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"Meaningful" India-Pakistan dialogue: Whither Kashmiri stakeholders?

By Syed Mujtaba, Mirza Jahanzeb Beg*
Since 1989, the People of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) were killed, tortured, humiliated, and disappeared. Thousands were killed due to the cycle of violence prevalent in J&K. Thousands became permanently disabled due to thr ongoing cycles of violence. Many are those who lost their beloved children, daughters, sisters, mothers; some women have lost their beloved husbands who were the only earning hands in the family.
Due to the turmoil, thousands of houses and shops were burnt. A simple survey would reveal that every family in Kashmir has suffered in terms of youth killed, injured or tortured, a woman raped or molested, elder men and women dishonoured and humiliated. Those who were killed or injured were mostly innocent children between age 5 and 22; not only this, women were killed and injured during peaceful protest marches.
The most lamentable thing is that these atrocities and human rights violations have been committed by unidentified gunmen, forces, etc. Then there are some anti-human laws like the Public Safety Act (PSA) and Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), which are an open violation of international law, including thr International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which India has ratified.
These draconian laws provide complete freedom to forces to unleash strong military action against the people of J&K. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations have reported countless stories of tyranny and oppression of forces in J&K. Killings through torture and hostage taking are a common phenomenon. Along with it, sexual violence and psychological torturing are another horrific weapon. Generally rape and violence against women is committed on gunpoint.
For the last many years, Kashmiris are not feeling safe in other parts of India, too; especially students become victims of acts of violence and communally-motivated organised crime, which amounts to terrorism. All this is all done through the misuse of power. Opportunists, communal politicians and media houses debunk the image of Kashmiri people everywhere, which gives rise to increased violence and suspicion against them.
Undoubtedly, it can be said that the Kashmiri people are talented, humane and generous, but the system has always suppressed them without taking into consideration their genuine demands. Democracy is based on rule of law, justice, equality, and liberty. But it’s quite ironic that these features of democracy are absent in J&K. All eruptions in the state have been the result of democratic failure. Yes, the Government of India refuses to acknowledge that the people of J&K have become totally alienated.
The Kashmir conflict is a legacy of the past. The international community had given Pakistan and India many chances to resolve outstanding issues. Adopting a bilateral approach, the political leadership of both the countries have failed, because prior to every sincere approach towards resolution, politically-motivated opportunistic preconditions are placed, which are not acceptable to one or the other side.
During negotiations political interests become paramount. Often, it is suggested that all stakeholders' interests would be taken into account. Yet, they are not recognised as a party to dispute, which maligns the spirit of an unconditional dialogue. Worse, over the last three years, there have not been any productive and substantive talks between India and Pakistan.
The leadership in India and Pakistan needs to realistically plan the future of the region but first they must accept the ground realities with an open mind-set. It is in fact the Kashmir issue which has blocked the process of normalisation of the political relationship between India and Pakistan.
Kashmir bleeds, and for the past seven decades the people of Kashmir are trapped in a status quo. The baggage of history weighs heavily on us, and a shift is possible only through sustained and unconditional dialogue — dialogue, as we all understand, is currently the most civilised and humane way to resolve conflicts.
There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice to all the people in Kashmir who have been suffering from several decades of conflict. Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to end the cycle of violence and unaccountability, human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redressal for victims. Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan should resume the dialogue process and engage all the stakeholders, including the people of J&K. It has to be a sustained and unconditional dialogue, aimed at resolving the Kashmir issue, which will be imperative for lasting peace in the South Asian region. Indeed, in order to move forward on Kashmir, a proper mechanism needs to be worked out.
Syed Mujtaba, Mirza Jahanzeb Beg
One aspect about Kashmir is amply clear: That it is a political issue which needs a political solution, but it is being pushed towards a military solution. Everlasting peace is not possible through the suppression of public sentiment by force. Sooner or later, the issue has to be resolved by adopting a diplomatic approach that takes into account all stakeholders; if things remain unresponsive, and if the prevailing situation predominates, war seems inevitable.
We hope that good sense will prevail, all parties to dispute will realise the evils of a violent conflict, and come to a peaceful conclusion, so that further bloodshed is prevented.
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*Human rights activists, close observers of socio-political contexts. Contact: jaan.aalam@gmail.com

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