pleads for Kashmir's image change, calls for
Striking an emotional chord with the Indian diaspora at the Pravasi
Bharatiya Diwas ....
New Delhi: An India-Pakistan
peace conference to lay a road map for resolving disputes, including
Kashmir, turned into a vociferous exchange of ideas when many voices
from different regions and ethnic groups of the divided state raised
their concerns about being "left out".
Emotions and tensions ran high in the track-II diplomatic effort
here Monday as participants and people from the audience said the
Kashmir issue was not about the Muslim-dominated valley alone. It
was a symbolic reference to the complexity of the six-decade-old
dispute of the state that is divided between India and Pakistan.
So when two separatist leaders - Yasin Malik of the Jammu and
Kashmir Liberation Front and Sajjad Lone of the Peoples Conference -
voiced their ideas on how to resolve the dispute, some people from
other regional and ethnic groups of the state in the audience also
wanted to make their point.
Peaceniks of the two nuclear armed neighbours who organised the
three-day peace conference at the India International Centre (IIC)
had a tough time to let all voices be heard, but they did.
A student from Ladakh shouted: "Who has given Malik and Sajjad the
contract to speak for the entire state?"
A man from Gilgit-Baltistan said the Shia-dominated region in
Pakistani Kashmir was a part of the undivided state till 1947, but
"why is there no mention of us when you try to solve the dispute?"
"When you talk about the Kashmir problem you are referring to 11
percent of its geographic area (the Kashmir Valley). What about the
other 89 percent? The impasse will linger until you accommodate our
view point," he said.
Some members of the migrant Kashmir Pandits said their plight of
living like "refugees in our own country" was being overlooked.
The solutions mooted were as many as the voices, making the problem
look more complex than it actually may be.
"In Jammu and Kashmir, sentiments vary even as a majority is for
independence. The problem is too complex... more than it appears to
be," said Lone.
"Pakistan speaks about UN resolutions but only when it comes to
Indian Kashmir. What about the other regions under its occupation
and the part it has gifted to China," the Peoples Conference leader
said, referring to territory, including the northern areas of
Gilgit-Baltistan, under Pakistan administration.
"Can we arrive at an affordable position where all these solution
converge? There may be a point definitely," he said.
Lone said it was not possible for India and Pakistan to give up
"even an inch of land".
"But can we still reunite the divided Jammu and Kashmir without
sticking to our extreme positions? Yes, we can if we have a
political will on all the three sides - India, Pakistan and Kashmir.
Let economy do that. Let trade do that," he said.
"Let's have a power sharing evolution. A new set of arrangements
which rises above the monotony of sovereignty," said Lone, the only
separatist leader who has drafted a resolution "Achievable
Nationhood" on the Kashmir issue.
Lone said it was easy to contain violence "but difficult to beat
it". "You cannot defeat it without delivering on your promises."
JKLF leader Yasin Malik traced
the roots of the problem to broken promises and "deficiency of trust
between India and Kashmiris".
"You will have to restore the credibility of the dialogue process in
Kashmir if you want to make peace," he said.
"People have lost faith in the institution of dialogue for reasons
best known to everybody. Dialogue in Kashmir is a synonym to
sell-out," said the former militant commander who gave up arms in
1994 for a political struggle.
Referring to thousands of people killed in the Kashmir armed
conflict, Malik stressed that the issue should be resolved "before
it consumes another generation".
The conference organised by 11 organisations from India and Pakistan
ends Tuesday. It has eminent personalities from both countries
deliberating on a host of issues that unite rather than divide them.