Living amidst the sylvan surroundings of the Kashmir valley with its snow and tranquillity, one can often forget their troubles and become one with nature and the Almighty. But along with that, we also forget that our troubles cannot even compare with the long history of mishaps faced by the Kashmiris as a people.
They have seen bloodshed, militancy, communalism, a macabre exodus and the constant fear of losing their sons or even their own lives to this turmoil. It is hard to imagine that a valley, so peaceful and stoic, harbours within it an unrest that can equal the spouting of hot lava from a volcano, upon being unleashed.
The Kashmiris have always maintained that they love their homeland and cannot part with it despite the troubles they face every day. They go about their daily lives, laughing, smiling, crying and feeling all that other people feel in myriad situations. Their life has not come to a standstill and yet, it has not picked up the pace of development that other parts of the country have.
History and Article 370
Kashmir was formerly a princely state under the Hindu Raja Hari Singh. After Independence in 1947, it was faced with the decision of either being a part of India or Pakistan, due to its strategic location. With a Muslim-majority population and Hindu Raja, the choice of state for accession was a dilemma. However, Pakistan began sending its native tribesmen to commit atrocities which may compel Kashmir to join Pakistan.
Here, the Hindu Raja, afraid of his people being terrorised, pleaded to the Indian government led by Nehru to aid him out. For the same reason, he signed an agreement with the Indian government proclaiming Kashmir to be a part of India. This was also the time when Article 370, granting Temporary special status to Kashmir was imposed.
Post that began India’s initial battle with Pakistan to bring peace in Kashmir. However, during that same time, Nehru took this matter to the United Nations which declared that the only way of solving this dispute was through a peaceful plebiscite( a vote by which the people of an entire country or district express an opinion for or against a proposal especially on a choice of government or ruler).
The condition before this plebiscite was that Pakistan should withdraw its militant forces from Kashmir and post that India would also do the same. However, this condition has not been met till today. Pakistan simply refuses to withdraw its forces and that has caused serious tensions in Kashmir.
The Tashkent Agreement and Simla Pact were all ensuing treaties in various battles between India and Pakistan and even though the leaders of both these countries espoused peace during these pacts, there could be no real consequence of these talks and treaties. The fight still goes on and the people of Kashmir continue their lives amidst this turmoil in their little world.
The People, their Ideas and their Lives
Kashmir is almost a little slice of heaven on earth. The people love their land, over which they have sole right. The people have continuously debated even among themselves about the country to which their land belongs while some feel it belongs on its own.
This concept of “Azadi” or freedom has percolated into the deepest corners of the hearts of the people who are yet to come to a consensus as to what this freedom essentially entails. The people have witnessed several movements in the name of freedom. Militants have wreaked havoc and perpetrated fear in the minds of Kashmiris while vying for this precious freedom.
Many Kashmiri accounts state that a normal day in Kashmir often includes the news of a few militants being caught, injured or killed along with the martyrdom of certain soldiers or military men. It has become routine for them to either hear about or witness some sort of violence every few days.
There is a pall of gloom over the homes of families where the sons have fallen prey to the Jihadist aims of the Militants. Parents fear for the lives of their children and yet, poverty, lack of education and the insensitive political scenario in the valley pushes them into the clutches of violence, which they believe shall enable their families to lead more prosperous lives. Recently, there has been a rise in the number of “Stone-pelters”.
Hooded men throw stones at army men in a bid to convey their hatred of the defence forces of India. Many Kashmiris have always been wary of the military. Since the very beginning of the dispute, army men have come to the valley to “crack-down” on terrorists and for that very same reason they cordon-off a particular area and frisk the men along with searching their homes for any links to the terrorists.
While this may seem like a reasonable search operation, it has planted a fear of the Khaki-clad men among the locals. Whenever such an anti-militancy operation occurs in the valley, people cower in fear of the army. This has had adverse effects on the unity of the country.
Among the communalist policies of the militants was the black episode of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland in 1989-1990. Forced out of their homes and rushed to strange lands with mercilessly hot weather, the Pandits risked death either way. The exodus has still been the thorn in the side of Kashmir, affecting the unity of the previously co-existing Hindu and Muslim populations.
Existing parallel to this rift is also the slowly-growing unity of the second and third generations of Kashmiri children. Education has started reaching them, albeit slowly, which has impacted their thought process.
Coming to the life of Kashmiris, in general; it is a normal and responsible one. The life of the youth does not revolve around the political agendas of the politicians and they do not wish to separate Kashmir from India. They have a beautiful culture which they wish to preserve and propagate and encourage tourism in the valley as well.
Most of the time, the biggest hurdle to this expansion of tourism is the lack of internet services. SMS has been down since 2010. Still, Kashmiris have managed to remain pretty active on the net and not let the Communalist politicians throw their country into another era of bloodshed. Schools are developing and children are finding ways of broadening their vistas in their beloved homeland itself.
The country, too, has started to open its eyes to the plight of the Kashmiris. The biggest problem till modern day has been the mindset of the other parts of India with regard to Kashmir. It has always been looked at as a piece of land that is Integral to India, without giving much thought to the people living on this land.
Their miseries have never really found a listening ear with the government of the country and that has successfully isolated them even further. But with the rise of awareness and the people of this valley coming forward to voice their issues, things have been changing.
The issues of poverty and corruption in the land are being addressed at the centre and with the very recent 2019 elections, the government in power has made Kashmir the major issue to be dealt by the Home Ministry.
Even though the solution to this dispute might not be visible at the very moment, considering its international nature and the reluctance of any party to give up; yet, we have resolved to take measures in this regard. The smallest steps in this direction are better than complete silence and a blind eye towards this issue.
Before this problem can be resolved completely, we have to understand that it is not a matter of Indians resolving the problems and bringing development to the Kashmiris. It is the Indians helping out fellow Indians who have been wronged and have not had a say in the decisions being taken for them.
Poverty and ignorance have until now, crippled the life of Kashmiris and education and employment opportunities will go a long way in bringing peace to this valley. It is an international crisis and cannot be resolved by simply remaining steadfast in our belief that the land belongs to us.
We have to atone for our sins of ignorance and apathy against the citizens of this land and engage them in this dispute and any related decisions as well.
It has been a long-drawn battle leading to much loss of lives. Our soldiers have suffered and so have the people who have been caught in the middle of the conflict. It is high time that this valley covered in white snow brings justice to its peaceful scenery and establishes its name as the real heaven on earth.
Before anything else, the political agenda has to stop. The people might not be as revolutionary as has been projected by the biased media. The politicians on both sides of the border have always manipulated the sentiments of the people for their ulterior motives which has only escalated tensions and the conflict. If a peaceful solution has to be found; politicians at least on this side of the border need to stop this unhealthy spewing of hate.
Life in the Kashmir valley should become as has been epitomised by the poets like Kalhana. It should be a land whose glory has no comparison and whose people are free in the manner as Tagore had envisioned for his India- the people should be free from fear. Life in Kashmir has to become peaceful again.