“Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds.
“Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us… However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.” – Jawaharlal Nehru, Speech to the Indian Parliament, August 7, 1952
“When a question becomes an international question like the Kashmir question, this Parliament can take many steps, of course, but it cannot solve the international part of it… the accession of Kashmir to India… was in that sense complete, not subject to anything except subject to the goodwill of the people of Kashmir… It is a very important thing and by that declaration we are going to stand. It is left to their decision… Now it is before an international forum and how can I or this Parliament take it away?” – Jawaharlal Nehru, Speech to the Indian Parliament, March 25, 1952
The All-Party Delegation from Delhi comes to Srinagar on the heels of some of the most vexed circumstances that Jammu & Kashmir has faced. The assault on the life and dignity of the average Kashmiri has been relentless. Daily life in our homes and streets has been turned into a nightmare as an entire population is treated as hostages on their own soil.
Just a simple act of stepping out of our own houses has been turned into an act fraught with danger, threat and menace with unprecedented prolongation of the brutal curfew, ruthless persecution, topped up by some of the most uncivilized acts by a nation that claims to abide by democratic practice and the rule of law.
The blockading of food, fuel and medical supplies with even life-saving drugs and ambulances being prevented from reaching their destinations, nocturnal raids and illegal detention of children and teenagers, clampdown on the local media and thrashing of media persons in recent days, is clearly an attempt at bullying and humiliating the Kashmiri population with base and inhuman tactics employed earlier only by rogue regimes in some notorious instances of international shame like in Kampuchea, Bosnia Palestine and Sri Lanka.
We cannot help but feel that we Kashmiris have been corralled into a concentration camp of concertina wires, jack-booted surveillance and vengeful assault by the Indian State, which deliberately chooses to deny this part of its ‘claimed’ nation the constitutional guarantee of ‘the Right to Life’.
And we have not even begun talking yet about the more than 100 Kashmiri youngsters senselessly but brutally killed by the Indian security forces in just over 100 days. It follows the thousands of lives already lost over the past decades due to the unresolved Kashmir Dispute.
All this precipitates your visit today.
We had hoped the 21st Century would offer our children a new world of opportunities. Indeed, both Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh gave us reason to hope for an honourable and lasting solution to the Kashmir Dispute through their multiple public declarations on Kashmir. We believe these statements represented not only their personal or partisan views but a commitment on behalf of the Indian people which your delegation today now represents.
We started this decade with the intention of engaging in a meaningful process to resolve the Kashmir Issue and we continue to be committed to that objective. However, for the people of Jammu & Kashmir, this first decade of the century has only been one of continued human misery, unfulfilled promises, false hopes and failed efforts to resolve the issue.
Failure has bred cynicism and destroyed hope.
In recent times, the struggle in Kashmir has transformed from a violent to a non-violent movement and the new generation has adopted the mode of democratic protest rather than the gun to voice its aspiration. It leaves us shocked and resentful that rather than listening to and engaging with this call from the streets of Kashmir, India is responding to it with bullets and violence.
We are at a threshold and it is vital that a new generation of Kashmiris should not be pushed to the wall. Dialogue and negotiation must come to the front, not a new chapter of violence and instability. Nobody will gain and we will all lose, if such a situation develops.
The passage of time over the past 63 years has, in fact, made the Kashmir Problem more, rather than less, intractable. Allowing this dispute to fester will only extract increasing human costs from the people of Jammu & Kashmir and, for that matter, the people of India and Pakistan.
Frankly, today we hope to make a break from the past.
What we have seen for the last 63 years and what we are seeing in the current bloodshed is an aggregation of failed approaches. Above all we are seeing a failure to develop and evolve a sustainable, purposeful, results-oriented process of dialogue and negotiation aimed at tangibly resolving core issues rather than dealing with the crisis of the day.
We are concerned that domestic politicking in India has again started to create hurdles on the way to developing a meaningful process of negotiation. This has been a phenomenon right from the inception of the Kashmir Conflict. Due to domestic politics in both India and Pakistan, the windows for working towards a solution to Kashmir have been narrowed or interrupted and, as a result, the people of Jammu & Kashmir have had to suffer dearly.
