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"The dialogue must be unconditional"

Without setting any conditions for dialogue, India should try and convince Kashmiris to agree for maximum autonomy, says human rights activist V M Tarkunde.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2002 15:54 IST

V.M.Tarkunde, jurist and renowned Human Rights activist, associated with a number of voluntary social and civil liberties organizations expresses his views on the Kashmir problem.

Q: We have always been talking, although vaguely, about some solution to the problem of Jammu and Kashmir. But is there really any such solution?

V M Tarkunde: There are a number of possible solutions. But solution must emerge out of some of the previous discussions. That is why I fully agree with Mr. Saifuddin Soz that we must start with dialogue process and see the reactions. It is only after this that we would be able to analyze the situation in totality and think about the best possible way to a solution. I am not entirely as pessimistic as Mr. Mir Qasim has been. I suppose, it is a matter of temperament. Whatever the difficulties, I always tend to be optimistic and feel that the difficulties can somehow be overcome, and we should certainly try to do so.

Q: Who all should be invited for the talks to resolve the impasse?

VMT: I must make it clear that our dialogue has to be a multiple dialogue. First we should have a dialogue with the people or leaders of the Kashmir Valley. It is difficult to see who the leaders are but from my visits to Kashmir and interactions with people in the valley I can conclude that Mr. Geelani and Mr. Abdul Ghani Lone and the other three released recently are among those who command some respect among the common people and organizations.

I fully agree with Mr. Soz that the talks should be unconditional on either side. Without setting a condition about the talks being within the framework of Indian constitution it should be our endeavor to convince and make the Kashmiris agree to maximum autonomy within the framework of Indian constitution. I am emphasising on 'maximum autonomy' because it is absolutely essential if there has to be any successful dialogue.

Q: What is the position of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir? What according to you do they want?

VMT: To be very frank all of them are in favour of complete independence from India. My impression is that they are also not in favour of going with Pakistan. On the whole, they will remain here. The more oppression we exercise or are compelled to exercise in Kashmir, to that extent there is a possibility that more and more people might ultimately come to say that all right, 'we rather prefer to go to Pakistan than remain in India'. That sort of a situation does not persist at present but in my opinion it is likely to develop with frequent suppression of people's rights.

Q: Is it possible to meet the regional aspirations of people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh at the same time?

VMT: I think that we must have a dialogue with people of Jammu, Kashmir and Laddakh, in order to know what their reactions are in this regard. I do not know whether it is possible to have a common dialogue with all the three. There are two distinct contrasting opinions with some saying that the state should not be divided at all and the other vouching for a trifurcation of the state into Kashmir, Jammu and Laddakh.

I am of the view that there must ultimately be a dialogue with Pakistan also on the Kashmir issue. Without a dialogue with Pakistan, you cannot have a final solution. The dialogue like with the people should be without any pre-conditions.

Q: Do you think Jammu and Kashmir belongs either to India or Pakistan, exclusively?

VMT: That is the only question on which we are going to have a discussion with all the parties involved. If we start with a preconceived attitude it will not work. I am very strongly of the view that neither India nor Pakistan has got exclusive right on Kashmir and that the desires of the people of the valley have to be taken into consideration.

I am of the view Kashmir primarily belongs to Kashmiris. But if we can induce them, then an attempt should be made. Therefore, the dialogue has to be a multiple one. It has to be an unconditional dialogue and it has to be a dialogue with the understanding that India and Pakistan between themselves do not have the right of either having Kashmir for themselves or dividing Kashmir without the active consent of the Kashmiris.

Q: What do the militants think? Do they think they can solve the problem?

VMT: I find that present there is a realization among the people of Kashmir that militancy won't work. The militants and their supporters and friends too have realized it resulting in a fall in militancy in the state. This, to some extent, is a helpful situation. That is why today dialogue is more important. I have a number of friends who are friends of the militants and from them I get the impression that they have now realised a dialogue with India is important to solve the problem.

At the time, I must say that decline in militancy is a helpful development but it has been achieved at a cost, which is too great. In my opinion and that of the people who have visited Kashmir frequently, the bitterness people of Kashmir have against India is greater than before. We must realise this. No political gains have been obtained as a result of the militancy being reduced. What has happened is that there have been terrible excesses by the forces, and large number of innocent people have been killed and tortured.

Q: Is it true the presence of security forces have further aggravated the problem?

VMT: I have no doubt about it. I have seen it. I have investigated into it. I have been to villages and I have seen people with marks on their bodies. They are people who are free.

Q: How serious is the problem of alienation?

VMT: We have absolutely alienated the people of Kashmir. If, I were a Kashmiri, I would never think of continuing to be a part of India. That is my reaction. It is very difficult to tolerate such brutalities. The reason is that the soldiers and paramilitary forces do not regard Kashmiris as Indians. Instead they regard them as enemies and, in turn, the people also start regarding the forces as their enemies.

That is what is happening in Kashmir at present. You want Kashmir but you do not want the Kashmiri people. That is what at least I tell to the persons who owe allegiance to BJP. I say, you want the land of Kashmir, you do not want the people of Kashmir, and if you want the people of Kashmir, you will never behave in this manner. I do not want to deal with this length from the human rights point of view.

Q: How genuine are the prosecution against erring security personnel involved in crime against indigenous people?

VMT: I am saying that if we want to have a meaningful dialogue and locus-standi in Kashmir we must have to do away with double standards. Though the government has started prosecuting some erring security personnel the fact is it is not publicized. This makes the entire process doubtful. In some instances personnel who were charged with rape got away with a mere dismissal from service instead of imprisonment.

Excessive laws are bad but even those laws are not being observed and torturing the people like this. Therefore, I am of the view first thing that the Government has got to do is to see that these excesses or breaches or violations of civil liberties are put an end to.

First Published: Sep 10, 2002 20:48 IST