Kashmir because of its scenic beauty, eloquent contours, commanding heights, snow covered peaks, natural resources and serene atmosphere is metaphorically equated with heavens. It provides incessant pleasure and comfort to its seasonal tourists as well as permanent residents. The Kashmiris are equally compatible to the natural beauty of Kashmir. They are innocently warm, extremely caring, hospitable and benevolent people with greater sense of altruism. Blessed with healthy and attractive features the people of Kashmir are graciously accommodative and compassionate with docile posture to conduct their business. Unfortunately Kashmiris have always been intimidated, oppressed, and tortured under the draconian laws of occupational forces. Different dynasties imposed their rules on Kashmiris making them slaves in their own land. To feel the pleasure of free breathing as liberated citizens of an independent state has been a Kashmiri longing; a dream which has yet to come true.
The illegal Indian occupation of Kashmir (since 1947) and the state-sponsored bully has been outrightly rejected by the people of Kashmir. In order to rid of Indian occupation, Kashmiris have braved the worst injustices and awful maltreatment at the hands of Indian security forces. The Kashmiri struggle for freedom is legitimate and cannot be relegated in the face of Indian suppression. Sacrifices by Kashmiris in terms of shedding blood, losing family honour, forced confiscation of property, prolonged illegal detentions, persecution and hounding of near and dear ones, blemish individual identity and tarnished group images, rape and molestation of young and aging women in the presence of their relatives and so on, cannot go futile. No level of disgrace and ruthless coercion could stop the Kashmiris to stop demanding freedom from Indian occupation. Kashmiris understood the golden adage that freedom demands sacrifice and today the Kashmiri soil feels proud of its sons who dared stand before the Indian might and demanded their right of self-determination.
Kashmiri armed struggle proved to be a nightmare for the Indian security forces which underwent the traumatic experience with far reaching physical and psychological impact. Obviously, they could not match the weight of Indian military might and were also handicapped to compete with Indian media onslaught and information management campaign, launched by India to convince the world opinion makers that trouble in Kashmir was indigenous and well within the control of Indian administration. It was cynical to note that the western media fell prey to the gimmicks of Indian propaganda and failed to support the Kashmir freedom struggle. Due to indifferent attitude of world powers the media remained apathetic towards Kashmiris. India further went to insinuate Pakistan for cross border terrorism and consequently the cause of Kashmir suffered setbacks. India actually wanted to gain time to undertake comprehensive measures to let the Kashmiri freedom movement gradually fade away. Indian strategy was three pronged: First to fight the freedom struggle with iron hand while maintaining media blackout in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK); Secondly shift the blame to Pakistan in an insinuating manner using high tone of media campaign with a view to showing to the world that Pakistan was meddling in the affairs of IHK; Thirdly to undertake substantial support programmes for Kashmiris to win over their hearts and minds by building roads, offering jobs and providing money. The idea was to prolong the suppression of Kashmiri freedom movement with a view to rendering it passive and inactive. Did India succeed in its efforts to convince Kashmiris to abandon their demand to get freedom from India? Did India win over the hearts and minds of Kashmiris? Was India sincere to let Kashmiris live honourably and enjoy the fruits of rights of self-determination, equality, social justice, political empowerment and egalitarianism? The answer is an emphatic ‘No’. In fact, Indians did not like Kashmiris to live with honour and dignity. The funds spent for the development of Kashmir were spent on chosen Hindus who could facilitate the oppressive rules of occupation. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai on his visit to Pakistan commented, ‘Time is not on the side of Kashmiris. It would bring more suffering on Kashmiris. India wants to buy time to make us passive. It can be attained within a decade through giving us jobs, roads, money, but they did not succeed in making us passive. The saner elements, however, have realised that the aspiration of Kashmiris is neither roads nor jobs. It is the exercise of their right of self-determination’.
Recent upsurge in Kashmir is exceptional in its quest to mark its signatures on Kashmiri soil, thus proving to the world that Kashmiris are determined to get rid of Indian occupation. They mean business and must be taken seriously. The world has witnessed hundreds of thousands of people coming to the streets and shouting slogans against the Indian occupation. Apparently the unrest in Kashmir seems to have been triggered a row over Shri Amarnath land transfer case. This has been yet another injustice by the government to allow land grant for Amarnath Shrine Trust to undermine the Muslim majority of Kashmir and is likely to become one of the major irritants in the valley. However, the Amarnath land issue is just a symptom. At the heart of the problem is the deep seated rift and hostility that passes through Kashmir. It is this divisive syndrome that has been pointed out by the gigantic size of demonstrators in the whole valley. New Delhi’s insistence to suppress the Kashmir freedom movement has forced India to run out of options. Indian intransigence to push Kashmiris against the wall has further aggravated the situation in Kashmir. The frustration among Kashmiris kept building up over the years. The accumulative effect of Kashmiri alienation and disappointment can well be seen by the intense emotional outbursts expressed by the protesters in the valley. The protesters on the streets of Srinagar have generally been peaceful but underneath their peaceful slogans lay the strength of their determination to fight for their cause. It is time India should seriously consider to resolve the Kashmir issue as per the wishes of Kashmiris.Indian media and intellectuals have realised the gravity of the situation in Kashmir. They understand that all measures of media black out in Kashmir have failed and that saner segment of society is well aware of what is happening inside Kashmir. They also suggested to the Indian government to free Kashmir if its people so desire. They openly criticise the injustices done to Kashmiris and express their regret against the catastrophic conditions in Kashmir. They are not saying so because of having any personal grievances against the government but because they stand convinced that people of Kashmir deserve rights of self-determination. Justice Rajindhar the chief justice of Delhi High Court and Bharat Bushan, the editor of daily Telegraph India, recently argued that final settlement of Kashmir has to be according to the wishes of Kashmiris. Similarly Arundhati Roy an Indian writer has recently pointed out that Kashmiris want freedom from India as much as India wants freedom from them. They must be allowed to use their rights of self-determination. She further stressed that truth about Kashmir, if spoken, is suppressed. She has reportedly been arrested by the security forces for speaking the truth about Kashmir.
In New Delhi, public opinion on the Kashmir issue has been mixed for the first time in decades. Prime-time television shows have hosted debates on whether Kashmiris should be allowed to vote on their independence. Indian intellectuals and opinion-makers are supporting the Kashmir cause disregarding the fear of persecution by the government. One can look forward to have a new dawn of hope for the people of Kashmir. If the Western media also joins hands with the Indian intellectuals, it may help end decades old miseries of Kashmiris. It will also bring peace and stability in the South Asian region.