Briefing to Foreign and Commonwealth Office-FCO in London
A briefing paper discussed and presented to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-FCO- at the meeting between the JKLF delegation and FCO officials held on 9 June 2015 at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-FCO- in London.
Since June 2014 Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front-JKLF- has taken a clear stance, to peacefully resist the stifling of political expression, and a growing erosion of democratic space due to policies by both the government of India and the local government in Kashmir.
The JKLF therefore launched a 10 day token campaign of courting arrests to fill the jails under the “Jail Bharo Tehreek” on 29 May 2015. Dozens of JKLF leaders and functionaries have been arrested including Yasin Malik the Chairman of the organisation during this period. Some have been released while the fate of others is to be decided by the Indian authorities.
Since coming into power as the government of India the Bharatiya Janata Party- BJP- has had a 3 point agenda to make fundamental changes to the social and political fabric of Kashmiri society.
Part of this agenda includes the abrogation of article 370 in the Indian constitution which confers a special status to Kashmir in its relationship with India.
Over the years India has changed many practical expressions of article 370. Nevertheless the symbolism of this article is a clear reminder that the so called accession to India of Kashmir was conditional and temporary arrangement pending a resolution of Kashmir’s final status.
An overwhelming popular opposition to the BJP’s agenda in Kashmir has forced it to retreat on at least abrogation of article 370.
However the BJP government has instead embarked upon changing the political and social character through the back door in conjunction with its coalition partner in the Kashmir government- the Peoples Democratic Party-PDP.
JKLF and other pro freedom organisations have resisted this and the Jail Bharo Tehreek of the JKLF is part of this peaceful opposition to the machinations of the current Indian government
Before we elaborate on aspects of Indian government’s agenda to change the character of Kashmir, it’s important to put the Kashmir dispute in its proper context.
A brief historic Context of the Kashmir dispute:
British India was partitioned in August 1947 with India and Pakistan emerging as the two dominant nations in South Asia.
There were some 560 semi-autonomous princely states among whom Jammu Kashmir (generally referred to as Kashmir) was one of the largest.
Once British paramountcy lapsed on them, they regained their sovereignty. The rulers of these states had the options to either accede to one of the successor states or remain independent.
The Maharaja of Kashmir offered a Standstill Agreement to both India and Pakistan which Pakistan accepted and as a result became responsible to deliver some public services for Kashmir. Pakistani flag therefore was hoisted on some state owned buildings such as the Post- Office as a consequence of the Standstill Agreement.
India disregarded the offer of a Standstill Agreement thereby indicating an early ill intent towards the independence and sovereignty of Jammu Kashmir.
Maharaja’s dithering on the final disposition of his Kingdom exacerbated an already fraught situation among Kashmiri masses, who rose up in a popular rebellion to topple his rule. The rebels set up a provisional government on 4 October which was reconstituted on 24 October 1947 and declared Jammu Kashmir a republic.
On 27 October 1947 India invaded Kashmir by landing a battalion of troops in Srinagar, under the pretext that the Maharaja acceded Kashmir to India on 26 October.
In reality however the Maharaja was not in control of his country and was in fact fleeing from Srinagar to the city of Jammu - some 200 miles to the south.
It is more credible to state that a contingency plan might already have existed for the purpose of invasion under the pretext of an accession, which at any rate, under all accounts could only have been obtained well after the Indian troops landed at Srinagar airfield.
It seems from all accounts that India was eager to enter Kashmir come what may to throttle a freedom movement of people who endured unimaginable suffering and despotism at the hands of their rulers. India in fact landed its military in Kashmir when technically it was an independent and sovereign nation between 15 August and 27 October 1947.
What is the issue?
At the heart of the Kashmir conflict however lies the fundamental principle of inherent and inalienable right of around 20 million people to determine their own political and constitutional destiny.
The genesis of Kashmir dispute, at least at the international level, begins with India taking the matter to the UN Security Council, which she did on1 January 1948.
At the UN a number resolutions were passed, commitments and solemn undertakings were given by India and were accepted by Pakistan.
