Charter for a Free Kashmir

“Walo ho baghwaano nav baharuk shaan paida kar;
Pholan gul gath karan bulbul timay samaan paida kar,”

—(Come, O Gardener, create the glory of a new spring day; Where flowers bloom and bulbuls dance, O craft such a way).

Mehjoor’s famous poem was a prayer for a better future, for a new dawn of freedom. 1947, for which the peoples of the subcontinent had struggled and sacrificed together, turned out to be a great disappointment.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz expressed this disappointment like this:

“Yeh daagh daagh ujaala, yeh shab guzida sahar;

Woh intizaar tha jis ka, yeh woh sahar to nahin.
Yeh woh sahar to nahin jis ki aarzoo lay kar,
Chaley tthey yaar key miljaegi kahin na kahin”

—(This stained light, this night-devoured dawn; this is not the dawn for which we were waiting. This can’t be that desired dawn, which we, friends, had set out to find.)

The struggling people of Kashmir, despite the betrayals of the 1947, continue to hope for that new, real dawn, the Azadi. The many decades of oppression haven’t been able to extinguish the hope. Azadi, which is not so much an end but a process, means Kashmiri people’s perpetual struggle to be able to live in an independent state, where a just and peaceful society could be created.

But what could be the possible contours and contents of such a society? A number of debates are happening among people who are at one or the other level interested/involved in Kashmir. I here put forward some of the possibilities—I would say goals—which must be pursued. Others have drafted some of the points/premises, and I agree with those in full.

1. Kashmir would be an independent state, with full status as a member nation among the comity of nations.

2. It would have no standing army and no programs for weaponization.

3. It would harbor peaceful intentions toward all neighboring peoples (in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, Central Asia and China, and beyond), and it would declare Kashmir as a sanctuary of peace.

4. It would use its good offices and hospitality to bring together contesting parties in the region and help develop mutual understanding and nurture peace and justice for all.

5. Kashmir would be a decentralized, federal republic, with its constituents having a right to secede, as well as to unite.

6. In independent Kashmir all citizens, irrespective of language, creed, sex or caste, would have equal rights. Its citizens will have the right to life with dignity, security and equality before the law, complete freedom of expression and movement, rights of free education and health care, right to work, leisure and recreation. It will seek to make Kashmir a society without prisons.

7. It would welcome all displaced Kashmiris, including the Kashmiri Pandits and those who were forced to migrate to the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, and call for an open dialogue with responsible and peace-loving representatives of all displaced Kashmiri communities. It would set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help account for and address the years of violence in Kashmir.

8. It would treat with respect, pride, and affection the unique cultural heritage and history of Kashmir, and the contributions made by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and others to this heritage down the centuries.

9. It would take a special care to safeguard the unique biological and natural heritage of the mountains, rivers, forests, lakes, springs, and meadows of Kashmir for the sake of all humanity.

10. People from the world over can freely travel in Kashmir; and the pilgrims would be treated as honored guests. Those who come to its gates to seek asylum or shelter from the repression in their own countries would find welcome.

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11 thoughts on “Charter for a Free Kashmir

  1. Hi Drqanungo,Independent Kashmir's borders will stop at the point where people say they want to continue being part of India or Pakistan…Principally, I think Kashmir (both ones), perhaps, Northern Areas, perhaps Ladakh, perhaps Jammu–if they want. A plebiscite should be held at district levels, but it can be narrowed to tehsils too; geographic contiguity should be taken into consideration. I feel once Independent Kashmir is accepted in principle, finding its borders will not be too too difficult.

  2. No one can lay an exclusive claim on rivers just because they run through their land. Everyone whose life and prosperity depends on rivers has a right (and, of course, duties too) to the water of those rivers. Kashmir's rivers belong as much to Pakistani people as to Kashmiris. Indepedent Kashmir will try to make it its duty and responsibility that the rivers (Jhelum, Chenab, and Indus) continue to be clean and running. That Pakistan's agriculture does not suffer in anyway. We will have a separate international treaty with Pakistan–quashing, but keeping the spirit alive, the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan–on how to share water resources for the sustainable and the optimal benefit of the people of the subcontinent.We may use rivers to generate electricity, but the projects need to be small enough so that our river valleys continue to be hospitable to the flora and fauna of the region, and they don't drive people out of their homes. At the same time we need to invest in the clean and the alternative sources of energy like wind and solar power. As a new society we will also need to be conservative when it comes to the use of our precious and meagre resources.I think these issues are not intractable. Overtime, we will realise how our prosperity is intimately connected with the prosperity and well being of all our neighbours. But we constantly need to reassure our neighbours that our intentions are benign.

