The naturally scenic valley of Kashmir—the land and the people—spread over 75x25 miles, were sold by the British to Dogra chieftain, Gulab Singh for 7.5 million rupees in 1846. The valley had a population of 814241 of which the Muslims constituted 93%.

In 1895 Walter Lawrence, a British officer wrote a book titled the Valley Of Kashmir. Lawrence was horrified to find the Kashmiri’s plight: “the system of administration had degraded the people and taken all heart out of them”. He was appalled by the practice of begar—forced labour, without compensation.

In 1929 Bannerjee a Bangali Christian, minister of the state resigned in disgust, told the Associated Press that “Muhammadan population were laboring under poverty and practically governed like dumb driven cattle”. Another officer Tyndale Biscoe found the Kashmiri Muslims reduced to “slavery”. 90% of Muslim houses were mortgaged to Hindus Sahukars. Prem Nath Bazaz in his Book “Inside Kashmir” has written: “a Muslim peasant presents the appearance of a starving beggar. Dressed in rags and barefoot….Rural indebtness is staggering”.

The turning point came on July 31, 1931. A Muslim young man was arrested for having spoken against the oppressive regime. Scores of Kashmiri’s protested against the trial. 22 of them were shot dead. The people rose in revolt. The women joined the movement. Within a year or so, was born the Kashmir Muslim Conference. In 1938 Abdullah renamed it as the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC). In 1941 a large number of Muslims because of Abdullah’s secular views and leftist leanings broke away and revived the Muslim Conference. In 1940 Abdullah invited Pundit Nehru, a scion of a kashmiri family. Jinnah too visited Srinagar in 1944. He declined Abdullah’s invitation and addressed instead, the Muslim Conference declaring it to be representative of the “99 per cent” of the Jammu and Kashmiri Muslims.

 Here a word about the little known initiative taken by Sheikh Abdullah. In April 1946, one hundred years after the 1846 Amritsar Treaty, JKNC raised the slogan of “Quit Kashmir”. Declared Sheikh Abdullah: “the time has come to tear up the treaty of Amritsar”. The movement was suppressed and Abdullah detained until released in September 1947.

The events of 1947, 48 and 49 are well known—the India-Pakistan, Kashmir war, the division of Kashmir, the UN Resolutions calling for a Plebiscite and India’s reneging on its commitments.

Why was Abdullah arrested? The answer is that he had become suspicious of India’s intentions about the future status of Kashmir. Already Bharatya Jan Sungh had called for a “full integration” of the state into India. A JKNC Committee had come up with a report in June 1953 calling for options involving plebiscite and independence. Three options were to be given to the people: join India, join Pakistan or become an independent state. Abdullah announced the holding of a public rally in late August.

On August 9, 1953 Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed by Karan Singh who said that he had acted “in the interest” of the people of the state. Abdullah was to remain in jail without trial for the next 22 years except for short spells in 1958, 64-65 and 68. Strange indeed that in spite of India’s perfidious treatment of Abdullah and deliberate dishonouring commitments by Nehru to hold a referendum even prior to UN Security Council Resolutions, he remained loyal to the Indian leadership. Later perhaps realizing the grim reality of Indian devious behavior with regard to Kashmiris, he was keen (during his visit to Pakistan) to make amends and forge a less troublesome future for the sub-continent. The opportunity, however, was lost with Nehru’s sudden death.

Talking of the continuing misery of the hapless Kashmiris, one cannot help taking to task the government and people of Pakistan for doing little during the nineties and the last decade, to highlight the issue of the future of the state. One has to read the reports of the US Human Rights Watch, the Amnesty International and the observations of such globally acclaimed writers as Arundhati Rao, to realize the poor work done by us to rouse the world conscience about the brutal atrocities perpetrated for last 24 years. Just read the following:

Arundhati Roy: And today Kashmir is the most densely militarized zone in the world. India has something like 700,000 security forces there….68,000 people have died, maybe 100,000 tortured, 10,000 disappeared, you know? I mean, we all talk a lot about Chile, Pinochet. These numbers are far greater. And it’s become a very ugly…. I’m talking about somebody like myself, that it makes me feel that it’s such a morally reprehensible thing to be living in a country that is doing this to a people….

 The courts and the media and everybody just decided to make Afzal the fall guy. But in the final judgment of the Supreme Court, the shocking thing is that, it said quite clearly that “We have no direct evidence to say he belongs to a terrorist group; the evidence can only be circumstantial.” But then the judgment goes on to say that “But in order to satisfy the collective conscience of society, we’re sentencing him to death.” 

Human Rights Watch World Report 2012

Custodial killings, police abuses including torture, and failure to implement policies to protect vulnerable communities marred India’s record in 2011 as in the past. Impunity for abuses committed by security forces also continued, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

Thousands of Kashmiris have allegedly been forcibly disappeared during two decades of conflict in the region, their whereabouts unknown. A police investigation in 2011 by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) found 2,730 bodies dumped into unmarked graves at 38 sites in north Kashmir. At least 574 were identified as the bodies of local Kashmiris.

On the one hand, the PML-N leadership is going out of the way to woo the Indian government and agreeing to latter’s demands for trade and related concessions, and on the other hand, it keeps talking about the Kashmiri’s right of self-determination. 

Islamabad should learn from New Delhi which keeps condemning Pakistan as the epicenter of terrorism and does not even spare the armed forces. It has also been spurning the repeated request for the Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan. In addition the LoC suddenly hots up with Indians accusing Pakistan of violating the cease-fire agreement.

And all along there is hardly any let up in the horrendous repression of Kashmiris and state terrorism in the occupied state.

Pakistanis must remember that Pakistan is an internationally recognized party to the Kashmir Question. With a view to redeeming its unpardonable lapses, it is time for the government to earnestly take up the question of outrageous violations of Human Rights. India’s uncivilized behavior needs to be highlighted on a regular basis in all the major capitals of the world through public diplomacy, through media especially the TV channels and the internet. Specific cases like that of the mass graves, thousands of missing persons and in particular the judicial murder of Afzal Guru should be taken up at various international forums including the International Criminal Court and even at the ICJ. European Parliaments Resolutions in this regard too should be intelligently availed of.

India is not going to budge from its Atut Ang stance. Only escalating international pressure can possibly bring about a change in its outrageously intransigent behavior.

    The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.