Kashmir: From Paradise to Battleground

Thursday, 22 October 2020



Kashmir: From Paradise to Battleground

Prabal Bharadwaj | November 09, 2019 15:36 hrs

“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast,” Mughal Emperor Jehangir said when he visited  Kashmir in the 17th century stating that if you haven’t visited this Paradise on Earth , you’ve missed out an experience of a life time. 

Unfortunately Kashmir, what we know and see of it, is not what it used to be merely a century ago. The process of turning the paradise into a battleground started soon after India and Pakistan became sovereign nations. At the time of British withdrawal, 565 princely states were officially recognized in the Indian subcontinent. Kashmir was one of it. Princely states were left with 3 options – 1) Join the Union of India, 2) Join Pakistan or 3) Remain as an independent entity.  Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the first home minister of independent India and VP Menon, secretary of the ministry of states, in the months immediately preceding and following the independence, convinced the rulers of hundreds of princely states to accede to the Indian Union. However there were 3 major princely states that initially refused to join the Union of India – Kashmir, Junagarh and Hyderabad. Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir, decided to remain independent. 

However, Kashmir is located in a very important geo-strategic region of Earth - a region of glaciers and fresh water channels. So both India and Pakistan were determined to bring Kashmir under its respective sovereign control. To avert the pressure to join either new nation, the Maharaja signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan. However India didn’t sign any. Pakistan soon betrayed the Maharaja and sent its tribal mercenaries and its army to invade Kashmir. The Maharaja sought the help of New Delhi. But New Delhi responded that in order to gain military assistance, Kashmir would have to accede to India. The Maharaja agreed and signed the Instrument of Accession in October 1947.  Thereafter, it was only a matter of days for Indian armed forces to get back control of the whole of Kashmir. However for reasons unclear till date, under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, India took the matter to the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) which passed Resolution 39 declaring ceasefire between the two neighbours.  An imaginary line which came to be known as Line of Control was drawn Kashmir. UNSC also established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to investigate the issues and mediate between the two countries. It also established the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to monitor the ceasefire line.

The ceasefire line divided Paradise into 2 pieces of land – PoK and the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. The UN declaredcease fire couldn’t stop both countries from engaging in another 2 conventional wars (1965 & 1999) and numerous unconventional conflicts.

After it’s accession with the Union of India, Kashmir and Kashmiris were more or less integrating with mainland India. However, Kashmir has always witnessed political drama during elections. But the only election that stormed Kashmiris out of their houses was the epoch of Muslim United Front (MUF) in 1987.  And Farooq Abdullah of National Conference (NC) was declared the winner. The MUF accused that the polls were rigged and this was well acknowledged by the national and international media as well resulting into wide outrage and disillusionment among the Kashmiris. Local insurgency in the valley increased in momentum from this point on and Pakistan’s Deep State (Pak Army, ISI & fanatic mullahas) took the advantage of the situation and started funding, training, and radicalizing Kashmiri insurgent groups like Hizb-ul-Mujahedin, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front and many others. Pakistan also pushed veteran Afghan jihadists into Kashmir to destabilize the state and create a blood bath in the 1990s. ISI also started a propaganda war in Kashmir infiltrating Wahabism into predominantly Sufi Kashmiri society, mainly through the funding from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Mosques were turned into the centers for radicalization of Kashmiris.  Islamic radicalization of Kashmiri society led to the mass exodus and genocide of Kashimiri Pandits, though the Indian government failed to recognize it for years.

Winning back Kashmir and Kashmiris

It is high time for India to go all out militarily against fanatic Islamic radical groups who are interested only in turning the Jehlum Red. Tactical operations like “Operation All Out” need more teeth. More funds need to be given to goodwill operations like Madadgar (CRPF), Operation Sadbhavanaa (Indian Army) to penetrate deep into Kashmir.  At the same time, the Indian government should engage with Kashmiri Awam politically with more zeal and seriousness and let the Kashmiris decide their political future without compromising the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the Indian Union. 
The Paradox

It is paradoxical that at the time when government of India is sitting at the table with dreaded insurgent groups like  NSCN(IM) to find a solution to the decades-long Indo-Naga conflict, It refuses to take Kashmiri people into confidence while bifurcating  the erstwhile state of  J&K  into 2 UTs – Ladakh and J&K and stripping Kashmir of its special status which was not unique to the erstwhile state of J&K contrary to what many of our political leaders want us to believe.

(The author is a graduate in Bachelor of Arts, Ramjas Collage, University of Delhi)

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