(Why should the fate of Kashmiris be tied up with the establishment of Indo-Pak friendship?)
There are some very common refrains in regard to the solving of the most intractable and the longest pending political problem of Kashmir. In the global context, it is the necessity for a peaceful dialogue between the two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan, to solve all outstanding issues including Kashmir. In the Indian context, Kashmir is no issue as it is settled as an integral part of the Union of India. The only issue for them is to recover the parts of the state illegally occupied by Pakistan and China. For Pakistanis, Kashmir is the core issue and according to them, without its settlement, there can be no peace in the sub-continent.
For last 70 years the two newly created countries of India and Pakistan have been in a continuous state of conflict. The most glaring example of conflict is in Kashmir. The Line of Control between the two countries is these days “Hot” with almost daily exchanges of artillery and other fire. There are daily casualties of both the soldiers and the civilians on the two sides of the line. It is totally senseless violence, and in fact, a very tragic story for the sub-continent. If one goes deeper in reality, Kashmir is only the symptom and the disease is different. The real conflict is ideological or rather it is a religious conflict. India is a Hindu country and Pakistan is a Muslim country and both seem to have no meeting ground in the present context because of the past. There is absolute basic mistrust of each other. The governments on two sides survive on this mistrust. Unfortunately, the reins of power on both sides are with the elite which survive by keeping teeming millions down under. On the Indian side it is the 5% Brahmin elite which controls everything. On the Pakistani side it is the feudal landlords who have a stranglehold. The most common refrain on this side is the Hindutva Nationalism. The objective is to make India a Hindu Rashtra. There is absolute mistrust and hatred of Pakistan. On the other side, it is the universal Jehad to uphold the Islamic principles. On this side we see the Trishul wielding RSS workers in their traditional knickers. On the other side there is abundance of suicide bombers blasting everything coming in their way.
Next in line is Kashmir which has somehow got entangled in this perennial Indo-Pak conflict. However, the moot point is why should the fate of Kashmiris be made a hostage to Indo-Pak friendship? Kashmir in the entire sub-continent has probably the longest history as an independent sovereign Kingdom from the ancient times. Many ancient chronicles of Greeks, Arabs and Chinese mention Kashmir as a Kingdom in the Himalayan Mountains. Till twelfth century it was a Hindu Kingdom. Then Islam as a religion was brought here by religious preachers and not by conquerors. The religion appealed to the local population so much that all except the 2% ruling elite converted to Islam and with the conversion of the last ruler Rincin Shah, it became a Muslim State. Rincin Shah after conversion took the name of Sadaruddin and became the first Muslim King of Kashmir. Till sixteenth century it remained an independent sovereign kingdom and then the Mughal King Akbar annexed it through treachery to the Mughal Empire. After that there was continuous slavery of Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras for the Kashmiris. A movement for the emancipation from the centuries of bondage and slavery rose in Kashmir in early thirties of the last century. In 1947 when Kashmiris were nearing their goal of freedom, because of their misfortune and the ineptitude of their leaders, they got entangled in the ideological conflict of the sub-continent. Rather they were got enmeshed in this mess by the departing British for their own long term strategic reasons. With the change in the geo-political equations in the South Asian Region Kashmir is getting more and more entangled in a larger political mess because of its so called strategic location. Most of the claimants talk about its strategic location. There is hardly anyone interested in the fate of the people who have been living here for thousands of years!
The “Burhan Uprising” which was virtually a peaceful mass revolution throughout the length and the breadth of the valley, triggered by the killing of a militant freedom fighter, has sent a clear and direct message from Kashmir to all over the world! Kashmiris want their birthright to be restored to them. They want to live a life of dignity and honour. The slogan is simple, “Azadi”, the Freedom! Even though after a long time the world has woken up from a deep slumber, yet the response has not been as it should have been. Again the same dithering and the same refrain of dialogue between the two claimants of the piece of “real estate” rather than restoring the rights of the subjugated people. Within India, the common refrain from well-wishers is unconditional dialogue among all the stakeholders instead of a straight demand for taking care of the real stakeholders, the Kashmiris, suffering for the last 70 years!
Apart from untying Kashmir from various strings like the Indo-Pak relations, one has to take notice of a new factor,the new emerging young leadership in Kashmir, which has made clear to one all that they cannot be taken for granted. They cannot also be held hostage to Indo-Pak friendship which may never materialise even in their lifetime! Two generations of Kashmiris have passed away waiting for the same. The present generation born and brought up in the conflict of nineties of the last century has seen the worst and has given the maximum sacrifices. It is they who need to be spoken to and not the so called “traditional” leaders of the so called various “streams”. Will someone take the initiative? Only on that depends the return of real peace and normalcy!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir),