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Kashmir : The land torn apart between the warring countries

Doodh maangoge toh kheer denge, Kashmir maangoge toh cheer denge

screams Aditya Roy Kapoor, as a misplaced sense of romantic metaphor in the utterly boring film, Fitoor. The dialogue, first used in Maa tujhe Salaam, is a popular slogan for anti-Pak fundamentalists and has been recreated on multiple occasions in Bollywood or otherwise. While many war films are based in Kashmir, even romantic stories of star-crossed lovers (Fanaa, Yahaan) have a backdrop of the state to add fuel to the already fledgling love story. What makes Kashmir such a tragic backdrop to film?

There is one film which attempts to explore this.

Vishal Bharadjwaj’s Haider (an adaptation of Hamlet) made beautiful use of the situation is the story to draw parallels with the issue as it showed three men in the film struggle to have a claim on Tabu in the form of a husband, lover and son. It is the story of a woman (state) who (which) wants to conquered by multiple men (countries/groups).

Mythical India Culture Haider
‘So Jao’ song from Haider

Chilling, isn’t it?

So how did this sorry state of affairs come to be?

Origins: Accession to India

When India and Pakistan partitioned in 1947, there were a number of princely states which had to be equally divided or given a choice to remain independent. While most rulers saw it fit to retain their independence, the subjects revolted in a bid to claim democracy as opposed to monarchy and thus gradually, many states became a part of either countries.

Kashmir was a novel proposition as it lay between the borders of the two warring nations. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, was Hindu while most of his subjects were Muslim. Unable to decide which nation Kashmir should join, Hari Singh chose to remain neutral. However, when Pakistan sent militants to the gates of Srinagar, he sought military aid from India. He signed the Instrument of Accession, ceding Kashmir to India on October 26 and thus the first India-Pakistan War was fought and subsequently won by India.

Mythical India culture kashmir
Indian Troops at the Srinagar Airport in 1947 (Source: kashmirica.wordpress.com)

Multiple Claims

Post war, the countries moved to the United Nation (UN) for a decision on Kashmir. India, having taken the issue to the UN, was confident of winning a plebiscite, since the most influential Kashmiri mass leader, Sheikh Abdullah, was firmly on its side. An emergency government was formed on October 30, 1948 with Sheikh Abdullah as the Prime Minister. Pakistan paid no heed to this and continued attacking while keeping a part of the state (POK) to themselves.

Mythical India culture kashmir POK
Parts of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and China (Source: Quora.com)

After many violations, finally in 1957, Kashmir was formally incorporated into the Indian Union. It was granted a special status under Article 370 of India’s constitution, which ensures, among other things, that non-Kashmiri Indians cannot buy property there. Multiple wars broke between the 2 countries over the course of the next half century.

Birth of discontentment in Kashmir

Many forms of peace were dabbled at, the most popular being the Simla agreement. However, Indira Gandhi invited the wrath of the Kashmiris with puppet government and eventually the emergency. This manipulation of democracy led to India losing favor with the Kashmiri locals 1980s, with people’s sympathy no longer with the Indian union as it had been in 1947-48 and 1965.

This in turn led to insurgency in the region and Indian troops entered the land to “regulate’ the violence but to everyone’s horror, the army committed unspeakable human rights violations in the state. Military forces in Jammu and Kashmir operate under emergency powers granted to them by the central government. These powers allow the military to curtail civil liberties, creating further support for the insurgency. While the Army and Pakistani terrorists were holding the state to ransom, the separatist groups were born. Although their functioning is not exactly clear, it is estimated (from various reports) that they began operations in the late 1980s.

Mythical India culture kashmir
Kashmiri Refugees in Rawalpindi

Step-brothers

These separatist groups have two faces:

The first group has a Kashmiri nationalist, or Kashmiriyat, vision of the former princely state, and is largely struggling for complete independence from both India and Pakistan.

The second group, originating in the “jihadi” subculture in Pakistan and Afghanistan, sees the Kashmir dispute as a religious conflict to free an oppressed Islamic population from the rule of neo-colonial powers (mainly India, but also including Pakistan). Some extremist members of this group see the conflict as the first battle in a larger struggle to build a pan-Islamic state throughout South Asia and re- establish a central Sunni leader, or Caliph. The constant battle between these two extremist groups and their individual battles with the Indian Army has made living in Kashmir the ultimate hell.

Mythical India Culture Kashmir
Insurgency & Terror related fatalities of civilians and security forces in J&K (Source: wikimedia.org)

Current State of Affairs

Today, Kashmir is reeling under constant fear and a sense of betrayal as the two warring countries have torn it into pieces. Today, the locals face dangers from three sections:

  1. Indian Army
  2. Pakistani/Afghani Militants
  3. Separatist Leaders

It is clear that for either of this group to procure majority is an impossible task and till they don’t achieve this highly improbable desire, the lives of the common folks is doomed. Regular ceasefire violations, bombing, the army opening fire are a regular feature in their lives.

Mythical India culture kashmir
A protester striking a policemen during riots (source: sacbee.com)

Who is responsible for this predicament? Is it just Pakistan? Or India? Or the separatist leaders who vowed for an independent Kashmir after losing their families in the cross-fire between these two nations but are now actively politicizing the situtation? All of them are and so are the people who are still flimsily treating this state as merely a land which has to be conquered to prove their dominance over the neighbor.

So, the next time you territorially scream “Doodh maangoge toh kheer denge, Kashmir maangoge toh cheer denge,”remember that all a local Kashmiri person wants is to live another day and hope against hope that some members of his family will too.

Mythical India culture kashmir
Kashmiri Women (Source: atimes.com)

Written by Surabhi Udas

Surabhi Udas is a creative writer, an imaginative nomad and a lazy activist who thrives on (selective) news.