In a string of tweets penned on Friday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif rapped the Union of India for employing “unbridled force” in held Jammu and Kashmir as the nation took to the streets to mark India’s revocation of the disputed region’s special status.
Axing article 370 in 2019, which granted significant autonomy to the disputed territory, was a long-cherished dream of the Hindu nationalist combine ruling India today. A recurrent feature across successive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manifestos alongside the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and Uniform Civil Code, the BJP-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) family has largely delivered on its pledges to wreck Nehruvian India’s secular pretensions.
Frosty Kashmir-Union relations exemplify this. How can one forget Jawarharlal Nehru’s betrayal of Sheikh Abdullah? Farooq fared no better. Omar and Mehbooba, on the other hand, are no match for (Narendra) Modi and (Amit) Shah either.
It is worth mentioning here that scrapping Article 370 was, in essence, a cosmetic move. The provisions had been watered over the years anyway. With the special status gone, the Sangh Parivar is now free to alter the demography of the erstwhile princely state, fashion Hindu-majority constituencies and tweak landholdings.
The future appears bleak for ordinary Kashmiris to put it mildly. With over 900,000 troops deployed Kashmir today is the world’s most-militarised zone. Over 600 Kashmiris have been killed since the abrogation of Article 370. A little less than two dozen petitions challenging the move remain pending before the Supreme Court of India.
Human rights watchdogs have consistently highlighted the plight of Kashmiris. Amnesty International in its recent report censured the Modi government’s Kashmir handling. A “clampdown” on rights and communication restrictions continued, the organisation noted.
The denizens of Kashmir find themselves between the devil and the deep sea vis-à-vis relations with the Union of India. The responsibility for protecting their rights rests on the international community especially the toothless United Nations.
For Pakistanis, Kashmir represents the unfinished business of Partition. Pakistan has been at the forefront of providing moral and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir since her inception as a sovereign state. Kashmir’s largely-indigenous struggle cannot, however, stand amplified without the nation’s backing. While Pakistan may have made mistakes by allegedly sponsoring armed groups and engaging in destructive adventurism such as the 1999 Kargil War, this is one issue where the state and the people are on the same page. Yet our foreign office has failed miserably on this account. Our ineffective foreign policy over the years has culminated in isolation especially when it comes to Kashmir.
Apart from Iran, Malaysia and Turkey even Muslim-majority countries are unwilling to take Indian government to task for its gross rights violations in Kashmir. Long gone are the pre-1971 days when Pakistan used to demand and obtain parity with India. No major power is willing to lend a listening ear even to a practically pariah Pakistan at the expense of India.
As we protest the brutal treatment meted out to Kashmiris, we must also introspect why the world is not listening to us. While cosmetic measures such as changing the map of the region and renaming the Kashmir Highway have been undertaken with much fanfare, little effort has gone towards reimagining and restructuring our foreign policy which remains hostage to financial bankruptcy, political instability and milking our increasingly irrelevant ‘geostrategic’ location.