Meanwhile, Pakistan waged a proxy war through armed tribal militia backed by its regular army with agenda to annex Kashmir.
The unabated violence and street protests have engulfed Valley again before the Durbar of governance would open in summer capital Srinagar in the first week of May. Mehbooba Mufti has frantically asked for Centre’s support for a dialogue process with the youth and other stakeholders inwardly and externally with Pakistan.
The citizens’ outrage reflected by mass protests in Delhi and elsewhere in the country included the participation of Priyanka Gandhi’s teenage daughter along with thousands of protesters in the midnight candle light protest against the rape and killing of minor nomad girl in Kathua. This eventually forced the BJP to dismiss its two cabinet ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government in J&K. The ministers were allegedly shielding the accused and attempting to stoke communal tension over the heinous crime in sensitive border state.
The PDP-BJP combine is pulling apart in opposite directions and the so-called ‘North Pole and South Pole’ alliance of convenience has messed up affairs of J&K and failed to deliver good governance. Kashmir seemingly spins out of Control.
Chief of Army General Bipin Rawat recently said that Kashmir imbroglio cannot be resolved militarily apparently realising that it is the biggest internal security challenge. He advocated engagement and dialogue. Until recently he had argued against any dialogue process and hailed the officer who had tied a Kashmiri youth to bonnet of the jeep to scatter the stone throwing crowd on army. Democracy is the only way forward is the accepted jurisprudence to resolve the peoples’ issues. General it is a welcome change of perception keep it up.
New Delhi needs to approach the issues keeping in sight the fact that India’s strategic interests are intertwined with the goodwill of the Valley’s common people, including Kashmiri Pandits, and not the land alone.
The unabated violence and street protests have engulfed Valley again before the Durbar of governance would open in summer capital Srinagar in the first week of May. Mehbooba Mufti has frantically asked for Centre’s support for a dialogue process with the youth and other stakeholders inwardly and externally with Pakistan. In Kashmir people expect end to violence in their homeland. They ask ‘don’t we deserve peace and violence free life to our future generations’ as almost a generation has gone into graves and citizens are suffering perpetual miseries and colossal societal agony. Don’t the aborigines exiled natives who are yearning to return back to their home deserve their rightful place in their own roots which are engraved in the soil of Valley for more than five thousand years? These are the important questions posed to the Prime Minister and the leadership of all hues. Kashmiris loudly say PDP-BJP government has failed the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Twenty ninth year of unabated violence has taken the toll of almost a generation. Retributive policy of the government called all out operation according to government official sources claims killings of 250 plus militants in the year 2017 and 2018 out of which almost 50 percent are reportedly local boys and rest the foreign mercenaries and miltants. About 100 security personnel and 50 of innocent civilians have lost their lives.
The people of the Kashmir Valley rejected Jinnah’s two nation theory and booted him out of the Valley when he asked Kashmiris to opt for Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of J&K, was keen to keep it as an independent, sovereign nation. He had dreamt of making J&K another Switzerland by promoting tourism. His vision was to keep J&K independent and out of the newly formed Indian Union which was not acceptable to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Patel and even Mahatma Gandhi who had personally counselled Maharaja not to dither and decide the future status of the State urgently. Maharaja instead opted for stand-still agreement with both India and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan waged a proxy war through armed tribal militia backed by its regular army with agenda to annex Kashmir. The Maharaja’s army was unable to stop the Pakistani irregulars and was soon outnumbered. He sought India’s help and asked Lord Mountbatten for military assistance, to blunt the Pakistani attack. The Instrument of Accession was signed like in case of all other princely states and immediately the Indian Army landed in Kashmir to prevent its forceful occupation by Pakistan irregulars. Pakistan’s incursion was repelled despite its advantage of surprise, speed, timing and uninterrupted access to the Valley. The Indian army, despite many operational disadvantages skillfully managed to “save” Kashmir from Pakistan for Kashmiris.
The J&K consisted of five separate regions which had nothing in common with each other. The hill areas of Gilgit, Baltistan and Skardu and the Punjabi-speaking areas of Muzzaffarabad are with Pakistan. Most of its area has been bartered to China by Pakistan. In the Indian part of the state there are three divisions- Hindu dominated Jammu, Sunni Muslim majority Kashmir Valley with a small Shia community, the Pandits, the Sikhs and the Gujjars and Ladakh, with Buddhist and Shia Muslim population.
