”would herald-and, indeed, it may prove-a blue print of miseries and humiliations. Territories grabbed bring with it fits of delirium. Just like “forced wedlocks”soars high the adrenalin. Till sanity is back at the driving seat, much damage is done. Bullying a community to submission appeases aggressor temporally. But shatters him from within permanently as his being guilty conscious. It, thus, makes the repressor lose the battle on moral plank. The one that differentiates human from animal. So muscle flexing (sheer force) is not a virtue, it is a vice. Pushing “jackboots”to mow down the language of reason and people's voice is admission of guilt. Surrender to “extremism”and jingoism.

 Which is more painful? The agony of being subjugated. Or, the ecstasy of perpetrating repression. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of Indian nation, has shown that defiance of people through non-cooperation__as he did spearhead against British imperialism __ is a deadly weapon that blunts the sword of aggression, culls the manipulated perception and smears the arrogant face. Boycott of independent day or republic day celebrations and other postures of defiance and indifference are a “weapon”Kashmiris have been embracing fidelity with.

 The lines of demarcation are drawn. Delhi ferociously adamant in imposing its sovereignty over Kashmir. People resolutely committed in drilling holes in Indian claim. The grief is fathomless for Delhi when people choose to remain indoor and abstain from celebrating joy Indians revel in. it is deserted streets and roads that “greet”the occasion. The tricolor flies only atop government buildings, security forces camps, bunkers, pill-boxes and official vehicles. In a sense Indian-ness shrinks to some hundred square meters in District Head Quarters of Kashmir where parades are held and Indian flag is unfurled. The show of a few hundred souls, mainly of govt. officials, forces personnel and pro-Indian politicians, make the occasion “memorable”and “marvelous”In what way? In favor of accession or against?  

 The hubris-driven attitude of the law-enforcement agencies, reflected through road-side frisking, surprise checks, cordon and search, otherwise a routine exercise ever since mass upsurge of anger of 1989, gears in intensity. Besieged towns and cities present scenes of curfew. Is it in honor of 15th August or 26th January? Or, glorification of humiliation?

 Regardless of claims Delhi and its toadies make, with Kashmir maintaining 'septic distance' from such celebrations, the relationship between Delhi and Srinagar assumes the characteristic of a conqueror and a conquered. From people's court the verdict is pronounced loud and clear. The fringe elements drifting from Kashmir mainstream flow of sentiments always play safe, dove-tailing with the king who rules. However, just like a few swallows do not herald a spring, a voice in dissent of a few can't make “starved”malls and markets buzz with activity. Won't make “reluctant”winds flutter tricolor. Nor force streets and roads break their “fast”of defiance. Trauma of pain we continue to undergo. But this time Delhi too is made to taste the same. But in a peaceful and non-violent way. We neither bleed, nor speak language of force. But take revenge, you may call in “Gandhian way”of the atrocities inflicted on us. Of the betrayals committed and pledges dishonored. 

 Whatever beams from Red Fort, people of this land put their tentacles down. Their immune system is insulated against anything mentioned in their name. Are rulers in Delhi masochists? Do they enjoy pain of being grilled in conscience everywhere their feet lay at? Do they derive pleasure in humiliation? 

Tail Piece: 
 Should Mahatma Gandhi rise from his Samadhi in Delhi and witness people “celebrating”India in this “non-violent”way of defiance, which camp he would get himself identified for? For whom he would pronounce: “Satyameva jayate”(truth alone triumphs)? Delhi or Srinagar.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Brief History Of Kashmir

In August 1947, the British left the Indian Subcontinent after partitioning the Indian subcontinent into two independent nation states, India and Pakistan on religious communal lines. There were 562 "princely states" in British Indian Empire. Maharajas, Rajas and Nawabs ruled over these territories under the sovereignty of the British Crown. On the lapse of British Paramountacy, these rulers were "legally" free to decide whether to join either of the two new states or remain independent. However, this legal choice of independence was essentially a hypothetical one as the religious composition of the subjects and the geographical location of these princely states dictated the merger with the newly emerged successors nation states of India and Pakistan. No princely state could become independent. 

