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September 25, 2016

A new beginning


September 25, 2016

If one watches the Indian news channels, one gets the impression that an attack on Pakistan is imminent following the September 17 militant attack in Uri. The sad part is that not a single Indian commentator is talking about the plight of the Kashmiris.

One thing that my Indian friends continuously keep reminding me is how wonderful democracy is in India and how bad it is in Pakistan. Unfortunately, historically speaking, there is no comparison as Pakistan has experienced four major military interventions, unlike India.

But what do the Indians have to say about the way the people of Kashmir are being treated since independence, and then since 1989, and particularly since the killing of Burhan Wani in July this year? More than 100 people have been killed, and thousands injured since July; hundreds have gone blind due to use of pellet guns. The state is virtually under constant curfew; schools, banks and offices are closed.

The Supreme Court of India takes suo motu notice of smog in New Delhi, or the pollution of a river, but has failed to take any step to redress the grievances of the people in Kashmir. If a Jat gets killed in Haryana, the centre moves. If Muslims are killed for eating beef, the state looks the other way; but when the same thing happens to a Hindu in Gujarat where more than 3,000 Muslims were killed but nothing had happened, the chief minister is replaced.

The majority of Indians believe that Pakistan is behind all the turmoil in the state and that if somehow Pakistan’s intervention is removed, the tourist season would be revived in no time. It has historically been established now that Pakistan was taken by surprise when the current chief minister’s sister, Dr Rubiaya Syed, 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 and has declared the entire state a ‘disturbed area’, put it under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and enacted a whole hoard of draconian laws. More than 100,000 have been killed and about 250,000 persons arrested by various security agencies out of which nearly 20,000 have gone missing.

Let us not forget that there was almost daily exchange of fire at the Line of Control before Pakistan declared a unilateral ceasefire in November 2003. Guns mercifully have been silent on both sides since then. India took the opportunity of the improved relations and the ceasefire to build one of the most sophisticated border fences in the world. Ironically, it still accuses Pakistan of infiltrating militants into Occupied Kashmir – when it is virtually impossible to cross the LoC.

The fact is that the people of Kashmir simply do not want to be part of India. One cannot say for sure if they want to be part of Pakistan or simply want to be independent. But this is for sure: India is nowhere in the picture.

There are more than 600,000 Indian troops stationed in Kashmir. The Indian Army is one of the best armed armies in the world. So there is no doubt that it can control unarmed civilians, just like the Israelis can control the Palestinians in the occupied areas. But for how long? The people throwing stone at the Indian troops and the police in Kashmir, and burning Indian flags and waving Pakistani ones, were mostly born after 1989.

Waves after waves of these youngsters will keep coming out on the streets. They do not come out and protest because they are being trained by the Pakistanis or the ISI, or they are being paid by anybody. They simply want freedom, just the way Indians wanted freedom from the British; or the Scots from the English and so on and so forth. Pakistan is not supporting all the freedom movements of the world. This phenomenon has its own dynamics, and cannot be crushed by lethal force – ever. Otherwise, Jalianwala Bagh would have ended the freedom movement of the Indians.

India is a big responsible player in world’s polity. It should act maturely. Raising the bogey of Balochistan or Gilgit-Baltistan or Azad Kashmir is not going to divert attention from the streets of Indian Kashmir, and the Kashmiris will not stop throwing stones.

India is a democracy, and it should fulfil the pledge made by none other than 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 not Pakistan but India that referred the Kashmir dispute to the UN. And the UN Security Council passed several resolutions calling for holding a referendum in Kashmir.

If India is a democracy, then it should genuinely and sincerely hold talks with the people of Kashmir and Pakistan to achieve a permanent solution to this problem. The people of Kashmir deserve better; they have suffered enough. And the people of India and Pakistan ought to have peace so that we can move forward. Otherwise, we will be discussing the same issues even 100 years from now.

The BJP is in power and may not have much respect for Jawaharlal Nehru. But it should heed the advice of ex PM Vajpayee when he had declared in a public meeting in Srinagar in April 2003 that the “gun cannot solve any problem...only brotherhood can.” Vajpayee had said that India can move forward if it is guided by the three principles of Insaniyat (humanism), Jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmir’s age-old legacy of Hindu-Muslim amity).

Make a new beginning, India. Think out of the box and come out with something new, instead of repeating the kind of rhetoric that is not doing good to the people of Kashmir.

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.

Email: [email protected]

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