India’s dangerous game in Kashmir

By Asif Haroon Raja : –

Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of Britain in British India was instrumental in sowing the seeds of Kashmir dispute and leaving this as a festering wound and an unfinished agenda of Partition, which has bedeviled Indo-Pakistan relations for nearly seven decades and made South Asia a nuclear flashpoint. But for the treacherous grant of Muslim heavy Gurdaspur to India, the latter had no physical access to Kashmir. Mountbatten in the capacity of Governor General of India, not only helped in obtaining accession letter from unwilling Maharaja Hari Singh but also authorized India to air land its troops at Srinagar airport in October 27, 1947 at a time when tribesmen of FATA had reached Baramula and Maharaja had fled to Jammu and newly born Pakistan was struggling to stand on its feet. But for the heroics of the tribesmen, Azad forces and Pak troops, Indian forces could have annexed whole of Kashmir.

When Nehru found that the defenders had gained an edge and the whole length of supply line had become vulnerable to ground interdiction, thereby making it exceedingly difficult for the aggressors to stay on in winters, he dashed to the UN and sought its intervention for ceasefire. The plum had been seized which he didn’t want to lose at any cost. Liaquat Ali Khan agreed to ceasefire when Nehru gave his solemn pledge to grant right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir and hold a fair and free plebiscite so that they could decide whether to join Pakistan or India as stated in June 3, 1947 Partition Plan. Maj Gen Akbar Khan was among the dissenters who had serious objection to the ceasefire and he later led the 1953 failed conspiracy.

Once the threat was averted, Nehru in violation to 1949 UN Resolution started dragging his feet. He and his team kept cooking up one excuse after another to ward off series of UN proposals to settle the dispute. For holding the plebiscite, he wanted demilitarization of Kashmir but insisted upon retention of Indian troops and withdrawal of Pak/Azad troops/tribesmen from Kashmir. While Pakistan agreed to all the proposals made by the UN Representatives, India rejected all of them. In order to brand Pakistan as an aggressor, India made lot of noise that the tribesmen had been launched by government of Pakistan. It ignored the role of RSS bands and troops sent by Maharaja of Patiala to carryout ethnic cleansing of Muslim Kashmiris and to aid the tottering Dogra regime of Hari Singh well before Partition and afterwards. Harrowing tales of Kashmiris had in fact spurred the tribesmen to come to their rescue. Had they not wasted two nights in Baramula, Srinagar could have been easily secured by them.

After forcibly occupying two-thirds Kashmir, India has been using all tricks up its sleeve to retain its illegal control over Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Besides employing brute force and denying the Kashmiris their basic human rights, Indian military and police have been using rape as a tool to break the will of the Kashmiris and to compel them to stop chanting slogans of Azadi and demanding right of self-determination. After making a u-turn on the commitment given to hold a plebiscite on the flimsy plea that Pakistan had become a threat to India by joining western military pacts, the next trick employed was policy of bilateralism in the wake of Simla agreement signed in 1972. While India insisted upon Pakistan not to broach the subject of Kashmir on international platforms, it didn’t move an inch closer to resolution of the dispute bilaterally. After armed uprising in IOK in 1989, India drummed up the theme of cross border terrorism, holding Pakistan solely responsible for the insurgency. Theme of terrorism received a shot in the arm after 9/11, which is still being played and has been made into primary issue and Kashmir relegated to secondary position. Composite dialogue opened in 1997 is another ruse to keep Kashmir and other core disputes on the back burner.

Indian leaders have been defying the UN Resolutions and turning a deaf ear to the cries and shrieks of the Kashmiris suffering under the boots of Indian occupation forces. The world community has also looked the other way to the blatant atrocities of Indian forces in IOK and has failed to hold India accountable for its criminal deeds. This willful silence of the world powers has persisted for the last 67 years as a result of which over 100,000 Kashmiris have lost their lives, that many injured/crippled, tens of thousands detained in secret dens and subjected to gruesome torture for years, thousands killed in fake encounters, over 11000 women raped and many gang-raped, property gutted at a mass scale and paradise on earth turned into living hell. IOK has been described as the most militarized corner in the world where 750,000 Indian soldiers are battling few thousand ill-quipped and marooned Kashmiri freedom fighters in the narrow Kashmir Valley since 1989 and persecuting peaceful citizens.

As if these horrors were not enough, after 9/11 the freedom fighters demanding right of self-determination as prescribed in UN Resolutions have been demonized as terrorists and the freedom movement put in the category of terrorism. Pakistan which rightfully considers Kashmir as its jugular vein and extends political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris in distress has been projected as an abettor of cross border terrorism. All fingers are pointed at Pakistan and Kashmiri freedom fighters. On the other hand, the fox hunting and eating up the lambs held up in the sheep farm has been given a clean chit and its false complaints listened to sympathetically. The US led west at the behest of India has dubbed UN Resolutions as outdated and is selling the idea that Pakistan should accept the LOC as permanent border and end the dispute. No one is prepared to listen that Kashmir is not a territorial dispute but a human tragedy. Kashmiri people are not prepared to live under the yoke of India and are desperate to free themselves from the open prison in which they are languishing.

To hide their massive human rights violations in Kashmir and bloodletting, India has put an iron curtain around the open prison and disallows foreign media and human rights groups to enter the Valley. Only tutored journalists/human rights groups are given conducted tours. Another ploy used by India to claim that people of Kashmir have accepted Indian rule is fake elections, which India has been conducting since 1950s under the barrel of the gun and installing puppet regimes. Elections are projected as free and fare and presented as a proof that Kashmiris accept Indian rule. These puppets have been singing Indian tunes and allowing India to gradually absorb IOK within Indian Union. Whenever any of the puppets didn’t deliver as per Indian wishes or tried to have his way, he was instantly removed, or Governor/Presidential rule enforced. Black laws like TADA, POTA and AFSPA are in vogue, giving license to kill to the occupation forces without fear of accountability.

