The Unfortunate Kashmiris
Every passing day makes solution to the ever burning Kashmir problem look more difficult. Nearly seventy years after independence all the three affected parties, namely, India, Pakistan and Kashmiris are grappling for a solution. Since the mid 1980's the problem seems to have gone out of the orbit of possible solutions. Today it has become a complex problem whose solution also has to be necessarily complex.
Pakistan has got thoroughly overtaken by Kashmir issue. All its policies seem to be centered around it. This obsession is making it go to crazy lengths to support anti India forces both within and outside its own geographical boundaries. Loss of human lives no longer matters to it. The civilian government is dictated to by the army and terrorist groups. Hatred against India is fanned by keeping the Kashmir issue alive.
In India the Kashmir issue is seen in a different light. It is reiterated again and again that Kashmir is an unalienable part of the country. The holding of elections is heralded as a victory of democracy and proof of participation in Indian democracy by Kashmiris. The role of security forces is highlighted in combating terrorism originating from within and across the border. Indians consider that they are being fair to the Kashmiris.
The citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are the ones suffering and are facing it right from 1947 in a waxing and waning fashion. Those who have left the state are suffering and those who are in it are also suffering. It is an unfortunate situation for the citizens of J&K state to be in.
J&K is unlike any Indian State. All other Indian states are formed around a language, like Gujarat for Gujaratis and so on. But the J&K state has Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri, Ladakhi, Gujari and Punjabi languages being spoken. In almost all states Hinduism is the dominant religion and others are considered minorities. In J&K Islam is the dominant religion and Hindus are not considered as minorities. No other state has 40% of its territory under occupation by a hostile foreign power. Also in no state are the separatists freely operating against the Indian nation nor are terrorists intruding as in J&K.
The hapless population of the state is divided into two camps of India and Pakistan. Pakistan has an attraction for many inhabitants of the Kashmir Valley. The other two areas of Jammu and Ladakh are with India. The Muslims constitute around 60% of the state's population and are predominantly concentrated in the Valley. It is they who are finding themselves in a state of agitation periodically. The agitators frequently raise slogans of 'Azadi" meaning independence but it is not very clear do they want an independent state or want freedom from India. Some are also advocating J&K to become "Switzerland' of Asia.
Islam in the Valley was the contribution of Sufi saints and the Kashmiri Muslim was a very tolerant human being living in harmony with his Hindu brothers. However since mid 1980's this tolerance has taken a beating and has seen the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1991. The nearly 100% Muslim valley is in constant state of turmoil ever since.
There is no doubt that the hand of Pakistan is there in the strife Valley faces throughout the year. Regular infiltration of Pakistan based and trained terrorists keeps the Indian security forces constantly engaged resulting in elimination of the terrorists and causalities on the Indian side also. Local Kashmiri Muslims have suffered thousands of causalities and property damage in the more than two decades of terrorism. In many cases local terrorists have become heroes upon their deaths due to the actions of the security forces. This has led to further widening of the schism between Kashmiri Muslims and India.
It is clear by now that the valley based Kashmiri Muslims are a divided, confused and frightened and are being exploited by different forces within and outside the country. The separatists have succeeded in creating space for themselves among the local population. The political parties like NC and PDP attract a section of the population who look to obtaining political benefits and government largess. The two national parties Congress and BJP have relatively little support with BJP almost negligible. Both NC and PDP play clever politics - they run with the separatists and play with Delhi.
Kashmiris come out to vote so that there is a government to provide them with some basic form of governance. This is seen as a proof of them taking part in Indian democracy. Soon this noble thought is shattered by boycott and bandh calls given by the separatists for number of days, which are also responded to by Kashmiris. In both cases the Indian security forces are called upon to perform yeoman duties and end up sacrificing many young lives. And then there is the omnipresent Pakistan backed terrorists who with regularity intrude and engage with security forces who have no option but to eliminate them.
This drama of agitation and death has been going on for nearly twenty five years now. It has affected the psyche of the Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims. However the Pandits have adjusted to their fate in other parts of the country but the Muslims are still searching their stable equilibrium.
What is the solution? Or is there a solution?
Neither India is going to give up its claim on J&K nor is Pakistan going to back out of its claim on it. Nearly seventy years have gone by, three major conflicts have taken place and last was Kargil in 1999. Still no solution is in sight. Pakistan has perhaps realized that it can not win a full scale war with India and has thus resorted to terrorist backed low intensity warfare. India has responded by amassing a large number of security forces including the army to engage with the terrorists. This is resulting in regular skirmishes resulting in causalities and associated problems. The local Kashmiris are getting alienated and are being mentored and helped by the separatists who draw support from Pakistan.
What should India do to win the support of local Kashmiri Muslims is a million dollar question? Will they respond because now Islamic considerations have also entered in. The Delhi government is being seen as a pro Hindu party. Dialog is becoming increasingly difficult. Pakistan is continuing to make appropriate noises in international forums in its bid to internationalize the issue and force India to talks on Kashmir. India is caught in a catch 22 situation. It is doomed if it acts and it is still doomed if it does not act.
The stalemate will continue. Lives will keep getting lost. Bandhs will be called by separatists. Local politicians will keep playing dirty and clever politics. Pakistan will continue backing terrorists and make noises internationally. India will keep answering with more troops and financial packages.
Till then trapped and hapless valley based Kashmiri Muslims will keep responding to all calls not knowing when there fate will change for the better and the present hell will turn into heaven. Pandits will keep dreaming of returning to the Valley.
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