Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Jul 04, 2003
Government - Politics
`Indo-Pak administration of Kashmir can be a solution' Prof. Basheer Ahmed Dabla, Head, Department of Social Sciences, Kashmir University
recently in Srinagar
It looks as though the long years of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir are about to end, and the Kashmir problem is going to be resolved, says the Head of the Department of Social Sciences in the Kashmir University, Prof. Basheer Ahmed Dabla.
In an interview to Business Line, he said one solution could be the joint administration of both parts of Kashmir by India and Pakistan.
Excerpts from the interview:
How do you read the present situation in Kashmir vis-a-vis the "healing touch" promised by the J&K Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed?
You yourself can see things are much better here, people are out on the roads till late in the evening and the tourists have returned to Kashmir. There are folk songs and cartoons of Dr Farooq Abdullah asking the tourists why they preferred Mufti Sayeed to him!
But the relaxed atmosphere should not be taken in isolation. What has helped to ease the tension is the kind of statements from sub-continental leaders.
So the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Srinagar and his offer of a dialogue with Pakistan have helped?
Oh yes, when somebody is waiting for something and it comes, that brings satisfaction. But you cannot still say the situation is 100 per cent all right. Compared to Dr Farooq's era, things are definitely better, but human rights violations continue, particularly in the villages.
Recently, we were invited by the military to participate in a conference on peace initiatives in which a person involved in Sri Lanka's peace process was participating. This shows that the orientation has changed. The army inviting university professors to a conference on peace initiative is a change indeed. Not only tourists, but also parliamentarians, cinema actors, and other are now visiting Kashmir.
What has the Mufti Government done to improve things?
More than actually doing anything in concrete terms, the Government has worked on the mental level. People feel there is a change in governance. It was felt that Dr Farooq Abdullah was not taking the people seriously nor were the people taking him seriously! Before going to Delhi, he would curse Pakistan... to make the people happy there!
So, at long last, do you see light at the end of the tunnel in resolving the Jammu and Kashmir problem?
The realistic and durable solution to Kashmir requires some basic changes involving the Constitutions of both India and Pakistan. That stage has come. In fact, both the Prime Minister and his deputy are talking about compromise and flexibility on Kashmir, and Pakistan says we are ready for a dialogue. This shows the leaders on both the sides are ready.
What do you mean by "basic changes in the two Constitutions"?
I mean we have come to a state when it looks as though something serious is about to happen... a change in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution or something like that. The basic thing is the peace initiative, confidence-building and development of the people of J&K.
If the leaders of both India and Pakistan can talk like this, phir kuch bhi ho sakta hei (anything can happen). Two months ago, you could not even imagine Kashmir can be like this. Within two to three weeks, everything has changed in Valley. At least, the leaders of India and Pakistan have stopped cursing each other and are taking each other's names respectfully!
Now the stage should come when they should develop confidence to resolve this issue. Mr Vajpayee is better equipped for that; he has shown that he is more serious and mature. We Kashmiris are in a position to evaluate the personalities of both the Indian and Pakistani leaders, because we have suffered at the hands of both!
What kind of changes do you want in Article 370?
I feel the basic thing is to convince the Kashmiris that their identity will be safe in the next political framework, and that they will not be made slaves or colonised... mentally they should be satisfied and not feel that they are being subjugated to one or the other power.
In concrete terms, what do you see as a possible solution?
Both the countries could decide to make this a UN territory for 15-20 years and then have a referendum. Such an idea is held by many people here, including the JKLF. There is also backdoor diplomacy taking place in which many solutions can emerge.
But do you think India would be ready to take such a step?
Personally, I feel that if Mr Vajpayee, along with Mr Advani, cannot resolve this problem, then nobody can. A couple of decades ago, a US Ambassador to India had remarked that it is only the BJP who can resolve the Kashmir problem. It is only the BJP that can convince the people that a resolution of the Kashmir problem is in the larger interest of the Indian nation and economy.
So that means India will have to let go of Kashmir?
No, it is not that kind of a situation. Even Pakistan seems mentally ready for a solution where there can be some kind of joint administration of both the Kashmirs by India and Pakistan.
So where does UN come into the picture?
That is if both do not agree to such a joint administration. Tau Bush ka danda padenga (then Bush will wield the stick.)
You said UN?
When one says UN, one means US. Sheikh Abdullah had suggested this before... that while each country kept subjects such as Defence, external affairs and communications, departments such as local administration education, home, and so on, could be governed locally. In fact, Kashmir has neither the infrastructure nor the resources to be totally independent; we have to depend on both the countries. So in the larger interest of Kashmiris, as also in the interest of people of both the countries, this problem has to be resolved so that Indo-Pak relations can improve.
The Kashmir problem has been made an instrument of conflict. But now the same issue should be made an instrument of peace ad confidence between the two countries.
So the time is ripe?
It should have come much earlier. But better late than never. Both the countries have suffered for long years, but the Kashmiris have suffered tremendously. You will find in each family either one person dead, or one injured or handicapped or missing, women dishonoured and elder people humiliated.
What kind of time frame do you see?
With the US standing with a danda there...
So do you think even now there is US pressure?
Whom are we kidding? Of course... without US pressure do you think Advani saheb can make such statements? But this time, the Indian leadership is acting reasonably. As I said, only the BJP can resolve Kashmir. The Congress has lost its pan India character. This is not Indira or Nehru's Congress. BJP is the most nationalist or chauvinist party and can convince majority of the people. If it says that the money we spent on Kashmir in the last five years could have gone into development and a good percentage of the population would have risen above poverty line, the people will believe them. And only the BJP can tackle (VHP General Secretary Praveen) Togadia, not the Congress.
But the Hurriyat continues to be defiant and stands in the way of resolution of this issue. Your comments.
The Hurriyat has its own compulsions. If the Kashmir problem gets solved yaha par bandook aur militancy khatam hogi (the gun and the militancy will end here). After all, they have taken at least one youth from each house in the name of freedom. What answer will they give to those families? If they say we are ready for a compromise, they will be lynched on the roads. They have taken our sons for this struggle, while sending their own to different parts of India and the world for quality or professional or technical education.
But when it comes to the common man, unka bachcha bandook lekey ab bhi khada hei (his son is left holding the gun even now). So he will not leave them. He is not taking orders from India or Pakistan... his own self-respect or identity is telling him about the Hurriyat's double-standards. That is the problem as far as the Hurriyat is concerned.
So the future looks hopeful to you?
There is certainly a ray of hope. The problem is that while a political solution might be found, I am worried that 14 years of insurgency, which has brought this gun culture into Jammu and Kashmir... what will we do with that. The gun has been ingrained in our social fabric. Look at what is happening in Afghanistan. That is worrying.
The Ayodhya issue too seems to moving towards a resolution. If both a mosque and temple can be built, will that help ease tensions here?
A solution to the Ayodhya problem will be in the interest of both the communities, and inter-community relationship will improve. Religious leaders are using the Babri masjid issue for anti-India propaganda not only here but throughout the world. That will stop.
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