The conflict of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is one of the long standing issues of the world. The unfortunate but this unique multi-ethnic, multilingual and multi-religious political entity (Jammu Kashmir & Aksai Tibet Allied) emerged from the debris of falling Khalsa Punjab Empire after its defeat in Anglo-Punjab war in 1846.
Punjab Empire in lieu of war indemnity (10 Million Rupees) ceded Douaba, Kashmir Valley, Hazara and adjacent hilly areas to the British East India Company (EIC) in Lahore Treaty of 9 March 1846. Soon after this treaty, the power struggle changed the scenario when Gulab Singh accepted the offer made by EIC and agreed to pay the war indemnity (7.5 million) to add most of those ceded areas into Jammu`s jurisdiction under his rule which paved the way for creation of modern J&K state. The architects those laid the historical foundation – the Amritsar Treaty (16 March 1846) were the British East India Company (EIC) and Raja of Jammu Gulab Singh Dogra. This union of separate entities came under the emerging Dogra Dynasty that followed the new avenues for expansion of their rule from Jammu and Kashmir to (Baltistan, Astore, Chilas, Gilgit, Nagar, Hunza and Chitral etc) the Pamirs “where three empires meet”. The autocratic like other Indian states, Dogra dynasty consolidated and ruled their empire over a century with both positive and negative features in absolutism.
In 1947, the colonial power British Crown decided to decolonise British India and end its suzerainty over the Indian Princely States. The British India was to be partitioned based on Two Nations theory to create Muslim and Hindu majority dominions of Pakistan and India and for the Indian princely states (562 approx.) the Suzerainty was to lapse granting them full sovereignty. The partition brought religious violence in British India which also spilt over in Princely states which were already influenced by the political trends and hostilities in British India later shaped the communal riots. Those political developments meant to affect their future political status. As stated above the partition plan laid separate plan for the Princely states in the Independence Act 1947 (Article7) reiterating the powers granted in Act 1935, gave sovereign authority to Princes (rulers) to decide their national future either accede to either dominion or (technically) declaration of independence. As the head of Princely state Jammu & Kashmir, by 15 August 1947 the Ruler was to make declaration of accession or the independence. However, the political sentiment against the autocratic Hindu Dogra Rule in predominantly Muslim Jammu and Kashmir nourished since 1931 was at all time high and was/is haunting state’s politics. The Indian Congress and Muslim League both had their spheres of influence in J&K.
In 1947 three political players Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Maharaja Hari Singh and Choudhry Ghulam Abbas held the sensitive political arena of J&K with their conflicting narratives. Sheikh Abdullah, the head of National Conference (former Muslim Conference) and most popular Muslim leader of Kashmir (Valley) in alliance with the Congress, once led the Quit Kashmir Movement (1946) against the Dogra rule in Kashmir, demanded abrogation of the Amritsar Treaty and separation of Kashmir from Jammu while at the time of partition (1947), he became demagogue of Congress agenda for state`s accession to India (changed his position again in 1953). Similarly Muslim Conference led by Ch. Ghulam Abbas followed the policy of Muslim League about states but ideologically believed in Muslims majority state`s accession to Pakistan (later received major position in AJK affairs). Pro India Hindu right wing had its own strong grip in Jammu region. Contrarily, the state government (Maharaja Hari Singh) inclined to the third option, the independence, becoming a buffer state between two other rival dominions. Thus the people of state were divided into three opinions to determine the future of the state.
At this crucial historic juncture, Maharaja intimidated by domestic and non-state forces remained indecisive to declare independence and instead offered the “Standstill Agreements” to both India and Pakistan. Unlike India, Pakistan signed the agreement but allegedly breached on 22 October 1947 when armed tribal bands (with local collaboration) attacked the state and reached Baramula town not far from the Capital Srinagar. Having no match to hold the invasion, the panicked Maharaja Hari Singh to fulfil legal requirement offered conditional accession to India on 26 October 1947 to get military assistance to repel and expel tribal bands from the state. The accession with India was limited to three main affairs (Defence, Foreign and Communication) and was subject to the will of people. A similar military coup by Gilgit Scouts ceased the state machinery in Gilgit Agency and adjacent areas on 1st November 1947.
