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History should not imprison the future of Kashmir

Human rights work in tandem with Kashmir peace initiatives. The two do not war with one another. The idea that suppression of human rights promotes peace is discredited by all history, including that of Kashmir. The denial of freedom of speech, association, religion, due process, equal justice, and self-determination in Kashmir has sabotaged peace, not boosted its chances. Ditto in the past for East Timor, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Southern Sudan and etc. The people of Kashmir no less demand dignity and respect than do other peoples. History should not imprison the future, but neither can it be ignored in assessing the justice and morality of aspirations. A brief chronicling of Kashmir’s history will enlighten understanding of its current plight and viable solutions.India’s so-called “democracy” in Kashmir resembles Myanmar’s patently bogus democracy. The recent nationwide Panchayat (local bodies) elections are emblematic. Let me review the stunning voter boycott statistics from Srinagar and its surroundings on October 15, 2018. The Economic Times reported on October 18, 2018 that when the time for voting had ended, the turnout for the final phase of elections, which was held only for two municipal bodies in Kashmir, remained low as usual at 4.2 per cent. These boycott figures are not aberrational but typical. They represent a stunning vote of no confidence by the Kashmiri people in their current illegal governance by India. The peace process and human rights in Kashmir cannot be separated. They will succeed or fail together. We hope we can count on the moral suasion and conscience of the world leaders to push success forward.

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Need for Reconciliation with Justice: Babri Demolition and aftermath

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court in a 2-1 majority verdict refused to refer the Dr. Faruqui verdict to Constitution bench. This said verdict had stated that Mosque in not an essential part of Islamic practice. In recent judgment the dissenter judge felt that matter needs to be referred to the seven judge Constitution bench. There was a feeling that “mosque not being a part of essential Islamic practice” might have had an impact on the 2010 Allahabad Court verdict which had divided the Babri mosque land into three parts, Sunni Waqf Board, Ram Lalla Virajman and Nirmohi Akahada. The argument in favor of the Faruqui case was that Namaz can be offered in an open place as well so mosque is not an essential part of Islamic practice. On the other side the argument is; worldwide there are so many mosques, why are mosques there if this is not a part of Islamic practice? Surely this point did deserve a deeper consideration as it has larger implication on the society. Now the path is paved for the hearing of the land dispute related to Ayodhya case. Though the Allahabad High Court had divided the land into three parts, the basis of that were not the land records but the faith of large number of Hindus; that Lord Ram was born there. How do we solve land disputes; through land records or through the faith of the people? This faith has been an outcome of the political campaign for Ram temple orchestrated by RSS combine, led initially by VHP and later by BJP. Can this faith determine the direction of our judicial system? As far as claims of Ram Temple having been destroyed there over five centuries ago is very doubtful. One recalls that the time when Ram Temple is supposed to have been demolished, one of the biggest devotees of Lord Ram, Goswami Tulsi Das, was living in Ayodhya. He never recorded it in any of his writings. On the contrary Tulsi Das, in one of his couplets writes that he can very well live in a mosque. The faith that Lord Ram was born there has been constructed over a period of time, intensified during last few decades. Nation witnessed the journalists being beaten and their cameras being broken when they were recording the act of crime. Surely, the crime of demolition must be punished. Second; the land dispute needs to be sorted out on the basis of land records. The land has been in possession of Sunni Waqf Board from centuries. In 1885, the Court did not permit the Hindus for Construction of Chabutara (platform), in the land adjoining the mosque. Even now the land records should be clear on the issue. There are attempts by some to bring in ‘Peaceful solution’ ‘out of Court settlement’ to the issue. Some of these initiatives are totally articulating what RSS combine wants. They are asking Muslims to forgo their claim on the land to let the temple come up there. In lieu of that they will be given the land to build the mosque somewhere else. There are also threats that through a legislation of the Parliament a Temple will be constructed there, when BJP gets suitable majority. Reconciliation is a process where both parties are listened to and with some ‘give and take’ issue is undertaken for resolution. This formula to give up all the land for temple construction is very high handed attempt to brow beat the Muslims into a total submission. What we need is an honest attempt to punish the guilty and abide the law to solve the problem. There can’t be peace without justice. The crime of Babri demolition is being presented as ‘Hindu Shaurya Divas’ (Hindu Bravery Day) by RSS combine. As such it a shame for our democracy! It is an outcome of the divisive communal politics, throwing our society in to dark abyss of stagnation and diversion. Our core issues relate to bread, butter, shelter and employment. The RSS combine has built its social and political strength around emotive issues like Ram Temple and Holy Cow at the cost of the genuine issues of society. We do need to built hospitals and schools; we do need to build industries for giving employment. Ayodhya issue coming up at the time of forthcoming elections is so unfortunate. Rather than discussing the core issues of society, what will at center stage will be the question of Temple and Mosque! How we as a nation can bring back the people’s agenda should be the central concerns for all those committed to march towards society with equality as the central focus.

