Indian authorities have imposed an indefinite curfew in most parts of Kashmir, following the killing of a top rebel commander in the disputed region. Indian officials have termed the killing of Burhan Wani, chief of operations of Indian Kashmir’s largest rebel group, HizbulMujahideen, as a major success against the fighters opposed to the Indian rule. Thousands of armed police and paramilitary soldiers have fanned out across most towns and villages of the region.
Wani had become a well-known figure among the youth of Kashmir, whose pictures and video clips were widely circulatedamong the young Kashmiris. As the news of his death spread, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in several places in Kashmir, denouncing his death and chanting slogans against India. Indian officials, fearing a more violent reaction, suspended mobile phone services in the region to prevent anti-India demonstrators from gaining strength in numbers. Despite the curfew, at least 15 Kashmiris have died, and more than 100 are reportedly injured in the mass demonstrations in anti-India protests.
Many citizens in the Muslim-majority region have long resented the Indian presence, and support the “rebel”demand for independence or merging with Pakistan. The people of Kashmir continue to face the brunt of the policies of not just India but also Pakistan. While India continues to crackdown on the “separatist” forces, Pakistan has allegedly continued to support the rebel groups in the region. The reaction of the international community has been dismal on the issue despite reports of severe human rights violations by the Indian armed forces. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising, and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.
Kashmir is one of the major regional issues along with Afghanistan, the solution to which is necessary to achieve regional stability and peace. Although the international community is focussed on Afghanistan, yet not much has been done on the Kashmir issue by the West.Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir since 1947. Regardless of the fact whether peace is achieved in Afghanistan or not, Kashmir will continue to be a bone of contention between Pakistan and India, and with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects lined up, China will also be looking to protect its interests in the region.
The people of Kashmir should be given the right to choose whether they want to merge with Pakistan or India or be a separate nation. Although Pakistan has called for the solution of the problem through dialogue, India does not consider the separatist groups to be a stakeholder in the negotiations. The issue has led to perpetual stalemates in the dialogue between the two countries. Unless all the stakeholders are taken on board, and both Pakistan and India do not soften their stance on the issue, the people of the Valley will continue to suffer.
Too much bloodshed shadows the beautiful valley of Kashmir, and until the civilian and military establishments of both Pakistan and India look beyond their vested interests, and take into consideration the constant pain of Kashmiris, nothing will change. The people of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control are not political pawns but real people who suffer without any hope for things to change. Even if the demand of the Kashmiris to have a separate state is not practical or is ever going to see fruition, the least they deserve is respect. And someone to hear their voice amidst the deafening sound of screams of pain and gunshots.