Kashmir: The bleeding wound of British imperialist legacy
Neither Juggler nor integral!
Naeem Bhat, a peaceful anti-war protestor succumbed to his injuries on 21 March in the Intensive Care Unit of PIMS hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan. He was seriously wounded in Pakistani administered Kashmir (PaK) when police opened fire during an anti-war rally held on 16 March near the Line of Control (LoC), the cease-fire line between India and Pakistan established at the end of the first Indo-Pak war in 1948.
The Indian and Pakistani military and security forces continuously rip apart the peaceful protestors in the areas administered by them with batons, bullets and pellet guns. While more than two million working-class Jammu, Kashmiri diasporas remain in economic exile in the Middle East, Europe and North America with their loved ones being subjugated to increasing misery as men, women and children are slaughtered on the LoC. Meanwhile, the independence movement for the “Occupied Territories” at the foothills of the Himalaya continuously succumb to a fragmented, sectarian and religiously-prejudiced movement that vacillates between being pro-Pakistan, pro-Indian and demanding independence.
The Sykes-Picot treaty signed between imperialist France and Britain caused a painful and devastating division of the Middle East that split the land and people of Kurdistan across four countries. The Durand Line is another agonizing legacy of British imperialism that divided the Pashtuns in South Asia between Afghanistan and the tribal belt that is now part of Pakistan. And in 1948, Mountbatten manipulated the imperialist division of the independent princely State of Jammu and Kashmir that divided our country into Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Indian-administered Kashmir and which has cost the people of the subcontinent four wars and much loss of life.
During the colonial era, India was administered by two entities: One called British India, was under the direct rule of the British Crown and the second part was composed of semi-autonomous princely states that had various financial and economic agreements with the British Crown.
According to the British India Independence Act 1947, it was decided to divide Indian subcontinent on a communal and religious basis into Pakistan and India.
At the time of the Partition of India in 1947, there were a total 562 semi-autonomous princely states in the Indian subcontinent. They were given the choice to annex with India or Pakistan or to exercise their right to remain independent. The monarch of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Harri Singh, was faced with a dilemma. He was a Hindu ruler with a Muslim majority population. Hence the monarch asked for more time to consult his people before he could announce which of the options he would choose. This led to the signing of a Stand-Still Agreement with India and Pakistan.
Taking advantage of the social and religious sectarian turbulence and chaos that partition of India had caused, the Pakistani establishment engineered an attack on the sovereign State of Jammu and Kashmir. Around 50,000 Pashtuns from the warrior tribes of the north-western region of the newly formed Pakistan were hired by Pakistan to attack the State of Jammu and Kashmir. They were promised a sum of 300,000 rupees as a fee for their services.
On October 22, 1947 Pakistan launched a surprise attack on the State of Jammu and Kashmir from five entry points. The monarch was caught unprepared and had only a handful of troops to push the attackers back. As Pakistani troops got closer to Srinagar, the capital of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the monarch asked the newly-appointed Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru to sent Indian troops to defend his state from the aggressors. It was at this point that Mountbatten intervened. He asked the monarch to sign an agreement of accession with India before any help could be sent. Under duress, the monarch signed the instrument of accession on 26 October 1947 and fled to Bombay (now Mumbai) with his family and jewellery. What the British East India Company could not achieve in nearly 200 years of its barbaric rule over the Indian subcontinent thus was attained in four days! The state of Jammu Kashmir, including the provinces of Ladakh and Gilgit, had now for the first time become ‘occupied territories’.
From 15 August to 22 October 1947, the State of Jammu and Kashmir remained independent and sovereign. Meanwhile, the monarch had decided to remain independent and to hand over power to the political forces of the state.
Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar on October 27 1947. As they pushed Pakistani aggressors back, Nehru approached the United Nations Security Council and complained about the Pakistani attack. The United Nations Security Council intervened and called upon both Indian and Pakistani counterparts to sign a UN resolution known as UN resolution 47. It was adopted on April 21 1948. The resolution promised the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir the right to decide about the future of their country by holding a plebiscite/referendum. No date was set.
The United Nations resolution on Kashmir divided our country and a Cease-Fire Line was drawn which allowed 33,145 square miles of Jammu Kashmir territory to be administered by Pakistan and 39,127 square miles to be administered by India. In 1963 Pakistan gave away 14,500 square miles of our territory to China as a gift! This part of our country was occupied by India during the Indo-China war of 1962 however, China recognizing Pakistan’s claim over Jammu Kashmir signed a Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement and Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement which resulted in China’s claim over Northern Kashmir and Ladakh, and this is disputed to this day by India.
Since 1947, the people of Kashmir on the both sides of border have lost more than 100,000 men, women and children during their struggle for independence. The Pakistani sponsored insurgency allegedly funded and controlled by the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) department through militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad has methodically hounded thousands of Hindus forcing them to flee from the Indian Occupied Kashmir. This is part of an attempt to keep the freedom struggle a communal issue and to show that it can only be resolved once a ‘Muslim’ Kashmir is merged into a ‘Muslim’ Pakistan.
The cease-fire line has divided communities living across the Line of Control and for over 70 years now, the families have been prevented from reuniting. Indian and Pakistani troops at the Line of Control regularly exchange mortar fire, which has caused the deaths of many innocent people, mainly women and children, on both sides of the Line of Control.
- The writer is from Mirpur and is the Chairman of Tehreek e Itefaq e Rai (Movement for Consensus) and can be reached at [email protected]