The recent wave of students’ led protests in the Indian occupied Kashmir, triggered first by ruthless killing of separatist leader, Burhan Wani, which India claimed to be a militant, and lately getting impetus from Indian security forces raid on a college in Pulwama during which at least 50 students were injured, has brought the Kashmir issue again in the limelight. Like the past, the issue has culminated in prompting India to deal with the issue via a heavy-handed approach, that is reflective from curfews and onslaught of pellet guns, painting it before the world that the current uprising has been the brainchild of shenanigans on the part of across the border rival, Pakistan, which India has accused of sponsoring militant groups in Indian Occupied Kashmir. But unlike the past, the recent wave of protests has a peculiar feature; that is, Kashmiris themselves, especially, are now trying to make themselves count in the stakeholders’ matrix of this conflict. Fed up with bearing more than seven decades of India’s hawkish approach towards their concerns, the youth of Indian occupied Kashmir, incensed by political, social, economic and psychological deprivation, have given up the ghost in capping their repressed anger against the state’s atrocities and have decided to stand up for their rights.
This was long overdue. Right after independence, it is an open secret that India, through coercive means, made Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir as a princely state, sign the Instrument of Accession with India in the face of a rebellion from Muslims. After acceding to India, India sent its troops to Kashmir to counter the rebellion that had almost captured a portion of Kashmir which they named Azad Kashmir. A ruthless fight ensued between the Indian army and rebel forces that constituted tribal force supported by Pakistan army. The rebel forces were almost fifteen miles away from Srinagar, capital of Indian occupied Kashmir, that India’s then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, at the behest of then Governor General Lord Mountbatten, appealed to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to consider the fight between Pakistan and India that was ripping apart Kashmir. Playing the role of mediator after bringing halt to the fight, the UNSC passed several resolutions impressing upon both Pakistan and India that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.
Since the passage of those resolutions, India has been shying away from holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of giving Kashmiris a choice to have right of self-determination, India has, without Kashmiris’ consent, made it an integral part of their constitution via article 370. Since occupying Jammu and Kashmir and having relieved by the UNSC resolution in 1948 against the onslaught of rebel forces that were about to occupy the whole Kashmir, India has been, since then, hell bent upon crushing all kind of dissent in Kashmir, and has been mainstreaming Kashmir through hawkish means in Indian democracy which is reflective from deployment of large contingents of army equipped with Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) which are “Acts of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces.” AFSPA accords huge power, that most of the time go unchecked with respect to its accountability and results in human rights violations, to the Indian army to maintain normalcy in Kashmir.
The use of force helps contain a problem, but it does not cure. This simple logic is beyond India’s policy makers’ conception when it comes to policy making vis-à-vis Indian occupied Kashmir. The identity of a Kashmiri, which has been defined by state’s oppression, can hardly be accommodated in the mainstream Indian identity which India has been trying to do, to no avail, via holding so-called elections. By not aligning herself with political aspirations of population in Kashmir resulting in resentment among Kashmiris, curing the resentment among people reflective through their protests via force and treating the issue as domestic issue though it is an international one as is reflective from Pakistan’s claim over it and existence of Azad Kashmir, India has been sitting on powder keg. If it is not catered to in time, the issue has the prospect of imploding India from within and exploding from without.
Problems are dealt with squarely for their solution. India’s approach towards Kashmir issue shows that the issue has not been dealt with intentionally in its face and depth; that is why India has not been able to bring calm and peace in Jammu and Kashmir even after seventy years. All these years, Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir have seen themselves being subsumed into the so-called grand Indian democracy through the crack of a whip, and this has given birth to a new Kashmiri identity that is very different from the one that was at the time of India’s occupation of Kashmir in post-partition era. At that point in time, Kashmiri in struggle against India defined his/her identity, more in ideological terms, in terms of being deprived of his/her choice of self-determination via plebiscite, but, today, with frustration oozing out from the denial of choice of self-determination, Kashmiris are incensed at the utter deprivation meted out to them.
The solution to the Kashmir conundrum does not lie in silencing dissent through barrels of pellet guns, rather, considering eclectic nature of the issue, it lies in bringing all the stakeholders to the conflict in consultation with one other for formulation of an agreement that proves a win-win for all.