Plight of the Kashmiris

By Sheroz Hashmi

Freedom, sovereignty and peace are the concepts, which are oblivious to Kashmiris. Extra-judicial killings, rapes, abductions and burned houses shape the reality of a common Kashmiri. Indeed, a world unknown to us and an issue neglected by international community.

The major crime of Kashmiris is their identity, which is deeply rooted in their religion. Muslims around the world are facing this crisis due to political and strategic reasons. However, Palestinians and Kashmiris are the ones who are most affected by identity politics. Although, British Empire is the common denominator behind miseries of these two unfortunate nations, we should be mindful of the reality that, over the decades, it is identity that has kept them resilient.

The recent crisis in Kashmir has a direct linkage with global trend of identity politics, which gave rise to populist xenophobic leaders like Narendra Modi. This global trend has been in the making since the start of this century. In this context, this century begins with an economic and technological revolution. The political and economic gurus termed it globalization.

This was the peak of neo-liberalism which broke the space-time continuum. Modes of communication and trade were rapidly evolving. This revolution expanded the size of world economies. This increase in GDP and trade volume demanded more skilled human resources from across the world. This century has also seen parallel development at political and strategic level in the form of 9/11 attacks, which shaped the narrative against Muslims. Later on, wars in Middle Eastern region were episodes of this development.

Henceforth this century began with two meta-narratives one was inclusive and other was exclusive in nature. Gradually, with the passage of time, anti-Muslim narratives at political and strategic levels gained traction among masses when hyper-globalization hit the world. The markets became saturated, unemployment increased and on top of that, recession took over the world economies. This was the time, when countries started to become more inward looking. Foreigners working in other countries became victims of this global trend.

Then, minorities faced the wrath of this development. These circumstances gave rise to a new breed of xenophobic politicians who capitalised on the fear of people. These types of elements have always existed in different societies but never got a share in power. However, this was the perfect time for their rise. This is how identity politics engulfed the whole world. They consolidated their supporters and successfully made the narrative of us vs. them. In this context, a meta-narrative against Muslims assisted such elements in diverse societies.

In India, Narendra Modi rose on the wave of Islamophobia and xenophobia, which not only affected Kashmiris but also India. He strengthened his support on the basis of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Since the rise of Narendra Modi, we have seen heart-wrenching visuals of Muslims being killed, lynched and burned. This development has also exposed the false secular image of India. Amongst others; Kashmiris also became victims of Narendra Modi’s ideology.

What is alarming, is that Modi government’s actions regarding abrogation of Article 370 and integration of State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union of India. After this development, analysts argued that this was an effort by India to change the demography of the region. Indeed, it is true, but the aim is much higher than this. India wants to change the whole social, political and economic fibre of the IIOJK. We have seen an increase in atrocities, violence and oppression. Kashmiris have been fighting against such atrocities for decades.

In this context, Pak has been a consistent supporter of Kashmiri freedom struggle at various levels. However, the situation has reached a stage of stalemate. India continues to advance its agenda in IIOJK. But on the other hand, political elite in Pakistan are entangled in internal political affairs. In this context, political polarization in the country has divided people along political lines.

There is a need for political leaders to make a consensus on issues like IIOJK. At the state level for the resolution of Kashmir issue Pak should opt for two strategies. First strategy is short-term in nature and suggests that, along with its traditional stance on self-determination, Pakistan should also plea the Kashmir case under International Humanitarian Law. Government of Pakistan must develop the strong legal basis it has with regard to the dispute. This legal basis is further strengthened by Indian contradictions and extra-judicial killings.

If Pakistan adopts a legal approach, it may build its legal case against India in the context of war crimes. Second strategy is long-term in nature, which suggests that economic stability and progress are the keys to countering India. Pakistan has to develop the economic stakes of international community in the country. The economic interests of India and international community are aligned, which gives India a free pass in Kashmir. There is a need that, political leadership to make a consensus on economic reforms. In this context, military leadership has reiterated on several occasions about the importance of an economic strategic shift.

We should be mindful of the fact that, globalization has changed the dynamics of 21st century. In this perspective, these circumstances require a more proactive response from states than ever before, but situation in Pakistan is other way around, the problem is that Pakistan always focuses on traditional policies to pursue Kashmir issue. We are living in a hyper-globalized world that requires a proactive legal and economic response from Pakistan when conflict arises. Moreover, Pakistan always politicizes its agenda rather than legalising it. Therefore, we have to change our approach.


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