The Charter of the UN proclaims that one of its purposes is to advance the right of all peoples to self-determination. The right of self-determination is defined as ‘the ability of a people to collectively determine its political status and to pursue its own economic, social and cultural development’. 1
Another UN General Assembly Resolution clearly states that:
“Every state has the duty to promote, through joint and separate action, realization of the principle of equal rights and self–determination of peoples”. 2
We need to ask ourselves, is our struggle for a right of self-determination or is it to regain our independence? Remember, after lapse of the British Paramountcy on 15 August 1947, the State of Jammu and Kashmir became independent. The Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir concluded an agreement with Pakistan, known as the Standstill Agreement. India was also offered to make a similar agreement. India wanted more discussion on this matter.
It was confirmation by both India and Pakistan that they regarded Jammu and Kashmir as a separate, independent and distinct political entity with its own defined borders and constitution.
It is sad that, the Pakistani government, against Islamic teaching and against terms of the Standstill Agreement attacked its smaller neighbour with intention of occupying it. As a direct result of Pakistan’s unprovoked attack on 22 October 1947, our motherland, Jammu and Kashmir was forcibly divided and tens of thousands of innocent people perished and women were kidnapped and raped.
Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2017 on Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination states:
· Reaffirms that the universal realization of the right of all peoples, including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination, to self-determination is a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights and for the preservation and promotion of such rights;
· Deplores the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons who have been uprooted as a result of the aforementioned acts, and reaffirms their right to return to their homes voluntarily in safety and with honour. 3
Lakhs of non – Muslims and Muslims who have been forced to leave their homes, will they ever be allowed to return with safety and honour, when Pakistani militants are sent in name of jihad to create instability and dominate the society with guns and harassment?
The right of self – determination is a right of enslaved or occupied people to determine their own future without any conditions attached to it; and without any coercion and intimidation. Denial of right of self – determination is, in fact, denial of all other human rights because it is through this right, people could give meaning to other political, social, economic and cultural rights.
Right of accession or right of self-determination
The UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948, implicitly recognised and gave us the right of self-determination; but Pakistan which many Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir regard as a ‘big brother’ and an ‘advocate’, suggested that the people of Jammu and Kashmir should be only given a right to join India or Pakistan. As a result, our right to independence was curtailed in the subsequent Resolution of 5 January 1949.
This right, at best, can be called a right of accession. It is not a right of self-determination. This right of accession was further curtailed in the Simla Agreement of 1972. In the UNCIP Resolution of 5 January 1949, at least a right of accession was to be exercised by the people of the divided State of Jammu and Kashmir. In the Simla Agreement India and Pakistan took away this right from the people, and entrusted in the bureaucrats of New Delhi and Islamabad.
You can call me what suits you, but, I for one, will not accept any decision with regard to future of Jammu and Kashmir made by bureaucrats of New Delhi and Islamabad. We people of divided Jammu and Kashmir are the principal party to the dispute. We are politically mature and sensible; and we will decide what is good for us. We don’t want dictation of New Delhi and Islamabad in this regard.
Pakistani policy on Jammu and Kashmir
However, I am impressed with skills of the Pakistani policy makers. They have successfully fooled Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir since 1947.
1. The unprovoked attack of October 1947 was camouflaged in the name of Jihad; and many of us still accept Pakistani narrative on this.
2. They have convinced Muslims of Azad Kashmir that the tribal attack was a jihad against a Kaffir Maharaja; and Pakistan has liberated the people. Despite all the problems we face, many of us continue to think that we are free on the Pakistani side of the divide.
3. Those who betrayed the Maharaja against their oath were presented as heroes. They were given guns, bullets, training, uniform, salary and other benefits that they will defend Jammu and Kashmir and be loyal to the Maharaja. When Jammu and Kashmir was attacked by Pakistan they sided with Pakistan. We have been fooled to regard these people as heroes. If a war breaks out between Iran and Pakistan, and Shias of Pakistan choose to side with Iran; they will be castigated as traitors and punished. Why those who betrayed the Maharaja were treated differently? Are we not also responsible for welcoming them as heroes? Doesn’t this show that this struggle has communal dimension?
