News & Views
KASHMIRIS continue to face death and destruction for the last seven decades. In fact, their ordeal had started during Dogra Raj and then at the hands of Indian armed forces. After martyrdom of Burhan Muzaffar Wani in July 2016, there were demonstrations and over 100 Kashmiri civilians protesting on the streets had been killed. At least 1,200 received pellets in their eyes (52 of them were blinded, 300 including 150 minors partially lost vision) and 4,664 persons received bullet injuries in different parts of the bodies. When Kashmiris know that they can be killed even for demonstrating on streets or mourning in a funeral, why would they be deterred by the threat that they may be killed while obstructing an Army operation against militants? Last year, militants had attacked an Indian Army’s battalion at Uri, Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir killing 17 Indian soldiers.
In fact, the origin of Kashmiris’ sad plight had started after the First Anglo-Sikh War when under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar signed on 16th March 1846 the British sold Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh for 7.5 million rupees. The area comprised lands in Jammu and Kashmir ceded by the Sikhs through the Treaty of Lahore. Reportedly, it was done for the services rendered to the British by Gulab Singh during the Anglo-Sikh war. According to Article 1 of the treaty, Gulab Singh acquired all the hilly or mountainous country with its dependencies situated to the eastward of the River Indus and the westward of the River Ravi. The British also undertook the responsibility of protecting the princely state from external aggression. Indeed, the British were responsible for the unending cycle of slavery, violence and death and destruction by the Dogra Raj that followed the Treaty of Amritsar.
Once again in August 1947 at the time of partition of the sub-continent in 1947, the British played ignominious role whereby India occupied Jammu and Kashmir through deceit and deception. United Nations Security Council had passed a resolution on 5th January 1949 that gave Kashmiris right of self determination. As a result of the apathy shown by international community, the above resolution could not be implemented. No other nation perhaps has gone through such a long ordeal and sufferings in the history, and Kashmiris’ unending nightmare continues. In 1989, Kashmiri youth started armed struggle against atrocities and killings and ruthless exploitation by India’s military, and since then about 90000 Kashmiris have been martyred. Since Narendra Modi is at the helm, efforts have been stepped up to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir by encouraging migration of Hindus with a view to diluting Kashmiri Muslims’ majority in IHK.
After BJP had won the 2014 elections and Narendra Modi became prime minister, he crafted a plan to get sizeable number of seats in state elections of Indian Occupied Kashmir. He managed to secure about two dozen seats from Hindu majority areas of Jammu, and also due to boycott by the Hurriyat Conference. Intensive negotiations between BJP and PDP on forming the government in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) were aimed at robbing the mandate of the Kashmiri people who had reposed confidence in PDP. However, the PDP betrayed its voters by forming coalition government with BJP, compromising on main issues such as article 370, AFSPA, trifurcation of the region, rehabilitation of Pandits and refugees’ issue. Through ceasefire violations at the Line of Control and Working Boundary, India kept pressure on the PDP for forming the coalition, and succeeded in achieving its objective.
India’s political parties and entire media supports Indian government except a very few honorable exceptions. Renowned Indian novelist and political activist Arundhati Roy made a strong case for Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination before American audience on 12th November 2011. “I think that the people of Kashmir have the right to self- determination—they have the right to choose who they want to be, and how they want to be,” she said in the course of a discussion on ‘Kashmir’. In her remarks, she lamented the fact that so little is known about the atrocities being committed by more than 700,000 Indian troops and indignities let loose on Kashmiri men, women and children. Disappearances were almost a daily occurrence as also kidnapping, arrests, fake encounters and torture. Mass graves have been discovered and the conscience of the world remained unstirred.
Last month, in an open letter to Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat by Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association and editor of ‘Liberation’, monthly publication of the Communist Party of India raised very important questions. She asked as to “why do Kashmiri youth and women pick up stones and guns? Why do they raise anti-India slogans? Why do soldiers kill themselves and colleagues?” She said Army chief needs to reflect on these questions. She went on to write: “General Rawat, it seems from the testimonies that the stone-pelting Kashmiris are being produced, not by Pakistan, but by the very presence of Indian armed forces in the Valley.” There are more than 500000 Indian forces and police in Kashmir. For population of five million, 90,000 Indian armed persons have been deployed for counter-insurgency operations alone in Kashmir.
Despite all these measures, the anti-India sentiment has never been in short display. With its use of brutal massive military force in the occupied Kashmir, India may have driven out the freedom sentiment from the street, but manifestly it lives in Kashmiri hearts. The trigger-happy Indian soldiers in the past years inflicted so much of brutality on the Kashmiris to subdue and crush their popular uprising for freedom that not a single Kashmiri home is left without family tragedy. By every reckoning, the Kashmiris’ alienation is now irreversible. When their popular uprising was at its peak in the 1990s, India had indeed deployed over 700,000 soldiers to put it down. Even in the face of this large military force, the Kashmiris didn’t cave in. Despite every inhuman method the occupation army resorted to crush their popular movement, they stand tall and their dream of freedom lives on.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.