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Kashmir, What’s Your Destiny?
It is 24th August 2008
Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, is under curfew. Most people stay indoors and the atmosphere is eerily quiet. A loud scream pierced the silence from the street that ran by Ghulam Qadir Hazam’s house, deep in the narrow streets. Hajma knew that it was his son Mohammad Yakub who had gone out to fetch milk to make afternoon tea. Worried, the 70-year-old local barber first asked his other son, Hilal, to check. The screams now grow louder and he too decides to go out. Moments later, he is shot dead in cold blood. A few meters outside his house, CRPF jawans fired at him. His son Yakub was also shot and both are fighting for their lives. Hilal was shot in the chest and did not know what crime his father and brother had committed. As Hilal cries on the street, an ambulance takes people to a nearby hospital….
It is 24 October 1947
The clock has now moved back 61 years. It is a cold autumn night on 24 October 1947.. The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaj Hari Singh, is enjoying the festival of Lord Shiva in his palace in the presence of his generals and ministers. The festival is prominent for its colorfulness and vibrancy. But, at the same time, a man 100 miles away is busy lighting the fuse of some gelatine sticks secretly placed in the main chamber of the Mohra Hydro Electric Power Station built on the banks of river Jhelum. Seconds later, there is a rumble of thunder and the entire power station is reduced to rubble. After all the lights in Srinagar went out, the aftershock of the explosion was felt 100 miles away from the power station. Suddenly the city of Srinagar was plunged into darkness. Your Majesty, the Englishmen living in the houseboats and mainly the people of Srinagar had no idea what was going on. They did not think that this was a bad omen for the kingdom and a harbinger of things to come. At the same time, hundreds of jackals, armed to the teeth, have now approached the border town of Baramulla in the valley. These jackals are none other than the wild Pathans of Peshawar. They are very optimistic about taking control of the Kashmir Valley and annexing it to Pakistan. This bold move by the Pathans was mainly helped by a political blunder by Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir. During the merger of the principalities with India and Pakistan, Lord Mountbatten requested them to include Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan, because of its Muslim population and geographical proximity to Pakistan. He refused as he was a Hindu. Mountbatten urged them to at least consider the option of merging with India. Again he refused, probably intoxicated by the power and allure associated with the throne. As a result, these marauders from the West, motivated by vested interests in Pakistan, started invading Jammu and Kashmir. As soon as these wild barbarian Pathans started entering the bustling city of Srinagar, they started killing and looting the surrounding areas. The Maharaja was left with no choice and blindly signed the accession treaty with India without considering the will of the subjects. On 27 October 1947, Indian troops entered the valley from the Jammu side and began to push back the rogue Pathans. This incident started the first Kashmir war.
After the First Kashmir War between India and Pakistan in 1947, the state was divided into two nations. India took Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir valleys while Pakistan took a small strip of West Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. The state is a disputed territory under the UN Convention. Neither India nor Pakistan can claim this state. For the past 61 years no referendum has been held to decide whether this land belongs to India or Pakistan. From 1947, separatism and anti-Indian sentiments started to grow in the valley. Due to the Muslim majority population and geographical proximity to Pakistan, Kashmiri Muslims started developing a soft corner for Pakistan and a sense of false brotherhood. Since the early 1950s, propaganda created by hard-line separatist leaders had led many people in the Valley, especially Muslims, to believe that their land had been illegally occupied by India.
By 1988, although the idea had taken root in many minds, not many people, apart from a few, expressed their outrage publicly. After the allegedly rigged elections in 1988, Kashmiri Muslims began to publicly vent their anti-India sentiments through violent protests. The agitation took an ugly turn when many youths started Jihad (holy war) against India with Kalashnikovs in hand. As a result, terrorism erupted and peaked in the early nineties. In the mid and late 90s, the Indian Army controlled terrorism. After 2003, as a result of the peace talks between India and Pakistan and the subsequent bilateral ceasefire agreement, terrorism began to decline. Terrorism subsided, but the alienation of Kashmiri Muslims from mainstream India was very evident and peaked from the beginning of terrorism. The Indian Army already had a reputation for countering insurgency. A prominent example of this is when they were sent to Sri Lanka as a peace keeping force. There they committed human rights violations in many Tamil areas. They repeated the same mistake in Kashmir too, thereby losing the trust and confidence of the people. Pro-Pakistani ISI elements in the valley used this opportunity to further inflame separatist sentiments in the valley.
