Naseer A Ganai
In this conference on inter-regional dialogue two speakers had agreement on various issues. That there should be opening of road links. That there should be more and more trade between regions within the State. That there is need to increase items in Cross LoC trade and it should be hassle free. One speaker was representing Chamber of Commerce of Jammu and another Chamber of Commerce Kashmir. They both being from trade bodies understand much better that people of different regions are for having trade with each other. It seems once there is interaction and trade between the regions in peaceful environment, then sky is limit for us.
Noted economist and columnist of the Times of India Swaminathan Ayar wrote an article in July 2005: Get Ready for Davos 2035: It was a welcome address to guests who would come to attend world economic forum meeting in Gulmarg in the autonomous Jammu and Kashmir in 2035.
Interestingly in August 17, 2008 he wrote: “On August 15 India celebrated independence from British Raj. But Kashmir staged a bandh demanding independence from India. A day symbolizing the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolizing Indian colonialism in valley… British insisted for a long time that India was an integral part of the empire, the jewel in the crown and would never be given up. Imperialist Blimps remained in denial for decades. I fear we are in similar denial in Kashmir.”
The question is can it be possible to have world economic forum meeting in Gulmarg of autonomous Jammu and Kashmir. I think it is possible. Like Mr Ayair let us acknowledge the problem first. That Kashmir is not the jewel in the crown of India. It is an occupied territory. Then throw a solution.
Instead we are in denial of everything including occupation and regional differences.
Inter-regional cooperation will only succeed once we acknowledge the problem first. There is no denial of the fact that there are different perceptions in different regions of the state. Why it is so? I think it is because of the lack of people to people contact and trade between the regions within the State.
For 60 years Mughal road has not been allowed to construct. If the State has not allowed people of Pir Panchal region of Jammu to interact and above all trade with people of valley, is it not denial of fundamental right? Why people to people contact should be restricted between 'intellectuals' of India and Pakistan and why within the State of Jammu and Kashmir it is being denied by the State to ordinary people. Doda Desa Kapran road, Smithan road linking Chenab valley of Jammu with Kashmir is closed for five decades and no on raises voice on these issues.
If Jammu and Kashmir State is one, then why it is not being allowed to be one? Let the roads open. Let people meet. Let us understand each other. Why New Delhi is afraid of people to people contact in Jammu and Kashmir and why it throws up theories of inter regional discard when it is denying people of Jammu and Kashmir State right to interact with each other. A united voice from all regions must be raised against this denial of fundamental right.
The State has sown the seeds of regional discard by trying to make Kashmir issue as religious dispute. Like by extending Amarnath yatra to 2 months from 15 days despite it being against religious scriptures of Hindus or by making Sindhu Darshan as annual ritual. And it seems Indian State believes once a political dispute is turned religious dispute, it becomes so complicated that even gods will be afraid of solving it.
These attempts of the State to make Kashmir dispute a religious issue must be confronted by civil society of three regions. Because it is volatile region where Americans are moving out of Afghanistan and in such scenario you can imagine danger of keeping Kashmir lingering and making it religious dispute.
Besides, it is to be naïve to think that once political dispute like Kashmir is made religious or its demography is changed, as is perception, the dispute will be over. Kashmir dispute started in 1947 between Pakistan and India and as long as these two States exist dispute will remain there. By annihilating Kashmiris, killing their youth will not end Kashmir dispute. This must be understood.
Apart from roads, water is other issue which can bring us together. It is our water which is being denied to us with successive Central Governments refusing to give even counter grantees to State Government to establish hydal projects.
The roads belong to Jammu and Kashmir , water belong to the Jammu and Kashmir and if people of different regions of the Jammu and Kashmir raise voices against exploitation of our water resources by Central Government and seeks for opening road links between different regions, it will improve political climate to an extend that we will not have to wait for 2035 for having world economic forum meeting in Gulmarg. It is unfortunate that Chenab Valley Development Corporation was established and there was not a murmur in Kashmir in general and Jammu in particular about this organized loot of our waters.
If these issues unite us, other larger goals like demilitarization of the State will follow. Economic considerations override all other considerations. The State will flourish once there is investment in peace. And there is need to invest in peace keeping the situation in the region in mind.
World Economic Forum meeting is only possible in peaceful Jammu and Kashmir. And investment in peace in the State of Jammu and Kashmir has to be made by New Delhi. It must be told that 6 lakh Army is not deployed to counter 600 militants. It is what Arundhati Roy rightly says not war against 600 militants but against people of Jammu and Kashmir. It must be told that by closing road links between two regions of the State and by creating hassles in LoC trade it is denying economic prospects to youth and throwing them to other extremes. It must be told that water resources should be restored to us. People of three regions if get united on issues like roads, water and trade then they can force the Government of India to invest in peace by going for demilitarization and this will improve political climate to an extent we have real Davos in Kashmir much earlier than what Saminathan Ayiar had imagined.
(The paper was read in a seminar in Srinagar on Inter-Regional Cooperation)