They (Kashmiris) should be left free to decide for themselves. Mahatma Gandhi
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum, extended his warm felicitation to the people of India on their Republic Day celebration. He, however, voiced deep regret over betrayal of Indian Government — not the people of India — of her high-minded ideals in Kashmir that marked its entry into the family of nations after long years under the British raj: shocking human rights violations, torture, rape, mutilations, arson, plunder, abductions, arbitrary detentions, and contempt for international law and binding self-determination resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
He cautioned that India might propose in lieu of self-determination a return to the special autonomy formerly enjoyed by Kashmir under section 370 of the Indian Constitution, but with no power in New Delhi to subtract from that autonomy through parliamentary legislation, executive decree, or constitutional amendment. As we know, India quickly turned section 370 autonomy into a virtual nullity after it was employed as a lure in the 1950s to some Kashmiris, like Sheikh Abdullah to acquiesce in Kashmir’s accession to Indian sovereignty. Kashmiris thus would properly be suspicious of a second version of India’s earlier duplicity. Moreover, Fai said that Kashmir conflict is not about autonomy, nor is it about the transfer of power in Jammu and Kashmir. It is about honoring the political and human rights of the Kashmiri people in accord with international law, justice and morality.
The consistent application of human rights standards would allow a just and peaceful resolution of the seventy year old issue. It would directly help India to extricate itself from the quagmire of international conflicts and accumulation of weaponry, to realize its economic and technological potential and truly rise to the stature of a great power. It would also release Pakistan from a crippling burden. It would thus bring the lasting credit of United Nations policy towards the region of South Asia. The refusal of omission to take a well-considered initiative neither responds to a long-term peace strategy nor answers the demand of the human conscience.
Fai discounted the United Nations hopes that the dispute could be settled through bilateral peaceful talks between India and Pakistan. Bilateral talks and negotiations over Kashmir between parties have proven sterile for 70 years, and nothing in that dismal equation has changed. He recounted the litany of failed bilateral efforts and said that the leadership of Kashmiri political resistance movement has steadfastly maintained that talks between the three parties, India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris, are the only way to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
The global community has a long and proud tradition of upholding the causes of human freedom and dignity. Kashmir calls urgently for initiatives in accordance with that tradition. He urged the community of nations to seize this opportunity to promote an initiative towards bringing about conditions necessary for settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The urgent necessity to help put the issue on the road to the settlement is: to demilitarize the area of conflict –- the State of Jammu & Kashmir –- through a phased withdrawal of the troops (including paramilitary forces) of both India and Pakistan from the area under their respective control.
Fai reminded the Prime Minister Narendra Modi of his speech in Australia on November 16, 2014 when he said: “I firmly believe that Mahatma Gandhi is as relevant today as he was during his time.” Prime Minister Modi may remember that Mahatma Gandhi has also said that Kashmir’s real rulers were its people and not its Maharajas. “If the people of Kashmir are in favor of opting for Pakistan, no power on earth can stop them from doing so. But they should be left free to decide for themselves.” (Gandhi’s Passion by Professor Stanley Wolpert, Page 247). Let Prime Minister Modi translate the vision of Mahatma Gandhi about Kashmir into reality for the sake of international peace and security.