Leading powers like the United Kingdom supported the resolutions and the commitments to resolve the dispute in accordance with the democratic will and wishes of the people.
For almost 68 years the UN, India, Pakistan and indeed the permanent members of the UN Security Council, have utterly failed to honour their obligations and commitments on Kashmir’s future status.
Kashmiris rightly believe that the history of the dispute over their political and constitutional status is full of betrayals by India in particular, and indifference and abandonment of their basic rights and aspirations by the big powers including the United Kingdom.
India for example in one of its many solemn pledges on Kashmir declared:
“that the question of Kashmir’s future status vis-a-vis its neighbours and the world at large and the question on whether Kashmir should withdraw from her accession to India, and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent with a right to claim admission as a member of the United Nations all this we have recognised to be a matter for unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir after normal life is restored to them” UNSC document Agenda 227.
Subsequent to the above pledge India was party to scores of UN resolutions, the setting up of UN Commission on India and Pakistan-UNCIP- to administer the (promised) plebiscite- the UN Military Observer Group on India and Pakistan –UNMOGIP- which was created to monitor cease-fire- line when the first Kashmir war ended between India, Pakistan and the free Kashmir forces in January 1949. Further to this the bilateral Shimla Accord was concluded by India and Pakistan after their 1971 war.
Successive Indian governments have however reneged on every single international and bilateral commitment, pledge and obligation that India was party to regarding the Kashmir conflict.
Current Indian prime Minister demands a permanent seat for his country on the UN Security Council-UNSC- because India is a ‘democracy’ of 125 crores.
He is of course right that India is a democratic country. However India’s democratic credentials fail to meet the litmus test over Kashmir
Contrary to its commitments before the UN on her responsibilities regarding Kashmir India’s presence in the state is that of an occupying and colonial power.
A mature and confident expression of democracy however was witnessed by the world in September of 2014 when Britain acceded to the right of the Scottish people for a referendum to abrogate their more than 300 year -long union with the UK.
Instead of dispatching battalions of British troops to supress nationalist aspirations of the Scots, British government graciously facilitated a free, fair and democratic referendum to settle the question the union with the UK.
India on the other hand does not even acknowledge the existence of a Kashmir issue and considers the dispute over its future status as a figment and machinations of Pakistan, and quite blatantly claims Kashmir as an ‘integral’ part of India.
Such a position by India is clearly a betrayal of the UN and India’s responsibilities and obligations over Kashmir.
Pakistan too considers the Kashmir issue and the dispute as the ‘unfinished agenda’ of the partition of British India. It therefore becomes all the more important that the dispute is resolved in accordance with the democratic will and fundamental rights of the people.
Since 2014 India has a Bharatiya Janata Party- BJP- government which is aggressive and chauvinistic in its political ideology. BJP led Indian government has orchestrated to subvert the socio-political character of Kashmir with Hindutva inspired objectives to affect change in Indian occupied part of the state.
This includes among other objectives of the Indian government, to dilute collective identity, and disrupt centuries old communal harmony of a religiously diverse polity, especially in the Jammu province of the state.
Having failed to abrogate article 370, the Indian government began to communalise the political process during the state elections late last year.
In Jammu at least the BJP succeeded in communal divide and increased its seats from 11 to 25, while not making any headway in the valley of Kashmir.
During his first five months in power as Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi made 8 visits to Jammu Kashmir with the clear objective of exerting maximum influence over the state elections.
Most of his 8 visits were in the non-Muslim dominated regions of the state and to the Indian troops deployed on the LoC including the Siachen Glacier.
In the election process those opposed to the electoral process within the Indian constitution led by the JKLF were not allowed to use the public square, and were not allowed the democratic right of assembly and free speech to advocate their policies. Yasin Malik and other JKLF leaders were incarcerated throughout the 7 week election process.
The unholy alliance between PDP and the BJP after the state elections, has further exacerbated the political atmosphere in Jammu Kashmir. Their coalition government has stifled and choked political and democratic expression.
