A response to Roy Hattersley’s article ‘Let Kashmir decide its own future’ published in the Guardian on November 19, 2001
[Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,597341,00.html]
By Nakul Shenoy
It has been 53 years since independence was granted to India and Pakistan, and undoubtedly the biggest thorn in the co-existence of these sister nations is the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Over the last half century, umpteen articles and statements have been issued on the question of the promised plebiscite in Kashmir, to “settle once and for all” the issue of Kashmir.
Roy Hattersley too joined the ranks of many a western journalists when he argued the cause of the Kashmiris, in the context of the alleged atrocities of the Indian armed forces in “Occupied Pakistan”.
Being an Indian, it took me a couple of moments to realise that Hattersley was in fact referring to the part of Kashmir that is still held by India, what we refer to as the state of Jammu and Kashmir. That Jammu and Kashmir where the state legislature was bombed a month back, by Pakistani-sponsored terrorists (if one believes the Indian version of the story).
I presume that the “atrocities” Hattersley mentions refer to the anti-terrorist operations of the Indian armed forces, who have been engaged in an operation of sorts right from 1947, when India and Pakistan went to war for the first time.
Officially we (India and Pakistan) have been to war four times, counting Kargil, but the Indian Army has been engaged in combat at the border every single day for the last 53 years.
This Pakistan-sponsored proxy-war (as the Indian media puts it) has left more than 50,000 of the local population dead, and left many more displaced with many Kashmiris fleeing to other parts of the country (India) and abroad, in search of their fundamental right – the right to live, in peace.
Yes. There is a need for a plebiscite, the promised opportunity for the Kashmiris to assert their nationality. This is a fact being harped upon time and again by many journalists and human right activists. But who will vote in this plebiscite, and how?
Is it really possible that the fate of Kashmir could be decided by the indigenous Kashmiris? Will all those Kashmiris who have emigrated to other parts of the country (India) and the world — especially the Kashmiri pandits — be able to voice their choice of nationality without fear? Will the foreign mercenaries engaged in terrorist and anti-national activities in the Indian nation allow the people of Kashmir to exercise their right?
No, let’s not bring in the UN into this. We have recently failed to understand the difference between the UN and the US. America will do what serves American interests best, and unfortunately the same seems to hold true for Britain. The current “US war on Terrorism” is the best example, where the USA sees the roots of terrorism only in Afghanistan, and not in Pakistan – it’s ally.
Hattersley assumes (wrongly, in my opinion) that the current pre-dominantly Muslim population of Kashmir will want to be a part of Pakistan. This deduction fails me. While this myth could also have dissuaded the Indian government from holding the plebiscite, the real reason that has contributed to its eternal postponement is the practicality of a free and fair election process.
It is an accepted fact among the learned and thinking populace of India that our government has not been just and right to the Kashmiris. But then, what would be considered just, and what would be right?
Would leaving those people of Kashmir — who have been courageous enough to stay back in their homeland — to their fate, be considered just? Would calling back the Indian army from its anti-terrorism operations and allow the so-called mujahideen (most of whom are foreign mercenaries) make a free run in the land of Kashmir, be considered right?
Hattersley only provides and highlights the Pakistani-version of the story, which he erroneously portrays as the Kashmiri-story, while negating the Indian perspective as “propaganda”.
He could give a thought to some of the views expressed in http://www.armyinkashmir.org/ – a site by the Indian Army, which professes to portray “The Truth about Kashmir.”
Yes, this could all be propaganda, as could the views being expressed at http://www.armyinkashmir.net/ – a site that claims to portray “The Truth about the Indian Army’s Brutalities in Jammu and Kashmir”.
The Truth lies somewhere in between, a truth which only the Kashmiris know and believe. Hattersley, in his quest for truth, could make a start by weighing for himself both sides of the story.
Some useful links that could help understand the Kashmir problem better:
http://www.flonnet.com/fl1717/17170290.htm – Hurriyat Conference leaders speak (Frontline, September 01, 2001)
http://www.idsa-india.org/an-oct8-8.html – A paper on Indo-Pak Conflict and the Role of External Powers
http://www.expressindia.com/kashmir – Kashmir Coverage by the Indian Express
Mailed to the Guardian at email@example.com on November 21, 2001