“Ultimately, I say this with all deference to this Parliament – the decision will be made in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Kashmir; neither in this Parliament, nor in the United Nations nor by anybody else,” Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Primr Minister of India, August 7, 1952.
“The Kashmiri Freedom movement is often portrayed as a communal movement where Kashmiri Muslims are pitted against the Hindus, but this is far from true. There is a rich tradition of Kashmiriyat – a composite cultural identity with the glorious traditions of communal amity, tolerance and compassion – in the Valley dating back several centuries,” Akhila Raman, an Indian researcher on the Kashmir conflict.
On July 29-30, 2010 – The Kashmiri-American Council held it 11th annual conference in Washington DC. At the end of the conference, which was attended by over 300 people including over 50 academicians, scholars, parliamentarians, journalists, human rights activists, diplomats from India, Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir, England, Europe and the United States.
The conference ended with resolution known as the ‘Washington Declaration’, jointly drafted by former ambassadors Kuldip Nayar and Maleeha Lodhi, Dr. Khalid J. Qazi, Mohammad G. Zahid. and Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai.
The conflict between India-Pakistan-Natives goes back to the partition of British occupied Indian sub-continent in 1947. It began as result of a conspiracy hatched by Lord Mountbaton (1900-1979), Pandit Nehru and the Valley’s anti-Muslim Hindu ruler Hari Singh, against the wishes of the Valley’s Muslim majority (85-90%). The Jammu area of the Valley has been annexed by India while the Kashmir Valley is an autonomous region with its internal government within Pakistan, which is responsible for its defense and foreign relations.
Over 400,000 of India’s military is in the Valley to control it population of 10 million. Since 1950s – over 80,000 Kashmiris, mostly civilians, have been killed by the Indian occupation forces.
A few days ago, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s willingness for autonomy of the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir – brought mixed reactions in India and Pakistan. While the Interior Minister Farooq Adbullah welcomed it, the pro-Israel Hindu extremist parties (BJP and others) rejected autonomy for the Muslim-majority state within the Indian Union. Islamabad called it another diversion from the United Nations’ plebiscite, a solution proposed and accepted by India.
Akhila Raman in a recent article, titled Kashmir In Turmoil, wrote:
Kashmir Valley has been under brutal military occupation since a popular insurgency erupted against the Indian Rule in 1989. The once serene and lovely Kashmir Valley with its gorgeous mountains and rivers, which inspired generations of poets to eulogize its beauty, has now become a Valley of Blood.
Following the first Kashmir War in 1947-48, India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire and did sign the 1948 and 1949 UNCIP resolutions agreeing to a plebiscite to be carried out in 3 stages: Ceasefire; Truce Agreement followed by a Truce Stage; Plebiscite Stage. However, a plebiscite was never carried out due to differences in interpretation of the resolutions, some of them being- Procedure for and extent of demilitarization; Whether actual withdrawal of Pakistan’s troops is to be done before or after the Truce Agreement. This is the origin of the famous Indian accusation, “Pakistan did not withdraw the troops first”. Further, India would resist plebiscite efforts from 1954 citing Cold War alliances between Pakistan and the US. Both India and Pakistan criticize each other for the failure till date. Who was the real culprit? Whoever it was, Kashmiris would consider this as a breach of promise by India and denial of self-determination.
The Indian State continues to argue that elections held in J&K since 1951 are effectively a substitute for a plebiscite- that people have come out and voted and indicated acceptance of the Indian Rule. However, Kashmiris reject this argument saying that they were merely voting to elect leaders for local day to day governance, that the larger question of self-determination has been denied and that in any case the elections have been rigged since 1951 and that the Center was effectively installing local puppets in the State and ruling indirectly.
Thousands of young disaffected Kashmiris in the Valley were recruited by the JKLF and a full-fledged Freedom Movement against the Indian Rule began in 1989. The insurgency was not only militant but also popular – Hundreds of thousands of unarmed people marched on the streets of Srinagar between January and May 1990 demanding a plebiscite. This popular insurgency was brutally handled by the hardline Governor Jagmohan by firing indiscriminately at unarmed demonstrators. An officially estimated 10,000 desperate Kashmiri youth crossed over to Pakistan for training and procurement of arms.
Pakistan has long held the resentment that Kashmir, which rightfully belonged to it as a Muslim majority State, was snatched from right under its nose by a clever India. Hence Pakistan has invaded Kashmir/India and gone to war four times over Kashmir in 1947, 1965(Operation Gibraltar), 1971 and 1999(Kargil). Pakistan had hoped that Kashmiris would rise against the Indian Rule in 1965 following Operation Gibraltar, but that did not happen. Thus, when a full-blown indigenous insurgency erupted in 1989, Pakistan was only too happy to take advantage of the golden opportunity and would fuel the insurgency enormously by supplying arms and training to both indigenous and foreign militants in Kashmir, thus adding fuel to the smouldering fire of discontent in the valley.
It is high time India reconsidered its continuing policy of holding Kashmir at gunpoint to showcase its secular credentials to the world. It is imperative that India puts an end to its present brutal occupation of the Valley and implements confidence building measures to restore the people’s trust. That will bring down the incidents of militancy considerably.
However, as Pandit Nehru said, the ultimate decision will be made by the Kashmiris – whether they want to join Pakistan or India or establish an independent State protected by a joint India-Pakistan military force.