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Bapsi Sidhwa | Fahim Siddiqui, White Star
Bapsi Sidhwa | Fahim Siddiqui, White Star

When India and Pakistan gained their independence in 1947, the state of Kashmir, which was expected to go to Pakistan because of its Muslim majority, went instead to India. To calm Kashmiri unrest, India agreed to abide by a United Nations resolution to hold a referendum in Kashmir. India now maintains that the passage of time has voided the Security Council resolution. This is a dangerous argument; it renders the United Nations irrelevant.

Pakistan is not blameless. The resistance by the Kashmiri people to separate from India escalated about eleven years after the Partition and Pakistan's support for the Kashmiri insurgents became militaristic. Pakistan's tolerance of the attacks by the Afghan and Arab jihadis (holy warriors) in turn invited the brutal Indian armed presence. In hijacking the Kashmiri peoples' cause, the Kashmiri struggle for independence was transformed into a mere territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan and India have been on the brink of war several times over the unresolved issue of Kashmir. Trapped between India and Pakistan, Kashmiris are fighting for autonomy. At present the beautiful valley is heavily guarded by the Indian military and protestors and political activists have so far failed to achieve their goal of an independent Kashmir. "This is the most beautiful prison in the world," a militant told Farhana Qazi who is the author of the excellent Secrets of the Kashmir Valley.

By and large the world seems to have forgotten a conflict that has taken the lives of thousands of Kashmiris. The last crisis has been brought on by the death of political activist and leader Burhan Wani. His death, blamed on the Indian army, has only served to heighten the Kashmir conflict.

Kashmiris don't want to belong either to India or to Pakistan. Human rights groups have reported innumerable cases of rape, torture and destruction of homes — everything in fact that transpires when an occupying army rules a civilian population. There were already over half a million Indian soldiers in Kashmir, and given the recent build-up of troops and artillery, the Indian military's presence is formidable; it is said there is one Indian soldier for every three Kashmiri citizens.

Unless an effort is made to resolve the issue, and address the grievances of the Kashmiri people, Kashmir will go into a tailspin and, like Afghanistan, become a breeding ground for terrorists. Terrorism stands discounted as a moral force in the armory of freedom fighters, but it is reckless to think that terrorism can be eliminated without tackling its causes.

Here are some suggestions that might defuse the recurring tension.

  • India and Pakistan should aim at an 'interim solution' to the Kashmir problem.

  • The Kashmir case should be taken back to the UN Security Council.

  • Pakistan should honour its commitment to prevent insurgents from entering the valley and do more to dismantle training camps on its side of Kashmir.

  • Article 370 of the Indian Constitution (which allows state autonomy) should apply to Kashmir also.

  • India should withdraw the bulk of its troops from Kashmir, and permit entry to UN observers and international human rights groups.

Recent events, and the recurring nuclear crisis, have demonstrated the necessity of an international resolution of the Kashmir dispute. The saddest aspect of this issue to me is that the will of the Kashmiri people is almost no longer a consideration: Their wishes should be paramount.

This article was written as part of a special editorial project, 2016 in Broad Strokes, for the Herald's Annual 2017 issue.

Sidhwa is a Houston-based author. Her novel, ‘Cracking India’, about the Partition, was made into the film ‘Earth’ by director Deepa Mehta.

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Comments (32) Closed

Lily Jan 06, 2017 11:04am

A simple solution to a self complicated issue... A problem can only be solved when all stakeholders want it to be whether it's international, national or individual
Very well written

krishnan Jan 06, 2017 01:43pm

Well intentioned but weak in historical facts.

Dynamitge Jan 06, 2017 03:01pm

Pakistan was to vacate Kashmir completely per UN resolution for plebiscite to be held which was not done and still has not been done.

