The Saga of Helpless and Hapless Kashmiri People

Kashmiri people from the last seventy years since 1947 have been abandoned by the two rivals, now nuclear states – India and Pakistan. Indo-Pak rivalry is one of the main reasons that Kashmir remained unresolved since long time after the partition of India into two dominions – independent India and independent Pakistan.

The two newly independent states within short span of time got indulged in territorial clashes particular on Kashmir. Currently, there is hardly any day, where a civilian, security man and militant are not assassinated in Kashmir.   

When we scroll the dusty pages of reminiscent history of Kashmir, we come to know how hard it is for Kashmiris to live in a valley where there is no guarantee of life. Historically, Kashmir is a law and order problem for India while for Pakistan, it is a disputed territory, an unfinished business. For international community, it is one of the most dangerous area where chances of nuclear exchange are high between the two belligerent and trust deficit states.

Among the Kashmiris, there is a diversion of opinions, for some, it is just a futile and never-ending battle between India and Pakistan for rich resources available in the valley especially water. While some argued that Kashmiris should be given the ‘right to self-determination’ to choose either to accede with India or Pakistan as per the UN resolution. Interestingly, majority of people wants complete freedom from two states. Others demand restoration of state autonomy, and Ladakh division, where majority of people are Buddhists demand union territory status. In Jammu, Hindus determinately want to accede with India completely by abrogating Article 370 which provide special rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

At the academic level, the countless study has been published across the globe for the settlement of unresolved Kashmir dispute. Most of pundit’s favour plebiscite to settle the dispute ones for all. Some academic think tanks argued that a meaningful and peaceful dialogue should be initiated between India and Pakistan as an immediate step to bring order and normalcy back in the valley and the ultimate solution is of course the referendum. However, some Indian analysts argued that Kashmir is just a law and order problem by which resistance movement should be dealt ruthlessly, that is why the large concentration of Indian security forces with special powers are visible in the valley to crush any resistance movement whether armed or civilian. While for some, it is just a redundancy problem in the valley, Indian government should provide maximum opportunities to the Kashmiris to thwart the resistance movement peacefully.

At the political level, Kashmir remained just a tool to win the confidence of the people for strengthen the domestic politics in both states – India and Pakistan. Both states with the help of the confidence building measures (Lahore Summit and Agra Declaration) tried their best to settle the unresolved Kashmir dispute but completely failed to settle it peacefully. The track II diplomacy also failed to settle the unresolved issue. Obviously, when two states failed to settle the Kashmir issue, Kashmiris left with one option to start resisting against Indian rule.

There is no doubt that India violated the state autonomy through 48 presidential orders that culminated into anger and anger changed into resistance movement in Kashmir against the foreign rule. Apart from the direct wars, during the Kashmir intifada in 1989, Pakistan supported Kashmir materially and diplomatically to resist against Indian rule. Several academic thinks tanks like Summit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur admitted that it is because of misrule by India in Kashmir that provided impetus to Pakistan to support Kashmir. Since 1989, Kashmir remained under severe turmoil where innocent lives have been crushed harshly.

There are different stories regarding the genocide of Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus inside the valley. The Kashmiri pandits migration after Kashmir uprisings in 1989 is another important episode of the complicated Kashmir dispute. And, human rights violations inside the valley by Indian security forces is at its peak. There are many shameful and fatal episodes inside the valley where innocent Kashmiri women became victims of mass rape in the hands of Indian security forces. For instance, more than thirty innocent Kashmiri Muslim women were mercilessly raped in twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in 1991 during the cordon and search operation by Indian security forces. The Indian security forces enjoy impunity inside the valley due to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).   

After Kashmir uprisings, India tried to settle the unresolved Kashmir issue with nukes. Despite India possess nuclear warheads, it failed to deter Pakistan for escalating sub-conventional conflict in the region. The reason put forth is simple, Pakistan’s asymmetric escalation posture (first-use policy of nukes) against Indian conventional attack to Pakistan. I assume that India mistakenly provide opportunity to Pakistan to become more aggressive towards it by overtly detonating five nuclear devices in May 1998. Reciprocally, Pakistan tested six nuclear devices in the same month in retaliation. Subsequently, the Kargil skirmish of 1999 happened under the nuclear umbrella and experts argued that it is because of this instrumentality of wreaking havoc that Pakistan behaved more aggressively than before towards India.  

Currently, Kashmir is again boiling since Hizbul Mujahidin Commander, Burhan Wani was killed by the Indian security forces in summer 2016. Kashmiri youth wittingly joined the militancy to resist Indian rule with the tacit support from the general public inside the valley. Several times, Kashmiri people (men and women) without fearing about their life and career, rush towards the encounter areas to help the militants to escape. Along with the armed resistance, a new form of civil resistance movement is visible inside the valley.