Maharaja Hari Singh, the Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, however was anxious for independence. The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir with a territory of about 128,000 square kilometers was uniquely placed as a buffer territory between India and Pakistan and had common borders within Afghanistan and China. Neither Pakistan nor India was ready to accept an independent Jammu and Kashmir. They kept on pressing the Maharaja to accede to either of the new states. 

 Pakistan claimed this territory, as 72 percent of Maharaja's subjects were Muslim. India wanted the Muslim majority territory of Kashmir as an emblem of her secularism. The Maharaja offered a "stand still" agreement to India and Pakistan, as he wanted some more time to make up his mind. Pakistan signed agreement but India refused. 

 As the Maharaja continued to dither, violence broke in the Jammu and Poonch region where sections of local Muslims wanted to merge with Pakistan. There was a similar revolt in the northern hill territory of Gilgit. In violation of the "stand still" agreement Pakistan stopped the passage of food and other essential commodities to Jammu and Kashmir through her territory. In September 1947, tribal raiders backed by Pakistan army invaded the valley.

 The Maharaja requested India to send in its armed forces. India made it contingent upon his signing the instrument of accession in favour of India. The ruler signed the instrument of accession and India accepted with the provision that after the restoration of normalcy, the final political status of the territory would be decided through a referendum. Indian soldiers were airlifted to Srinagar on October 27, 1947. India and Pakistan began their first war in less than three months of coming into being as independent states. 

 In January 1948, India appealed to the Security Council of the United Nations to restore peace in Kashmir. On January 20, 1948, the UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was constituted (UNSC Resolution S/654). In April 1948, the UN adopted the first plebiscite resolution. The resolution called upon Pakistan "to withdraw all its armed personnel including the tribesmen from the territory of Jammu and Kashmir". It asked India " to reduce its armed forces to the minimum level needed to maintain law and order" and to hold a plebiscite as soon as possible on the question of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan. The plebiscite administration was to be nominated by the UN Secretary General. (UNSC Resolution S/726, April 21, 1948). A UN crafted ceasefire was implemented on January 1, 1949. The plebiscite resolution was reaffirmed. Between 1949 and 1958 UNCIP made several attempts to implement the plebiscite resolution. Even partition of the territory along the ceasefire line with limited plebiscite in the valley was proposed at one stage. The intransigence of India and Pakistan defeated every effort of the UN. India and Pakistan established their political control over the territories of J&K under their respective control. Thus two separate political entities were created on the disputed territory -” “Government of Jammu and Kashmir State" on the Indian side and “Government of Azad Kashmir" on the Pakistani side. Needless to add that these "governments" were essentially "client" governments. The emergency of these political entities altered the ground situation as these new "stake holders" started manipulating the people of the divided territory on the command of their masters in Delhi and Islamabad. The Kashmiris, who disagreed with New Delhi or Islamabad, were termed traitors and spies and put behind the bars. 

 By 1958, within ten-years of having taken the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations, and having asked for international intervention in the resolution of the dispute, India changed its position on outside mediation in Kashmir. As a result, during 1960 and 1964 India turned down the offers of mediation by President Nasser of Egypt, President Kennedy of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of United Kingdom. 

The second Indo-Pak war on Kashmir took place in 1965. The third Indo-Pak war of 1971, which began on the soil of former East Pakistan and present Bangladesh, spilled over onto the territory of Kashmir. For the last 52 years, India and Pakistan have been virtually at war with each other. At times this war was fought with guns, but most of the time it has been verbal devil. The so-called "Kashmir dispute" lies at the very core of this enmity. Both India and Pakistan feel incomplete without Kashmir. Because of this enmity the people of the former princely state of J&K have being living under virtual war conditions. This cease-fire line of 1949, which became the Line of Control (L.O.C) after the third Indo-Pak war of 1971, continues to be violated by both sides. This intermitted-armed conflict has taken a heavy tool on the lives of Kashmiris over the last five decades. In 1989, sections of Kashmiris began a militant movement for national self-determination. Massive army was deployed to neutrals the armed struggle. While India calls the movement in Kashmir, "Pakistan's proxy war", Pakistan says that it is providing political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris in their struggle for just cause. 

