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KASHMIR: A LOST PARADISE

High time to resolve the matter and restore normalcy

Kashmir is a picturesque mountain state with clear rivers, evergreen forests and breath-taking views.  It has a history of Muslims and Hindus staying together, celebrating their respective festivals wherein other community wholeheartedly participates with equal gusto and shares happiness.

Kashmiris are very simple people.  They believe in small boons of life. Stay of the author in a houseboat in Dal Lake was an extremely pleasant experience.  Interaction with the houseboat owner helped in developing an insight into the lives of Kashmiris.  Their houses are speckles and extremely organized.  Kashmiris bring up their children very well, enthusing good values and impeccable manners.  They are very particular that their children should be soft-spoken, have good etiquettes and ethos. 

Unfortunately, a proxy war brews in Kashmir.  It devours dozens of lives every day, Kashmiris have suffered untold horrors in the hands of mercenaries and terrorist groups.

Statistical Scrutiny of Valley’s Population

The ethnic and spiritual diversity in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has contributed to the complexity of the Kashmir problem.  The majority of Jammu and Kashmir’s population of 14.7 million is resident in the Kashmir Valley.  The region is divided into three subparts.

The population of Kashmir is 8.1 million Kashmir religion is 98 percent Islam with distinct Sufi characteristics.  Jammu Division, on the other hand, has a population of 6.2 million, over 62 percent of who are Hindus and 33 percent Muslims, where the latter represents a majority in three of Jammu’s 6 districts.

The languages are dialects of Punjabi and different from Kashmiri, spoken largely in the valley.  The third component, the largest of the three in the area and the most remote, is Ladakh, with a population of approximately 0.4 million, which has a slim Muslim majority.  Here the populace is mostly Shia, distinct from the overall Sunni majority in the Kashmir valley.

Calculus of Insurgency

The problem in Kashmir is usually portrayed primarily as a matter between India and Pakistan.  Unnecessary hullabaloo is being raised around the issues of the authenticity and legitimacy of Kashmir’s accession to India.  In reality,  this is no more the bone of contention.  The circumstances since the accession have undergone mammoth change and unrest is now largely fuelled by organized incitement and misguiding of youth.

The genesis of insurgency in the late 1980s can be attributed to ethnic diversity.  However, over the years the insurgency has slowly, gradually, surely, deliberately been cultivated into a religious one.  This propelled an environment of intolerance, intimidation, and ultimately violence throughout the valley that only exasperated other existing tensions.  This metamorphosed into a situation leading to the exodus of the Kashmiri Hindu Pundits from the region.

Envisaging the Future: Ray of Hope

The new government in India is getting its act together.  A framework for resolving the Kashmir problem would in all probability be worked out.  It should start building a congenial atmosphere so that normalcy in the valley starts getting restored.

Pakistan on its part can exhibit its commitment to stop cross-border terrorism and act decisively against terror groups.  The local perception is that Indian deployments in civilian areas are a burden on the everyday lives of Kashmiris, An end to cross-border terrorism would remove the need for large deployments of Indian troops to provide security in the region.

It will go a long way in improving the plight of fellow Kashmiris.   This would be a win-win situation as it would benefit India also by freeing up resources currently dedicated to counterterrorism activities.   A reduction of Indian troops in the geographical region would conjointly culminate into a reduction in the inevitable “collateral damages” triggered by the size of the deployment.

Turning to areas where increased Pakistan-India political cooperation would accrue tangible advantages in Kashmir, reopening the roads currently blocked on both sides of the border is one simple, yet often overlooked potential measure.  Ending the road closures would not only facilitate the ability of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to again function as one regional entity but would also improve the effectiveness of any economic development initiatives undertaken in the region.

Although this is an established fact that the Kashmir problem is totally an internal matter of India.  it is the people of the valley who should be allowed and in fact, encouraged to articulate what they wanted in terms of resolution.  Discussing the value of holding a plebiscite to determine Kashmir’s future which gave a choice only between India and Pakistan is redundant in the wake of the Simla Agreement of 1972.  Key to any solution lies in focussing on the needs of the local populace.  Kashmiri people should be made to feel free and able to run their own lives.

Viewpoint

Majority of Kashmiris are peace-loving people.  They want to live in total harmony in consonance with surroundings and people.  It is only miniscule percentages, the nefarious elements, who are trying to revive Insurgency by appealing to impressionable minds.  What they are not realizing is, that due to their sinister design and acts, one more generation of Kashmiris would make waste of their lives.

To address this problem, a more open private sector to provide Kashmiris with a greater stake in their future is the need of the hour.  Further, a vibrant economy overall would remedy the crisis of high unemployment that currently afflicts Kashmir.  Unemployment makes young Kashmiris susceptible to get attracted towards insurgent movements.  This kind of pattern has been noted in many other conflict zones around the globe.  However, while an economic strategy is important to end the insurgency, the effective comprehensive approach would need to have both an economic and political component.

It is extremely important for Pakistan’s elected leaders to control the Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who inhabit its entire Afghan frontier, and to end the nurturing of suicide bombers bent on killing Indians, Americans, Sri Lankans, or other innocent people the world over.  A golden opportunity to spell this intent awaits at the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek where Pakistani PM and his Indian counterpart would meet.  Both the sides should not let this historic moment slip from their hands.  No stone should be left unturned to bring normalcy to the lives of Kashmiri people.  This is the least we can do for our brethren in Kashmir.  They deserve the best. 

06 Jun 19/Thursday                                                            Written by Naphisa

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