Kashmir - History, Importance and Article 370
With its picture perfect landscapes, ranging from towering mountains to silver lakes, Kashmir is commonly described as “Heaven on Earth.” Unfortunately, despite this name, the region has seen little peace since it was first disputed during the partition of India in 1947. Its geographical and political importance has made it a key region for both Pakistan and India for multiple reasons.
Kashmir is home to beautiful glaciers, lakes and rivers. More than their scenic beauty however, they are known for their importance as water resources for both Pakistan and India. As India develops its hydro facilities and provides support to its growing population, it has looked increasingly to Kashmir’s glacial waters as support. Pakistan, an agro-based economy, also heavily relies on water resources in Kashmir to fulfill agricultural needs. Both Pakistan and India also saw Kashmir as a way of furthering their own ideological motives at the time of partition.
Since partition the two countries have fought two wars, in 1948 and 1965 to try and gain control over the region. With tensions currently rising and India’s new move to revoke Article 370, it seems history will repeat itself as the international community is once again forced to play a role in the conflict and choose sides.
The current conflict
On 5 August 2019, India revoked Article 370 and with it took away the seven decade long special status that Kashmir had within the country. This change will now allow Indian citizens to buy property in IOK as well as give the central government more control over the area. The move saw mass protests both in Pakistan and Kashmir and has led to thousands of arrests being made by the Indian government to curb unrest.
The Indian government has defended the decision by saying it is meant to help development in the region but critics think otherwise. Kashmiris fear this move could change demographics and make the region a Hindu-majority one as opposed to the Muslim-majority it has right now.
With Kashmir now having been on lockdown for around 40 days, there has been public outcry on international forums as well as attempts by the Pakistani government and people to raise awareness regarding the situation.
There has been a communication ban across Jammu and Kashmir region and most schools, shops and other business establishments remain closed. Pakistan has accused India of multiple human-rights violations in the area and has referred the matter to the ICJ. However, the international body has as of yet done little to change the situation at hand.
A large gap between the Indian portrayal of events in Kashmir and other stories coming out from the area is evident. India is determined to portray the situation in Kashmir as calm and under control, but the youth who have taken to social media to highlight their plight have shown a much more upsetting reality. Reports claim that almost 4000 people were arrested by Indian authorities, and the strict curfew and lockdown have led to times of unrest and even death as reaching hospitals became almost impossible.
Although India has called this an internal matter that Pakistan has nothing to do with, the latter has taken a strong stance on the issue. PM Imran Khan has spoken multiple times about how the country will stand with Kashmir and September 13 saw rallies nation-wide against Indian atrocities.
Despite India clearly committing multiple human-rights violations, and being in direct conflict of the 1972 Simla Agreement, barely any governments have spoken out against Modi’s government. Only Beijing has given its support to Pakistan, with countries like Saudia Arabia noticeably quiet and Trump’s efforts to mediate not amounting to much.
It’s a shame to see the lack of importance being given to the rights of Kashmiri people on an international platform. Multiple Pakistani celebrities have also faced criticism for not speaking out about Kashmir or being too diplomatic about it. There is no doubt diplomacy is important but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to cover up the wrongs that are being done.
Even though the session on the Kashmir issue in the UNSC was a small victory in itself, given that the last time such a session was held was in 1965, the session yielded little. Most countries stuck by their political friendships and after failing to even come up with so much as a press release, a UN diplomat called this session “the lowest level of council action.”
Whether the plight of the Kashmiri people will continue to fall on deaf ears remains to be seen. Until then, it us up to us to give a voice to the voiceless. Let’s continue our efforts as a country to raise awareness for the atrocities in Kashmir and hopefully get them some much-deserved justice.