Kashmir (Book Excerpt) by Saifuddin Soz

Professor Saifuddin Soz is a former Union minister and a highly respected senior politician from Kashmir with a long and distinguished parliamentary career. An economist by training, he also has a great understanding of Kashmir’s history and culture. One of the most important voices from the region, Soz has written innumerable articles and authored several books on the ongoing crisis in Kashmir and the idea of autonomy and secularism. Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle is his most comprehensive and critical work till date. Read the review here. Below you can read an excerpt from his book, Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle. Courtesy: Rupa Publications.

 

Excerpt from Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle by Saifuddin Soz

 

Kashmir–The Way Forward

I have lived through the years of turmoil in Kashmir, always considering myself to be part of the life of Kashmiris. I had got elected to the Lok Sabha in a by-election in June 1983 and since then I invested time to understand the life and times of Kashmiris.

Over a period of time, I became conscious that I should have some credible knowledge of Kashmir’s history and the contours of the current turmoil and how to move forward. I did invest time to understand the situation.

I have expressed my thoughts on various aspects of Kashmir’s history, and now I am in a position to imagine how best we could move forward.

As is known to the people of the subcontinent as also to the world at large, India and Pakistan have never come to an agreement on Kashmir. It has also remained a live situation as an item on the agenda of the United Nations. Strangely enough, all the three basic stakeholders to the dispute—India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir—have, by now, become absolutely disillusioned with the UN for a different set of reasons.

In my opinion, it is futile to look to the UN for any workable help for the resolution of the dispute as the powers holding the authority of veto have all along responded to the situations keeping their own strategic interests in view. It is why the whole world, seemingly in one voice, offers one simple advice, ‘Let India and Pakistan sort out the dispute bilaterally.’

My primary concern has been to suggest a way out for the Union of India which, as per my perception, has gone wrong by impairing the constitutional relationship between Kashmir and the Union of India established on the basis of the Instrument of Accession, the institution of the Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly and the Delhi Agreement of 1952.

Keeping the present scenario in view, I have conceptualized an outline on what is the way forward to reach a settlement on this dispute. My quest for a possible solution has led me to suggest the following.

  1. In my opinion, the primary responsibility goes to the Government of India, which must take steps to help the people of Kashmir to move out of the tormenting cycle of violence. The initial steps could be to show a gesture of compassion for creating a situation of relief in the minds of Kashmiris, who have suffered immense miseries from the very day the central government started dragging its feet from its commitments to willingly accept the decisions of the Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly and the provisions of autonomy guaranteed under the Delhi Agreement of 1952…
  2. The Government of India should have realized much earlier that it was wrong for it to dilute the autonomy that was enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India and the Delhi Agreement of 1952 between Nehru and the Sheikh…
  3. The Government of India should implement a policy shift in Kashmir. The basic tenet of that would be the realization that no amount of repression in Kashmir, be it through bullets or pellets, can solve the problem. The anger in the minds of the people of Kashmir, particularly in the minds of the youth, has to be addressed…
  4. The Government of India should realize that the people of Kashmir have suffered enormously in the period of turmoil, spanning nearly three decades. A couple of years ago, the government itself admitted that more than 45,000 people have been killed in the crossfire in Kashmir during the past three decades. The people put that figure to be more than 70,000. Among other sufferings, there are reports of disappearances. Human rights activists, ParvezImroz and KhurramParvez, have put the figure of the disappearances at more than 5,000. This and other areas of suffering of the people in the crossfire during a long period of turmoil must be probed by a commission of inquiry…
  5. The current crisis might require the mainstream political class of the Indian state and the separatists represented by the Hurriyat to come to a common understanding for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute, so that the society moves to a ‘possible goal’…
  6. While this approach gains momentum, the Union of India could help to organize an internal dialogue among the people in the three regions—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh—and within a region, among the people of sub-regions like Kargil and Ladakh regions or/and Chenab valley and Pir Panchal, so that democracy permeates into the entire area of political, social and economic development on the basis of equity and justice…
  7. The Union of India will have to consider that the presence of the army and paramilitary forces in Kashmir and elsewhere in the state is not needed in this magnitude. So, call it demilitarization or give it another name, something must happen in that direction so that a situation of peace and relief is caused in the minds of the suffering people.
  8. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFPSA) is draconian and, to the best of my knowledge, has been misused in Kashmir. Even the army has accepted that the law has been misused on a number of occasions and has apologized. Its revocation will bring a great physical and psychological relief to the people of Kashmir. ..
  9. The people around control line and international border between India and Pakistan have suffered immense miseries, throughout the border in the J&K state. It is often that people around this line on the border have to move to the hinterland for long spells of time, due to shelling and crossfire. The migration causes havoc to the people. Migration from the border to the interior areas is not easy. It often entailed a great disturbance and added to the poverty of the resources of such people. Apart from this, the border shelling and crossfire meant loss of life and property. It is, therefore, necessary to provide relief to these people…
  10. Since our neighbourhood can’t be changed and India and Pakistan can’t live in perpetual animosity, the Union of India has to accept that it has to organize a dialogue on two axes—New Delhi-Srinagar/Jammu axis and New Delhi-Islamabad axis…

While I have explained my outline on how to move forward, I want to take the position that Kashmir is not a complex problem but a simple proposition. It can be resolved if the leadership shows political sagacity and the resolve to find a solution.

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