A Tale of Two Kashmirs

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The reported protests and the resultant police brutality in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) illustrates that all is not well in the Kashmir that calls itself ‘Azad’ (free). Coming at a time when the “Kashmir banega Pakistan” (Kashmir will become part of Pakistan) chant is resounding in ‘other Kashmir’ (Indian administered Kashmir or IaK), this development across the LoC comes as a whammy for the pro-Pakistan camp. 

The separatists want us to believe that we will get ‘azadi’ (freedom) only when we submit ourselves to Islamabad and they are not at all enthused by the idea of an independent Kashmir. Though anti India sentiments in IaK are high, the very idea of being controlled by Islamabad instead of New Delhi is similar to being shifted from an iron cage into a golden one. And this is where we need to sit back and think because any emotional decision on our future could subsequently bring us grief and remorse if it turns out that we have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

The tragedy of the Kashmiris is that though there are two Kashmirs, the story in both is basically the same. The idea of going with Pakistan has caught public imagination as we have been told that all is hunky dory in PaK but past events as well as the current protests in Muzaffarabad remind us that the Utopia we seek may not be there. Yes, we may be having religious affinity with Pakistan but given the specter of sectarian violence has taken firm roots there one has to be extremely careful and guard against being over-influenced by the religion factor.

The major problem regarding the movement for the right to self determination is that the Hurriyat has limited it to IaK. By unilaterally deciding that the Kashmiris residing PaK are content and thus don’t require an opportunity to exercise their right to self determination, the Hurriyat has put the horse before the cart. By doing so it has also given more substance to the allegations that the Hurriyat is nothing but a proxy of Islamabad and this ‘tag’ has severely damaged the separatist conglomerate’s credibility.

The UN resolutions are equally applicable to both IaK and PaK and if a plebiscite has to be held, it would take place in both the Kashmirs.  And this can only start when Pakistan abides by the UN resolution and agrees to vacate PaK. This is the bottom line and any concessions to either side on any grounds will not be acceptable to the international community. Since Islamabad is providing moral and diplomatic support to the Hurriyat its pro-Pakistan leanings are understandable. However, by clamouring for plebiscite in IaK and maintaining a stoic silence on Pakistan’s continued presence in PaK, the Hurriyat is actually fighting a losing battle!

What the Hurriyat needs to do is use its good offices to persuade Islamabad to set the plebiscite process in motion by vacating PaK. Once this happens New Delhi will have no other choice but to go ahead with the right to self determination exercise. If Pakistan is really a well wisher of the Kashmiris that it claims to be, then for the sake of the people of IaK it should have no objection to temporarily vacate PaK. Since Islamabad as well as the Hurriyat is so confident that the unanimous wish of the people of Kashmir is to go with Pakistan, where is problem for it to pave the way for a plebiscite?

Whether Islamabad vacates PaK or refuses to do so is not the issue for debate here. And why I am writing is because I feel pained at the colossal loss of life and limbs in the current protests and though the separatists may argue that the same has reinvigorated the ‘freedom struggle’ in Kashmir, I humbly beg to differ. We heard the same words being spoken during the 2010 summer protests and have seen for ourselves how all those deaths of our young brothers gave us nothing more than a statistical figure to complain about. So let us not keep making the same mistakes over and over again as they cost us dearly in terms of lives.

Human life is very precious and so every action that exposes our people to grave danger must give results that are commensurate with the sacrifices made. It is unfortunate that instead of calling upon the people to exercise restraint during protests our leaders maintain a stoic silence and at times even indulge in semantics that could further provoke the people. Then in order to conceal the inefficacy of the confrontational approach they come out with emotional declarations like “the blood of martyrs will show its colour one day” or “the blood of our martyrs will not go waste.” This is not how the people should be led!

For more than a quarter century we have endured more than our share of this bloodshed stuff and it’s high time that an end is put to this unproductive practice!

 

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