THE people of Pakistan and those of the liberated part of what is one of the world’s most enchanting lands are observing Kashmir Day today. Indeed, it goes far beyond an annual ritual; it is aimed at drawing the world’s attention to the worsening human rights situation in the illegally occupied territory and the danger inherent in India’s intransigence. As Pakistan has repeatedly pointed out, Kashmir is not a piece of real estate about which there is an ownership dispute, but an issue of self-determination — the right of a people to shape their own destiny. Unfortunately, mentioning the very word ‘Kashmir’ to India is like showing the proverbial red rag to the bull, even though it was India which had taken the issue to the UN as a complainant. Yet it is astonishing that the aggrieved party doesn’t want justice done and blocks every move to have the issue settled. Ironically, India is on record as having accepted various Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir and having told the world that it would accept the Kashmiri people’s verdict. Those who gave these solemn pledges to the British prime minister of the day, to the UN, and to the people of Kashmir were those who mattered, including India’s first governor general, Lord Mountbatten, and its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Yet, subsequently India had no qualms about repudiating those pledges and using every trick in the book to try and gobble up the disputed territory.
The assumption of power by Narendra Modi with his Hindutva ideology has turned India-held Kashmir into a tinderbox that can explode any time. His government’s most perverse action was on Aug 5, 2019, when it abolished the occupied territory’s special status, took a leaf out of Israel’s book and changed the nationality law allowing non-Kashmiris to settle in the territory in a criminal bid to alter the valley’s demographic character. This was followed by the brutal repression of protests by the justifiably angered Kashmiri people and the gross human rights violations which have drawn world censure. India should realise a people cannot be kept in bondage forever and that the unsolved Kashmir issue can push South Asia into a devastating war. This day should also make Pakistani politicians wake up to the overriding need for unity by keeping political differences between the opposition and government within the limits of decency and democratic ethics.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2021