PUCL Bulletin, Feb., 2001

From ceasefire to peace in J & K
Rajindar Sachar

It would be a pity if the laudable initiative taken by the Indian government to declare unilateral ceasefire during the month of Ramzaan is misunderstood, either as a sign of weakness by the militants, or, gets embroiled in a needles controversy by the political opponents on the grounds of having been taken without consultations with the,

The Union government is indeed to be blamed for dealing with Kashmir matters rather secretively. Kashmir is a national issue, and a satisfactory solution can only come about when all major political parties India sit together and hammer out a common solution. This will give a clear signal to both Pakistan and the militant organizations that no amount of cross border terrorism, or supporting of any secessionist movement inside the country, will be acceptable to Indians.

The recent killing by Pakistan based militants is definitely a setback. But at this crucial stage more patience needs to be sho0wn. It is matter of gratification that the prime minister has refused to withdraw the ceasefire decision. That is why the hesitant response of Hurriyat is somewhat disappointing. Their insistence on tripartite talks is self-defeating. My impression based on recent interaction with the Hurriyat was that they understood the necessity of Initially having bilateral talks with the Indian government without Pakistan's presence. The first stage of talks can only be between the Indian government, Hurriyat and other Kashmiri groups, if, ultimately, an acceptable solution is to be worked out than the Indian government must talk to the Pakistan government. The Hurriyat's current thinking is certainly not helpful in this regard.

Other than stating that the will of the people of J & K should prevail, Pakistan has never conceded that it will release the portions permanently incorporated in Pakistan, and those leased out to China, or to allow the option of independence for J & K.

Now that Hurriyat's Abdul Ghani Lone and some other Kashmiri leaders have had an opportunity to talk to Pakistan, they should share with the Indian public the response of the Pakistani government. The Hurriyat's continued silence over the permanent incorporation of Gilgit and Baluchistan, and ceding a portion of it to China, by Pakistan, is indeed intriguing.

Every party has to understand that for any government of Indian there is a constraint of an ultimate limit to which it can go and no further, namely - acceptance of LoC as an international boundary and agreeing to the pre-1953 status for the portion of J & K in India, with similar autonomy to both Ladakh and Jammu.

Any suggestions of an independent Kashmir, or an exercise in plebiscite, are fraught with serious consequences to the secular base of our country and are totally unacceptable. In this context, the advice given by Shahi Imam Bukhari of the Jama Masjid needs to be heeded by the Hurriyat leaders, namely, "that if Muslims here and in Kashmir take a stand, Pakistan will have to listen". He specifically warned, "secession to Pakistan was an option that was totally unacceptable". Pakistan can have no say or any involvement at this stage. And thereafter also, the only crucial question would be whether Pakistan is willing to convert, the Line of Control into the international border. After all, India unofficially has claimed it.

The RSS must declare unequivocally that there would be no trifurcation of J & K, along the lines of 1950 Dixon plan, and now resurrected by the Kashmir Study Group under US patronage. The BJP similarly must reassure the people that there will be no efforts to amend Article 370, an article I think is like a basic feature of the Indian Constitution and, therefore, not amendable. Needless to add, all human rights violations must end. in fact, persons found blameworthy by the Justice Pandian Commission must be tired immediately to ensure justice.

Hurriyat leaders owe it to the humanitarian message of the Holy Prophet to work towards a solution. They must see that the mischievous designs of the Hizbul and the other Pakistani militants to not frustrate the opportunity for peace. Any breakdown of peace in J&K will only bring misery and pain for Kashmiris, as well as for the people of both India and Pakistan.

It a solution is worked out, fresh elections to the J&K Assembly under the supervision of a non-political body must be held. I do not expect Dr. Farooq Abdullah to be an obstacle. He has made a place for himself on the national canvass of India. He must allow J & K to be looked after by new democratically elected leaders.

The Indian government must immediately call a meeting of all political parties and work toward a consensus on the solution to the Kashmir imbroglio. That alone will make it possible for the various Kashmiri groups to appreciate the delicacy of the problem and for Pakistan to make up its mind.

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