It is disconcerting that today the BJP has taken a hard line on Kashmir. This is the same party whose veteran leader Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee went to Lahore and declared from the base of Minar-e-Pakistan: “It is my dream and wish to resolve the Kashmir Issue.” This is the same BJP who initiated peace talks with the then united APHC under the chairmanship of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. This is the same party that engaged Hizbul Mujahideen in a cease-fire and talks process in the Summer of 2000. This is the same BJP that declared a unilateral cease-fire in the Month of Ramadhan and then offered talks “under the constitution of Insaniyat”. This is the same BJP whose Prime Minister Vajpayee laid out an inspiring agenda on Kashmir from Kumarakom on January 2, 2001: “We shall not traverse solely on the beaten track of the past. Rather, we shall be bold and innovative designers of a future architecture of peace and prosperity for the entire South Asian region”.
We are now disheartened to see the same party advocating a contrary view as the principal Opposition in the Indian Parliament. It is time to develop a peace process on Kashmir that is immune to domestic politics and power tussles, both in India and Pakistan.
On many occasions, in 2004 and again in 2006 from Amritsar, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked boldly about engaging in an irreversible process of dialogue to reach a political solution on Kashmir. We are concerned that the recent statements of the Prime Minister suggest that the Kashmir Problem is being seen as a matter of unemployment and that conditions are being imposed on the dialogue process.
For an entire generation, more than 20 years, we have engaged in multiple exercises of dialogue and talks with the Government of India. We took risks to do so and some amongst us sacrificed their lives to tread the path of peacemaking, while others amongst us paid with our credibility. we give some suggestions with a view to generating a favourable political climate for a purposeful dialogue like (a) revocation of draconian laws, (b) release of political prisoners (c) withdrawal of troops and (d) zero tolerance for human rights etc but these suggestions were not taken seriously.
We are now wary that your visit today, however well-intentioned, represents only an effort at short-term crisis management and that there is no clear commitment nor path towards effective resolution of the Kashmir Issue and addressing the aspirations and interests of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
We have seen in the past that it is only when a major crisis erupts that visible efforts are made to engage and understand our aspirations. And as soon as the immediate crisis subsides, the demonstrated and inherent political complacency and negligence is restored.
Today in light of the concerns expressed above and to voice our unequivocal condemnation of the killings of our children and youth, we choose not to meet with your delegation
Today, we ask not for unilateral political concessions but rather a joint commitment to a meaningful process that guarantees results. We believe this is possible only if serious efforts are made to create a conducive environment for dialogue by removal of the harsh and repressive measures that are in force here, to suppress our aspirations and our fundamental democratic rights.
We look forward to entering into a dialogue based on the following shared commitments:
To create a beginning and to sustain the process of dialogue we need to create a process in which all views and options – most of all Kashmiri aspirations will be considered and explored before arriving at an acceptable solution.
Let resolving the Kashmir Dispute in accordance with aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir become a Common Minimum Programme shared by all political parties in India and in Pakistan. Achieving a solution to the Kashmir Issue should now rise above vote bank politics and be taken up as a national agenda shared by all, worked for by all, and risked for by all major political parties of India.
Let the Government of India act on the suggestions given by the Kashmiris and facilitate to establish and empower an official body, a Kashmir Committee, consisting of senior representatives of all major Indian political parties to develop and enter into a process of engagement with the representatives of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Let this process be transparent designed to deliver a negotiated solution to the Kashmir Issue that is mutually worked towards by and acceptable to all parties concerned.
We believe that a similar Kashmir Committee, bringing together all political forces, should also be established in Pakistan. We will advocate to the political parties in Pakistan that this be done. This will ensure that all major political forces in India and Pakistan are on board with the peace process and it will help institutionalize and sustain the process to resolve the Kashmir Problem. We must render the process immune from domestic politics and tendencies to act as spoilers
On our part we are ready and willing to engage and sustain a meaningful and irreversible process of dialogue designed to avoid the failures of the past and to jointly develop and implement a solution to the Kashmir Dispute that is acceptable to all sides – India,Pakistan and above all the people of J&K
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
All Parties Hurriyat Conference
Muhammad Yasin Malik
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front