The Kashmir Issue - ever since independence, has been a sensitive and debatable topic for both India and Pakistan. Despite the emotions surrounding the subject - only some know about the history and struggle of Kashmir.
There are around 7 lakh security personnel deployed in Kashmir in today's time. Kashmir is more militarized than Syria, Iran, or Afghanistan. These forces are deployed not only to defend our valleys from India's territorial rivals Pakistan and China but also to counter the increasing militancy in the valley, which is a serious issue. The protests and stone-pelting incidents in Kashmir have become frequent.
Nearly 70000 militancy-related issues have taken place between 1990 and 2017 in Kashmir, with 41,000 casualties, accounting for just 27 years, which with simple arithmetic averages out to four deaths each day in the course of Militancy ( which includes civilians, militants, and Indian army personals).
Kashmir's dire state has become a mockery because of the Media. How did a sensitive issue, and suffering of people in Kashmir become a source of entertainment for us? Is it because we are ill informed? Is it because we learned about the it in a non-humane matter? Why does the sound of guns echo in Kashmir? Why did people of Kashmir not get freedom from violence, despite 70 years of Indian independence? Have we placed our conscience in understanding the real problem in Kashmir before judging the whole state?
The History of Kashmir
The story dates back to India's Independence 72 years ago. India was divided into hundreds of princely states and the Dominion of India. Many regions of India were divided into sovereign states. Sardar Patel and Jinnah were trying to get the rulers of these states into India and Pakistan, respectively. Post-independence, this was the first challenge our nation makers faced. Patel was slowly including these states into India using his tact and diplomacy. But the accession of Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir into India was challenging. The biggest issue wasn't Kashmir, but Hyderabad.
Patel did not want India to lose Hyderabad because Hyderabad was a strategically vital part of India and lay at the center of the country. He managed to keep Hyderabad with India by dealing with the Nizam of Hyderabad. In this process, his inclination to use political capital on Kashmir somewhat faded away with time. Nehru played a significant role in stopping the division of Kashmir from India.Nehru and Gandhi wanted Kashmir to be a part of India to prove that Jinnah's Two-Nation Theory was wrong. Gandhi wanted to prove that a Muslim majority state can be a part of secular India. Nehru had a close friendship with Sheikh Abdullah, a Kashmiri politician. Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, wasn't comfortable with Sheikh Abdullah's relationship with Nehru. He did not want Kashmir to be a part of India as he was afraid of losing his power and influence to Abdullah. He did not want to merge Kashmir with Pakistan because he was a Hindu. Thus he wanted to Kashmir to stay independent. While Pakistan signed the agreement sent by Hari Singh, India invited the Kashmir government for negotiation.
Pakistan tried to invade Kashmir to bring it under their administration. Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession between India and Kashmir, making Kashmir a part of India. India and Pakistan fought their first war over Kashmir. Nehru took the issue to the United Nations, neither has the situation in Kashmir improved nor have the Kashmiri people got the referendum promised, because of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Kashmir has become an eternal topic of dispute between India and Pakistan. Very few people are aware of the issues faced by Kashmir and its people. When it comes to Kashmir, nobody has a clear idea of what the actual story is. Let's look at how article 370 affects the situation in Kashmir.
Article 370 was introduced as a temporary provision in the Indian Constitution. Later, the Supreme Court made it a particular provision. Under article 370, the Central Government cannot decide on state-subjects apart from Defence, External Affairs and Communication, without consulting the Government of Kashmir. In the Instrument of Accession some conditions were laid out by the Kashmir ruler, including a demand for separate constitution. Kashmir negotiated autonomy until a plebiscite settled the dispute. So article 370 was a way to merge the Indian constitution with the Kashmir constitution. Till 1965, Kashmir elected a Prime Minister and not a Chief Minister. Removal of article 370 is removing the restrictions on the Central Government.
Under article 370, the President has the power to make changes in the constitution by bringing presidential order. A similar request added Article 35A to the constitution. Out of the 97 subjects in the Union list in which Parliament makes the law, 94 subjects apply to Kashmir, like other states. That means Kashmir is not autonomous for most practical purposes. The people of Kashmir hold on to a faint hope of autonomy due to the article. Others believe that article 35A is injustice to the rest of the citizens of the country.
Let's try and understand what article 35A is; otherwise, this discussion will be illogical. Under article 35A, Kashmir's government is empowered to define permanent residents of Kashmir and make provisions for them. These provisions prevent non-Kashmiri residents from buying land, applying for jobs or scholarships, and getting admission to any professional college. In simpler terms, no one can make use of Kashmir's state resources apart from its permanent residents. One can go, visit Kashmir as a tourist only, can't settle there. But Kashmir isn't the only state to have a special status.
Under article 371B, similar provisions are made for tribals of many different states of India. In Himachal Pradesh and many other North Eastern States, one cannot buy land until one is a domicile of the state. But the mention of Pakistan is enough to evoke emotions in people of India. Removal of article 35A would still not allow non-residents in Kashmir to buy immovable property in Kashmir. These rights are protected in Paragraph 8 of the Instrument of accession. Article 370 can only cease to be operative through the President's orders and with the concurrence of the Kashmir's constituent assembly. The central government does not have a role or authority in this matter. So far we have discussed the civics and history of Kashmir. Let us talk about the real issue of Kashmir now, that is the issue of insurgency, The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.
