Has Delhi Stopped Listening?

On Human Rights Day today the entire mankind in their respective habitats would assert their right to have their voice heard and to have a role in making the decisions that shape their communities. Each one of us should be able to choose those people who will represent us in all governance institutions, to stand for public office, and to vote on the fundamental questions that shape our individual and collective destinies.

For the UN Human Rights Office, 10 December this year assumes a special significance because it will also see the launch of the Arabic language version of the Office website.  The project will enable access to the wealth of information on the Human Rights website to all Arabic speakers. In New York on Human Rights Day, the focus will be on the new media technologies, and their influence on the global movements for greater participation. The UN Human Rights field offices, Civil Society groups in many countries and other UN organisations have also organized events to mark Human Rights Day.

The celebration of the International Human Rights Day in Jammu and Kashmir, in particular in the Valley would be far removed from the general mood as expected in other parts of the world and in particular India. It may be so because evidence is surfacing that Delhi may have made a serious error in over rating its success in managing the dissent in Kashmir and incrementing the seriousness of its negligence by stopping in its duty to listen to the ‘voices’ in Kashmir.

Delhi may gradually start losing the good will of many non-conformist Kashmiris (unwilling to go all the way in India bashing) living in all the three administrations, as a Diaspora abroad, in India and Pakistan, who wanted to give Delhi a benefit of doubt and trusted the inherent strengths of Indian democracy to prevail in Jammu and Kashmir and be able to address its pending commitments.  It seems that the institutional reach has fallen short and has not been able to listen to the grievance of a people seriously affected in all manner in the last 22 years.

The report launched by International People’s Tribunal For Human Rights and Justice and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons on the violation of human rights and the views expressed by the speakers at a seminar on ‘International Human Rights Day and the Oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir’ organized by Tehreek-I-Hurriyat in Srinagar do not make a good case for Delhi. It is a serious disappointment for people who had started believing that like any other democracy, Indian democracy would not fail in making up for the deficit in Kashmir (Valley).

The report has used government information, witnesses testimonies and judicial cases to establish that 500 security personnel have been involved in the violation of human rights. It is even more disturbing that 2 Major Generals, 3 Brigs, 9 Colonels, 3 Lieutenant Cols, 78 Majors and 25 Captains are accused in the report. The Indian security forces are in Jammu and Kashmir as part of a provisional agreement with the Government of Kashmir, with a defined role to protect ‘life’, ‘honour’ and ‘property’ of the people. In addition to their duties specified in the agreement, United Nations Resolutions have also put a restraint on their number, behaviour and location. There is no ambiguity about the role of these security forces. They are in the State as a supplement and to assist the administration in the service of the people.

The other more serious development is the overwhelming visibility and authority exercised by the police. Tehreek-I-Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani while addressing the seminar on ‘International Human Rights Day and the Oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir’ has reached out to civil society for help. In plain and understandable language he has highlighted that that New Delhi has ‘sent a battery of Hindu officers to rule the state’. It does not help to note that the Governor, DGP, 4 ADGPs, 6 IGPs, 5 DIGs, 4 Principal Secretaries, Chief Electoral Officer, 6 Commissioner Secretaries are all Hindus. Under normal circumstances the argument may not have found a ready acceptance. But in view of the powers given to army, police and the prevailing situation in the State the broad spread of control in a Muslim majority area should have been handled with caution and due regard for sensibilities.

Tehreek-I-Hurriyat chairman has a point and he has reached out to a different constituency during the seminar. He has asked them to contribute in their respective areas of specialisation in the cause of the people. An appeal like this would be received by non-Kashmiris and well-meaning men and women in India and Pakistan as well. His demand to lodge FIR’s against the 235 army men, 123 paramilitary personnel, 111 policemen and 31 government sponsored gunmen that have been allegedly found responsible by two-human rights groups for the 214 cases of human rights violations in Kashmir has a merit and he would have supporters in the demand at home and abroad.

Delhi and Islamabad are closing in on their differences. The two Governments and the two people are showing a new determination to interact and build a constituency of durable trust.  It is being admitted in public that the two countries had reached an agreement on Kashmir. Imran Khan during his “Agenda Aaj Tak” interaction in Delhi revealed that his party has three ex foreign ministers and he could confirm on the basis of their input that Pakistan and India had almost reached an agreement on Kashmir during Musharraf regime and before. Kargil and later the political unrest in Pakistan intervened as adverse factors.

How much of this information has been shared with Kashmiri leadership, remains to be seen. One thing is clear that Kashmiri leadership has not been transparent and candid about it. They should know that they cannot conceal it from their people for long and any hesitation in this regard would be counted against their discharge of trust.

Imran Khan was put to a rigorous test during the programme to explain if he were to return to power, how would he bring military, ISI and the nuclear button under the control of civil Government as an assurance for India to trust Pakistan as a partner in narrowing the trust deficit. There may be many slips between cup and the lips of the two countries. One would but wish that the process moves ahead and the benefit travels to the people of Kashmir.

Delhi would be making a serious error if it gets carried away and over rates the strengths of a narrowing in with Pakistan and turns turtle on its commitments in Kashmir. Even if Pakistan turns its back on the people of Kashmir and goes for Ayub Khan like Indus Water Treaty agreement, it (Government) can’t sustain itself in the manner of Ayub Khan, when he stated that, “the terms of the Treaty were the best we could get under the circumstances, many of which, irrespective of merits and legality of the case, are against us”. People of Kashmir would not allow Pakistan to come up with such an apology and sense of sacrifice a second time in 2012/13. Kashmiris have the option to bypass Pakistan and go universal.  At the same time they could demand that India honours the terms of the provisional accession in respect of the State as defined in article 4 of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. Pakistan on her part would no longer have the benefit of its Trust Obligations under UNCIP Resolutions in AJK.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.  He could be reached on email [email protected]

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