Kashmir Conference Chicago, ill

Kashmir Conference  Jully 3, 2010     Chicago, ill

Overcoming Barriers to Realizing the Right of Self-determination

 I would like to thank you all for attending this conference and showing your support for the Kashmir cause. Thanks also to the speakers–Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui, Mr. Richard Bonney and Dr. Cynthia Keppley Mahmood for taking time to participate in the panel.

 I would like to express our joint appreciation of the work Dr. Fai has been doing his entire life to promote the cause of freedom of Kashmir. I would like us all to pay tribute to the heroic struggle Kashmiri people are waging against foreign occupation. They have done so for the last 61 years and continue to do so against tremendous odds. Only God knows the time and circumstances under which their cherished goal will be realized. This much we know that they have shown the will and the determination to achieve their right of self-determination. We hold in the highest regard, the sacred blood our youth in Kashmir shed since 1931 against the despotic Hindu kingdom of Dogra dynasty, and then since 1947 against the military rule of various Indian regimes. It has been a long and difficult road, a road full of treason, treachery and tribulations. The enemy of our people and our freedom is vicious, barbaric and brutal. The world around us has changed dramatically, but our people have been left to fend for themselves against one of the most devious and most hypocritical regimes in the modern world. Our people deserve due recognition and full moral and emotional support. Having lost over 120,000 people in the fight for freedom is no ordinary matter in these newer times. Our unsung heroes are making history as the paralyzed world community is watching passively and standing by without uttering a word of condemnation.

Mass graves containing thousands of slain bodies found in Uri region have failed to call for an international investigation. India is guilty as charged in our public court of innumerable war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of torture.  Our people have been feeling the brunt of it all, all alone.  For that we affirm the sacrifices offered by the victims. For that we salute the families of the bereaved. For that we condemn the Indian rogue security forces and the international watch dogs including, the UN Security Council for having become accomplices of these war crimes by the absence of any outrage on their part.

The UNSC let Indian regimes bully it in to suspending any actions aimed at guaranteeing implementation of its resolutions on plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. India has tried every trick and every strategy to frustrate any positive action in Kashmir to determine the wishes and aspirations of the people and to establish just, durable and lasting peace in the region. It has successfully weaved a web of deception and disinformation around the core issue of self-determination.

It has defied successive UN resolutions, imposed wars on neighboring Pakistan and carried on a regime of siege, terror and torture on the entire population under its control. Every one of you here knows the level of violence and atrocities conducted by the soldiers on the Kashmiri people. Everyone here knows that hundreds of thousands that have been murdered in fake encounters, in the so-called cross-border incursions and under the custody of the security forces.  Every one knows the pillaging and looting conducted by the security forces and everyone knows systematic bribery of the army to extract large sums of money from the families of the detainees. It is business that has made Indian military officers rich and desirous of more and more.

Even as we speak, Kashmir is once again under a barbaric siege in nearly all towns and cities- Srinagar, Sopore, Anantnag, Baramullah, Kupwara and many more. 18 innocent youth, some as young as 18 years have been gunned down by the security forces in two weeks. Life in all major towns has been choked and paralyzed by the shoot-to-kill curfews around the clock.

People cannot venture out to buy a loaf of bread, a pound of meat or vegetables, or take their sick to the hospitals. If that wasn’t enough as a collective punishment, the Hindu parties in the southern province of Jammu with tacit approval of the government Kashmir have imposed a blockade of the only high way to the valley of Kashmir to strangle the economy and force the Muslim population in to Indian submission. It is a collusion and a collaboration of the worst kind aimed at driving a wedge between two communities to promote nefarious designs of a government- pitting people against people to achieve political ends.

Self-determination in envisaged in the UN charter as a fundamental right of nations. By all criteria and all historical, sociological, cultural and demographic parameters Kashmir is a nation in its own right. Kashmiris are demanding their right to determine their future. The have sacrificed more in lives and comfort to gain their freedom from India since 1947 than the Indians did up to 1947 to gain their freedom from Britain up to 1947. British may have come to India to stay for good, but they had to leave. Indians may have invaded Kashmir to stay, but they too will have to leave. They are most unwelcome and despised for their invasion and occupation.

Kashmir is not about to abandon its quest for total and absolute freedom. They remain convinced of the justness of, and committed to that cause. And no power in the world is going to be able to dissuade them to abandon that struggle.

