dadyal, Dadyal Online
Published On: Wed, Nov 30th, 2011

Kashmir Problem: A Just and democratic Solution? Shams Rehman

The latest tendency emerging from the Indian and Pakistani official discourse on Kashmir can be described as a dis-integrationist if viewed from the unified independent Kashmir perspective and perhaps multiple self-determinations if seen from a wider South Asian approach. For the argument which indicates to such a tendency claims that due to the multiplicity of identities in Kashmir the option of a united independent sovereign Kashmir cannot considered in bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir question. Interestingly both India and Pakistan appear in agreement over this claim as they always did in their opposition to an independent Kashmir. However, while the Indian efforts to undermine independence of Kashmir focus on magnifying the multiplicity of identities and the diversity of political opinions in the state, especially in Jammu and Ladakh where there is vocal opposition to the Huriyat version of independent Kashmir as Valley centric and too close to the ‘Two Nation Theory’, Pakistan, a product of that theory puts greater emphasis over the Huriyat type tendencies in the resistance politics that praises Pakistan for supporting them in their uprising against Indian occupation. Huriyat Conference has never demonstrated any clarity on such issues as multiple identities and political pluralism. Indeed it seems that while they did issue a cautious statement over recent Pakistani moves to declare Gilgit Baltistan regions of Kashmir state as de facto province of Pakistan, they rarely try to address such questions as why Huriyat does not exist in Ladakh and Jammu and why even in Azad Kashmir it is composed exclusively of Valley Kashmiris. Even Yasin Malik a staunch proponent of independent Kashmir who heads JKLF after a split in early 1990s confined his high profile Safar e Azadi or Freedom March to the Valley. There are strong and vocal voices in Jammu, Ladakh and Gilgit Baltistan against this Valley centric Kashmiri nationalism. One possible reason for the silence of Huriyat and evasion of JKLF in the valley about the questions of diversity is the fact that while they are continuation of the independence sentiment, their politics is shaped more by the religious Islamic political ideology than the national political tradition mainly because the national tradition in IOK has been championed by the National Conference (NC) within the framework of Indian secularism and Congress nationalism. Therefore, for Huriyat Ladakh, Jammu and AJK and GB are the headaches of those who want an inclusive united Kashmir State. For Huriyat the Kashmir Valley is the Kashmir and it is ok for them if the Valley becomes independent or goes with Pakistan. It seems that Pakistan would probably welcome the independence of Valley from India with expectations that Valley will have close relations with Pakistan. That is why the Huriyat and Pakistani establishment find natural allies in each other. However, this version of Kashmiri independence politics is not acceptable to those in Azad Kashmir and to some extent those in Gilgit Baltistan. They would like to become independent in a united Kashmir State or United States of Kashmir or autonomous within that state and not to merge with India or Pakistan.

In this context the question posed by the Indian and Pakistani officialdom and academia to the independent Kashmir discourse seems only reflecting the contemporary realities of Kashmiri State with division of Kashmir between India and Pakistan as the only viable solution. Indeed the solution to Kashmir based on autonomy has also been described as the best possible and achievable solution by many South Asians on the left. I heard of this first from the renowned British Pakistani revolutionary activist and analyst Traiq Ali at a Marxist gathering in 1995.

 However, when discussing division it appears that the major fault line runs through religious differences rather than regions or cultures which means the extension of two nation theory and acceptance of Pakistani claim over the state’s Muslim regions that of course cannot be acceptable to India so Indian perspective would argue for united autonomous but not sovereign Kashmir. Pakistan also has no objection to the united Kashmir state as long as it’s united within the jurisdiction of Pakistan. Merger of the entire state with India is not acceptable to a significant section of Muslim population and accession to Pakistan is vehemently opposed by the Pundits of the Valley, Hundus of Jammu and Buddhists of Ladakh and a very large numbers of Muslims in Valley, ‘Azad’ (free) Kashmir (the Pakistani Occupied Southern Kashmir) and Gilgit Baltistan (the Pakistani Occupied Northern Kashmir).

In an attempt to address the complex situation General Pervez Musharaf floated a ‘win win’ proposal characterised by demilitarization, self-governance and freedom of movement and a Joint mechanism consisting of Indian, Pakistani and Kahsmiri representatives for defense, communication and foreign affairs. The recent Wiki Leaks have indicated that this was almost agreed by the Indian and Pakistani governments with most Kashmiri leadership on board. It’s only ironic that policies in Pakistan are continuously given birth by and die with individuals rather than institutions. The so called Musharaf proposal also shares a great deal with the popular Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in IOK’s Self-Rule which according to some sources has full backing and approval of several main political parties of India.