4. The Pakistani policy makers have fooled people that right of accession is equal to right of self-determination. This is contrary to the definition of right of self – determination.
5. They have fooled people that India refused to honour the UN Resolutions, yet it was Pakistan which refused to withdraw troops as demanded by the UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948. After Pakistan’s complete withdrawal, India only had to withdraw ‘bulk’ the troops.
6. They have violated State Subject Laws in Gilgit Baltistan, and changed the demography of the region. They have given a large area of Shaksam Valley to China. On the policy promoted and supported by them Lakhs of non-Muslims had to migrate from their homes in Kashmir.
7. Despite all the above, and despite what they signed in the Simla Agreement, they continue to fool people that the UN Resolutions should be implemented. They know that the ground realities have changed, making practically the UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir irrelevant; and they still have their troops in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
Their present policy of promoting and supporting militancy in Kashmir is in essence, continuation of their jihad started in October 1947. It is sad to note that the Pakistani propaganda wrapped in holy name of Islam is so effective that still many people agree with the Pakistani narrative, wrong as it is.
Also, it is depressing to note that Pakistan is not even prepared to give people a right of accession, because they fear that they will lose the vote.
The right of accession give people two choices:
A/ Ratify the Provisional accession.
B/ Join Pakistan.
In the UNCIP Resolution that limited our right to self-determination with the right of accession, both India and Pakistan agreed to ensure that:
(a) There is no threat, coercion or intimidation, bribery or other undue influence on the voters in the plebiscite;
(b) No restrictions are placed on legitimate political activity throughout the State. All subjects of the State, regardless of creed, caste or party, shall be safe and free in expressing their views and in voting on the question of the accession of the State of India or Pakistan. There shall be freedom of press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel in the State, including freedom of lawful entry and exit;
(c) All political prisoners are released;
(d) Minorities in all parts of the State are accorded protection;
(e) There is no victimization. 4
It means people of the Jammu and Kashmir State were permitted to promote any political activity they liked. However, Pakistan has ensured that anyone who promotes a pro India or pro – independence policies are castigated as traitors, agents and anti-Pakistan; and in some cases, anti-Islam.
Sometimes people of Azad Kashmir feel that Pakistani officials love and care for people of the Valley of Kashmir, as they seem to be supporting their struggle and highlight their problems. There is a strong feeling that Pakistan is not prepared to express love and care to the people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan and give them fundamental human rights.
I sometimes feel this narrative is not true. In reality, if we look at it carefully, they are punishing the people of the Valley for not siding with them in 1947. If these people had not stood up and faced the attackers, they would have captured Srinagar.
If you really love and care a group of people or a community, you don’t create instability in their neighbourhood, burn their schools and colleges, hold strikes to damage their economy and livelihood. You don’t send trained militants to throw bombs in streets and in market places. You don’t create a situation in which forces of occupation kill, arrest and torture people.
The Pakistani agenda is to ensure that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is not resolved and instability continues, walls of hatred and extremism remain high and jihadi culture and division of people in name of religion is intensified.
Our future strategy should be:
1. Jammu and Kashmir is not a religious dispute, so use of religion must stop. There is no danger to Islam there.
2. Our struggle should be for unification of independence of the entire State that existed on 15 August 1947. Those who say liberate the Valley of Kashmir first are not sincere. They want Jammu and Kashmir to bleed for ever.
3. A man in chains cannot liberate any other person. We are all occupied in different regions of Jammu and Kashmir State. I cannot go to Srinagar to liberate them. They cannot come to Muzaffarabad to liberate us. It was a wrong strategy, given to us by the GHQ and their stooges. We must abandon it.
4. People of each region should fight against the country that occupies them. We can support each other, but we cannot fight for each other because of the bitter ground realities;
5. Religion is a personal matter of individuals. There must be no interference in religious affairs of any religion; but the State belongs to all of us. We must fight to regain our independence. We all have to work for unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir;
6. Practical struggle, hitherto, has been against only one country, whereas three countries control various parts of Jammu and Kashmir. It gives a clear message to the international community that it is not a national struggle; and that we are advancing an agenda of one country against the other.
The Speaker is Chairman of South Asia Watch, London, and author of many books on Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism.