Solving the Kashmir riddle

Views from Srinagar

Administrative failure, poverty, corruption, and human rights violation are some of the key features that need to be addressed immediately.

Sabzar Ahmad Bhat

WHEN British left India in 1947, the Indian states, which were under colonial rule before independence, were divided between India and Pakistan on the basis of plebiscite as well as religious lines.
In the ensuing communal riots, the half million people had lost their lives and twelve million people of both Muslims and Hindus fled from one area to another area.
Under the Indian Independence Act 1947, the princely states were free to join Pakistan or India or remain independent.
Susmit Kumar, in his article ‘History of the Kashmir Conflict’ argued that Indian National Congress (INC) demanded that the Two Nation Theory should be applied on the princely states as well.
On the other hand Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, said that the princely states were sovereign for every purpose. Jammu and Kashmir was one of these princely states with Muslim population constituted about 78 percent of the state’s whole population and also had cultural, geographical proximity, economic and historical relations with Pakistan.
Due to this, the Kashmiri people had strong desire to accede to Pakistan. In August 1947, after the lapse of paramountcy, the Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir was uninterested in joining either of the countries.
Similarly, Mohammad Muzaffar Thakur in his article ‘Aggression not Accession’ pointed out that the “Maharaja of Kashmir wished to be independent. As a Hindu, he did not like Pakistan. As an Indian, he did not like British. As Prince, he cared neither for anti-feudal Gandhi nor for Muslim leader Sheikh Abdullah, who favored autonomy without Maharaja. Moreover, both India and Pakistan had an eye on Kashmir and were trying to grab Kashmir by hook or by crook.”
During September-November 1997 in Jammu region, a large number of Muslims were massacred and some others driven away to West Punjab.
Alastair Lamb in his book “Kashmir: A disputed Legacy: 1846-1990” stated: “By this time the communal situation in Jammu, the one part of the State where there was a large non-Muslim population, had deteriorated rapidly with bands of armed Hindus and Sikhs (including members of the RSS. Hindu extremists, Akali Sikhs and others) attacking Muslim villages and setting in train a mass exodus. It has been estimated that in August, September and October 1947 at least 500,000 Muslims were displaced from Jammu. Perhaps as many as 200,000 of them just disappeared,” (Lamb, 1991, pp.123).
Therefore, the indecisiveness on the part of Maharaja Hari Singh regarding Jammu and Kashmir’s destiny led to the rise of an indigenous uprising in Poonch. Consequently, the involvement of Indian military and the first India-Pakistan war in 1948 made the conflict further strong.
Victoria Schofield, a historian and commentator specializing in South Asia particularly in Kashmir conflict, argued in her book “India, Pakistan and the Unending War” that: “Kashmir remained independent for over two months. In October, after large number of tribesmen from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier invaded some parts of Kashmir, Maharaja had finally agreed to join India. His decision was totally opposed by Pakistan on the basis of Jammu and Kashmir’s majority Muslim population. The war ended between India and Pakistan with a ceasefire agreement on both sides in 1949 supervised by the by United Nations.”
Moreover, the different interpretations regarding the nature of Kashmir conflict is the most hindrance in the resolution of Kashmir issue.
India claims Kashmir is an Atoot Ang (integral part) of India but fails to prove the validity of its claim. On the other hand, Pakistan argues that Kashmir as the Shah Rag (jugular vein) of Pakistan.
Their claims results the three major wars fought between them over Kashmir and perhaps more than a million people died. India controls two-thirds of land of Kashmir and Pakistan controls one-third.
India retained to control the Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir Valley. Pakistan retained a narrow strip of land known as Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Northern area known as Gilgit-Baltistan. In international politics, it is one of the most staggering conflicts.
Furthermore, the Article 370 of Indian Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union, while limiting constitutional powers regarding the region.
As per this Article, the Government of India can have rights over Jammu and Kashmir in only three areas: foreign affairs, communication and defence.
However, with the passage of time, the Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was abolished as the position of Prime Minister was replaced with Chief Minister and the President was replaced by Governor like other states of the India. Additionally, the successive governments of India are always using different tactics to delay the dialogue process. Currently, Kashmir remains one of the most militarised zones in the world. The huge presence of the military and paramilitary forces has only worsened the situation in this region.
Also, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives the forces extraordinary powers, which they often use in order to curb the situation. Forces have no real understanding of the Kashmiri culture or kindness for local religious sentiments.
Administrative failure, poverty, corruption, and human rights violation are some of the key features that need to be addressed immediately.

—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir
[The writer is Srinagar based conlumnist/journalist]

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