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While We Remember The Martyrs At Kargil, Let’s Not Forget Those Who Perish In Kashmir

By Shafey Anwarul Haque:

Unlike other days, the nation’s heart became home to a kind of super-patriotism and allegiance. The Indian Army would have exercised their open palm gesture to salute the martyrs of the Kargil War and commemorate the Kargil victory or ‘Operation Vijay’. Those unarmed are more likely to have observed two minutes of silence and bowed their heads down to pay homage. Like every year, the nation, however, groomed that one day as symbolic of its grand victory over Pakistan which every ‘nationalist’ keeps fanaticising about the rest of the year.

But, unlike erstwhile celebrations, few events, which are used as a source to enrich the glory of the day, were organised. The occasion hardly witnessed anything apart from the usual wreath laying ceremony at the Kargil War Memorial in Jammu & Kashmir, pipe band and brass band displays, beating the retreat ceremony, etc. Besides that, there were tweets by the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Virendra Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman and others, paying tribute to martyrs. And this patriotic flood, akin to the celebrations last year, succeeded in capturing spaces in newspapers and news channels. And finally, the hearts and minds of common folk and especially these uncommon men silently cherished the victory.

And amid all the celebrations, terror and misery thrived among the people in the Valley.

Why is it that even after seventeen years of the Kargil victory, every Indian finds it obligatory to salute those brave souls and cherish the everlasting victory? Because Kashmir, since 1957, has been considered as an integral part of the Indian Union and no troops or intruders are to be tolerated on the Indian side of the de facto border. This appears to be the most simple and justifiable reason. In fact, prior to 1957, the accession of the state to India had been confirmed by the state’s constituent assembly in 1954. However, Kashmir still hounds on the dispute despite former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s offer in 1999 that both the states should extend their sovereignty to their respective portions, i.e., India to ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir’ and Pakistan to ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’.

It is needless to discuss in detail how Kashmir after 1947 entered into an unending dispute. The first Indo-Pakistan war in 1948 over the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir planted the seeds which gave birth to other wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999. After the second Indo-Pak war, the Tashkent Declaration and Simla Agreement in 1966 and 1972 respectively, appeared as treaties to maintain friendly and harmonious relations. Nevertheless, Pakistan dissented with the Indian government in 1974 over the Kashmir state government’s affirmation that the State is a constituent unit of the Union of India.

Irrespective of the number of wars and agreements, pellets and explosives still surround the lives of thousands of Kashmiris. It must be noted, however, The Express Tribune on August 10, 2011, reported that there was a significant decline in the violence across the Himalayan region after a peace process began between India and Pakistan in 2004. But this peace process conceivably crumpled in 2010 when approximately 100 people were killed in Kashmir, many in Srinagar.

But here the question that arises is this: after all this, do the people in Kashmir have the right to live peacefully? The currently prevailing situation does not allow me to say ‘yes’. Earlier, the state oscillated between two nations and now it is being thrashed by its own people. The savagery of the Indian army and uninspiring role of the leaders is actually making things incongruous. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of the Awami Action Committee, one of the two key factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, in an open letter wrote, “The Kashmir issue continues to destroy life and obliterate the rights and aspirations of our people in Kashmir who desire only to live free, peaceful and dignified lives. The continuation of this tragic conflict is also a direct threat to your interests and well-being as a people. In one way or another, this tragic conflict directly affects all the other issues that are currently being discussed and debated….”

Since the everlasting Kargil victory, India has led a number of peace talks and initiatives with Pakistan, although subdued or failed. In July 2001, then 2004, followed by the discussion on anti-terror mechanisms in 2006 and the list goes on. Considering the critical situation, one may expect similar visits and agreements in the near future. But, ironically, people in Kashmir could hardly bridge the gap between their life and their right to life and personal liberty. Suppression, menace, that too perpetual, turmoil, propaganda, violation of rights, mass killings, harassment, barbarism etc. are some really crude terms which involuntarily strike the mind when Kashmir comes to the table.

Writer and activist, Arundhati Roy in 2008 wrote, “For all these years the Indian state, known amongst the knowing as the Deep State, has done everything it can to subvert, suppress, represent, misinterpret, discredit, interpret, intimidate, purchase – and simply snuff out the voice of the Kashmiri people. It has used money (lots of it), violence (lots of it), disinformation, propaganda, torture, elaborate networks of collaborators and informers, terror, imprisonment, blackmail and rigged elections, to subdue what democrats would call ‘the will of the people’.” The situation since then has hardly changed and the people of Kashmir, even today, are forced to play the game of violence.

The continuous unrest in Kashmir over the dispute on local autonomy compels everyone including the democrats, anti-nationals and the ‘super-nationalists’ to think about what could bring peace to the people of Kashmir. Had Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir in 1947, acted differently, could the situation prevailing since 1947 have spared those innocent lives? The context hardly requires raising questions over the legitimacy of Hari Singh’s decision, but it consistently rattles the senses of the common man regarding what could have been a reasonable step, if not the one taken by Hari Singh? And what if this dispute persists for some more decades? The valley would certainly come to be called as arsenal (of weaponry). Therefore, let’s pray and rejuvenate the demised hope of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ before the valley perishes.

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Banner image credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.
Featured image is a picture of the Kargil War Memorial. Source: Wikipedia.
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