Progressive Discussion Forum
By People for Peace
28 August, 2003
100 people attended a dynamic discussion forum on Kashmir , organized
by People for Peace in Kashmir and Social and Cultural Anthropology
Program at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco.
The speakers were Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy well known physicist and
anti-nuclear activist from Pakistan, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai from Kashmiri
American Council and Akhila Raman a researcher on the Kashmir
Conflict. The audience included people from various diverse groups-
Indians, Pakistanis, Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims, Americans.
This Forum was conceived
as a balanced and liberal one, striving to avoid common features present
in many other forums: Indian speakers bashing Pakistan, Pakistani speakers
bashing India and Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims presenting the Kashmir
tragedy as a tragedy to their group alone. Instead, the speakers turned
it around and did a critical introspection of their respective sides,
presenting the tragedy to various communities as a whole.
The Forum was introduced
by Dr. Angana Chatterji, Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Program at CIIS, as one which seeks to address the concerns of Kashmiris,
India and Pakistan. She illuminated the fact that there is one soldier
for every 10 Kashmiris in the Kashmir Valley which is seen as oppressive
by the local population.
Mr. Zulfiqar Ahmad
- Peace and Security Program Officer for South Asia from Nautilus Institute
at Berkeley introduced the speakers and outlined the principles for
the discussion forum and the fact that ultimate arbiters of the dispute
should be the Kashmiri people and that any solution should respect the
syncretic Kashmiri culture.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi
Fai began his speech highlighting the fact that the long-standing Kashmir
dispute had become a nuclear flashpoint which needed an urgent solution,
putting an end to the pain and suffering of not only the majority Kashmiri
Muslim community but also the minority Kashmiri Pandit community. He
stated that a lasting solution could only be arrived if all the three
concerned parties Kashmiris, India and Pakistan make sacrifices
and compromises from their respective hardline positions.
He further went
on to argue as follows: (1) Kashmiri movement was not secessionist because
Kashmir did not belong to any member nation of the UN and hence Kashmiris
cannot secede from a nation to which they had not acceded to in the
first place. (2) Kashmiri movement was not fundamentalist given their
rich tradition of Kashmiriyat- a composite cultural identity of tolerance
and communal amity (3) The movement was not a terrorist movement but
a popular freedom struggle because hundreds of thousands of unarmed
civilians marched on the streets of Srinagar between January and May
1990 (4) The issue was not bilateral between India and Pakistan but
that Kashmiris were a legitimate third party which needed to be included
in unconditional dialogues to resolve the dispute. He highlighted the
need for UN/US mediation given the fact that all previous bilateral
talks had failed.
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy,
who spoke next, began his speech highlighting the role of evolutionary
biology in war and also war as a means of socialization; He highlighted
the subversive role played by Pakistan since a popular insurgency began
in the Kashmir Valley in 1989 against the repressive Indian Rule. He
recalled an interview he had with General Musharraf in Pakistan regarding
Kashmir in which he had asked the General Was it not high time
Pakistan stopped the covert war in Kashmir and stuck to its stated position
namely- providing merely moral and diplomatic support for
the freedom struggle in Kashmir.
He illuminated the
role played by India as an occupation force, with half a million soldiers
brutally repressing an estimated 5 million Kashmiris in the Valley.
He closed his speech stating that (1) India must end its permanent occupation
of Kashmir. (2) Pakistan must put an end to cross-border terrorism (3)
The media in India and Pakistan must turn down the volume of official
rhetoric and play a constructive role in dispute resolution.
Akhila Raman, the
next speaker made a presentation of the history of the Kashmir conflict
and highlighted the fact that both India and Pakistan were fighting
over Kashmir like two pugnacious landlords, trampling over the dead
bodies of tens of thousands of Kashmiris half of them civilians.
She highlighted the fact that India had promised self-determination
(the will of the people shall be ascertained in a plebiscite about the
future of Kashmir) to the Kashmiris in 1947 and many times later, which
had been long denied. She also highlighted the fact that the 1989 insurgency
arose as a result of long-denied historical grievances - denial of promised
plebiscite, consistently rigged elections and erosion of autonomy
and that the popular alienation and discontent continues.
the fact that the Kashmiri movement was not communal, given that Kashmiri
Muslims had always demonstrated in support of the slain minorities as
in the recent Nadimarg massacre in March and that Kashmiriyat continues
to flourish. She closed the speech highlighting an Andorran solution
which could potentially work Kashmir Valley and Azad Kashmir
made as autonomous entities with external defence and foreign affairs
controlled jointly by India and Pakistan.
The speeches were
followed by a Q&A session with the audience. Some Pandits discussed
their concerns about safe return to their ancestral homeland of the
Valley, which they had been forced to flee in a massive exodus in 1990.
Another person in the audience reiterated the fact that there were no
communal riots in Kashmir and that communal amity still flourishes and
hoped for a lasting solution. Snehal Shingavi, a Berkeley student activist,
highlighted the need for unity among the people of Kashmir in their
struggle for self-determination.
The two and a half
hour program ended on a positive note with many in the audience feeling
that the discussion forum was informative and productive. Dr. Angana
Chatterji and Zulfiqar Ahmad conducted and moderated the Forum very
effectively in a very admirable manner. Friends of South Asia and ISO,
Berkeley expressed their support for this Forum.
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