Kashmir – The Changing Story - Aamish Azeem

The turmoil of Kashmir which took a violent turn after 1989, the insurgency and attack on the Kasmiri pundits, which was allegedly planned and completely aided by Pakistan with a desire to avenge the liberation of Bangladesh ended up taking many innocent lives of common people and soldiers. This cycle of violence has remained unabated even after three decades. While many experts believe that the abrogation of Article 370 which involves breaking down the state of Kashmir into two Union territories will solve the problem, the majority believe that winning the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people will be a bigger and more crucial aspect that will solely have the capability to bring about a lasting solution to the Kashmir Problem. What has been achieved by the Indian army over the last three decades is nothing less than a miracle as the militancy has been greatly reduced by the sacrifices made by many unsung soldiers, policemen and CAPFs including many brave civilians. It is the right time to take some measures on ground which will amalgamate the Kashmiri population to the rest of the country without the fear of losing their Kashmiri or religious identity. However, so far we have been unable to engage them politically in a manner which is acceptable to them while remaining within the framework of our constitution. The broad perception of us v/s them needs to change in our political and social discourse. In reality more than 75% of the population in the state does not have any secessionist feelings. Even in the remaining 25% of the population, majority of them are fence sitters and will change sides to whichever one emerges victorious, so essentially it is a meager 8-10% of people who have to be won over. To achieve this objective is indubitably not simple considering the ethno-religious identity, external interference and existing mistrust created by certain incidents between majority-minority

populations, further exacerbated by inimical agents to widen this divide. However, it is the time for this section of people to reflect over the past glory which prevailed before the militancy, analyze the losses in terms of life and property including the breakdown of social co-existence during the peak of militancy and make up their mind on the path they are willing to take here onwards.

Some important facts that should be remembered are the geographical, historical, religious, cultural and socio-economic links of Kashmir to our country. People who are raising slogans for freedom or in support of Pakistan must see where the country which was founded on the sole basis of religion stands today? The future of that nation is so bleak that most of the affluent people of that country are migrating to European nations. The regional and ethnic and the economic divide between rich and poor has brought the country to the state of being declared a failed state with an estimated public debt and liabilities to be about ₨44.2 trillion/US$270 billion which is 107 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) of Pakistan The conditions existing in POK must act as a reminder to such people. How will the so called ‘Azadi’ bring any prosperity or any change in the lives of people at the grassroots level, after all it is the ‘awam’ of Kashmir that has to bear the brunt whether it is the loss of their family or the destruction of their homes. A true introspection will make it clear that it is better to remain as part of a nation which is democratic, secular, progressive and has an international standing. It is also the time to reflect and see how Kashmiri youths who have travelled to other states for education, jobs or employment have prospered and how their outlook has broadened. The abrogation of Article 370, may appear to Kashmiris as being against their special status but it also opens a sea of opportunity for economic and academic development and for a brighter future. The ongoing operations of security forces against the militants shows the country’s resolve to counter any violence propagated from outside or within and also the futility of such violence against its own people, which ruins the youth of the state and brings despondency to the general population who are neutral.

The Government must also allay any fears of demographic change being forced on the state and also look at the possibility of giving special status as is in vogue for other North eastern or hill states. The mainstream politics must also change its political discourse and be more accommodative of the aspirations of the local population. While being tough on militants and militant activity all efforts must be made to win over the population by having friendly and people centric approach during this trying time. This opportunity must be grabbed by the people of the state as well as the country to set their differences aside and give a final blow to the militancy in the state and help bring a new era of economic prosperity and peace in the state.