Saturday, 8 January 2011

Kashmir Issue: Historical Wounds Healing and Reconciliation is Possible - By Sardar Aftab Khan

Jammu Kashmir! Heaven on earth in the folds of great Himalayas exist as a distinct political and geographical entity from before B.C with varying borders and sovereignty. This beautiful country has always been a peaceful and picturesque destination for those who want to rediscover their souls, comfort and peace of mind.

For the last half a century the people of Jammu Kashmir have been suffering from enormous economic hardships, conflict, turmoil and uncertainty about their future.The rapidly changing geopolitical situation of the world has had a dramatic impact on the Kashmiri’s genuine people resistance movement for peace, security, stability, honour and independence. There is a lot of confusion in the western world about whether the movement is a freedom struggle, a cross-border incursion or terrorism.

As after 9/11 everything has changed and the meaning of many words has tried to be re-written. We know that there are many stakeholders in Jammu Kashmir and many more are interested in profiting from the conflict. There are many proposals, formulas and road maps for a solution to this conflict from outside but very few or hardly any form with in Jammu Kashmir.
Jammu Kashmir is currently divided in three different administrative units, i.e. Indian held Kashmir (IHJK), Semi autonomous Azad Kashmir (AJK), and Pakistan held part of Kashmir (Gilgit Baltistan). The people of these parts are also put under three different sets of governance control. They do not have the freedom of speech and movement among different parts of Jammu Kashmir. They cannot freely interact with each other to discuss their political future and evolve a unified political agenda and leadership.

Some historical wounds and some misconceptions have disturbed the socio-ethnic and multi-religious co-existence in Jammu Kashmir, and add to the complexity of Kashmir issue.
There is a serious need for a process of healing and reconciliation among people of all faiths and political viewpoint in Jammu Kashmir.

To start with Kashmiri should have to overcome the dilemma of misconceptions about their historical wounds such as Amritsar Treaty, two-nation theory, the end of sovereignty of Jammu Kashmir on October 27, 1947, January 05, 1949 U.N resolution which has limited the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris, Tashkent and Simla agreements, Lahore and Islamabad declaration of January 06, 2004.

Jammu Kashmir with its current geographical boundaries and a total area of 2, 22,336 Square Kilometre with a population over 12.5 million came into being as an autonomous state on March 16, 1846 by virtue of the Treaty of Amritsar between Maharaja Gulab Sing and Mr. Frederick Currie, Esq., acting under order of Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Harding Governor General of the Possessions of East India Company. This autonomous status changed to that of a sovereign state on august 13, 1947 when British rule ended in south Asia.

Alas! This sovereignty and independence were soon lost when Pakistani tribesmen entered into the state and Indian armed forces invaded Jammu Kashmir and at the same time Pakistan armed forces also got there and both the armies clashed to occupy the whole state. In 1948-49 United Nations mediated a ceasefire and resolved to arrange a plebiscite to determine the future status of Jammu Kashmir according to the wishes of the people of the state. However, both India and Pakistan refused to withdraw their armed forces and did not fulfill their obligation to hold a free plebiscite under the auspices of U.N.

This status quo continues till today and the tottering fabric of human civilization in South Asia is still struggling for its sustenance. Pakistan and India both have adopted positional bargaining tactics to resolve this issue during their negotiations, which is the root cause of unresolved issue of Jammu Kashmir. Only principled negotiations can bring lasting peace in South Asia and Right of Self determination to the people of Jammu Kashmir.

To be part of "principled negotiations" the people of Jammu Kashmir need a process of healing and reconciliation among Muslims, Hindu Dogras, Pundits, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians. This can be done by properly identifying and eliminating the misconceptions about historical wounds, accepting responsibility of all the misdeeds that different ethnic and religious groups had done to each other and rendering a proper apology for them. There must be a commitment from all sides not to repeat the bloody chapter of violence against each other in future.

One of the biggest historical wounds of Kashmiri nation is the myth "Amritsar Treaty was a sale deed of Kashmiri Nation". This misconception has been the main source of mistrust among Muslims and non-Muslims in Jammu Kashmir. The reality is that Maharaja Gulab Sing being son of soil had paid the ransom money to East India Company in 1846 and regained autonomy and statehood for the people of Jammu Kashmir. His misdeeds and those by his successors towards their people are another chapter and should be analyzed separately.

To start a process of healing and reconciliation among people of all faiths and religions in Jammu Kashmir I would suggest that Dr. Karan Sing being legal heir to throne of last ruler of Jammu Kashmir should extend an apology for all the misdeeds his ancestors had done to the people of Jammu & Kashmir, particularly the Muslims during their time of rule. Similarly, Mirwaz Umer Farooq being religious leader of the Muslims and Sardar Abdul Qayyum being the one of the main living leader of people resistance movement in 1947 should apologize for all the misdeeds which Muslim had done to non-Muslims during 1947-49 in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan and also during last 16 years in Indian held Jammu Kashmir.

I hope by these gestures for social justice and commitment for non-violence against each other in people resistance movement for independence of our motherland we can restore the multi-ethnic and multi-religious social fabric of our tolerant harmonious society. This will help us to stand united under one flag, one leadership and one resolve for independence. We will soon join the community of nations as torchbearers for peace, love, and harmony. And once again our land, the paradise will welcome all those who love nature to soothe their souls in the folds of Himalayas.

About Author:
Sardar Aftab Khan, is a graduate engineer who is presently living in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom. Aftab speaks five languages and has undertaken reconciliation training at the International Centre for Religion and Diplomacy. He is the former chairman of the Kashmir Youth Movement, and has addressed conferences all over the world on the subject of preventing young people from getting involved in conflict situations. His interests are peace, environment and development.)
Sardar Aftab A. Khan can be contacted by E-mail at kdfajk (at)gmail.com
Note that this article was written in September 2004.

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