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A second Eden

Published Apr 20, 2017 06:55am


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GOD created a second Eden: Kashmir. Satan has made it his playground.

In autumn this year, Pakistanis and Indians will commemorate 70 years of independence. Jamuvals and Kashmiris have no cause to join in either celebration. The two constitutions they are being coerced to adopt were written decades ago in ink. Their epilogues remain unfinished. These continuous chronicles are refreshed daily by the crimson blood of a hapless nation that yearns to become a state.

Kashmiris do not need to be suckled on dried UN resolutions nor weaned on the soft bap of hypocrisy. What they deserve after decades of suffering is compassion, understanding. What they demand is the right of independent self-determination.

The very length of the dispute should shame India and Pakistan.

This was denied to Hyderabad in September 1948, to Goa in December 1961, to East Pakistan after the elections of1970, accorded to Hong Kong in 1997, and yet to be resolved in Gibraltar — that British carbuncle on the corpus of Spain. Spaniards have not forgotten that Calais for 200 years remained an ugly English pimple on the fair face of France, until ultimately squeezed out in 1558.

Since 1947, three generations have been born and died on both sides of the Line of Control. It could have been for them that Milton wrote in his epic poem Paradise Lost: “We know no time when we were not as now.”

Countless books and articles have been written about the Jammu & Kashmir morass, as many as there are martyrs buried and the living blinded. Open any one of these publications at random. They contain a recurring truth, one Milton articulated: “Who overcomes/By force, hath overcome but half his foe.”

Twenty-two years ago, Tavleen Singh published her brave account Kashmir: A Tragedy of Errors. “Today, [she was writing in 1995] there are more than 500,000 troops and paramilitary men deployed in Kashmir to control its population of round 3.25 million, mainly Muslims […] The state that was once considered the most beautiful in India is now a vast military camp.”

Today, the combined population of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh is well over 12m and over 700,000 is the number of Indian troops deployed to ensure their voluntary accession of J&K to the Indian Union.

This Gordian knot has deceptively simple strands. “The government of India maintains that the state of Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. The government of Pakistan remains committed to calling for the self-determination of the Kashmiri people,” Victoria Schofield (a contemporary of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto) wrote in her book Kashmir in the Crossfire (1995), adding: “At present neither India nor Pakistan appears to be in a position to alter its established rhetoric.”

Will there ever be even an intermission during this dangerous minuet of scorpions with nuclear tipped tails? Will the brittle minds in New Delhi and Islamabad ever be massaged into malleability by the unguents of expediency?

The very length of this dispute should shame the two governments into a mature, sober reconsideration of their positions. Will they ever talk without fearing its outcome?  Can ever, to quote Milton again, “true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced deep”’?

The last census conducted in India-held Jammu & Kashmir took place in 2011. It revealed that out of a total population of 12.5m, Kashmir had 6.8m, Jammu 5.4m, and Ladakh only 275,000. Kashmir’s Muslim majority stood at 97 per cent, Jammu’s Hindu majority at 62pc. Ladakh — larger in area than both Jammu and Kashmir combined — has a minuscule, pacifist population of Buddhists. On this side, the population of Azad Kashmir nears 5m, almost all of them Muslims. Should by some inordinate stretch of imagination a plebiscite take place, will voting follow religious affiliations?

The state elections in Uttar Pradesh recently have shown that coreligionists in India may pray together but they do not necessarily vote together. In UP, BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate, and yet it won so comfortably that it could seat comfortably a worldly-wise yogi as chief minister.

Will J&K’s ‘Paradise Lost’ ever be redeemed, become ‘Paradise Regained’?  Might that happen by 2047, when India and Pakistan shall celebrate their centenaries? Or will that be a wake for a century of missed opportunities?

Logically, all stakeholders have an interest in a swift, preferably bloodless resolution. They have come too close too often not to believe that a solution is possible. Yet, they are intimidated not by light but by shadows. “Who is the third who walks always beside you?” T.S. Eliot asks in The Waste Land. “When I count, there are only you and I together/But when I look ahead up the white road/ There is always another one walking beside you/Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded.” Like the serpent in Eden.

The writer is an art historian.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (26) Closed

satt Apr 20, 2017 07:09am

Very light article on serious issue.

