Global Civil Society Recognition of a Public Policy Framework for Jammu Kashmir & Allied
Global Civil Society Recognition of a Public Policy Framework for Jammu Kashmir & Allied
Why this petition matters
After 18 years of consistent efforts on the ground in AJK, as a public policy measure it is now time that we ask global civil society to lend authenticity to the people's wishes and recognise the geopolitical neutrality of AJK, to avert impending water conflict and tap into the socio-economic possibilities presented by our geography.
This slither of land (indicated in red in the top right hand corner of the image below) constitutes less than 6% of the territory of JKA but accommodates over 25% of the whole State's population, of which as much as 40% are part of a significant diaspora spread throughout the world, especially in the United Kingdom.
Non-negotiables in the transition from 'conflict' to 'peace':
1) The local people's reference
2) Geopolitical neutrality of the territory
The terms 'responsible government', 'Awami Raj' (people's rule) as opposed to 'Shakhsi Raj' (autocratic rule), 'Muslim Conference', 'National Conference', 'Naya Kashmir' (New Kashmir) and 'Azad Kashmir' (Free Kashmir) were all terms publicly active in reference to people's rights pre 1947, in the erstwhile British Indian princely State of Jammu Kashmir and Allied areas (or JKA for simplicity while maintaining inclusivity) or Jammu Kashmir wa Aqsai Tibet Ha, as it was officially written by its autocratic Dogra rulers under British suzerainty.
The territory of c. 85,000 square miles was also simply referred to as 'Kashmir' in many quarters and according to the pre-eminent international jurist and authority on the UN template Dr Nazir Gilani, the territory of JKA was not a colony but under suzerainty - as indicated above - whereby both internal and external security was ensured by the British Indian empire. In almost all other matters, the State was effectively independent.
The goalposts were changed and instead of simply transitioning from autocracy to democracy or the Maharajah and his subjects coming to a mutual agreement without external interference, the territory was ostensibly converted into a territorial dispute between its freshly independent neighbours, namely India (63%) and Pakistan (37%).
Pre 1947 there had been no visible public activism or autocratic inclination for accession towards any country post British departure.
This is what we - at JKA PUBLIC AGENCY - describe as the British designed Indo-Pak bilateral conflict management module.
Ref: Al Jazeera: Is the world forgetting about Kashmir? | The Stream (19:05 to 19:50)
We also describe this module as a 'railway track' in that it is symmetric and binary. For example, Indian nationalism competing with Pakistani nationalism, Hindu vs Muslim, Secular vs Fundamentalist; with USSR vs USA in the background till the end of the cold war.
Hate competed with hate and there was very little space for love and human compassion, let alone civilisational cognition.
Both fed off each other and thus was sustained the conflict management module and hence the 'conflict economy'.
This module broke down on August the 5th 2019, with India's seemingly unilateral move to downgrade and bifurcate 48% of JKA, from a State into 2 Union territories of Jammu Kashmir & Ladakh.
From 1947 to date, the inhabitants here had begun hearing fresh terms like 'the peoples reference', 'self-determination', 'plebiscite' and 'referendum' while others floated concepts such as 'autonomy' and 'self-rule'; as pointers towards a just solution to this conflict.
All countries and institutions concerned viz. America, Britain, China, India, Pakistan and the United Nations had also referenced the people's will as a proviso/condition for a solution.
However, none of them have abided with or respected that stance in practice. Neither have politicians of all descriptions within the forcibly divided State. Indeed, the people themselves have also - on most occasions - disrespected each other and thus almost nullified their basic premise for negotiation with the region and the rest of the world.
There has been a clear absence of 'Inclusive Politics'.
Politicians were mostly swept into the 'conflict economy', while others were marginalised, jailed or in some cases even killed.
People in all parts of the erstwhile princely State have been denied their basic rights from the outset to date (1947 to 2023).
