NEW YORK, Dec 8 (APP): An international conference has unanimously adopted a declaration supporting the right of self-determination for Kashmiris and calling for stepping up pace of India-Pakistan dialogue in which they must be made an “integral component” of peace process.
“The inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as it stood on 14 August 1947, be recognized and instituted,” stressed the 9-point declaration worked out at the day-long ‘Kashmir Peace Conference,’ which was organized on
Monday by International Educational Development (IED), an NGO
accredited the United Nations.

Internationally famed lawyers, writers, human rights activists and other public figures, who took part in the conference, backed the Kashmiri people’s struggle for freedom and underscored the need for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

The conference, titled “Beyond the Blame Game: Finding Common Ground for Peace & Justice in Kashmir,” was held at New York’s Church Centre, which is across the street from the UN Headquarters. It was well attended and the discussion was free and frank.

Among those who took part were: Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General; Victoria Schofield, British author, biographer and military historian; Schofield ED Delegate to the United Nations; Barrister Suchitra Vijayan, writer, lawyer and a political theorist;
Khurram Parvez, Human rights activist from Kashmir Nasreen Sheikh, Educationalist, Instructor, Administrator, Azad Kashmir; and Dr.

Zahid Bukhari, founding Director of the Muslims in American Public
Square (MAPS), Georgetown University. Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal,
Executive Editor, Kashmir Times, could not attend because of the
death of her father but her paper was read out at the conference.
Likewise, Prof. Zafar Khan, an academic from Britain, was
unable to come and his paper was also read out.

Prominent Kashmiri activist Ghulam Nabi Fai delivered the
concluding remarks, saying he believed a solution to the Kashmir
dispute was achievable if there was political will and the parties
showed some flexibility and modified their positions.

Under other elements of the declaration, the conference called for the repeal of all extra judicial laws, like Armed Forces Special Powers act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) to ensure restoration of peoples fundamental freedoms
and basic rights; release of All political prisoners and closure of interrogation and torture centres; adoption of Kashmiri-specific confidence building measures to facilitate intra-Kashmiri dialogue and demilitarization of the ceasefire line.

The declaration demanded the protection of the rights of all
members of minorities in Held Jammu and Kashmir, and the
return of all those persons who have been displaced from Held
Jammu and Kashmir since 1947. It also called for facilitating the
return of the Pandit community in Held Valley.

“The international community should be urged to facilitate
dialogue among all stakeholders as well as highlighting human
rights abuses wherever they occur throughout the (Held) state
of Jammu and Kashmir,” the declaration added.

In his remarks, Ramsey Clark spoke about power politics that
had led to eclipsing the Kashmir issue, but said there would be
no peace in the region and on earth without its resolution. He
expresses the hope that the movement for securing the rights of
Kashmiri people would grow and be successful.

Clark said there was lack of knowledge about Kashmir in the
United States and urged Kashmiri activists to intensify their
efforts in informing the American people especially through
media about the prevailing situation.

The former attorney general also recalled former Prime
Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s contribution to the Kashmir
cause. Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, also was devoted to the

He pointed out that Benazir returned to Pakistan to serve
the people against the advise of her friends who warned of the
dangers there.

Clark said the United Nations was unable to act on Kashmir as
it was dominated by big powers, with smaller country having virtually
no say in the decision-making process. “The United Nations needs to
be democratized”.

Victoria Schofield underscored the urgency for resolving the
Kashmir dispute, saying it could be a nuclear flash point as both
India and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. Peace between India and
Pakistan would save billions of dollars that could be used for
ending poverty, she said.

She urged both countries to agree to a third party mediation to
advance the process.
Dr. Karen Parker said the Kashmiri people qualified for the
exercise of the right to self-determination as they met all the
U.N. conditions. Though India had become more influential in
international affairs, but Kashmir remains a disputed territory,
he added.

Dr, Parker proposed taking up India’s human rights violation
in Kashmir to the U.N. Human Rights Council where the Kashmir
parties must present a united front. India took advantage of
their divisions and that hurt their cause, she said.

In a stirring speech, Barrister Suchitra Vijaya, who is from
South India, gave details of the oppression by Indian occupation
forces in Kashmir, and declared her complete solidarity with the
Kashmiri people in their struggle for the exercise of the
U.N.-recognized right to self-determination.

She said she would like to see Kashmir free of the boots of
Indian occupation troops. Vijaya said she had visited Held Kashmir
and interview the traumatized people who spoke to her about the
brutalities they were enduring. Yet most Indians — even the
educated ones — supported India’s position on the dispute.
India’s propaganda was succeeding in brainwashing the people,
she said.

“Kashmiris must be allowed to decide their future,” Vijaya
Khurram Parvez, the activist from Held Srinagar, concentrated
on documenting the human rights violations in Held Kashmir being
carried out under an “institutionalized policy” of the Indian

Despite hundreds of filed cases, not a single person had
been prosecuted. In fact, there was an incentive for the Indian
occupation troops to kill. A soldier who kills a militant gets
an hefty amount of Indian rupees 500,000. That’s why there are
so many reports of fake encounters, he added.
He said even an FIR cannot be filed against Indian troops
involved in killing innocent people. “The world must stand up
for the suffering people of Kashmir.”

Parvez suggested pressure should be built on India through
international bodies to ease the human rights situation in
Held Kashmir even as efforts continue to resolve the dispute.