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What to believe in: RSS Words or deeds?

Post form India: Ram Puniyani. Do organizations say what they intend to do? Not necessarily. This came out clearly from the three long lectures by RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. The event was supposed to be a dialogue, but the maximum of dialogue one could see was his answering few questions at the end of lectures. This normal practice of answering the questions was underlined strongly, as probably this must have been novel thing for this organization. So has RSS changed? In case of most of the organizations, they should be judged by their actions, or by the outcome of activities and the programs of the organizations which come into being due to RSS ideology. That’s what will tell us the true character, real agenda of RSS and help us assess why a pleasant face is being presented now? One must say that RSS, as it has got renewed confidence during last four years is now trying to spread its net by mouthing liberal language. This velvet glow is the contribution of Mr. Bhagwat to the deepening divide created in the society due to the all round work of the progeny of RSS, which while sounding independent is totally loyal to the trainings it got while attending shakha baudhhiks. So we know that when the Jansangh component of Janata Party was asked to severe its links with RSS, they preferred to break the party and reemerge as BJP. So the late Prime Minister Vajpayee in Staten Island, while talking in front of NRI Indians reaffirmed his primary loyalty to RSS. Its respect of Indian Constitution is a sham as; for Indian Constitution; we are a secular democratic India, in contrast to Hindu nation, the soul of RSS agenda.

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Talks Can Diffuse the Tension Between India & Pakistan

There was a high level of optimism when India and Pakistan announced on September 20, 2018 to meet in New York on the sidelines of the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. But the dreams were shattered when Government of India unexpectedly announced the cancellation of these talks. Major international and neutral human rights agencies have documented harrowing human rights violations committed by Indian military and paramilitary forces. The draconian laws, like ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants virtual legal immunity to any type of war crimes against humanity perpetrated in Kashmir. Human rights atrocities committed against civilian population are commonplace, world powers need to endorse the recommendations of the report submitted by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights for an impartial investigation about the situation in Kashmir.

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Statement by Foreign Minister at the 73rd Session of the UNGA

Statement by Foreign Minister  at the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly: 29 September 2018 Madam President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I begin by felicitating Madam Maria Fernanda Espinosa Graces upon her election as President of the General Assembly.  The stewardship of this session by an accomplished leader of her ranking and stature,would undoubtedly …

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War of words must stop between New Delhi & Islamabad

Mail From Dusseldorf, Germany: by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai The history affirms that almost all international conflicts were resolved not in the battlefield but on the negotiating table. The people of Kashmir were heartened to know that foreign ministers of India & Pakistan have shown their willingness to meet in New York during the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. But their dreams were shattered when Government of India unexpectedly announced the cancellation of talks. The leadership of both India and Pakistan must show their statesmanship for the sake of peace and security of the region and beyond. The reckless statement of Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, “We need to take stern action to avenge the barbarism that terrorists and the Pakistan Army have been carrying out. Yes, it is time to give it back to them in the same coin…But I think the other side must also feel the same pain” was immature and will not pave the way for a better understanding between these two neighboring countries. Such rhetoric needs to stop. We are mindful that the United Nations as well as the world powers urge both India and Pakistan to initiate talks to resolve their differences. But if there is no change in the mindset, outlook and thought processes, then to expect breakthrough in talks is to ask for a miracle.

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Why Arrest of Dalit activists-‘Urban Naxals’?

