Centre for Policy Analysis has organized a Round Table discussion of Kashmir situation. It is a positive step. I find that most of the discussions held anywhere in the world are on Kashmir issue. Despite that, Kashmiris continue to be the worst victimized people.
I need not recount the history of the dispute, and hopefully, despite different ideologies you are wedded to, most of you are aware of historical facts about Kashmir. My assessment of Kashmir situation is rather simplistic. I believe three nuclear powers are illegally occupying the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and have divided it into four parts. Therefore I am of opinion that before seeking a way for the freedom of Kashmir, we need to address the question of its unification.
All the three occupational countries are at great variance in terms of ethnicity, language, religion and geography. But when Kashmir question is dragged for discussion, we find ourselves divided into various factions, like Gujjars, Jammuites, Dogras, Kashmiris, Paharis, Gilgitis, Ladakhis, Bodhs, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Shias, and Sunnis.
I am running 44th year of my life in politics. You may try to circumvent Kashmir issue, but the very nature of this issue is so much complex that it shall have to be resolved if we are seeking lasting peace and stability in South Asian region. If there happens a nuclear flare up in the region, the worst affected would be India, Pakistan and China. Kashmiris will be harmed less because they have not as yet come out of 16th century life style.
Indians are not tired of repeating the rhetoric of J&K being an integral part of the Indian Union and that Kashmiris are Indian nationals. In reality India has treated J&K as its colony for last 63 years. Kashmir has always been oppressed by black and tyrannical laws like Enemy Ordinance No. 3 promulgated by Maharaja Hari Singh at the time of incursion by the tribesmen. It remains valid today and cases against nearly 200 persons have been filed under this law. I am one of its victims. Under this law an accused is prosecuted in a special court of law. The decision of this court cannot be challenged in any higher court as appeal is not allowed.
PSA can be challenged in a High Court. Three to four months are needed for a court verdict to appear and for that period an accused remains interned in the jail. If the court acquits the accused being tried under PSA, no sooner he leaves the court premises than he is arrested again under PSA. This is tantamount to contempt of court. In fact it tramples underfoot the entire judicial system of India. We have cases here in Kashmir in which a person is arrested and rearrested six to seven times under PSA.
Yet one more law envisaged to enslave Kashmir is AFPSA. Under this provision Indian rulers, security forces and army establishment have been given a license to kill anybody. AFPSA is assault on our honour, modesty, privacy and our very existence. Murderers and rapists are not liable to be produced before any court to account for their misdeeds.
According to Indian constitution no restriction is imposed on forming political parties and taking out peaceful demonstrations. But here in Kashmir whether it is the body of government and semi-government employees or non-mainstream political parties trying to bring out peaceful demonstrations, they are immediately responded with lathi charge, tear gas and bullets. Peaceful protests are thus subjected to violence and brute force.
No big industry worth the name has been incepted in J&K so far that could provide employment to thousands of workers. We have the capacity of generating nearly 18000 MWs of electric power. But it is India and Pakistan who are deriving maximum benefit out of our water resources. The Indus Water Treaty of 1962 between India and Pakistan squarely goes against the interests of Kashmiris. If an agreement is signed with the central gird for generating electric power, the state’s share is bare 12--16 per cent after the power generating houses are erected. An agreement is signed to this effect. The same central grid, when entering into contract for generating power in other states, allows 35 to 40 per cent of electricity to the states concerned.
Elections in the State held in the past were only establishment elections. This has been the opinion of independent observers. Large number of voters desists from casting their vote. Thus most of the members elected from such constituencies hardly win 10 to 15 per cent votes of the total electorate. Would you call them the representatives of the people of their constituencies? One perennial complaint of the people is that the chief minister of the state is invariably selected by either 7, Race Course or 10, Jan path in New Delhi. This is unlike the practice in other states where chief ministers are elected from the House of Representatives.
Even the most heinous crime seems an ordinary event. I asked a contractor why the road he made turned into potholes in just three or four months. He puzzled me with his answer. He said 15 % of the allotted sum is first grabbed by the ministry; 18 % by the departmental officials, 7 % goes to the Treasury, Thus 40 % of allocations gone to bribery, out of remaining 60 per cent 10 % are spent on miscellaneous expenditures. Now a road desired to be built for 100 crores loses one half in bribery. What will the contractor invest out of only half and what earning will he make? How the road cannot get potholed within three months, he asked. Same is true of other departments, education, local bodies, forest, rural development, agriculture, irrigation etc. Hospitals are virtual butcheries and medicines meant for distribution among the poor patients are sold in black market.
State police is deployed to protect the interests of the rulers of the time. Police and law are no less than a curse to the people. Youngsters are picked up on allegations of stone pelting or alleged militants and their parents are asked to pay hefty amount if they want the release of their children from jails. Kashmir does not appear to be like any other state of the Indian Union. With reference to colonialism, it looks to have been under forced Indian occupation and no better than a colony.
Our youth are picked up and put behind the bars. But let me say that there are no play grounds and parks worth the name in Kashmir where the youth would engage themselves in physical activities to keep healthy. You will be surprised to know that there is not a single stadium worth the name in Kashmir. There are some places with signboard of Playing Ground but these are as good as ruins. Royal Golf club is the exclusive preserve of people connected with the mainstream political parties, financial tycoons, top echelons of the establishment, and police officers. Rest of the gentry is denied membership. The plots of land that should ordinarily have been turned into play grounds are seized illegally by influential persons. Government jobs are generally distributed among the kith and kin of bureaucrats and influential political personalities. Nepotism is galore.
In the background of this scenario I often think what I should be doing. My attention goes to only two options. Either I take up a gun and launch a campaign against the entire system or join the stone pelting youth as part of their expression of anger. This is the story of Kashmir.
I have just begun to imagine that the broad masses of India have, at the end of the day begun to understand the suffering and privation of Kashmiris. I have come to participate in these deliberations only with this hope in my mind. I have so far participated in hundreds of conferences and deliberations on Kashmir all over the world, in Geneva, Brussels, New York, Canada, London, Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu and other places. I find this entire exercise in futility. People assemble, discuss, eat, drink and go back.
I believe India and Pakistan must cement friendly relations. Unless that happens, Kashmir issue cannot be resolved. The two countries have adopted extremist position on this issue. Jammu-Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party had presented a solution formula at the Hague Conference in 1999 titled “Kashmir: Freezing to defreeze”. Many political groups, observers including General Musharraf had given thought to it and forwarded their formula akin to it. I would request you to bring it under study.
This paper was read in the meeting organized by Centre for Policy Analysis on 02 April 2011, Srinagar and published in daily "Greater Kashmir" on 12th April, 2011)