Kashmir: The Lost Paradise

One of the most beautiful places in the world is Kashmir but today it is turned into a battlefield. There is a Swahili proverb, “When elephants jostle, what gets hurt is the grass.” The same is with Kashmir and Kashmiris. 

Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world. It is one of the longest conflicts after World War II. India and Pakistan have gone for 3 wars over this piece of land.

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Both India and Pakistan claim full of the region but rule parts of the land. This has proved disastrous for Kashmiris because the LoC divides them and many from their family. 

There have been 4 kinds of people in the valley:

  1. Pro-India (anti-Pakistan)

  2. Pro-Pakistan (anti-India)

  3. Kashmiri Separatists (kind of pro-Pakistan but against India)

  4. Status quo (who are happy however it is)

Mainly pro-Indian voices in Kashmir have been killed by the militants or have been ousted from the valley (the Kashmiri Pandits). However, the pro-Indian voices are still heard in Jammu and Ladakh regions. There are some pro-Indian militias named Ikhwaan or Naabedh in the valley who are against the pro-Pakistan militants. 21% of Kashmiris are pro-India*.

The pro-Pakistan voices are mainly heard in Kashmir Valley who want Kashmir merger with Pakistan. A very less number of people support this ideology in Jammu and Ladakh region. There are 15% of Kashmiris who are pro-Pakistan*.

The separatist voices are the most common ones that want Kashmir to be another nation just like India and Pakistan. These may be peaceful political parties contesting elections asking for a referendum and believe in the democratic manner like All Parties Hurriyat Conference or may be violent militants of organizations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other Pakistan-based groups. The separatists are pro-Pakistan because of Pakistan Government’s diplomatic and financial support. But the separatists want to reunify Kashmir including the regions of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan) and China occupied Kashmir (Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract). This unification is not supported by Pakistan but Pakistan supports them because they are against Indian Government. This is the most supported option of the Kashmiris, 43% of Kashmiris support Kashmiri independence with full sovereignty*. 

The people who support status quo do not necessarily mean they are happy with it. They support it because they believe merger or any changes may be worse. Hardly 14% of Kashmiris support this*.

Roots of the Conflict:

Kashmir conflict is a direct result of the hasty Partition of India by the British Government. The Ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, wanted Kashmir to be independent. First Pakistan did not have much to say about it but soon after the Annexation of Hyderabad and Annexation of Junagadh by the Indian Armed Forces, Pakistan sent Pashtun Tribesmen to invade Kashmir with Pakistan Army’s logistical help. But in some days Maharaja Hari Singh wanted Indian help and to do so he signed The Instrument of Accession it became a direct battle between Indian Army and Pakistan Army. After months of battle, the matter was taken to the United Nations where the United Nations Security Council Resolution 47 was passed and adopted. It called for demilitarizing both sides of the border by Indian and Pakistani forces and then the Government of Indian should undertake a plebiscite which would decide if Kashmir Valley would be a part of India or Pakistan but the plebiscite was never conducted. This has enraged the Kashmiris. because of living in a war-like zone since last 70 years which has disrupted their life. 

Why isn’t the militarization in Kashmir reducing?

Kashmir is the most militarized border in the world. Kashmir is going through violent times now but a couple of years back the situation was better then why didn’t the militarization decrease instead it. The reduce of militarization has always resulted in an increase in militancy or foreign aggression (Kargil Conflict). In fact, in 2017, the count is as high as 1 in every 25 people in Kashmir is a part of security personnel (Not only IA but also Paramilitary forces). This has also enraged the people because for them it does not feel they are in their own country, it rather feels they are under foreign occupation. There are at least 500,000 Indian Security Personnel in Kashmir.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Jammu and Kashmir

AFSPA (or Armed Forces Special Powers Act) is an Act passed by the Indian Parliament in 1990 which can term entire states under ‘disturbed areas’ and give Indian Armed Forces some extra powers like: arresting people without warrant, fire on a group of people or on a person after warning which may cause death also, conducting search operations in houses without warrant, etc. These extra powers have been criticized by Human Rights groups mainly because of their misuse which is against the spirit of the Indian democracy.

