Kashmir: peace is a solution in itself
23 January, 2007
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
Not many Kashmiri speaking families live in Rawalpindi. This can be judged to some extent from the recently held elections. For a reserved seat for the refugees of the Valley in the Azad Kashmir parliament, the winning candidate got about 1,200 votes whereas the loser got about 850. After the partition, the mass migration wave in Kashmir mainly affected the Hindus and Sikhs living in an area that is now Azad Kashmir and the Muslims of Jammu. The Valley, due to its secular environment, remained calm and did not go through the agony of communal violence. Thus, mostly politically attached people migrated to Pakistan. Many were from the Kashmir bureaucracy who had thought, like their counterparts from other Indian states, that there would be better opportunities in a new country and professional competition would also be negligible. During the 17-year long era of militancy, only a few hundred families migrated to Pakistan. All of them were in one way or the other linked to the militant struggle.
The older generation of Kashmiri migrants that came immediately after 1947 has passed away. The second generation too has become old. The third generation is in its twenties and thirties. The first generation towards its end had lost all hopes of returning to the Valley some day. My mother, a week before she died, whispered "Sajjah" to herself. She was recalling the name of her childhood friend. Perhaps she wanted to talk to her and many more who were far away. For a month she remained under a fit of severe depression, sleepless, often silent and speaking rarely, and that too mostly to herself. Finally, she left and left us disturbed and depressed. Depression since then has rather compounded.
General Musharraf cannot understand the pain that this kind of helplessness causes. When he says a solution of the Kashmir problem is a prerequisite to peace, he does not understand the chemistry of post-partition political and human relationships. Our civil-military establishment in its entirety and intelligentsia partly support his view. To seek a solution of the Kashmir situation, while ignoring the relationships that division of the subcontinent formed, is either ignorance or cruelty. And until and unless we become clear on the basics, the ignorance and cruelty would multiply. And so would the sufferings of 150 million Pakistanis, eight million Kashmiris of the Valley and 160 million Indian Muslims.
The Muslim League adopted the concept of the 'two-nation theory' in 1940. That simply means that before 1940 only one nation lived in India. The people from Kashmir to Karnataka and Bengal to Balochistan, whether they were Hindus or Muslims, Sikhs or Buddhist or Christians, etc, were Indians. The Muslim League later on dropped the theory in 1946 when it accepted the Cabinet Mission plan to keep India united. The Muslim League dropped the theory again when it sat with the British and Congress leadership and prepared the Indian Independence Act. The Act separated the Muslim majority areas located at the western and eastern peripheries of India. It did not separate the Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Christians and the Buddhists. That is why the Muslims that stayed in India were more in number than those who lived in East and West Pakistan. The irony of history is that the Muslims who chose to live in India were among the initiators and promoters of the 'two-nation theory'. The cruelty or ignorance of history is that two percent population of Pakistan, i.e. the Hindus, the Christians, the Sikhs, etc., are not Pakistanis according to the two-nation theory, yet they are Pakistanis by all empirical evidence and by all definitions that the rest of mankind knows.
Danish Kaneria, the cricketer, is not a Pakistani if the 'two-nation theory' is invoked. His presence in the Pakistani cricket team means he is a Pakistani and that also means that the 'two-area theory' and not the 'two-nation theory' is the basis of our nationhood. The Quaid in his speech of August 11, 1947, had cleared all ambiguities. This speech is an absolute rejection of pre-partition rhetoric and it meant that after achieving the goal, time had come to turn to reality again. And the reality is that the people living in a sizeable area under one law and central authority make a nation, no matter what religion or sub-nationality they have. The tragedy is that no one turned to reality. On the contrary, the Quaid was humiliated. His speech was blocked and his presence was tolerated for cosmetic cover-up only.
Before us are many more realities that are not discussed. In fact, the Objectives Resolution distracted us and did not help us emerge as a nation. Today, the rural Sindhis, the Baloch and the Pathans in general, and a majority of the Punjabis and urban Sindhis in particular, are not comfortable with the situation in Pakistan. Here, the president's son gets his education in the US, whereas the president praises Islamic institutions (madrassas) as the biggest NGO network in the world. Here, Qazi Hussain Ahmed likes his children to become highly qualified in Western knowledge and own as much property as possible but for the children of the poor he recommends the hereafter. The president and Qazi sahib are the face of an elite that comprises the feudal, the generals, the bureaucrats and the affluent. This relationship will last as long as political uncertainty continues in Pakistan. And as long as this uncertainty continues, a majority of Pakistani mothers would remain helpless like my mother, though for a different reason: they see no future for their children in Pakistan.
I suffer from multiple depressions. The first is what my mother's helplessness gave me. The second is what the helpless Pakistani mothers give me on a daily basis. The third is due to the guilt of being a Kashmiri from the Valley. Perhaps had there been no Kashmir problem, Pakistani mothers might have been hopeful about the future of their children. I belong to the second generation of Kashmiri migrants. Most among this generation feel that peace lies in giving finality to what exists - in an honourable way. It could be achieved only when the Pakistani leadership acts as a saviour. The problem of Kashmir should be taken as how much autonomy the Indian Kashmiris demand and how much sovereignty the Indians are prepared to surrender. Here, Pakistan acting as a saviour can help them reach a reasonable compromise.
About a year ago, the enthusiastic third generation of Kashmiris arranged a gathering of Kashmiri-speaking Pakistanis in Rawalpindi. They were invited to a talk to be given by Abdul Ghani Bhatt, ex-chairman of the Hurriyat Conference. Before his talk I was asked to open the session. I was not prepared. All that I said was, "I am a Kashmiri Pakistani. Please let me remain so. I do not want to become a Palestinian. Being a Pakistani, I do not want to live with political uncertainty forever. Having a Kashmiri origin, I cannot see Kashmiris falling in the ditch of darkness. Over to you Bhatt sahib for a solution that would save both Kashmiris and Pakistanis." Bhatt sahib gave a two-hour long wise but inconclusive talk. He gave no solution, nor could anyone else. Nor can anyone else. In a situation like ours, peace is a solution in itself.