Estranged fraternity talks

By K.N. Panita

It sounds good that cream of civil society on both sides of the LoC has come together in Jammu to continue their discourse on restoring peace in the disturbed Jammu and Kashmir. We welcome them. The gathering of about seventy persons drawn from different walks of life and dedicated to human values is a significant event.

In run up to peace initiatives of the Governments of India and Pakistan, civil society on both sides has moved to perform its role in supporting what the governments intend to do. These are democratic governments and it is in the fitness of things that they take civil society into confidence. As it should be, the Delhi-based Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation supplements government’s effort of carrying forward people to people interaction. Currently, it is holding third round of talks in Jammu, the winter capital, and we sincerely pray for its success.

About seventy eminent personalities drawn from different walks of life from both sides of the LoC have come together in Jammu. They are deliberating on how peace can be strengthened and promoted in the region so that there is space for economic and cultural development in the entire region. Anybody who is a votary of peaceful coexistence among nations will appreciate the initiative and even contribute, if he can, to its perpetuation. We welcome the guests and we wish them success. A time comes in the history of communities when the past needs to be buried and new horizons explored. Let us hope that this is the beginning of a new era of relationship. People on both sides are capable of doing that. They need space and opportunity, initiative and the roadmap. Exercises like these provide this wherewithal.

There are some very outstanding personalities among the participants whose sane advice and guidance should be the lodestar for the policy planners in New Delhi and Islamabad. We have the former Chief Justice of “AJK” Justice Abdul Majid Malik among the distinguished guests and we have Madam Amina Ansari, the Legislator from Gilgit-Baltistan also among them. The special correspondent of Daily Excelsior has interviewed them and tried to know their views about various dimensions of the subject under their discussion. In more than one sense, these interviews are of singular interest for Kashmir watchers. In particular, the people in the valley who are eager to know the views of the people on the other side of the divide will, hopefully, find the views of these outstanding personalities informative and instructive.

The impression one gathers from the statement of Justice Malik is that the de facto political status of “AJK” is vague and undefined. A political superstructure does not, in reality, reflect that real power rests with the people in that region. In a sense, people feel their identity has got submerged under a super-identity with which it is not reconcilable, if not ill at ease. Justice Malik states that “AJK” never supported armed insurgency in Kashmir because the people there are peace loving and abjure violence. We have reason to believe what the distinguished intellectual has said. One may ask if “AJK” did not support armed violence in Kashmir valley, why then did it allow dozens of terrorist training camps to be raised and made operative from its soil. Why did it allow Kashmiri youth to cross the LoC clandestinely and indulge in activities directed against Kashmir? The answer is simple. Training camps have been set up by the ISI. In service and retired Pakistan Army officers have been deployed to train the Kashmiri youth lured to these camps. Pakistan Rangers guarding the border with Indian part of Kashmir have facilitated infiltration and provided the infiltrators all logistical support, and Pakistan has publicly said that it would extend moral, diplomatic and psychological support to the so-called freedom movement in Kashmir. Pakistan-based militant organizations like LeT have publicly wowed to separate Kashmir from India through force or arms. All this vindicates the assertion of Justice Malik. If “AJK” was really sovereign and had a say in vital affairs of the state, it would never allow this to happen. In other words, “AJK’s” status is something akin to a colony of Pakistan. A colony has no power to raise voice against the domineering forces outside its geographical boundaries.

Comments of Madam Ansari are equally instructive. She represents the people of a region called Gilgit-Baltistan, which again remains in a state of limbo in regard to its political status. After six decades of direct rule from Islamabad, there has been an eye wash and the world is told that democratic institutions have been provided. The assertions of the representative of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan emphatically show that the region has been discriminated economically and educationally. Islamabad rulers have treated it as a colony and people cannot forget how repressively demographic change was enforced. Quite interestingly, and not without reason, the Legislator has raised a very cogent point. If Pakistan is raising Kashmir issue on all international fora as a disputed territory asking for final solution, why then is not the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan also raised simultaneously on those fora? It will be reminded that this region is also disputed one.

Lastly, there is much of rhetoric exuded by some of the speakers including the Executive Director to whom “physical barriers are unacceptable.” Anybody with an iota of historical background to the jurisprudence of partition, the incursion of the tribesmen in 1947 and then the rise of externally sponsored armed insurgency in Kashmir in 1989 will have no difficulty in identifying the sources that created physical barriers. Pakistan society is at war with itself. Unless it decides its right course along which that nation has to move forward, it may be difficult to see the barriers coming down.  The logic is that while the eminent representatives of civil society are meeting with their counterparts in our part of the state, they should simultaneously open a serious and meaningful process of dialogue with the Pakistani civil society to hammer out their differences and forge consensus of sorts in how to proceed in their talks with our people. Kashmir civil society will not fight their battle with Pakistani civil society or the government. “AJK” civil society will need a two-pronged exercise to arrive at some meaningful conclusion. Otherwise while they continue talking peace, Pakistani Rangers continue shelling our forward posts from the soil of “AJK”. This is contradictions in terms. If the triangular talks somehow shape for “AJK”, we can say that estranged fraternity is involved in a meaningful dialogue.

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