The world should pay at­ten­tion to Kash­mir op­pres­sion

The Morning Call - - TOWN SQUARE - By Fa­tima Ker­malli Fa­tima Ker­malli is a mem­ber of and a Sunday school teacher at Shia Ithna-Ash­eri Ja­maat of Penn­syl­va­nia in Al­len­town, and a freelance writer.

Dis­putes and ri­valry among na­tions have been oc­cur­ring since the beginning of hu­man his­tory. Un­for­tu­nately, not much has changed today as seen in the north­west cor­ner of In­dia, the state known as Jammu and Kash­mir.

The up­heaval now wrack­ing the area dates to when In­dia be­came in­de­pen­dent from the Bri­tish Em­pire in 1947 and lines were drawn cre­at­ing the sep­a­rate in­de­pen­dent states of In­dia and Pakistan. The princely states that ex­isted within the coun­tries ei­ther ac­ceded to In­dia or Pakistan — ex­cept for Kash­mir, which wanted in­de­pen­dence.

Kash­mir, with a ma­jor­ity Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion, was gov­erned by a Hindu ma­haraja, who was pres­sured by the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment to join it. To avert in­va­sion from the Pash­tun mili­tia from Pakistan, the ruler asked for help from In­dia. In­dia agreed to as­sist only if Kash­mir would ac­cede to In­dia. The ma­haraja agreed with the con­di­tion that the state re­ceive a spe­cial sta­tus guar­an­tee­ing in­de­pen­dence.

They would have their own con­sti­tu­tion, a sep­a­rate flag and free­dom to make laws. Only com­mu­ni­ca­tions, for­eign af­fairs and de­fense would be part of the In­dian gov­ern­ment. This spe­cial pro­vi­sion, put into law in 1954, was termed Ar­ti­cle 370. It also al­lowed Kash­mir to con­duct its own rules re­lat­ing to res­i­dency, and pre­vented non­res­i­dents from buy­ing prop­erty.

In the decades that fol­lowed, ten­sions in the area re­mained high, with In­dia and Pakistan ac­cus­ing each other of try­ing to as­sert il­le­gal au­thor­ity. The two na­tions fought three wars, in 1965, 1971 and 1999, over the re­gion.

On Aug. 5, 2019, the Ar­ti­cle 370 spe­cial sta­tus was re­voked by the pres­i­dent of In­dia. Tens of thou­sands of In­dian troops were de­ployed, tourists were or­dered to leave, tele­phone and in­ter­net ser­vices were sus­pended, cut­ting off com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the world and from within. Re­gional po­lit­i­cal lead­ers were placed un­der house ar­rest and the peo­ple were placed in a lock­down with a strict cur­few.

Since then, the U.N. has made charges of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion in

Kash­mir of killings, forced dis­ap­pear­ances, tor­ture, rape and the sup­pres­sion of free­dom of speech by the In­dian oc­cu­pa­tion. The In­dian mil­i­tary has opened fire on pro­test­ers with live am­mu­ni­tion, tear gas, and pel­let guns that ex­plode like shrap­nel on im­pact. What is more, an in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion, Geno­cide Watch, has is­sued an alert for Kash­mir.

In­dia’s ac­tions in Kash­mir once again caused Pakistan to re­act with troop move­ments of its own, rais­ing fears of an­other con­flict be­tween the two na­tions, which are both armed with nu­clear weapons. Despite the crack­down, the peo­ple of Kash­mir, who have been strug­gling for the right of self­de­ter­mi­na­tion for the past 30 years, con­tinue to protest.

Hav­ing vis­ited Pakistan re­cently and been present dur­ing In­de­pen­dence Day, I can tell you that one can sense the height­ened pa­tri­o­tism that ex­ists in the coun­try. The Kash­miri flag runs high along­side the flag of Pakistan, and words of sup­port for the state of Kash­mir and Jammu also echo across news chan­nels and on the streets.

The fer­vor for free­ing Kash­mir and Jammu from In­dian oc­cu­pa­tion seemed to stand fore­front, as at­tempts to bring the mat­ter to the in­ter­na­tional ta­ble per­sist.

It feels ironic that the founders of the move­ment for in­de­pen­dence from the Bri­tish who pro­moted unity and peace would years later find the na­tions at odds with each other. Pakistan’s most fa­mous founder, Muham­mad Ali Jin­nah, em­pha­sized har­mony. He said, “Our ob­ject should be peace within, and peace with­out. We want to live peace­fully and main­tain cor­dial friendly re­la­tions with our im­me­di­ate neigh­bors and with the world at large.”

Ghandi, the leader of In­dia’s move­ment, pro­nounced “I ob­ject to vi­o­lence be­cause when it ap­pears to do good, the good is only tem­po­rary; the evil it does is per­ma­nent.”

So it is quite dis­heart­en­ing lis­ten­ing to the re­ports com­ing out of Kash­mir of the op­pres­sion and crimes being com­mit­ted against its cit­i­zens.

The peace-lov­ing peo­ple who re­side out­side of Kash­mir and Jammu, re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal opinion and loy­al­ties, must put pol­i­tics aside and look to­ward the will of the peo­ple and al­le­vi­ate their af­flic­tion. This means being aware of what is oc­cur­ring in the re­gion on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and then reach­ing out to our rep­re­sen­ta­tives via pe­ti­tions or by what­ever means to fi­nally bring re­lief and peace to the peo­ple of Kash­mir.

DAR YASIN/AP

In­dian para­mil­i­tary sol­diers stand guard Aug. 14 in Srinagar, In­dia-con­trolled Kash­mir. In­dia is maintainin­g an un­prece­dented se­cu­rity lock­down to try to stave off a vi­o­lent re­ac­tion to Kash­mir’s down­graded sta­tus.

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