By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani
There is a talk of the town in Azad Kashmir and in Pakistan that the world does not talk about Kashmir because India has a broad spread of market of interests to offer to various countries of the world. It may be so. But it is not so in real terms. We just want to sit back and take refuge behind this self-serving argument.
One can dismiss this fragile argument by the fact that a debate took place in the House of Commons in the British Parliament on 13 January on the “political situation in Kashmir”. The merits of this debate could be queried on the basis of statements made by around twelve Members of parliament which included the Chair and a Minister.
Our lack of input was floating on the surface of the debate. No member addressed the Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir as “Indian Occupied”, while as Barry Gardiner MP from (Brent North) (Lab) referred to Azad Kashmir as “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” and more so called it “a satrapy”. He quoted Delhi based The South Asia Terrorism Portal and said “that of the 42 identified terrorist training camps located in Pakistan, 21 were located in Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.” No Member of Parliament seemingly on our side, was able to counter this allegation with a reference from the two UN Reports on Kashmir or from a myriad number of JKCHR documents released by the UN Secretary General as UN GA Documents on Kashmir.
Three members of parliament Sarah Owen (Luton North) (Lab), Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab) and Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con) used one each time the word “self-determination” in their statements. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai the Secretary General, of Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum has rightly said that “Self- determination is a principle that has been developed in philosophic thought and practice for the last several hundred years. It is an idea that has caused people throughout the world to rise up and shed the chains of oppressive governments at great risk.” If we dither even after the Indian action of 5 August 2019 in remaining loyal to our core issue of self-determination, we shall be rightly blamed for giving “all to India on a silver platter”.
There are other important areas of concern in regard to the preparedness and quality of the debate. It would not be helpful to identify those concerns here in this piece. There was a debate and India could not run away from it. Credit goes to Sarah Owen MP (Luton North) (Lab) for introducing the debate. The only irritation for India would have been the number of speakers and the three-time reference to self-determination. If one compares the content and quality of all other ten members with the content and quality of remarks made by Barry Gardiner MP on Azad Kashmir, we do seem to have performed very poorly.
There are a number of reasons for this. The first and foremost is our non-seriousness in managing the case. It has not been managed as required under the Constitution Act 1970 and Act 1974 or as required under UNCIP Resolution. For example, we have an inter-mediate (10+) in Azad Kashmir who heads the Kashmir Liberation Cell as its Director General. It is obvious that dividends of such a careless appointment could not be different to what Barry Gardiner MP from (Brent North) (Lab) has said about Azad Kashmir as “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”.
The second category does not have the ability to work on the issues involved in the Kashmir case. Some even would not be able to spell the right of self-determination correctly. Those who support them in any manner in Azad Kashmir or in Pakistan in fact sin against the people and habitat of Kashmir. India would like to have many of these sinners.
We are allowing India time and opportunity to wear us out and defeat us on our own turf. India tested our alertness in 2004. It put up a Delhi-based NGO ‘We the Citizens’ and later a few more petitions were filed in the Supreme Court of India seeking to scrap the provisions of Article 35A. This Article was added to the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order. It accords special rights and privileges to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and denies property rights, jobs, voting rights and scholarships to non-residents of the state. Neither the Government of Srinagar nor the Kashmiri leaders over there, nor the Government of Muzaffarabad or the Kashmiri leaders here or the Government of Pakistan raised an eyebrow against the sinister move.
The matter is still pending in the Supreme Court of India and it does not have the courage to advise against a protection available to the People of Jammu and Kashmir as State Subjects for the last 94 years from 20 April 1927. On 2 August 2018members of the Kashmiri Pandit and Sikh communities joined other groups from the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL)in protest against the petition filed in the Supreme Court and to defend Article 35A. All expressed utmost shock and surprise that the Indian Supreme Court admitted the petition challenging Article 35A, as all earlier such petitions had been rejected or rendered invalid by the court.
Government of Indian has lied in passing its notification of 28 February 2019. It states that “The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of Jammu and Kashmir Government regarding amendment to the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) order, 1954 by way of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Amendment Order 2019”. The Assembly was dissolved on 21 November 2018 and there was no elected Government in place in February 2019. The administration was run directly from Delhi by an appointee of the President of India. We failed to move into an action from 2018 until February 2019 and through to 5 August 2019.
We should have pulled down the heavens and roof of the United Nations, alerted our friends all over the world, pointing out that the notification on 35A was a serious violation of UN Resolutions on Kashmir, a violation of the agreement between Government of India with the people of Kashmir and a violation of the agreements between India and Pakistan. No single Member of Parliament during the debate on 13 January 2021 pointed out that it was a breach of the assurance given by Prime Minister of India to the Prime Minister of Britain on 26 October 1947.
The flaws embedded in our work culture could not be described here. Except that if we do not correct ourselves, we may have a series of disappointments coming our way. It is never too late to defend the right of self-determination and UN jurisprudence on Kashmir. We need to educate ourselves and our friends at home and abroad that there is a need to challenge India on her statement made at the 533rd Meeting of Security Council held on 01 March 1951, stating that “There is a tendency in certain quarters to assume that this is just a dispute between India and Pakistan, and that the views of the lawful government of Kashmir need not be considered. This is a mistaken assumption. As I have already said, the authority of the Government of India over the Government of Kashmir is limited to certain subjects; outside that sphere, it can only advise and cannot impose any decision.” India needs to be pulled out of her Wombat hole and duly reprimanded.
(The author is President of London based Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.)