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The bleeding vale of Kashmir

The cauldron of Kashmir continues to simmer and smolder in view of India’s scorched earth policy. Appalling human rights abuses and atrocities have been committed against civilian population. According to recently published Human Rights report, between 1989 and June 30, 2010, the number of Kashmiris killed at the hands of Indian security forces stands at 93,274. Additionally, there have been 6969 custodial killing, over 107,351 children have been orphaned, 22,728 women widowed and 9920 women gang raped. 11735 persons were arrested and 105861 houses or structures in use were razed.

Ever since indigenous armed resistance commenced in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) in 1989, India has been incessantly holding Pakistan responsible for the uprising. It portrayed the freedom struggle as terrorist movement wholly aided by Pakistan. India didn’t take into account the hard realities that Kashmiris had sustained the cruelties of Indian forces for too long. They had been repeatedly duped and promise of plebiscite made by Jawahar Lal Nehru made in 1948 remained unfulfilled. They had got fed up of the puppet state regimes imposed upon them and the lackluster approach of Pakistan towards their cause.

They got inspired by the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 followed by Palestinian intifada in 1987 and grand victory of Mujahideen against a super power in Afghanistan in 1988. These events catapulted the otherwise insipid and terrorized Kashmiris who would not pick up courage to even protest against abuses of Indian security forces. This was evident from their poor response to Operation Gibraltar launched By Pakistani irregulars in August 1965 aimed at helping the Kashmiris to realize their dream of freedom from India. Kashmiri youths from 1990 onwards were a transformed lot, fully motivated and charged up. No amount of brutal force and torture applied by Indian forces would break their will to fight back.

Few thousand Kashmiri Mujahideen kept over 700,000 regular and paramilitary forces in a spin and Kashmir became a bleeding wound for India. They showed their extraordinary grit and firmness during the Kargil conflict in summer of 1999 where in conjunction with irregulars of Northern Light Infantry, they kept the might of Indian Army at bay for ten weeks. The US and G-8 countries had to intervene to force Pakistan to vacate the occupied heights. After suffering humiliation at Kargil, India had to suffer another embarrassment when its ten-month military standoff failed to intimidate Pakistan and it had to withdraw its forces in October 2002.

India sought assistance from Israel how to deal with Kashmiri militants and learnt new methods of torture but to no effect. By 2003, Indian troops employed in IHK had become fatigued and demoralized. Cases of indiscipline, soldiers firing at seniors, desertions, suicides, and mental disorders rose phenomenally. Hospitals got filled up with malingerers and psychiatric cases. Recruitment in Army dropped radically despite announcing better pay packages. Kashmir became a dreaded station and none liked to be posted there. It was under such unsavory conditions that Indo-Pak peace treaty facilitated by USA was signed in January 2004. In his exuberance to appease India so that an amicable solution to Kashmir dispute and other disputes of Siachin, Sir Creek and dams on rivers could be found, Gen Musharraf took several steps to remove Indian concerns. He gave a written pledge that he would not allow Pakistan soil for exporting terrorism. He banned six Jihadi outfits engaged in supporting freedom struggle in IHK and ceased their funds. By restoring peace in Kashmir, he allowed India to fence the Line of Control (LoC) and also took stringent measures to curb movement across the LoC. All Parties Hurryat Conference (APHC) got split between moderates and extremists, former led by Mir Waiz and latter by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Moderates agreed to hold negotiations with Indian leaders and to workout an out of box solution as proposed by Musharraf which was outside the realms of UNSC Resolutions. Musharraf’s one-sided initiatives delivered severe blows to the indigenous struggle waged by Kashmiri armed freedom fighters that had intensified in 2003-04. Indian leaders started admitting after 2005 that cross border infiltration had reduced to a trickle. Instead of appreciating efforts put in by Pakistan Indian military claimed that stringent measures adopted by them had not only blocked movement of foreign terrorists but also the insurgency in IHK.

Peace along LoC and in IHK helped India to use Afghan soil to export terrorism into Pakistan and to create situation similar to IHK. India created and supported terrorist outfits for Balochistan and FATA to destabilize Pakistan. It was also able to hold general elections in the state in 2007 which brought in pro-India National Conference and Congress in power. Since the voters’ turnout was over 50%, Indian leaders started to brag that foreign sponsored insurgency had almost been quashed and there was no need for negotiations. They once again reverted to their uncompromising stance that Kashmir was integral part of India and its further division was out of question. The only leeway they wanted to give was to treat LoC as permanent border between two Kashmirs. The Kashmiris once again felt let down by Pakistan, betrayed by India and ignored by the world as they had felt in 1989.

There was also resentment among younger generation of Kashmir against their leaders for getting hoodwinked by Indian sweet talk and damaging the movement. The movement got reignited on a dispute over land being allotted to Amarnath Shrine Board in summer of 2008 and economic blockade imposed by Hindus in Jammu. The whole Valley resounded with slogans of Azadi (freedom) and pro-Pakistan slogans. Hundreds of thousands of people defied curfews and heavy presence of security forces. Soldiers and policemen fired straight into the crowds killing scores of people but protests continued unabated. It was the first manifestation of democratic, non-violent protests as note by Arundhati Roy.

Intensity and resoluteness of unarmed protests by Kashmiris in Srinagar and other major towns of the Valley unnerved India and the state government. Protests over India’s black laws and oppressive and unjust policies continued for months but neither Pakistan nor the world took any note of their plight. Policy of picking up suspects, putting them in secret dungeons and torturing them, fake encounters and rape continued unabatedly. The second bout of unarmed protests took place in the summer of 2009, which were ruthlessly dealt with by Indian forces disregarding that the protestors had no arms.

Fresh wave of mass agitation against India’s rule in J&K spearheaded by unarmed teenagers have spread across Kashmir Valley since last June. Intensity of protests is growing with each passing day. In June 2010 alone, 33 people were killed including four children. 572 people were tortured and injured and eight women were molested. 59 Kashmiris, mostly teenagers including an eight-year boy have been killed till 14 August by CRPF and Police. Each killing is fuelling more anger and they are coming out on streets in greater numbers.

It is high time for champions of human rights to listen to the cries of Kashmiris and take stock of atrocities perpetrated by Indian forces, killing small kids and old men and raping Kashmiri women with gusto. Peace in South Asia will remain illusive without a solution to Kashmir dispute, which has also bred extremism and terrorism in the region. Indian leaders must come out of their uncompromising and stubborn mode by fulfilling the pledge of their reverend leader Nehru and hold a plebiscite in Kashmir. Farce of Aman ki Asha and other deceitful games would work no more. Resolution of longstanding Kashmir dispute will usher in peace and prosperity in South Asia, which is primed for a bigger explosion because of discontentment and burgeoning poverty. The UNSC and USA should let go their duplicitous policy and act before it is too late.

Asif H. Raja

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