I have always wondered about what the right to self determination means. According to the United Nations “All peoples have the rights of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” This statement raises more questions than answers. Can my neighbor claim his right to self determination and form his own country?
The rights to self determination like freedom, democracy or independence are concepts that will have different meanings and interpretations depending on who you ask. People in India are very familiar with the term. The Pakistani government and the separatist leaders in Kashmir remind us at every given opportunity that the people of Kashmir have a right to self-determination.
In a meeting All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that “Kashmir does not need a job or economic package but its struggle is for azaadi (freedom). And autonomy is not acceptable to us. The Kashmir problem either has to be addressed as per the UN resolution or in a phased manner one can grant people the right to self-determination”. This statement is interesting when you consider that according to most experts Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is a moderate!!
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as many of you know is India’s only Muslim majority state. Obviously this does not mean that there is nobody else there. Almost 40% of the people of J&K are Hindus and Buddhists. The Hindu and Buddhist population in Kashmir has declined since the 1980’s because of violence (many Hindu’s and Buddhist’s have been evicted by the militants). The militancy and insurgency in Kashmir is very much a Sunni Muslim led effort. The Shia Muslims and their leaders have been victims of these militants as well.
If all Kashmiris return to Kashmir and if the government of India gives them what they are demanding (right to self determination) then Kashmir is very likely to end up in the same mess that it is in today. The Hindu’s, Buddhists and many Shia Muslims will want to remain with India and the remaining population might want independence or be a part of Pakistan.
What people like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq want is not the right of self determination for the Kashmiris. What they really want is right of self determination for the Muslims in Kashmir and also the negation of the right of self determination for the non-Muslim community in Kashmir. You will also notice that this self determination lecture is only aimed at the Indian government. You will not hear this demand in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) or parts of Kashmir gifted to China by Pakistan. There are as many Pakistani troops in POK as there are Indian troops in J&K.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq further added “Peace will not return unless the government withdraws its troops, revokes armed forces special powers act, disturbed areas act, removes army and security camps and bunkers from civilian areas and releases all the prisoners unconditionally”. I disagree with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq completely. There are no Indian troops or bunkers or security camps in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Waziristan or Swat Valley. Yet Pakistanis are killing each other by the hundreds in these areas. Indian troops are needed in Kashmir not just to protect India’s strategic interests but also to preserve peace between the militant Kashmiri groups themselves.
What Kashmir needs are real leaders who understand the art of compromise and can get the best deal possible for their people given the circumstances. What Kashmir needs is a Nehru and not a Gandhi. Gandhi wanted British India to remain as is. It was a noble goal but not practical. Nehru understood that partition was inevitable. His negotiation skills and his relationship with the British ensured that a large part of British India remained with India.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves“ – Abraham Lincoln
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Category: Culture & Religion