BY SHAFAQ PARWEZ
There is a piece of land in South Asia which has been described by many as “paradise on earth.” However, the countries adjacent to it describe it differently. These are big countries with even bigger claims on that piece of paradise. While China and India call it their integral part, Pakistan calls it its jugular vein. Amidst of all these claims, Kashmir bleeds. And it has been bleeding for more than six decades now.
The princely state of Kashmir found itself in turmoil ever since the Partition of India in 1947. When the British decided they had had enough of their imperialistic adventures in the subcontinent, they created two countries by literally drawing a line on a map. To speak of the massacre and utter chaos would require a number of books and still not do justice to the events. It was at this time that all princely states in the region, which had their own rulers and were capable of existing independently, were given a choice to accede to either of the two newly created states or to be independent. These states were Hyderabad, Junagadh, Jammu and Kashmir. While the two former ones acceded to India, the paradise on earth was torn apart. It belongs to everyone except the Kashmiris.
The Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, was the Hindu ruler of the Muslim majority state of Kashmir. When asked to make the decision for his state, he could not do so. What he did was to sign an interim “standstill” agreement to maintain several services including transport with Pakistan. Islam was and still is the dominant religion in the region which would align them more with Pakistan. But, many other factors hindered joining either state so the British suggested a plebiscite be held in the territory to give the power to choose to the Kashmiri people. India decided to bring in its army at this time which infuriated the Pakistani authorities. So, no vote was held.
Riots broke out in which all communities suffered massive losses of lives and property. Be it Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims, nobody was spared from the bloodshed. The delay in making a decision by Hari Singh led to the invasion of the Kashmir valley by Pakistani tribesmen in October 1947. The Maharaja ended up asking for assistance from the Indian army and a full-fledged war started in the valley.
After all this turbulence, Lord Mountbatten, a British Viceroy to the Asian subcontinent, proposed that in order to obtain peace, Kashmir should join India on a temporary basis. Hari Singh agreed and signed the Instrument of Accession, hence ceding control over defence and foreign policy to India. Until this day, Pakistan believes the Maharaja was forced to sign the agreement due to the presence of the Indian army in the valley.
The result was a brutal turn of events which led to the division of Kashmir in not two, but three parts. Two major wars between India and Pakistan followed. A Line of Control was established with international help and a ceasefire declared but rape, murder and other atrocities are a daily norm.
A war between India and China also broke out over the Aksai Chin area in the 1960s which led to China’s “victory.” Yet another war broke out between India and Pakistan in the late 1990s over the Siachen Glacier which could not be divided by the Line of Control due to its challenging geographical position and was still a free zone to contend for.
The current geographical situation has Kashmir divided in four parts: India has Indian administered Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh with the latter contemplating the formation its own separate Buddhist union. Pakistan has Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. China has Aksai Chin. And the Kashmiri people have murder on a daily basis.
This is a short narrative of events that have occurred for the past six decades. For all of this time, the UN and the UNHCR have tried unsuccessfully to resolve this issue as peacefully as possible. The Muslim majority regularly hold pro-independence and pro-Pakistan protests.
India, on the other hand, maintains that Kashmiris have no such sentiment. My only concern is, if there is no such sentiment and they would love to unite with India, why is the Indian army carrying out a systematic series of attacks on a section of people who already want to be part of India? Why is it easy to overlook the fact that these people have little food, infrastructure, education and weaponry. If Pakistan cannot do anything extremely monumental for the cause of Kashmir, shouldn’t Kashmiris start a fierce international movement advocating for the independence of Kashmir?
Isn’t it high time that the nations learned that killing people on a daily basis is far more unethical than the pleasure of knowing you have acquired a piece of land? I cannot comprehend how anyone can live a normal life knowing they have raped a three-year-old or killed a hundred people.
The new form of mass violence is to use pellet guns to disperse protesters. This kind of gun fires a cluster of small, round pellets which have blinded thousands of Kashmiris. But there is no one from the international community speaking up. The entire world is also ignoring the fact that these guns were supposed to be used as Standard Operating Procedure which calls for targeting legs of protesters in extremely volatile situations but, according to the BBC, more than 90 per cent of all injuries being reported are above the waist.
It is time for the Pakistani and Indian authorities to think of the bigger picture, to think of humanity. To think of their very own children and their kin in situations similar to the plight of the Kashmiris.
It is in utter desperation that I have written this piece. All the time I have Led Zeppelin’s song Kashmir in my ears:
All I see turns to brown, as the sun burns the ground
And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land
Trying to find, trying to find where I’ve been.
Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace, like thoughts inside a dream
Heed the path that led me to that place, yellow desert stream
My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June, when movin’ through Kashmir.