Right to Self-Determination Day

The time for self-determination is now

Kashmir has long been a land caught in the middle, contested between two nuclear-armed powers, and the center of religious and ethnic tensions for decades. Few people ask what the Kashmiri people truly want. Everyone believes that they know what is best for us and best for Kashmir.

What is best for Kashmir is for us to chart our future, as is our right under international law.
As of January 5th, 2022 – it has been 73 years since the United Nations passed Resolution 47, which guaranteed Kashmir the right to self-determination, and yet, we have been denied this right.

Self-Determination Day commemoration

Every year on January 5th, people on both sides of the line of control demonstrate, engage in lectures, and highlight the atrocities committed by India to try to push the international community to uphold the international law.

While all too often those voices fall upon deaf ears in the marbled halls of the U.N, the cries for self-determination cannot be ignored.

Injustice must not be allowed to carry the day. The thousands who have died protesting for a free Kashmir must not have died in vain and the perpetrators must know justice.
The only way to accomplish this is through self-determination and the ability to chart our future.

The voice of the people can no longer be silenced

Self-Determination means we choose what part of the map we wish to belong to. It means we form a union with one nation or another or chart our future as an independent nation. No one, not India, nor Pakistan, nor any member of the international community can choose for us. The voices of self-determination must be from Jammu and Kashmir.

To achieve self-determination three things must happen.

  1. Indian occupational forces and occupational authorities must leave Kashmir
  2. A binding referendum under the observation of the U.N. must be allowed to be held without outside influence
  3. The international community agrees to recognize the results of the referendum

Answering the oldest question

Where does Kashmir belong? Some will say Pakistan, others will say India, and still, others will say we must have an independent nation. Initially, the rulers of Kashmir joined India during the partition without any formal consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, on the condition that Kashmir retains its own constitution, a separate flag, and freedom to make its own laws. These rights were formalized in Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

While there are no doubts that there are some who would prefer to remain in Union with India – this can only happen if Article 370 and 35-A are brought back into effect and cannot be abrogated again.

For many, union with India–even approved through free and fair elections–will be a bridge too far. Restitution must be given to the victims of the occupation and a truth and a reconciliation committee must be established to punish those who committed human rights abuses and crimes against humanity and genocide

The Pakistan options

Month after month, we highlight the atrocities committed by the Indian occupational authorities and as we illustrated in the previous section, while union with India must be put on the table with the above guarantees put into place – reunion will prove too bitter of a pill for many to swallo given the ill treatment by India of 220 million of its own Muslim population, particularly since 2019.

A binding referendum could bring Jammu and Kashmir into union with Pakistan. For many, this would remain the most attractive option. As Kashmir has been a historically Muslim majority state it could better integrate with the Muslim majority nation of Pakistan.

Union with Pakistan would bring security and stability to some degree, but questions would remain. Would Kashmiri autonomy be respected by Islamabad, or would our unique culture and heritage be disregarded after the union was complete? Would we still be a front in the never-ending strife between India and Pakistan? Or, would India and Pakistan take that opportunity to finally accept the geopolitical and sociological realities of post-partition south Asia to embark on a path to peace, progress and stability?

Those are important questions that do not have easy answers, which is why some would lean to a third option.

A free and independent Kashmir

Kashmiri nationhood must be considered for any referendum to be true and just. For many, being caught in the never-ending struggle between India and Pakistan is not necessarily resolved just because the territory moves to one side of the map or stays on the same side of it. And after 70 years, who honestly, is not sick of being a geopolitical pawn.

Our future starts with us. Being independent is an attractive fresh start for this land that has suffered at the hands of foreign armies.

Independence, while attractive, has its challenges. Nations born from conflict can face a crisis after freedom is granted. Kosovo and South Sudan faced numerous hardships after independence. Kosovo still faces challenges and trauma from the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign, as well as difficulties with international recognition. And after 5-years Serbian genocidal war in Bosnia now see Serb Republic seeking its separation from Bosnia. South Sudan descended into infighting and civil war – something our people reject but can be a possibility of a weak state being established and one that still finds itself caught between two regional powers.

It starts with self-determination

Determining the future for our nation and our people is not easy work. There are hard questions that need answers and injustices that must be righted. But this cannot happen if we are an occupied land. The occupation has made clear how it views where Kashmir belongs, but Kashmir must decide for itself. The modalities of referendum can be ironed out once the people of Jammu and Kashmir are granted the long overdue right to self-determination. We have the right under international law– and it must be granted if peace is to ever be a reality.