Post From India: by Ram Punyani. The present political agenda has tried to push the Muslim minorities into second class citizenship by picking up issues like Ram Temple, Cow-Beef, Love Jihad and Ghar Wapasi (Reconversion into Hinduism). Labeling Muslims and Christians as foreigners and in particular Muslims as anti National has been the plank of their politics. As far as dalits are concerned RSS combine has been doing multiple things to co-opt them into their fold. The first major attempt has been that of Samajik Samrasta Manch, (Social Harmony Forum) where the central theme has been to promote harmony between different castes, as RSS propagates that caste inequality is due to the Muslim invaders who tried to convert, leading to caste inequality. This has been backed up by social engineering where attempts have been made to co-opt dalits and even Adivasis into the ideology which hides inequality. Also many a dalit leaders like Ramvilas Paswan, Ramdas Athwaley and Udit Raj have been lured into the posts of power to get their support for Hindu nationalism. At cultural level they have modulated historical icons like Suhel Dev, as great Hindu warriors standing against the foreigners, the Muslims. Still the rebellion is spilling out; the unrest of dalits is on the streets. The question of equality and dignity of dalits remains undermined. It is in this light that Maharashtra police is desperately trying to implicate those activists/scholars who have stood their ground to help bring up the movement of rights for these marginalized groups. And so this attempts to implicate them with a conference, which was convened by two retired judges. The alert citizens like Romila Thapar have done a yeomen service in invoking the Supreme Court to save the democratic ethos by stopping the reckless police action. Supreme Court has yet again proved that it can protect the rights of the marginalized sections. European Union has taken a note of these arbitrary arrests by police and has condemned these arrests and raids. It is due to actions of state like this that India has been named as one of the offenders for 'alarming' level of harsh reprisals and intimidation against those who cooperate with the UN on human rights issues.

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UN Can Stop Carnage in Kashmir

Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, President, World Kashmir Awareness Forum expressed his anguish and grief over the continued killing by Indian forces in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. He lamented the passive role of the United Nations towards the loss of human life in Kashmir, and urged both the world body and the United States Administration to help stop the carnage in Kashmir. He said that a just and lasting settlement of the dispute is possible only through tripartite negotiations between the Governments of India and Pakistan and the legitimate leadership of the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Dr. Mir was speaking on the subject of, “Kashmir: tale of Subjugation & Resistance” during the 55th Convention of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that was held in Houston, Texas.Dr. Mir underscored that the scale of the popular uprising in Kashmir can be judged from the established fact, that on many occasions during the month of July-August 2018, virtually the entire population of Srinagar came out on the streets in an unparalleled demonstrations to protest the attempt by the Government of India to scrap the Article 35 A of the Indian constitution which gives the special rights and privileges to the state subject of Jammu and Kashmir. He said that the abrogation of this constitutional provision is a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the state. However, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearting of Article 35-A till January 2019. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum said, “Could there be any tragedy more despicable for a people than to see their homeland, once known as paradise on earth, turn into hell? Where peace once reigned and communal harmony prevailed. The once evergreen valleys and snow-capped mountains have been marred by blood. How long will India be allowed to go on killing the people of Kashmir and denying them their fundamental right of self-determination is a question which the international community has to address?” Ms. Hedaya Saadi, of Seattle, Washington said the people of Kashmir have suffered long and needlessly because of this brutal conflict. They demand and they deserve peace. Peace in the region of South Asia remains elusive because of the Kashmir dispute. The inalienable right to self-determination enshrined in the United Nations Charter and promised to the people of Kashmir by the international community, continues to be denied. She said that the whole world knows the magnitude of carnages committed by Indian army in Kashmir but they have yet to utter a word of condemnation.

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Which party cares for Dalits Today?

