EducationVolume 14 Issue # 14

Avoiding a battle of hatred

India and Pakistan have waged two wars over Kashmir and are now nuclear armed.

Even before both countries won their independence from Britain in August 1947, Kashmir was hotly contested.

India has warned Pakistan that it would retaliate for an attack on Feb 14. Adil Ahmad, a homegrown, local Kashmiri militant, rammed an SUV packed with explosives into an Indian military convoy, killing 44 paramilitary personnel and himself. India has blamed both Pakistan and Jaish-e-Mohammad, a proscribed organisation in both India and Pakistan, for what it classifies as a ‘terrorist’ attack. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by saying that the attack was a matter of grave concern and that Pakistan condemned the heightened acts of violence in the Kashmir valley.

Pakistan rejected India’s latest accusation. It denies giving material aid to Muslim separatist fighters in Kashmir. Prime Minister Imran Khan has strongly condemned that India levelled allegations without any supporting evidence; he also cited India’s tendency to blame Pakistan for any incidents occurring in India-held Kashmir without engaging in dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue.

“We have repeatedly seen India arrogating to itself the role of judge, jury and executioner,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. Since their independence 72 years ago, India and Pakistan have fought three wars.

India has long accused Pakistan of training and arming militants and helping them infiltrate across the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two sides in the region. Pakistan said India’s accusations stemmed from its attempts to divert the world attention from its “state terrorism” and “brutalization of peaceful, unarmed Kashmiris”.

More specifically, the right of Kashmiris to self-determination has been recognised by the UN through numerous UNSC resolutions. The right to self-determination — and the legitimacy to agitate for its realisation — is not in question under international law, a right to which the Kashmiri people are also entitled.

Indian rhetoric has included threats to militarily retaliate against Pakistan in reprisal for the Pulwama incident, in contravention of established international law — including Article 2(4) of the UN Charter — in an act of unilateral and unjustified belligerence. State sponsorship, to the degree where the right to self-defence is enabled, requires actively controlling and commanding such outfits.

While Pakistan continues to provide moral support to Kashmiris suffering under occupation, under international law it is not per se unlawful to provide military support to such territories as well.

However, Indian journalist Santosh Bhartiya, in an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi published in Rising Kashmir, wrote that although “the land of Kashmir is with us, the people of Kashmir are not with us.”

The journalist presents findings from a four-day trip to India-held Kashmir in the letter, addressing the use of excessive force against protesters, the anger of the Kashmiri people, and the mishandling of the Kashmir issue by India ─ particularly by the Modi regime. Further, he commented the situation of democracy, but just massacres. Different voices have started to rise in India, ranging from Yashwant Singh, former Indian finance minister, former Indian Supreme Court Justice Merqunde, to Bollywood stars.

An entire generation that was born in 1952 has not seen a single day of democracy and has never experienced what democracy is all about. People in Kashmir wonder why they don’t deserve a normal life as the people of other states in India live and enjoy democracy. Will they carry on their lives in fear of guns, bullets, pellets, and day-to-day massacres?

Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan.

The population of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir is more than 60% Muslim, making it the only state within India where Muslims are in majority.

High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by the security forces battling street protesters and fighting insurgents have aggravated the problem.

The protesters blinded by pellets in Kashmir

The insurgency in the state has ebbed and flowed since 1989, but the region witnessed a fresh wave of violence after the death of 22-year-old leader Burhan Wani in July 2016.

In 2018, the death toll for militants and security forces in Kashmir touched the highest point in a decade, according to official figures, with 356 killed. Human rights groups put the civilian fatalities at over 100. No expert believes the situation will improve in the short term.

The incident in Sirnoo, in the district of Pulwama, illustrates the turn for the worse. As the security forces carry out operations, they are frequently confronted by crowds of people who, rather than scattering, try to block their way.

Undeniably, India used “excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries,” according to a report released in June by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report also cited India’s use of “inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate” pellet-firing shotguns as a means of crowd dispersal, which left hundreds blinded. India rejected the report’s findings.

The upturn in violence coincided with the absence of any meaningful political process to address Kashmiri grievances on the part of the federal government, whose embrace of Hindu chauvinism has distressed Muslims across India.

In this context, it is, therefore, imperative that Pakistan and India work towards a genuine resolution to the Kashmir issue peacefully, and in line with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people rather than involving themselves in rhetoric and vitriol to isolate the other in the international community and delay the resolution of the dispute.