These rights include but are not restricted to:
1) Freedom of Expression
2) Freedom of Movement
3) Freedom of Association
4) Freedom of Assembly
5) Recourse to law including international law where appropriate
All these rights have been denied except a quantum of such to those inhabitants who adhere to India's nationalist narrative living under Indian administration (48% including Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh), Pakistan's nationalist narrative living under Pakistani administration (35% including AJK and Gilgit Baltistan) or China's nationalist narrative for those Chinese workers/army personnel or local shepherds/travellers living under Chinese administration (17% including Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakorum Tract).
As an action-oriented independent public policy researcher working inclusively in the region and on-the-ground uninterrupted since April 2005 (In the wake of the first meaningful Confidence-Building-Measure or CBM from an inhabitant's perspective viz. the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus route linking relatives on both sides of the divide via a travel permit); it has become abundantly clear through rigorous practice using democratic, ethical, legal and peaceful means; that the people here are structurally denied the right to their reference: the people's reference.
In other words, they have no civil recourse to address the territorial conflict thrusted on them since 1947.
No one is willing to meaningfully listen to their suggestions, complaints or solutions. Let alone act on them.
Even notable foreign academics who've thoroughly researched this 'conflict' have gradually avoided and at times even balked at suggestions to enforce the people's reference.
It is also clear that neither India or Pakistan, neither America or China and neither the United Kingdom or the United Nations have enforceable solutions either.
What we have learned over 18 years is that all the solutions reside within the people's reference. They reside within the minds and motivations of the deprived people of Gilgit, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
'Great games' over the centuries between empires have dominated and thus restricted the inhabitants from developing a working tradition of finding solutions for humanity.
It is time to invert the process from outside-in (conflict) to inside-out (peace).
From the entrenched conflict zone belief that 'might is right' to the soft-power inspired 'right is might'.
We have human/data, soil, waste and water solutions to offer the region.
They will navigate us away from the prevailing 'conflict economy' to a 'peace economy'.
They will create a new meaning for our geography, which is arguably the most precious in the world.
Our neighbourhood accommodates six of the world's largest mountain ranges. The associated glaciers act as a source of fresh water for more than a third of the world's population, all residing within our vicinity and dependent in some shape or form on these water sources, emerging from the Land of Tibet.
Our fragile ecology and anticipated water wars further compel us to act proactively. Just as Sonam Wangchuk of Ladakh is so doing.
We can no longer afford to wait for the world.
We started transitioning 'From CBMs to OBMs' (Ownership-Building-Measures) in 2011.
Ref. From CBMs to OBMs referenced and critiqued by the late renowned political scientist Richard Bonney
We have a public policy structure in place that tackles problems by dividing them into four categories before working on each incrementally - and usually simultaneously - on the ground.
Our practice is now ready to engage the world and seek authentication in the shape of signatures. Yes, we don't yet enjoy the 'direct democracy' privileges of the Swiss citizen, to adopt a well designed procedure to facilitate legislation from the ground upwards.
Yet, we can emulate and even surpass that methodology online, while implementing it on the ground.
Our conditions and circumstances necessitate that we directly approach global civil society for the required number of signatures to ensure our region - and the world at large - take our efforts seriously and help us avert any impediments that sustain conflict.
As intimated earlier, we've been straight-jacketed. There is no forum (legal or political) locally, regionally or globally that we can activate as 'agency' in our own right.
We have exhausted all avenues to date.
Specifically, as a public policy measure we reiterate our request to global civil society to immediately recognise the geopolitical neutrality of AJK.
Our problems are the world's problems.
Though, rather than project our problems repetitively - generation after generation - while ignoring the problems of many of our co-citizens, yet hope that powerful countries or global institutions will heed our cries, we consider it more pragmatic to take on the burden of responsibility ourselves to provide solutions.
Many of us have put all our stakes in a solution as broadly articulated above.
We are adamant that peace must be restored, creatively but peacefully.
This petition could ultimately and positively impact the destiny of billions of people. We urge the whole world to play their part, initially by signing this petition and then sharing it with others.