History and the Way Forward
Homes dynamited, children orphaned, women widowed and half-widowed, eyes blinded, legs amputated, basic facilities destroyed, human rights violated, political rights trampled on, legal rights usurped; this is the valley of Kashmir the present state of which is exposing the reality of the United Nations Charter. It lays bare the liberal values of Western democracies, the jurisdiction of international court of arbitration, the powers of Amnesty International and lofty slogans of numerous global institutions. Kashmir is the world’s bloodiest dispute that has claimed the lives of at least 96,000 people since January 1989. Besides, more than 20,000 women have been rendered widows in this prolonged conflict while 215,000 children have been orphaned owing to worst form of India’s state terrorism. Although the decades-old neglect, discrimination and suppression of Kashmiri identity coupled with the power-centric approach of successive regimes in India gave birth to an armed resistance, or more rightly the freedom movement, in 1989, the post-Burhan Wani era can particularly be cited as the most transformative phase in this stretched struggle of the Kashmiris who only demand that their right to self-determination be accepted and accorded to them. Tech-savvy youth, mostly college and university students, has made the freedom struggle highly visible in international media. Images of stone-pelting girls have further attracted the attention of the international community to the festering wound of Kashmir. This renewed focus warrants discussion on the possible alternatives to resolve this issue. In this regard, a brief overview of the historical developments would help better understand this conflict.
The awful story began with the infamous ‘sell’ of Kashmir by the British Raj to Maharaja Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu, Ladakh and Baltistan, under the Treaty of Amritsar (1846). Under the said Treaty, the Dogra ruler had to pay 75 lakhs (7.5 million) Nanak Shahi rupees for the whole territory of Kashmir. It is widely believed that Maharaja was awarded for the services he rendered for the British East India Company in its Afghan expeditions and for the critical role he played in protecting the British interests in Punjab. This notorious sell against the wishes of the inhabitants of Kashmir sowed the seeds of discontent, disaffection and frustration among the Muslims of the region, and they furiously resisted this and rose for their political, legal, religious and economic rights. Dogra rulers responded with coercion, disproportionate use of force, imprisonment and capital punishments to thousands of Muslims. The very first organized political movement in Kashmir started in 1932 under the leadership of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah when he established a political party “Muslim Conference” which was later renamed as National Conference in 1939 under the influence of Jawaharlal Nehru. The National Conference split in 1942, with Ghulam Abbas forming his own faction under the name Muslim Conference. As names reflect, Sheikh Abdullah-led National Conference projected itself as a secular party that was representative of all religious communities of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and supported Kashmir’s accession to India whereas Ghulam Abbas-led Muslim Conference supported the accession of princely state to Pakistan and led the movement for Azad Kashmir.
Then came the tumultuous years of 1947 and 1948! The partition; the unjust demarcation of boundary line in the form of Radcliffe Award that also provided India with a land route to Kashmir, i.e. Gurdaspur district; signing of a standstill agreement with Pakistan by Maharaja Hari Singh on August 12, 1947; the Poonch Rebellion by Muslims for annexation with Pakistan; successful war of liberation by people of Gilgit-Baltistan and its accession to Pakistan in November 1947; the armed intervention in Kashmir by the tribesmen – with the support of Pakistan army; the signing of the controversial, so-called Instrument of Accession with India by Maharaja; UN-sponsored ceasefire; and UN Security Council’s resolutions (39 & 47) pledging a plebiscite to determine the public opinion for deciding the future political status of Kashmir, these incidents are well-known as a part of history, therefore, they do not need any further discussion. As far as Indian pledge of holding plebiscite in Kashmir is concerned, the Indian government blatantly reneged on this promise when the country’s parliament passed a bill in 1965 whereby Kashmir was declared a province and an integral part of the Indian Union.
Read More: The Kashmir challenge
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