Written By: Farzana Yaqoob
A land once referred to as paradise, has been hell in the last century for the people of Kashmir. So much has been written about Kashmir. Its history, present condition and the aspirations of Kashmiris have been discussed time and again. Different solutions have also been discussed but nothing seems to be actually happening. We have to start thinking towards a future and then work backwards to the current situation. This exercise would bring clarity as to where we actually are, what do we want to achieve, and how can we shape up future that the people of Kashmir deserve. As easy it might sound but that is easier said than done.
It is a conflict between the most powerful Muslim state and a state which is going to have the largest Muslim population in the world. The idea of land swap or sale and purchase of land is not an exercisable option. Reason being that as much as it is a land issue, people are involved, too. They already feel the pain of divided families. Kashmir can play the pivotal role of harmonizing these two states by being the connection between a Muslim state on the one side and Muslims in a non-Muslim state on the other side.
All the voices that are discussing Kashmir seem to be more interested in the affairs of the two adjacent states rather than Kashmir itself. The atrocities occurring in Kashmir get covered by an overarching blanket statement that the struggle of freedom fighters is an illustration of aggression. And that these activities are being supported by Pakistan thus, they are separatist activities and have to be dealt firmly by India. The rhetorical battle starts; Kashmiris get ignored and Kashmiris are forgotten. The actual story is that Kashmiris are not happy with the Indian rule and they have never accepted it. For a peaceful exit from this unjust rule, the Kashmiris prefer the UN resolution asking for the plebiscite. Plebiscite was carried out successfully in recent history, like in the case of East Timor. Such exercise needs to be carried out in Kashmir as well, in the presence of UN representatives.
Elections are contested and votes are given in the hope of development. This does not, in any manner, mean that people have given up on their aspirations. The general impression of the elections is that the movement is diluting and dying down. But the fact that every Friday prayer ends with protests, is weekly evidence to the contrary. The Kashmiri educated youth is absorbed in the freedom movement. Young people are aspiring to be freedom fighters. The calendars, printed by the local people, now carry photos of these heroes. Some have perished and some are still struggling, but they have evolved as the icons of hope.
There is a perception among certain thinking quarters that Kashmiris are unable to unite and come up with a solution. Kashmiris are united on the fact that the Indian rule is unjust and they reject the Indian occupation of their homeland. There is a small pocket of intelligentsia, who discuss independence as a solution but most of the people and the leaders consider joining Pakistan as the only workable solution.
There is a strong belief among the Indian strategists, that Kashmir is an integral part of India and if by some miracle independence is achieved, Kashmir will have to face extreme difficulties in protecting itself from the economic challenges in order to survive. Knowing this, the leadership in Kashmir believes that the sustainable solution is to join Pakistan.
For any solution to be practical, assent of both the states is necessary. Pakistan has shown its intentions on different forums but India has persistently resisted any such discussion. The few points that need to be considered in making any solution viable are:
1 Kashmir shall not be divided.
2 Kashmiris shall have the right to return to Kashmir.
3 Kashmir was a Muslim state before partition, although ethnic cleansing is going on and the non-state 4 subjects are becoming residents, but the status of being a Muslim state shall not be changed.
5 Human rights violations should be taken to court and the criminals must be apprehended and punished.
6 The freedom fighters should be considered as political activists.
Kashmiris have shown perseverance. The new generation is committed to the fight for freedom. The desire to have their basic fundamental rights to free movement and choice has been harnessed by the youth. The youth is now leading the cause. Their fervour is giving momentum to the movement and this momentum is receiving coverage and acceptance by the world. Recognition is leading to increase in discussion about Kashmir. Kashmir is becoming more relevant to the global realities, as the truth about Kashmir is spreading globally. The youth of Kashmir is finding new ways to interact with the world. They are connecting through the internet and other telecom tools. It is the youth that is going to decide the future of Kashmir. The freedom movement will gain importance and will be recognized internationally. Recognition will lead to further discussions and then workable solutions will be carried out of existing realites.
Different solutions that have been discussed so far are including: i) plebiscite, ii) independent Kashmir and, iii) the Chenab formula. All the solutions affect the territorial integrity of India or Pakistan. However, Kashmiris always aspire, dream, and struggle to join Pakistan. The people of Kashmir want their struggle for freedom to get more recognition internationally and that will lead to more discussions for finding a permanent solution. The Kashmiri people hope that the international bodies will show more honesty and fairness towards the people of Kashmir to uphold their basic human rights. Pakistan has always stood by this just cause of their Kashmiri brothers. The rest of the world must also come forward and resolve this dispute which is hitherto a stigma for a free and just world's conscience.
The writer is the former Minister for Social Welfare and Women Development for the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Her services have won her the title of “Young Global Leader 2017” by World Economic Forum.