Veteran journalist Ved Bhasin, who passed away on Thursday night remained an advocate of justice, peace, and human rights. Credited with institutionalising journalism in Jammu and Kashmir, he was highly respected in journalistic circles for his integrity and intellectual acumen.
Bhasin, a strong advocate of a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue, challenged India and Pakistan’s grand narratives on the disputed Kashmir territory.
In 2004, at a workshop held in Washington DC, Bhasin advocated that the right of self-determination cannot remain confined to either deciding to join India or Pakistan. “It can be an independent state as well. It is for the people of the State to decide. No solution can be found by ignoring the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who are the basic party to the Kashmir dispute,” the veteran noted.
He said at the Capitol Hill workshop: “The solution of the Kashmir dispute can be found through the process of dialogue but that dialogue cannot be only between India and Pakistan, but, primarily, it is a dialogue that must involve the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Without the people of the Jammu and Kashmir dialogue can never succeed.”
Democratic and independent Kashmir
Bhasin vision was a democratic, secular, independent Jammu and Kashmir as the ideal solution. To him, that solution was the only practical solution that could satisfy, by and large, the urges and aspirations of the largest number of people in Jammu and Kashmir.
Bold solutions on Kashmir’s problems
When a United States Senator asked Bhasin a way forward for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute, he suggested a two-phase withdrawal of troops by India and Pakistan from the disputed state. Bhasin added that there should be elections for the two assemblies, on the Indian and Pakistani sides of the state and the institution of a common council to discuss common issues such as tourism. The Line of Control should be made porous and there would be free movement of people and goods. This, Bhasin suggested, could be tried for a period of five years after which there could be an election for a united Constituent Assembly for the entire state, whose members would then determine the state’s status whether as a part of India, Pakistan or an independent nation. We should be, reiterated Bhasin, ‘like the Switzerland of South Asia: that situation will fully satisfy aspirations of the people of the State and will lead to peace in India and Pakistan’.
The believer of peace
Bhasin was the key-note speaker at an International Peace Conference held at Montevideo, Uruguay (Central America) in 2007, which was also addressed by General Ricardo Galarza of Uruguay, former Chief of ‘United Nations Military Observer Group of India and Pakistan’ (UNMOGIP)’. Bhasin said “the Jammu and Kashmir problem has to be solved by peaceful methods”. He suggested a just and peaceful solution that is acceptable to the people of the state, belonging to different areas and various religious creeds, groups, communities. He believed that such a kind of solution can be found only through a process of dialogue and a process of reconciliation.
Kashmir people at the center
He spoke in New York City on February 24, 2005, “It has been stated that Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan. I personally think that there is primarily only one party to the dispute and that is the people of the State. India and Pakistan are only secondary parties. They came there because both claim that Kashmir belongs to them. Otherwise, primarily it is the problem of the people, related to their fundamental and inalienable right to decide their own future.” Many in Jammu criticised him for being pro-Valley and he was attacked several times.