Human Rights Abuses

The human rights abuses have been categorized into 2 sections: by Indian Security Forces (1) and by Militants (2).

  1. The misuse of AFSPA and lack of prosecution has led to Human Rights abuses in Kashmir by Security personnel. Major incidents such as the Kunan Poshpora Incident 1991, Gawadkol Incident 1990, Lal Chowk Fire 1993 has enraged the people and there has been a lack of prosecution in such cases. Many cases even go unreported because of the non-cooperation of the local police and government officials. Other cases like forced disappearances, unlawful killings, fake encounters have been highly criticized. There have been 6000 mass unmarked graves in  Kashmir as per 2012. Also, there is a lot of objection to the use of pellet guns in Kashmir as the Forces are alleged to deliberately blinding Kashmiri protestors

  2. There have been many cases of Human Rights Abuses by the Kashmiri militants like Exodus of Kashmiri Pundits from the Valley, Kishtwar Massacre 2001, Doda Massacre 2006 and Nadimarg Massacre 2003. The militants usually target families of Army Officers, Ikhwan members, and Hindus. The most criticized group is the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front by Yasin Malik which has been involved in ethnic cleansing of Hindus in the Valley.

What about Pakistan occupied Kashmir?

If Pakistan is diplomatically so much with Kashmiris then the situation should be better in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, but the situation is more or less the same. Unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, and murder. These are mainly due to sectarian violence against the religious minorities. Incidents like the August 2012 Mansehra Shia Massacre and 2012 Kohistan Massacre have shown that Pakistan is no better.  These incidents have resulted in large protests across Pakistan for punishing the perpetrators and providing more security for minorities. 

Azad Kashmir is an autonomous region of Pakistan which has its own Assembly but virtually it is just a puppet of the Pakistan Government. The Pakistani Parliament does not have proper representation of Kashmiri people. Ironically this means Azad Kashmir is not actually ‘Azad’.

Another region which is 6 times bigger than Azad Kashmir is Gilgit-Baltistan which is practically under Pakistan but people have no rights to vote for Pakistani elections and much more constitutional rights because on paper it is not a province of Pakistan. The people have been demanding the provincial status but Pakistan Government is unwilling to do so because of its ‘commitment’ to the 1948 UN Resolution. Many people have alleged the government for election rigging in the region.

Terror Policy

One of the worst policies on Kashmir has been the terror policy by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. There are numerous terror outfits whose leaders are peacefully living in Pakistan like Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi. Most of these organizations are supported and financed by the ISI and are based in Pakistan. These organizations in the name of ‘Azadi’ have killed thousands of Kashmiris and Indian Security Personnel

Some notable Pakistanis have given these statements:

  • Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan trained and supported terror groups.**

  • Asif Zardari: Pakistan created terror groups to achieve foreign policy goals.***

So solution…

Kashmir has been a dispute since 70 years. Mainly because of lack of attention, greed, and unwillingness of India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, because of the rivalries of India and Pakistan, it is Kashmir which is suffering. There is a notion that Kashmiris want to merge with Pakistan but that is not true, most Kashmiris want independence. The love for Islamabad was alive in the 1990’s when the militancy began but today Islamabad no more attracts Kashmiris. Currently, there is no solution to the problem but the problem can be solved. But of course one or the other day Kashmir shall be solved either by negotiations or by war. 

Kashmir issue can only be solved on the basis of Insaniyat, Jumhurriyat, and Kashmiriyat    -Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Former Prime Minister of India

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-Anubhav Mishra

References:

*- Chatham House Poll on both sides of LoC on May 2010 

**-Pervez Musharraf on Terrorism in Kashmir

***-Asif Zardari admits that Pakistan created Terror Groups

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