The global campaign against terrorism should not degenerate into a campaign for the defense of tyrannies and illegal military occupations. There are many forces in the world which are salivating at the prospect of American power being used to prop up the brutal regimes they have foisted on peoples against popular will. India, which has accomplished over 55,000 deaths and untold number of acts of arson and rape, is certainly one among these. The world knows that the struggle of the people of Kashmir for the restoration of their right clearly recognized by the United Nations was, and is, in essence a non-violent struggle. Any incursion into this struggle by unsavory elements does not change its character and aim. India's sabre-rattling at this delicate moment is also indicative of its design to reap as much advantage as it can towards diverting international attention from the realities of the Kashmir dispute and the principles of a healthy and viable international order which are involved in it.
We, at Kashmiri American Council (KAC), have expressed horror and revulsion of the dastardly terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, on the American people and civilization generally. We expressed painful condolences to the families of victims of America's blackest day with special anguish and empathy. This day marks a villainy in the history of mankind that is reminiscent of Kristallnacht during the Third Reich, and the culprits should know that the world will not sleep until they are apprehended and subject to condign punishment. We must call on every nation in the world to assist actively in identifying, apprehending, and punishing the culprits, including those who aided, abetted, or sheltered the guilty. These terrorists transcend all cultural affiliations and moral boundaries. They know no religion. They are all guilty of a crime against humanity that compelled the most unforgiving of punishments. Such villains should be treated like a contagious disease that must be destroyed to prevent further wickedness. We hope that it be made an international crime against humanity to provide succor in any way to any individual, group, organization, or state that promotes terrorism.
India is trying to engage the sympathy of the United States for its stand on Kashmir by making the plea that the movement in Kashmir is a terrorist movement; Kashmir is an integral part of India; Kashmiris are secessionist; and the movement is launched by so called fundamentalist groups.
How well grounded these pleas are can be judged from the following well-established facts and considerations:
During the latest phase of the freedom struggle, virtually all the citizenry of Srinagar (capital city of Kashmir) - men, women and children - came out multiple times on the streets to lodge a non-violent protest against the continuance of Indian occupation. New York based Weekly India Abroad wrote in one of its dispatches that "According to one U.N. Observer, more than two million Kashmiris demonstrated during this period and the number of memorandums, submitted exceeded 400."Certainly, terrorists cannot compose the entire populations of the major towns of Indian-Occupied Kashmir. And two million people cannot be instigated and provoked by a remote control. Two million people reflect the true nature of the peaceful Kashmiri resistance movement and not a movement of terrorism. Moreover, a terrorist does not believe in marching to the office of the UN, presenting petitions and reminding the UN to fulfill her pledge toward Kashmir. If all the people of the Valley of Kashmir are Pakistani agents, then that by itself removes the ground from India's claim to the territory. ."
Is Kashmir an integral part of India and are Kashmiris secessionists? Kashmir is not and cannot be regarded as an integral part of India because under all international agreements, which were agreed by both India and Pakistan, negotiated by the United Nations, endorsed by the Security Council and accepted by the international community, Kashmir does not belong to any member state of the United Nations. If that is true, then the claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India does not stand. If Kashmir does not belong to any member state of the United Nations, then how can Kashmiris secede from a country like India, to which they have never acceded to in the first place? So, Kashmiris are not and cannot be called secessionists or separatists.
The term "Fundamentalism" is strictly inapplicable to Kashmiri society. One of the proud distinctions of Kashmir has been the sustained tradition of tolerance, amity, good will and friendship between the different religious and cultural communities. It has a long tradition of moderation and non-violence. Its culture does not generate extremism. Only the brutal repression by India has caused the emergence of some elements that appear extremist but are willing to accept a just and sensible solution. The Kashmiri Hindus, though a tiny minority, just less than 2 % of total population, flourished under the Kashmiri Muslim majority. In this century, theirs was perhaps the only community outside Europe and North America which claimed one hundred per cent literacy. They have always been the part of the freedom struggle in Kashmir. Because Kashmir conflict was never a fight between Hindus and Muslims. It was never a struggle between theocracy and secularism. Nor was it a border dispute between India and Pakistan. It has always been about the destiny, future and lives of 13 million people of Kashmir, be they Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists. Kashmiri Hindus equally believe just like their Muslim compatriots that the resistance in Kashmir is against alien occupation and is not communal. It cannot be communal and should not be. The compulsions of Kashmir's history and the demands of its future alike forbid religious conflict or sectarian strife.
The mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley has been not only tragic but also wholly incompatible with Kashmiri aspirations. Only impartial investigation under international auspices can determine whether or not it was initiated by the Governor Jag Mohan - to clear the field for the actions the authorities had planned. It is certain that Hindus were provided facilities by the authorities for their mass migration.
Now, what needs to be done? First, we need to rule out one thing, i.e., doing nothing. Time is not on the side of Kashmiris. Time is not going to heal the problem. Time has made the situation worse in Kashmir.
There are suggestions being made by some quarters that the U.N. should broker a deal on Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Kashmiris wish to stress that their land is not a real estate which can be parceled out between two disputants, but the home of a nation with a history far more compact and coherent than India's and far longer than Pakistan's. No settlement of their status will hold unless it is explicitly based on the principles of self-determination and erases the so-called line of control, which is in reality the line of conflict.
Some suggest an autonomy deal. This is a clear fallacy. Here you rely on the provision of Indian Constitution. All the constitutions of the world are subject to amendment. If not today, if not tomorrow, in the nearest future, this provision will be deleted from the Indian Constitution and it will not even need any debate for that.
It is being proposed that India and Pakistan resolve all conflicts through peaceful bilateral negotiations including the issue of Kashmir. Kashmiris are not necessarily against any such move. But they want these negotiations to be meaningful and purposeful. In order to make these talks fruitful, the following steps need to be taken by both India and Pakistan:
1. There has to be a cease-fire from all sides that must be followed by negotiations. Negotiations cannot be carried out at a time when parties are trying to kill each other;
2. The time has come that there must be a third party mediation to make sure that the talks between India and Pakistan are meaningful. The third party mediation does not necessarily need to be the United States or the United Nations; it could be a person of an international standing, like President Jimmy Carter or President Nelson Mandela;
3. The history of past fifty-four years testifies to the fact that the bilateral talks between India and Pakistan have been always fruitless. In fact any attempt to strike a deal between any two parties without the association of the third party, will fail to yield a credible settlement. The agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952; and the pact between Sheikh Abdullah and Indira Gandhi in 1975; and an agreement between Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi in 1980's sought to bypass Pakistan, leaving the basic issue of Kashmir unsettled. Likewise, the Tashkent Agreement of 1966 between India and Pakistan, the Simla Agreement of 1972, Lahore Declaration of 1998 and Agra Summit of 2001, sought to bypass the people of Kashmir and it resulted in a failure. So the time has come that talks must be tripartite. The reason that talks must be tripartite is that the dispute primarily involves three parties - India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. But the primary and principal party are the people of Kashmir, because it is ultimately their future, the future of 13 million people of Kashmir that is at stake.
The Irish Peace process would not have been possible without the participation of the Sinn Fein. Indonesia could not have resolved East Timor dispute without including East Timorese into discussion. The Kosovo East peace process would have been only a dream had there not been the participation of the KLA. Therefore, we believe that India and Pakistan cannot by themselves reach a settlement over Kashmir without associating the genuine Kashmiri leadership - All Parties Hurriyet Conference [APHC] with the negotiations. Otherwise, it would be performing Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.
We hope that the United States and the international community will realize that what is at stake in the dispute is not only the survival of the people of Kashmir but what is at stake is the peace and prosperity of the whole region of South Asia.
Dr. Ghulam-Nabi Fai is the Executive Director of the Washington based Kashmiri American Council.
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