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Kashmir is and has always been a topic too sensitive to discuss or to talk about. However, this abstinence has led to the general population having misconceptions about their own nation and its ideologies. The independence from the British came at a price often considered too costly, the partition.
The English didn’t want to rule India anymore and possibly couldn’t. There were three major reasons for that; firstly, the election of Clement Richard Attlee as Britain’s Prime Minister, the triumph of the labour party over Churchill pointed towards the fact that most of British population wanted a decolonised India; secondly, the second world war had left the British exhausted of resources and they could not possibly hope to take on a country as big and as hungry for independence as India: thirdly, the global centre of power had shifted decisively from Western Europe to the Soviet and the United States. All of this, led to a very hasty and quick withdrawal of power from India. This didn’t leave time for referendum on the fate of the much disputed territory of Kashmir.
Kashmir being a princely state was ruled by a king. Maharaja Hari Singh, himself, a Hindu, was the king to the population which were 70% Muslims and 20% Hindus and the rest were Tibetans and Sikhs. He declared Kashmir an independent state. A state free from the control of both India and Pakistan. This wasn’t to last for long; soon Pakistan initiated gorilla war-fare to “free” the Muslim population from a Hindu king. In such a situation, faced with an invasion, Maharaja Hari Singh and his son Dr. Karan Singh appealed to India for aid. Nehru led India, agreed to give the aid asked for but on the condition that they would sign an agreement to accede to India, this happened.
The Indian troops pushed back the Pakistani invaders from Kashmir for much of the area. The territory beyond the area was not considered to be the strong hold of Sheikh Abdullah, the Prime Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir after its accession to India.
The newly formed organisation, the United Nations, intervened this conflict between India and Pakistan and organised a ceasefire. In such a situation of turmoil, Jawaharlal Nehru, promised a plebiscite to the citizens of Kashmir. Later Nehru made the plebiscite contingent in the condition of de-militarisation. In the plebiscite they would be given an option to choose between India, Pakistan and Independence. Till date, the said plebiscite hasn’t taken place, firstly because the areas aren’t de-militarised, a certain area of Kashmir (POK) is still under the control of Pakistan and lastly, if India loses Kashmir a large number of Kashmiri Pundits would lose their home land.
Kashmir, as we know it now, is divided into two parts Azad Kashmir which is under the control of Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir which is a state in India. India is often criticised for the apparent atrocities in Kashmir. This is used to strengthen the pitch for the plebiscite. However, it would be only fair to look at the other side of the story. States of Pakistan in the Western Frontier, Baluchistan often complain about human right violation and are often more allied with Afghanistan. Erstwhile East Pakistan also succeeded from Pakistan to form Bangladesh. Thus, there must not be any reason to assume Pakistan to be a cradle for liberty and human rights.
It would also be highly difficult for Kashmir to survive as in independent state as it would be surrounded by aggressive players in a volatile location. China, Pakistan and India as immediate neighbours and almost no industry or resources to be its backbone would make Kashmir an unstable nation. Moreover no international treaty would act as a deterrent to stop such regional powers from invasion. Pakistan has moreover shown its capability to do so.
One must understand, the Kashmir issue is not a religious one, and moreover a large number of Muslims in other parts of India have no sympathy for those in Kashmir. The general Muslim population often find themselves in sticky situation because of the activities of those in Kashmir. They often have to expressly show their belonging-ness to India to prove their loyalty.
As an alternative former judge of the hon’ble Supreme Court Markandey Katju has suggested reunification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. That however remains a distant dream. A lot of positive political dialogue is necessary for that.
Positive political dialogue and awareness about the situation on both side of the borders coupled with a lesson in history will go a long way in resolution of this issue.