Let Kashmiris decide their destiny: Safvi

Once described as Paradise on Earth, Kashmir has now become a synonym for violence. Caught in the crossfires between the two neighbours of the Indian sub-continent, Kashmiris are living a life that is devoid of peace. What is the solution to the Kashmir issue? TwoCircles.net’s Kashif-ul-Huda catches up with Syed Ali Safvi, Associate Editor of the newly-launched newspaper Etalaat. An AMU post-graduate in Mass Communication, Safvi talks about the solution to the Kashmir issue.

Why do you think there was a need to bring out the newspaper Etalaat?

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We felt the need of starting a new newspaper in Kashmir when we realised that the existing newspapers were not doing enough to depict the true and real picture of Kashmir. Most of the papers are working for the interest of others rather than serving the Kashmiri cause. Etalaat was started with the intention to represent the true aspirations of dejected Kashmiris. And masha’allah, the response and feedback we have had is really encouraging.

What are the demands of Kashmiris?

Every Kashmiri first wants to live with honour and dignity. It may sound quite strange but it is true that sometimes Kashmiris find themselves as aliens in their own land. They are subjected to human rights violations. They are sandwiched between security forces and militants. Even though Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised zero tolerance to human rights violations, they have continued unabated.

The problem of India and Pakistan is that they view the Kashmir problem from nationalist angle rather than humanist angle. The problem of Kashmir cannot be resolved unless Kashmiris are allowed to determine their own destiny. And that’s what the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru promised to Kashmiris.

Don’t you think that the election process in the state is in the direction of giving Kashimiris a way to control their destiny?

Elections in Kashmir are rigged. Here only that party forms the government, is the party which has a mandate of New Delhi. Elections have never been fair in Kashmir and there are a number of examples to underline this fact. The rigged election of 1987 is the prime example of how ‘fairly’ elections are held in Kashmir. It was this election which triggered the mass movement in Kashmir. After all, how many Kashmiris willingly come out to exercise their franchise? In rural areas people are dragged out of their houses to vote. Is this what you call democracy?

What do you think is the solution to the Kashmir issue?

To put an end to the sixty year dispute over Kashmir, there seems only one solution: let the Kashmiris decide their own future. Let there be a referendum under the aegis of the United Nations as per the UN resolution. However, there is a need to bring a slight change to the old UN resolution. Keeping intact the existing two options: Union with India or Union with Pakistan, a third option should be given to the Kashmiris. That is independence. The opinion polls conducted by The Times of India in 2006 and CNN IBN in 2007 have confirmed that a majority of Kashmiris want to be independent. Let the Kashmiris decide their destiny. Both India and Pakistan must accept the result of the referendum.

What in your view is the solution to the problem of Kashmiri Pundits who are living as refugees in Jammu and Delhi?

Kashmir is a political dispute and no solution on the basis of ethnicity or religion, therefore, is acceptable to Kashmiris. Since people of Kashmir do not want the solution of Kashmir on ethnic or religious basis, the Pundits, who left Kashmir in one of the most unfortunate incidents in the history of Kashmir (which of course was a handiwork of the then Governor of J&K, Jagmohan), should be called back to the state. They are an integral part of the Kashmiri culture and identity. They too, along with Muslims and other religious groups, would decide the future of Kashmir.

<How is the response of the newspaper and what do you hope to achieve?

Mashallah, the response is very good. We want to depict the real picture of Kashmir to the outside world that is made to believe that everything is normal in Kashmir.

Kashmir was the only place where Mahatma Gandhi witnessed ‘sunshine’ and ‘sobriety’ during the days of partition when the rest of the sub-continent was painted red with the blood of innocents. After more than half a century, Kashmir is the only spot in the sub-continent that is bleeding with impunity. The Army has wreaked havoc in the state and the state government is watching as a mute spectator. It cannot do anything beyond uttering a few words of sympathy to the families which suffer at the hands of the security forces. In most of the cases no action has been taken against the errant security personnel. Moreover, in bulk of the cases, the victims of the ‘insurgency’ and ‘counter-insurgency’ have not been given relief or compensation, which otherwise is a ‘proclaimed policy’ of the state government. The paradise of Kashmir has not just been lost but ruined and peace in the Valley is in tatters. A few seconds can change the entire course of life and the world will not be the same place again. Dogged by poor fate, every Kashmiri would be thinking in his heart of hearts “God, why was I born Kashmiri?”

If India calls Kashmir her ‘integral’ part then why aren’t the Kashmiris treated at par with other Indians? If Gujarat’s fake encounters can draw so much criticism from almost all parts of India, then why does Kashmir’s fake encounter remain by and large unnoticed? This is the real Kashmir. We want to bring this reality to the world.

Syed Ali Safvi can be contacted at [email protected]