By Anita Krishan
Kashmir, one of the hottest beds of rifts, unrest, raids, and terrorist attacks, is gleefully marked as ‘The Disputed Territory’ on the maps of several countries. Perhaps, except the maps drawn in India, nowhere else in the world is Kashmir accepted as an integral part of the Indian Republic.
The Kashmir dispute has persisted for such a long time that it has now become a pentagon knot. The solution to open this tight knot is jammed between; the tug of war between India and Pakistan, the opinions of the Kashmir’s extremists and separatists, the Kashmiri moderates siding with India, and the ones seeking an independent nation of Kashmir.
With the passage of time, the knot is becoming more and more entangled. Unless a key to open the knots is discovered urgently, the dispute may consequently lead to an inconceivable catastrophe. Nevertheless, the majority population in Kashmir is now fed up of the unwarranted bloodshed that the rift has caused.
Ever since I began to understand the country’s political issues, I have persistently found Kashmir in the forefront as an intricate problem that no amount of force or astuteness has been able to crack. My interest in Kashmir arises from two reasons; the foremost that my ancestors came from there. They were driven out of the valley two hundred years ago during the Afghan rule, when terrible atrocities were being committed against the Pandit population. It is believed that only eleven Pandit families had survived the carnage of the period…the rest were either forced to brace Islam, were killed, or they fled; like my ancestors. And, that has led to the second reason; for having authored the fictional and factual novel ‘Tears of Jhelum’ based on pulverization of the common hapless man who finds himself surrounded by utter chaos of opinions and pure hooliganism. While penning down this literary work, many factors opened up for my deliberation.
Impact on the quality of life
The foremost impact of this unrest has been on the human conditions of the valley. The number of people killed due to the insurgency is the highest in Kashmir than in the rest of the country combined together. The unofficial estimate states that 80,000 have been killed since 1989 when insurgency began- half of them being civilians. A sizeable segment of the Indian army is posted in Kashmir ever since. The patrolling army can never allow the common man to live a normal life. Especially when the ratio is so absurd- one soldier for every six civilians.
Living under perpetual fear has had its impact on the psyche of the people. The number of patients in the psychiatry departments of the hospitals seeking aid to bring their shattered minds to normalcy is mind-boggling. There is hardly a family, which has not been touched, in this ongoing struggle, where there hasn’t been a terrible loss or where a member has not suffered a mental imbalance.
The youth are the most affected. Being at the hot-blooded stage of their lives, they are the easiest to sway. In the last few decades, an uncountable number of Kashmiri youth have been reported to run away to join the militant training camps. Many have perished without a trace; many are still stuck with various militant groups. However, a few survivors have returned highly dejected with the treatment at the training camps in Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Those who have remained at home, give sleepless nights to their parents, who keep wondering, ‘When?’
Unlike the normal youngsters of the country, the youth in the valley do not spend their free time chatting with friends in cafés or visiting the multiplexes or the ostentatious shopping malls. They indulge in skirmishes with the army, throw stones at the soldiers, shout slogans for ‘Azaadi’ or take part in demonstrations- many of which turn violent, ending in unnecessary fatalities.
Death has been endemic. By now, the soil of the valley should have been rendered red with the amount of blood that has been shed.
People get killed when they join the life of militancy, they get killed when they voice against terrorism and suppression, they get killed on the mountains, in the markets, in the interrogation chambers, in real encounters, in false encounters…. By now, the soil of the valley should have been rendered red with the amount of blood that has been shed.
The families of the people who have died in their prime, are the worst affected. How can a woman widowed at a young age or a mother having lost her young son keep a level head? The moans and wails of these tormented women resound in the valley very often. And, the ones whose sons are young are in perpetual fear that they may join the ongoing terror campaign and meet the expected end. Why wouldn’t such an atmosphere affect the psyche of the commoners?
The soldiers posted in the valley are under no less duress. They have to be constantly vigil or become victims of sudden attacks. Thousands of Indian soldiers have lost their lives since the beginning of the militancy in the valley. Moreover, they are the despised lot. People, especially women, spare no feelings to express their resentment. Listening to offensive remarks, watching uncouth gestures or being spat on, are a few insults that the soldiers have to put up with. It won’t be a wonder if these young men, living away from home and in such a hostile environment, lose their cool once in a while.
The ‘pentagon knot’
Unfortunately, the turbulence sees no end. Three wars have been fought between the two countries claiming it as their sovereign territory. There have been numerous diplomatic meetings to discern solutions. But, the problem hasn’t budged an inch from where it was in 1947. Only countless lives have been lost or shattered in the course of this long stretched dispute. The concern of the levelheaded faction of mankind is that this clash shouldn’t escalate into a nuclear war and consequently into a horrendous human tragedy.
Let’s have a quick look at each aspect of this pentagon predicament.