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani. Recently anti-dalit atrocity laws were first diluted inserting the clause of anticipatory bail. Following this there were serious protests all over. In these protests, the anti dalit nature of present ruling dispensation, BJP led NDA was highlighted. Under the pressure of the protests, the government had to bring in a bill to restore its previous provisions. The Lok Sabha on Monday (August 6, 2018) unanimously passed a Bill to reverse the effects of a Supreme Court order concerning certain safeguards against arrests under the SC/ST law. The amended ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018’, now rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against people from SC or ST communities, as it stood before the revision. Ram Vilas Paswan, part of NDA, thanked the Prime Minster and also criticized the Congress on the occasion. To show that Congress is anti Dalit he raked up the elections in which Congress had contested against Ambedkar. Ram Vilas Paswan’s own allegiance to Ambedkar ideology is strongly under cloud, as he is allying and empowering BJP, the party with agenda of Hindu Rashtra, something which was an anathema for Ambedkar as he stood for social justice, secularism and democracy. As Paswan was well described as Mausam Vaigyanik, (Scientist predicting weather) who in order to remain in power always twists and turns and makes the ideological compromises. His own ideology is that of hunger for power and his words in a way should not matter much except on electoral chess board. His projection of the electoral battle between Ambedkar and Congress is a very selective presentation of the relationship between Congress and Ambedkar. While he points this out he forgets that Ambedkar was not a member of Congress party any time. Also that it is the same Congress party in whose government he was made the Cabinet minister. He needs to be reminded that not only was he minister in the first Cabinet of India, he was also made the Chairman of Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution, in which Babsaheb played a pivotal role. To cap this it was he who was requested to draft the Hindu Code Bill, a major step to reform the family laws towards gender just society. While the likes of Paswan, hankering after power do mouth the name of Ambedkar, they deliberately forget that the major opponents of Constitution drafted by him, the major opposition to Hindu Code bill came from the stable of RSS, the parent organization of the party, in whose alliance he is enjoying the perks of power. One can say that his ally BJP’s agenda of Hindu Rashtra is polar opposite to the dream of Babasaheb, the dream of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, the dream of secular democratic India. RSS never hesitated in criticizing the Indian constitution, calling it Western; BJP never severed its umbilical cord to the Hindu nationalist RSS. Lately from within BJP itself from top down, Hindu nationalism is being propagated and practiced. On the eve of 2014 general election Narendra Modi, the Prime Ministerial candidate himself pronounced that he was born in a Hindu family; he is a nationalist, so he is a Hindu nationalist. Another minister in the Center, Anant Kumar Hegde stated that BJP is there to change the Indian constitution and that secular identity should not be used by the people. To cap it all the UP Chief Minster Adityanath Yogi stated that Secularism is the biggest lie of Independent India. BJP itself is very consciously walking the rope, balancing the phrases and actions as for as dalits are concerned. On one hand power-lust of some dalit leaders like Paswan, Udit Raj and Ramdas Athwaley are used to give a pro dalit veneer to BJP’s actions, on the other hand likes of Hegde and Yogi are forthright about their political agenda. It is also true that for the sake of electoral equations even BJP has to pay obeisance to Ambedkar, despite having and agenda totally opposed to his political ideology. At ground level the impact of BJP-NDA, of which likes of Paswan are members, has affected dalits in a very serious way. While through social engineering they are also trying to woo a section of dalits through manufactured icons likeSuhel Dev and Shabri Mata among others, they have unleashed policies which affect the dalits in a very adverse way. The merciless beating of dalits in Una, which Paswan dismissed as a minor event, the emotive issue of Holy cow has affected the livelihood of dalits in a big way. We also remember that it is during this period that institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the anti dalit attack at Bhima Koregaon tormented the dalit community no end. Even Modi Government on its own did dilute the Anti Dalit atrocity act, only once they saw a serious opposition to their move that they were forced to retreat for electoral calculations. While BJP pays tribute to Ambedkar on one side, at the same time it presents Lord Ram as the central icon of its politics. What Ambedkar has said about Lord Ram in his various writings like ‘Riddles of Hinduism’ is well known to us. For BJP, what is important is to garland Babasaheb; it is of no consequence to them to take the issues of social justice in any serious way. The attempt to selectively present the electoral battle of Congress and Ambedkar is a deliberate ploy to undermine the efforts which national movement and Mahatma Gandhi-Congress did to fight against untouchablity in particular. We have miles to go as far as Babasaheb’s dream is concerned, but one thing which Ambedkar pointed out was that Hindu Raj will be a big tragedy for dalits of the country. It is too much to expect that likes of Paswan will realize their folly of allying with BJP-RSS whose very agenda is inherently anti-dalit, as they are blinded by lust for power!

