Written By: Tahir Mehmood
Kashmiris in IOK are suffering grievously;
the world must come forward and help us rescue them; it is our collective responsibility;
not just of Pakistan
and the people
Sardar Masood Khan
President Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Q: Where exactly do we stand at this point in our struggle for achieving right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir?
Ans: The struggle for the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir goes on unabated, but any process for its realization, bilateral or multilateral, is stalled because of India's obdurate opposition. Kashmiris are right now facing an existential challenge; how to put an end to killings and mass blindings unleashed by Indian security forces since July 8, 2016. An estimated unarmed 12.5 million Kashmiris are pitted against 700,000 Indian occupation troops which are armed to the teeth. Out of which, some 400,000 troops terrorize, kill, maim and torture the 7 million residents of the Valley of Kashmir. Mass graves of thousands have been discovered; thousands have been victims of enforced disappearances; 'half widows', mothers and families wait forever for those who have "disappeared". The UN and international community have, practically, washed their hands off the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan extends moral, diplomatic and political support to the Kashmiris, but for their physical self-defence they are on their own. This is one of the biggest calamities of our times.
Q: No matter what means are used by the oppressors, history tells us that freedom movements for individual and collective rights have always won. Under the historical framework, are the recent brutalities by India a part of self-defeating mechanism?
Ans: Yes, freedom movements have always succeeded but at a huge cost. Kashmiris are paying that cost with their blood and honour. Imperialists coerce and brutalize subjugated nations to assimilate and exploit them. India is doing precisely that. Using colonial tactics, it is making the price of freedom so prohibitive that, they hope, Kashmiris would be terrorized into submission; dissent would be silenced; and the flame of liberty would be extinguished forever. And yes, despite India's killings and depredations, the flame of freedom burns to its full in Kashmir. For the past seven decades, in order to make IOK part of India's body politic, Delhi has used brute military force to crush the will of the Kashmiris, tried to win them over through blandishments for economic development, nurtured and propped up local political parties sympathetic to India, and demonized Kashmiris as terrorists being supported by Pakistan. As if killing Kashmiris was not enough for Indians, they have been targeting and killing scores of civilians and soldiers on our side of the Line of Control (LOC), too.
Nothing has worked for India. All its plots and machinations have failed, but that has not meant any reduction in the pain and suffering of the Kashmiris. In fact, with each coming year, Indian occupation forces are using more lethal methods and weaponry to escalate state terrorism in Kashmir. India's terror machine in IOK will not dissolve on its own. We need urgent intercession to put an end to Indian acts of genocide and crimes against humanity in Kashmir. Left to its diabolical devices, India's barbarity will become more vicious and will continue in perpetuity. Intercession is needed.
Q: Usually Kashmir Dispute is seen through the prism of so-called Instrument of Accession with India by Maharaja Hari Singh and a revolt by Kashmiris; whereas the struggle for fundamental rights of Kashmiris is much older and deeper. The original sin is attributed to the British who sold it off to the Sikh Maharaja that later Hindu leadership conspired and annexed at partition in 1947?
Ans: Kashmiris were treated as chattel by the British; they are still being treated as colonial subjects by India. The dark night of the people of IOK under foreign occupation and alien domination has become darker. Historically, both – Britain and India – are guilty of inflicting injustice on a peaceful and proud nation.
Q: Historians like Alastair Lamb have questioned the legitimacy of the Instrument of Accession as before it became effectual, the Indian forces had landed on Srinagar Airport on October 27, 1947 Does that make them invaders outrightly?
• Despite India's killings and depredations, the flame of freedom burns to its full in Kashmir.
• With each coming year, Indian occupation forces are using more lethal methods and weaponry to escalate state terrorism in Kashmir.
• Left to its diabolical devices, India's barbarity will become more vicious and will continue in perpetuity. Intercession is needed.
• One cannot trust India when it comes to Kashmir.
• Historically, both – Britain and India – are guilty of inflicting injustice on a peaceful and proud nation.
• India is guilty of illegal occupation of Srinagar and later of the Valley of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh on October 27, 1947.
• The blame that Pakistan did not withdraw the troops first as per UNSC resolutions and thus did not initiate the Plebiscite process is factually incorrect; historically a misnomer.
• India made a sinister plan to attack Azad Kashmir and occupy it after withdrawal of Pakistani troops in 1950s.v
• Indian Deep State is following the policy of ‘continuous encroachment’ towards Kashmir.
• Simla Agreement does not reduce the Kashmir dispute to a bilateral issue.
• Despite all machinations, India has not succeeded in integrating Kashmir into India.
• September 11 incident has been exploited by India. The Kashmiris have the right to defend themselves.
• Western powers see profit and strategic benefits in their relationship with India.
• No matter what move or counter-move Indian occupation forces make, Kashmiris have vowed to continue their struggle. They will prevail.
