Pakistan prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s statement, that independence of Kashmir has no takers on ground and it’s subsequent espousal by the Hurriyat, reflects the dual policy of the country which is in utter disregard to the unfulfilled promises and the popular sentiment in the Valley.
By Rayees Masroor
The question of fulfilling the aspirations of Kashmiris is as old as you want it to be, but one that is alive today, six decades after the decolonisation of the Indian sub-continent which left Kashmir divided between India and Pakistan, clearly suggesting that Kashmiris themselves have not even been asked or offered a credible mechanism to determine their collective will. The most painful part of the story is that even after such a long and eventful history the leadership of Pakistan and even the anti-India Kashmiri leadership is yet to come up with a consistent stand on Kashmir.
The recent statement of the Pakistan Prime Minister came as a big surprise to many political circles and created turbulence among the masses here in Kashmir but the crude reality is that Pakistan leaders have never been so consistent with their Kashmir policy. The flip flop on Kashmir policy by Pakistan is felt and clearly reflected in the Hurriyat stand which, like Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, has been wavering and eventually letting the poor Kashmiris down. Interestingly, the Pakistan PM’s Kashmir statement where he was quoted as dismissing the independence option for Kashmir was followed by the statement of tallest and the veteran leader of the Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Geelani and even Ashraf Sehrai where they favoured the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan, thereby reinforcing Mr. Khakhani’s statement .
The fact is that since the partition of the Indian subcontinent, the aspiration has not remained unchanged. Immediately after the decolonisation and right upto late 1980’s, the yearning for freedom in Kashmir meant merger with Pakistan. However, a significant, educated political class has always espoused and advocated an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir comprising both the territories under Indian and Pakistan control. Such statements from the Pakistan and the popular leaders like Syed Ali Geelani and Ashraf Sehrai are in utter disregard to the popular sentiment on the ground in Kashmir.
Its not the first time that such a mean statement has come from across the border. Many experts believe that General Mushraff during his tenure showed considerable flexibility towards India vis a vis Kashmir, thereby disregarding the popular sentiment in Kashmir. The collective tragedy of the Kashmiris has been the scepticism they have been experiencing from both the rival nations. Just before the armed struggle in Kashmir and even during the first two decades of the struggle, many elderly people would express their desire for a Pakistani flag to be hoisted on their gravesend once merger with the Pakistan is done but once both the countries became nuclear powers and gained more military power, such a dream became a distant reality and incidentally after the 9/11 Pakistan was hit by a severe wave of terrorism and it created a sense of insecurity among the modern educated Kashmiri youth.
If one turns back the pages of history to go through the much talked UN resolutions, it would be easier to put the things in perspective. The first such resolution passed on 13 July 1948 apart from offering the option of acceding to either India or Pakistan, implied the possibility of an independent state of Kashmir by using the phrase ‘future status’ of Kashmir. The second resolution of 5 Jan.1949 limited the option of independence by changing the draft of the resolution. However these resolutions turned out to be an unworn credo as they were never implemented, anyways.
Since then, a lot of water has flown and a realistic approach has to be adopted to find any resolution to this long pending dispute. There has also been a misperception being propagated that Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of the ‘Two Nation theory’ and even some leaders have been publically making statements in this regard merely on the basis of their figment of imagination as the historical facts are quite different. The last viceroy to India, Lord Mountbattten, in his speech to chamber of Princes made on 25 June 1947 said, ‘the Indian independent act releases the states from all their obligations to the Crown. The states will have complete freedom – technically and legally they became independent’. After the lapse of paramountancy, all the states which didn’t accede to either India or Pakistan, became independent. Also, the Maharaja of Kashmir didn’t accede to any country before the lapse of paramountancy and he became an independent ruler. The Indian claim to Kashmir is also controversial and based on unpopular accession to India made by the Maharaja on 26 Oct. 1947. Immediately after the accession, the PM Nehru said, ‘We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people, that pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the whole world, we will not and can’t back out of it’. On another occasion on 16 June 1948, Nehru said, “if after a plebiscite people of Kashmir said we don’t want to be with India, we are committed to accept it”
All these facts suggests that the ‘Two Nation’ theory had nothing to do with the destiny of the people of Kashmir and the political future of the state is yet to be determined in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiris. In fact the Kashmiri aspirations have been undermined and ignored despite popular resistance and many uprisings. According to a survey conducted by Reuters, 90% people wanted independence while as only 3% people aspire to be part of Pakistan. Subsequent surveys and polls conducted by different agencies very much reflected that an overwhelming majority of the people are in favour of freedom. All these facts are an eye opener for those who are advocating for either India or Pakistan. Kashmiris are going through an important phase of their history. As such, the joint resistance movement and especially the senior Hurriyat leaders should restrain themselves from making unnecessary statements that are in utter disregard to the popular sentiment on the ground. At the same time, one can only hope that a better sense prevails across the border to ensure some consistency vis-a-vis Kashmir.
The author lives in Tarathpora Kupwara and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.