The Kashmir Puzzle

A divine landscape of scenic peaks, lush green meadows, and breath-taking rivers, lakes, and glaciers: Kashmir. Pashtuns, Mughals, Sikhs, Buddhists, British; they have all dominated this region one time or another. The prevailing Muslim Kashmir, as we know it today, is less than two hundred years old development. This nirvana on earth has been a hotly contested region for centuries. The latest and the deadliest conflict has been since the partition of the sub-continent following the culmination of the British Raj from the sub-continent.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir was one of the princely states which were given a right to either side with India or Pakistan. Though the majority of the population was Muslim, the state was ruled by a Hindu leader, Maharaja Hari Singh. The Maharaja decided to stay independent first. His decision did not seem acceptable to those in from the newly formed state of Pakistan, on the basis that the majority of the population of Kashmir was Muslim. Therefore, it should become part of Pakistan. Pakistan started stirring revolt inside Kashmir against the Indian government by infiltration of trained tribal Pashtuns militants who began waging attacks against the forces of Maharaja. In reaction to that, the Maharaja signed a treaty of accession with India on the conditions that India provides Maharaja military support. This carved the path for Pakistan and India going to a full-fledged war just months after the partition of August 1947. Pakistani forces advanced inward and captured part of the region which is called by several names depending upon where you look at it from, i.e. Azad Kashmir, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Following the war, the borders were shifted. After negotiations, a ceasefire was agreed by both countries. Both countries have fought three major wars and several skirmishes since then.

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The new border is what is today known as the Line of Control (LoC). The region of the other side of LoC is likewise called by different names based on whose map you look at it from, i.e. Indian-occupied Kashmir or Indian-controlled Kashmir. Both countries since have their troops stationed in the region along the LoC.

The matter was taken to the U.N. in 1948 for a resolution which, in a nutshell, calls for a referendum to decide the future of the region. The U.N. resolution demands Pakistan to withdraw its forces from the region and requires India to keep its forces to a minimum so that the plebiscite can be held. Due to the lack of trust, both countries have failed to settle on the very prerequisites for the plebiscite to take place. Pakistan has refused to withdraw its troops on the suspicion that India will not follow suit and vice versa.

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Elections of 1951 in the Indian-administered region favored accession with India. The population mix of this region is a 40:60 mix. India uses this as an excuse to not needing to hold the plebiscite. U.N and Pakistan argue, and rightly so, that the plebiscite needs to take into account the say of both the parts of Kashmir – that together formed the princely state before the borders were changed – and not India-administered region alone. There have been many settlement accords and international interventions to resolve the dispute, all in vain. Both the countries, for their own political, regional and strategic interests, have been playing with the lives of Kashmiris for seven decades now.

Where is India wrong: 

First and foremost, the state of India’s human right violations in Indian-administered Kashmir solicits the greatest condemnation. Cases of rape, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, brutality on seniors and minors have become a routine. The ripples of tyranny Indian forces keep yielding on mostly innocent residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir have cost thousands of lives.

A complete media black-out in the region of J&K is draconian at the hands of oppressors. At the time of writing, for almost one-month people do not have access to the internet, telephone and any other mode of communication. Journalists are not being able to report the situation. Public discourse and sentiments are being muted.

Stripping the state of J&K from the special status in the Indian constitution that gave it autonomy was done in an undemocratic fashion and is best seen as a totalitarian move by the government of India.

India has been non-complaint in holding the plebiscite as laid down by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 39. India has long refused several international attempts to resolve the dispute in Kashmir for its vested political and strategic interests, disregarding the interest of the millions of Kashmiris.

India has been insistent on keeping its troops positioned in J&K for ‘security reasons’ while at the same time demanding Pakistan to demilitarise Pakistan-administered region first, without providing any guarantee to follow suit.

A proposal by the Common Wealth in early 1950 to maintain a joint India-Pakistan force in the region to hold plebiscite was also rejected by India, while Pakistan had accepted the offer. India could not come in terms with Pakistan having an equal footing.

Pakistan agreed to the proposal of third-party arbitration, proposed by the United States and Britain while India once again rejected it.

Where is Pakistan wrong: 

Militancy in Indian-administered Kashmir has been part and parcel of the Pakistani military since the inception of the crisis, in one form or another. Impatient Pakistan was first to provoke rebel among the Kashmiris against Indian government by providing trained militancy assistance and later full-fledged unmasked assaults. If there is peace to be brought in the region, Pakistan will have to shut down its factories of militancy providing military support to certain groups in Azad Kashmir as well as J&K.

The popularisation of the narrative within Pakistan that Kashmir is an inherent part of Pakistan based on its Muslim majority population does not hold much ground. It is the will of Kashmiri people that should decide whether they want to become a part of Pakistan, India or perhaps become independent.

Pakistan is hardly able to deal with its existing problems effectively. Its economy is in depression, regional tensions as ever heightened and political volatility barring investments. There are more urgent issues for Pakistan to resolve first.

Before taking on board a few million Kashmiris wholly based on our misguided religious sentiment, it is worth introspecting that we have unhanded a part of our country in 1971 by our own devices. Not only were they Muslims but also ten-fold in population size.

Not to sound crying over spilled milk but right after independence Lord Mountbatten offered to Jinnah that India would hold a plebiscite in the state of J&K provided that Pakistan withdrew its military support for the Azad Kashmir forces and their allies. Jinnah refused the proposal and the matter then went onto the U.N. for settlement, seventy-two years and counting.

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Complete silence, even ‘betrayal’ by some, countries of the Muslim Ummah on the matter of Kashmir begs us to ponder that Ummah is a lost cause. It is the 21st century and a globalised world. Alliances today are formed based on economic interests first and last on the commonality of religious fervour. Countries get stronger today by strengthening mutual dependencies and growing economic trade; for better or worse trade has no religion.

There is nothing wrong in coming on the streets to make legit demands or show solidarity. (#KashmirHour). It is the right of citizens of a free country to assemble to raise their demands. I would like to make two points here. Firstly, a nation that is already pressured enough by economic crunch might be better off working a few more hours a day than having leisure hours hooting and marching on streets as an alibi for solidarity for their Kashmiri brothers and sisters. Secondly, such protests and gatherings are traditionally intended to bring the perpetrators at standstill. Here it’s our very streets getting choked while next to nothing achieved in Dehli.

What should happen: 

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There is no denying to the fact that we need to bring the atrocities of the Indian government in Kashmir, especially the recent tide since August 5th, to the world’s attention. Rights’ activists, wherever they happen to be, need to bring the case of Kashmir to light. Responsible agents on both countries – whether it is the nationalistic political leadership of India or the platoons playing the strings of Pakistani politics – need to be pressured enough to come to the table and agree for a resolution of this long-standing dispute.

UNSC resolution 39 is by far the best way forward where the Kashmiris themselves should be given the right to make a free choice in deciding whether to come under Indian or Pakistani control or possibly become sovereign. Demanding Kashmir for it being a Muslim majority region is a naive claim. Wielding oppression, on harmless and innocent Kashmiri men and women, driven by a nationalistic fascist Hindutva philosophy is a human rights violation the world should pay urgent attention to.

May my generation be lucky enough to see the matter of Kashmir resolved amicably in our lifetimes. Thank you.

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Images copied from the internet. 

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