Kashmir: A Ticking Time Bomb
Sheheryar Zulfiqar Khan writes about the abrogation of Article 35A and 370 in Kashmir, how India has failed the people of Kashmir and how Pakistan can deal with the issue of Kashmir in response.
August 2019 would be remembered in history as a month of ruination. The heaven known as Kashmir was set ablaze when fascists of the BJP government illegally amended their constitution, thus unilaterally altering the position of the long-standing Kashmir issue.
While India is interpreting abrogation of Article 35A and 370 as a road map to development and as an investment opportunity, eight million Kashmiris are looking at the issue as an attempt to change the demography of the region, ultimately affecting the long-awaited plebiscite.
In this situation when the valley of Kashmir is facing the most brutal expression of Indian imperialism, the streets of Pakistan-administered Kashmir is experiencing the most vibrant protests and resistance in post-partition history. For the first time in the seventy-year history of India and Pakistan, we are witnessing the people of Ladakh, Kargil and Baltistan protest against oppression and demand representation and observation of solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
The international media is making much hue and cry over the present situation in Kashmir. Aljazeera publishes articles on Kashmir on a daily basis but international powers have decided to pay no heed. It is like Kashmir has many friends but few helpers.
What exactly are Articles 35A and 370?
Where Article 35A restricts any non-subject to purchase land and establish permanent business in Jammu and Kashmir, the State Subject Rule (SSR) in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan serves the same purpose. The SSR no longer exists in GB. These articles and rules serve the purpose of maintaining the demography of the region according to the resolution of United Nations for a fair and free plebiscite to take place.
At the same time, the Article 370 gave Kashmir a special autonomous status which has now been revoked by the right-wing Indian government. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it has done exactly that thing in the past for which it is condemning India in the present. Thus, for the state of Pakistan, the idiom ‘running with the hare and hunting with the hounds’ fits perfectly’.
The cost of revocation of Articles 35A and 370 for India
While the BJP-RSS cohort is regarding this as the ‘Final Solution’, the Indian Union has now lost its close allies and supporters in the valley in the form of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference. Omer and Mehbooba started openly criticising the Indian government for revoking the special status of the state, and have ended up under house arrest. Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and son of the great Sheikh Abdullah, has also been arrested, strangely because he was considered the strongest pro-Indian voice in the valley.
Shah Faisal and Shehla Rashid of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Movement have refused to be Indian stooges and Yousaf Trehgami, one of the go-to men for the Indian military establishment has also ended up in house arrest. Of course we all know what would have happened to Hurriyat leadership and Yasin Malik? So, technically, India has lost its last remaining connection (also tool of structural violence in the past) with the general public of Kashmir. Thus, we can say that India has conquered the land of Jammu and Kashmir but has failed badly in conquering the dreams and aspiration of the people.
What is the way forward for Pakistan?
What Pakistan should now do should be the exact opposite of what India has done with Kashmir. It should immediately restore state subject rule in GB. It should give more power and sovereignty to the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan should go for constitutional assemblies for Kashmir and GB with a common independent house having equal representation of both regions. Thus, as opposed to what India is doing, by eliminating the identity of Kashmiris, Pakistan can set an example for the international community and the people of Kashmir by honouring and accepting their identity, so as to keep itself on a higher moral ground.
The most important thing Islamabad, or perhaps Rawalpindi, needs to understand is that instead of propagating for Kashmiri accession to Pakistan, it should raise voice for self-determination and a free Kashmir, thus convincing the international community that Kashmir is not a bilateral border issue but an important international issue affecting the lives of 200 million people.
In dealing with Kashmir, Pakistan should involve the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the most important stakeholders in the issue. Especially after the notable participation of the masses in the ‘Quit Kashmir Movement’ launched by Peoples National Alliance, It is better to let Kashmiris decide what they want because only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.
And what the people of Kashmir should do is to keep their struggle peaceful, and refrain from being used as a proxy on either side of the border. We can only hope that the day of freedom for Jammu and Kashmir will begin to appear on the horizon sooner than ever.