It behooves India and Pakistan and the world community to think of the consequences of continued Indian occupation. Kashmir remains the flashpoint of conventional and God forbid catastrophic nuclear war in the region. Changing economic situation and political balance does not matter when it comes to burning issues fuelled by burning desires of 13 million people. Kashmiri view of itself and that of India has not diminished due to the changing regional and international scenarios. But, rather it is getting more accentuated and acute. They see themselves, they see India and they see the suffering and humiliation cause by the occupation and they get more infuriated and more restive.

So, What must be done!!!

There are several things India, Pakistan and the world community must do to address the issue. First of all the Kashmiris must close their ranks, rid themselves of the division among their ranks to allow no room for Indians to divide and distract them.

The UN SC resolutions of 1948 and 1949 remain the cornerstone of the Kashmir dispute. UN must continue to deny India a permanent seat at the SC as long as it defies the will of the SC. UN must demand an end to Indian military in Kashmir.

India must end the draconian laws such as the barbaric AFSPA(Armed Forces Special Powers Act) under which the army is conducting atrocities with impunity and without any due process. The atrocities committed against the civilians by occupation forces must be punished as the violations of the 4th Geneva Convention.

Indian must demilitarize Kashmir of over 600,000 of its troops stationed in towns, cities and countryside. They are a source of much brutality, terror, fear and moral corruption.

Indian civil society must rise and demand unequivocally that brutality of the military rule in Kashmir over civilian population is wrong and must be stopped. It must demand an end to military and police rule in Kashmir. End of military rule will restore some semblance of public confidence and a sense of security to help pave the way for a peace process.

India keeps insisting on holding elections for the Legislative Assembly which is in contravention to the general referendum that is mandated in the UNSC recommendations. A plebiscite or referendum was never allowed by India. Yet that is exactly what is needed to settle the issue. Whatever elections are held are always fraudulent and farcical with no popular public trust or participation. Those sham elections are conducted under gunpoint of the soldiers. India must bow to the Kashmiri public opinion and allow the people of Kashmir to decide their future through an impartial and unfettered plebiscite. That what Mr. Nehru had promised Kashmiris and that is what UNSC requires and that is what we Kashmiris are demanding. Much time has been wasted and much suffering has been caused by delays and distractions. It is time that remedial process is started earnestly.

Pakistan, for its part, must also take some innovative, out of the box steps. It must openly and unequivocally commit itself to the referendum, as the only solution to the dispute. Pakistan must take practical and concrete steps to move in the direction of conducting a referendum in Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas as a whole, not piece-meal. Only when it holds such a referendum it will be able to maintain the moral high ground on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. It must do so even if India fails to take parallel and concurrent steps in the Occupied Kashmir. It must offer recognition to the new entity and support it as a member of the United Nations, pending similar plebiscite in the Indian occupied Kashmir. Moral, political and diplomatic pressure can be brought to bear on India to undertake plebiscite in the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The two entities must then unite in to one single entity to emerge as the new sovereign friendly and peaceful neighbor of both, Pakistan and India. Together they forge an economic bloc with freedom to travel and do business across friendly borders, but each enjoying the fruits of sovereignty and independence of culture. That may sound naive, idealistic and utopian, but given the intractability of the issue, with its destructive consequences over the last six decades, it is certainly the most desirable way to once and for all settle the issue. Not only have all other solutions miserably failed to establish peace and prosperity, they have opened new gashes in the society even within Northern Areas and deep inside Jammu province. Suppression of the people of J&K is not a good solution as India has found out. It merely satisfies Indian thirst for revenge and hegemony for its own historical paranoia and perceptions. It does not help in achieving peace regardless of its wishful thinking.

So the reemergence of sovereign state Jammu and Kashmir beside Pakistan and India will satisfy all elements of Kashmir, finish the argument and excuse of some who blame Pakistan for not withdrawing its forces and allowing free expression for self-determination in the region as envisaged in the UNSC resolutions. A new and fresh initiative of this kind with a new reality in the region will be a powerful tool that can be used to nudge India to abandon its intransigence and a mindset of continued belligerency against its neighbors.  Musharraf formulas and Manmohan Singh’s ‘irrelevance of borders’ promises were utter non-starters and have already been relegated to trash bins of nonsensical musings and ploys of the two leaders respectively.

These suggestions are not new, but  many on both sides of the CFL have historically supported them, but they have got no traction because of the unrealistic expectations of both nations that Kashmiri nationalism is going to die with continued occupation and attempts at integration in to the neighboring states. This proposal is sensible and in the long run the only solution that will work.

With God’s grace our people will get what they deserve – the realization of self-determination and restoration of the sovereign State of Jammu and Kashmir as it was up to 1947.