A certain change of language is needed when we talk about the “Kashmir issue” since Kashmir is not an “issue” per se – it is a legal, ethical, historical, geographical, and spiritual part of Bharat. No exceptions.
Kashmir is the crown of our civilization & the problems therein are very much similar to those in other parts of Bharat, but only certain aspects of it get highlighted; mostly in a negative manner.
Kashmir fell to the British in 1846 as a consequence of the first Sikh war, but rather than occupying it fully themselves, they chose to set up Hindu rulers over a Muslim majority population, planting the seeds of a bitter quarrel between the heirs to their power, turning over Kashmir to Gulab Singh, a local Dogra ruler whom the Sikhs had made the governor of the hill state of Jammu.
Genesis of the Kashmir Issue and India’s National Security
In 1947 J&K saw 2 contrasting social movements: one led by Ghulam Abbas and his AJKMC wanting to join the state to Pakistan, and the other led by Sheikh Abdullah under the AJKNC. The Quit Kashmir movement launched by Sheikh proved to be resilient and made him a popular political figure. It is a historical fact that Pakistan was created by the British to further their imperialist agenda; as was visible in their handling of the 1948 conflict and the subsequent UNSC debates. After the October 1947 invasion of J&K by Pak Army, the Indian Army liberated large parts of the state from their control. But by the time winters of 1948 set in, Pak Army got sufficient supplies and they wrested complete control of the areas today known as PoK and Gilgit Baltistan, including the Karakoram ranges.
India took the matter to UNO which announced a Ceasefire but instead of a resolution, global politics came in and the issue went on unabated. Indian merits of the case were eventually lost in this power politics. Today neither Pakistan nor the UNO has a locus standi on this issue whatsoever and their propaganda to ascertain the wishes of the people of J&K is hollow, given the fact that the state has elected members in its state legislature and even to the national parliament.
Pak then resorted to open warfare in 1965 to take control of the state; again in 1971, after which Kashmir became high on their agenda as Pakistan sought revenge for the creation of Bangladesh. By this time, appeasement policies in the state like the Land Reforms, corruption in the Abdullah government, his secret meetings with foreigners, etc. increased social tensions in Kashmir. This was followed by allegations of electoral malpractices during the 1980s and political mismanagement.
The new generation of Kashmiris was educated and politically much more conscious of ethno-nationalistic ideals. But development and the economy failed to keep pace with the rapidly changing socio-cultural processes which then spilled over on to the streets in the calls for more autonomy, which later turned towards separatism and eventually the demand for so-called ‘Azadi’. Radical Islam became a driving factor behind this, with groups like JKLF calling for complete independence while those like Hizbul calling for a merger with Pakistan. The idea of Kashmiris being separate from the rest of Bharatvarsh was popularized for petty political benefits.
These events and their vast experiences in guerilla warfare in Afghan Jihad helped Pakistan to build strong anti-India propaganda. Proxy war thus started in Kashmir and since then alienation, drugs, black money, infiltration, etc. have created challenges to internal peace and security.
An under current based on religious extremism had been gradually developing with Sufism and other liberal ideas discarded by local religious and political leaders. In all this, the events of January 1990 deserve a special mention as they
were very much different from the previous so-called invasions of the State – due to the involvement of common radicalized citizens in the act of terrorizing the “non–believers”. While the terror groups were nurtured by Pakistan, it was the local Kashmiri who fell for the extremist ideology & joined their ranks and provided support to the Mujahideens.
All of this has hit on the very roots of the local tourism, education, and economy that has led to stagnation of growth and frustration among the local youth. An empty mind then goes towards drugs, crimes, stone-pelting, etc. as it is seen as the only way to let out the emotions; a classic strategy of warfare wherein citizens of a nation are encouraged to overthrow their own systems.
Only a few districts in the Valley have active militancy while other parts are largely peaceful. But this perspective never gets highlighted since it doesn’t sell on the news platforms.
Also after Article 370 Abrogation, only the legal status of the territory has changed….the conditions therein haven’t.
Much more needs to be done to take the process towards its logical conclusion.
All of this impinges on India’s national security as a conflict-ridden border state, with a volatile minority population cannot be let to suffer its fate, more so when Kashmir got orchestrated as a “dispute” by external powers, the feudal oligarchy in Pakistan and sadly some of our own people as
well. Conflicts in J&K have cost us hugely on the socio-economic and military fronts over the last 74 years, undermining our integrity and sovereignty.
Strategic decision-making mistakes, letting foreign powers meddle in internal affairs, friendships influencing political decisions, and lacking strategic sense – are the biggest mistakes that have complicated the situation. This, thus, forms the genesis of the “Kashmir issue”.
Nevertheless, a common Kashmiri seeks to live in peace and get rid of the daily life struggles.
Therefore, a multi-dimensional approach with sensible use of hard and soft power has to be done at the regional, national, and international levels to bring a long-lasting solution that is pragmatic rather than relying on idealism, in order to bring peace and the final resolution of this ‘issue’; the first step towards which, will be, as mentioned above, the change in language and perspectives.
Article by Rahul Wankhede