Excerpted from a Report on the Study Tour by Beersmans Paul, President – Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu and Kashmir, to India and the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from August 02-30, 2008
MEETING, IN DELHI, WITH PROF. K. WARIKOO, DIRECTOR CENTRAL ASIAN STUDIES PROGRAMME, SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, JAWAHARLAL NEHRU UNIVERSITY, NEW DELHI
I do not think there is any fundamental or basic change of the Pakistan policy framework and its implementation in Kashmir. During the latest SAARC meeting In Colombo there was some sort of agreement that terrorism needs to be controlled but today’s statement of Musharraf (he supports ISI by declaring that ISI is Pakistan’s first line of defence against Afghanistan, India and in Kashmir) puts the focus once again on the importance of ISI and Pakistan’s actions and policy. As long as institutional support and basis for terrorists and their infrastructure is intact, there is little likelihood of improvement.
It is ironical that violence and infiltration increased. There were also some cease-fire violations, probably meant to cover infiltration of militants. Talibanisation and militarization of religion in politics in the Valley is inducting and radicalising youth.
Human rights violations came down under Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. All allegations regarding disappearances and mass graves have to be inquired by an objective, impartial investigation, as human rights violations have been committed by the security forces and by the militants. The separatists are exaggerating the number of human rights violations just to fuel hatred and keep the pot boiling.
The Amarnath issue is a mishap created by political leaders of the Valley who claim to belong to the mainstream political parties and at the same time are hand in glove with the separatists and extremists. The J&K State Government has dully constituted the Shrine Board. It is common knowledge that the lakhs of pilgrims to Amarnath needed some temporary protection/shelter to save them from snowstorm/heavy rainfall and other natural disaster that are common to that area. The State Government has not fulfilled its obligations to give support and protection. This is a sad reflection of the mindset of the State Government/Administration. Now that the Shrine Board was authorised through this land transfer to install temporary shelters for the pilgrims, a nefarious disinformation campaign was launched by the so-called mainstream political parties and their leaders against such decision. This implies that the communal elements in the Valley do not want the non-Muslim devotees to visit their places of pilgrimage in Kashmir. The situation has been polarised in the two regions and even Congress Members of the Legislative Assembly have come out with statements exposing the communal and separatist agenda of the PDP and its leadership.
The elections should be held in a congenial atmosphere and the flames of passion should be doused with reason and objective/balanced equitable administrative measures.
MEETING WITH MR. PRAVEEN SWAMI, JOURNALIST, POLITICAL ANALYST, IN NEW DELHI
Two aspects are becoming clear in the recent evolution in the Valley: first, militancy is declining, at least in the open and second, the ideological influence of the Islamist parties in the Valley is increasing. Here, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, leader of his own APHC and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, and Asiya Andrabi, leading the women’s wing Dukhtaran-e-Millatt, are spearheading the ‘movement’. They shape the agenda. They jump on every occasion to highlight the high values of Islam and the decadence of the influence of the West. They raked up the prostitution scandal, the rape of a teenage girl and now the Amarnath issue.
The secular parties do not succeed anymore to keep the debate on secular, developmental aspects. They are always cornered by religious matters brought forward by the Islamic fundamentalists. Instead of democracy, development and rights, all what is talked about is religious identity in a very paramount way. They pretend that a Muslim cannot survive in a secular, non-Islamic state. It is like a fish who cannot survive out of water, they say.
In the present mass movement, there are different types of participants. First, there are the committed cadres and members of the different separatist movements and organisations. Second, there are a lot of young unemployed and semi-unemployed youth of the middle class and the semi middle class who do not get the opportunity to get a job. They are educated, their parents made a lot of sacrifices to get them educated and now they cannot find a job. They get disappointed with and angry on the system. Third, there are the bystanders who are joining the masses.
All this leads to the conclusion that the agitation is not a simple nationalist movement. It is a mixture of social, economic and communal aspects. And of course, we must also take into account the agitation in Jammu region having its own dynamics and compulsions. For the time being, there is total polarisation between the Kashmir and Jammu. This will be the driving factor, the engine for the political life in the near future.
For a solution for the Amarnath issue, the land should be transferred to the Shrine Board on a temporary basis during the time of the Yatra and the Malik family should again be a part of the organisational structure. In addition, the LoC should be opened for trade. India completely supports this demand since long. Pakistan promised that they agree and that this will start on 01 Oct 08.
The democratic system must be restored. Therefore, elections in the State must be organised the soonest: organising elections will force the mainstream politicians to come forward. The next Government most likely will be a coalition Government (NC with Congress Party or NC and BJP). PDP will loose very badly. In the Valley, NC and independent candidates will form a majority.