Reportedly, 38 Kashmiris have been martyred since 5th of August out of which 7 were either killed in fake encounters or during custody. Consequently an atmosphere of fear and intimidation continues to prevail in the Kashmir valley and Muslim majority areas in Jummu region. Schools and shops remain shut and the communication lockdown is enforced.

But the Indian leaders still have the audacity to claim return of normalcy in the region. Indian foreign affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in an interview with a French daily Le Monde and interaction with other media outlets recently claimed that the situation in IOK was returning to normal. He also persisted with the usual Indian mantra of Pakistan abetting terrorism notwithstanding the fact that Kalbhushan Jhadav was the face of Indian state terrorism. One is really amazed at the intrepidity of the Indian leadership to make such absurd claims to hoodwink the world not realizing that in this age of revolution in the modes of communication and media scrutiny made possible by the latest technological advancement it was not possible to camouflage the ground realities.

The reality is that India has also not been to sell its narrative of situation in Kashmir being her internal matter, as growing number of countries and world organizations have expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis building up in the valley. International media continues to report incidents of human rights violations and killing spree by the Indian forces which strongly refute the Indian claims about the situation in IOK.

A recent report in the New York Times by its South Asian bureau Chief Jeffery Gettleman based in New Delhi reporting about the situation in IOK revealed “With soldiers and militants claiming the streets and most schools simply shuttered, education has been on hold through months of crisis in Kashmir. At least 1.5 million Kashmiri students remain out of school. Virtually all private schools are closed, and most government schools are shut — one of the clearest signs of the fear that has gripped Kashmir since the Indian government locked down the disputed territory. Parents in the Kashmir Valley say they are terrified of sending their children out with troops everywhere and separatist militants on the prowl for trouble. This generation of Kashmiri children has been among the hardest hit. They have known nothing but conflict. For the past 10 years, huge protests and clashes keep erupting. Many young people have seen friends killed, maimed or hauled off by security forces. Their schools are constantly closing, sometimes for months at a time.” There could not have been a better exposition of the prevailing situation in IOK.

India stands exposed before the world. However it is another matter that those who really can help in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute which has waited to be resolved for well over 72 years in conformity with the UN resolutions and can dissuade India from her inhuman pursuits, are maintaining a criminal indifference. Their selective humanitarianism and strategic and commercial interests take precedence over the sufferings of the people of Kashmir. Unfortunately the UN is also helpless because of the big powers which have the veto power and the capacity to manoeuvre issues to their liking. Their world view conditioned by their strategic and commercial interests in fact is the root-cause of all the conflicts around the world.

But history bears an irrefutable testimony to the fact that movements for independence cannot be muzzled through brutal military force and they ultimately triumph no matter what the cost. Those who support and encourage India in continuing with its oppression of the people of Kashmir and to pursue a supremacist ideology of ‘Hindutva’ fail to see the consequences of their actions. They might be able to reap ephemeral benefit from the permeating situation but in the long run it will prove inimical to their interests in the region as well as in India.

The people of Kashmir are fighting for their inalienable right of self-determination and they have proved beyond any iota of doubt that even the killing of more than one thousand Kashmiris since 1989 has not been able to dent their resolve for winning their freedom. Indian leadership and the world community need to remove the blinkers from their eyes and see the ground realities. It is in the best interest of India not to behave like a war-like state and take the path of bonhomie with its neighbours, particularly with Pakistan.

The two nuclear states are standing face to face with each other and any miscalculation from either side can lead to disastrous consequence for the region and the world at large. The world has seen the consequences of the pursuance of supremacist ideology by Hitler and it cannot afford yet another catastrophe in the making. It is therefore incumbent upon the world community especially the big powers to intervene before it is too late realizing that their own strategic and commercial interests would be best served if there was peace in the region.

Pakistan has made several peace overtures towards India and shown remarkable restraint in the face of Indian provocation in the backdrop of Pulwama incident. It is fully capable of giving a befitting response to the Indian aggressive moves as was proven on 27 February when the intruding Indian planes were hit and an Indian pilot was captured and released as a goodwill gesture with a view to avoid any escalation. It has also not allowed continued Indian violations of the ceasefire agreement along the LOC to transform into a full-fledged war, though it has been giving a befitting response to her indiscretions.

Regional peace and security unfortunately is hostage to the Indian hostile designs. It is also adversely impacting the potential for the shared regional economic prosperity. Indian leaders need to understand that the continuation of conflict and non-resolution of the Kashmir issue will also have a debilitating effect on the Indian efforts to change the economic situation of its teeming millions. Prime Minister Imran Khan had rightly told the Indian Prime Minister Modi that climate change and poverty were the two biggest challenges confronting both the countries and they should focus on them by resolving the contentious issues between them, including the core issue of Kashmir. Closing eyes to the irrefutable realities will ultimately prove disastrous for the entire region including India.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist.