Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman, All Parties Hurriyet Conference, in a recent presentation made in a conference in Geneva emphasized that ‘when we refer to Kashmir, we refer to the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed on 14 August 1947.’ This includes the five distinct regions of the valley, Ladakh, Jammu, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. This assertion alone should be food for thought for the Pakistani policy-makers. If the Kashmiris get their way, and if for argument’s sake India agrees to give Kashmir independence, Pakistan may be a bigger loser as it would loose a big chunk of its territory. Can it afford it?
‘The APHC has time again tried to talk about Jammu and Kashmir with a view to present the real situation on the ground. It is a political issue; it is not a territorial issue between India and Pakistan it is an issue concerning the fate of more than 15 million people. They believe unless and until the international community and especially the UN come forward, the issue cannot be resolved.’
The government of India, he said, has tried to camouflage the issue by putting irrelevant issues.
It is not an issue of bad governance or giving people economic benefits. Nor is it an issue which has been sponsored by Pakistan since 1947. ‘It is high time the government of India
realizes that such a huge movement that has been there since 1947 and especially after 1990, is a peoples struggle. The government of India has to stop people viewing Kashmir from the prism of Pakistan.’
Pointing out that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, tortured, jailed, and are missing; he said that no struggle of such magnitude could be sponsored by an external party.
Who are these people who are dying?
They are Kashmiris; they are not Pakistanis, who have stood up for their basic rights, their right of self determination.
Unfortunately, he said that although India talks about peace in Kashmir, ‘their approach is totally military. They speak the language of peace but they talk through the barrel of the gun.’ He also indicated that it was ‘far from reality’ to think that people of Kashmir would forget their struggle and he believed that the recent
uprisings of 2008 and 2009 were indicative of the strength of a peaceful movement of protest. ‘We had more than a million people marching; they were not people with guns, or hand grenades, they were people who were asking for their rights to be restored to them; but the response was brute force.’
Although India might claim to be the biggest and largest democracy, the Mirwaiz said that their views in relation to Kashmir were negative, particularly in relation to the ‘black laws’ which have enabled the military forces to act with impunity – especially the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed Areas Act. ‘
The APHC,’ he said, ‘has made suggestions regarding the repeal of the black laws, the release of political prisoners and gradual demilitarization ‘to give the people, strangled under oppression for the last twenty years, some respite.’
Mirwaiz also made clear that Kashmiris wished well to the people of India but it was important to realize ‘that the issues won’t disappear, unless and until you confront those problems. It is high time that we all sit together. The time has come when we need to come forward, if we continue to evade the problem we will have a situation like in 1965 and 1971 when India and Pakistan fought wars, but now these two countries have nuclear weapons. We Kashmiris want to talk, to engage, to let the dialogue process be meaningful, let there be a mechanism. We need a system of engagement.’