Seven decades on, deadly Kashmir conflict remains unresolved

Alwaght– in2017 marks seventy years since the Kashmir territorial conflict started between India and Pakistan in 1947 after British colonialists were purged from the region.

Kashmir which is located in the Himalayan region lies at the epicenter of an apparent territorial dispute between New Delhi and Islamabad with both countries claiming full sovereignty over the area, but ruling parts of it. However the conflict, in Kashmir is basically a struggle for self-determination.

India controls nearly 43% of Kashmir including most of Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh. India also occupies a major portion of the Siachen Glacier where a tense standoff at the frozen tip of the world has continued since 1984. Pakistan has about 37% of Kashmir under its control that goes by the name of Azad (Free) Kashmir and the northern areas of Gilgit Baltistan. China occupied 10% (Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract) of the state in 1962.

The conflict over Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, has resulted in three wars between nuclear-armed countries of India and Pakistan. The two countries agreed to a ceasefire in the disputed territory on November 26, 2003, and initiated a peace process the following year. However, there have been intermittent clashes, with the both sides accusing each other violating the truce.

100,000 Kashmiris killed in Indian-administered Kashmir

According to estimates, nearly 47,000 people have been killed in violence that has erupted over Indian-held Kashmir more than two decades ago. Some rights groups in Kashmir say the toll could be close to 100,000 from the revolt which began in late 1989.

Residents of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir have been demanding a referendum, and their demands have been met with a violent crackdown by Indian forces. The fact the majority of Kashmiris support secession from India has meant that New Delhi authorities will not give in to demands for a plebiscite.

In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a crackdown on violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir beginning in July 2016 killed over 90 people and injured hundreds, fueling further discontent against government forces.

Another report published in December, entitled Blind to Justice: Excessive Use of Force and Attacks on Health case in J&K, India, and Physicians for Human Rights stated that pellet guns are “inherently inaccurate, indiscriminate, and capable of penetrating soft tissues even at a distance”.

The report gives a well-documented account of human rights violations in the second half of 2016: “The authorities lack respect for the right to health”.

New UN chief urged to address Kashmir issue urgently

Meanwhile, last week, a prominent Kashmiri leader has called on the new United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to address with “supreme urgency” the decades-old Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan so as to promote peace and security in South Asia.

In a statement, Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary-General of World Kashmir Awareness, dismissed New Delhi’s claim that Kashmir was an integral part of India, stating its stand, which was in violation of UN resolutions envisaging self-determination for the Kashmiri people, had prolonged and exacerbated the conflict between India and Pakistan.

In his statement, Fai gave background of the Kashmir dispute, drew attention to the gross human rights violations taking place there and made a strong case for the implementation of United Nations resolutions that call for a UN sponsored plebiscite in the Himalayan state to determine the wishes of the people of Kashmiris.

The frequent flare-ups between India and Pakistan over Kashmir can easily snowball into a conflict engulfing the entire region and the world at large considering the fact that the two states are nuclear-armed.

Kashmir conflict, legacy of British colonialism

The partition of British colonial India into the dominion states of India and Pakistan in 1947 led to the emergence of the Kashmir conflict.  During the colonial era, in their infamous divide and rule strategy, Britain had appointed Hindu rulers on Muslim majority states and Muslim rulers where the majority was Hindu and Kashmir was no exception. At independence, Kashmiris had automatically expected that the state would become part of Pakistan by virtue of its overwhelming Muslim majority. But the Hindu maharaja (ruler) refused to make the announcement to join Pakistan as he wanted to join India but feared his overwhelmingly Muslim majority population and thus the conflict began and continues up to now. Thus the conflict in Kashmir is a legacy of British colonial mischief which is also afflicting many other parts of the world.