Kashmir is a picturesque valley marked by lofty snowcapped mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, floating clouds, red apple laden trees, warm pashmina shawls, hot cups of pink tea, friendly and hospitable hosts and hearty smiles. Anyone who has had the privilege of visiting Kashmir, would define it as ‘paradise on Earth’. But Kashmir has a reality other than the lofty mountain peaks — one that rings in our minds as soon as we hear about Kashmir, one that instantly vanishes hearty smiles from faces and paints it grey, one of blood and unrest.
The beautiful valley of Kashmir has been in turmoil as far back as our memories take us, and has been a bone of contention between the nuclear armed states of India and Pakistan since 1947, both claiming Kashmir to be their integral part. Today, the market places of Kashmir are not filled with snippets of gossips, instead an eerie silence prevails there broken only by the ring of horrifying sounds of gunshot. Instead of the scent freshly baked bread, the valley reeks of the smell of blood and gunpowder. Instead of playing children, the valley is invaded by Indian forces carrying loaded ammunition. trying to keep the ‘situation’ under control.
Kashmir, a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, was one of the 565 princely states in British India enjoying autonomous status. Maharaja Hari Singh initially opted for independence but when the public urged to accede to Pakistan, he expressed reluctance. In August 1947, protests erupted in Poonch over the Maharaja’s indecisiveness. Panicked by the situation he asked Indian military to intervene. Soldiers from other Hindu states arrived and opened fire at the protestors killing several hundred protesting Muslims.
By October, the situation worsened and protests against Dogra rule intensified. As the cross border migration between two nascent states came to a head, Jammu & Kashmir became the focal point of all the ghastly developments that the world was to remember for decades to come. Many Sikhs and Hindus made their way through Jammu & Kashmir region of Kashmir, bringing stories of Muslim excesses. This infuriated resident Sikh, Hindus and supporters of Dogra rule. The horrific tales ripened the atmosphere for revenge and violence on Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. At that time, the Maharaja had just launched the campaign of eradication of dissenters of the state’s actions by the use of violence. Anyone serving the state army or police, specially Muslims, whose loyalties were dubious was sent packing. On October 14, districts of Amrey, Cheak, Atmapur and Kochpura in Jammu & Kashmir were attacked by activists of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Muslim properties were looted, and they were dragged out of their homes on streets to be shot. Thousands of Muslim women were raped on streets. As the riots spread, Muslims living in areas dominated by Hindus were slaughtered mercilessly. Terror for life reigned large among the Muslim population of Kashmir. According to reports, Ramnagar in Jammu & Kashmir was subjected to such horrendous torture that roads were covered with dead bodies. Muslims living in the areas of Talab Khatikan and Mohalla Ustad were deprived of food and water. Administration of the area forced them to board the train to Pakistan, apparently for their own safety. But when near their destination, they were pulled out and shot down. It is estimated that around 200,000 Muslims lost their lives, while around 300,000 were uprooted. Those who managed to hide and survive were left with a traumatic memory and unspeakable tales of torture. Gandhi commented on IOJ&K incident saying, “The Maharaja of Kashmir is responsible for what is happening there … A large number of Muslims have been killed there and Muslim women have been dishonored.”
As news of the massacre of Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir made its way to Pakistan, Pashtun tribesmen went into Kashmir in order to support the persecuted Muslims. After October 27, 1947, more Indian troops entered the scene to crush the freedom revolt. On January 1, 1948, UNSC heard the case of Kashmir. India falsely accused Pakistan of escalating the tension while continuing its occupation of Kashmiri land. On January 1, 1949, a ceasefire was ordered by UNSC and a plebiscite was promised to Kashmiris, which Kashmir has been looking forward, till date.
Over the course of time, Kashmiri discontent over forced occupation by Indian aggressors had grown manifolds. The plight, murder and discontent of Kashmiris have fueled countless skirmishes between India and Pakistan. On numerous occasions, India has accused Pakistan of instigating rebellion in Kashmiris, a claim, which is no more than a blatant lie. Pakistan, being the ambassador of peace, has offered India to resolve matters through civilized means of dialogue — an offer, which was repeatedly made and turned down by its cunning neighbor.
Malicious attempts, using miscellaneous tools of manipulation, have been made by successive Indian governments to legally unite Kashmir into the Indian Union, which have been thwarted by Kashmiri leadership, public and Pakistan.
One such attempt was made in 1987, when in order to legally materialize its malicious aim and to satisfy the international community regarding law and rights situation in Kashmir, India conducted elections, which were actually highly rigged. Criticism of the government followed and protests erupted throughout Kashmir. Panicked at the probability of protests morphing into an independence movement, India sent additional troops to an already heavily militarized zone, armed with emergency laws to curb the insurgency at the cost human life and human rights. Violence emerged victorious; again, Muslim properties were looted, women were raped and the sights of blood and bodies of the dead became a common one.
According to reports, more than 100,000 people have lost their lives in this blood bath since 1990. As Indian atrocities soared, so did the flicker of desire in the heart of every Kashmiri for the right of political autonomy. As clampdown, blackout, bullets and steel pellets became a routine the demand for self-determination became their mission. Without realizing, India itself fueled the fire of insurgency and independence as its atrocities forced youth to join the cause and turn to arms for its defense.
Once again, Kashmir found itself at the receiving end of Indian wrath in February 2019, after the Pulwama incident that resulted in the death of 40 army personnel.
Following the example of ethnic cleansing set by the Jammu massacre, serving its extremist agenda of crippling Muslims economically and existentially, India revoked Articles 370 and 35A from its constitution, depriving Kashmir of its right of autonomy. After Articles 370 and 35A were revoked, it granted right to others to settle and buy property in Kashmir, thus helping enable a change in the demography of the state.
Sensing and fearing protests, India imposed a curfew that continues till date, followed by shutting down of internet and cellular services. The world protested at the behest of Kashmir as Kashmir was cut off from the world and drowned into darkness.
Pakistan, pained at the plight of Kashmiris, protested strongly. Prime Minister Imran Khan during his speech at UN warned of a ‘blood bath’. General Qamar Javed Bajwa warned India of severe repercussions of its actions as he stressed, “No compromise on Kashmir!” International pressure on India poured in as the whole world condemned human rights violations in Kashmir.
India needs to realize that it needs to step down from its seven-decades-old gimmicks of torture and detention. It has to realize the genuineness of Kashmiri demand; all they are fighting for is their future. So far, using the ghastly techniques of torture, India has curbed the possibility of an independence movement. What its myopic government fails to see is the searing anger because of the curfew, which one day will soar so high that it might just burn India. HH
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