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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Kashmir State Autonomy, Self Rule or Independence? by Shams Rehman

Kashmir State
Autonomy, Self Rule or Independence?
©Shams Rehman
Oldham, England, UK
This article was written in response to the recent ‘new autonomy report’ for general readers, however, the outline it offers here for the way forward for Indian and Pakistan on Kashmir can be of some relevance for the today’s Seminar. The outlined is based on several proposals forwarded by various individual writers and political activists since the emergence of current uprising in 1987.  

Background Context

Following the division of Kashmir (entire state) under the Indian and Pakistani military, bureaucratic and political machinery, both 'Kashmiri' governments had full autonomy. Although National Conference and Muslim Conference given up on the idea of 'independence' they never compromised the autonomy and identity of Kashmir state embedded in the State Subject Law. On the Pakistani side while Pakistan separated Gilgit and Baltistan from ‘Azad’ Kashmir and ruled these areas directly from Islamabad, the rest of the areas were organised under 'Azad' Kashmir and still have Prime Minister and President along with Supreme Court and other features of an independent government minus independence. The Gilgit and Baltistan are recently given their name back with some more political rights i.e. right to elect their own representatives of course with many shortcomings and irregularities.
The Indian side of Kashmir also had President (Sadar E Riyasat) Karan Singh and Prime Minster Sheikh Abdullah. Indian Jurisdiction was confined to defence, foreign affairs, communication and currency.
However, the government of India gradually eroded the autonomy of Kashmir through various carrot and stick tactics.  Currently, the Indian side has relatively strong political parties – NC and PDO – that, if work together, are capable of getting that autonomy back. However, at present NC which is coalition government with Congress is not in position to go for ‘self rule’ and has to work within the framework to be defined and determined by the Congress. At the same time the role upsurge in agitation and armed resistance in IOK has played in bringing autonomy issue back on agenda must not be overlooked. For India needs ‘autonomists’ and ‘self-rulist’ against ‘indepdendists’ and ‘accession-ists’ (to Pakistan).
On the Pakistani side Pakistan has appointed Governor and Chief Minister in Gilgit Baltistan which portray these areas as province. However, Pakistani government has assured protesting Kashmiris that this does not change the status of these regions in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir and Tibet Ha'.  How much this assurance can be trusted on this side brings similar responses from Kashmiris as to the question how much Indian government can be trusted on ‘autonomy’ and ‘self-rule’ in IOK. The good thing is that the regions of Gilgit and Baltistan and Hunza, Yasin etc. (Balwaristan) have more political and legislative rights than before.


Against this context one possibility that is becoming increasingly obvious is making the division of the state (status quo) permanent with the mutual agreement between India and Pakistan under international pressure.
The other possibility is that Gilgit Baltistan, Jammu and Ladkah will be separated from Kashmir and integrated into Pakistan and India respectively. The argument for this is that the tendency amongst people in these areas to identify themselves with Kashmir is almost nonexistent. Therefore, why force them to stay with Kashmir against their will? Although Kashmiri nationalists and pro independence can argue against that but when the pro independence parties are virtually nonexistent in these regions AND seemingly Huriyat leadership is also in agreement that these areas can go their way then the independent state argument does not stand much chance to prevail.
Taking the voluntary identification argument further leaves the Kashmir Valle and its surrounding areas including Azad Kashmir. Now looking from ‘outside’ and ‘above’ it is evident that majority of the State Subjects in these regions do share a political Kashmiri identity. However, due to living under different administrative, legislative and political setups for over 60 years, they lack any trans-division line infrastructure. Therefore, unification of the divided regions would require a constant popular political pressure from the people of the region. Without such a pressure, the most can be offered is further improvement in the flow of people and goods across the division line. If there is a strong and sustained political, democratic and peaceful mass campaign across the division line for unification, India has to agree on the unification of these two regions. However, Pakistan although apparently agree that it is up to Kashmiris, would like to have 'Azad' Kashmir made into a Pakistani Province and leave only Valley to become a semi Independent State. Reading into Mir Waiz Umar Farooq’s reaction to Gilgit Baltistan issue, the Huriyat leadership appears ready for that solution. However, the reaction to such Pakistani attempt in 1970s by the most popular Pakistani leader ZA Butto tells that even if Hurriyat leadership accept such a move the ‘Azad’ Kashmiris in AJK and across the world won’t let their autonomy and (azad) Kashmiri identity taken away. Furthermore, many of us friends here in UK always wonder why there is no movement at all for opening travel and trade routes between Jammu and Mirpur?. Does the rhetoric of Kashmiriyat, secularism, progressivism in reality remain an emotional momentary phenomenon that evaporates in the air soon after the dispersion of demonstrations and meetings? Or to what extent Hurriyat represents the sentiment of common people in IOK?


