Kashmir is a territory in the north of the Indian subcontinent which is, at best, a controversial topic of conversation, and at worst, a battlefield between two bitter rival countries. Why is it in the news so often now? And what is the full story? Read on.
Seventy-three years earlier, when the British left the subcontinent, Kashmir was given an option. It could go with either Pakistan or India. Ultimately, the Hindu king of Kashmir signed over the state’s accession to India. Importantly, the majority of the population was Muslim – and their opinion was never asked to begin with. At this time, Kashmir was granted special status by the Indian Government. This allowed Kashmir a great deal of autonomy and, importantly, did not let other Indians buy land in the state. Since then, Pakistan has maintained its claim on the state and both countries have fought two out of three wars over this issue. The tensions have persisted for over seventy years and, in fact, only increased.
On 5th August 2019, the Indian government retracted the special status that had been granted to Kashmir. Along with this, the government has severely increased the number of troops in the valley and shutdown communication. The blackout has caused panic, agitation and anger to build in a population that has been suppressed for a long time.
The revoking of the special status (or Article 370 of the Indian constitution) has caused a variety of reactions. The majority of the Indian population – fuelled by nationalism and propaganda – sees the move as a massive success while the Pakistani population has protested furiously. Kashmiris feel betrayed – as is expressed by the few voices that have forced their way through the blackout. Kashmiris all over the world – including Canada – have asked their respective governments to take a stand and help the valley. But as of now, no decisive step has been taken and Kashmir remains in the midst of panic and chaos.
Perhaps what is most shocking of all is that the world’s largest democracy has blatantly suppressed the basic rights and freedoms of a large part of its minority. The right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to movement, the right to assemble and in some cases, the right to life – have been openly violated. This is unforgiveable.
There is only one solution to this problem – a referendum. Neither of the two countries have the right to fight over the territory of Kashmir because both seem to forget that Kashmir is not a territory but a people. The resilient and strong Kashmiris alone have the right – especially after long years of military occupation – to decide their own fate. This much required referandum can be only achieved with international involvement and mediation.
The best way to help this fight for identity and freedom of the Kashmiri people is to simply talk about Kashmir. Spread the message and support the cause. Unfortunately, there is nothing else to be done for now but wait to see what happens next. Perhaps nothing will happen and Kashmir will continue to suffer, caught in the crossfire between India and Pakistan. Then, more than ever, it is essential to keep the conversation going because the problems for the people will continue.