To retrieve the agreement on Kashmir does not mean mindlessly adhering to every period and comma in it; it does not exclude taking cognizance jointly of the changes that have occurred and making suitable amendments by mutual acceptance.
Why do I say that Kashmir is so little understood? Well, it is painful to notice that many commentators on the subject, some with good intentions, do not know, or do not care to bear in mind, the vital distinction between ‘Kashmir’ and the ‘State of Jammu and Kashmir. The former is an entity, known as the Vale of Kashmir or the Kashmir Valley and by its own inhabitants as ‘Kasheer’, which has sustained an independent existence and settled continuity over centuries and whose individuality as defined by its terrain, its customs, its language, its literature and its memory has been historically established and recognised. The latter, by contrast, was a product of the accident of a sale deed conducted by British colonialism in mid-19th century which, by sheer logic, should have disappeared with the end of that colonialism. The fact that, even though the erstwhile State has now decomposed, the Indian government still feels compelled to retain that outmoded term exposes some of the artificial contrivance in its attempted inclusion of the territory involved. What was called the State is a conglomeration of at least six different ethnic zones, not all of which feel, or could possibly feel, the same pull towards either affiliation with Pakistan or India or independence. No sane Pakistani has ever envisioned one of these zones, say Kathua as part of Pakistan; by the same token, no sane Indian would wish to include several others of these alien zones, say Gilgit, in India, unless it were for the insane design of gobbling Pakistan. It follows that what is being talked about as the ‘Kashmir dispute’ has never had any existence in reality for large parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir as it stood in 1947. What, however, has not been settled, what is very much the heart of the matter, what is, indeed, the cause of the death and depredation of the last more than six decades. is the conflict over the status and future of Kashmir as historically known, i.e. the Kashmir Valley and its adjacent Kashmiri-speaking areas.
The official exchanges, I mentioned, are categorical, not twisted by if’s and but’s on either side. The assurances solemnly given by India are numerous. I may cite just three of them here.
One, on the same day that India marched its troops into Kashmir, 27 October 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of India and the originator of her Kashmir project, sent this message to the prime minister of Pakistan:
Four days later, he sent the following telegram to the same addressee:
Our assurance that we shall withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order is restored and leave the decision regarding the future of this State to the people of the State is not merely a promise to your government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world.
That these messages to Pakistan did not merely reflect a stance adopted for foreign consumption was made clear by the broadcast to the nation Mr. Nehru made on November 2, 1947:
We have declared the fate of Kash mir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.
Yes, sixty-four tumultuous years have passed since these words were spoken. But however distant, even surrealistic, they may sound to some in the different foreign offices today, they remain indelibly inscribed on Kashmiri consciousness. Furthermore, consciences are not extinct in a country as intellectually alive as India which are deeply touched by these promises.
In this context, a few necessary considerations seem to be at present confused or lost sight of. Pakistan’s relationship with Kashmir, deeply rooted in history and culture and social relations, has been consecrated by the blood of thousands and the sacrifice of vast treasure. It seems to be forgotten that the society that is Pakistan was deeply involved in Kashmir long before the state that is Pakistan came into being. Indeed, it was only some sordid intrigue under the last British viceroyalty that Kashmir was split from Pakistan; had matters been allowed to take a natural course, Kashmir would have been as much a part of Pakistan as Punjab or Sindh. In this respect, looked at from one angle, Kashmir’s cause is Pakistan’s own cause. But, viewed from another angle, if the cause of Kashmir’s freedom figures on the international agenda today, it is due to Pakistan’s devoted endeavours in the face of opposition from India and apathy from others. However, it is an unwarranted inference, implying an extremely short-sighted view, that Kashmir’s cause depends totally on Pakistan; should pressure be brought on Pakistan to cease her advocacy and support, the Kashmir issue will not evaporate but become matter for unpredictable non-state actors to handle.
If we are the largest democracy on the planet then how can we hang on to a people who have no desire to be part of India? Why are we still hanging on to Kashmir if the Kashmiris don’t want to have anything to do with us? The answer is machismo. .. Is the future of India to be held hostage to a population less than half the size of the population of Delhi? If you believe in democracy, then giving Kashmiris the right to self-determination is the correct thing to do. And even if you don’t, surely we will be better off being rid of this constant, painful strain on our resources, our lives and our honour as a nation.
‘On August 15, India celebrated independence from the British Raj. But Kashmir staged a bandh demanding independence from India. A day symbolising the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolising Indian colonialism in the Valley….After six decades of effort, Kashmiri alienation looks greater than ever.’
Mr. S. S. Aiyer in Times of India August 17, 2006.
‘The people of Kashmir have shrugged off the terror of living their lives in the gun-sights of half a million heavily armed soldiers in the most densely-militarised zone in the world…(Their) non-violent mass protest against military occupation is nourished by people’s memory of years of repression, in which tens of thousands have been killed, thousands have been ‘disappeared’, hundreds of thousands tortured, injured and humiliated….The Indian military occupation of Kashmir makes monsters of us all….. India needs azaadi from Kashmir as much as, if not more than, Kashmir needs azaadi from India.’
Arundhati Roy in The Guardian August 22, 2008
Kashmiri Muslims suffer every day the misery and degradation of a full-fledged military occupation…A new generation of politicised Kashmiris has now risen; the world is again likely to ignore them–until some of them turn into terrorists with Qaida links .A survey by Doctors Without Borders in 2005 found Muslim women in Kashmir, prey to the Indian troops and param-ilitaries, suffered some of the most pervasive sexual violence in the world. Pankaj Mishra in the New York Times, August 8, 2008.
It is painful but necessary for retaining a sense of reality to get a glimpse or two into the school for unrelenting sadism that is maintained by the Indian military occupation in Kashmir. Here is one we get from an account prepared by an Indian humanist of distinction (I am abbreviating it):
‘A mother, (when) reportedly asked to watch her daughter’s rape by army personnel, begged for her release. They refused. She pleaded that she could not watch, asking to be sent out of the room or be killed. We were told that the soldier pointed a gun to her forehead, stating he would grant her wish and shot her before they proceeded to rape her daughter.’
Dr. Angana Chatterji in daily Etalaat November 7, 2000.
Reportedly, the State Department has labelled the violence and repression as ‘an internal Indian matter. A knowledgeable American analyst, Robert Grenier in Al Jazeera of July 14, 2010, calls the posture ‘craven’. When one contrasts it with the legitimate interest with human rights in Arab States evinced and acted upon by the US, then one loses all faith in protestations of moral concern underlying American policies and attitudes. Then, as a Kashmir-born, I feel acutely distressed. As an American, I feel simply outraged. That it should happen during the presidency of Barrack Obama beggars belief.
Ambassador M. Yusuf Buch is the former Senior Advisor to the United Nations secretary-general. This paper was presented at the ‘Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’ Washington, D.C. at a seminar, entitled, ‘Kashmir and the Regional Jigsaw Puzzle for Peace’ organised by AMA Foundation.