Indian elections and Kashmir



India’s BJP vowed Monday to strip special rights from the people of occupied Kashmir if it voted back into power. Voting that begins on Thursday shall conclude with ballot counting on May 23.

The BJP has been advocating an end to occupied Kashmir’s special constitutional status, which prevents outsiders from buying property there.

There was an immediate reaction. “Let them do it and it will pave the way for our azadi,” Kashmir’s National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said. Other Kashmiri leaders also warned of disastrous and unimaginable repercussions.

It is time for the world in general and Pakistan in particular to go beyond merely the Kashmir Day celebrations when the entire nation celebrates the day by taking a day off from work. It has been so since 1990 when the day was adopted to support the movement of the people of Kashmir for their right to self-determination, and to pay homage to the lives lost in this struggle. The day sees speeches and statements from political leaders and seminars by civil society.

These events have over the years been reduced to mere rituals despite their empathic value. While carried out with the same ceremony, they fail to have any impact on the ground realities.

While the UN resolutions serve as a good background, Pakistan needs to make a fresh start in the light of existing realities. Since the Simla Accord in 1972, when owing to its disadvantaged position in the aftermath of the 1971 war, Pakistan had to concede its traditional position on Kashmir, ie agreeing not to pursue the issue on international forums and settle it bilaterally.

Since then India has persistently avoided dialogue on the matter, and subsequent attempts by Pakistan to raise the issue in international forums have faltered because of the resistance from India and its allies, and also due to loss of international backing for Pakistan’s case over the years.

Like all wars, here too no clear winner has emerged in over 70 years’ history of acrimony.

For a historic compromise, where without a change of borders there is a normalisation of relations, with both countries adopting a dignified stance to give the Kashmiris their due rights, what is needed is a mutual cognizance that no one party can impose its will on the other and sooner or later both have to converge on common ground.

The recent move by the BJP may win it the elections but certainly it will add to the unrest in the valley which does not augur well for the region.