Kashmir is one of the most intensely disputed territories of the world. What is dangerous and alarming is that it continues to be the subject of passionate conflict between India and Pakistan. In 2019, the Indian government scrapped the special status of Kashmir and this has deteriorated the relationship between these countries further.
On the one hand, India’s stand has always been that Kashmir is its integral part, but on the other hand, Pakistan sees itself as a real stakeholder in the Kashmir cause, and their arguments are backed by various resolutions passed by these two neighbouring countries.
Without taking into account at the past history of Kashmir, that unfolded after independence, India seems reluctant in facing the reality and deems the Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja of Kashmir to be final and valid, while most historians, authors, think-tanks, intellectuals, and most importantly, Kashmiris themselves, see the Accession by the Maharaja as morally unethical and illegal on the grounds that Kashmiri people were not taken on board at that time. That is why, to this day, Kashmiris feel betrayed about it.
Renowned scholar and journalist Prem Shankar Jha in his book ‘The Origins Of Dispute: Kashmir 1947‘ discussed the nature of accession. He wrote about the critical times when the fate of Kashmir was decided in the context of Britain’s geopolitical strategies.
In the context of these doubts, we also have to look at the developments that occurred after the Instrument of Accession came into place, something that Kashmiris can never forget. Yes, I am talking about the promise of stalwart leader and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who while addressing Kashmiri’s famous Ghanta Ghar in Lal Chowk, Srinagar, guaranteed and assured Kashmiris about their right of self-determination.
Not only did he promise this, but he himself took it to the United Nations. Unfortunately, to this date, this promise has never been fulfilled and it remains the core problem of the present-day Kashmir situation and conflict. And, above all these dramatic turns, the fact is that Kashmiris have never accepted India, and have always seen India as occupiers.
India, on the other hand, portrays the arms resistance and conflict in Kashmir as a well planned out mechanism of Pakistan. I have observed how they blame Pakistan for state-sponsored terrorism that is supposedly radicalising Kashmiri youth against India. But, instead of looking at the root cause of the problem, India believes in proxies which, in my perspective, and to most intellectuals, is not the solution for the Kashmir situation. One needs to look at the core issue and nip the evil in the bud.
New Delhi has never used the soft approach to Kashmir, and I can say that they have always tried the muscular approach to win over Kashmiris. But, they refuse to accept the narrative that it has alienated Kashmiris further from India.
Kashmiris not only see India as occupying their state, but, their belief is justified by strong facts and arguments. One supreme argument among them is India’s heavy military presence in Kashmir. Around nine million troops, for 80 million people, make Kashmir the most militarised zone in the world.
It does not end here, the troops are not confined to borders or concentrated in some specific areas, but can be seen everywhere, be it ambushing roads, roaming on the streets with arms or in other public places. This means that they control Kashmir both internally and externally.
Who can forget the stories of brutality, like fake encounters, rapes, illegal detentions, tortures in concentration camps, forced labor, and more? These are all terms that have come to be associated with the Indian army, and it is this that affects Kashmiris’ psyche, affecting them mentally and placing them, physically too, in chains. That gives them a sense of being in an occupied state.
With all the ups and downs post-1947, Kashmiri people have lived through some bizarre situations. They have adjusted to these situations bravely. But, the vital question that remains for nations across the globe and for the people of India is, why has New Delhi never succeeded in winning the hearts of Kashmiris?
To be honest, despite knowing the sensitive nature of the Kashmir cause, I can say that they have never tried to win them over.
With Article 370 now having been abrogated, the government of India has now begun the process of what people have always feared. They have reportedly started changing names of important places in Kashmir which will further erode the sentiments of Kashmiris.
With these developments, one can easily sense the motive of BJP behind the abrogation; of course, it must have been their long-pending agenda! Although the BJP leaders insisted that the people’s identity, sentiments, and land will be safeguarded, practically, at this junction, it all seems like a mere façade.
Without going into a detailed history of Kashmir which I think everybody is familiar with, let us understand the perception and views of the Kashmiri people, and what they think of their relationship with India. After all, logic states that Kashmiris are the real stakeholders and their will, dignity, sentiments, and above all their right to life and liberty, deserve to be respected.
It is the responsibility of every secular nation and human rights organisations, and civil society groups across the globe to ensure respect for their rights and freedom of expression. And, more importantly, India and Pakistan should keep aside their ego and differences and solve this problem once and for all. As always in the history of mankind, it is the common person who has become cannon fodder and the victims of political high-handedness.
To conclude, Kashmir is not merely a beautiful piece of land. It speaks to the emotions, dignity, and respect of thousands of people who are yet to taste the real beauty of life.