What will happen to Kashmir?

The decades old uncertainty about Kashmir’s future has made almost every Kashmiri a psychic! Invariably, whenever one visits some friend or relative, the most pertinent question asked is “Kasheeri kya banni!” (What will happen to Kashmir?) Will something happen? This curiosity about Kashmir’s future shows the extreme anxiety and stress which an average Kashmiri faces these days in the valley. Probably, the main reason for this anxiety and the curiosity about the ultimate fate of Kashmir has been prompted by the repeated failures which the people have faced from the start of the movement for total emancipation since 1931. The beginning of this people’s movement had kindled hope among Kashmiris after centuries that they may be free and emancipated soon.

However, the events of 1947 especially the partition of the sub-continent and the involvement of Kashmir in the conflict between the two newly created dominions gave a setback to this cherished dream. In fact, initially the proposed departure of the British and independence to India had boosted Kashmir’s movement. People had expected that once India was free, they too will get freedom from the feudal monarchy and would regain their independence which they had lost four centuries back. Alas, instead of coming nearer to their goal, they were thrown into a messy tangle. Least did they expect that they were being pushed into a bottomless pit from where there was no escape. Never had they imagined that they would become pawns in a politico-diplomatic game not only of the two newly created countries but a host of international players far beyond their borders!

Since that initial moment when the Kashmiris were euphoric thinking that they had ultimately come very near to their goal, they have faced many ups and downs. In 1947 when they felt the goal to be very close, they put all their trust in one charismatic leader whom they called the lion of Kashmir. However, the lion faltered! Even though the majority of the people were not happy in their hearts about his decision to side with the Indians in the conflict between the two neighbouring countries, yet they followed him blindly. As soon as the leader realised that he had been taken for a ride and turned against India, almost 1000 people sacrificed their lives to uphold his stand of getting Kashmiris the basic right of self-determination! However, the uprising was suppressed with a heavy hand and a carrot dangled through the lion’s close lieutenant Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. He was able to keep people down under through his hired goons and lots of money for almost 11 years. Then came the holy relic upheaval which was massive and could not be suppressed by force. Pandit Nehru buckled and released his friend the lion of Kashmir. Again the people got a euphoric feeling that the goal was near! However, the Indo-Pak war of 1965 dashed the hopes yet again!

From 1965 till 1971 people were quiet but still harboured the hope that something will happen to emancipate them. They had always considered Pakistan a champion of their cause. Moreover, almost the entire western block was their supporter. It was only the communist block led by Russia which was close to India that opposed their movement at all levels. The 1971 Indo-Pak war resulting in the dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh totally depressed and dismayed them. They could no longer look towards Pakistan as their saviour. It was too weak to liberate Kashmir. Moreover, 1965 and 1971 wars had amply demonstrated to Kashmiris that Pakistan was not in a position to stake everything for Kashmiris. They had to survive as a country against all odds. In fact, there was a general feeling that Pakistan should survive as a strong country as it was some sort of a buffer against India. In its absence, India would completely gobble up Kashmiris and they would be totally decimated. The aftermath of 1971 war had also given the feeling to the people that they had to fight their own battle to get emancipated.

Then came 1990 when the youth realised that they had to be on their own. They rose to proclaim freedom through an armed struggle. Unfortunately, Pakistan which had been championing the cause of Kashmiris and had ostensibly fought two wars to liberate them, instead of supporting the armed struggle, hijacked it for their own purpose. Early nineties saw building of such euphoria that the people even changed the time in their watches! There was tremendous excitement that the Azadi was round the corner. Again that did not happen. The violent struggle cost Kashmiris dearly! Thousands were killed, thousands were injured and maimed, and dozens of women were raped. There are thousands of widows and orphans. Thousands are still without any trace. Kashmiris were deeply hurt. In fact, they have been brutalised. Still there was no Azadi. However, there was a change. People felt that India was too big an elephant to be tackled with weapons. Their violent pin-pricks would not make any difference. They waited for an opportunity for a peaceful mass uprising. The opportunity came in 2008. The youth rose en masse and faced bullets with stones. A Kashmiri Intifada! It was repeated in 2009 and 2010.

Then came the lull of 2011. The same unpredictable Kashmiri character which all foreigners have failed to understand. There is an uneasy calm. There is that usual periodic unpredictable lull to which one has got used over the decades of upheaval and turmoil. Kashmiris are again brooding over their ultimate fate. However, there is a big difference even in the overtly prevailing situation. The Kashmir of the present day is drastically different from the Kashmir of mid-seventies when everybody thought that the problem is over. There was peace everywhere. There were thousands of foreign tourists roaming and trekking all over the valley. Ladakh was thrown open to foreigners for the first time. Development projects were going at a fast pace. Everyone thought that the Kashmiris had reconciled to their fate. But now there is once again that perennial uncertainty.

City of the Sun is in shambles. Dogs are “hunting” people and may soon go inside homes! Power is in a mess. Never before one used to see such curtailment in summer. Roads are pot-holed everywhere. Traffic is in a jam! Instead of thousands of foreign tourists, one sees uniformed personnel in abundance everywhere starting from the so called “International” airport. No one is sure what will happen? The governments both in Delhi and Srinagar are keeping the fingers crossed. Even the foreign governments are unsure of the future situation in Kashmir! In Kashmir itself, all the political players from all sides are uncertain about the future. Again the Kashmiri is asking the same question, “What will happen to Kashmir?” Will anyone please give him an answer! Meanwhile, he has not given up and is brooding how to get emancipated from this intractable tangle and for a change, in a peaceful way as he has seen enough of violence and bloodshed?

(Comments at ashrafmjk@gmail.com)