The Kashmir Committee was first formed in 2002 by Ram Jethmalani, Member of Parliament and Former Minister of Law & Urban Development. However, due to circumstances beyond its ken and control, it became dormant within a year of its formation. It was revived by Mr Jethmalani in April 2011 after intensive dialogues with leading actors of Pakistani civil society organizations, and senior judges, politicians as well as the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan. They all communicated to him the need to create a platform that would garner all the forces desiring peaceful and democratic resolution of the Kashmir problem and enduring peace between India and Pakistan. We sense a similar keenness for a permanent resolution of the Kashmir problem within India. However, even though we are responding to the growing peace constituency in Pakistan and India, the present Kashmir Committee is not acting at the behest of either the Government of Pakistan or the Government of India.
Jethmalani invited me to take charge of steering the affairs of the revived Kashmir Committee as its Convener. Three of the present members of the Kashmir Committee, Former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, Former Ambassador VK Grover and eminent editor and journalist M.J.Akbar were members of Kashmir Committee I as well. A significant addition to KC II is Waheed Ur Rehman, a journalist from the Pulwama district of Kashmir.
Kashmir Committee II took shape against the backdrop of the violent upsurge of 2010 when lakhs of young men and even children came out on the streets in Kashmir to vent their anger against the State government for its callous response to the killing of 120 innocent young men and children during the “stone pelting” movement which forced the closure of the government offices, schools, colleges and business establishments for months on end.
Thousands of teenagers were arrested and locked up in jails under the draconian Public Safety Act which enables the J&K Government to keep people in jails without trial. Even though the Chief Minister of J&K tried to escalate the crisis by calling the army to quell the civil revolt against his regime, in an unprecedented move, the then Army Chief, as well as the Core Commander in charge J&K, refused to let the army be used to crush what they saw was a political protest against misrule.
Unfortunately, the Govt. of India did not take this as a warning signal. They treated the popular protest with disdain and expected the movement to peter out as people got exhausted and demoralized. In order to buy time, a team of Interlocutors were sent to J&K to engage with people and advise the government of India. However, almost all the separatists refused to meet the official Interlocutors.
We felt that the urgent need to break the continuing stalemate over Kashmir, especially considering that there is a deep desire among the people of Kashmir and a growing constituency in Pakistan for a peaceful and honourable settlement of the Kashmir problem.
We believe that as concerned citizens we cannot sit and watch the situation drift aimlessly. This complacency and indifferences demoralizes the people of Kashmir and forces them to believe that the GOI takes note of their frustration only when people throw stones, hurl grenades and indulge in widespread violence.
In June 2011 KC II met a diverse spectrum of political opinion in the Valley. This included both separatists and mainstream politicians. We also met several organizations of lawyers, medical doctors, academics, traders as well as organizations of surrendered militants who came to us with their own list of demands for rehabilitation. In July 2011 we visited the Jammu region where we started our interaction with Kashmiri Pandit migrants who were ousted out of the Valley when separatist militancy was at its peak. This was followed by meetings with mainstream politicians, university teachers, lawyers, and media professionals. We will also be visiting the Ladakh region in the coming months to bring the diverse people of that neglected region into the process of exploring a consensually acceptable solution. Interactions with people from J&K are not limited to our visits to the State. Several key individuals and organizations have come and met us in Delhi as a follow up to the interaction that started with our visits. For example, we recently took up the grievances of the management and teachers of private colleges in Kashmir to the Minister for Human Resource and Development. We have also set up a legal cell for handling cases of those wrongly confined to jails. Some of these cases are being argued in the courts by Mr Jethmalani himself.
One of the key complaints we repeatedly heard from a whole range of people is that even though the Government of India and opinion-makers in the country never tire of asserting that Kashmir is an atoot ang or “integral part of India”, they pay no attention to the problems faced by Kashmiri people or even that of Jammu region except when people take to the streets in anger. The national media is criticized for practicing “parachute journalism” and for remembering Kashmir only when bombs start exploding or when separatist slogans rent the air.
We believe that enduring peace and a just solution to the Kashmir problem will happen only when concerned citizens act as bridges of communication between the diverse regions and ethnic communities of J&k as well as evolve a consensually acceptable solution. The Government of India will not be able to ignore or bypass such a mutually agreed upon formula for settlement of the vexed Kashmir problem.
CHAIRPERSON: Ram Jethmalani ( MP Rajya Sabha, Former Law Minister)
Shanti Bhusahan ( Eminent lawyer, supreme Court of India and former Law Minister Government of India)
V.K Grover (Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GOI)
M.J Akbar (Editorial Director, India Today, Editor, Sunday Guardian)
Wahid Ur Rehman (Journalist from Pulwama, Kashmir)
CONVENOR: Madhu Purnima Kishwar (Founder MANUSHI, Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies)