Azadi hold different meaning for every Kashmiri and It’s hard t to find two Kashmiris agree on single meaning. For some it may mean merger with Pakistan, Self-rule, Greater autonomy, or complete independence or for some it means Islamic rule.
Let us assume that Azad Kashmir (Pakistan) may be closest to the idea of Azadi but its Interim Constitution itself directs elected politicians to work towards accession of the entire disputed territory (Indian-administered Kashmir included) to Pakistan. Its constitution of the 1970s only allows political parties that pay allegiance to Pakistan. Pakistan had never allowed Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front to contest elections in Azad Kashmir.
Now assuming Kashmir valley wants to go its own way as a separate independent country, who will protect a small valley of roughly 120 km by 55 km from three large surrounding ambitious neighbours? Can these three (India, Pakistan and china) large countries agree and afford to create a separate state in such a volatile and strategic region? Let us again assume for the argument sake Freedom is achieved then after Azadi are we going fight each other and start a civil war because our opinions differ? What about people of Jammu, Chenab valley region, Peer Panchal region and Ladakh if they do not agree with our idea of freedom? What about majority non-Muslim population of Jammu or Ladakh? What are our plans for them? What are our plans to bring back displaced hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus and provide safety and security to them?
There are some more questions we Kashmiris need to ask ourselves. Like how some people who handed over AK 47 rifles with several rounds of ammunition to our poorly trained innocent youngsters assuming that they are going to defeat world’s second largest army of 14 lakh active personnel and around 15 Lakh reserve personnel with all modern land, sea and air weapons (Thirty thousand which was highest number of insurgents in Kashmir at peak of insurgency during early 90s in Kashmir which has reduced now to hundreds). Are not we Kashmiris being cajoled into the mass suicide?
Since current mess has been created by Britain when they divided British India into India and Pakistan in 1947 on basis of religious lines and left Kashmir as an unfinished part of this business still consuming Kashmiri lives generation after generation. After decades of bloodshed, and keeping ourselves hostage of referendum India promised several decades back and then refused to fulfil it. It is not going to help us any way now, leaving hard-line position all concerned parties of the conflict need to find a humanitarian middle ground if we seriously want our next generation to live in peace, dignity and security, freedom has a meaning only for a living person.
While New Delhi has continuously mishandled Kashmir by practicing its idea of using excessive force and doing same things again and again and expecting different results. Which has only resulted in loss of Kashmiri lives and lives of armed forces most of whom belong to poor and marginalized sections of Indian society who have join armed forces to feed their family.
Our separatist leadership should be aware that In coming times Kashmir dispute may even get less space at international level as India is economically and militarily growing very fast posed to be world second largest economy in coming decade. On international stage, economic power is directly proportional to the political power so keeping a false hope that United Nations, USA or European Union or any other international organisation can pressurize India to solve Kashmir is looking very remote, as no country will like to harm its economic interests with India.
India which is a mixture of different nationalities being ruled by an upper caste elite class have a deep insecurity, fear and pride when it comes to Kashmir. If Kashmir goes, they fear of domino effect as other states or communities may also demand independence. This fear rules deep in Indian physic as India is itself sitting on major fault lines of caste, language, culture, religious and regional differences and regional aspirations from northeast, south to Punjab.
Its right time that our leaders from mainstream, separatist camp need to deeply think and find a way out to save the next generation. We Kashmiris can’t not continue generation after generation to be used as cannon fodder for a proxy war between two neighbours. Its right time that honest insurgency needs to end and an honest dialogue need to be initiated.
Everyone in separatist camp or mainstream carrier politicians know deep in their heart very well that with fast growing economy , influence and friendship and common interests with United States , India is unlikely to make any major compromises over Kashmir in near future. Otherwise, settlement of Kashmir dispute would have been in favour of common Indians as the huge sum of public money is needed to keep military occupation which could have been use to build hospitals, schools and food for impoverished, malnutritioned people in mainland India.
If other complex international disputes like East Timor, South Sudan can be solved why not Kashmir. And more recently UK offering referendum to scots or Philippians offering more autonomy to Muslim separatist area of Mindanao in the southern Philippines which suffered insurgency for long time where the rebels where fighting for a separate state for majority-Muslim section in a Catholic majority country. A recent voting in January 2019 favoured overwhelmingly for greater autonomy, own parliament, self-rule, greater federal funding, and full control of the area’s natural resources. The area has chance that insurgency will end soon.
Considering the complexity of Kashmir issue an honest and honourable solution is possible if all the three parties leave their hard-line position. It can be started with opening borders and all historical routes of J&K for full trade, More people to people interaction and a common market, channel islands (British dependency islands) type of arrangement or even Philippines type of settlement to Kashmir valley ( except Jammu and Ladakh) can be a good start . A win win type of situation for all three sides is possible but to achieve lasting peace all sides have to leave their hard-line positions to save Kashmiri lives. Is it possible only time will tell?
(The writer is Senior Occupational Health and Safety Officer (HealthCare) in Abu Dhabi, UAE. He can be reached at: [email protected])