Legislative Assembly Elections 2008 – a success story

prepared for the HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL in GENEVA

Linked with Paul Beersmans – Belgium,  with the Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu and Kashmir BASJAK, and with our today’s other excerpt: JAMMU AND KASHMIR – A SUCCESS STORY, on our blog Economy and Society.

Excerpt of a 25 pages report, December 2008:

4. CONCLUSIONS ON THE MEETINGS AND THE INTERVIEWS

a. J&K, as it was before partition in 1947, is at present under the rule of three countries:

  • (1) China: Aksai Chin and a territory of 5.180 km2 ceded by Pakistan to China;
  • (2) India: J&K State comprising Jammu Region, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh;
  • (3) Pakistan: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (Northern Areas).  

The population of these specific regions is totally different from each other: culture, history, traditions, language, religion, etc.  In J&K State, this is also the case for the three regions: Jammu Region, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh. 

b. The Amarnath issue as such is solved: a compromise has been worked out.  The transfer of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board has been revoked and remains revoked.  However, the land will be given to the Shrine Board during the period of Amarnath Yatra for temporary constructions.  In Jammu Region and in the Valley this compromise is accepted.

c. Beside the compromise, some other events played a role to cool down the situation:

  • (1) The Governor set up an Advisory Council consisting of representatives of all communities.
  • (2) The half-yearly move of the Government and the administration from Srinagar, the summer capital, to Jammu, the winter capital, took place as usual.  Fear was there that Muslims would not dare to shift to Jammu because of the Amarnath agitation.  However, the move went on smoothly: no agitation, no incidents, no animosity.
  • (3) As soon as the decision was taken to hold the Legislative Assembly elections, all attention was focused on election campaigning.

d. Nevertheless, it is not because the Amarnath issue as such is settled, that everything is back to normal: there is certainly fall-out, a residue.  It has to be analysed what exactly the fall-out is and how this can be removed:

  • (1) The first aspect is the feeling in Jammu Region that they are not treated properly: the repartition of the seats in the Legislative Assembly is not correct, the repartition of Government jobs is not proportionate, the repartition of funds for development is favouring the Valley, the Muslim community will never accept a Hindu Chief Minister even if he is the best fitted for the job.  All this and much more has to be analysed and solved.  From many quarters, it is said that only a federal set up with three regions can guarantee a peaceful co-existence between the regions and the different communities.
  • (2) The second aspect, is the increasing polarisation between the Muslims and the Hindus internally in Jammu Region.  The Muslims formed a Jammu Muslim Coordination Committee and a Jammu Muslim Front in order to counter balance the ASS.
  • (3) The economic blockade (it was only temporary disruption of traffic according to the ASS) woke up the vulnerability of the lifeline to the Valley.  Businessmen of Jammu and the Valley realise they are inter-dependent.  They will not tolerate anymore that uncontrolled mobs spoil their business by hampering the transit traffic.

e. The general feeling is that militancy and the presence of terrorist organisations went down.  Nevertheless, it is repeated again and again: a hard-core group is still there and if felt necessary ‘new blood’ can be inducted.  There are many trained, brainwashed militants waiting on the other side of the LoC to cross to this side.  Initiative is completely in their hands.  Only by drying up the source of terrorism in Pakistan, violence will stop in J&K State.  Attacking and killing terrorists in J&K State is there but it is not sufficient as those who are killed can be replaced easily.

f. In J&K State, people were not impressed by a possible change in the policy and the aims of the GoP regarding the Kashmir issue.  The general impression was that the present GoP is a weak government and that President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are not in a position to change the basic attitude of Pakistan regarding the Kashmir issue.  Most of the people were of the opinion that Musharraf was in a better position to bring about a solution as he was a man of the army.  Zardari and Qureshi can’t change anything without the support and the permission of the army.

g. Internal problems in Pakistan are increasing.  This makes it difficult for the GoP to pay much attention to the Kashmir issue.  In addition, the Mumbai attacks followed by the deteriorated relations between India and Pakistan resulted in an almost standstill in the negotiations.  It is likely to remain like this unless relations between the two countries normalise in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.  Notwithstanding all this, the general feeling is that there is no other way than to settle all outstanding problems peacefully.  Negotiations can be suspended, can be put on a low level but eventually they have to be resumed.

h. The KCC came into being in August 2008 with the aim to counter the activities and initiatives taken by the ASS in Jammu Region.  Like the ASS, the KCC consisted of all kind of organisations: APHC-M (and its constituent parties), APHC-G, separatist leaders not belonging to the two previous APHC, Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Kashmir, various cultural associations, Trade Unions, Transport Association, Fruit Growers Association, etc.  No political parties were member of the KCC.  It appears that the KCC lost its relevance.  The same can be said of the ASS.  The role of the ASS is now limited to control the execution of the compromise agreement regarding the Amarnath Yatra.