The political leadership in the past and efforts by the people integrated these diverse divisions as a mosaic of different ethnic, religious and tribal groups and united these together in a culture of mutual tolerance and creative interaction in a pluralistic and democratic J&K state. Unfortunately, J&K has got engulfed in its worst phase of terrorism, intolerance and distortion of heritage because of self-serving and competing political interests.
The Kashmiri Pandit community has been hounded out en-mass by ethnic cleansing. A concerted plan of killing one and scaring a thousand was the militant’s tactics to exile the Kashmiri Pandits who are on the verge of disintegration. Tragedy of violence has brought about the threatre of mayhem and instability to dismantle the idea of democracy and plural ethos in Kashmir.
Kashmiris are yearning for peace and wish to have an end to the mayhem of destruction. They strive for peaceful life for the future generations. Dependence on Pakistan by Kashmiri militants and the non mainstream leadership is like collection of the dew that only wets the hands and nothing is achieved. It has led to death and destruction in the Valley and brought about the societal agony and colossal miseries, loss of lives, perpetual cynicism in the social psyche and devastated the plural socio-cultural ethos.
It is known well by now that the young Kashmiris and all others those crossed over to Pakistan for receiving arms training and for waging anti-India campaign are totally disillusioned. These elements have realised that Pakistan has no strength and interest in freeing Kashmir. Pakistan just wants to bleed India and Kashmiris. It is the grand intelligent realisation with Kashmiris of all hues living in Kashmir and the Kashmiri diaspora that “secession is not possible”. Pakistan may have created limited terrorist space in the Valley. With radicalism spreading the vicious narrative, the rich and lasting political legacy of Kashmir is fast becoming a casualty — say the Kashmiri intelligentsia. Therefore, the dialogue and engagement with New Delhi is the way forward to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio. The dire requirement for peace in the Valley’s polity is the guarantee of upholding the ethnic, geographical, Constitutional and plural distinct entity of Kashmir.
Pakistan’s using terrorist groups as part of its security and foreign policy is function of its obsession with India which it perceives as existential threat. Pakistan’s paranoia is unfounded. India wishes and wants a peaceful, terror free and democratic Pakistan as a friendly neighbour.
There have been military wars, continuing undeclared war, numerous skirmishes and stand offs. Many successful attempts to improve relations through Shimla Aggrement, Agra and Lahore summits, etc. have fallen apart. The relations soured after Siachen conflict of 1980s, Kashmir insurgency of 1989 onwards, Kargil conflict of 1999. Terror attack on Indian Parliament in 2001 almost brought two nuclear nations to a brink of war. Mumbai terror attack of 2008 by Pakistani terrorists and killing hundreds and continuing support to terrorists in Kashmir is to delegitimise the idea of India.
Pakistan despite having started to reboot its diplomatic ties with US to end the stalemate of last few many years, their relations are on the downside. That because Islamabad lied to the whole world about the presence of Al-Qaeda chief the most wanted Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The Americans nailed these lies by an” operation finish Bin Laden” and he was found in Abbottabad near elite military School in Pakistan and was liquidated. Pakistan is on notice and has to come clean and stop breeding terrorists in its backyard and root them out. It has received billions of dollars from US so far that is in public domain. Pakistan is on notice to act fast and hard on terror network operating from its soil.
Pakistan’s Army Chief General Javed Bajwa has also advocated peace and dialogue with India to resolve the outstanding bilateral issues. It is taken as assuring by experts in India and hopefully it is helpful for ongoing NSAs engagement of both Countries.
US is concerned about the regional security in South Asia.
US experts feel that India-Pakistan tensions will complicate and spoil US’s interest in the region as was reflected by the recent visit of Ambassador Alice Wells US Assistant Secretary of State to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India .
Meanwhile, Kashmir spins out of control. Unabated street protests and killing of innocent civilians, the security force personal and militants and continued recruitment of young local educated boys to militancy have made Valley almost a battlefield. The level of discontent has gone up accretive and there are no palliatives of succour.
The aimless and meandering policy perceptions are fraught with that we lose people and retain control over the geographical location. Unfortunately BJP has allowed Kashmir to slip away of its grasp eventually it is sad for India as a world’s largest democracy. Policy framework on Kashmir needs a correction in view of changing political dynamics.
The writer is a senior Supreme Court lawyer and chairman, Kashmir Policy and Strategy Group. He can be reached at email@example.com