Srinagar: National Conference submitted memorandum to all-party delegation on Kashmir issue and Learning from past mistakes, working towards a lasting solution and Case for a credible, meaningful political process the statement said.
Copy of the Document submitted by J&K National Conference to visiting All Parties’ Delegation in Srinagar:
“The current political unrest in Kashmir – that has spread to parts of Jammu as well as Ladakh region needs to be seen in a deeper, objective perspective. This unrest, with its own set of provocations and characteristics, is another expression of collective indignation by the people of Kashmir at New Delhi’s continued refusal to acknowledge that the issue in Kashmir is of a political nature and requires a sustained, broad-based and credible political approach based on the tenets of empathy and statesmanship”.
“New Delhi’s conventional investment in a policy of containment and operational management of the political sentiment in Kashmir has created a prolonged phase of political vacuum. The very fact that initiatives of political outreach, such as the visit of this All Parties’ Delegation from New Delhi, are seen as reactionary manoeuvres rather than proactive initiatives, points at the reason for the sense of scepticism in the Valley”.
“Historically, the genesis of the political issue in Kashmir lies in the erosion of the State’s Internal Autonomy and a number of broken promises that violated good-faith agreements between the leadership of the State and successive Central Governments in New Delhi. The dismissal of a popular, elected Government in 1953 and the incarceration of J&K’s Prime Minister, Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was the first blow that demolished the bond of good faith between Kashmir and New Delhi”.
“From 1953 till 2016 today, New Delhi’s continued refusal to undo the wrongs of history and restore the constitutionally legitimate political rights of J&K and its people has resulted in a pervasive sense of alienation and isolation in Kashmir. It is this sense of alienation and isolation that fuels all agitations in Kashmir – including the current one”.
“For the last couple of years the political narrative viz-a-viz J&K – its special status and Article 370 of the Constitution of India – has become increasingly reductionist, regressive and jingoist. The resulting atmosphere of shrill rhetoric has created a sense of insecurity among the people of the State and taken us further away from the overarching goal of reconciliation. Unfortunately the goal of appeasing respective political constituencies has taken precedence over the goal of a stable and peaceful J&K”.
“In recent years – in successive efforts to pacify recurring agitations in the State – New Delhi has taken political initiatives in times of unrest only to abandon them in times of peace. The failure to implement the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Working Groups on Kashmir as well as the shocking indifference and contempt shown towards the Interlocutors’ Report are recent examples of this pattern of apathy and callousness. Similarly, the then Central Government refused to even acknowledge the Autonomy Resolution passed by the J&K Legislative Assembly in 2000 with a two-thirds majority. These glaring failures have provoked violence and instability in Kashmir”.
“We cannot shy away from the fact that the Kashmir Issue has both internal as well as external dimensions. A tit-for-tat diplomatic policy of one-upmanship between New Delhi and Islamabad will change precious little as far as restoring peace and stability in Kashmir is concerned. Pakistan, by the very nature of this political issue and the fact that a large part of J&K’s territory is administered by Islamabad, is a party to the issue. Any serious, meaningful process of finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir Issue has to not only include an engagement with stakeholders of various opinions within J&K but also with the Pakistani establishment”.
“After the formalization of the alliance between PDP and BJP in the State, the two parties made a set of political and economic promises in their ‘Agenda of the Alliance’. That these promises were violated, broken and ridiculed within the very first year of the alliance has added fuel to the fire. Instead of the promised engagement with the Separatist Leaders and Pakistan for instance, New Delhi as well as the State Government has resorted to a more hawkish stance on both fronts. The Central Government has also categorically refused to discuss the revocation of AFSPA and also termed the demand for the return of power projects as untenable and impractical. This has increased the sense of alienation and helplessness in Kashmir”.
“To initiate a process of engagement we need to understand the dimensions of the political issue in Kashmir and also base our approach on the values of empathy, democracy and justice. Since the roots of the Kashmir Issue lie in history, no advance can be made without a sense of history and an acknowledgement of mistakes committed in the past. The Central Government needs to take both immediate as well as sustained, long-term measures. The interim measures will create the required atmosphere for the germination of a credible political process that works towards finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir Issue. Any attempts however to deal with the situation with short-term measures alone or to buy time to further support the status-quo eventually, will be disastrous. While ensuring the anger in Kashmir is placated immediately, New Delhi should resolve to not abandon a political process of dialogue in the future”.
