“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.