 The Kashmir dispute needs to be perceived from a human angle. Eversince 1947 when the subcontinent was partitioned and the Maharaja Hari Singh chose to accede to the Indian Union, the erstwhile state of Kashmir has witnessed massive migration.  

On November 6, 1947 atleast half a million people were forced to migrate from various parts of Jammu region of the state. The migrants could not return till date, notwithstanding, the Re-settlement Bill passed by the state legislature to facilitate their return.

 The saga of unfortunate migrations did not stop here. In early 1990 when the ongoing armed struggle gained the momentum, it is estimated that more than 2 lakh (0.2 million) Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the valley. They sought refuge in camps at Jammu and other Indian states. Most of them are living a miserable life in these camps. The migrant Kashmiri Pandits are still awaiting return to the valley.

In 1996 when the National Conference government headed by the Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was installed and counter insurgency started, thousands of political activists owing allegiance to various pro-freedom parties had to migrate from there native places. These internally displaced people live in miserable conditions. 

The excesses at the hands of the security forces in border areas along the line of control (L.O.C) have resulted in massive migration to other parts of Kashmir. In April 2002, thirty people from the five families of Poonch district migrated to the Pakistan Administered Kashmir (P.A.K) to escape the wrath of the troops. Migration to P.A.K started in early 1990’s. According to some claims made by different groups it is said that more than 30,000 people have migrated to P.A.K since early 1990. There are reports of migration to other part of Kashmir. All those hapless souls are living in camps in Pakistan Administered Kashmir.

Due to continuation of armed conflict in the state of Jammu & Kashmir from last 12 years, the whole society has got brutalized. There is no let up in the situation. The armed political groups and more than half a million law enforcing agencies engaged against each other in the valley has resulted in massive human rights violation, which are continuing unabatedly. In the last twelve years of militancy, and counter militancy operations mounted by the forces of Indian state, nearly 70,000 Kashmiris have been killed. More than 15,000 women have become widows while as around 1000 women are living the lives of ‘half widows’ as the fate of their ‘missing’ husbands is yet to be known. 6000 peoples are believed to be the victims of enforced or involuntary disappearances. More than 25 thousand children have become orphans. Thousands of Kashmiri youth have been reduced to a psychological wreck by systematic torture. Schools, colleges and universities have not been functioning from nearly 10 years. According to reports, most Kashmiris today suffer from immobilizing depression and are in need of urgent treatment. Suicide rates have gone high particularly among the women.  