Ans: Alastair Lamb's meticulous research is seminal on this question. He has established authoritatively, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the so-called Instrument of Accession is a fake document and therefore, by corollary, India is guilty of illegal occupation of Srinagar and later of the Valley of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh on October 27, 1947. This document has never been communicated to Pakistan or to the UN; nor its original or a satisfactory copy has been produced. The Maharajah could not have signed that document on October 26, 1947, as claimed by India, because on that day he was travelling between Jammu and Srinagar. All evidence points to the fact the Maharajah did not sign the documents and the Indian occupation forces landed in Srinagar on October 27 to beef up some Indian troops which had already secured the airport in mid-October. The irony is that India is not amenable to such fine legal points which it expunged from its lingo early on and has always owned its forcible entry into IOK to establish its illicit writ. It makes no bones about it and flaunts the thin veneer of its (il) legitimacy in Kashmir.
Q: How do you see Gandhi and Nehru’s role in genesis and perpetuation of this problem?
Ans: Gandhi very strongly advocated for a united India and his pre-Partition stance towards Kashmir falls in the same category. After Partition, in all fairness, Gandhi once said in one of his prayer meetings, "If the people of Kashmir are in favour of Pakistan, no power on earth can stop them from doing so... they should be left free to decide for themselves..." But Nehru is a different story. He made promises to hold the plebiscite to ascertain the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and he did agree to implement UN Security Council resolutions; and then he reneged on his promises. This kind of duplicity and dissimulation permeates India’s foreign policy. You can't trust them when it comes to Kashmir. The world knows that Kashmir does not belong to India; and Indians know that too because Kashmiri men, women and children hold a plebiscite every day to say ‘GO INDIA, GO BACK, LEAVE OUR KASHMIR’.
Q: Few scholars, particularly Indian and Western scholars, blame Pakistan for not withdrawing troops after the UN Resolutions in 1950s and thus failing to create the right conditions for the Plebiscite?
Ans: This is not true. One needs to read Security Council Resolution 98 of December 30, 1952 that provided that 3000 to 6000 Pakistani troops would remain on the Pakistani side (Azad Kashmir) and 12,000 to 18,000 on the Indian side (IOK) to pave the way for the holding of a UN-supervised plebiscite. Disagreement arose when India demanded that Pakistan should withdraw its forces first, whereas Pakistan insisted that this be done simultaneously. Pakistan saw through India's sinister plan in 1950s: to make Pakistan vacate Azad Kashmir so that it could attack and occupy it later. Again this is a fine point and disingenuous stance by Delhi about the implementation of the UN resolutions, because India had already started underhand, specious and illegal political and constitutional processes to integrate IOK into the Indian Union. In July 1952, Sheikh Abdullah signed Delhi Agreement with India to establish Centre-State relationship and to attain an "autonomous status" for the State. The real objective was to annex the occupied territory. In November that year, the so-called Constituent Assembly (the one rejected by the UN Security Council as being a substitute for the plebiscite) passed a resolution to formally abolish the Maharajah's rule and replace it with Sadar-i-Riyasat. All of this was happening in 1952. Where was India's intent or action to withdraw its troops?
Q: Since 1947 Indian policies towards Kashmir follow a pattern of ‘continuous encroachment’. What next moves do you expect from Indian Deep State which has followed this policy of encroachment irrespective of any political government in New Delhi?
Ans: After the assumption of office, the BJP Government has taken a series of steps to accelerate the pace for the permanent annexation of the IOK into the Indian Union. Its main objective is to scuttle the special status given grudgingly to IOK, change the demography of the occupied territory and further squeeze the space for Kashmiris. It has encouraged and orchestrated steps to abolish Article 35 (A) of the Indian Constitution, an offshoot of Article 370, that gives special rights and privileges to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir in regard to employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlement in the state and scholarships. The BJP, backed by the Hindu extremist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is also taking incremental steps and preparing the ground for the repeal of Article 370 itself; and this was in fact its stand during the 2014 elections. Right from the beginning this article was all but a thin veneer to "legalize" India's occupation of the territory and with extensions of Indian legislation to IOK it has been all but eviscerated. In addition, the 2002 SARFAESI
(Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest) Act is being imposed on IOK for seizure, auction and sale of the mortgaged immovable properties to non-Kashmiris. In yet another "encroachment" on the rights of the Kashmiris, nativity certificates are being issued to the so-called West Pakistan refugees to increase the population of Non-Kashmiris in the IOK. Illegal settlements for ex-Army personnel and Pandits, on the pattern of Israeli settlements, are being built. Above all, through electoral maneuvers, the BJP is elbowing out even pro-India Kashmiri, but essentially Muslim, political parties – the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party – to dominate the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly so as to "legitimize" all these steps.
Q: Indians often tell the world that after Simla Agreement in 1972, Kashmir is a bilateral issue between the two countries. What are your views on this Indian claim?
