Congress Leader Says People of Kashmir Want Freedom

Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns. Photo: Amnesty
Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns. Photo: Amnesty

The Congress leader also reveals that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was ready to give Kashmir to Pakistan in exchange of Hyderabad, but Jawaharlal Nehru wanted the region to stay with India.

By Rakesh Raman

Veteran Congress leader Saifuddin Soz suggests that Kashmiris will “prefer to be independent” if they are given a choice to express their free will.

Soz endorsed former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s assessment over a decade ago that Kashmiris will prefer freedom instead of living as citizens of India. He also criticized Indian government for diluting Kashmir’s autonomy that was enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

The Congress leader’s opinion supports Pakistan’s demand for plebiscite in Kashmir, which is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. India has categorically rejected the self-determination (or plebiscite) demand in Kashmir, saying that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

Saifuddin Soz, 81, who was a minister in the Congress-led government, argues in his new book that the Indian government should first open dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference – an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations in Kashmir – before moving to mainstream parties to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.

In his book Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle, Soz says the primary responsibility to find a solution to Kashmir lies with the Indian government and he called for reducing troops presence in Kashmir and revocation of the “draconian” Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA).

The Congress leader also reveals that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was ready to give Kashmir to Pakistan in exchange of Hyderabad, but Jawaharlal Nehru wanted the region to stay with India.

His book comes at a time when PM Narendra Modi’s party BJP is already accusing Congress for supporting separatists in Kashmir.

Arun Jaitley, a BJP leader and finance minister in the Modi government, said last week that Congress president Rahul Gandhi supports subversive elements that want to break India into pieces. Jaitley has voiced his concerns when the international organizations are taking active steps to stop human rights abuses in Kashmir.

A new report by the UN Human Rights Office suggests that there is an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives.

“It is essential the Indian authorities take immediate and effective steps to avoid a repetition of the numerous examples of excessive use of force by security forces in Kashmir,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Zeid also has urged to establish a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.

The UN has demanded an unconditional access to Kashmir to record the extent of human rights violations in the troubled state. While presenting a global update on human rights concerns at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, Zeid reiterated his calls for access to Kashmir.

Similarly, troubled by extreme human rights violations in Kashmir, a British Parliamentary Group has decided to release a report on this issue.

Chris Leslie MP, Chairperson All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir, chaired the meeting a few days ago to discuss the state of unrest in Kashmir.

Kashmir has always been a conflict area between India and Pakistan since 1947 when both these countries got freedom from the British rule. In order to stake their claims over Kashmir, India and Pakistan have fought two bloody wars in 1965 and 1971, besides incessant skirmishes between the rival armies.

Pakistan is leaving no stone unturned to internationalize the burning Kashmir issue as local Kashmiris are facing the wrath of Indian security forces.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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Rakesh Raman