The Kashmir imbroglio has assumed serious dimensions particularly after the nuclear explosions by the two belligerent neighbours India and Pakistan in 1998. The South Asia has become the nuclear flashpoint causing worry to the people of Southeast Asia and elsewhere. The bellicose statements from the leaders of both the countries have further threatened fragile peace in South Asia. The stalemate seems to continue and so the human right violations in foreseeable future. The armed forces have been granted impunity under the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, by which even the non commissioned officer to the level of the head constable is, empowered to shot any person on mere suspicion and to destroy any property. Even the Home Minister of India, Mr. L. K. Advani in past talked of granting amnesty to the culpable law enforcing officials operating in the conflict area like Kashmir and Northeast states of India. The economical strangulation of the people of Kashmir by the Central Government seems to be collective punishment for them. Due to the 12 years of conflict, the economy of Kashmir has received the terrible setback. There are no functional industries. The traditional industries in Kashmir i.e. tourism, carpet and fruit industries are already in doldrums particularly after 11th of September 2001. Due to the uncertainty there are more than two hundred thousand (200,000) unemployed youth that has caused a major social problem. Due to the intransigence of the Government of India to have trilateral dialogue with Pakistan and people of Kashmir for resolving the long pending Kashmir dispute, there is a political impasse. The situation has become more alarming after the 13th of December when militants attacked on the Indian Parliament. The Government of India exploited the attack internationally, as terrorism has become a global concern after the 11th of September attack on World Trade Center. The border skirmishes are continuing, due to the intermitting shelling from both the sides and there is a large-scale migration from the border villages, also particularly from Jammu province of the state. Due to the deployment of mines in the villages situated near the line of actual control (L.O.C) people have become victims of these mines and even the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), has also expressed its concern over the planting of the mines. Further the Indian government has mobilized its army from peacetime locations to front positions, which has further endangered the peace. One million Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been facing each other since last December both possess nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, sophisticated air force jets and other lethal weaponry. The bellicosity from both the countries continues and in the possible future there seem to be no letup in the strain relations between the two traditional rivals. The Government of India refuses United Nations role on Kashmir, it refuses the third party mediations, even facilitation by US and tries to convince the international community that Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. But she puts conditions on the Pakistani Government, before entering into a bilateral dialogue like handing over the 20 terrorists to the Indian Government and for stopping the “trans border terrorism”. The position of Pakistan (G.O.P) is that it is ready to have dialogue with India over Kashmir and other contentious issues, ‘anytime, anyplace and at any level’. The Indian Government has threatened for unilateral abrogation on the Indus Water Treaty concluded with Pakistan in 1960. It will mean war between two countries and even recently the official of World Bank and International Commission on Irrigation has warned of serious international repercussions against India, if it tempers with the treaty. The officials of World Bank have further stated that “the move automatically is to activate the UN Security Council, thus reviving its role in India and Pakistan, hitherto, is strictly confined to bilateral mechanism”. India’s military leadership has been often demanding the use of treaty as a weapon to deprive the Pakistanis of the water for irrigation which even if is stopped 1 percent it would amount the starvation threat for the 14 million Pakistanis. This treaty was brokered by World Bank by virtue of which the Pakistan is entitled on the waters of Indus, the Jehlum and the Chenab and their tributaries and all rivers that form a life line in J&K all the Punjab rivers were retained by India.  

The Government of India has been persuading the All Parties Hurriet Conference (APHC) through mediators for participating in the elections, which was scheduled in the month of October 2002. The APHC and the people of Kashmir have boycotted the previous elections conducted for Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament) and State Legislative Assembly in 1996. The Hurriet Conference, which is spearheading the political struggle for right of self-determination and is the conglomerate of 23 parties, has refused to participate in the forthcoming elections. Their position is that election is no substitute to their struggle for right of self-determination. There is a general perception amongst the people that some political leaders within APHC are interested in elections, but they have publicly denied so. The APHC has floated its own election commission in February 2002. This election commission has been named as People’s Election Commission (PEC). This election commission is composed of 6 members including human right activists, judges, a doctor and a journalist. PEC will hold the elections for choosing the representatives for settling the Kashmir imbroglio. It was believed that the Hurriet was under the constant pressure from different countries, particularly from US, to prove its democratic credentials by participating in the elections. It is therefore, they have constituted their own commission. They have a strong moral position for doing so because the elections conducted by the federal election commission has been always rigged with an exception of the 1977 elections. The People’s Election Commission has not taken off yet. There are doubts whether the People’s Election Commission could realize its objectives, as it needs the huge administrative set up for conducting the elections. The Government of India has refused to recognize it. 

Nevertheless, after the 12th of January speech given by President Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan in which he has promised to reign upon the Jihadi groups, the militancy is getting reorganized now under the Kashmiri militant leadership. It is organizing the militants for the armed struggle, as they believe that the constant bleeding of India could only pressurize the Indian government for settling the long pending Kashmir issue. In future also militancy seems to continue.