Month: December 2002

Paradise on Earth

One may wonder whether it is a coincidence or an irony of fate that all those saints, Sufis, and proponents of peace and harmony, those lovers of beauty, art, poetry, music and culture have become a part of our dead heritage instead of an inspiration in this era of turmoil and turbulence in the valley of Kashmir. Around thirteen years of persistent violence, almost fifty-five years of cold war, preceded by centuries of external occupation, tyranny and exploitation have led the “Paradise” to the doorstep of doom. Let us admit that we were always a poor, wretched and exploited people, in need of a real “leader”, a true representative. It is a pity, of course, but there seems to be no doubt about it.

When in the midst of the “tribal invasion” of October 1947, the “rebel” Kashmiris had emerged as a ‘war’ council for “liberating the rest of the State of Jammu and Kashmir” from the Indian regime, (the status of “Azad Kashmir” has never been legally defined in international terms: it is neither a ‘sovereign state’ nor a ‘province’ of Pakistan), while Muslims of Jammu, Poonch and Mirpur (presently in Pakistan) had supported the Muslim Conference, those of the valley had no representation to speak on their behalf for the fact that the Valley Muslims, from 1930’s and 1940’s onwards, had tended to support Sheikh Abdullah’s (more or less) “secular” National Conference (which ought not to be compared to the present National Conference). When did they change their preferences: that is a question to be answered!

While we continue digging into our past mistakes and pursuing the process of revenge as an endless game, the world asks of us what do we want? What can be a possible “solution”? Do we have an answer? Accession to Pakistan: No way! Independence: Can we afford that? While we may make a lot of noise, the fact of the matter is that there is no understanding, no communication. Poor India and Pakistan, and our self-represented “representatives” have left no stone unturned in their efforts for building a “conducive atmosphere” for talks. Let us talk, folks! It hardly matters what we talk as long as we talk. Come on, let us talk! Oops! Talks have failed! But excuse me…………What were we talking about? Of course, “national pride”, “Kashmir conflict”, “Kashmir- the integral part of India”, “sentiments of the people of Kashmir”, “Jammu and Kashmir”, “Kashmir and Kashmir”, “Ladakh”, “referendum”, “respect for the people’s wishes (found in plethora in Pak Watan)”, azadi, jehad, “peace”, “truce”, bla, bla, bla………Sorry for the interruption! Commercial break!

Some of the dramatic instances of “bilateralism” between the two countries, with their “diagonally opposite” viewpoints on Kashmir, are obvious from the battlefields of 1947-8, 1965, 1971 and 1999. “All the Kashmiris should sit and discuss what will be the future of the State” is what one of our “representatives” once had to say about a possible “solution”. The reverend Maulana perhaps was too sentimental and excited at the spur of moment – but, let us excuse him for his fledgling experience and wish him good luck in gathering “all Kashmiris” together and make them “sit” and then discuss the “future” of the State.

Who will talk on behalf of Kashmiris? The so-called, self-imposed representative “conglomerate” of a bunch of irresponsible figure-heads; the hired non-Kashmiri hooligans whom our “representatives” would honor as “our brothers”, “our welcomed guests”; or the confused Kashmiri population? The idea of an “Independent State of Jammu and Kashmir” sounds quite very romantic albeit absolutely impractical and unrealistic. What about accession to Pakistan? After all they are our “good old friends”, our “brothers”, and we too are demanding an “Islamic State”? So, let us break it into some more pieces – Muslims, Pandits, Dogras, Buddhists, so on and so forth, as many as possible, and annihilate it! Objective – “the unification of the State of Jammu and Kashmir…………..Unification with Pakistan………….Independence!” Halt! The status of Jammu and Kashmir “has not yet been finalized”. Each of India and Pakistan should have a “substantial” portion of the Valley (while neither of them would accept the fact for the other)! We will “employ peaceful methods” to settle our differences but neither of us should “seek to alter the status quo in Kashmir”.

While the headless heads of India and Pakistan engage themselves in flexing their muscles, let the state of disorder and confusion prevail, and let the political parties take their time in pursuing their disorganizational efforts. Who cares about the bankrupt economy, deteriorated living conditions of the people, crippled educational system, and corrupted cultural and historical heritage?

Beware of mischief makers, my dear fellow Kashmiris!

