Without Comment - Recall Migrants to J-K - Rights Activist
“ It does not look like Happy Valley any longer," observed Mr. Beersmans Paul, a former officer in the Belgian army who had served Kashmir as one of 35 UN observers during 1978-79 and is revisiting after 14 years as a human rights activist. Indirectly and obliquely, he hinted that Pakistan had snatched away happiness from the beautiful Valley.
"It was happy Valley then, serene and beautiful Srinagar looked nice but is today besieged city All vital points are protected and there are bunkers all over The empty houseboats resonate the stillness of the Dal lake. Shikarawalas (boatmen) are without work as there are no tourists. Shops do not have brisk business," said Mr. Paul who is now President of the Brussels-based Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu and Kashmir. He said the organization sought to keep the Belgian media informed on Kashmir and to correct distortions that might creep in at times.
Giving his impressions after meeting all shades of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir ranging from the Governor to the Hurriyat Conference leaders and from recently released persons like Yasın Malik and Shabir Shah to Kashmiri Pandit refugees living in camps in Jammu and Delhi, Mr. Paul said. "There is basic inconsistency in what they say and what they do. All of them say they are for peace, that they are against violence. They talk of mutual understanding. If that is really and truly so, there should be no problem. But there is all round mistrust and instead of discussing and finding compromise, people are interpreting differently the same set of acts like the UN resolutions of 1947 and 1948, the Tashkent and Shimla agreements".
For example, everyone said it was not a problem of religious fundamentalism in the Valley. Some blamed India for trying to project it as such. "My question is: then why did the Kashmiri Pandits have to flee the Valley?" If it is not a fundamentalist movement, then they should invite these migrants to return and thereby prove there is no basic inconsistency. They should guarantee the safety of Kashmiri Pandits and demonstrate the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect." Mr. Paul said.
Emphasizing the need for deploying confidence building measures to restore an atmosphere of trust to facilitate people holding different views to sit across a table and discuss the problems, Mr. Paul said the first step for achieving this was to dispel the fear of the gun. In the climate that would then be created, it would be possible to hold elections.
"Today, almost every party claims to enjoy a majority and to be the genuine representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. But there are as many as 40 parties there and their claim could be verified only by holding an election." Mr. Paul observed, adding: "There is a political vacuum now and nobody knows who is what. There is utter confusion." The Hurriyat leaders like Gilani and Lone had told him that they were not opposed to the holding of elections provided they were not rigged and provided these were not a substitute for a plebiscite,
Courtesy: "Times of India", Dec. 2, 1994 Originally Published
Courtesy:- Subhash Kirpekar and December 1994 Koshur Samachar
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