Reader Apr 20, 2017 09:28am

Suggest a three phase 15 year solution: first 5 years cease all hostilities and create a climate of peace, next five years conduct local elections in each of the areas and establish local self rule, last five years ease transit across LOC and conduct a referendum to determine if each part wants to part of an autonomous state or be integrated with the county on its side of LOC. Maintain LOC as a soft international border for the purpose of sovereignty, security and communication only.

Oommen Apr 20, 2017 10:42am

There are hundreds of beautiful places in the world (Eden) which are safe and welcoming.

SUBASH DHAR Apr 20, 2017 11:34am

surely it will. the day when both counteris will soften their stands.

Sri Apr 20, 2017 11:53am

The only realistic option is to convert the Line of Control into a proper international border first. Stop hostilities completely, Stop cross border infiltration, terrorism, actively advance friendship and finally have a visa free travel between India and Pakistan. Do not allow a third party to interfere whether it is China, Russia or America. The time period for this happen should be 10 years.

sky Apr 20, 2017 12:16pm

@Reader Very honorable solution for both parties. Just wondering if the five year cycle will ever complete

Saaed Apr 20, 2017 01:40pm

@Reader , A practical and sensible solution, well done

Raja parekh Apr 20, 2017 02:17pm

To arrive at any agreement mutual trust supported by subsequent actions are important which is lacking at this time.

Muhammad zahid Apr 20, 2017 03:11pm

@satt very light comment on this serious issue/article

Syed h Apr 20, 2017 03:22pm

Jammu's current Hindu majority mentioned in this article was only arrived at by massacres and expulsion in 1947, when the last Prime Minister of the Maharajah, Mehr Chand Mahajan, sought to "change the population ratio", transforming the Muslim majority into a minority. The 1941 census of Jammu (including its Poonch district now divided between India and Pakistan) had a total population of 1,594,778 of which over 900,000 were Muslim.

Incidentally, the Kashmiri Pandits whose plight seems to exercise the saffron brigade's mind so much, only ever made up approximately 5 percent of the Valley's population (there was no genocide either; many Muslims in the Valley would welcome their return, as indeed they should return).

The nightmare of the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir is much older than just the last 70 years, given the many depredations its overwhelmingly Muslim population suffered at the hands of Hindu Dogra rule (seizing control in 1846 after a dubious agreement with the British).

MG Apr 20, 2017 03:39pm

Both India and Pakistan have mass of land they wanted. Now we should allow people of Jammu & Kashmir to chose where they want to live and they must be free to move on either side of the LOC. The border should be open for a specific period say 1 year and then LOC must be declared as international boundary

Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Apr 20, 2017 04:08pm

This is world's greatest tragedy in general & South Asia in particular, which has been only designed and perpetuated by the "movers and shakers" in New Delhi,who are directly responsible for the genocide, war crimes & crimes against humanity against the hapless, helpless, weak but gallant and brave people of India-held Jammu and Kashmir.

Nevertheless, in the hearts of their heart, the ruling junta of India knows that they are wrong since the beginning. They also realize & understand that sooner than later, they will have to bow to the domestic & international pressure they have been defying since last 70 long years, to let the U.N. mandated plebiscite take place & be amicably effected.

In the interim, they have spearheaded wide-range of fraud policies & practices to rid the local population of the India-held Jammu & Kashmir with their "own" people without realizing that the power of indigenous & industriousness is supreme, indispensable & encapsulating everything known or unknown.

Sankar Mitra Apr 20, 2017 04:31pm

Many thanks for a brilliant article. Surely there are many sane people on both sides of the divide. Problem is mediocre political leadership without much of a vision. We all know that there are vested interest in both sides which can be tackled only by strong leaders. Unfortunately we have none. If leaders like Jinnah and Nehru are born again, Kashmir will also blossom again. Populism cannot solve the problem. Unfortunately mediocre leaders can survive on populism only. Regards S. P. Mitra

Sid Apr 20, 2017 04:49pm

Make LOC the International border and give only Kahmiris to visit either side of the border. No other Indians and Pakistanis from other states other then Kahmir should be allowed to cross over the other side. I personally don't see any other solution.

Syed h Apr 20, 2017 05:01pm

@MG No you have no right to tell people who form a majority in their lands to leave; ethnic cleansing is a war crime.

