report on the study tour of Beermans Paul, President of the BELGIAN ASSOCIATION FOR SOLIDARITY WITH JAMMU AND KASHMIR BASJAK to the Indian State of J&K, 23 January-1 February 2013 – Published on BASJAK.org, 2. April 2013.
(excerpt courtesy BASJAK): … 3. CONCLUSIONS:
Following conclusions can be drawn, based on the experiences of previous and this study tour to J&K State, especially to Jammu-region (for the latest study tour to the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh see the report of June-July 2012 on our website):
- a. Jammu and Kashmir, within its 1947 borders, is a very difficult and sensitive State (222.000 km2). It consists of three historically, politically, geographically, culturally, linguistic and economic distinct regions: Jammu-region including Azad Kashmir, Kashmir and Ladakh including Gilgit-Baltistan. The State houses people whose aspirations are more or less conflicting and mutually exclusive where even a small issue can culminate in major controversies and create inter-regional tensions of extreme nature.
- b. The conflict in J&K State is basically ideological. On the one hand, there are leaders in Kashmir whose demands range from independence, to autonomy, to self-rule, to merge with India, to merge with Pakistan, to India-Pakistan joint control over the State. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of the people of Jammu-region and Ladakh stands for the State’s full integration with India and application of the Indian Constitution to the State in full. They also consistently complain that they have never been treated fairly by the Kashmir centric State Government and New Delhi.
- c. According to the separatist leaders in Kashmir, J&K must remain united within its 1947 borders. If they are serious, it is high time they sit together with the democratically elected politicians and representatives of the other regions of J&K as they also have their aspirations and expectations. Also they are State-subjects. Only through an open and sincere discussion in depth among them they can come closer to each other. If they want to remain united, a compromise must be found based on mutual respect and trust. This is made difficult because there are hidden agendas and vested interests.
- d. People are in favour of a dialogue between the separatist leaders and the State Government and the Centre.
- e. Violence and militancy related incidents went down. However, the ideology of terrorism remains and as long as this is the case insecurity will remain unabated. Terrorism has become a global problem, a global threat. It is foolish to think that there will be peace in the region if the Government of India gives in to the pressure of the terrorist. At the contrary, the Islamic fundamentalists will see this as a major victory and they will be emboldened to further their Islamic ideology. India has to remain vigilant.
- f. The peace process and the composite dialogue with Pakistan have been stalled after the Mumbai terrorist attack on 26 November 2008, involving Pakistani nationals. Notwithstanding the fact that the cooperation of Pakistan to fight terrorism and to punish the culprits is not up to the mark, India agreed to resume the stalled dialogue process since July 2012. In January 2013 two Indian soldiers were brutally killed, one of them was beheaded. Notwithstanding this barbaric act, India restrained and those who wanted to derail the peace process didn’t succeed.
- g. People have the impression that initiatives like the mission of interlocutor N.N. Vohra, the Round Table Conferences, the five Working Groups and the report of the three interlocutors were just there to gain time. None of the recommendations has been implemented.
- h. According to NC-Congress, the performance of the coalition government (since 5 January 2009 in power) is good. A lot has to be done, but they are on the job and hard working. The opposition however doesn’t agree with this view: in their eyes there is no government at all, promises have not been fulfilled, there is no cooperation among the coalition partners, there is no cohesion within the coalition parties because of internal rifts, people are not happy.
- i. The government faces a lot of challenges: high unemployment, rampant corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, weak law and order situation, bringing back peace and normalcy, bringing about decentralisation and devolution of power, meet the basic needs of the people, etc.
- j. Corruption seems to be an incurable disease adding to the misery and sufferings of the common Kashmiri. This has a destabilising effect on the normal functioning of the civil society. By indulging into corruption, they are betraying their own compatriots. At all levels in J&K State a serious effort must be made to tackle corruption. It is too easy to point to the Centre as being the origin of all evils. One should have the courage and the honesty to recognise the shortcomings in the own system and take the necessary steps to redress the situation.
- k. In Jammu-region, the Hindu-Muslim intercommunity relations remain cordial. Muslims of Jammu-region feel that the Kashmiri Muslim leadership has never treated them as part and parcel of their society. They are of the opinion that the Kashmiri Muslim leadership has not done anything substantial to regenerate their socio-economic and political life.