To deter Pakistan from pursuing cause of Kashmir, India waged three wars as well as several local conflicts, military stand offs and heating up LOC. Indian leaders hurl threats as a habit and also resort to false flag operations and propaganda war. Its spin masters strive hard to portray India as the victim and Pakistan an aggressor.

Failing to overawe and browbeat Pakistan after truncating it in 1971, India resorted to nuclear blackmail, kept increasing its defense budget and feverishly bought latest state-of-art weaponry/technology to modernize its armed forces, embarked upon Cold Start doctrine to neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence, and resorted to water terrorism to dry up Pakistan. Since 2002, India in league with its strategic partners is carrying out massive covert war against Pakistan relentlessly. It has venomously targeted FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi. Real purpose behind Indian subversion and flexing of military muscles is to browbeat and overawe Pakistan, force it to hand over the keys of its nuclear arsenal, forget about Kashmir, accept Indian hegemony and agree to live as a vassal State of India.

Hindu extremist Narendra Modi has at the outset adopted a hostile posture against Pakistan and has a sinister plan to completely absorb Kashmir within Indian Union by amending Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which provides a special status to IOK. He plans to make BJP the predominant political party in IOK and harbors an ambitious plan to convert IOK into a ‘Super State’. On one hand Modi has asked the IOK leaders to participate in a debate on Article 370 and on the other he accuses them of mass corruption and part of the problem. Even if that is the case, after self-determination, Kashmiri corruption will no longer be an Indian problem. Corruption is not the real issue but just another excuse. Hidden motive is something else.

Modi gave a statement that IOK is a good place for natural beauty and religious tourism. Modi also mentioned that the government should consider a route passing through IOK to Kailash Mansaovar from Leh to boost tourism in Ladakh region. He also referred to film industry, stating: “a lot of films were shot here, why Kashmir can’t get a film institute”? He blamed Kashmiri leaders for not wanting to progress. The economic activity under the pretext of religious tourism seems to be another attempt to undermine the right of autonomy of the Kashmiri people.

Meanwhile under the slogan of bringing people together, BJP regime is in fact trying to bring a large number of Hindu migrants to change the political dynamics of the IOK region forever which will make it impossible for the present Muslim majority to practice their right of self-determination. Idea is to turn Muslim majority in the Valley and surroundings into minority. This exercise had been successfully undertaken by RSS and Dogras after occupying Kashmir in 1947 by changing demography of Jammu and making it Hindu dominant and also lessening the over 90% Muslim majority in other regions of J&K.

Modi in primary phase is aiming to achieve this objective by granting retired military persons from India properties/land in IOK. At the same time, separate towns are being planned for the settlement of Pundits who migrated in early 1990s. Induction of the Pundits seems to be a big step in the direction of promoting religious tourism.  An influx of Hindu tourists is being propped up to whom housing schemes will be a viable investment opportunity. He seems focused on bringing the Hindu masses to IOK so that in the future new towns can be constructed having majority Hindu settlers which will of course sway the opinion polls in India’s favor. New settlement policy is in line with Israeli policy practiced in Palestinian territories.

Additionally, over 500, 000 Kashmiri refugees from Pakistan as well as others residing in AJK/Pakistan or abroad are being offered carrots in the form of granting them permanent resident status, settlement, land/property and other facilities. These enticements are again aimed at disturbing the social fabric of the State and creating bad blood among Kashmiris. If Modi succeeds in his agenda the struggle for independence of Kashmir will suffer a huge set back and will be undermined.

In order to get their way, Hindu parties need a majority share in IOK government, but after the election results on December 23, none could reach the magic figure of 44 seats to form a government. PDP emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats and BJP with 25, while National Conference (NC) has 15 seats and Congress 12. Tally of independents was 7. Well appreciating the swelled up revulsion against BJP in the Valley, PDP was reluctant to share power with it and was looking for other viable options. Sensing the danger, New Delhi hastened to impose Governor Rule in disputed IOK on January 9 and old hand N.N. Vohra was installed as Governor. Vohra is known for his high-handed tactics to force the unwilling to do India’s bidding. Fractured mandate will keep the situation in a flux for next 2-3 months after which a coalition government suiting India will be formed in which BJP will certainly be included.

In the light of recent attempts to change the demographics of IOK, Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) held protest on January 9th against the government proposal to grant citizenship rights to migrants, aimed at increasing their vote bank. In the wake of sinister designs of BJP, they pressed PDP and NC not to form a coalition government with BJP. JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik also stated on January 12 that conspiracy hatched by RSS to change demography of J&K and turn Muslim majority into minority will be foiled. He made it clear that Article 370 of Indian Constitution forbids Indian citizen to settle or become a permanent resident, or voter of the State of J&K; and that this law is also applicable to refugees from Pakistan. AIP has planned to hold a protest rally at Lal Chowk on coming Friday.

While the people of IOK have recognized the wicked designs of India and are making noise, no such concern has been shown in Pakistan. Indian dangerous designs must be thwarted at all cost and efforts to resolve the long outstanding dispute redoubled. There can be no peace in the region until and unless Kashmiris are granted their right of self-determination.

The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran/defence analyst/columnist/author of five books

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