Any writer’s description of Kashmir, its landscape, people and culture exudes a strong feeling of love for this small, beautiful and mountainous state of Kashmir. Kashmir is an ancient land mentioned as early as in the Greek Classics of Ptolemy, Dionysios and Herodotos. The Arabic works of Almasudi, Alidris and Alberuni also refer to Qashmir. Kashmir is one of those few places which has maintained its cultural integrity throughout history without identifying with any alien culture and has absorbed and accommodated all absorbable influences without losing the roots of indigenous culture. The practice of peaceful coexistence of different religious, ethnic and cultural communities has had its reflections in the political cognition and attitudes of the people. Kashmir has been revered as Paradise on Earth by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, who was vehemently influenced by its scenic beauty, lush green mountains and exotic beings. Kashmir has a centuries-old history and tradition of a plural and diverse social system; both rich and unique. The cultural cohesion of the Kashmiriyat has concomitantly made Kashmir, without doubt, an enlightened and progressive society of synthesis and solidarity between different sections of people. Amidst the political turmoil, rape and destruction of 1947, Kashmir came under the forcible Indian conquest.
The Partition of India and the redrawing of national boundaries have, however, intimately deteriorated the centuries old social fabric of Kashmiri society that had been interwoven by very pious saints and peers living here. The Indian interventionist posture and the subsequent militarizing of Kashmiri society exacerbated and changed the dynamics of Kashmir’s multicultural society. Culture is the most deterring and challenging force of stifle resistance. Since 1947, India employed a variety of stratagems, means and resources to disfigure the Muslim demography and distort the cultural heterogeneity; the principle which maintained Kashmir’s survival as a permanent and alive society.
Politics of Manipulation
While going through the political history of Kashmir from 1947 on wards, one is stunned to see that Kashmir hardly possessed even a single criterion of democratic governance. What is sadder is the fact that the denial of democracy in Kashmir was an Indian sponsored agenda translated into practice through what Sumantra Bose calls ‘the client state governments’. The fascist policies of terror, destruction and marginalization by New Delhi during 1960’s and 70’s unleashed an age of chaos which culminated in the rise of militancy in Kashmir. The radicalization of politics and the consequent use of manipulative tactics to keep Kashmir as a component of the Indian Union alienated the Kashmiri people and delegitimised Indian sovereign claims. The denial of democracy, mis-governance, disenfranchised people and disenchanted promises determined the general outlook of India toward Kashmir. The situation is now being worsened further when the Indian state is showing complete bankruptcy in its dealings with the Kashmiri Uprising. Failed methods, exhausted ideas and cultural stereotypes emanating from the government rendered the political system dysfunctional and hindered the peace process. For decades, the Kashmiri people demanded their right to self-determination. Kashmir’s Independence was recognized by the UN in 1948. But India resorted to subtle tactics to suppress the desire of Kashmiri’s for an independent nation. The gross human rights violations, handpicked governments and political repression manipulated the public and corrupted the cultural ethos of Kashmiri society.
Changing Dynamics of Kashmiri Conflict
Kashmir is the land of contrast, by virtue of its strategic location, literary balances the geopolitics of South Asia. The language of the Kashmir dispute has evolved over the years and had added to the confusion and considerations which consciously determine the future of South Asian region. The conflict, which was born in the designed demarcation of 1947, inexorably lurks in the Indo-Pak rivalry. The conflict, which claimed the lives of millions and saw destruction, rape and plunder on a scale never equaled in history so far, demeaned Indian democracy.
The Kashmir conflict has deliberately become a major hindrance in achieving Kant’s “Perpetual Peace”. The conflict today encompasses its conventional usage as India’s internal issue and determines the security and political developments of the region. Until the key issues of 1947 are resolved, it is probable that the Kashmir dispute will continue to damage the health of the bodies politic of both India and Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan should evolve from and address this issue of destructive consequences.
By Bilal Ahmad