The Issue of Kashmir: An Unfinished Agenda, Resulted from the Division of the Indo-Pak Sub-continent

Written By: S. M. Irfan Tahir Photojournalist / Columnist

The dispute of the Jammu and Kashmir is an uncompleted agenda or a matter of debate and a legacy, left by the British Rule, which has been an unresolved mystery or enigma for Pakistan and India for the last 70 years. Also known as the Mountbatten Plan, the British government proposed a plan, announced on June 3, 1947 and led to Indian Independence Act 1947, where it was decided to divide or split the British India into two independent states (more accurately to be referred to as British dominions), Pakistan and India. The Indian Independence Act 1947 received the royal assent on July 18, 1947.

On June 15, 1947, an uprising against the Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir broke out in the Poonch Jagir or District of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the form of ‘No Tax Campaign’. There were reports of fighting in the Bagh region of Poonch on August 15, 1947, where the pro-Pakistani groups tried to celebrate Independence Day while carrying the Flag of Pakistan. They also clashed with the police force of the princely state.

On the12th of September, 1947, the First Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, met both the civil and military authorities where two different plans for the invasion on Kashmir were proposed and agreed upon. It was decided in the meeting to prepare an armed force, consisting of the tribesmen from the North-west Frontier Province of Pakistan (warriors), to attack Kashmir in the north, and organise the rebels against the princely state in Poonch.

On October 14, 1947, there several clashes took place in Throchi between the rebels and the State Forces, and the State Forces were besieged by the rebels in Poonch, accordingly.

The tribal armed groups attacked Muzaffarabad on October 22, 1947, and, then, proceeded towards the east in order to occupy Baramulla. However, some warriors (the tribal armed men) even reached the outskirts of Srinagar to occupy the region.

On 24 October, a pro-Pakistani feudal lord and influential leader of Poonch, Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan (also known as Father of Kashmir) declared an independent Jammu and Kashmir government and took the responsibility of leading the government himself.

The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to remain independent, but, after coming after pressure under the continuous invasion of the State by the rebels, acceded to the Indian Union on 26 October. The Indian air-lifted troops reached Srinagar on 27 October for defending Srinagar, which resulted in the imbalance of power against the tribal warriors and fighters and stopped them from further invasion. Consequently, Kashmir was split on the basis of the Line of Control which we see as such at present.

Three wars have been fought between Pakistan and India over the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir so far. These wars fought between the two countries are known as the First Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 – 1948, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and the Kargil War of 1999. Anyway, the Occupied Kashmir is still in the situation of continuous war. The people of Kashmir sacrifice their lives for their right of independence on daily basis. The innocent people of Kashmir are tortured, attacked, punished and terrorised by around 800,000 armed soldieries of Indian armed forces. Every day, we see the situation of Doomsday/doomsday at the hands of the Indian armed forces against the innocent Kashmiri people in Kashmir, known as Jannat-e-Nazir or ‘Paradise on Earth’.

Situated in the north-west of the Indo-Pak sub-continent, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has an area of 206,552 square miles (332,413 square kilometres), which split into two parts in 1947. The Indian-administered Occupied Kashmir is spread over an area of 138,091 square miles (222,236 square kilometres), with Srinagar as its capital, while the Pakistani-administered Kashmir (Azad Kashmir) has the area of  5134 square miles (13,297 square kilometres), with Muzaffarabad being its capital.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir has a population of more than ten million, 2.5 million of which reside in Azad Kashmir.

The Hindu Maharajas had ruled over Jammu and Kashmir for, approximately, 4,000 years, but around 80% of the Kashmiri population are Muslims. On October 26, 1949, the Hindu Maharaja, Hari Singh, acceded to the Indian Union against the will of the Muslim population after the division of the Indo-Pak sub-continent. A cease-fire took place in the region after the Security Council interfered in 1949. Both India and Pakistan were asked to withdraw their armies (demilitarise) from the soil of Jammu and Kashmir and hold a plebiscite in the State, as proposed in the 1948 Resolutions of the United Nations. The then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, promised to hold a fair plebiscite in the region, but then refused later on.

Kashmir is divided into five parts, e.g., the Kashmir Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, Gilgit – Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. There are 95% Muslims and just 4% Hindus in the Kashmir Valley; however, the population of Jammu consists of 66% Hindus, 30% Muslims and 4% other minorities. Nevertheless, there are 50% Buddhists, 46% Muslims and 3% other minorities in Ladakh. Contrarily, 99% residents of Gilgit – Baltistan and Azad Kashmir are Muslims.

Today, the State of Jammu and Kashmir is referred to as ‘the Most Beautiful Prison of the World’ by the people of the West and Europe. The reason why they call it a prison or jail is that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are not free. They are not treated as humans and are not allowed to live their lives as free human beings. Instead, they are tortured and martyred (killed) on daily basis, which the whole world is already aware of and the other nations of the globe hear about and watch the sufferings of the innocent Kashmiris.

The data, regarding the atrocities of the Indian security forces, is also available with the human rights organizations and groups. After the 1956 UN Report on Human Rights, there is a recent report of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, prepared under the supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein) on June 14, 2018, consisting of 49 pages. The first 40 pages of the report are full of the details of the human rights violations at the hands of the Indian security forces in the Occupied Kashmir. On page 41 of the report, the human rights situation in the Pakistani-administered Kashmir and Gilgit – Baltistan has been described, while page 48 of the report is full of recommendations to both Pakistan and India for rectifying the situation in the State. Pakistan has been given 7 recommendations, while India has received 17 recommendations from the Commission, in which both the countries have been asked to ensure the respect for the human rights in Kashmir and recognize the right of the Self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

Pakistan has welcomed and accepted the recommendations of the report happily and without any hesitation, but India has refused to recognise and accept the report, on the contrary. The Kashmiri leaders have deemed this report as an important breakthrough in resolving the Kashmir issue, however, some nationalist forces have rejected it.

