From its snowy mountains to its calm lakes, from pashminas to its delightful apples Kashmir has captivated each and every one with its breathtaking beauty. Indeed, its beauty is unearthly rather it’s the glimpse of that heaven on the seventh sky. But to me, it’s like that extremely beautiful, innocent girl whom every eye desires, from whom all know how to take but none knows how to give. To me, Kashmir is that lovely yet helpless girl who has been captured and exploited over and over again by her cold-blooded admirers. In the end, she gets rewarded with compliments for her beauty but her pain is left uncared for.
In 1947, India achieved its Independence from the British after 200 years of their colonial rule. But the independence didn’t come easy because with it came partition. The subcontinent split into two, an Islamic Pakistan and a secular but predominantly Hindu India. While the subcontinent was in the throes of the birthing of the nations, Kashmir, a princely state was confused. Being a Hindu king with a Muslim majority state Hari Singh was not able to decide. Should he accede to one of the new nations or stay sovereign. With no decision from Maharaja, impatient Pakistan launched the operation Gulmarg through which it occupied a part of Jammu and Kashmir which today is known as Azad Kashmir in Pakistan or PoJK as called by India. As a consequence of this Kashmir acceded to India in October 1947 on the conditions of having autonomy and a promise of a plebiscite in the coming years. Fast forward, the autonomy is gone and plebiscite is yet to happen.
Kashmir is one of the most disputed places on earth. For 70 years it’s been at the centre of three wars fought between two massive armies. The land of Kashmir has come a long way travelling the paths of struggle brimming with a long history of constant militancy.
Pakistan argues that being a Muslim majority territory Kashmir rightfully belongs to them while India insists that Kashmir was handed over to them by the Hindu monarch so they double downed and added Kashmir to their constitution. But in this Indo-Pak rivalry what really at stake is the voice of Kashmiris who are caught in a vicious cycle of violence. The territorial dispute has only gifted the legacy of a constant struggle for peace to the Kashmiri people. Many live their entire lives through this conflict, born and died under a curfew.
The heart of Kashmir can be contained with two perceptions; the alleged rivalries of religious identities. One of the most tragic happenings in the history of Kashmir was the 1990 Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits became victims of communal violence and were forced to leave their homeland. According to Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, more than 70,000 families fled between 1990 and 1992. The flight continued till 2000. The KPSS has placed the number of Kashmir Pandits killed by militants from 1990 to 2011 at 399. Many of the Kashmiri Pandits have been living in the refugee camps of Jammu to date. The nature of the exodus has remained controversial. The Kashmiri Muslim view of the exodus is that the then governor Jagmohan encouraged Kashmiri Pandits to depart the Valley and thus gave a communal colour to what was until then a non-religious Kashmiri cause. However, the Kashmiri Pandits believe that The Kashmiri Muslims with whom they had lived amicably for centuries drove them out of their homes with vengeance. The truth, many commentators have concluded may lie somewhere in the middle. But the question you need to ask yourself is, does this tragic happening of the past justifies the human rights violations of the many Kashmiris by the Indian State till now. You can’t use the Kashmiri Pandit exodus to overshadow the collective Kashmiri struggle for identity and self-determination. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech. Thousands of Kashmiri civilians and suspected insurgents have been killed by the Indian security forces in custody, extrajudicial killings, fake encounters and enforced disappearances.
In an incident of July 18, 2020, three Kashmiri youth who were alleged to be militants were killed in an encounter. A recent investigation revealed that an Indian army captain along with two others staged the encounter of the three boys who were actually labourers to receive a reward of around $30,000. These human rights violations are said to be carried out by Indian forces under total impunity. Indian authorities use the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) to avoid holding its security forces responsible for the deaths of civilians. Pellet guns- a weapon meant to be deployed for crowd control have been responsible for blinding, killing and traumatizing people in Kashmir.
Kashmiri women are amongst the worst sufferers of sexual abuse in the World. Due to the impact of conflict and uncertainty in the territory, many people suffer from various psychological problems and post-traumatic disorders. Kashmiri women are reportedly said to be highly prone to suicidal tendencies. The incident of Kunan-Poshpora in the Kupwara district is a descriptive account of the horrors inflicted by the armed forces on Kashmiri women. The victims still await justice. Amidst these abuses, access to justice is unlikely in Kashmir. The way justice is denied systematically and how the corporate media of India fails to cover these incidents is a critical crackdown on the democracy of Kashmir.
This is the main concern, people still engage with the institutions only to realize that the establishment, on most events, can’t provide them justice, not because they cannot but because they do not want to.
With this Kashmir remains an open-air prison, leaving people with no control over their lives. While some say Kashmir should go to India and others say Kashmir belongs to Pakistan, Kashmiris seek a democratic right to be recognized.
The story of Kashmir has numerous narratives to it. One is of the 18-year-old boy who turns to militancy as a result of humiliation and oppression, another is of a mother who isn’t even aware if her son is dead or alive, of a wife whose husband’s disappearance leaves her as a half-widow, of a Kashmiri Pandit who hasn’t returned to his home since 30 years, of a stone pelter who believes that he isn’t throwing stones at soldiers but at the occupation of Kashmir and then comes the narrative of the arm-chair activists from India and Pakistan sitting in their comfortable sofas with their high-speed 4G internet giving opinions about something which hasn’t affected them at all.
In a world full of revenge and malice, humanity seeks forgiveness. More than a territorial dispute, Kashmir is a dispute of right and wrong, freedom and human rights. Between this tussle of right and wrong, paradise has been lost.
Since all conflicts come from the notion of right and wrong and which is a variable notion it’s always possible for one to have an opinion and still have compassion for someone who has a different opinion. There are always different perspectives about right and wrong but at the end of the day, everyone wants one simple thing, to love and to be loved.