History Should Not Imprison The Future Of Kashmir

Human rights work in tan­dem with Kashmir peace ini­tiatives. The two do not war with one another. The idea that suppression of human rights pro­motes peace is discredited by all histo­ry, including that of Kashmir. History should not imprison the future, but nei­ther can it be ignored in assessing the justice and morality of aspirations.

India has unilaterally annexed Kashmir in the early 1950s with a spe­cial constitutional status that prom­ised autonomy. But India gradually re­neged on its promise, and Kashmir was reduced to virtually the same status as all of India’s other States.

Kashmiris, however, are excep­tionally patient and accommodating. For years they struggled through peaceful and democratic means to pro­test their denial of self-determination. But 1987 marked the straw that broke the camel’s back. Another rigged election by India created despair, es­pecially among the Kashmiri youth. ‘India Today’ magazine reported, “In the Amira Kadal constituency of Sri­nagar, Muslim United Front (MUF’s) Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah (Alias: Syed Salahuddin) was a candidate. As the vote counting began, it was becom­ing clear that Yusuf Shah was winning by a landslide. His opponent, Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, went home dejected. But he was summoned back by the elec­toral officials and declared the winner. When the crowds protested, the police arrived and arrested Yusuf Shah and his supporters. They were held in cus­tody till the end of 1987.” Further, In­dia’s ruthless suppression of peaceful dissent destroyed the moderate option, resulting in the latest uprising in 1989.

Since the 1989 uprising, more than 100,000 Kashmiris have died. Greater numbers have been tortured, mutilat­ed, kidnapped and arbitrarily arrested. Political prisoners number in the thou­sands. Emergency laws were enacted. The gruesome human rights landscape in Kashmir has been confirmed by ev­ery independent human rights organi­zation in addition to the recent report by the United Nations High Commis­sioner on Human Rights.

Although it is neither for Paki­stan nor for India to determine the self-determination timetable for more than 22 million Kashmiris, we welcome the peace initiative between the South Asian neighbors, which include negoti­ations over Kashmir. We believe in the universality of human rights and hu­man aspirations. Thus, we welcome the initiative to the extent it seeks to lift a heavy financial and military burden from the necks of Pakistan and Indian.

India’s so-called “democracy” in Kashmir resembles Myanmar’s patent­ly bogus democracy. The recent local bodies elections are emblematic.

Kashmir’s right, however, is not self-executing. Diplomacy, persever­ance, and small but gradual steps will be necessary. The following is urgent to jump start progress on human rights and peace in Kashmir:

1. India must repeal all of its dra­conian laws that violate human rights in Kashmir;

2. Military hostilities must cease immediately, and a scheduled with­drawal of security forces should com­mence;

3. All political prisoners must be released;

4. Fundamental human rights to assemble peacefully for political pur­poses, to freedom of speech and of as­sociation, and to freedom of religion should be recognized and honored;

5. Kashmiris should be included in all future negotiations along with India and Pakistan..

Fulfillment of this 5-point agenda would not be a dead end but a begin­ning of a better tomorrow.

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

Washington DC

[email protected]

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