The Maharaja of Kashmir imposed a 12 day curfew between 24 September-5 October in 1931. Two years earlier, the then Prime Minister of Kashmir Sir Albion Banerjee, a non- Kashmiri (non-Muslim) had resigned following disagreement with Maharaja of Kashmir and did not wish to be part of the system. He described the living conditions of Muslims as: “Jammu and Kashmir State is labouring under many disadvantages, with a large Mohammedan population absolutely illiterate, labouring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living in the villages, and particularly governed like dumb driven cattle. There is no touch between the Government and the people, no suitable opportunity for representing grievances… The administration has at present little or no sympathy with the people’s wants and grievances”.
And in 2016 — the elected Muslim Kashmiri representatives, led by Chief Minister, MS Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed, helplessly watch their electorate endure curfew for 44 consecutive days, suffer fatal injuries from pellet guns which have killed, maimed and blinded many Kashmiris, including women and children.
Not a single soul had the courage or decency to resign in protest against the wave of violence.
Albion Banerjee resigned on moral grounds. Today this ground is part of international law and people have a Right to Object/refuse on the basis of conscience. Mohammad Ali refused to go to war in Vietnam and many young Israeli soldiers have refused to fire at innocent Palestinians to the chagrin of Israeli government.
To this context Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights wrote a letter to MS Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed Chief Minister on August 21, reminding her of obligations under oath to the people who voted her into power.
The letter reminds that the “Indian army had been granted a temporary admission by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir (based at Srinagar) to perform four duties. The Indian army was also placed under 3 restraints by UN Security Council Resolution of April 21, 1948. The temporary admission is pending adjudication under a UN-supervised plebiscite , also promised by premier Nehru. The temporary admission has “degenerated into an occupation and the army remains at variance to its role identified by late Sheikh Abdullah at the UN Security Council in February 1948,” the letter says.
The Jammu and Kashmir assembly (government), too, remains under the caution of UN Security Council Resolution of 30 March 1951 because it represents only one part of the territory, reaffirmed under the article 48 of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. “You continue to accrue the criminal liability for the erring behaviour of security forces and police,” the Council reminds Ms Saeed, underlining that “by virtue of the chain of command of the erring soldier and the erring integrated security” the Chief Minister is making herself liable for all the crimes and atrocities committed against the people on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir.
The letter goes to insist the Jammu and Kashmir has lost the moral authority to be in office any more and hence should resign and join in the protest of the common man and woman. It also demands to terminate the bilateral agreement made with government of India, reinstate the visa requirement (Permit System) for Indian citizens into the State.
Even though coming from reputed Kashmiri jurists, most Indians are likely to laugh these demands off, particularly when scores of them — led by premier Modi — have jumped to equate Balochistan with Kashmir, forgetting that the former is a fully integrated federal unit, with equal constitutional status, unlike Kashmir which remains on the UN agenda with aspecial status in the Indian constitution too union under Article 370.
But given the global geo-political interests, no amount of deaths and invalidities caused by state guns in the Indian Kashmir are likely to shake conscience, particularly when all Kashmiris are being branded as terrorists by all those who insist the state is an integral part of India. None of major powers have winked so far on the spate of violence, either out of apathy or commercial interests tied to India.
This situation serves as a reminder for Pakistan too to collectively work for alleviating grievances and engage with reconcilable Baloch groups. Only through engagement can Pakistan take the sting out of the campaign against state excesses. No harm in admitting mistakes and taking corrective measures in the larger national interest. Also, let the Kashmiris fight it out themselves and remind the world of legal instruments that support their cause. Don’t invoke any jaish or lashkars as they not only dilute the objectives but also discredit a legitimate nationalist movement.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2016.