Manjunath Naik Jan 06, 2017 05:09pm

In the first place, the first infiltration soon after Independence is the cause of the unsolved conflict. Presently it's a status quo situation and the only way to go about it is to allow Kashmiris to live in peace on each side of the border with no interference by both countries into each others side. Kashmiris can probably after 15 years from now show their willingness to live with both the countries within a peace treaty extending to another 15 years. After 30 years of a functional treaty, Kashmiris can then totally govern themselves as a separate independent state with worked out modalities between India and Pakistan to secure its stable future. The interim treaty needs to ensure that the whole of Pakistan held Kashmir, including the area given to China illegally by Pakistan is brought into the fold of governance by Pakistan held Kashmir region. Status quo cannot by any means end if militancy and infiltration continues.

ishan Jan 06, 2017 05:22pm

Love from India:)

Iftikhar Husain Jan 06, 2017 06:01pm

There must be a say for the people of Kashmir how they want to live. For this they are being killed brutally for a long time good sense and justice should prevail.

Harmony-1© Jan 06, 2017 06:42pm

@Dynamitge - "Pakistan was to vacate Kashmir completely".

How so very convenient for you!!! So you can just wander along and usurp the rest of Kashmir too – a peaceful part – to carry out your brutalities and genocide all over it and turn it into hell as well???

When you guarantee there is no question mark on your sincerity and there are no ulterior motives then we would do that and when you are ready for plebiscite. Noises coming out from Modi of Kashmir being “integral part” of India doesn't give us any confidence to withdraw unilaterally; does it? Far from it as there is no sincerity from his part. So, talk sense instead of repeating that silly mantra!

ghaznavi Jan 06, 2017 07:58pm

@krishnan "Well intentioned but weak in historical facts." This is because you have closed yourself to any other possibility besides the de facto i.e. to keep this weak nation suppressed under Indian Army boots. Opening up to out of box solutions is the key here.

Dr. rafiq khan Jan 06, 2017 08:18pm

Your proposed solution assumes india acts on principles which it has proven time and time again that it does not. india simply acts on greed and based on the rule of might. It has no principles it just wants more land.

byju Jan 06, 2017 08:34pm


what Krishnan has said is correct. and what you have said is applicable for Pakistan too.

Anish Datta Jan 06, 2017 08:35pm

@ghaznavi Have you ever given any out of box solution ? Is there any line of policy changed from 1947 for you ? If no, then why do you expect others to change ?

umar khitab Jan 06, 2017 08:39pm

Facts are stranger than fiction. And in her case..her fiction and facts both need a revisit of intellect for information gathering.

fawad Khan Jan 06, 2017 09:01pm

Give it time folks and Kashmir will be free, demographics almost always win (except N. America, where smallpox gave it to Europeans). Just like Muslims were never meant to rule India forever, India is not meant to rule Kashmir forever...

Khan Jan 06, 2017 10:33pm

Good suggestions and observations...

TQ Jan 06, 2017 11:39pm

@Harmony-1© excellent response Harmony!.

KASHMIRI BOY Jan 07, 2017 12:07am

If the case is taken back from UN Security counsil then what need for UN observers?

allaisa Jan 07, 2017 12:27am

@Harmony-1© That is the UN resolution, bro. Ask it be abrogated.

ghaznavi Jan 07, 2017 12:46am

@Anish Datta "@ghaznavi Have you ever given any out of box solution ? Is there any line of policy changed from 1947 for you ? If no, then why do you expect others to change ?"

I personally have given out many out of box solutions but I believe you are referring to Pakistan. Musharraf had given a solution and both countries were almost ready to ink it but then Mumbai attacked occurred. The process could have been salvaged but Indians elected a war monger and hence shut ay prospects of settlement. I believe a European Union style arrangement in South Asia can end this madness.

Manab Chakraborty Jan 07, 2017 05:15am

Kashmir is not the core issue between India and Pakistan. The core issue is inability for the two countries to accept each other, coexist and co-prosper. Kashmir unrest is restricted to the valley and surrounding areas. There are some genuine and some exaggerated grievances. The larger solution to India-Pakistan hiatus would be to have a soft border for people to people movement, trade, cultural and sports exchanges, and common development programmes to alleviate poverty. One should never forget that Pakistanis and Indians have common roots; one day they will rejoice in each other's company. Kashmir is only a small footnote in this larger canvass and can be resolved by autonomously by the two national governments.

krishnan Jan 07, 2017 05:46am

@ghaznavi I am talking of the past which cannot be wished away.You are talking of the future and yes it needs an out of box solution.

