The Kashmir question (editorial Dawn)

Each year when Pakistan and India celebrate their independence, anxiety takes over the minds of many. It relates to the escalation of conflict in Kashmir that continues to be occupied by India 70 years after the British left the subcontinent.

There has been no let up; reports from the valley capture the pain and frustration of a people who have been fighting the agents of oppression. The resolve to be free of Indian tyranny has not diminished; if anything, apprehensions are all the more pronounced this time because of heightened tensions in IHK since New Delhi upped the ante last year with the killing of Burhan Wani.

Anger and defiance are at their height — a result of the killing and humiliation of ordinary Kashmiris, the use of civilians as human shields and of tactics such as firing pellet guns (that have blinded hundreds) to quell the protests. Indeed, some of the images of the uprising are iconic — from stone-throwing schoolgirls to crowds carrying the bodies of victims of Indian aggression draped in Pakistani flags.

Many prominent Indians, too, have criticised the rights violations in the held territory, in contrast to the general reluctance in India to debate the issue.

It is in India’s interest to take a step back to assess the possible consequences of its actions — an increase in the intensity of Kashmiri anger, enhanced attacks by militants against Indian targets and international condemnation. It must listen to Kashmiri grievances.

At another level, the resumption of talks on Kashmir between India and Pakistan — and, with the inclusion of the Kashmiri political leadership — seems to be a distant dream.

It is true that India has many complaints against Pakistan, including the agonisingly slow process of bringing to justice those who allegedly committed the Mumbai atrocity. But how long should Kashmiris be made to suffer for all that is not right in Pakistan-India ties?

This is about an occupied land. The problem has to be resolved with active participation of the people under occupation. Their desires have to be respected and they must be allowed to express them directly.

Kashmir cannot be looked at through the lens of a territorial dispute alone; there has been too much bloodletting. Seventy years is a long time for anyone to realise that a people as determined as Kashmiris cannot forever be denied their rights.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2017

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