i. There are certainly contacts between the GoP and the separatist leaders.  There is no change in the policy of Pakistan towards them.  According to them Pakistan is only giving moral, diplomatic and political support however, it is an open secret that much more is on hand.  Pakistan also spent a lot of money on boycotting the Legislative Assembly elections: a number of Rs 4.000.000.000,- is circulating.  The same feeling should be there among the militants as they still have their training camps in Azad Kashmir and in Pakistan and as they continue to receive all logistic and financial support they need.  Rapprochement between India and Pakistan is not harming their case as Pakistan has still the same stand regarding the Kashmir issue.  The so-called new declarations of President Zardari regarding terrorism and the Kashmir issue don’t have any value as in reality he is not in a position to take decisions.  These declarations are just for the gallery, to appease the West, to reduce pressure on Pakistan.  In addition, the Mumbai blasts are a serious setback in the relations between India and Pakistan.  Relations are not back to normal.  It has to be seen how Pakistan will react on the Indian allegations and if Pakistan is prepared to take firm steps against terrorist organisations inside Pakistan.

j. In the eyes of analysts, the situation is stable: instability or stability is a question of perception.  In so many countries, there are separatist movements (Spain, Sri Lanka, etc.) however, this doesn’t mean that the situation there is unstable.  The same goes for the situation in J&K State.  Yes, there is a separatist movement but the situation is under control: there is freedom of traffic, there is a democratically elected government, there is a juridical system, there is a functioning administration, etc.  Of course, not all this is perfect, mistakes are made, there are shortcomings but in the whole, the situation is stable and not more alarming than the situation in other Indian States.  Militancy has become a part of the system, the losses inflicted are within acceptable limits.  India will continue to protect its integrity and not comply with the demands of a divided minority and with the intrigues of Pakistan.  India is prepared to reconsider its relations with J&K State (autonomy, self-rule, or whatever term is used) and would be ready to accept the status quo but not accept any territorial concession.

k. In the eyes of the separatist leaders, there is no stability at all: 800.000 security forces are oppressing the Kashmiris.  There is no democracy, there is no freedom, there are human rights violations, people are suffering, etc.  Stability can only be there if the Kashmir issue is solved.  None of them has a solution, except Syed Ali Shah Geelani who sees the solution in granting the right of self-determination.  All of them agreed violence would not bring a solution: let there be peaceful negotiations between India and Pakistan and let them find a solution taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiris.

l. Islamic fundamentalist organisations, supported ‘from across the border’, operating in J&K State, have their own agenda.  For them the Kashmir issue is an occasion, a motive, a cover-up for spreading their ideas.  They have nothing to do with a genuine nationalist movement.  In their eyes, a secular, democratic approach is not a solution and even if one presumes that a solution could be worked out between India and Pakistan, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiris, it is clear they will not stop their activities as the Kashmir issue is not their final goal, it is just a phase.

m. In J&K State, politicians expect stability can be there under a strong and stable government.  A solution should be there under the Indian constitution.  There should be a federal set up within J&K State.  More autonomy should be granted.  The same should happen on the other side of the LoC.  There can’t be redrawing of the borders, they should be made porous, irrelevant.  A dialogue is necessary on three levels, as we emphasise already since so many years:

  • (1) bilateral level: between India and Pakistan;
  • (2) national level: between the GoI, the J&K State Government and the representatives of the Kashmiri society;
  • (3) internal level: between the different regions of J&K.

n. Most likely, the actual situation can go on for many years more.  For India, the situation is under control, contained.  Pakistan will continue its ‘moral, political and diplomatic’ support.  The demands of the Kashmiris are vague.  In addition, they are so divided internally.  So many of them are convinced to be the best fitted to bring about a solution, so many of them want to be the leader: ‘every Kashmiri is a political party’.  The Kashmir issue brings them money, gives them a status.

o. The complexity of the issue (or is it the simplicity?) lies perhaps in the explanation given by that young Kashmiri voter during the 4th phase of the elections in Chadoora: ‘If the turnout is high we will be rewarded by the Centre.  Then the elected candidate will receive a lot of financial support from Delhi’.  Asked about the ‘movement’, the answer was: ‘In fact we don’t care about the Kashmir issue however, we must continue to claim azadi.  The day we would stop doing this we would be treated as all other Indian States.’

p. Priority must be given to end the sufferings of the Kashmiris.  This can only be realised by stopping violence and misleading people.  They want to have a future and jobs for themselves and their children.  After 18 years of militancy, it is high time to give the growing up generation a chance to have a normal youth and education.  The Kashmiris are fed up with violence.  A peaceful, lasting solution for Kashmir, accepted by India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris, is the only way out of this uncertain situation.

q. The cry for the right of self-determination by some parties in the Valley is supported by Pakistan.  However, accession to Pakistan is the only accepted option.  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”.  This same cry for the right of self-determination is heard in the other regions of J&K, also in the areas under Pakistani administration, but without limitations: all options should be left open, such as accession to India, accession to Pakistan, Azadi (= freedom), total independence, partition.

r. Pakistan has no stand in J&K.  Pakistan invaded J&K and 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 this 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 is in favour of 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’.

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