In a sharp witted interview the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan has explained the raison detre of the Kashmir dispute to the European leaders, MEPs and media in his weeklong visit to the headquarters of the European Union here.
He says the situation in India-occupied Kashmir, a majority Muslim region, has flared up in the last six months, without a glimpse of the beginning of pacification. “Europe has a moral and political responsibility to intercede democratically more visibly in favour of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the flag of human rights must also float high in Srinagar.” Excerpts:
Q: How would you describe the current situation in Kashmir? A: It is terrible. The crisis was triggered by the assassination, by the Indian forces, of a popular figure of the struggle for freedom. There are indiscriminate killings of civilians, demonstrators. Hundreds of people were killed or injured, property was destroyed. This is the first time that mass blinding has been used as an instrument of war; that an occupation force is targeting the eyes of those who seek freedom.
Q: What do you propose to revitalize the peace process? A: The ball is in the Indian court. Pakistan is ready to hold dialogue with India for quite some time. You talk about the “peace process”, but before the peace process resumes, you have to start by having contacts. The bilateral track does not work; such talks have not produced anything tangible for decades. As long as India is reluctant to engage on Kashmir, we have no other option but to turn to the international community and the United Nations. The Security Council should hold a debate on the situation. Its members cannot remain silent; they have to return to their own resolutions on Kashmir. If they care about peace and security, they have a responsibility to be proactive. They cannot simply say that the problem should be solved by India and Pakistan; especially when a crisis, like the one we have been experiencing for the past six months, has broken out. This matter is about the right to self-determination of peoples.
Q: Auto-determination can be realised in different ways. What is your objective? A: India wants to exclude Kashmiris from the solution of the conflict. The people of Jammu and Kashmir must have an opportunity to determine by referendum their political future and about sovereignty over their territory, in conformity with the resolutions of the Security Council.
Q: India argues that Pakistan supports jihadi groups and that this support should stop before negotiating. Recently, Pakistan has placed under house arrest Hafiz Saeed, the head of a group, linked to the Mumbai attacks of 2008. Does this mean that you start to repress the jihadi groups that are also active in Kashmir? A: India gives this argument to divert the attention of the atrocities it commits in Kashmir. It doesn’t give credible proof of jihadi activities in the region.
Q: Its military base Uri has been attacked in September and 20 people were killed: the work, according to India, of the Pakistani jihadi movement… A: There are two versions: the Indian version and ours. We don’t have sufficient evidence to conclude that attack has been committed by jihadis from Pakistan. We don’t know who has inspired, financed or organised the attack.
The Line of Control (which separates Kashmir) is the most controlled of the world; with electronically monitored impassable fences at the Indian side. India is strong in distorting facts. Where is the proof? Pakistan fights terrorism in all its forms. It is eliminating its remnants in all parts of the country. That is very clear. The action against Hafez Saeed has been taken in conformity with the constitutional and legal obligations and its commitments to the international community.
Q: The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, since he took office in New Delhi, insists on the willingness of India to maintain good relations with its neighbours. He reached out to Pakistan, says he tried to restore relations, without results… A: And do you believe him? If he would have been sincere, he would have restarted dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir and would have stopped killing Kashmiris. The problem doesn’t come from Pakistan, but from the mass murders, genocide, crimes against humanity, human rights violations committed by India.
Q: The word ‘genocide’ is not a term to be used lightly… A: I deliberately use it. Muslims have been targeted since 1947-1948.
Q: What difference do you observe since the arrival in power of the Hindu nationalists? A: I observe an increase in Hindu extremism, in intolerance and hatred towards Muslims. It is a recipe for a disaster, not only for Kashmiris but also for the Indian civil society as a whole.
Additional small article, under Landmarks: A conflict in high altitude. Three geo-political powers, Indian, Pakistan and China have stakes in Kashmir. It is here, more specifically, that the Indian-Pakistani conflict crystallises, born from the division of the British Indian empire in 1947.
The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, despite the fact that it was in majority a Muslim region, was at that time ruled by a Hindu maharaja who chose to turn to India instead of Pakistan. A first war broke out and ended in 1949 with the partition of Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries, with in between the Line of Control installed by the United Nations.