“Appearances are deceptive”: This quotation can’t fit better for any other place in the world as it fits to Kashmir. Jammu & Kashmir has had a transient existence as the nation has witnessed so much of chaos since the independence of India. Each war cut the fragments off the original territory and the state became a soccer ball being footed by the trio-India, Pakistan & the Republic of China. The adorable scenery, roaring streams, beautiful landscapes and huge mountains which attract thousands of tourists from every corner of the earth houses people- stressed humans. The situation is so pathetic that a common man fears to speak anything about the Kashmir dispute. You are safe until you are silent; better not to opine on such a sensitive case. When you open-up, you endanger your life for sure. You may ask why? Well, if your opinion is pro-freedom, you are likely to be booked under Public Safety Act (PSA). You may be gunned-down by the so-called Mujahideen if you endorse India. So, my parents are probably right whenever they rebuke me, “Shut you up. We don’t want to lose you”, when I try to be opinionated over the dispute.
The Roots of the Dispute: A Peep into the Past
The Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46 ceded Kashmir to the East India Company by the treaty of Lahore. This was followed by the Treaty of Amritsar which transferred the power from East India Company to Maharaja Gulab Singh. In early 1947, J&K was one of the numerous princely states of the then India and ruled by Hindu Maharajas. The independence of India was accompanied by the Partition and India was divided into two dominions—India and Pakistan. The princely states were given the choice of either joining the dominion of their choice or to remain free. Soon after the Partition, the tribal community from Pakistan tried to conquer the state of J&K which ultimately led to the rulers of the state to request for Indian support. An instrument of accession was submitted by J&K rulers on Oct. 25th, 1947 which was hastily accepted by the Union of India on Oct. 26th, 1947. The pledge that Indians would vacate the area immediately after the tribal threat is over was never fulfilled and started the unrest which is still there, with no retreat. What followed was an absolute disaster- the first Indo-Pak War (1948). As a result, United Nations Organization (UNO) intervened and came up with the United Nations Military Observers Group (UNMOGIP) to monitor the military activity of India and Pakistan in the disputed region. The group passed a resolution suggesting Pak-troops vacate the area and India minimize its military force in the region till the conditions become favorable for holding a plebiscite that could decide the fate of the state. Unfortunately, none of the parties abided by the rules and the situation continued to be perilous. This wasn’t the end. China cut off Aksai-Chin during the 1962 Sino-India war. The Kargil war of 1999 worsened the situation even further.
The year 1989 marks the rise of an extremist group supporting the gun. It was started by Muhammad Yaseen Malik along with many others. It didn’t yield anything except claiming innumerable innocent lives. Yasin regretted the move later on but he was too late to realize the mistake he had made. Even today, the youth are misled in the name of religion to fight by stimulating the energy and passion they possess.
India & Pakistan’s Claims
Pakistan and India allege each other for being responsible for the dispute. They have been eyeing the resources and have tried their best to capture the disputed territory. Pakistan alleges India of violating human rights and misusing the Public Safety Act (PSA). Pakistan also claims that India is holding prisoners without trial. India doesn’t lag behind and barks back at its rival. The charges are similar. India goes against any possibility of holding a plebiscite saying that more than 5 lac Kashmiris (mostly Pundits) have been compelled to vacate since the beginning of armed insurgency which would affect the results of any poll deciding the fate of Kashmir.
Eye on Resources
The power-generating potential of J&K can water any mouth. The power projects currently operating (and in the making) can generate a huge amount of electricity. Salal and Dolhasti have the potential of generating more than 1500 MW of power. The rivers viz Jehlum, Ravi and Chenab constitute the main drainage source for Pakistan. But the problem for them is the origin of these rivers- all flow through Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) into Pakistan. Their agriculture may collapse if the water is bypassed. Keeping their utility for Pakistan in view, Ali Muhammad Jinnah once remarked, “Kashmir is the jugular vein of India”. Pakistan fears (if in any conflict) India shuts the water, what would happen to their agriculture although the Indus water treaty (1960) is there as a safety valve for Pakistan. Pakistan being a military state directs most funding lavishly at its defense. They get hefty funding from the US and anti-terrorist organizations to counter terrorism. There seems to be a definite nexus between Pakistan survival and the Kashmir issue. Keeping Kashmir-issue alive is their lifeline. In the pre-Musharraf era, the sacking of Nawaz Sharif and kicking the government in gloom proves the point. So, joining the resourceful Kashmir to Pakistan can pick the nation up. It is the fight over resources and not over people.
Bloody Rivers: Who Suffers Ultimately?
In the mutual conflict of India and Pakistan, it is the common man who has been slapped, stripped, tortured, frightened and fired-down. He is fed up with day-to-day bilateral meetings, round table conferences, shutdown calls and all that. With the deployment of lacs of military personnel including paramilitary and state police, the paradise has turned into an army hub. You throw a pebble and it hits a soldier. This situation can nettle any and all living in Kashmir as most of them (estimated 80 percent) are non- Kashmiris and non-Muslims. Due to the same reason, Kashmir was termed as “the beautiful prison on earth’’ by a European delegation visiting the place in 2004-05. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act (PSA), JK Disturbed Area Act (JKDAA), etc have proved to be too noxious. According to a statistic published by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 43535 people have succumbed to armed struggle since 1988. The figure is low comparable to that provided by separatists.