© Sadaf Munshi
(This article appeared in the daily Kashmir Observer, 2003)

Swim Along the Stream

“History has seen such times when the crime was committed by a moment, but the punishment was suffered by centuries”.                 (Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah)

In retrospect, for more than half a century now India and Pakistan have been engaged in attempts to resolving the question as to whether the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India was a legitimate enterprise or a matter of “fraud and force”. Another question in vogue is the question of the creation of the state of Pakistan itself. While many questions remain unanswered, the valley of Kashmir has served a bone of contention between the two countries during the post-independence era of the British Indian empire. India and Pakistan fought four wars, three of which were fought over Kashmir which include the intense battle between the two countries in 1947-48, another war in 1965, and the recent 1999 Kargil war. (The 1971 civil war led to the partition of the 1947 Pakistan leading to the formation of Bangladesh in the east). The problem of Kashmir has ever since remained as a seemingly unending conflict having expended considerable blood, peace and sensibility. While that is a fact, over the past more-than-thirteen years, Kashmir has seen immense and indispensable loss on almost every platform. On the one hand are Pakistan’s continued attempts to internationalize the Kashmir issue and its persistent insistence that there will be no permanent peace in South Asia until the problem of Kashmir is solved. And on the other hand is India’s claim that Pakistan has no right to advocate the case for plebiscite in Kashmir given the fact that the latter (Pakistan) never vacated her “forcible occupation of the one-third of the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir” which was one of the preconditions for the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir.

While struggling with these unanswered questions, another question that ought to have come to one’s mind and is perhaps not unanswerable is: who are the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir? How far is it legitimate for the so-called self-elected leaders of a specific ethno-religious group which constitutes only a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to be claiming representatives who will determine the fate of the State which is an amalgam of at least three different ethno-linguistic and ethno-religious populations? In addition, is the not-much-spoken-of Kashmiri Pandits’ separatist demand for “Panun Kashmir”. While the issue of Kashmir problem has been constantly associated with the valley, one cannot turn a blind eye to the involvement of the provinces Jammu and Ladakh in the present struggle which, if not directly participating, have been under considerable influence and are a direct party in any conflict resolving program who need to be effectively consulted in this enterprise.

In the year 2003, the question arises whether the history of conflict over Jammu and Kashmir can be re-written. Has re-opening of the debate over the Instrument of Accession in 1990s made an iota of a difference in the present scenario of the facts that neither India nor Pakistan have ever agreed upon any concessions regarding any possible solution of the long lasting dispute? On the one hand is India’s ever adamant stand and resistance to “third party involvement” that has prevented the UN Security Council from any contribution it could (possibly) have made to diffuse or decrease the continuous underlying tension, hostility and suspicion between the two rivals, and on the other, is Pakistan’s resumption of the traditional rhetoric about the Kashmiris’ “right of self determination” without being able to move the argument any further by “defining how it could be achieved” in view of India’s persistent claims about Jammu and Kashmir as an “integral part of India” and Pakistan’s own refusal to consider the “third option of Independence” in which case Pakistan is in a vulnerable situation of losing “Azad Kashmir”, which Pakistan will never be obliged to give up.

The fact that remains on ground is that the State of Jammu and Kashmir has already been broken up into Pakistan and Indian occupied parts; the challenge that the proponents of “Independence for the entire State” are faced with is the reunification of the two parts which appears more like a romantic fantasy than a possible practical situation in near future unless under some “extraordinary” circumstances, in which case both India and Pakistan need to exhibit immense generosity and patience. Another point of debate that has to be raised is that once ethno-religious factors are considered to be a basis for deciding “statehood or new territorial arrangements”, further communal compartmentalization on such grounds is inevitable given the ethno- religious and geographical distribution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (on the Indian side of L.O.C, let alone P.o.K). The movement for “plebiscite and self-determination” carried on non-stop from generation to generation is not only telling upon the mental and psychological states of the people of Kashmir valley but has also contributed towards friction among the different provinces of J & K leading to their isolation from each other and a lack of understanding, especially creating a distance of Jammu and Ladakh from the valley.

In addition to this, the more important issues of economy, cultural and educational development which ought to be a primary concern given the persistent condition of the State, have been taken for granted. It is extremely difficult to imagine what incentive would be strong enough to bring all the concerned parties to a consensus towards the betterment of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

(c) Sadaf Munshi
(Published in Kashmir Observer, 2003)