- Hunger and deprivation stalk a land of beauty
“Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?
Whom do you lead on Rapture’s roadway far
Before you agonise them in farewell?
Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Where are you now?
Pale hands, pink tipped, like Lotus buds that float
On those cool waters where we used to dwell,
I would have rather felt you round my throat,
Crushing out life, than waving me farewell!
Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Where lies your spell?”
Amy Woodforde-Finden: “Kashmiri Song”
It has befallen few unfortunate places in the world to be wronged as has been the enchanting valley of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The story of its brutal enslavement dates back to before the partition of the Subcontinent into two independent states of Pakistan and India.
Having suffered a sequence of occupations by a vast variety of beliefs and proclivities, the state was finally sold to Maharaja Gulab Singh by the British vide the Treaty of Amritsar signed on 16 March 1846 for a paltry sum of Rs 10,000,000, Rs 2.5 million of which were waived later in consideration of the seller being allowed to retain the area of Kulu and Mandi across the river Beas. The Kashmiri people had nothing to do with this sale deed which, by all available historical accounts, was contrary to their inherent hopes and aspirations. Even later when, upon Partition, the rest of the princely states of the Subcontinent were given the option to align with Pakistan or India, or stay independent, the same was denied to the Kashmiri people who, since then, have been subjected to an unending night of tyranny.
The woes of the people of the tearful valley have intensified under the inhuman lockdown which is now more than a year old. The fate of the Kashmiri people can no longer be forfeited to the governing Hindutva mindset, or the blood-stained hands of the occupying Indian forces. A multi-spectrum strategic communication landscape is needed to project the case to the world and sensitise it to intervene to stop the bloodbath. Alongside extending support to the stricken Kashmiri people to ameliorate their sufferings, Pakistan should facilitate the attainment of this key prospect to expose the true magnitude of the crisis and secure international support for the people to exercise their inalienable right to decide their future
When hostilities broke out in the aftermath of the Partition and a fall looked imminent, Maharaja Gulab Singh signed an Instrument of Accession with India, but limited its jurisdiction to external affairs, defence and communications only. Later, in 1954, Articles 370 and 35A were added to the Indian Constitution which accorded a special status to the Indian-occupied part of the State whereby it could have its own flag and legislature. The matter was also taken to the United Nations by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, which passed a series of resolutions for conducting a plebiscite in the State of Jammu and Kashmir to determine its future in accordance with the wishes of its people. The matter has since been awaiting implementation.
All that changed on 5 August 2019 when, through a unilateral action, Articles 370 and 35A were scrapped by the Indian government and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was incorporated into the Indian Union. Ladakh was separately integrated as a Union territory. The government fearing a violent reaction, a lockdown was clamped on the Valley which brought immeasurable agony and suffering for the people of Kashmir. The accompanying spree of murder, torture, rape and plunder unleashed by the occupying Indian forces cannot be encapsulated in words. Kashmiri leaders have been placed under house arrest, scores imprisoned, homes broken into, women raped, and pellet guns used with abandon, resulting in loss of sight fora large number of the young people. Hunger and deprivation stalk a land of beauty.
The simmering feelings of anger and hatred intensified because the people were denied the right enshrined in the rationale of the partition of the Subcontinent. This has gradually crystallised into indigenised rebellion against Indian occupation which is symbolised by the spirit of the likes of Burhanuddin Wani and compatriots. Showing no signs of abating, it has added to the frustration of the occupying forces and increased infliction of torture and other inhuman methods to keep the Valley captive.
There are sane voices emanating from inside India speaking about how the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and passing of the CAA and NRC have rubbished the country’s secular pretensions and effectively transformed it into a Hindu Nation. In an article written some time ago, Arundhati Roy had counted 14 charges to be filed posthumously against Jawaharlal Nehru commensurate with 14 occasions when he made commitments that the fate of the disputed territory will be decided solely in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir, but failed to deliver on them.
In a more recent article titled ‘India’s day of shame’, Arundhati Roy states: “Could it be that August 5, 2020 is not actually what its being cracked up to be? Could it be instead the little limpet of shame clamped to the soaring cliff of glory”? In another piece titled ‘Demolition men do not build nations, they destroy them’, Siddharath Varadarajan says: “August 5 – the date chosen consciously by baleful men to humiliate the people of India whose independence on August 15 they never fought for – will go down in history as a day that celebrates the triumph of vandalism and destruction over renewal and regeneration, crime and illegality over law and justice, fiction and fabrication over reality and truth”.
The principal objective of the steps taken is to initiate a process of demographic changes in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. In a piece for Foreign Policy, Sumit Ganguly writes: “The BJP is keen on changing the demography of the state through a process that may be referred to as “ethnic flooding” – the opposite of ethnic cleansing. With the removal of Article 370, this prospect becomes feasible: Hindus from other parts of India can now legally settle in Kashmir, eventually changing its demographic makeup”.
The lackadaisical approach that succeeding governments in Pakistan have pursued concerning the Kashmir issue has also contributed to the nature of problem it has now become. The most damning phases have been the ones under the most recent PPP and PML(N) rules when the issue virtually disappeared from the Pakistani radar as they followed a policy of appeasement with the eastern neighbour on account of mutually beneficial relations of profit. The wave of Islamophobia post 9/11 and commercial considerations underpinning the world opinion have also been stumbling blocks in the way of winning international support.
In spite of these limitations, Imran Khan has advocated the cause of the Kashmiri people in a vibrant and convincing manner at all platforms that he has accessed since coming into power. Immediately after assuming the office of Prime Minister, he promised to be the ambassador of the Kashmiri people. He has played that role to perfection which has made a substantive difference in terms of enhancing awareness and cultivating sensitivity about the sufferings of the people of the enslaved valley. These efforts have resulted in the issue being discussed in the Security Council three times in quick succession after a lapse of over 50 years. Rewriting the political map of Pakistan is a smart move which India may find uncomfortable to deal with.
The woes of the people of the tearful valley have intensified under the inhuman lockdown which is now more than a year old. The fate of the Kashmiri people can no longer be forfeited to the governing Hindutva mindset, or the blood-stained hands of the occupying Indian forces. A multi-spectrum strategic communication landscape is needed to project the case to the world and sensitise it to intervene to stop the bloodbath. Alongside extending support to the stricken Kashmiri people to ameliorate their sufferings, Pakistan should facilitate the attainment of this key prospect to expose the true magnitude of the crisis and secure international support for the people to exercise their inalienable right to decide their future.