Indian occupied Kashmir is about 70% Muslim. The Valley, where most of the inhabitants live, is 96% Muslim. 4 of Jammu's 10 districts are still Muslim majority (Jammu's Muslim majority was deliberately and violently changed in 1947). Ladakh's Kargil district is more than 75% Muslim. The peoples and areas identified are ill-disposed to being a part of India; too many have been disappeared, killed, raped and tortured over the decades of Indian rule for there to be any going back on this.

One possible approach could be to adopt the Chenab formula, known for decades. It provides for the predominantly Muslim areas north and west of the Chenab to be free of India. Given the original State of Kashmir's overwhelming Muslim majority (in Jammu as well pre-1947) and the evil India has visited on that Muslim population since 1947, getting any part of it is a reward for India.

Fazal Karim Apr 20, 2017 09:59pm

There are some blunders which are not corrected for centuries, Kashmir is one of them.

PranitA Apr 20, 2017 11:07pm

"worldly-wise yogi" that's a good one.

KP Apr 20, 2017 11:52pm

@Syed h And you forgot about the Afgans, Mughals, chaks forced Conversion of kashmiri Pandits. You forgot Kashmiri Pandits cry to Guru Teg Bahadur for protecting their lives and dignity. You should read history only to the extent where it does not make your current life impossible to live. Past is full of good and bad

Syed h Apr 21, 2017 12:52am

@KP To reiterate common knowledge: Islam's roots in Kahsmir begin when Lhachan Gualbu Rinchana, the Buddhist prince who ruled Kashmir in the 14th century, converted to Islam after encountering the Sufi preacher Bulbul Shah. He changed his name to Sultan Sardarudin Shah, and was therefore the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Many of his entourage converted too, and so did many amongst the population. Islam consolidated itself during the subsequent Shah Mir dynasty. Sorry to disappoint you, but not too many "foreign invaders" converting people at the point of a sword here, as per standard Hindutva accounts. Contrary to your babblings, it was the preaching of Sufis like Bulbul Shah, highly revered to this day in Kashmir, which made many Kashmiris Muslims.

The issue though that is relevant in the here and now to Kashmir is the modern period where the record of ill-treatment of the Kashmiri Muslim population, from Dogra rule since 1846 to the current period, is unrelenting and undeniable.

KP Apr 21, 2017 01:30am

@Syed h it did not still answer my question. Did it? Why do you look at the chapters of history only from the point of view that suits your faith and ideology ? If 1947 was horrible so was 1990 for Pandits so was the period of Afgans Mughals and Chaks in Kashmir for Pa dits. Why don't you accept those chapters as well. Until you do that, your rant is meaningless.

pitbull Apr 21, 2017 02:27am

@Syed h Nice insight into to explain who send the kabaalis and lakshars in 1947 to invade this 'eden on earth.'India was never interested in interfering there, its only after the Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on Oct 26th 1947 that Indian forces entered Kashmir.

Siddhartha Apr 21, 2017 10:20am

Mr. Aijazuddin, Hope the Kashmir dispute could be so simple as you have projected. More in depth analysis is needed.

SAM Apr 21, 2017 12:04pm

Instead of fantasies, one needs to come down to the realities. People are free to move to wherever they want, even Antarctica. But they can't stuff the land in their bags can they? Never in history nor in million years of future will there ever be change in control of land without full fledged war. And in the event of the war, Kashmir will be reduced to a nuclear desert. So it is more than 100% sure that the struggle for land is futile.

Syed H Apr 21, 2017 02:34pm

@KP If you feel upset about a period of Afghan rule several centuries ago, or the other even older ones you mention, please take it up with them, if they still exist. It is obviously the modern reality of Kashmir, which is most germane to the current situation: it shows that there has been an unremitting and extensively documented degree of oppression of Muslims in Kashmir over this period. You clearly don’t like this, and come up with spurious equivalency: e.g., between the hundreds of thousands killed and expelled to change the majority population of Jammu in 1947 and what happened to the Pandits in 1990 who made just 5% of the Valley's population (less than 400 killed even by Sangh accounts and all occurring with India in full charge).

You really need to ask yourself why you and your ilk feel such a need to impugn Kashmiri Muslims and their narration of their own history; if you have such a problem with them, then what are you doing ruling over a state where they are the majority?

Ram kishan vission Apr 21, 2017 09:42pm

@Syed h your comment is more of a biased opinion as expected from Pakistanis and had little foundations in fact. With this attitude mark my words nothing will change.

Iftikhar Husain Apr 22, 2017 05:20pm

This is a sad story of the two countries after partition.