When Mughal emperor Jahangir visited the famed Shalimar Bagh located in Kashmir, it is said that he recited this famous Persian couplet written by Amir Khusrau.
“Agar firdaus bar rōy-e zamin ast, hamin ast-o hamin ast-o, hamin ast.”
“If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”
But had Jahangir witnessed the state of affairs in Kashmir today, he most certainly would have taken his words back.
Kashmir, today is a pale shadow of her glorious past. The valley is amidst a major turmoil, both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir as it’s own and several Kashmiri’s are demanding an “Azad Kashmir” or Independent Kashmir.
But what led to this situation, what really plagues Kashmir today and most importantly does the Kashmir problem have any solution?
To understand the present, one needs to understand the past and to understand Kashmir’s problem, we will have to go back in time.
In 1947, British crown wound up its rule in India. British India would would soon become India and Pakistan.
British India was at that point in time divided into Princely Provinces and British States. Princely provinces had the option of either joining India or Pakistan or the ruler could choose to remain independent.
As the map of both the countries were being formed, Muslim majority provinces and states chose sides with Pakistan, Hindu majority with India, but a very unique problem arose in Kashmir.
Kashmir, a princely province was ruled by a Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, but the majority of his subjects were Muslims.
Maharaja neither chose Pakistan nor India.
Both Sardar Vallahbhai Patel and Mohammed Ali Jinnah tried to woo Hari Singh to change his stand but he didn’t. Hari Singh indecisiveness and his failure to interpret the implications of his decision continues to haunt many Kashmiri’s.
On October 24, 1947 insurgents from Pakistan terrorised the Valley and the panic stricken King signed an ‘Instrument of Accession’ with Government of India. The war ended in 1948 after a cease-fire was laid out by United Nations. During the war Pakistan gained unauthorized control over 34% of Kashmir’s territory and has been controlling this region ever since.
The Hate Politics
For Kashmir however, the biggest problem is the politics it’s leaders played to remain in limelight. Be it the Abdullah family or the Mufti’s, politicians always ensured the flame of hatred remained alive among the public. No leader till date has anything concrete to solve the power, water and unemployment crisis in the state and in turn blame Indian government for the problems existent in the state.
Plus Pakistan which is unable to maintain its own state of affairs has always meddled in Kashmir’s politics. Pakistan has always encouraged the opinion of separatists and suppressed the real opinion of the residents of Kashmir.
Insurgency and the Exodus
The result of Pakistan’s support to the separatists voices was the rise in insurgency in 1989 -1990. Kashmiri Hindus( also known as Kashmiri Pandits) were targeted by the militants. Pandit women were raped, young children tortured and men killed in the most brutal manner all in the guise of ‘azadi’. Nearly 1,00,000 KP families left the valley and were made refugees in their own motherland. Families were forced to leave behind everything and start life from scratch in places distant from their homeland.
Does the Kashmir problem have any solution? Of course, yes!
However the answer is not so simple.
On the international arena, India must amp up support against Pakistan. Every cease-fire violation , every attempt to undermine peace in the valley must be taken up seriously. Be it the United Nations or any international forum, India must make it clear that any dialogue with Pakistan is not possible without peace.
As Pakistan controls a vast territory of Kashmir it would not be wise to disband talks with it, but clever use of pressure tactics by senior diplomat holds the key for Kashmir’s future.
On the national front, Kashmir can no longer remain aloof. Now hat Article 370 has been abolished, The government must take initiative and build better infrastructure in the union territory. Industry must be established to ensure job opportunities arise. Skills of the youth must be developed to prevent them from going astray and joining militancy.
Thirdly the government needs to incorporate the real voice of Kashmir. Several politicians and separatist ‘leaders’ have hijacked the Kashmir issue. India is still unaware of aspirations of Kashmiris and the real voice is still suppressed. All the communities from the valley be it Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians must be treated as equal stakeholder. Their opinion and their demands must be taken into account before any decision is taken.
It’s been over 70 years since India’s independence and it’s about time normalcy and peace returns to Kashmir and the Paradise has witnessed enough and it’s residents have suffered enough!