The question one asks is, why is there no peace in Kashmir?
Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India, thought that he was leaving a new world in August 1947. The British empire had decided to leave the Indian subcontinent once and for all, and Mountbatten was given the task of leaving it in the best conditions possible. It is true that as Indians, we have a lot to thank for to the British, especially Mountbatten. They introduced the telegram, the railways and the first ever manufacturing unit based on the assembly line model. Many historians even argue that Mountbatten was probably the best ever viceroy India had the chance to be under, from an economic point of view.
The state of British India, nothing less than the best of the colonies of the Commonwealth, had to be split into two sovereign states, India and Pakistan. While traveling from Delhi to Karachi to mediate the discussions among the future leaders of these states, it would have occurred to Mountbatten as to how little the things had really changed on the ground. British India had seen countless waves of nationalist struggle among the people, the two World Wars, a violent transfer of power from the Mughals to the British and millions of deaths. The recent wave of Hindu-Muslim struggles across the country had led to the killing of many more; and even then, there were a lot of unanswered questions between the leaders of these supposed ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ states. The whole nationalist struggle, where people stood united against the British Raj, seemed to slowly turn into a farce now, when people were ready to kill on the basis of religion first, and nationality later.
The British Raj had to adopt a very unorganised approach to governing the Indian subcontinent. In some areas, they had to give zamindars a huge chunk of power to get the most from a measly peasant. In the areas where the British had set up manufacturing units, they had to give due attention to the conditions of the workers and the well-being of the people. While they left some cities to die of plague, such as Surat, they had to leave no stone unturned in cities such as Lutyens’ Delhi (Edwin Lutyens was the principal architect hired by the British Raj to redesign some parts of Delhi) where the majority of the British people, and their Indian servants, lived. The ruling power had allowed for hundreds of princely states with varying degrees of autonomy to exist across the subcontinent and a fuzzy India-Afghanistan border. Such a loose policy could not be inherited by the two new states, who were intent upon a very rigid border with clear rulings on who was allowed to live on either side of it. To absorb more and more of land into their nation before the border was finalised in Karachi, the two states relied upon a spectrum of policies which included getting letters of accession from local chieftains, establishing their rule over unruled territories and the all-time favourite, sending troops to root out opposition of their land. This led to a supposed peaceful separation of India and Pakistan to turn to a violent one, and the conditions have remained unchanged to this day.
As citizens of India, we only see Kashmir in two ways. Either the military, as the right arm of the government is right, or the people, who supposedly suffer ill treatment at the hands of the military, are right. The truth is, Kashmir is in a state of grey as opposed to the black and white we see on the TV while sitting comfortably at home. There have been many issues which are stopping the complete integration of Kashmir into India. The government has focussed primarily on strengthening control over the area, while using the articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution to great effect. The myth that most of us believe is that article 370 aims to undermine the individual sovereignty of a resident of Kashmir. Article 370 only talks about the ‘special’ status given to Kashmir, and how the state of Kashmir does not have to concur with the Indian government on matters such as marriage and land ownership. Activists all over India are hell bent on getting article 370, and subsequently article 35A removed from the Constitution.
So, does article 370 promote the separatist movements that have ravaged the state for many years now? The article only aims to give more strength to the Kashmiri citizen who feels deeply about the vulnerability of his identity and assets in the state of Kashmir. The article also allows for the President to rule in times of tension, ensuring that this independence does not lead to a misuse of power by the legislators in Kashmir who follow a separate Constitution altogether. Separatist movements only flourish when the people feel disconnected from a source of legislative power. People argue that they are left at the mercy of the separatists based on the fact that the Indian government has declared a ‘ceasefire’ in the valley, which is completely wrong. The whole idea of a ‘ceasefire’ is born from the pens of a few deranged sources of news in the valley who only aim to sensationalise their news at the cost of genuineness. What the government has ordered is a ‘launch of operations’. This means only one thing. The military will not take action if they see a separatist minding his own work, but if he resorts to any violent action, be it shooting anything from stones to rockets, he will be beaten down. Through the policy, the government aims to give these separatists a chance at redemption, a chance to mend their ways. The whole idea of a ceasefire is aimed at showing the government weak against the separatists, and this is the same reason why the government would never call for a ‘ceasefire’, it would amount to a political suicide.
The real reason as to why Pakistan needs Kashmir is simple. It needs to validate and act upon its two-nation theory based on religion. That is a principle reason as to why India has always taken, and will always take a strong stand in the Kashmir issue. From the time when Maharaja Hari Singh requested the assistance of the Indian Armed Forces to fend off the threat against Pakistan, India has been committed to integrating Pakistan as one of its own. Till 1971, the Pakistanis believed that they could annex Kashmir through a land assault on Indian soil, however, the Kargil War made it absolutely certain that Pakistan could never defeat the Indian Army in combat. Since then, Pakistan has followed a diverse approach with three aspects to it. Firstly, the premier intelligence agency, ISI, funds and gathers intelligence from local separatist groups operating in the valley, secondly, to counter India’s military prowess, Pakistan has indulged in trade deals with its neighbours, the latest one being the China-Pakistan trade route, to gain money and weapons, and lastly, by spreading its propaganda through mass media and the numerous madrasas which are integral to the Muslim way of life. Pakistan had to nullify India’s nuclear weapons advantage, and it knew the only one willing to help was China. The Pakistan China Trade Corridor is just another means of exchange of illegal goods among the two countries, as many UN reports have noted.
The boundary between the countries is a matter of international debate (thanks to another British masterpiece by Sir Cyril Radcliffe). The globally recognised boundary has been the one demarcated by the 1949 UN Ceasefire Agreement. However, the de facto border has been the Line of Control (LoC) since 1972. The boundary passes through a spectrum of mountain passes, making it easy to cross over. Even after an increased amount of patrolling along the borders, there is no dearth of militants in the valley who have come from Pakistan. Added to the militants, religious fanatics roam the valley, plastering walls with Islamic texts ordering people to follow the Muslim dress code, and encouraging the youth to pelt stones at encounter sites to impugn the authority of the armed forces of India. All this is done in the name of ‘religious freedom’, wherein the fanatics portray the government as the one oppressing the Muslims. Religion has been used to incite fear in the valley, which has led to the closure of cinemas and bars among other places where the youth may meet. Slogans such as “Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, jehad hamara Rasta hai” (Islam is our objective, Q’uran is our constitution, Jehad is our way of our life) and “Dil mein rakho Allah ka khauf; Hath mein rakho Kalashnikov” (With fear of Allah ruling your hearts, wield a Kalashnikov) have ensured that the peace seeking population of the state has left their homes for a better place.
The question one asks is, will there ever be peace in Kashmir?
I do not know the answer. All I have tried to do is elucidate the reasons as to why we are wrong when we blame our government for encouraging instability in the Kashmir valley. I believe that we are moving forward towards peace, and if we can eliminate the religious cynicism that exists in the valley, we might even reach a peaceful juncture one day.
Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,
Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.
(If there is a paradise on earth,
It is this, it is this, it is this)