WSF Karachi – about Kashmir – events on March 26, 2006

LET JAMMU AND KASHMIR DECIDE FOR ITSELF! By Bikash Sangraula – Gurjeet Singh and Taha Hassan come from two sides of the Line of Control that has scarred the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir for over 50 years now.

While their leaders and policymakers, in India and Pakistan respectively, are apparently engaged in a peace process that has had really nothing to show since it was initiated three years ago, both Singh and Hassan have no doubt that if the protracted problems in Jammu and Kashmir are to be solved, the solutions must come from within.

India and Pakistan have too many problems at home to afford to continue spending hundreds of billions to defend a territory that really does not belongs to them.

“We have widespread poverty, unemployment and many other problems in Pakistan,” says Hassan, a MBA student in Karachi, as he listed to a packed, lively discussion on the thorny issue of Kashmir at the KMC Sports Complex stadium Sunday, easily among the best attended sessions here. “It is difficult to understand why the government’s attention is totally focused on disputes that are not there.”

A series of meetings at WSF Karachi has come up with a clear message for Jammu and Kashmir: Your people have the right to self-determination. No one – India, Pakistan, or any third party – has the right to decide what is good for your people.

Singh, who hails from Jharkhand, India, says that peace in the territory requires the recognition of Jammu and Kashmir as an independent state between India and Pakistan. “There has been too much bad politics in the territory. Everyone has lost in Jammu and Kashmir. Let it exist as an independent, buffer state,” Singh says.

Over the years, the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, both India-controlled and Pakistan- controlled, has seen one of the most serious rights violations in the world. Several parts of the territory face draconian laws, including the Disturbed Area Act and Public Security Act. South Asian nuclear powers India and Pakistan continue to remain on high alert in their respective areas of control.

Every meeting between top leaders from India and Pakistan end with a “genuine pledge” to a “peace process”, yet the slightest aggression could easily escalate into a full-fledged war.

Leaders from Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) say that the 15 million people of the territory are mute spectators to a “peace process” that does not exist. “In Jammu and Kashmir, we do not see any reflection of any peace process between India and Pakistan,” says JKLF leader Farooq Siddiqui. “We are supposed to support a peace process that is not there.”

While leaders and activists from JKLF see WSF Karachi as a place to assert the right of the people on their territory, they also warn that it is not for intellectuals to solve such problems.

“I don’t believe intellectuals can bring any change,” said Yaseen Malik, chairman of the non-violent faction of JKLF. Malik also issued a warning to WSF: “WSF is gradually distancing itself from the real agents of change. If the forum continues in this path, it will soon become a toothless tiger.”

Malik, who left Amanullah Khan’s JKLF in 1995 after disagreeing with the use of violent methods, has remained an advocate of non-violent movement ever since. He has collected 1.5 million signatures in Kashmir Valley to convince India and Pakistan that the Kashmiris should be recognised as actors in any resolution to the problems facing Jammu and Kashmir.

Asked in another discussion why social movements in Pakistan are not in contact with the movements in Kashmir, Malik blamed the governments of India and Pakistan for not facilitating the link. “It is important to remember that Kashmir is an integral part of the Indo-Pak friendship. Such a link needs to be facilitated. We are almost eighty five percent convinced about our right of self-determination. Only fifteen percent want to be annexed to Pakistan,” he said. “But we can accommodate the concerns of both India and Pakistan.”

“We are not fighting India or Pakistan,” stressed Malik yesterday. “We are fighting a state that continues to disagree that it belongs to us.” (With additional report by Sumera Naqvi).

more articles about the WSF:

Women unsafe in occupied Iraq;

A break from life in the streets;

When men err, women pay.

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