After nearly 70 years since independence with the partition of India into two separate states of India and Pakistan, the issue of Kashmir remains unresolved.
The two nations are still disputing over the territory as they did back in 1948. Pakistan is still seeking Kashmir from India while India is now willing to go for another war over Kashmir.
Kashmiris themselves remain divided and confused. Perhaps the majority of them want independence, many want to join Pakistan and a few find it to their benefit to stay within India.
In Kashmir, Indian army is continuing its occupation with brutality. As per conservative estimates, more than 40,000 Kashmiris have been Killed since 1947.
There have been several serious uprisings along the way when skirmishes intensified. A report by US State Department claimed, “Indian authorities use Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to avoid holding its security forces responsible for the deaths of civilians in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.”
Indian administered Jammu & Kashmir has a population of nearly 7 million (97% Muslims) while nearly 4.6 million Kashmiris (100% Muslims) reside in Pakistan administered Kashmir, known as Azad Kashmir.
The Indian Armed Forces which include Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force have been accused of carrying out regular massacres since 1991.
Human Rights Watch has recorded nearly 20 such massacres over the past 25 years. On the other hand, Kashmiri militants have killed a number of army and police personnel as well as Kashmiri Hindu pandits which led to exodus of many Pandits from the Kashmir valley during the late 1980’s.
Since the killing of an insurgent Burhan Wani on 8 July followed by popular protests by Kashmiris Indian army has clamped down a round the clock curfew in the valley now in its fifth month. Police firing since have resulted in almost 100 deaths and thousands of injured civilians. Indian army has used pallet guns resulting in blinding and serious injuries to hundreds of Kashmiri protesters, mainly the young people.
Apparently in tit for tat retaliation, an attack on Indian army barracks resulted in the death of 17 Indian soldiers in October. Indian army and the media described it as a terrorist attack and swiftly blamed Pakistan.
Subsequently Indian forces in retaliation claimed to have made surgical strikes targeting militant’s camps over the border in Pakistani administered Kashmir with denials by Pakistan.
Kashmir is still a disputed region recognised internationally with a UN resolution to carry out a plebiscite for the self determination of Kashmiris.
India has not honoured its pledge to carry out this plebiscite put for the last seven decades and over time has gradually claimed Kashmir to be an integral part of India in its self interest that is unjust.
Pakistan, with its own troubles of governance over its entire history has failed to make a case for an amicable solution to the Kashmir issue. As a result of terrorist attacks within Pakistan and in Kashmir and other parts of India, Pakistan seem to have lost its credibility in the eyes of Kashmiris.
India must realise that if it has not been able to make ordinary Kashmiris feel comfortable in past 70 years, then it has lost the moral right of ruling over them. If it calls itself to be the champion of democracy, then it must respect the opinion of Kashmiri people for self determination.
The Hindutava ideology of the current Indian central government seem to be following an anti-Muslim agenda creating difficulties for Muslims of India and a hostile and aggressive policy against Pakistan.
Indian Muslims need to play a leading role in raising their voice in support of Kashmirs in order catalyse an amicable political solution to the Kashmir issue.
Cordial relations between the three neighbours India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is in the interest of all their people and for progress, development and peace in South Asia.