The first war between two newly born dominions broke out at this beginning point towards their independence and drawn a clear line for future relations. On 1st January 1948 India went to the United Nations as the result of which the UN proposed ceasefire, withdrawal of forces and arrangements for plebiscite to decide the future status of state by free will of people (state subjects). Thus the state of J&K transformed into an internationally recognised conflict zone. Facilitated by UN- the Karachi Agreement (27th July 1949) established the truce and Ceasefire Line (Line of Control since 1972) simultaneously – the first step dissecting the families and dividing the state into Indian Administered Kashmir (IaK ) and Pakistani Administered Kashmir (PaK including AJK and present Gilgit Baltistan) till final settlement by plebiscite. India had granted a special status to IaK under Article 370 and constitutionally guaranteed J&K`s internal autonomy with its own constitution, flag, legislature and government (Delhi later encroached fully taking advantage of ambitious local politicians and presently it`s just a policy of coercion). Similarly Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Government with almost complete features of a state in appearance, claimed itself as successor of Maharaja and true democratic representative of whole J&K. Northern Areas (Gilgit & Baltistan Agencies) came under direct rule of Pakistan`s federal government (16 November 1947) represented by the Political Agent and ruled under Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). This setup in GB had been given a moral cover by an agreement (Karachi) signed between governments of AJK and Pakistan on 28 April 1949.
In short the Jammu and Kashmir state has actually been divided into two geographical entities controlled by India and Pakistan with three separate administrative units. The United Nations through its resolutions and UNCIP had opened the channels for bilateral and trilateral dialogues to facilitate the process of plebiscite but both parties in conflict (Indo-Pak) with trust deficit never reached a common ground to resolve the core issue later resulted in 1965, 1971 and Kargil (1999) wars. The bilateral agreements (Tashkent, Shimla) or declarations though transformed it into a bilateral and territorial issue but were unable to normalise the relations between the two nuclear neighbours maintaining it as the largest militarised zone. The delay in conflict resolution has given birth to other serious conflicts within the disputed regions of erstwhile state of J&K. Kashmir (Valley) has always dominated the politics of state and its political temperature remained warm even in freezing cold weather. The demand for fulfilment of promised plebiscite (by UN, Pakistan and India) always remained centre of every political activism in valley. However the rigged elections of 1987 triggered the armed struggle by those having been participants of that very electoral process. The authorities in state and centre used draconian laws and methods without accountability suspending civil and political rights, use of pallet guns, arrests, tortures, abductions, rapes and extrajudicial killings etc. This environment seriously shattered the social, political, economic structures of valley and even innocent people have been forced into miseries being orphans, widows to half widows and pains of lost loved ones. Hundreds of thousands became victims of such uncontrolled barbaric tools that added fuel to the fire and galvanized youth to a point of no return. Similarly the alleged external interference, leaderless mobilization, regional and religious monopoly on that political movement and exodus of Non-Muslims specially the indigenous Pundits from valley instigated the alienation of non-muslims that resulted the rise of regional and communal politics converting a secular society from pluralism to communalism. Presently (Elections 2014) Hindu right wing Bhajpa (BJP) swept the Jammu division with 25 seats (2nd largest to PDPs 28) in state assembly that falsely campaigns the separation of Jammu from Kashmir and full integration into Indian Union. Jammu constitutes the 25.93% (26293 sq.km) area and 5350811 in population. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) secured 28 seats mainly in valley or other Muslim populated regions with a slogan of self-rule but within Indian constitution. Kashmir Division is comprised of 69,07,622 in population with 15.73% (15948 sq.km) of total area of J&K. Ladakh on the other hand with proportionally Buddhist majority also demands its separation from Valley`s administrative hegemony and maximum local control as union territory of India. Ladakh is the largest division constituting 58.33% (59146 sq.km) area and only 2, 90,492 in population. In reality, the state as a whole is disputed in UN and there is no such choice for any region or unit to decide its fate individually.
Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) is divided into two administrative units AJK and GB. Both regions have two democratic legislative assemblies and legislative councils respectively but the ultimate power is retained by the Federal Ministry of Kashmir & GB Affairs. There isn`t any direct road link between these two disputed regions of same disputed state (J&K). GB with 28000 sq miles and around over 1.5 Million populations is strategically the most important region of disputed state and the only land-link between China and Pakistan (Silk Route KKH, CPEC). Since 1947, this region for a long time had been ruled under FCR later repealed by reforms (1972) and the region has moved to the gradual political development. Since 2009 Self Governance Order, the GB has been given the de-facto provincial status. The social and political structures of GB are fragmented by sectarian and regional conflicts. Most populace believe their present and future status with Pakistan. However a considerable number follows the principle stance, GB as legal disputed part of J&K state while a portion of society also demands GB as an independent state.
Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK- PaK) is the smallest geographical administrative unit of disputed J&K state covering around 5134 Sq miles area but densely populated with 4.6 Millions. The social structure is almost shattered because of tribalism (Bradrism) in fact strengthened and catalysed by politics. The political activism is an everyday business with unlimited conflicting ideas internally and externally. Pro Pakistan and mostly Pakistan based political parties actually run the setup through ballot but there are number of pressure groups following the secular, nationalist and progressive ideologies, struggle for right to self-determination and also dream about a restored, reunified and independent state of J&K. Most of them groups are least interested in the handicapped political and administrative system of AJK under Constitutional Act 1974 (relatively deprived of many basic, political and economic rights as compare to other provinces of Pakistan). However same as other main stream mass political parties (in Govt or opposition), these pressure groups mostly unable to put forward any workable roadmap also praise and promote the struggle in Srinagar (IaK).
