Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the 17th century famously said, “Gar firdaus bar-rue zaminast, hamiasto, haminasto,haminasto ( If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!)”. He was referring to Kashmir.
Sadly, this heaven is in a state of turmoil and disfigurement. India proudly calls Kashmir its domain, but do we Indians consider Kashmiris as our brethren?
Turning the pages of history, in 1947, both nations, India and Pakistan tussled over Kashmir’s status; but the state actually had no intention to part either way. The then ruler of Kashmir, Raja Hari Singh, a Hindu by birth and governing a state with three-fourths of the citizens as Muslims decided to remain neutral. But, in October 1947, tribesmen knocked on the doors of Kashmir; they were motivated by Jihad and intended to create a riot-like situation in the state.
The King was forced to flee and he ended up signing the Instrument of Accession which made Kashmir a part of India. Both nations have been at loggerheads since then. Be it in 1947, 1965, 1971 or 1999, each time both countries have witnessed several ceasefire violations and insurgency.
Kashmir has a separate constituency and houses a mixture of political parties, radical groups, and extremists who are not on the same page regarding the future of Kashmir. In 1984, the state saw an increase in terrorist violence, and then in 1986 a move by a radically dominated group against the construction of a mosque in place of a Hindu shrine worsened the situation. Clashes broke out in the name of religion and Gul Shah stated the infamous line of “Islam khatrey mein hai(Islam is in danger)”.
Kashmiri Pandits were targeted and killed, raped, looted, abused, kidnapped and forced to evacuate their birthplace. They decided to move to safety and return back when the situation improved, but there was an imbalance throughout. This had a major impact on their property, fortune, and education. They faced institutional discrimination in their own state and were provided refuge in Srinagar but many migrated to other states of India for a safer life.
Terrorism is the biggest threat to humanity. Not only India but the world has suffered from this mayhem since the beginning of time and I believe it is right to say that it is incurable in this century. Be it 9/11 in America, 26/11 in India or Paris attack in 2017, hundreds of lives were lost and the world mourned.
Though India is a secular nation which treats every religion equally, even then there is cultural disharmony in the nation. Jammu and Kashmir has always been a disturbed region, and it is often alleged that creating a state of chaos in the valley is in the interest of Pakistan.
For the proponents of violence in Kashmir, it is impossible to carve out the valley from outside, so they resort to creating a state of ruckus withing and the innocent youth are caught in between. The government has been trying its best to safeguard the youth by means of reservation in education and employment. People from Kashmir travel all around India for education, trade, business and serve the nation; many have been successful in their quest for a peaceful life and have permanently moved out of the valley to settle in other parts of the country.
Kashmiris are viewed with suspicion and harassed; often, they are asked to produce their identities at police stations, which sometimes involves hours of waiting.
There have been instances where shops and stores of Kashmiris have been vandalized, looted and even boycotted. Worst, they are even thrashed and manhandled. Authorities have raised concerns and have urged people to stop selectively targeting the people of Kashmir. There are many examples and incidents from the past where students and residents of Kashmir from each and every corner of India were assaulted, and the perpetrators justified their acts by saying that they are avenging the atrocities suffered by Indian soldiers and horrendous acts orchestrated by terrorist groups in the valley.
Students from the valley live in a state of constant fear, clearly, a sense of animosity has evolved in the country. People infiltrating from the other side of the border having the same dialect, religion and attributes are hard to distinguish. Our military has not been effective in curbing the in-and-out movement of such guerrilla warmongers.
Every individual is seen as a militant and the doctrine of raids and trials is draconian. The severity of the issue is such that daily life has been sabotaged. Reports suggest that more than 10,000 people have been apprehended and none returned. 38 graveyards have been discovered with more than 1,000 unidentified bodies. A tourist hotspot, Dal Lake is claimed to be a dumping ground for such heinous genocide.
People are afraid to leave their home after sunset as their identity is questioned and their psyche is wounded. Last year (2018), the fracas between police and pelters led to uninterrupted closure of schools, colleges, and bazaars for seven months.
Tourism, which has been the crown jewel of the valley’s economy has been worst hit. Kashmir is gifted with scenic beauty, natural waterfall, apple valleys, deep gorges, wonderful panorama, snow-clad mountains, fascinating gardens, enchanting lakes and much more. But hardly any visitors come to the valley anymore which has badly affected the state’s economy and has made life difficult financially.
Making Kashmir a part of India seems like a distant dream. Any attempt made by the centre to create peace in the valley is thwarted by the military crisis which leads to civil imbalance.
Bringing peace to Kashmir is easier said than done. I believe that settling the issue will require a very strong and bold political will. The question is, will the bitter relation between Delhi and Islamabad lead to a common path? Both nations have tried to engage in dialogues but in vain.
People calling for a full-scale war have not considered the aftermath and repercussions of war on both nations, economically, socially, ecologically and in terms of the lives of numerous soldiers and civilians.
Giving a sovereign status is very difficult as the land is locked. Having a strategic advantage over borders, control over water resources and trade, will be quite a task for the state if it were to become an independent entity. The only quick fix is peace and engaging in dialogue with the people of Kashmir in order to know, what they really want.