Ans: The Kashmir issue never was and will never be a bilateral issue; it is a trilateral issue involving Pakistan, India and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite repeated misinterpretations by India, the Simla Agreement does not reduce the Kashmir dispute to a bilateral issue. Nowhere does the treaty say or imply that. Article 1(i) of the agreement invokes the principles and purposes of the UN Charter; Article 1(ii) states that the two countries would settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them; Article 4(2) highlights the recognized positions of both sides; and Article 6 talks about the final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir. I think the Ceasefire Line in Jammu and Kashmir should not have been called the Line of Control; that was a mistake. That said, the Indian claim to the Indian Occupied Kashmir is not recognized in the agreement. Most importantly, the agreement does not overrule the rights of the Kashmiris or override the application of the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir and international law upholding the right to self-determination. A reference to the UN, though not stated explicitly in the agreement, remains intact.
The real harm has not been done by the Simla Agreement but by the elusive bilateral dialogue process. While Pakistan sincerely tried to pursue this path, India has used it to (a) reduce the core issue of Kashmir to one of the eight or ten agenda items; and (b) acquire a veto over the commencement and timetable of the dialogue. India would scuttle the process on the slightest pretext and push Pakistan to a position of begging for dialogue. Talks on Kashmir, if they ever start, India tells Pakistan there will be no dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir because it is an integral part of India; and the only thing the two sides can talk about is terrorism. India used these tactics to cause inordinate delays in the possible resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute so that the status quo in Kashmir gets legitimacy. Despite all such machinations, India has not succeeded in integrating Kashmir into India.
Q: How much has September 11 affected Kashmir Freedom Movement in its claims for legitimacy?
Ans: The stark irony is that Indian Army, one of the largest and most equipped armies of the world, has waged a full throttle, ferocious war against the people of IOK, the most unarmed people in the world. Indian Army is killing non-combatant civilians, who are demanding their freedom from Indian subjugation and their right to self-determination. Indians are calling this demand terrorism. Pakistan and people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir are extending their moral, diplomatic and political support to the people of Kashmir. The Kashmiris have the right to defend themselves. If the most powerful nations on earth have the right to defend themselves according to the UN Charter, why is it being denied to the people of Kashmir? To allow India to persevere in its carnage? One thing is clear: the struggle for freedom and self-determination, such as that of Kashmiris, is not terrorism.
Q: Where do you see the UN, USA and the international community supporting the cause of Kashmiris and taking it to the logical point of exercising the Right to Self-determination?
Ans: The bitter truth is that right now Kashmir is not on the radar screen of the global powers or even the United Nations. This does not mean we will be discouraged or disheartened. We will continue to knock on their doors until we get their attention. Western powers see profit and strategic benefits in their relationship with India. I call it rank mercantilism and misplaced strategic alignments. But let's not get into that. We are confident that our message will resonate in world capitals and like other peoples of the world, the Kashmiris too would get their rights. President Trump, the newly elected President of the U.S., has hinted that he would like to play a role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute; and the new UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has given indications that he would use his good offices. So let's not lose hope. The world order is in flux and we hope that the emerging global order will address the suppression of people under foreign occupation and alien domination, such as in Kashmir.
Q: India is implementing demographic changes by New Hindu Settlements (NHS) in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) particularly in Muslim majority areas. Is any role being played by the UN as seen in case of Jewish Settlements by Israel?
Ans: The Palestinians got that break in the UN Security Council after a long time. And that victory appears to be evanescent because the new U.S. Administration has resolved to reverse this decision. Israel has become even more defiant. This teaches us one lesson; we should be resilient. We should continue to send communications to the UN Security Council, the Secretary General, and the Human Rights Council about these illegal settlements that are altering the character of the state that is yet to decide its political future. We, the people of Azad Kashmir, IOK and, above all, Pakistan should be the primary custodians of the parameters for the UN resolutions on Kashmir.
Q: How do you view the ongoing indigenous struggle in IOK and Indian counter-moves?
Ans: No matter what moves or counter-moves Indian occupation forces make, Kashmiris have vowed to continue their struggle. They will prevail.
Q: What basic steps would you recommend towards the resolution of this historic issue which has the potential to become a nuclear flash point?
Ans: Here are the eleven points:
(1) Hold India accountable for its atrocities at all international forums.
(2) Revive the international dimension of the Kashmir dispute and pursue your case with full vigour.
(3) Do not abandon the path of engagement with India despite its obduracy; and maintain your moral high ground on a peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute through diplomacy even if this track seems unproductive in the short-term.
(4) Continue to develop Pakistan's nuclear and conventional capability.
(5) Continue to invest in strategic restraint and responsibility.
(6) Consolidate the strengths of your diaspora community, especially in North America and Europe.
(7) Use the tools of communication, including the traditional and modern media, at the strategic level to get your message across.
(8) Use all possible avenues to express solidarity with the people of IOK.
(9) Make Pakistan strong economically and bring it on par with other emerging economies.
(10) Make Azad Jammu and Kashmir a model state in terms of economic development and governance.
(11) Reach out to Indian civil society to persuade them to speak up for the rights of Kashmiris and not be a party to India's crimes against humanity in IOK through silence which amounts to acquiescence.
Q: What is your message to the people of AJK, IOK, Pakistan, India, and the world?
Ans: Kashmiris in IOK are suffering grievously; the world must come forward and help us rescue them; it is our collective responsibility; not just of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.