- India’s claim on Kashmir began in October 1947, shortly after independence. Kashmir, under the rule of the then Dogra king, Hari Singh, had been attacked by the tribal groups (backed by the Pakistan army in civilian outfits). In his desperation to save the valley, the king, who had earlier decided upon remaining neutral and independent, made a desperate appeal to India for help. The Hindu king’s reluctance to join a Muslim dominated country was absolutely explicable. The Indian leaders instantly responded with the proposal of accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India. Thus, on 26 October 1947, the Maharaja signed theinstrument of Accession joining the Dominion of India, in return for military aid and a promised referendum.The argument is that the assured plebiscite has been completely disregarded. India rejoins that a plebiscite cannot be considered because a large part of Kashmir Valley and western Jammu region has been occupied by Pakistan.
- Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir relies totally on the fact that a majority Muslim population inhabits the valley. Then, what about the other regions in India, which have a large Muslim population? If the question is about the cultural bequest then shouldn’t the whole region of the Indus Valley be part of India? What about areas like Nankana Sahib? Isn’t it purely a Sikh legacy?
The bigger question is, will the people of the valley be happy and safe in a failed and terror-sponsoring state of Pakistan? But Pakistan spares no opportunity to harp about being the owner of the land of Kashmir. It is high time it began to devote its time and energy to internal issues, and in the betterment of the lives of its own citizens.
- In this duel, both the countries completely overlooked the protagonists; the Kashmiri people themselves. They have had little say in the matter except for occasional hartals and shouting slogans.There was a time when the credulous people had come under the dire influence of the infiltrators. Secret agents from Pakistan had mixed with the local population, successfully brainwashing a large segment of the society. The amiable spirit of brotherhood, where Rishi tradition of Kashmiri Hindus coexisted with the Sufi Islamic way of Kashmiri Muslims, was instantly shattered. At the start 1989, a brute force was unleashed against the hapless Pandits of the valley; totally overlooking the fact that they were the original inhabitants of the region . . . having dwelt in the valley for more than three thousand years. Many Pandits were brutally murdered, setting examples for others to flee to save their lives. Once again, terror was unleashed against the innocent Brahmins of the valley, by those who had converted to Islam from the same religion a few centuries ago.Although, the moderate voices of the Valley tried articulating their opinion about the wrong that was happening, those voices were brutally silenced.
- The separatist movement in Kashmir, therefore, still flourishes, though the tone has changed from joining Pakistan to complete Azaadi. It also demands the exit of Indian Army from the state.The separatists possess a very narrow vision. They do not realize that they will be swallowed like small fish by big sharks, the moment the Indian Army departs from the state. Terrorist factions rendering the whole valley into another Afghanistan will soon infest the land.Secondly, does the valley have enough resources to develop independently? Do they have enough mineral wealth, skilled manpower and industries? Won’t it be in their favour to grow and prosper along with progressing India?
- Currently, realization has dawned upon only a large faction of the prudent Kashmiris that their welfare truly lies in being an integral part of India. They may not be totally against the demand for autonomy but have also realized that the remunerations a growing country can offer, are any time better than becoming the cord pulled in opposite directions, in the tug of war between the two countries.They know that only India can offer the opportunities for growth, to flourish and have comforts of better living standards. It also assures peace and a better life for the future generations.With this ongoing tussle, the heavenly valley described by Sir Walter Lawrence as, “An emerald valley set in pearls; a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains where the air is cool, and the water sweet, where men are strong, and women vie with the soil in fruitfulness,” continues to be marred by plagues of unrest, fundamentalism, conflict, and suppression.
It will continue to bear the brunt of the malevolence unleashed, unless a resolution suitable for the welfare of the common man is reached.
Improving the lives of the people
In my mind the solution is quite simple. It lies in integrating Kashmiris into the mainstream of the country’s progress. The youth should be given quality education and suitable jobs. This will ensure that they keep away from the life of militancy. They must be prevented from getting into this violent madness, because once they do, there is no coming back.
Secondly, the valley, which got lagged behind the rest of the country due to the Pakistan sponsored turmoil, should be provided with good infrastructure- better roads, public transport, medical aid, professional education. In short, it should be provide all the modern amenities enjoyed by people elsewhere, for it is the duty of the Sovereign State’ to improve the lives of all its citizens. A better life with adequate facilities will help remove the resentment built due to years of neglect.
Finally, it is the people of the valley who have to rise in unison to choose the most beneficial road to recovery. They need to take a stand against the politics of uncertainty, separatism, and terrorism. For the politicians seem to have neither the will nor any means of solve this entangled problem. They want it to linger on, so that they continue to remain in the limelight. The interest of this sadistic, over-ambitious lot is no more than reaping profits by keeping the rift alive. The common man has to completely spurn this breed, to let the valley overflow with harmony and prosperity yet again.
I wish for peace to return to this divine land. Presently, it seems like a herculean task; so many wounds are festering; but it is not impossible. The wounds can be healed; they have to be. Understanding, love, friendship and freedom are the basic but effective healing ointments.
Kindness and love is bound to beget kindness and love.
Anita Krishan chose superannuation, after a tenure of 25 years as the teacher of English, to confer time to her passion of writing. She is a published author of the fictional and autobiographical works: ‘Tears of Jhelum’ and ‘Running up the Hill’. Also an ardent poet, educationist, and environmentalist, her humanitarian side is well revealed in her literary works. She has extensively travelled around the world. She holds degrees in Bachelor of Life Sciences, Bachelor of Education and Masters of English Literature.