This would be my first column while I start my visit of Kashmir. As a human rights lawyer and a writer, the instinct that I need to follow is to remain non-discriminatory and inclusive.
The discipline of human rights warrants a belief that ‘human rights are for all, know them, demand them and defend them”. As a writer on various issues one has to be on the side of the best interests of all people, at home and abroad. These two positions embed a situation or situations when one may not remain in the close proximity of the Kashmiri leadership, Government/s and other state and non-state actors.
Proximity on grounds of human rights
As a human rights lawyer I took up the question of freedom of movement of Syed Ali Geelani in February 2013 with the National Human Rights Commission of India and the representation part contributed in its manner to the relaxing of conditions imposed on Syed Ali Geelani in his flat in Delhi.
In May 2012 I took up at the 20th session of UN Human Rights Council the denial by Indo-Pakistan authorities to let the dead body of 84 year old Raja Begum, who had died during her visit to her relations in Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, Pakistan be carried through Muzaffarabad and took up the denial to let JKLF chairman Yasin Malik travel through Muzaffarabad, to be at the funeral of his father in 5 hours. The dead body of Raja Begum had to be carried through Wagah border and Yasin Malik had to take a long route via Thailand to Delhi and reach Srinagar. We have taken up the issue of Passport of Kashmiri leader Shabir Ahmad Dar with the National Human Rights Commission of India in April 2013.
It does not make me a member of Tehrek-e- Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Muslim Conference or an affiliate of an organization. The spread of case work includes representation in many countries and people of all faiths and nationalities. Kashmir of course features as a priority. The work has to be non-discriminatory and in equity.
Self-determination non-inclusive and communal
Kashmir dispute is a question of equality of people and right to self-determination. The mechanism to resolve it has been evolved through free and fair debates at the UN Security Council. India and Pakistan have duly participated in prosecuting their points of view. Security Council has been addressed by Kashmiris as well and this address remains markedly different and distinguished from the statements made by India and Pakistan.
Kashmir continued as a regular agenda item on the UN Security Council until August 1996. In 1996 Secretary General of the UN was asked to simplify the Security Council agenda and report on the subjects that had not been discussed in the last five years. It was found that Kashmir had not been discussed for over 31 years from November 1965 to August 1996. Under the simplification rule, Kashmir was deleted as a regular subject on the agenda. There was uproar and it was agreed that this item would be placed on the agenda on the regular annual request of a member nation. Kashmir remains on UN SC agenda under an annual reminder rule.
Kashmir question has further suffered at the hands of Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris alike. The death of a generation in the last 23 years has created a numerical deficit in the Muslim vote. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley has created a situation which makes the right of self-determination non-inclusive and communal in character.
UN has endorsed the right of self-determination as an inclusive right of all people. Departure of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley remains less favourable to any support of self-determination. Muslims can’t address the issue in their own exclusive interest. In addition to this Muslim approach has been less reliable and at times yielded to self-styled 4 point formula of a military general. These irritants have yet to be reconciled.
66th Accession Anniversary
There are people who have different positions on the question of State’s accession with India. It starts from the Indian position at the UN, position carried in UN Resolutions, some opine that the accession has to be ratified, is limited and provisional and that it has been ratified. The final position would be settled in accordance with Indian petition to the UN and as carried in the UN Resolutions.
There could be no two positions on the inclusiveness of this right and the territorial integrity of the State. One such opinion (J&K National Panthers Party) that the State has acceded to India is organising 66th Accession Anniversary on 26th October 2013 in New Delhi. JKNPP has decided to organise a grand celebration on 27th October, 2013 at Udhampur.
Prof. Bhim Singh has invited distinguished leaders from all political parties to participate in the celebration on 26th October, 2013. The invitees include Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Shri L.K. Advani, Shri Sita Ram Yechury, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, S. Surjit Singh Barnala and others. Whether other politician and dignitaries could find it appropriate to be at the celebration or not, the effort in itself has a merit in the shape of popular interest.
Except adopting the constitution on 31 July 1993, our leaders have not made any promising and encouraging efforts to evolve a Kashmiri Narrative. Hurriyat Constitution has a major plus because it was adopted by almost all the major political parties, social and religious groups. Hurriyat constitution lacks in juridical wisdom and has not accommodated discussions and debates. Even then it advocates an inclusive approach and accommodates all the existing points of view, at least in theory. There has been no serious work on advancing and evolving the integrity of inclusiveness.
There has been no follow up on the constitutional discipline. Rather than moving forward on the terms of reference, one finds that leaders narrowed down their influence and have decided to remain domiciled in one place. This decision has caused a disconnect between the leaders and the people and at the same time has gone the administration’s way. It is easy for the local administration to control these leaders at one place.
Kashmiri politics seems to have reached a dead end and the administration does not have to over-stretch itself to locate the domicile and administer a control. A set standard prescription does not cause any challenge to the administration.
It is not the strong leader but a strong institutional base that determines the strength of an individual, organization and a country. No one knows about the President or Prime Minister of Switzerland, one of the most credible and prosperous countries of the world. The country is run by its strong public institutions.
India over the years has continued to impact the world opinion on the strengths of its institutions, namely, Parliament, Supreme Court, National Human Rights Commission and laws designed to bring about a social change. There is a general consensus that Indian people have the ability to bring about a political change. There is hardly any evidence that the whole election results in India could be bought by a person, group of people or any institution.
In regard to the right of self-determination we could have used Indian institutions to empower Kashmiri people to enjoy an internal self-determination. The work could have been moved to the second higher level of external self-determination. Kashmiris had adopted a credible political programme in their constitution but the understanding to take it to its credible heights was either lacking or the document in itself was a gift to be kept and not translated into a programme of action.
At this point the major challenge remains, to understand if Kashmiri leaders have run out of ideas or still retain their ability to bounce back and accept the challenge. Over 50 percent of Kashmiri population are women and hardly represented in Kashmir politics. In fact Kashmiris have shown no sense of regret or realisation that we remain partially disabled in our narrative. Our leaders have to re-organise their domicile and re-position themselves in accordance with the jurisprudence of the case. It can’t be possible without enhancing the capacity and credibility of the politics.
If a Kashmiri school of opinion could consider celebrating the 66th Accession Anniversary of Jammu and Kashmir, all others who have categorised themselves as ‘real’ leaders need to examine the distribution and control of Kashmiri people.
Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He is on UN register as an expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He could be reached on email email@example.com