There is hardly any arena of our lives that is not touched by the Kashmir dispute. Twenty Kashmiris were shot dead on April 1 in Indian Occupied Kashmir by India. Although this incident did not grab headlines in India, it became breaking news in Pakistan. If a person is shot dead in New Delhi or Mumbai by the police, the Indian media will be discussing it for days. However, if unarmed demonstrators in Kashmir are shot with pellet guns and live ammunition, it goes unnoticed.
There is something bizarre about the phenomenon. The media in India claims to be far more liberal and free than the media in Pakistan. But it needs to realise that the Kashmir issue is something that almost all Pakistanis feel strongly about.
It is true and unfortunate that all news relating to Indian Occupied Kashmir is repetitive and, often, quite similar. After a while, we become numb to the daily atrocities and even fail to notice them. But the killing of 20 Kashmiris in deadly clashes was a rare event and, therefore, became a front-page news.
The majority of Indians believe that Pakistan is responsible for all the turmoil in the state. They also believe that if Pakistan’s intervention is somehow removed, normality can return to the state. It is important to point out that the people killed on April 1 were all from Indian Occupied Kashmir; none of them were from Pakistan. Similarly, the bodies discovered from unmarked mass graves in Indian Occupied Kashmir suggests that an overwhelming majority of them were the remains of locals, not “Pakistani terrorists”.
While Pakistan can train the militants and supply them with arms and ammunition (how this is done is beyond comprehension as there is an electric fence along the LoC and it is perhaps one of the most fortified borders in the world), it cannot bring out thousands of people on the street to attend Burhan Wani’s funeral. If Indians attribute this to the success of Pakistan’s propaganda, then they are clearly overestimating our policymakers.
The fact is: Pakistan was taken by surprise when Dr Rubaiya Syed, the sister of the current chief minister of Indian Occupied Kashmir, was kidnapped in December 1989 and militancy was revived. Pakistan took a while to recover from this bolt from the blue. However, India immediately blamed Pakistan for the unrest. Since 1989, India has amassed a massive force in Kashmir. It has declared the entire region a ‘disturbed area’ and placed it under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. It has also enacted a whole hoarde of draconian laws in the valley. More than 100,000 people have been killed and many more have been injured since 1989. This is not Pakistan’s doing.
India is proud of its democratic credentials and frequently makes jokes about the repeated military interventions in our polity. But it has failed to provide an explanation for the way the people of Kashmir have been treated since Independence – especially in the period after 1989. The people of Kashmir do not want to be part of India. I have not been to the occupied parts of Kashmir and cannot say with certainty whether Kashmiris want to be part of Pakistan or not. But one thing is for certain: India is not in the picture.
There are more than 600,000 Indian troops stationed in Kashmir. The Indian Army is one of the most heavily armed forces in the world. So, there is no doubt that it can control unarmed civilians. But for how long can it do that?
Those who are throwing stones at the Indian troops and the police in Kashmir, burning Indian flags, and waving Pakistani ones were mostly born after 1989. Many of these young people will continue to come out on the street. They do not protest because they are being trained by Pakistanis or being paid by anybody. They simply want freedom the same way that Indians wanted freedom from the British and the Scottish wanted freedom from the English. Pakistan is not supporting all the freedom movements of the world. This phenomenon has its own dynamics and cannot be crushed through the use of lethal force. Otherwise, Jallianwala Bagh would have ended the freedom movement in India.
India is a democracy and it should fulfil the pledge made by Jawaharlal Nehru on November 2, 1947, when he had said:“We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given, and the Maharaja has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations. We want it to be a fair and just reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict. I can imagine no fairer and just offer.”
It was India, not Pakistan that referred the Kashmir dispute to the UN. And the UN Security Council passed several resolutions that called for holding a referendum in Kashmir.
India should hold talks with the people of Kashmir and Pakistan to achieve a permanent solution to this problem. The people of Kashmir deserve better as they have suffered enough. And the people of India and Pakistan ought to ensure that peace is maintained so that both countries can move forward. If peace is not achieved, both countries will be discussing the same issues for several decade while the world would have moved beyond these concerns.
The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court