The Other Side of Kashmir
Written by Hrudhai Chand
Kashmir is one of the world’s most heavily disputed and military-associated areas. It is enclaved by half a million of the Indian Army, Pakistani security forces, the Chinese Military forces, terrorist groups, militants making this marvellous and serene valley which is called 'heaven on earth', more of a warzone-like. This State is landlocked and disputed by three nuclear powerheads, which are at constant cutthroats with one and another. On the premise of this land-grab, the most essential stakeholder of Kashmir is often forgotten: their own citizens.
For one to examine the current situation of Kashmir, one must have a fully-fledged understanding of the State's history and what was the onset of this entire complicated series of entangled webs that make up today's Kashmir.
The territorial dispute goes all the way back to 1947, the onset of India’s & Pakistan’s Independence from the elongated British regime. India was a country with many princely states and provinces, all under British rule. When the British decided to leave in such a hurry, they made a hasty decision, the ever-growing pressure being a trigger resulted in splitting British India into two countries, the Muslim majority Pakistan and Hindu majority, yet secular India. This Indian Partition left millions homeless and made them refugee's overnight. Amidst this chaos, the princely states were given a chance to choose which nation they would merge with, here is where the heart of the issue starts, and religion comes into play: Kashmir was a Muslim majority state, and their citizens wanted to join the newly formed Pakistan. The Hindu King then asked to pick a side for which he mostly remained neutral, instilled in the fears that the king would choose to join India, the Kashmiri’s began to rebel at many parts of Kashmir. Pakistani tribesman accompanied them, and soon the Pakistani forces followed. The Monarch soon turned to India for help, for which he brokered a deal into merging Kashmir with India. This soon led to the first Indo-Pak war of Kashmir, which caught the attention of the United Nations Security Council in 1949, which brokered a ceasefire with the line as modern-day PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and to hold a referendum to decide the State’s populations choice in according for the State to merge with a nation of their choice. UNSC asked both governments to remove troops so a sufficient and fair voting procedure may take place. To one's dismay, neither country decided to comply, India doubled down and added Kashmir to their constitution, but the vote was never held. Both countries had a strong arm hold over Kashmir; this led to two more Indo-Pak Wars. One more was over Kashmir and the other where East Pakistan was liberated as Bangladesh with the help of India's support. This liberation yielded more army in Kashmir by both nations and an escalation of it’s situation. A Sino-Indo war also took place where China took control over eastern Kashmir, bearing more brunt on the State.
Despite being opposing sides, one collective interest the two nations share is the way they treat Kashmiri citizens. Human Rights Watch, Reuters and Amnesty International all claim Kashmir is the one population where the most human rights violations take place albeit Indian Forces, Pakistani Armies or Militia groups all nations fall back on the way they treat their citizens; the same citizens they’re fighting so hard so they can be ‘protected’. The entire mess of Jammu & Kashmir affects the Kashmiri's in the most possible method, be it direct or indirect. There's a very high chance that if a Kashmiri leaves their home, they could be molested or, even worse, killed. Internet blackouts are the norm there. India blocked 4G and other primary internet services for the past 18 months. These were one of the 28 blackouts that have taken place since 2016, disconnecting 8 million people and taking away the very essence of democracy: 'Right to Speech'. The violations don't end here. Countless others take place, but to keep this discussion short, a few of the major ones are highlighted below:
The very Indian Security Forces, inclusive of CRPF and BSF, who are supposed to be fortifying the Kashmiri's harras them, torture them, forcefully disappear thousands of people repress populations, not to mention the worse: using rape and sexual assaults as means of ‘instigating fear in the public’. All of these atrocities are under legal immunity under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1998. The way the Kashmiri's are handled by the own hands who tell they're going to safeguard them portrays this entire charade as nothing short of genocide.
Kashmiri Insurgents have continuously and repetitively targeted the Brahmin caste of the Hindu religion. Out of approximately 143,00 Brahmins living in the Kashmiri Valley, 140,00 have migrated to various parts of India. This situation is after the rigging of the 1987 election by the National Conference Party, a lot of unified Muslims who opposed this party's rule formed a rebellion group called Muslims Unified Front (MUF), and these insurgents targetted the Brahmins through smear campaigns, killing, torturing, destroying and raping. According to the Indian Government, 219 Brahmins were dead, which led to the Brahmins migrating due to the presence of heavy military and militia.
In addition, sexual violence, torture, extra-judicial killing, pellet shots that caused hundreds blind or their face desecrated, including babies, stone pelting, and massacres, are the daily norm to thousands of Kashmiri's residing.
In some form of relief on 5th August 2019, Article 370 & Article 35(A)of the Indian Constitution was abrogated, revoking the special status of Kashmir. They carved up the entire State into two Union Territories and removed their semi-autonomous power. Even though this decision wasn't held with the consent of 12 million people, there were significant benefits for the State: It gave them equal rights like the other citizens of India, allowing them to buy property in other states or vice versa. Kashmiri's are now under the Indian constitution and the Indian Flag. They can also avail government jobs, scholarships, and voting rights of different parts of India and vice versa; these opportunities enhance the investment of Kashmir, which will also improve the infrastructure and necessities of Kashmir and eventually escalate economic development and bring progress.
We must not be cognizant of the low egalitarianism which perpetuates modern-day Kashmir. The 2019 suicide bombings in Pulwama, Kashmir which killed 49 CRPF soldiers is the best testimony to explain this vicious cycle of violence. The suicide bomber was a 19-year old Adil Ahmed Dar from Pulwama; In 2016 A few Indian Police officers abused him and humiliated him by forcing his face to the ground at a checkpoint. Later that year, he was also shot in the leg during a protest; the following year, he left his family. He joined the JeM filled with hatred and vengeance. The JeM eventually filled his head with extremist thoughts and trained him to be a suicide bomber. A year later, the infamous Pulwama attacks took place, and the rest is history.
Since Indian Independence, this cycle circled by both India and Pakistan through brutality, viciousness, drama, communal hatredness, fear-mongering and violence; but if we take a step back and cut through this entire farce of politics and loyalties, we can see the bigger picture a picture both the countries are trying to suppress: the Kashmiri's wish to make a choice. The referendum, which was never held or all the options they were forced to take in if not violently suppressed are just a few examples.
Both the nations have to use dialogue and include Kashmiri's to represent themselves. This war has evolved more than a land-grab; it has advanced to be a communal war: a Hindu-Muslim battle, an extremist-military conflict, Kashmiri-Indian Army war. At this constant evolution of these 'enemies', it has proved time and again both nations which claim 'to have Kashmiri's best interests at heart' actually never did much give a thought for Kashmiri’s advancement, growth or aspirations. They treated Kashmiri’s as just a means to an end, collateral damage: they reduced the entire population into two mere words. This war will not stop if they stop fighting; this war will end only when Kashmiri's are considered equally essential stakeholders and when their voices are heard, and wishes are met.
At the end of this entire political blame-game and scrimmage, the Kashmiri Citizens are time and again forgotten, overlooked and uncared for. They are the ones who suffer the most irrespective of their religion, caste or political background. At the end of this battle for the flame, the very essence and purpose of this battle are often forgotten, i.e. to represent and protect the Kashmiri's: that is the only reason this entire crusade was initiated. Ironically, in the attempt to help them, both the countries have entangled them into a web filled with fear, pain and injustice, which has wiped out the crux of normalcy from the souls and filled the void with the feeling of horror within them and their ‘normal lives’ can never be restored how much ever is made up.