The Issue of Non-interference in Kashmir

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“Why does India’s moral leadership look so tired ?” asked the then South African Chief Justice Ismail Mohammed, who was also the Chief Justice of Namibia, while addressing a  convocation some years back at  Delhi University as the chief guest. 

Justice Ismail’s other remarks pegged on Babri mosque : 

“Those who demolished the mosque exhibited obscene intolerance and brutality in committing the act. “ He made a passing reference to the partition of Kashmir and dwelled on other issues related to India. 

No sooner had the honoured guest made his observation, that he was grilled on account of interfering in the internal affairs of India. Some members of the convocation, dubbed his remark as our right communal. 

Something similar happened when India had invited the late Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Upon his arrival, he saw Ahmedabad bleeding under communal carnage. He was, thus, dissuaded from visiting the severely riot-torn place but this did not deter him from criticising the Indian government for the riots. The honoured guest was grounded or his remarks.

Is there something wrong with the guests, or do we need to see where we are going wrong. This raises a very pivotal question. “What exactly constitutes ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of India ?”

To begin with the Indian logic of interference, one has to revert to Mrs Gandhi’s speech in 1983, “We have always condemned inhuman treatment meted out to people, irrespective of whether such acts take place in our own nation or outside. We have to oppose injustice everywhere.”

A similar message with r=”0xtra mileage can be extracted from US President, Jimmy Carter’s UN speech in 1977, “No member of the UN can maintain that mistreatment of its citizens is solely its own business. Equally, no member can avoid its responsibility to review and to speak when torture or unwarranted deprivation of freedom occurs in any part of the world.”

One wonders at the Indian reaction whenever any foreign government refers to the brazen violations of the rule of law in Kashmir or pleads for a settlement of this long dispute.

Unable to formulate, let alone implement, a coherent strategy for Kashmir, the Indian governments have landed in the swamp of a sorry situation. All it can proclaim is to ask others to keep silent in the shade of the Shimla- Agreement. Indians at large have been brainwashed to believe that Kashmir is not a disputed territory and hence they find it hard to reconcile themselves to the fact that Kashmir has an international dimension.

The US Government considers Kashmir as a “disputed territory” and calls for a settlement that must take into account the views of the Kashmiri people.

More important, they have stressed that “India must take steps to curb the abuses of its security forces” and “grant access to international human rights groups. A US Russian private initiative calls on India to recognise the special status of Kashmir. They are wary of “Kashmir’s potential to explode into a large scale war and its entanglement with the spread of Islamic extremism. “

They readily admit that the Kashmir issue is a bundle of contradictions: “It is an internal Indian problem, it has India Pakistan ramifications, and it has regional and global linkages. Layered over all this is a history of intertia, incompetence, personal ambition, neglect and exploration.”

Western newspapers are replete with reports of atrocities in the Kashmir, a disputed territory but emphatically state that the position of Kashmir cannot be placed indefinitely on a backburner. Germany considers Kashmir as an urgent problem on the world agenda and criticises India for violating Human Rights. China’s reaction talks of the Shimla – Agreement as also of UN decisions while stretching the importance to peace and stability in the region. The European Parliament emphasises the right of self determination and, likewise, the organisation of Islamic Conference considers Kashmiri struggle as a legitimate fight for self-determination. 

Besides the gory tales of Human Rights abuse, the very first violation of the rule of its own law comes from the Indian government itself. Article 356 of the Indian constitution allows the Central government to impose President’s rule in any state for a maximum period of three years. Does it not apply to the people of Kashmir ?

Under a new order “the maximum period upto which the Presidential Proclamation under Art. 356 in relation to Kashmir can be in force has been extended to four years.’

Further, such orders are made with ‘the concurrence of the state government’. Right now there is no state government and how can a governor, who is a central appointee give ‘concurrence’ on behalf of the state government ? Moreover, can such a thing happen in any other state of India ?

The Indian government is against a tripartite dialogue on the Kashmir issue, but would like to keep the door open for a dialogue with militants to find solution within the framework of the constitution. But a saner and more realistic suggestion comes from Chandra Shekhar, former Prime Minister of India. “The Kashmir issue seems difficult to solve now. We have to create an atmosphere of live and let live. A working understanding with Pakistan is the only way out of this impasse. Pakistan has also gone through its share of suffering in this row.”

Both, India and Pakistan are never short of exchanging tirades. India’s celebrated hyperbolic expression if “No power on earth can separate Kashmir from India . .  . No power on earth can build the mosque atop the destroyed mosque at Ayodhya.”

“Kashmir is the lifeline of Pakistan.” One often hears this remark from almost all Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders, whenever the issue comes under discussion. But at times we get much more sensitive remarks that spark counter comments and simply drive the population in both the countries to further hatred against each other. 

“There is no dispute on Kashmir,” was an unguarded remark by the former Indian Prime Minster, Rajiv Gandhi. The remark immediately attracted a harsh statement from the Pakistani President, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, warning India not to dream of hegemonising other countries. Indian Press was all the more perturbed when Ms. Bhutto had claimed that the problem of Kashmir now belonged to the whole of the Muslim Ummah (world-wide community of Muslims).

Anything happening in India is inevitably blamed on Pakistan, which according to Gauhar Ayub, only betrays the weakness of the Indian government. No sooner had the blast taken place in Bombay and good many Indian leaders straight away accused Pakistan. For the problem in Kashmir, the leaders and the press have yet to show a sense of restraint and maturity in India. Instead of accessing one’s failure and trying to take corrective, remedial measures it is all but easy to blame others in order to save one’s own skin. 

K.F. Rustamji, the Director General of BSF was right enough to remark, “It would be totally wrong to assume that all that is happening in Jammu and Kashmir is due to the machination of an aberrant neighbour.”

Whatever policy makers in India and Pakistan may think, they need an exercise in soul searching about the situation and solution in Kashmir. 

To dub Human Rights reports as interference into national affairs is something uncalled for. Moreover, if Indian records are clean enough then why the need for a National Human Rights Commission ? The Human Rights people themselves claim that the Kashmir valley is the most dangerous place in the world to do Human Rights work. 

With the passage of time the world opinion not only counts and discounts the views and propaganda from India and Pakistan but takes into consideration the voice of the people of Kashmir in the settlement of their problem. 

Today, Kashmir issue is an international one though with clipped wings. Even Pandit Nehru had attested this fact way back in 1952. “Kashmir is an international problem. It would be an international problem any how if it concerned any other nation besides India and it does. It became further an international problem because a large number of other countries also took interest and gave advice …So while the accession was complete in law and fact, the other fact which has nothing to do with the law also remains, namely our pledge to the people of Kashmir– if you like, to the people of the world –that this matter can be reaffirmed or cancelled, or cut out by the people of Kashmir if they so wish. The wish of the people of Kashmir is all the more paramount.” 

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