“As stated, the political issue in Kashmir has both internal and external political dimensions. While the internal dimensions revolve around the State’s relationship with the rest of the country, the external dimensions come into account on the basis of Pakistan’s involvement in the dispute. For a lasting solution to the supposedly intractable issue, it is important that a comprehensive political process with both internal as well as external engagement is initiated simulatenously”.
“Internally, there needs to be an acknowledgement of historical injustices perpetuated against the people of Jammu and Kashmir under the fig-leaf of ‘national interest’ and ‘integration’. The fact that J&K has acceded to the Union of India under a certain set of conditions and has not merged with the Union needs to be respected. The erosion of the State’s Autonomy from 1953 to 1975 needs to be reversed to uphold the integrity of promises made by the Union of India with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The relationship between the State and the rest of the country is unique and constitutionally validated and no amount of shrill rhetoric or jingoism can change this reality. While appeasing their core constituencies in the rest of the country, certain national political parties have left no stone unturned to project J&K’s special status as a treacherous thorn in the flesh of India. This grave distortion of the truth has resulted in hyperbolic positions on both ends and has increased the sense of alienation in Kashmir.
Almost all political initiatives taken by successive Central Governments to address the growing alienation in Kashmir have been abandoned with great contempt and ease. There has been no headway with the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Working Groups on Kashmir while the Interlocutors’ Report was not even tabled for a discussion in the Parliament”.
“The institution of dialogue has been discredited. There is a strong perception in Kashmir that political initiatives taken by New Delhi aim at buying time till relative peace is achieved, only to be left midway and abandoned later. This has resulted in an atmosphere of scepticism and hopelessness – which makes the issue even more complex”.
“Externally, diplomatic engagement with Pakistan on Kashmir has been defined by inconsistency. It is a fact that almost all previous Governments in New Delhi have engaged with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir and a tit-for-tat rhetorical shift will not change the fact that Pakistan is a party to the issue. We need to chart a way away from egoistical stands and clichés and realize the enormous human costs of a prolonged conflict in Kashmir. For a mutually acceptable, lasting and sustainable solution to be achieved, it is important that both New Delhi and Islamabad play a sober, constructive and result-oriented role in their engagement on Jammu & Kashmir”.
“Psychology is a defining part of political conflicts. In the post-1989 era the people of Jammu & Kashmir have rendered unimaginable sacrifices and lost thousands of its young in an armed turmoil that continues to define their future. While relative peace was achieved after years of violence and turmoil, successive Governments in New Delhi failed to promote a sense of justice and redemption in the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir. The sense of disenchantment that thousands of young lives were lost to no avail has created a perception of defeat and collective anguish over the years. This is primarily due to a failure of successive Governments in New Delhi to build on the dividends of this relative, hard-earned peace and engage with the political sentiment in Kashmir to find a lasting solution while upholding the dignity and sentiments of the people”.
“Economically, Jammu and Kashmir remains encumbered and dependent. While the State faces enormous losses due to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan, most of its hydroelectric power projects are centrally owned and operated with minor shares apportioned to the State. While the current PDP-BJP dispensation, in their ‘Agenda of the Alliance’, promised that these power projects would be returned to J&K, the Central Government went on to categorically and conclusively refuse any such move after the alliance was forged. This has further augmented the perception of economic disempowerment in the State. With an enormous hydroelectric power potential that could go up to more than 20,000 Megawatts, J&K remains disadvantaged both due to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) as well as an economic inability to exploit its resources”.
“There is no denying the fact that grave human rights violations have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir over the course of the last almost three decades. In the fight against armed militancy, the line between combatants and non-combatants was often crossed and violated. Complaints of excesses have been either ignored or treated with a systemic trait of denial. There have been excesses from either side of the turmoil and that most of these cases remain either un-investigated or poorly-investigated has supplemented a collective lack of trust in the institutions of democracy and justice. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has far outlived its need in the State and in a lot of cases the intended immunity from prosecution has translated into impunity”.