In this context what should be the common demands of those Kashmiris across the division line and the world, who have been and are still striving for a united independent democratic State of Kashmir?  An outline based on various proposals from different perspectives over the past two decades is suggested below for the consideration of all those who would like to see a peaceful, just and democratic route to solve Kashmir tangle. 
1.      India and Pakistan to accept that the future of entire state of Kashmir (Kashmir Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir) is to be decided by over 16 million Kashmiri State Subjects in all parts of Kashmir and living in diaspora across the globe;
As it stands Pakistan agrees to this and publicly argues for the right of Kashmiris to self determination. However, as mentioned above Pakistan will agree to other options if asserted by the international community arguing that Indian can only go to this extent for example ‘status quo’ and not that one unification or any change in ‘borders’. Therefore, if Kashmiris want more than that then THEY have to find ways and means to campaign for that.
2.      Free all detainees and political prisoners and disclose details of all those Kashmiris who have been disappeared. This also include the ‘release’ of Afzal Guru ( who is clearly wrongly convicted) and remains of Maqbool Bhatt from Tihar prison Delhi for his proper burial in Kashmir wherever his family would like him to be buried;
3.      Remove armies from Urban and Rural dwellings;
4.      Open all traditional routes for the flow of all the State Subjects and goods across the state;
5.      Hold free and fair elections in all three legislative units (a) Gilgit Baltistan or Pakistani Occupied Northern Kashmir (b) Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistani Occupied Southern Kashmir (c) Jammu and Kashmir (Indian Occupied Kashmir). Every State Subject should have equal right of participation regardless of political persuasions with transparent registration of voters, equal media coverage and monitoring by agreed international civil, legal and democratic bodies;
6.      All these elected bodies should have autonomy over their local resources and affairs regardless of the final decision about the future of the entire state. For example even if eventually state becomes divided and these units go to India or Pakistan they should have their autonomy recognised and respected. If the state stays united still these governments should maintain their autonomy. In any case the royalty for the use of their resources must be paid to these governments. The regions of Ladakh and Jammu might also like to opt for local legislative assemblies?
7.      After an agreed period free and fair elections to elect representatives of the entire state should be held again with equal participation of all political persuasions and under international supervision with a clearly expressed and agreed mandate to represent Kashmiris at any deliberations between India and Pakistan or China or other relevant international forums on the future status of Kashmir State.
8.      Diaspora Kashmiris needs to be consulted and represented throughout the process AND their Kashmiri identity must be recognised and included in the ethnic monitoring systems in the countries of their settlement including national census 2011 in UK.
9.      As per international legal framework the UNCIP Resolution of 13th August 1948 and Proposals by the UN President provide space for the above roadmap to be developed.

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  1. Shams ,Sir after studying your paper on Kashmir state very closely ,I have come to conclusion that you should apply for lecturing job in some university of your choice or some school of thoughts You'll do great job as professor , This article also highlight why you are journalist,By sharing some of the fact which are part of Kashmirs history,which should only be discussed behind closed doors,By highlighting weakness in ranks you have handed our enemy's list of facts they can use against our peoples,and are doing so already.But I must give you credit that you have put great amount of effort in to your essay.

    At top page you have given options, Autonomy,Self Rules,or Independence, This heading tells a lot more storey then rest of the page, That's why I said anything other then INDEPENDENT will be disaster for kashmiri people,Everything else in the essay is for history books..learn from American and European media how they put there National interest first even when they are wrong.You said you're for independent but your essay tells different storey.

    REF Jammu above: Jammu was and is and will remain part of state of Jammu & Kashmir,its city within boarders of the state,its like part of body,which part of body will you be willing to part with ,You should know if one part of body is in pain the rest of the body feels the pain too.This is where people like you come in to play " Education empowers people.

    PS: None of the above comment where attended to offend anyone.Thanks :"


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