The current mess
The state is famous for religious harmony. Hindus and Muslims have lived in harmony in the valley for many years. During the partition of India, one part of the country that was not affected by Hindu-Muslim riots was the Kashmir Valley. Even Mahatma Gandhi praised the valley for maintaining harmony and tolerance towards other religions. But, with the onset of terrorism, this house of harmony began to crack. There were fierce and ferocious attacks on Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits) by Islamic fundamentalists. This led to the ethnic cleansing of Pandits in the valley. Nearly five lakh Pandits fled the valley fearing for their lives (the divide was widened in the recent Amarnath land transfer controversy). The separatists henceforth began to firmly and dogmatically control the affairs of the valley.
A storm erupted in Kashmir when Hindu fundamentalists in Jammu started imposing an economic blockade in the valley by blocking traffic on NH-1A (the Srinagar-Jammu highway which is the lifeline of the valley). At first the situation could be compared to a Category 1 hurricane, when hundreds of people started protesting in the streets of every city in the valley. It became a category 3 cyclone-like condition as thousands of people tried to cross the LoC in trucks, following a separatist appeal. August 12, 2008 was the date when 33 human lives were lost due to stray bullets by police and CRPF. A violent Category 5 hurricane began to take shape, threatening to bring down everything in its path. As the dam burst, the floodgates were opened and lakhs of Kashmiri Muslims poured in from every corner of the street to protest against every separatist. Thousands of people defied the curfew, braving bullets and bitter cold. When the separatists shouted slogans like ‘Pampor Chalo’, ‘Idgah Chalo’, lakhs of people participated in the rally, along with their leaders chanting the same slogans in a frenzy. It was a sea of people with human waves as big as a tsunami. The separatists could not believe that such support could be gathered in such a short period of time. What the militants, ISI and separatists could not achieve in the valley since 1989, the Hindu fanatic and complacent central government has achieved for them. All this cauldron of frustration and pent-up emotions just needed a little spark of hatred at the right time. And they were really present.
Wake Up India!!
What is the fate of Kashmir?
At present, we can consider two possible scenarios. Since this age old problem has not been resolved amicably for the past 6 decades, we have to completely rethink our policy on Kashmir. For every Kashmiri Muslim, his/her blood unique blood group is F+, which means freedom!! How long can we placate them with some CBM? CBM can only take temporary measures in his heart like building railways, Srinagar-Muzaffarabad trade. Freedom is deep within them. So we can rationally think of giving people self-determination. Let them cheat their destiny with 3 options, Independence, Pakistan, India. At this point the Kashmiri Muslims will opt for independence as it is known from CNN-IBN survey conducted 8 months ago. My mind calls this solution as an option.. But thinking of this solution breaks my heart as an Indian.
On the other hand, granting autonomy to an unstable and polarized region is nothing less than a har-kiri for its national integrity and integration. Suppose the government fails to resolve the issue amicably, at some point, Kashmir may gain independence like Kosovo or merge with Pakistan due to disaffected and angry Kashmiris fighting for their cause. As a result, one cannot even imagine the adverse effects this incident will have on India. Secessionism can engulf many states in India like a forest fire. Today, half a dozen states in the Northeast are seeking independence. Independence of Kashmir can give them courage and they can pursue their cause. A few years down the road, India may be like USSR, who knows, after some time Tamil Nadu led by local Dravidian parties may also ask for independence. Remember till 1960 there was separatism in Tamil Nadu.
So, this issue is very complicated and delicate, like a silk thread caught in a thorn bush. It can be compared to the awkward situation of two planes parked on either side of the same runway wanting to take off at the same time. If both try to take off at the same time, neither will take off. Similarly, the residents of Jammu and Kashmir need to come together, sit together and discuss and resolve their differences to find an acceptable solution. Therefore, collective will is needed to achieve a common consensus on the part of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the rulers of the country to develop a high level of tolerance towards the beliefs of other communities, keeping in mind the interests of the nation. One possible solution to the current situation is that private investment and capital can flow into poorer states. This will put the youth of Kashmir with jobs in their hands instead of AK-47s and Kalashnikovs. Remember, the promise of economic salvation and a better future for the young generation of Kashmir has more water than idealistic (fundamentalist) principles. Of course, taking such a bold step requires lion-hearted administrations at both the Center and the states, educating separatist and hard-line leaders about the opportunities open to them if such a law is passed and curbing vested interests. Implementation of such law. It may also serve the purpose of integrating Muslims into the Indian mainstream, a cry heard from many frustrated Muslims, Islamic clerics and politicians.
As this article is being prepared, another young man has died on the already blood-stained streets of Srinagar. This begs the question “Is blood cheaper than water in Kashmir”? Only the sands of time can answer.
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