JKLF’s non-violent and peaceful campaign- Jehed-e- Mussalsal, the signature campaign and people contact met with a heavy handed response from the authorities.
During elections for the Kashmir assembly in the winter of 2014 at least 25 to 30 constituencies in the state, mostly in the valley of Kashmir were under extreme military and paramilitary pressure and oppressive methods.
This heavy deployment of forces amounted to an atmosphere of political, physical and psychological suffocation and harassment of the masses.
JKLF embarked upon a peaceful and non-violent campaign to engage with the masses to relieve them of this atmosphere of suffocation, fear and anxiety.
The JKLF envisaged setting up of a week-long camps in each of the constituencies to extend support and solidarity to all sections of the beleaguered communities.
Pre-emptive arrests of the JKLF leaders and activists were made to prevent their interaction with the people in Rypura one of the constituencies in district Pulwama.
Yasin Malik, the JKLF Chairman was also arrested and later released when he led a procession towards Rypura in solidarity.
The Jail Bharo Tehreek therefore was started as 10 day symbolic protest against these oppressive and anti-democratic methods of the Indian forces and the local PDP and BJP led coalition government in Kashmir.
While this 10 day symbolic campaign ended on 6 June 2015 the JKLF awaits the fate of over 200 of its leaders who are in custody before the next phase and course of action for the peaceful Jehed-e- Mussalsal is restarted.
Although the BJP has failed to abrogate article 370, it has however not refrained from communalising of the Kashmir society by attempting to change the demographics of the state both in the Jammu as well as in the Kashmir Valley provinces.
Granting of state subject to 1947 refugees from West Pakistan:
The integration and granting of state subject or citizenship to 1947 refugees from West Pakistan who now live in Jammu.
These refugees have right to vote in the Indian parliamentary elections. They do not have rights to vote in the Jammu Kashmir assembly elections.
By granting them state subject status, the BJP government wishes to change the demographic makeup of the region and the Jammu Kashmir state.
Resettlement of the Pundits:
Kashmiri Pandits were taken out of the Kashmir valley in 1990. Many live in camps in Jammu while many others live in Delhi as well as other parts of India.
The Indian government wants to resettle the Pandits in Israeli style settlements in at least four to five places in the valley of Kashmir.
Five hundred acres of land has been acquired for the purpose. There is strong opposition across all sections of Kashmiri society for creating separate enclaves and colonies for the Pandits. General Kashmiri public wishes The Pandits to return to their own homes and neighbourhoods in the valley which they left in 1990.
Around four to five hundred families of the Pandits have returned to their homes mainly in the Srinagar areas through the efforts of the efforts of Kashmiris including the JKLF.
Kashmiris in general and the JKLF in particular argue that security and wellbeing of the Kashmiri Pandits lies within their fellow Kashmiri citizens rather than in separate settlements and Indian forces.
Granting of state subject to West Pakistan refugees and creating separate enclaves and settlements in the names of the Pandits is a conspiracy to change the character and demographic makeup of the state of Jammu Kashmir which JKLF and other Kashmir political organisations will resists peacefully.
Kashmiris across both sides of the Line of Control-LoC want a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, and want Kashmir to become a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan rather than a bone of contention.
Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC wish for a constructive engagement and dialogue among the concerned parties- namely India, Pakistan and Kashmiris.
Thus far Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi’s BJP government has shown no desire for dialogue with Pakistan let alone recognising his country’s commitments at the United Nations.
Britain has a privileged position in world affairs and Kashmiris have a high expectation of Britain’s role to influence a change of pace towards a lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute.
Britain has friendly relations and vital interests with both India and Pakistan, as well as strong historic ties with the region. With such vital interests at stake Britain cannot afford to leave India and Pakistan to sort the Kashmir dispute on their own. They have not been able to do so for 68 years.
Unresolved Kashmir dispute has dislocated the Kashmiris but it also has held back two very important world powers in their progress.
Prof Zafar Khan
Head of Diplomatic Bureau
Jammu Kashmir liberation Front-JKLF-
London Secretariat. North Basement
119-123 Cannon Street Road
London E1 2LX