Sometimes the lack of unity and consensus also is highlighted as one of the main hurdles in resolving Kashmir problem. However, the list included below clearly shows that such claims are rarely informed by the historical and current realities of Kashmir.

1. Almost all proposals recognize the distinct identity and entity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir by accepting that the problem of Kashmir is a problem of the entire state and not of any particular region of Kashmir. (The Valley Centric Formula by Yusuf Buch sb can be seen as an exception)

  1. That the problem is to determine the future of this state which implies that the future is not determined as yet. Indian official position is that the entire state belongs to her while Pakistan claims it is hers and Kashmiris are generally divided between the accession to either India or Pakistan and independence.
  2. There also seems a general agreement, at least, amongst Kashmiris that for any solution oriented exercise to be meaningful the involvement of Kashmiri peoples is indispensable.
  3. Almost all external and internal proposals recognise the ethnic diversity of the State and suggest for the diversity to be incorporated in the processes to develop any mechanisms for a solution.
  4. The view that Kashmir is primarily a political problem that has to be addressed through a political mechanism also seems shared by various forces involved in efforts to resolve the issue.
  5. It is largely recognized in India, Pakistan and internationally that the movement in Kashmir Valley has not been instigated from outside. However, it is also widely perceived that foreign involvement had been there for various interests that not necessarily have been compatible with the interests of the peoples of the Valley or the wider State.
  6. It is well documented and acknowledged fact that the Human Rights are widely violated by the Indian armed forces in the Indian Administered Kashmir and that the first and foremost priority for engaging the peoples of Kashmir in any peace process is to end all human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir more specifically the Kasheer Valley.
  7. The fact that a large number of political activists and civilians are kept in Indian prisons without substantial grounds or in some cases without any charges is also acknowledged. Some who were charged and tried are kept in even after they have spent their tariffs[1].
  8. Human Rights are also violated by some of the militant activities carried out by several groups fighting the Indian occupation.
  9. Human Rights of the Kashmiris under Pakistani occupied Kashmir including Gilgit Baltistan are also not respected by the Pakistani governments in these parts of the State. Suppression of pro-independent Kashmir politics is institutionalized in AJK and Gilgit Baltistan. Open violation of State Subject, restrictions on the participation in politics and employment of pro-independence Kashmiris are also the other most identifiable and quantifiable examples.
  10. There is also an expressed desire that peoples of Kashmir State must have right to free movement, socio-economic, cultural and political interaction and rights of free speech and association that have to be assured in all parts of the state.
  11.  At present the right of the peoples of the State to participate freely without any restrictions in the existing administrations in Gilgit, Muzaffarabad and Srinagar-Jammu is not fully recognized and respected.
  12. The wishes repeatedly expressed by the people of Jammu and Ladakh for their regional assemblies similar to those in Valley, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan carry significant support amongst the Kashmiris across the division line as well as amongst Indians and Pakistanis.
  13. It is also very obvious that none of the existing political parties, alliances or assemblies can claim as democratic representatives of the state in its entirety.
  14.  An estimated three million strong Kashmiri Diaspora in India, Pakistan, Middle East, Europe, Britain, USA and Canada has multiple links and attachments with, and stakes in, the affairs of their “homeland” and can play positive and constructive role in finding the solution as well as in the development of the State.
  15. This list of course is not exhaustive and more possibilities for a broader consensus can be traced in the proposals. However, the most significant task facing the peoples of the divided State of Kashmir at present is whether a mechanism can be developed through which a wider consensus and state wide representation can be achieved?
  16. India and Pakistan are internationally recognized states with relatively established systems of electing  representative governments but no such system is currently available to the peoples of Kashmir for the entire state.

In this context the new trend in the Indian and Pakistani approach to resolve the issue of Kashmir on the basis of cultural diversity seems a positive step forward and needs reciprocation from the proponents of independent Kashmir, especially from those who claim that the issue of Kashmir is that of justice and democratic rights for people and is hindering the progress and development of Kashmiris as well as of the wider South Asians.