AJK actually had been declared as the base-camp (1947-48) for freedom struggle to liberate areas under Indian control. Thus, Kashmir Freedom Movement (Tehrik e Azadi e Kashmir) is the most common slogan and agenda of all political parties and groups; hence they all are dependent on the everyday incidents taking place in Srinagar or elsewhere in IaK. More than one million people of AJK living permanently in Europe (mostly UK) and America also follow the similar traditional patterns in their political activities without any plan and productivity.
The people from all disputed regions of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir are the victims of long standing dispute that resulted in their sufferings, loss of loved ones, daily state`s backed atrocities, divided families across LoC (CFL) and the socio-economic and political deprivations. The regions Jammu and Ladakh, subject to divide and rule are equally disputed and parallel stakeholders in the conflict. Kashmir valley has been bathed in blood on its own by brutal state forces and has sacrificed hundreds of thousands people in political struggle. Unfortunately their cries have not been heard to bring any change to their miserable conditions. As it appears, finding no remedy is the outcome of the internal divides whether these are regional or religious.
The change may only come when in that side of divide valley seek a helping hand from Jammu and Ladakh to materialise a peaceful struggle for a genuine cause, opportunity to exercise unfettered right of self-determination and on this side of divide, GB with similar political legacy comes out of the wishful confusion that it could have any other legal status in the presence of Kashmir conflict and its better to make a bond with AJK. Kashmir valley played a major role in rights struggle since the inception of J&K dispute. Irony they are faced with is that the common people have suffered the losses and their resistant leadership is allegedly considered a corporate that maintained the social and political stature.
Having claimed base-camp status that lured people in IaK to rise again and again, the people in PaK, if give up politics of Tribalism (Bradrisam) and minor differences, can offer the real helping hand to their brethren in IaK realising their political and moral support. The weak AJK itself ought to uplift in every aspect of daily affairs. Having found the home disorganised and disintegrated, the Diaspora from either side of J&K is unable to find diplomatic support from other countries. This becomes even difficult when the assistance is sought following the policies of foreign missions and high commissions of Indo-Pak as the international community is not ready to lend hand to change the status quo.
The time demands that all disputed stakeholders i.e. units realise that because of their shared historical, legal and political status they all are collectively tied in an international conflict and no way out individually. So it’s better for them to be treated equally by each other to bring consensus on a common agenda (state narrative).
Despite the armed or peaceful struggle, India and Pakistan have assumed responsibility until the final settlement of the dispute are under obligation to take serious steps to resolve the Jammu Kashmir Conflict, the mother of other issues faced not only by the people of disputed state but of whole South Asia. The local governments on both sides of LoC which are portrayed to be special status, autonomous or self-governing are taken by the state subjects across the LoC/CFL as puppet regimes as they proven to be just a partnership in kleptocracy. In fact the deprivation is so deep that the state subjects across LoC (CFL) are made to applause at the inauguration of basic health facilities, water pumps, schools, link and metal roads etc because even the infrastructure remained incomplete in seventy years.
The Civil and political liberties are curtailed by Special Power Acts or similar laws. The status quo resulted in poor economic conditions and unemployment across LoC (CFL) that has forced a large number of population leave their homes for an uncertain future and unknown destiny. This migration has also caused brain drain. The divided families constantly shed their tears on the hilltops and banks of rivers regardless an occasion of wedding or death. Indo-Pak rivalry, arms race in the name of deterrence, speculations of cross border interference by the two, uncertain political and economic conditions and shadows of an unpredicted and unprovoked war brought nothing but around 15-23% (estimated) of population living under poverty line in Pakistan and India. Both neighbours but rival nuclear powers can still secure their national interests while moving to a viable and peaceful resolution of core conflict J&K acceptable to these two parties and the third primary party the direct victims, the state subjects across LoC (CFL).
The primary way forward is the dialogue between all three parties and at the same time allowing the state subjects right of free movement and trade within their state. If Indo-Pak can suggest irrelevance of borders or joint management system, then the people of temporarily divided state should also be allowed to share such discourses. Their armies exchange sweats, flowers and gifts but why the people of state across LoC should receive the burning bullets and shells. Indo/Pak are in discussions for trade and visa free entry on their international borders fit in principle when they enable the borderless people of state may cross the CFL (LoC) on their choice and meet their fellow citizens and loved ones. The people of Jammu and Kashmir across LoC deserve and seek peace and prosperity for all, wishing Indo/Pak secure their bilateral interests but not at their cost rather believing in live and let live, it’s time to start demilitarisation and resolve the bleeding conflict.
By: Shafqat Raja