After the June, 2018 important report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Chairman for the All Parties Parliamentary Kashmir Group from the British Parliament and Chris Leslie (a Member of the British Parliament) have also paid a detail and comprehensive visit to Azad Kashmir, along with the Fact-Finding Team and presented a detailed historical report on the situation in Kashmir in the British Parliament on 30 October, 2018. Recommendations have been made and presented to the British Parliament in the report, regarding the ongoing human rights abuses in Kashmir, and there is also a strong recommendation for stopping such human rights violations and support for the Kashmiri nation in the report.

It is noteworthy that no effective Fact-Finding Mission is allowed to visit the Occupied Kashmir, nevertheless, the recent sudden visit of Kashmir by the former Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, is a big Question Mark (?) and has raised so many questions. The leader of the National Conference and the ex-Chief Minister, Umar Abdullah,  has welcomed this initiative and has valued the visit a lot. The Hurriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, met the ex-Norwegian Premier and asked him to bring both India and Pakistan to the negotiating table.

The government of India has never been in favour of any International Mediation or Arbitration on the Issue of Kashmir. Anyway, the central Indian government had negotiated with the separatists in the government of the former Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh 2006, which ended up without any solid result.

The situation in the Occupied Kashmir has severely deteriorated after the killing of the Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, which took place in 2016. As a result of the deteriorating situation, the international analysts, scholarly and learned people are concerned about the current tension in Kashmir and are worrying lest the State of Jammu and Kashmir be turned into a Second Syria.

The year 2018 was declared the bloodiest year in the history of Kashmir. According to the statistics by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), 586 people were killed in 2018, 267 of them were militants, while 160 were civilians, including 31 children.

Experts believe that conditions can further worsen and deteriorate in this Disputed Region in the year (2019), because there are no signs of flexibility and moderation in the approaches of both the Delhi Government and the separatists. Accordingly, the devastated, despondent and hopeless youths or young people of Kashmir become inclined to extremism, which paves the way for further deterioration in the circumstances of the Valley. There is a complete state or situation of fear and lack of trust (mistrust/distrust) among the people of the Jammu and Kashmir State, and they can do nothing but wait and hope for the best.

It is hoped that the European Union may start playing a positive role in resolving the Kashmir dispute, as the European Parliament has announced to hold an important session, in association with the human rights violations, irregularities and abuses in Kashmir in 2019, which can be a significant and historical step for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. However, there seems to be a significant change in the policy of the Pentagon (the US Department of Defence and its leadership or the US Administration, in other words) on the dispute of Kashmir, as there are no more condemning comments from the US government on the human rights violations in Kashmir, like the ones when it used to condemn such abuses of human rights in the past. The main reason of change in policy by the US Administration is the priority of the US government to have pleasant relations and close partnership with the Indian government instead of deteriorating relations with India by stopping it from violating human rights in the Occupied Kashmir.

All the political, religious or journalistic people, associated with resolving the issue of Kashmir, are labelled as the secret agents, spies or undercover agents of either India or Pakistan in some way. Those dealing with the issue of Kashmir inside the UN General Assembly (USA), the Human Rights Council (Geneva), the European Union Council (Brussels) or any other such influential organizations, are either more in favour of or against India or Pakistan instead of being genuine, sincere, honest and true representatives of the Kashmiri people or their rights. The National Identity or Recognition of the people of Kashmir has been recognized and accepted by, approximately, 194 countries, as members of the UN Human Rights Council. But, putting the people of Kashmir living inside Kashmir aside, the rest of the Kashmiri people, residing in other parts of the world, are confused, perplexed and puzzled and do not know what to do and where to go.

While adapting and transforming their viewpoint on the dispute of Kashmir, this is the responsibility of the Kashmiri nation to understand that the Kashmir Issue is not the root cause of the deteriorating relations between Pakistan and India, but it is, primarily, the matter of the future, dignity and identity of about 12,500,000 people of Kashmir. Instead of advising India and Pakistan about how to review their policy on Kashmir, it is the obligation of the Kashmiri nation to decide what to do for their future. If the people of Kashmir do not play an active role in deciding their destiny, it will be of no use to leave the issue of Kashmir to be sorted out by India and Pakistan alone, because India and Pakistan have been blaming each other at any regional, national and international forum for not resolving the issue and doing nothing more sincerely, genuinely and honestly for solving the matter. This is the reason why we still see the dispute of Kashmir, as an unresolved and unfinished agenda, played with by everyone while being still in the hands of the international community.

Therefore, this is very important for the Kashmiri nation to be united and make their position quite clear on Kashmir by letting the international community know that the Kashmir Issue is not a political or regional dispute between India and Pakistan, but it is rather the matter of ‘life and death’ for the Kashmiri people. It is but the natural and human right of the Kashmiri nation to live in their own homeland ‘Kashmir’ as a free, independent and sovereign nation.

Accordingly, this is the responsibility of the world nations to play their role as arbitrators, mediators and conciliators and hold a peaceful referendum, like the one as ‘the Scottish Referendum’ in which only the Kashmiri people should be asked in the form of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, in order to find out whether they want to accede to Pakistan or India or they are in favour of an autonomous and independent Kashmir for themselves.

It is a well-known fact where all the nations of the world know that East Timor and South Sudan can obtain independence; where a historical dispute between France and Germany can be resolved; where peace talks can be initiated between North Korea and South Korea, so why not will it be the responsibility of the Kashmiri community to decide and determine their own future themselves?

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