What is Kashmir Dispute? On 31 December 1947 India took the issue of Jammu and Kashmir State to the United Nations Organization. At the United Nations, India and Pakistan “agreed that the fate of the State as a whole should be settled through a general plebiscite.” On 5 January 1949 the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan resolved that “the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite (paragraph 1).”
So Jammu and Kashmir State is a dispute between two parties, Pakistan and India. Whether this State (which includes Indian administered Kashmir; Pakistan administered Kashmir; and Gilgit-Baltistan) should, as a whole, become part of India or Pakistan, is for the people of the State to decide. The people of the State as a whole, not just Muslims of Kashmir Valley, are the primary stake holders.
An all-party delegation led by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to arrive in Srinagar on3 September 2016 to talk “to all the stake holders on the issue of Kashmir.” The delegation will decide what be the “Kashmir issue”. The delegation will decide who be the “stake holders”. The delegation will decide whom to meet and talk to.
Given such a dispensation it is not so difficult to guess who would be described as “stake holders” in this case: paid moulvis, funded NGOs, fake civil society, and of course “mainstream” political parties especially the Mehbooba-led ruling PDP and Omar Abdullah-led opposition NC. Omar Abdullah’s main concern is Mehbooba’s displacement from the chief ministerial seat so that he could fill in the gap himself; Mehbooba’s main interest is to stay in power, come what may.
In order to strike a sort of balance between “mainstream” and “separatist” camps, the all-party delegation may also meet some “separatists”. But the net result would be nothin except buying time.
The reason for my pessimism is that the Indian State has in the past also indulged in such excercises but nothing came out of that. To start with, former PM Manmohan Singh appointed five working groups in May 2006.
It took Justice Sagir Ahmad, Convenor of the Working Group on Centre-State Relations, three years to prepare a report which he submitted, not to his appointing authority, i.e., Manmohan Singh, but to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. In any case, Kashmiris were not interested in his report.
Five days after Sagir Report, the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced on 29 December 2009 that “quiet talks on Kashmir will begin next month and a solution would be worked out in three months.”
When three months passed, Kashmir was in the grip of stone pelting agitation. Subsequent to the killing of 120 teenagers in 2010, an all-party delegation came on an picnic to Kashmir. Then the Government of India appointed three interlocutors. On 23 February 2011 the interlocutors announced that “a roadmap on Kashmir would be ready in two weeks.”
Now in September 2016, another all-party delegation is scheduled to visit Kashmir. But the question is: What is Kashmir issue all about? The Indian State describes Kashmir, on the international plane, as a mere law and order problem hijacked by Pakistan; then they say that Kashmir is about cross-border terrorism and Pakistan is a sponsor of international terrorism; that Pakistan has no locus standi on Kashmir; that they will not talk to Pakistan except on the issue of terror; and that Pakistan should vacate Kashmir State territories under its control, etc. On the local plane they say that Kashmir is an integral part of India and that if any one has any grievances, let him come on to the table and discuss issues within the parameters of Indian Constitution.
If the all-party delegation arrives in Srinagar with this mindset, Kashmir issue will never be resolved. On the contrary, if the delegation is sincere this time, then it would be better for the Indian State to first tell its people the public truth about kashmir, shun the rhetoric of “integral part” and “ambit of constitution” (the present Indian Constitution which describes Kashmir as an integral part of India is irrelevant to Kashmir Dispute because it did not exist in 1947 when the dispute erupted) and invite Pakistan to the negotiating table.
Together Pakistan and India would then decide how to ascertain who truly represented the people of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir – and it would not be an individual or a group but groups of people from various regions and religions. All the three sections, genuine representative of former Princely State, Pakistan State, and Indian State, could then sit together in a conclave. They may even invite UN people so that better counsels prevail.