The summary of such a solution offered below incorporates the suggestions floated by Parvez Musharaf (despite him being a dictator) that were considerably favored by Jag Mohan a democratically elected Indian premier. However, the proposal presented here argues that such a solution should be accomplished through a democratic mechanism which gives the State Subjects across the Kashmir state an opportunity to express their aspirations. If the problem with Independence politics is that it does not represent all or majority of the people of Valley, Ladakh, Jammu, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, it must be made sure that any alternative does that beyond any reasonable doubt.  For this the people of these regions should be given a fair and transparent chance to elect their representatives who then chose Statewide Representative Body that should negotiate with the Indian and Pakistani representatives under some type of democratic international auspices of UN or some other mutually agreed body or panel. For this purpose India and Pakistan immediately need to take the following steps:

  1. Enhance and expand trade and movement across the division line;
  2. Release all political prisoners including M Afzal Guru and the remains of Maqbool Bhatt;
  3. Demilitarize the state by withdrawing all foreign armies and militant groups;
  4. Introduce if any constitutional amendments are required for democratizing the existing setups in all five regions of the state namely the Hill Council of Ladakh, J&K Assembly, AJK Assembly and Gilgit Baltistan Assembly. There is no justification for evading the demand for an autonomous Jammu Assembly when all other regions have their assemblies. The constitutions of these Kashmiri assemblies should have provisions that if they join any of the neighboring countries or neighboring assemblies of the State they will have right to do so without giving up their autonomy if they so wish. Kashmir Council in AJK to be abolished and Act 74 be amended as well as all regulations, laws and bodies set up by the Indian government to control Kashmiri government;
  5. Lift all restrictions on pro-independence Kashmiris’ participation in elections at any level;
  6. Lift all restrictions on Media, Assembly and Campaigning;
  7. Invite independent observers;
  8. Announce elections of all assemblies to be held simultaneously where possible;
  9. If any assembly wants to join neighboring India or Pakistan (or China?) they should make such a decision within an agreed time scale;
  10. The remaining assemblies, and if none opts out for any neighboring countries, all should elect their respective representatives for the State Assembly that should then negotiate the future of the entire state.

In my view the best solution to Kashmir question is a united and democratic Kashmir with Kashmiriyat at the heart of its political and governance philosophy (our secularism) and regional autonomy for all the regional and administrative components of Kashmir state. However, if the majority of certain regions of Kashmir do not want to stay with the state and prefer joining India or Pakistan or China then democratically speaking no one should stop them. In relation to this form of self-determination that can be described as ‘multiple self-determination’ or ‘grassroots self-determination’ or ‘self-determination from below’, one question, however, remains to be answered. Would this ‘multiple self-determination’ be confined to Kashmir only? What about the diversity and multiplicity in India and Pakistan that is even greater and sharper than, and actually spills over from, Kashmir? Will the devolution process be carried through the entire South Asia? After all Kashmir and all other distinct political entities form part of a wider south Asia with great deal in common and cannot exist in isolation. Are we moving towards the Indian communist party’s solution to the colonial question that there is not ‘one ‘or ‘two’ nations in the Indian sub-continent but over a dozen and all should be recognized, respected and incorporated in a federation of South Asia?

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  1. ak says:

    Kashmiris in jammu,laddakh GB and siachin should not be stopped if their wish to join with Pakistan/India/China says Mr Shams Rehmans qualified assesment of Politics in AJK.our question to Shams is that has any of his family member killed or relative fought/Fighting in occupied J K to seek Independence from India we doubt very much or is Mr Shams like his forefarthers majboor/compel to show loyalty to their masters and treachery towards own the aim of fighting in kashmir was to unite Kashmir as one united state of Kashmir maybe the communists of india are refering to other states within India that are oppressed like assam and punjab that has territorial link with Kashmir and not talking of splitting or dividing Kashmir but we could agree with Communists on that it is wrong to suggest further division of Kashmir given the amount of bloodshed and martyrdom to this day would be unforgivable treachery thought it maybe said to thwart any efforts of progress by the new young blood joining the brave mujahideens fighting and calling for Independent united kashmir where as others have only sought nothing more then well packed envelop and photo session so therefor nothing has been achieved since then so i would say that such a thwarting is out of jealousy from those who do not like to see united resulting outcome in kashmir we as kashmiris should continue to call and fight for independence regardless of which party is in power in dehli and Islamabad and it would be more approapriate had the students come to seek action on Indian state terrorism not used by pakistan to scratch their backs for their own doings people are not as stupid as pakistan likes to think of them except kashmiri governments and these students.AK primeMinister looked more of union leader then PM.mind you some people had to construct or tarmac the roads leading to their houses out of own pockets despite sniffing around Raja Abid {late}for longtime and some muppets conned still bravelly feel no shame.LOL

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