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The UN should not remain passive in the face of human wrongs in Kashmir

Mail from Washington: by Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai Kashmir is one of the most idyllic setting in the world. A picturesque valley located between Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, China and with a small strip of 27 miles with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kashmir is a natural paradise. The history of the freedom of Kashmir dates back 1931 when the people of Kashmir, both Hindus and Muslims initiated a freedom movement against the then Maharaja (Ruler) to have their own indigenous rule in Kashmir. The resentment of the people led to the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against the Maharaja in 1946. Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capitol, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set the condition that Maharaja must sign an ‘Instrument of Accession’ to India. At the same time, India had to attach another condition that accession was made subject to ‘reference to the people.’ On India’s showing, therefore, the accession has a provisional character. Then India brought the dispute to the United Nations where the Security Council discussed the question exhaustively from January to April 1948. It was agreed upon by the Governments of India and Pakistan and approved by the international community that the dispute over the status of Jammu & Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite By adopting a number of resolutions from 1948 to 1962 reaffirming the principle of free choice for the people of Kashmir, the Security Council – and, therefore the United Nations – has assumed a moral responsibility to ensure that conditions in Kashmir will permit the exercise of that choice. To disown that responsibility would expose the world organization to the charge of making hollow promises and, indeed, deceiving a population which is larger than that of many Members of the United Nations individually. The people of Kashmir never lost hope either in the United Nations as the custodian of human rights, or in their demand to exercise the right of self-determination. The scale of the popular backing of the uprising in Kashmir can be judged from the established fact, that on many occasions during the month of July-August 2018, virtually the entire population of Srinagar and major towns in the Valley came out on the streets in an unparalleled demonstrations to protest the attempt by the Government of India to scrap the Article 35 A of the Indian constitution which gives the special rights and privileges to the state subject of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35 A also bars foreigners to buy the land or to acquire immovable property, etc. in the State. The Joint Resistance Leadership and other legal, religious and business fraternities believe that the abrogation of this constitutional provision is a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the state. However, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearting of Article 35-A till August 27, 2018. In response to the peaceful and massive demonstrations, much inhumanity, continuous violations of basic rights, frequent massacres, constant fear, hunger and misery – these are the gifts of Indian occupation to the people of Kashmir. For the populous South Asian subcontinent, the Kashmir situation entails recurrent possibility of disaster and nuclear war. There is a way to bring these atrocities to an end. The way is that the Secretary General of the United Nations uses its moral and legal authority to reinvoke peaceful dialogue between the Governments of India & Pakistan along with the legitimate representatives of the people of Kashmir for the final settlement of the dispute. The Charter of the United Nations empowers the Secretary General of the United Nations to bring any matter which may threaten the maintenance of internal peace and security to the attention of the Security Council. In consistence with the universally accepted principle that no situation should be allowed to escalate to a point of no return and that the United Nations should not remain passive in the face of human wrongs being committed on a vast scale, the people of Kashmir expect the Secretary General will not hesitate to exercise his discretion and put the Kashmir issue on the active international agenda. Should the Secretary General feel that the factual data at his disposal does not justify the use of his power under Article 99 of the UN Charter, we respectfully propose that the Secretary General urgently dispatch a special representative of high international standing to India and Pakistan who should visit both parts of Kashmir and report back to the Security Council the facts of the situation. In fact, ‘United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights’ has also recommended to send a fact-finding mission to Kashmir to assess the situation there. If India feels that it has nothing to hide, it should welcome such action. We feel confident that the Secretary General of the United Nations will not encourage any party to an international dispute which has been taken cognizance of by the United Nations to circumvent and rebuff the world organization. It should be one thing for the United Nations to remain inactive if an alternative and credible peace process were in motion. It is another when not even the beginning of an effort towards arriving at a settlement bilaterally between the parties or through mediation by friendly governments is visible. To put it plainly, the present situation is that the United Nations is allowing its resolutions to be dishonored and the people of Kashmir to be condemned to systematic destruction. The people of Kashmir deserve better.

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