Another study focused on the effect of such a biggish armed cover on the school education. Three hundred and sixty students belonging to different parts of the state were chosen randomly and interviewed to get their feedback. What did the surveyors find? Out of thirty schools sampled randomly, 70% were found to be located at a distance of less than a kilometer from the nearest army camp/bunker. 20% of the schools studied were found to be within 2-3 kilometer range of the nearest army camp/bunker and 1% of the schools were partially occupied by military. The students, in their feedback put forward a general point saying, “We do not relish the classes”.
The Common Man Says…
An “aam kaeshur” is in favor of a sustainable resolution that would ensure the safety of his family and feed his belly twice a day. He considers himself ridiculed when his teenage boy conveys to him, “Baba, paga chhu hartal.” (It is a shutdown tomorrow) Well, there is not a single category of people in the valley; there are many other varieties as well. It depends on their financial, political and social background which decides their choice to go either in favor of separatists calling for the shutdowns or against it. They hold a diversity of opinions concerning the Kashmir issue and would seldom listen or agree to the opinion held by others. The reality is that most of them are flatterers who can wheedle to meet their needs. This is one of the reasons responsible for the situation becoming more serious with every passing day. Some of them who want Kashmir to be set free lack the coordination. Some others think it is good to join Pakistan (may be we are better off in the Muslim majority nation). Others wish to continue with India basing their opinion on the fact that India is far more superior to Pakistan economically with increasing GDP growth and foreign exchange than Pakistan. Still others (actually introduced as aam kaeshur early in the paragraph) think their condition is going to remain the same (come what may). They say, “Hamein kya yaar. Pak ya Hindh, hum to yahan bhi mazdoor aur vahan bhi mazdoor.”
A study conducted by the author represents the choice of youth. The study (unofficial) was conducted in the University of Kashmir, the highest seat of learning in the valley. The respondent students were asked to answer two simple questions (choose from the options):
1. J&K should: a) be free b) is better with India c) must join Pakistan
2. Justify your choice (descriptive).
200 students were handed-over the questionnaires of which only 189 completed the questionnaire. The results are summed up as follows. # Kashmir should be let free: 69% (Justifications: a. Would become stronger as a nation as we have got enough resources at our disposal b. Would adopt Muslim Law c. India is not sympathetic to Kashmir as it is to the people of other states d. mixed justifications). # Kashmir is better with India: 24% (Justifications: a. J&K can’t make better use of resources on its own b. India is not as harsh on Kashmiris as is being communicated through media c. Pakistan has never been a choice d. If ever J&K achieves freedom, it will be fragmented initially into Jammu and Kashmir, then into individual fragments until there is complete disintegration of the state e. There is no coordination between the separatists who are assumed to be the leaders of the future independent state). # Kashmir must join Pakistan: 7% (Justifications: Pakistan is a Muslim majority).
This is the youth brigade opining. Ironically, you would find some young students raising pro-Pakistan and pro-Islam slogans who seldom turn to mosques for the prayers! They are mad after the fashions and they are so obsessed with Bollywood and Hollywood that they would curse themselves on missing a newly released movie. Next day, they come on the streets and shout, “Yahan kya chalega…Nizam e Mustafa (pbuh)!”
The youth here is in fact, confused. Do provide them better job opportunities and chances in active politics and I bet they would never pelt stones at you. Only those people were persuaded by the separatists to indulge in the armed struggle that were illiterate or poor. Most of the so called Mujahideen are unaware about their mandate. They are given perks to struggle, not for their land or their people but for the people preparing them.
Some Generalizations from the Common Man’s Voice
- Fundamentally, the valley has the right of self-determination. They deserve to decide their fate themselves
- A unanimous view and coordinated effort of all Kashmiris can rectify the problem
- Creation of more jobs in Kashmir can restraint uprisings
How reliable are the pro-Freedom leaders?
The main separatist leaders include Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yaseen Malik, Shabir Shah and Aasiya Andrabi. Among the many faults of their leadership is inconsistency of effort and mutual contradictions in ideology. Look at Yasin Malik. He started the use of bullet against India in 1989 and then renounced the use of militancy in 1995. By 1995, he stressed upon Gandhian way of struggle i.e. non-violence. In 2013 again, he shared the dais with Hafiz Syed, a Muslim extremist. Who can stop him from oscillating? Geelani, on the other hand, has been steadfast in his approach but his approach has loopholes. The frequent shutdown calls given by him are badly affecting the middle class. He is also not able to clarify to the people whether he is fighting a legal battle or a religious one. There can be an endless debate if he tags the Kashmir battle with religion and he may be attacked by Islamists too. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has refuted his policy and has split creating a separate sect of Hurriyat Conference aka Hurriyat (M). We can conclude that the reliability of the separatists has still not been checked.
The only feasible solution to the Kashmir problem is to create suitable conditions for the talks. The people of J&K need to be taken into confidence. Wherever the valley goes thereafter, it will regain its beauty and I will regain my paradise.
By Aarif Qadir
My Story Of Kashmir
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