Once upon a time, highly regarded as Asia’s Switzerland, Kashmir is slowly and steadily bleeding and has become Asia’s Palestine. The snow-capped mountains are tainted with blood and the musical rivers and streams of gushing blood flowing into Pakistan and India. Kashmir is a paradise lost, torn by two nuclear powers. Sadly, both nations regard Kashmir as an integral part of their land. For Kashmiris, it is a matter of life and death. Kashmir is their homeland. It is their land. But for decades, blood has been shed. The people have been discriminately tortured. Men have been killed and numerous have just disappeared overnight. Children made orphans, women widowed, and young girls have been raped. There have been tears of blood. The world just watches Kashmir’s plight and continues to do so. The people are devoid of their right to self-determination, and their land deprived of the much need development. Kashmir suffers economically. Thousands of youths are jobless. Their future is full of uncertainty.
A Look at Kashmir’s History of Conflict
Kashmir was ruled by monarchs for years. There were Hindu and Mughal rulers and the Dogra Kings. The prominent Dogra Kings were part of the Singh dynasty (Maharaja Ranbir Singh, Maharaja Pratap Singh, and Maharaja Hari Singh) which the present-day Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are aware of. There were on and off conflicts between the two religious groups – Hindus and Muslims. The conflict was triggered by the rulers themselves to keep the upper hand over the common men; the gullible commoners treated their Kings like Gods. They didn’t know that their rulers were following the old British strategy – ‘divide and rule’.
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The present-day Kashmir conflict goes back to the partition period. During that period, Kashmir was an independent nation and its King (Maharaja Hari Singh) was given the choice to decide whether to merge with either India or Pakistan or remain independent; he choice sovereignty. The Kingdom was invaded by Pakistani Muslim tribes in October 1947. The King appealed to the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten for assistance, whereby he signed the Instrument of Accession (signed 26 October 1947). This triggered outrage with Pakistan as its leaders believed that since Kashmir was a Muslim majority state, it was theirs. India took this issue to the United Nations Security Council. So, Kashmir became the brunt of the on-going war between Pakistan and India. Kashmiri’s had the right to a free and fair plebiscite, but its leaders delayed the process due to Pakistan’s continued intrusion. Ten years later, in 1957, Kashmir was incorporated into the Indian Union and granted special status under Article 370 of India’s constitution. This entitles Kashmiri’s the right to their land; whereby non-Kashmiri’s cannot buy property (land) in Kashmir. India – Pakistan conflict increased, and the common men of Kashmir suffered. Most of the time, the leaders were to be blamed for the conflict because of their personal political gains.
The Late 1980s Kashmiri Pandits Exodus
Kashmiri’s dream of an independent nation was dashed again in the late 1980s when the Pakistan guerrillas struck again. This time, the Indian government sent in their army to flush them out. The border was also active with the Indian Army and Pakistani Army exchanging fires. The people’s aspiration of independence was stamped by the Indian army’s brute force. This cause fear and terror in Kashmir. There was economic turmoil too and families struggled to meet their family’s demands. This drove the anti-Indian sentiments in the people. Soon, the Kashmiris met this brute force with rebellion. Strikes and protests became common. Kashmir nationalist leaders were executed, and youths were killed in encounters. Kashmiri men were taken in by the Army for questioning after which their families never saw them again. This created hatred in the hearts of people. The leaders fuelled the hatred more and soon it became communal – Islam and Hinduism. The Kashmiri Pandits were the other half of Kashmir’s population. The strikes, protests, and uprisings created an environment of uncertainty. They began to leave Kashmir. The 1990 Gawkadal massacre in which more than 50 persons were killed, was the last straw. Kashmiri Pandits left Kashmir in masses. They settled into refugee camps in Jammu. Instead of assuring them that they could return home, the leaders told them that they would be killed if they returned home.
Present Day Kashmir
There are some Kashmiri Pandits living in Kashmir. And they are at peace with their fellow Kashmiri Muslims. Unlike what the mainstream politicians say, they live like families. Recent uprisings and protests are linked with 2008 and 2010 disturbances. In the year 2016, Kashmir was shut down for more than eight months after the encounter of a prominent youth who had joined militancy. Whenever a youth or militant is killed, pro-Pakistan slogans are raised throughout the Valley. This is nothing to do with them wanting to join Pakistan. It is more of a rebellious streak to show that India is not welcome. Hundreds of youths have been killed and blinded by pellets. The UN has voiced its concerns in regard to the Indian Army’s brutality. But till date, nothing much has been done. The army continues to use unwarranted force on the Kashmiris. They hassle them and discriminate them. Kashmiri youths are picked up randomly in the middle of the night and after days or weeks at a time, their bodies are found at encounter sites. The Kashmiris are in conflict with the armed forces and the government in turn for inaction. They want their right to self-determination.