Dal Lake, Srinagar
I have often been captivated by the beauty of Jammu and Kashmir, those stunning valleys, mountains covered with snow and pristine rivers and lakes. Though I haven’t been to Kashmir, this impression has been formed by friends’ accounts and films, especially Mission Kashmir and Shaurya, which featured a lot of the place. Isn’t it a tragedy then that such a wonderful place is besieged by violence, and we hear more about suicide attacks and bombings than its picturesque beauty and tourism? I often wonder that what it is about beautiful places and violence. It’s as if beauty attracts conflict and violence. So many scenic places in the world are in the throes of civil war and conflict, be it war torn Afghanistan, Lebanon or Chechnya.
As in other regions, it is always the people, the residents of that region, who have to bear the brunt of violence. On one hand they are forced by the terrorists to give them shelter and information, with severe consequences if they don’t, and on the other hand they are accused by the security forces of harbouring terrorists and supporting their cause and often falsely booked under draconian laws, which ironically were made to fight terrorists. There have been umpteen cases where men have been dragged out of their houses and shot dead either by the terrorists for divulging their whereabouts to the army, or by the army for refusing to reveal information. In other words they are caught between the devil and the deep sea, with no escape route. This is the true tragedy of Kashmir, that the rights and liberties of the people of Kashmir are being suppressed, both by the army and the terrorists.
Imagine how wonderful would it have been if Kashmir was undisputed. It would have been a tourist haven, India’s very own Switzerland, earning a lot of foreign exchange and allowing the people of Kashmir to enjoy the benefits of development as the rest of India has. Instead Kashmir has been caught in a time warp since violence began in the valley after 1989. It has seen 5 wars and thousands of minor skirmishes and terrorist attacks.
The Kashmir conflict began in 1947, right after our independence. At that time Kashmir was independent with Maharaja Hari Singh as its ruler. Pakistan attacked Kashmir with the intention of seizing it but India intervened after the maharaja signed a pact with India with made Kashmir a part of India. The next uprising came with the Sino-India war in 1962 with China seizing the Aksai-chin region from India. Then we had the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan and the Kargil conflict in 1999.
As far as a solution to the problem is concerned, there has been a deadlock since a long time and no concrete solution seems to be emerging. A solution will only be feasible once both sides trust each other. But, it is extremely dangerous to trust Pakistan as was shown by the Kargil war where the Pakistani troops attacked Kashmir in May 1999. In doing so, Pakistan reneged on the assurance of peace which was made when the Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had visited Pakistan for the Lahore summit in February 1999. So, currently demilitarization is not an option as Pakistan may again try to usurp our territory as soon as we turn our backs. Another option that has been considered is a plebiscite (vote by the citizens of J&K). This would indeed be a true expression of the voice of the Kashmiris given that it is held in a peaceful and fair manner. Other options include recognition of the LoC as the international border and division along communal lines.
Finally, the governments of both countries owe it to the residents of Kashmir to solve the issue as quickly as possible. They have suffered for far too long and deserve a peaceful existence in their heavenly abode that is J&K.