  3. This is such an important and necessary step in the Kashmiri freedom struggle. Too often the political capital bought so dearly with the people's blood and suffering has been squandered by the leadership. I hope you will be able to overcome not only the manifest violence of the Indian state but also its insiduous policies of divide and rule. I wish you all success.

  4. Junaid, thanks for your replies.You have actually, to begin with, turned this whole question on its head. And one can hardly question anything here, since one considers these goals, as you call them, legitimate. There is however the eternal question of whether those who have the means and power of securing a resolution have the will to do it, too. Clearly, history only tells us they don't — while India doesn't show the will, Pakistan doesn't have the leverage to enforce its own. Therefore, while the "goals" of Kashmiris' struggle certainly need to be clear and charted out, it should have been a much simpler thing to do compared to that which could bring them to those goals. Amazingly, even this "simpler" part of the problem is, and remains, a task still to be done.

  5. Dear Drqanungo,Ultimately it is the people of Kashmir first who have to do it, and then the people of India and Pakistan. Governments in these countries wouldn't do it because governments always prefer status quo. They want order, even if it is unjust. Governments are the actual obstacles to a just resolution of Kashmir, they are not the facilitators.But when people come together they can change everything around them. That Kashmir is not getting Azadi is not only because Indian and Pakistani govts. are holding it down, but also because Kashmiris aren't perfecting their struggle even more.Histoty is made by the people…often by the most oppressed. History is made against the desires, and the preferences of the rulers.

  6. You are right. Precisely the reason one would call it "Kashmiris'" struggle. Just that it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Thanks for the post, and the replies, Junaid.Best,Nawaz.

  7. Junaid:Your posts are idealist. There is nothing wrong in being one, but you have to get real about the geo-political viability of an independent Kashmiri state. Kashmiri's themselves may not want to become a football in the Great Game, but unfortunately they do have little control over what the big-powers want to do. Kashmir is located in a strategically vital area since it provides a path to China to the Indian Ocean/Mid East, and access to the oil reach Central Asian republics. The Americans would love to convert Kashmir into a permanent base (like Kuwait). Similarly the Chinese would love to secure it as a beach-head to expand their territory further. What will stop China from making an independent Kashmir another satellite state to resettle Han Chinese like they do in Tibet or Xianjing? Can you really trust that the Pakistani Army will not swallow Kashmir; after all had Pakistan not violated the Standstill agreement in 1947 and sent the tribal lashkars the future of J&K may have been dramatically different. How will Kashmiri's ensure that the petro-dollar funded Wahabis will not destroy the spirit and culture of Kashmir with a Taleban style rule?I often wonder what specifically people who want an 'azad' Kashmir are looking for which they can not find as a state of the Indian Republic? Do not start with the evil Indian Army since they would be confined to the barracks if there was no Jehadi violence. After you take the Army out of the picture, how would an 'azad' Kashmir be better than the current J&K?

  8. Anonymous, I just saw your reply after a full year. I don’t know if you still hold the same opinion that you did one year back. On my part the conviction has become firmer that Kashmir needs to be independent. It has nothing to do with Indian army or Pakistan army. I don’t fear Indians, Pakistanis, or Chinese. They are all our potential friends. That is how I see it. I don’t fear Hindu nationalists nor the Taliban. Our society is quite resilient and has managed to spring back to life after every round of oppression. I don’t think the alternative to extremism, both Muslim or Hindu, can be an illegitimate rule by India. In my view, it is actually this Indian rule over Kashmir that produces extremism, and that perils our future at the hands of extremism. I don’t have any rancor against India (yes I am deeply outraged), and if India would look like ‘azad’ (free) Kashmir once their military is out of Kashmir, I absolutely welcome that. But Kashmir under India can never be livable. And as you see Kashmiris will not settle for that.

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