“While we have repeatedly demanded a phased revocation of AFSPA from J&K, the J&K National Conference has also put forth its suggestion that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) be constituted to probe complaints and cases of apparent human rights violations over the course of the last three decades. Justice and reconciliation will have to precede a final process of resolution. A failure to deliver justice and fix responsibility for wrongs and injustices of the past will result in the prolonging of hostility and isolation in Kashmir. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) would go a long way in helping the people of the State find a closure and a sense of deliverance while we work towards a lasting political solution”.
“New Delhi will have to exhibit statesmanship and magnanimity in admitting injustices and mistakes of the past, in taking steps to redress them and in exuding a sense of confidence in knowing that a political dialogue with varying shades of opinion is a mark of evolution and democracy, not a sign of surrender and certainly not weakness”.
Imperative to create conducive atmosphere for a political process
While the political issue in Kashmir will require a sustained, meaningful and credible political process that involves all stakeholders both internally and externally, immediate measures need to be taken to build an atmosphere of positivity and confidence. These measures include:
1. Fix accountability for excessive use of force in the current unrest, followed by credible and visible action.
2. An immediate ban on pellet-guns and all other lethal or purportedly “non-lethal” weapons that have maimed and blinded hundreds of youth.
3. Revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from areas that have seen a relative return to normalcy in the recent years.
4. Withdrawal of cases against the youth and an immediate end to the policy of wanton arrests, nocturnal raids and harassment.
5. The return of power projects from NHPC to the State to help the State achieve economic self-reliance and a sense of empowerment.
6. Reducing the military and paramilitary footprint from civilian areas of the State.
7. Implementation of various recommendations made by the Prime Minister’s Working Groups on Kashmir.
8. Constitution of a Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
A MEANINGFUL AND CREDIBLE POLITICAL PROCESS
Towards a lasting solution
“History bears witness to the fact that the most complex, seemingly intractable political conflicts in the world have been resolved through evolution and innovation. Tried and tested formulations of dealing with the issue in Kashmir militarily or administratively are bound to be counterproductive. The time has come to engage with the political sentiment in Kashmir rather than attribute internal dissent and disillusionment to external factors alone”.
“The models of resolution are many and varying. While the J&K National Conference is of the firm opinion that the restoration of the State’s Autonomy – as it existed before 1953 – is the most feasible and sustainable solution to the political issue, we will support any other model of resolution that is acceptable primarily to the people of the State and also to the stakeholders and parties to the issue”.
“There have been various solutions that have been suggested over the years and there are many other agreements and treatise of conflict resolution that could form the basis of emulation”.
“The key to unlocking a future of peace lies in acknowledging and respecting the political sentiments of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and in finding ways and means to allow their sentiments to co-exist in the broader framework of our democracy and the values it pledges to uphold”.
“A sustained and meaningful dialogue with the Separatist Leadership in the State is imperative. New Delhi should also engage with mainstream political parties in the State and continue to take them on-board in an evolutionary mechanism to find a lasting political solution”.
“While J&K, like every other State, aspires for development and prosperity – the root of turmoil and instability in the State does not stem from economics. Repeated attempts to trivialize the situation in Kashmir by talking of the need for development and economic packages are bound to further aggravate the situation. While good governance and economic prosperity are the cornerstones of a democratic system’s obligations towards the people, a political issue cannot be placated through economics”.
“The youth of Kashmir are more alienated today than at any point of time in the recent future. With a shocking spurt in local youth joining militant ranks, the return to normalcy seems an even bigger challenge. A reductionist narrative that defames and vilifies the youth of the State through traditional stereotypes of ‘nationalists’ versus ‘anti-nationals’ has pushed the youth further away from the system. The situation in Kashmir is far too complex for clichés, stereotypes and convenient generalizations”.
“We earnestly hope that this All Parties’ Delegation conveys the pain and grief it sees in Kashmir to the Central Government and succeeds in achieving a national consensus for a comprehensive, all-encompassing and sustained political engagement with all stakeholders – irrespective of their ideological leanings”.