If you are on social media, or happen to keep tab of the news in some way or the other, it is highly unlikely that you haven’t come across the events transpiring in Kashmir, as you read this article. The death of a militant, Burhan Wani has sparked unrest in the valley, which is gradually snowballing into a large scale violence between the Kashmiri youth and the Armed Forces. Now before you forge any belief or deliver a judgement on the Kashmir issue, it is important to take into account Kashmir’s history, its different, at times indifferent polity and its complex relationship with India.
History of Kashmir
Now the state of Jammu and Kashmir was one of the few states which had not acceded to either of the Union(India or Pakistan) at the time of Independence. The state was ruled by a Hindu King ( Maharaja Hari Singh), who wanted to stay independent and not accede to either of the Union. As negotiations were on between India and the princely state of Kashmir, a development changed the polity of the region for good. Tribesmen from Pakistani territory( allegedly with Pakistan’s aid and support) invaded Kashmir and succeeded in running over large swathes of land. Maharaja Hari Singh, startled by the recent development and scared of the consequences of being a part of an Islamic Republic signed an Instrument of Accession with India, transferring main areas to the Union, while retaining its autonomy. Consequently Indian troops retaliated and pushed tribesmen(allegedly Pakistani sponsored ) uptill a point, but could go no further due to UN intervention. The area of Kashmir beyond that line is now called Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Now there are a couple of noteworthy things here. First the decision of the Maharaja did not have the blessing of the common people. A few areas especially the Poonch sector clearly wanted to be a part of Pakistan. The rest of the state was divided, though most of the people were unequivocal in their support for the National Conference, led by a charismatic leader called Sheikh Abdullah ( Grandfather of the former CM Omar Abdullah ). Abdullah though complicit in the signing of the Instrument of Accession and consequent governance kept on oscillating between demanding independence and demanding greater autonomy for the Kashmir. Hence the issue remained a bone of contention, though situation was rather peaceful.
A major change happened in the late 1980’s. A political demand for more autonomy coupled with allegations of a rigged election contributed to the rise of militancy. Millitants purportedly received aid from across the border and other state and not state actors. To quell the growing discontent, AFSPA(Armed Forces Special Powers Act) was brought in, which stifled free speech, enforced curfews, allowed indefinite detention of those accused of militancy, gave Army overriding power in affairs of the people. Some of the worst form of abuse, rape, abduction and homicide was carried out by the Indian Army during this time under the shield of AFSPA . If you have watched Haider, starring Shahid Kapoor, you probably know the suffering Kashmiris went through, mothers lost their sons and never found the corpses, Jhelum is said to have been flooded by corpses of alleged militants killed by the Army. How the Indian Army which is said to be one of the most disciplined forces of the world carried out there acts with impunity is the question.
Though the wave of militancy abated, Kashmir continued to be under rigorous military cover. People have started growing disenchanted with India, because to them India equals tyranny, repression and suffering.
In a recent development a minor girl was allegedly raped by one of the personnel of the Indian army in a discrict called Handwara. People hit the streets demanding action against the accused, but not much happened. Army personnel cannot be prosecuted under the state law under AFSPA, this gives them immunity from being tried, at times.
Another incident that sparked outrage was the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant. Burhan Wani had become something of a role model for the youth of Kashmir, after his brother (not a militant ) was killed and his body mutilated, by the Indian Army. Burhan Wani to the Kashmiri youth became an icon, who stood for everyting they had lost and everything they could reclaim. And what gave wind to this polarization- the barbaric treatment of individuals by the armed forces. The Kashmiri youth has resorted to stone pelting and other violent means to show their anguish. The army is having a hard time reigning the control of the valley. News of further deployment of forces (which is already huge) is being let out.
What intrigues a person the fact that the Indian Government, in some way or the other has contributed to the situation by its improper handling and its disproportionate use of force, at times on civilians. The Supreme Court in its recent hearing agaisnt AFSPA filed by Manipuris (yes, even the North Eastern States are under it), held that the insurgents are Indian citizens and hence should be entitled to all rights of an Indian citizen. It asked the armed forces to refrain from the disproportionate use of force.
What the government fails to understand is that Kashmir is a grey area, which requires it to think out of the box, nothing is black and white. We must acknowledge that the Kasmiris have a cause for dissent, and we have given them that cause. What this calls for is extensive talks and pacification. Leaders should risk their lives, this once and reach out to the disenchanted brethren. By police action and killing of embittered civilians and sending in reinforcement, we are justifying the militants claim that Kashmir has become a police state and inturn festering militancy. And we as common people need to stop looking down at kashmiris, with contempt. They are living in difficult times, and none of us have any idea, what it feels like to live in contant terror of both militants and the army. So India stop judging Kashmir, try to understand her.