Peace in Kashmir

Sharma, New Delhi’s ‘interlocutor’ for J&K, left after a five-day visit, announcing that “there is no plan, there can’t be a plan” and “it is going to be a long, drawn-out exercise”. He has only an illusion of dialogue to offer. Everyone of consequence in J&K shunned him.

A union home ministry official said that the J&K government had decided the composition of delegations, and had asked people to register at the divisional commissioner’s office and meet Sharma. The J&K government replied, “We invited only those people who were selected by New Delhi. We had no role to play in this.”

The centre continues with its repression, while the J&K government “favours a cooling down of atmosphere on the ground so that the focus shifts entirely to the dialogue process”. However, a mere pause in repression will not suffice unless it is part of a genuine offer of political reconciliation that leads to a ceasefire on all fronts — Pakistan included.

Kashmiris won’t accept a bilateral deal with India.

Yashwant Sinha, a BJP leader and former foreign minister in the Vajpayee government, said recently that his visits to J&K led him to the conclusion that India cannot resolve the issue without involving Pakistan “at some point”. Kashmiris will not accept a bilateral deal with India unless it is part of an Indo-Pak settlement process.

The people of J&K have been let down by all their leaders; the unionists as well as the separatists. Farooq and Omar Abdullah failed them badly in their craze for power. The worst of all were Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba. His treachery in introducing the Hindu nationalist BJP into Kashmir in 2014 and hers in backing it are far worse than the hated Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s treachery in 1953 in Sheikh Abdullah’s ouster at the behest of Jawaharlal Nehru. G.M. Sadiq accelerated the process of eroding Kashmir’s autonomy.

The opening salvo in militancy in J&K came on July 31, 1988, when three government buildings were blown up in Srinagar. It peaked in 1989-90. The All-Parties Hurriyat Conference was set up on July 31, 1993. What has it to show as its ‘achievements’ except ego clashes and splits? The objectives clause of its constitution itself revealed a huge rift. The UN’s resolution on plebiscite were sought to be reconciled with independence.

But the UN’s resolutions rule out independence. Gandhi deleted reference to it in India’s complaint to the UN Security Council on Dec 31, 1947. On Dec 28, 1949, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, demanded substitution of the words “the future of Jammu & Kashmir” by words confining “the question of accession … to India or Pakistan”. The UN’s plebiscite resolutions follow this formulation. Yet some people espouse independence and the UN resolutions at the same time: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s recent statement rejecting independence for J&K adheres to Pakistan’s line since 1947.

If India will not agree to a plebiscite, nor can Pakistan possibly accept the LoC as international boundary — least of all Kashmiris who yearn for the reunification of their land — then the solution lies in a setup that does not sanctify either side’s stand but establishes a via media, which respects the stands of both as well as Kashmiri aspirations. Any settlement demands compromise. None can get all it wants.

This is exactly what the four-point formula of 2006-07 sought to achieve. It is dishonest to say that it congealed the status quo. It altered it radically. It envisaged free movement across the LoC for the first time in five decades; joint mechanism for both parts of Kashmir; agreed and equal quantum of autonomy for them; and withdrawal of troops. These substantial gains would bring relief to a suffering people. This was not a final settlement but an interim one for 15 years to bring peace and normalcy to a people denied both. The entire political scene would have changed, putting many politicians of today out of business; unionists as well as separatists.

In Kashmir, Syed Ali Geelani and his cohorts attacked it. Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh were attacked in their own countries. None cared to consider it dispassionately. Hatred and self-interest held sway; especially in Geelani’s case, publicly revealing his ambition of being his people’s sole leader. He has been using extremism to buttress the claim by attracting an oppressed people. Others had to fall in line lest they be accused of ‘betrayal’. He has no time for compromise; no viable alternative. There is a deadlock. The people suffer; the ‘leader’ flourishes.

The dispute can be resolved only by an accord drawn up by India and Pakistan that Kashmiris accept. In J&K’s interests, its leaders must press them to pursue the four points as an interim accord and usher in peace.

The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2017