On August 22, 2020, the pro-India leadership in Srinagar (Capitol city of Kashmir) issued Gupkar Declaration, stating that they “are committed to strive for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A, the Constitution of J&K and the restoration of the State.” Let us analyze the Declaration dispassionately but from a Kashmiri perspective.
The Gupkar Declaration says, “The series of measures undertaken on 5th August 2019 were grossly unconstitutional.” But Gupkar Declaration fails to mention that these measures also contravene the UN Security Council resolutions #122 and #126 adopted on January 24, 1957, and December 2, 1957, respectively. These resolutions prohibit any unilateral action targeted at changing the disputed nature of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
It is important to mention here that the United Nations Security Council Resolution # 122 “reaffirms the affirmation of its resolution 91 (1951) and declares that the convening of a constituent assembly as recommended by the General council of the ‘All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference’ and any action that assembly may have taken or might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation of the entire State or any part thereof, or any action by the parties concerned in support of any such action by the assembly, would not constitute a disposition of the State in accordance with the above principle.”
Leaving aside linguistic and strategic maneuvering, the Gupkar Declaration leads us to one conclusion: that autonomy is the only option. But the present situation in Kashmir has also made it abundantly clear that the autonomy is unjust, untenable and not acceptable to the people of Kashmir. The Aazadi is the only catchphrase of resistance on the streets of Kashmir which does not mean autonomy but the right to self-determination.
When Arundhati Roy, an internationally known Indian human rights activist was asked on October 3, 2019, what do the people of Kashmir want, she responded: “I don’t think that they could have been clearer. They’ve been saying it for 70 years. They’ve been saying it loudly. They’ve been saying it with their blood since 1990. Of course, it’s self-determination. You know, of course, it’s self determination.”
Now the question arises why should some friendly country endorse the Gupkar Declaration which goes against the UN Security Council resolutions and more importantly against the wishes and will of the people of Kashmir.
Here are a few possibilities:
- i. It could be due to ignorance or disregard of the inalienable right to self-determination that Gupkar Declaration is being invoked.
- ii. There exists apprehension that, whether on account of its present internal weaknesses or under external pressure, the Government of Pakistan will be forced to dilute its stand on Kashmir.
- iii. Being here in the west, we smell that the two ideas are being discussed between the few world capitols and Islamabad on one side and these capitols and India on the other. First, turning the Line of Control (LoC) into a permanent international border. Such an option is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Kashmir. It also cynically mocks their suffering. The people of Kashmir revolted against the status quo; how can they accept the status quo as a settlement? And second, autonomy or self-governance for Kashmir within the Indian Union. The policymakers of these capitols view the Kashmir dispute as a problem between Srinagar and New Delhi, which can be solved by improving their relations. Pakistan, they feel, can be mollified easily. They have consistently sought to dodge the question of sovereignty over Kashmir when that is the heart of the issue and it can neither be finessed nor be evaded. There seems to be an inherent incapacity to empathize with suffering populations unless some political advantage can be derived from a pretended concern.
- iv. There is also a serious discussion going on in many important Capitols to pursue the Musharraf formula to resolve the Kashmir dispute. If one did not know the authorship of the Musharraf formula and were asked to guess it, one would say that a fairly clever strategist has crafted it to confuse the whole issue and, in the bargain, to throw dust in the eyes of world powers.
The world powers forget that ‘Restoration of Article 370,’ or ‘self-governance,’ or ‘Musharraf’s formula’, or ‘Autonomy’ is a clear fallacy. Here you will have to rely on a provision of the Indian Constitution. All Constitutions of the world are subject to amendments and the Indian Constitution is no exception. If not now, in the foreseeable future, as India did on August 5, 2019, this provision can be deleted from the Constitution and the move will not even need a debate in the Indian Parliament.
The world powers also need to know that Kashmiris have had the experience of limited autonomy, which was first practiced under a personal understanding between Nehru, then the prime minister of India and Sheikh Abdullah, then the prime minister of Jammu & Kashmir and later provided for by Section 370 of the Indian Constitution. It was eroded and eventually whittled away by the forces of circumstances.
In conclusion, the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir acquire continuing decisive importance from two crucial factors. One, they constitute the only international agreement freely negotiated between India and Pakistan on the future status of Kashmir. Two, they embody the only principle on whose basis a just and durable settlement of the problem can be achieved- — the principle of freedom of choice by the people concerned. Therefore, it is fair to say that no settlement of the status of Kashmir will hold unless it is explicitly based on the principles of self-determination and erases the so-called line of control, which is in reality the line of conflict.