Social obstacles of Kashmir
Every time someone discusses Kashmiris' sufferings Kashmiri Pandits come up as a whataboutery tactic. The issue of Kashmiri Pandits has kept Kashmir burning, and people have been using it for their vested interests. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is used as a trump card to trivialize the brutalities unleashed on Kashmiris and to end all debate. It is a historical fact that Kashmiri Pandits have suffered injustice. The incidents date back to 30 years. Col. Tej. K. Tikoo wrote,"Shri Tika Lal Taploo, a Kashmiri Pandit and prominent advocate, was murdered in broad daylight on September 14, 1989. The then ruling party Congress, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah could not even identify the convicts. Thus, as we know, when the government turns a blind eye to the wrongdoings in society, injustice thrives. The same has happened in Kashmir. Almost every day, one Kashmiri Pandit was being killed and fear instilled inside the hearts of Kashmiri Pandits. All limits were crossed when the Judge who had pronounced death sentence to JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat, pandit Neelkanth Ganjoo, another Kashmiri Pandit, was murdered. On January 19, 1990, there were posters put up in Kashmir valley, threatening the Kashmiri Pandits living there and asking them to leave the valley."
There were mass killings and the people of Kashmir suffered brutalities. Unfortunately the administration did not take any concrete steps to prevent the ethnic cleansing in the valley. Refugee camps were built for the Kashmiri Pandits, rendering them homeless. Why did the government not give them any assurance that they do not need to leave their homes and homeland? If this question were raised at that time, the situation would not be out of control the way it is today. Instead the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has become another issue used to create disharmony and garner votes during elections.
Thus, for the good of the public, Farooq Abdullah unwillingly formed a coalition government with Rajiv Gandhi in 1987
During protests, the candidate of opposition party Muslim United Front Mohammed Yousuf Shah, who later became a very infamous name, Sayeed Salahudeen- The Chief of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was arrested. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, formed in 1964 and other militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen started fighting against the Indian government. Pakistan has been accused of sponsoring militants and supporting other such terror activities. When Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became the Home Minister, people hoped that the differences between people of Kashmir and the rest of the country would be resolved.
But the sufferings of Kashmir and its people are eternal. On December 8, 1989, JKLF kidnapped the Home Minister's daughter Rubia Sayeed, and the situation in Kashmir deteriorated. During this period, Kashmir witnessed terrorism, political instability, militancy, and an increase in the deployment of the Army. Mistrust kept growing from both sides, the pile of dead bodies grew, and the hope for peace kept declining.
Many human rights activists allege that AFSPA is unconstitutional. Some sections in this act abide by neither the spirit of the Indian constitution nor The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The act does not define 'disturbed areas'. The responsibility enforcement falls on the Governor and Central Government. Under this act, people can be arrested and detained without a warrant. After the encounter of Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Burhan Wani in 2016, militants and insurgents found a new excuse. People attended the funeral of Wani in large numbers, and the brainwashing of Kashmiri youth started once again. The number of school and college students joining militancy started rising.
The number of youth joining Militancy started rising post-2016. According to official figures of the Army, only 16 teens had joined Militancy in 2013. However, the number increased to almost 200 in 2018. The government has failed to take any significant measures to curb the militancy and to improve the situation, and the youth of Kashmir has fallen prey to stone-pelting and the militancy fueled by Pakistan's geopolitical agenda. According to a survey done in 2016, 45% of people in Kashmir suffer from mental distress. Their stress is not because of dull day to day problems but because of the conditions in Kashmir.
The normal life has been shattered in Kashmir. Children in Kashmir are neither able to study nor play like other children. Militants try to take at least one boy from every home to join Militancy. Then the boy's family is harassed by the administration while the militants harass the boy. At an age where people are full of hopes and dreams, the lives of Kashmiri youth have been ravaged by turmoil. The unemployed youth of Kashmir has taken to stone-pelting aided by money coming from Pakistan and losing their lives because of it. The grim future is being expressed in the form of violence and crime. This isn't just about Kashmiri youth or other people of Kashmir. It is also about the people in the Indian Army who are deployed there. It is not just one section of society that loses lives in violence in Kashmir. Attacks like Pulwama and Uri still make it to news headlines and cause national outrage. We often forget about the army men who are martyred every year due to the violence in Kashmir. This year, more than 50 army men have attained martyrdom in Kashmir. Did we care? Was there any outrage on the increasing number of death of army men in the last five years? At least for the Army, we need to understand that bringing peace in Kashmir is extremely important. But it is also vital for us to realize that Pakistan also has to cooperate in the Kashmir issue to bring peace to the valley.
Kashmiris are targeted across the country in hate crimes. They are branded as traitors. We as a country need to introspect if we want Kashmir just as a piece of land or if we want Kashmir to be a true part of India. This isn't about Kashmiri Muslims or Kashmiri Hindus, this is about Kashmiri people as a whole. It has become an electoral issue to advance vested interests. We need to stop adding fuel to the fire.
By the time you finish reading this post, another innocent Kashmiri might have lost their life in Kashmir, or another youngster would have decided to join militancy or another army person would be martyred in the valley.
There has always been misinformation about Kashmir. People blindly believe the narrative propagated on social media. How can we debate on a complicated issue like Kashmir if we forget humanity? The people who are criticizing the government and asking it to provide a solution to Kashmir's problem themselves need to sympathize with Kashmiris first.