Sultan M Hali
OCTOBER 27, 1947 is etched in the mind of every Kashmiri as on this Black Day, reportedly, Maharaja Hari Singh, the Hindu ruler of Kashmir’s letter of accession was accepted by Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General of India. Both the instrument of accession and the dubious manner it was accepted are controversial and make India’s continued occupation of Kashmir illegal. Historically, Kashmir was an important centre for Hinduism and Buddhism but during the 13th Century, Muslims established their rule, commencing with Shah Mir, followed by the Mughals and later the Afghan Durrani Empire. In 1819, the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh annexed Kashmir. In 1846, after the Sikh defeat in the First Anglo-Sikh War, and upon the purchase of the region from the British for a sum of 7.5 Million Rupees under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Dogra Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, became the new ruler of Kashmir. Muslim majority of Kashmir, which had suffered under the Sikh rule, fared no better under the Dogra raj, who treated the Muslim majority population of Kashmir as serfs. The departure of the British from the Sub-Continent and the creation of Bharat and Pakistan as independent states held a promise for the Kashmiris, who hoped to be annexed to Pakistan.
According to the Independence Act of 1947, the rulers of the princely states of India were to exercise the option of acceding to either Pakistan or India. In the case of a princely state, where the majority of the subjects practiced a religion other than that of the ruler, then the masses were afforded the opportunity to exercise their option through a plebiscite. Members of the Indian political party, the Congress and more notably Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, who hailed from Kashmir, conspired with the last British Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten to coerce Sir Cyril Radcliffe the head of the Boundary Commission tasked to demarcate the boundary between India and Pakistan to reallocate Gurdaspur to India. The Punjab city of Gurdaspur was initially to be part of Pakistan. Its reallocation to India provided Nehru the only ground access to Kashmir. While the Muslim majority of Kashmir waited for the plebiscite to decide their accession to Pakistan, Indian forces illegally entered Kashmir and forced its Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to India.
Volunteers from Pakistan including participants from Pakistan Army tried to liberate Kashmir and managed to free one third of the territory when Nehru approached the UN Security Council to promulgate a ceasefire. The UNSC obliged but also approved resolutions on August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949, declaring Kashmir as disputed territory, directing a free and impartial plebiscite to be conducted under the supervision of the world body, enabling the Kashmiris to exercise the option of accession to India or Pakistan. India, which had initially accepted the UN Resolutions, later reneged and continues to occupy portions of Kashmir under its administration. The agony of the Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) is a prolonged saga of brutality and violence. Disappointed by world bodies to enforce the UN Resolutions, in 1989, Kashmiris decided to take matters in their own hands and rose in open rebellion. Indian armed forces used naked aggression to quell the just uprising, resultantly, nearly 100,000 Kashmiris have been martyred, their women raped, property destroyed and their youth incarcerated in Indian prisons without being charged.
The installation of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India in June 2014 turned the milieu in IOK even bleaker. Modi had resolved to repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution granting special status to Kashmir and annex it permanently into India. Modi is also changing the demography of IOK by settling Hindus there so that Muslims cease to be a majority. More ominously, the Indian narrative has changed. The freedom movement of the Kashmiris has been labeled as “terrorism” and Pakistan is being blamed as sponsor of the “terrorism” in IOK. To support its fallacious argument, Modi has instituted false flag operations in which Indian Armed forces’ installations are targeted through fake terror attacks but the culpability of the heinous attacks is being pinned on Kashmiris and Pakistan. To make matters worse, on July 8, 2016, popular Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani was brutally assassinated. To protest his elimination, thousands of Kashmiri youth came out in the streets but they are being targeted with pellet guns. The incessant protest rallies continue but to-date over 200 Kashmiri youth have been martyred since Burhan Wani’s assassination and over 3,600 Kashmiris have been blinded by the pellet guns. In order to camouflage its own atrocities, Modi is using a multi-pronged stratagem.
It was expected that with a new government installed in Pakistan, there may be progress. The New Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan earnestly extended the olive branch to India, inviting it to talks on all issues especially the core issue of Kashmir. For starters, Imran Khan proposed that the foreign ministers of both nations meet at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly summit at New York in September 2018. India initially agreed but then suffered from cold feet. It orchestrated a false flag operation, killing three of its own policemen, blaming Pakistan. Using it as an excuse, it backed out. The time has come for Pakistan to rejuvenate its diplomatic efforts and moral support for the Kashmiris to expose the brutalities by India so that international pressure is brought down hard on India to resolve the Kashmir issue.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.