The Whole Truth. Jan 07, 2017 07:50am

Madam, your suggestions are appreciable, but would India pay any heed to one, few, some or all of them in contradiction to their claim on Kashmir!

Besides, the Indian Government knows very well that they have gone back on their words; International Commitment!

It is just a matter of ego for Indian Government!

Yash Jan 07, 2017 12:03pm

@Dr. rafiq khan . Dr. Sahib just read my comment and answer if you will please.

GIRISH TIWARI Jan 07, 2017 01:04pm

Due to demonetization, there is 60% drop in Kashmir violence(Economic Times). Do we need more words to say real story of Kashmir. I consider all my friends equally regardless of their religion/region and will continue to do so. All friends around me are like me. Why there is so much noise. Spread prosperity in your part of the Kashmir and let Indian Kashmir prosper. Politician from both sides spread hatred due to their gains. Dont listen to them and live in peace.

Rashid Jan 07, 2017 01:46pm

@Dynamitge So if Pakistan vacate its administered kashmir today, will India honor its commitment and hold the plebiscite or continue with the rants of integral part (atoot ang)? If Pakistan withdraws its forces as per the resolution and india still not honors its commitment of plebiscite than what is the solution?

Ameer Tarin Jan 07, 2017 02:40pm

Author seems to be ignorant about Kashmir's history for independence struggle. Kashmir is fighting Indian occupation right from October 26, 1947. Maharaja Hari Singh, Sheikh Abdullah and all other political leaders worth the name followed the suit. Kashmiris did cross over to Azad Kashmir to seek help and arms to defend themselves from one million armed vultures in uniform and the graveyards full of martyrs all over Indian occupied Kashmir are a witness to the struggle carried on by local inhabitants. The only terrorism that we can speak of is Indian state sponsored terrorism and the world knows about it. The lady must bear in mind that not a single country on the face of earth considers Kashmir as an "integral part of India". The only solution that would be acceptable to people of Kashmir is a plebiscite under the supervision of United Nations as per the Resolutions passed on various occasions.

Nadeem, USA Jan 07, 2017 06:38pm

@krishnan - REALLY. Do you know what's the FACT? what was the principle of partition? Based on the farmula given by British rulers, which was agreed by muslim and hindu leaders, Muslim populated areas would be Pakistan and hindu populated be part of India. Kashmir was never hindu majority area, it was 90% muslim populate at the time of partition. Kashmir is still muslim majority area, how come you deny the fact. For last 70 YEARS India is trying to change the percentage in her favour, but she failed.

India was the one who knocked the door of UN, UN suggested to do the referendum, which India is denying because she knows she can't win the referendum, The only way to keep Kashmir with India is illegal occupation.

That is the FACT my friend.

ilyas khan Jan 08, 2017 02:23pm

"Kashmiris don't want to belong either to India or to Pakistan". Then why is the Pakistani national flag their only symbol of resistance ? Is that not a reflection of their collective Will?

Zeem Jan 08, 2017 06:52pm

going by the will of people is the basic right derived out of democracy. if all these logics are acceptable, then these should also be applied to the states of Hyderabad Deccan, JunaGadh & Manavadar in the same spirit as these are being applied to state of Kashmir.

Mohammad Ali KHan Jan 09, 2017 06:08am

Problem will be solved when all sides live under a just and honest system of governance.

Khwarezmi Jan 09, 2017 02:03pm

Will of Kashmiri people never was a consideration...and only an occupation force thinks like that.

Dynamitge Jan 09, 2017 03:18pm

@fawad Khan - how much more time do you think is needed ?? 70 years gone.!....another 700 years ??

ghaznavi Jan 09, 2017 06:34pm

@krishnan "@ghaznavi I am talking of the past which cannot be wished away.You are talking of the future and yes it needs an out of box solution."

That is our main difference! We look to future and Indians are prisoners of past. Carrying grudge about Sultan Ghaznavi and the past Muslim rulers will not take us to a brighter future. Lets move on, shall we?