[Reader-list] Press Release : A Progressive Discussion Forum on Kashmir

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at mnet.fr
Thu Aug 28 18:54:19 IST 2003

South Asia Citizens Wire  |  28 August,  2003

[3.] Press Release : A Progressive Discussion Forum on Kashmir
(People for Peace in Kashmir)

o o o

Press Release : A Progressive Discussion Forum on Kashmir

By People for Peace in Kashmir        August 22, 2003


             About 100 people attended a dynamic discussion
forum on Kashmir in Friday, 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

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

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 ñ Kashmiris, India and Pakistan ñ
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
advised the General that it was high time Pakistan stopped
the covert war in Kashmir and stuck to its stated position
namely- providing merely ìmoral and diplomaticî 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

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 ñ 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 ñ and
that the popular alienation and discontent continues.

She illuminated 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 ìAndorran solutionî 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.

More information about the reader-list mailing list