The resistance movements in Kashmir have now shifted to more civilian resistance in the form of stone pelting, protests, write-ups, facebook posts, graffiti and songs. Those who did not participate in direct resistance movements in Kashmir do not mean that they are outside of movements. These people believe in praying, crying, cursing and wailing plaintively particularly Kashmiri women who are beating their chest and singing songs to show their resistance and express their anger towards a foreign rule. These types of resistance (civil) are more powerful than armed resistance to pressure civil society and international community to intervene.

Indian government states that the resistance movement especially those who pelt stones on Indian security forces were funded by Pakistan in Kashmir. The demonetization was implemented to stop stone pelting in Kashmir and Indian Prime Minister Office states that with the help of demonetization, “Stone-pelting incidents in Kashmir came down by 75% from the previous year”. It is interesting to note that the college boys and girls, school going kids joined the resistance movement in Kashmir this year and previous year to express their anger towards the foreign rule.

How it is justifiable for parents to allow their school going children to risk their lives for money to join the resistance movement in Kashmir. With the help of the UN banned pellet guns, hundreds got killed, thousand injured and hundreds blinded in the hands of Indian security forces with the tacit support of state police. The civil resistance movement is the result of the broken promises by Indian government towards the helpless and hapless Kashmiri people.

Finally, Indian government selected ex Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor and special representative to restore peace in the valley. Sharma was given task by Indian government to talk with all the stockholders including Hurriyat Conference in the valley as a dialogue process. After his visit, he argued that his trip to Kashmir was successful. However, without a meaningful dialogue process with Pakistan, all the peace initiatives from Indian side will be fruitless. Interestingly, Pakistan is party to the dispute is admitted by India itself.

India is reluctant to talk with Pakistan on Kashmir issue because of an issue of infiltration. India blamed Pakistan for spreading terror in the region by backing and funding the militants in Kashmir against Indian rule. On the other side, Pakistan loudly responded that until India will not offer a meaningful dialogue on Kashmir issue to Pakistan to settle it forever, sub-conventional conflicts and funding to militants in Kashmir will continue. Pakistan wants UN resolution through plebiscite to settle the dispute, however, India is worried about the majority of Muslim population in Jammu and Kashmir state, that is why India has rejected the UN resolution on Kashmir by claiming that India and Pakistan in historical Shimla agreement after 1971 war have affirmed to settle the Kashmir issue bilaterally.  

All the talks between India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir issue was not initiated on the humanitarian grounds. Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has rejected the option of independence of Kashmir. Similarly, Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir argued that independent Kashmir is not an option, “internal autonomy is our right”. Vehemently, Farooq rejected the option to accede with Pakistan, however, argued that the other part of Kashmir clearly belongs to Pakistan. India should restore autonomy of the state, only then peace will return to the valley.

It is all about national interest, both states want to utilize the resources of the valley for future requirements and mainstream political parties in the valley have remained puppet in the hands of Indian government. It is over all centre (New Delhi) that is responsible for the turmoil in the valley due to poor governance, broken promises and violation of the state autonomy. Kashmiri people have been completely abandoned since 1947. One can easily imagine why confidence building measures have failed to settle the Kashmir issue. Also, the religious groups of both states have wittingly made this issue more complex by spewing venom in their speeches against each other. Kashmir should be separated from India-Pakistan rivalry and religious card has not ability to settle the dispute.

This is not mere hyperbole. Rather, this is a fact that both the states have indulged in attitudinarianism, egoism, and the Hindu-Muslim mentality. There is no case of religious rivalry inside the valley, all the sections of people live peacefully, the religious card is triggered by India and Pakistan to win the emotions of the people for their own interests. Experts explicitly argued that there are multiple agencies working inside the valley that thwarted the peaceful resolution of Kashmir.

The dispute over Kashmir is not just a matter of India-Pakistan; it is first about Kashmiri people. Both nuclear states should come forward in terms of peace rather than strategic terms to settle the Kashmir issue ones for all on humanitarian basis. There are thousands of unidentified graves in Kashmir and parents are desperately waiting for their sons who got missing since 1989 in Kashmir.

Rameez Raja
Rameez Raja
Rameez Raja is pursuing Ph. D at Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He specializes in India’s nuclear policy. His writings have previously appeared in Rising Kashmir, Café Dissensus Everyday, Kafila, South Asia Journal, Foreign Policy News, Modern Diplomacy, Pakistan Observer, Kashmir Observer, and Kashmir Monitor. Email ID: rameezrajaa23[at]gmail.com