When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. This is perhaps one of the most apt descriptions of the current plight of Kashmiris.
The latest wave of violence in the disputed Himalayan territory is an attempt, yet again, by the people of Kashmir to have their voices heard. The sense of deprivation and resentment which has been simmering up amongst them is not provided any platform for expression. Moreover, any attempt to portray their feelings is crushed by brute military force, resulting in violent clashes.
The recent killings have added to the death toll, which has been rising since 1987, while those who survive live with permanent mental and physical injuries. These figures, must serve as a much-needed wake-up call to not only the two main parties — India and Pakistan — but also to other states who act as the torch-bearers of human rights.
It is vital for both India and Pakistan to understand that those suffering in these parts are more than mere numbers to be used for political point-scoring by either side. The valley and its people must be treated as the greatest stakeholders in the process of finding a solution, for without the true consent of the Kashmiri people a long lasting solution remains elusive. A peace process which has the support and nod of the Kashmiri people will be the only one that brings calm to a region suffering daily acts of violence since decades.
Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs, has stated that only the Kashmiris will be allowed to decide their future, and now he must ensure that the Pakistan walks the talk.
In addition, India too must realise that the Kashmiris cannot be ignored and cannot be coerced into accepting directions from New Delhi. While Pakistan must take concrete steps to ensure that Kashmiris get their basic right of self-determination, it must also be willing to accept the decision of the Kashmiris and shun its past notions of what the Kashmiris ought to decide.
Similarly, India must end the human rights abuses and consider the Kashmiris as equal partners in the peace process, if it truly respects the value of human life. While it is imperative for both nations to create an atmosphere of mutual trust, in doing so they must also exercise political maturity and observe diplomatic norms so as to keep the process moving.
Besides, those international organisations and states who champion the cause of human rights and liberty, must play their role in ensuring that the Kashmiri people are granted their most basic right; the azadi to decide their own future.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2016.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