August 3 is an important date in Kashmir history. On this day in 1944, the National Conference (NC) released the Naya Kashmir Document at Sopore.
The document stunned Maharaja Hari Singh. Though the full text was not immediately available, excerpts published in local dailies added to the party’s popularity, with people, by and large, welcoming its content.
A number of roadmaps have been released over the past two decades. These include the NC’s autonomy document, the PDP’s Self Rule formula, and Sajad Lone’s Achievable Nationhood concept. None of these have found takers in Jammu and Kashmir because they do not address the aspirations of the people. So far as autonomy is concerned, nobody wants it. People in Jammu hate it. They have been demanding ek vidhan, ek pradhan, ek nishan (one constitution, one president, and one national emblem).
Barring a few National Conference workers and some vested interests, nobody in Kashmir seems to be interested in autonomy, and people in Ladakh are averse to the very idea. They want azadi from what they call Kashmiri hegemony. They have their Hill Council, and are apparently satisfied with it, for the time being.
The Self Rule formula talks about opening up of traditional routes. Speaking at a seminar in Srinagar a few years ago, a Kashmir-born British citizen said that the term Self Rule had been coined with reference to tribal societies. “Fortunately, there are no tribals in Kashmir,’ he said. Other roadmaps make no mention of sovereignty.
Farooq Kathwari’s Joint Management Formula evoked ridicule from various quarters. A political analyst termed it as “simultaneous cohabitation with two wives in a single bed.” Musharraf’s Four Point Formula did have some response in Kashmir. People discussed it in seminars and debates, but people generally rejected it, and the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) published a detailed reply to the Formula. Some people, however, still perceive it as a “good beginning.”
The only roadmap that addresses the aspirations of the people is the NC’s Naya Kashmir Document in its original form, released and adopted by the Sher-e-Kashmir at a special function in Sopore on August 3, 1944, chaired by Sardar Budh Singh.
Contemporary Kashmiris hate the Sher-e-Kashmir for “gifting Kashmir to India” but, differences with him notwithstanding, the Naya Kashmir Document is a well-researched, well-written and a comprehensive document. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah must get credit for adopting it. He did not produce it. It was prepared by the Leftists’ lobby in India, and answers questions ranging from sovereignty to unemployment. While the employment package announced by the NC on Sheikh Abdullah’s birthday a few years ago seeks doles for the state’s unemployed youth, the Naya Kashmir Document talks of honour and dignity.
Unfortunately, the historic document was tampered with in 1975 when the Indira-Abdullah Accord was signed. Balraj Puri had been assigned the job of modifying it to suit New Delhi’s interests. Provisions of sovereignty, compulsory arms training and granting asylum to foreign nationals involved in freedom struggles were deleted. But provisions related to employment, women’s empowerment and the over-all development of the state were retained.
While sections 9, 10, 11 and 12 deal with the rights of senior citizens, women and children, section 11 makes mention of right to education:
“All citizens shall have the right to education. This right shall be ensured by universal compulsory elementary education, free of charge. In addition, a wide system of State scholarships shall be provided for poor students in the higher schools and universities. The mother-tongue shall be the medium of instruction. Free vocational technical and agronomic education shall be organized for adult workers in the fields and factories.”
“Women citizens shall be accorded equal rights with men in all fields of national life: economic, cultural, political, and in the State services. These rights shall be realized by affording women the right to work in every (field of) employment up equal terms and for equal wages with men. Women shall be ensured rest, social insurance and education equally with men. The law shall give special protection to the interests of mother and child. The provision of pregnancy leave with pay and the establishment of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens shall further secure these rights.”
There is no denying the fact that the document has “Leftist” tendencies, but it can be modified for the needs of present-day Kashmir. While other roadmaps nullify the importance of the United Nations resolutions, this document does not undermine them. UN resolutions talk of self-determination, but this document stands for sovereignty. This is exactly what the resistance camp wants. While some leaders in the camp are scared of seeking sovereignty, the original Naya Kashmir Document demands it in unambiguous terms.