- l. The general impression among the people in Jammu-region is that there is not an increasing Muslim fundamentalism in J&K State. Nevertheless, some events, especially in Kashmir, point into a different direction: wine shops are threatened by fundamentalists, cinema halls have been closed, beauty parlours are not there anymore. The latest serious event is the fatwa of the Grand-Mufti against the Kashmir’s first girls music band ‘Pragaash’ (=darkness to light) comprising a vocalist-guitarist, a guitarist and a drummer, all class ten students (15-16 years old). The band performed on 26 December 2012 during ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition in Srinagar and won the best performance award. On 3 February 2013, the Grand-Mufti issued a fatwa stating that ‘when girls indulge in indecency, immorality and are chained in the clutches of music and singing, it is unfortunate for the society’. On internet the girls were threatened to be raped and killed by Islamic fundamentalists. Mainstream politicians, including the Chief Minister, condemned this ruling of the Grand-Mufti whereas the separatist leaders supported it. As a result, the girls quit the music band. This is really a sad evolution and a clear indication that there is an increasing Muslim fundamentalism and pressure on the people in J&K State.
- m. Control over and use of the water resources is becoming an important issue in the framework of the Kashmir-issue. Rivers like the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab flowing from India towards Pakistan are very important for both countries. Both countries need them dearly for power generation, for irrigation and for water supply for their fast growing population. Shrinking glaciers and less rain during the monsoon add to the problem.
- n. As far as a solution for the Kashmir-issue is concerned it becomes more and more clear that maintaining the status quo is the only realistic approach for the years to come. There can be granted more autonomy or self-rule, there can be installed a federal setup, there can be porous/soft borders between the divided parts of J&K, there can be a kind of joint management, etc. as it is clear that neither India nor Pakistan are willing to make territorial concessions.
This solution must be found through democratic, peaceful means at the negotiation table: let all parties sit together and a solution will emerge automatically is the opinion of many State subjects of Jammu. It is often emphasised, especially by the separatist leaders, that there are three parties concerned: India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. Finding and accepting a representative for India and Pakistan is not a problem. A huge and complex problem however is to find out who the representatives of the Kashmiris are and what their expectations and aspirations are:
- In Jammu-region an overwhelming majority favours full integration in the Indian Union;
- Ladakh strives for Union Territory status within the Indian Union;
- In Kashmir we find different aspirations: the democratic, mainstream parties are in favour of remaining with India, the separatist leaders are divided: some want total independence, some want accession to Pakistan;
- In Azad Kashmir (a part of J&K within the 1947 borders under Pakistani administration), people are not free according to the survey of Freedom House, a neutral think tank. It can be assumed that some people will be in favour of accession to Pakistan and others in favour of total independence. We can assume that also some people are in favour of accession to India;
- Gilgit-Baltistan, under direct rule of Pakistan, is deprived of fundamental juridical, political, democratic rights. Also here it is difficult to know exactly what they want, and
- Aksai Chin, under Chinese administration, is virtually not permanently inhabited. Here it is only a territorial problem between China and India.
- o. The Kashmiri Pandits are the original Kashmiri speaking inhabitants of the Valley. They were hounded out of the Valley by militancy in 1990: some 500.000 of them fled to safer places. This exodus changed drastically the demographic composition of the population in Kashmir. After twenty three years, the return of the Kashmiri Pandits is more and more blurred notwithstanding the special package offered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Nevertheless, they have their emotional attachment with their birth ground, their roots. They only can return when peace is there and when the rule of law, not the rule of majority is re-installed.
- p. The cry for the right of self-determination by some separatist leaders is supported by Pakistan. However, this country only accepts one option: accession to Pakistan. Indeed, according to the Azad J&K Interim Constitution Act 1974, Par 7. (2): ‘No person or political party in Azad J&K shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan’. If Pakistan would be sincere all options should be left open, such as accession to India, accession to Pakistan, Azadi (= freedom), total independence, partition, etc.
- q. Pakistan has no stand in J&K: ‘Pakistan is the aggressor and aggressors have no rights’. Pakistan invaded J&K in October 1947 and as a result is at the origin of the de facto partitioning of the State. As early as 13 August 1948 the UN Commission for India and Pakistan requested Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the State as a pre-condition for organising the plebiscite. The same Commission in its resolution of 5 January 1949 repeated this request. Until date, Pakistan has not withdrawn its armed forces and consequently the plebiscite has not been held.
This conclusion is confirmed by the ‘Report on Kashmir: present situation and future prospects’ of Rapporteur Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Union, and almost unanimously adopted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs (March 2007) and by the European Parliament. The report favours negotiations with the following wording: ‘In conclusion, the report recognises the ancient and unique heritage of the Kashmiri people, and the rapporteur has nothing but praise for their tenacity. After so many decades of conflict and tragedy in this particularly beautiful and historic part of the sub-continent, it is heartening to see the two great powers, India and Pakistan, coming together with the people of Kashmir and that peaceful solutions are both on the horizon and being implemented, a familiar process which the European Parliament fully supports’.