Kashmir is finding peace amid Reforms

Kashmir is finding peace amid Reforms
Sunanda Zadoo Vashisht

File photo of Shikaras in Dal Lake, Srinagar courtsey K Thusu copyright Shehjar

The end of the British rule on the Indian subcontinent in August 1947 left a trail of destruction and resulted in the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan by partitioning India. At that time, minorities comprised 23 percent of Pakistan’s population. Today this number isthree percent, a chilling reminder of the state of minorities in the Islamic Republic. India saw a different trend. According to the lastcensus conducted in 2011, the Muslim population in India had grown from about 10 percent in 1947 to about 14 percent, which isn’t surprising because minorities tend to flourish in liberal democracies like the United States and India.

The Pakistani government, however, peddles a one-sided narrative in their country and in these pages as well. I am a Kashmiri Hindu, a member of a minority community in the Kashmir Valley, who was forced to flee Kashmir and become a refugee due to the radical Islamic terrorism exported by Pakistan to Kashmir. As a result of this cross-border terrorism, 47,000 lives have been lost and 350,000Kashmiri Hindus have become homeless.

It is no secret that Pakistan uses terrorism as a political tool and American people remember that it was in Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden found safe refuge. A 2019 country report brought out by counter terrorism bureau of U.S. Department of State on Pakistan states, “Pakistan continued to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally focused terrorist groups. It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN, as well as groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organizations, and JeM, to operate from its territory.”

Abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution and reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir in India is restoration and not suspension of human rights. Reorganizing boundaries of Indian states for better governance has happened 14 times in independent India. Article 370 was a temporary provision which allowed a “special status” to Jammu and Kashmir but over the years had become a vehicle that fueled separatism and was an impediment to overall economic development of the region. Under the deathly grip of Article 370, groups like Ladakhis of Ladakh had become invisible, minority Hindus of Kashmir valley were ethnically cleansed and Dogras of Jammu had no political representation.

The Indian constitution, that is modeled on the U.S. Constitution, is among the most liberal in the world. This constitution was not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir as long as temporary provision of article 370 was in force. After abrogation of Article 370, Kashmiri women, minorities and the LGBTQ community in Kashmir have been given the same rights as other Indian citizens.

The series of systemic reforms witnessed in Kashmir region in the last year have already put it on the trajectory of progress and peace. The streets of Kashmir valley have been calm and have witnessed no protests. Contrary to what Pakistan likes to portray, the valley is not under any kind of siege. If the authors had looked beyond self-promoted propaganda they would have known that many English, Urdu and Kashmiri dailies are being published from Kashmir. Satellite channels and cable television is fully operational. Internet and telecommunications services have been mostly restored since March. Infrastructure development has received fresh impetus with many pending projects being completed in record time.

Imagine if the state of Texas was kept out of the progress that the rest of the United States is witnessing. Imagine if the progressive laws of American constitution were not applicable in Texas. Imagine if somebody from California or New York could not own a home or business in Texas and imagine if Texan women were discriminated against. Now imagine if the country bordering Texas ran terrorist camps and sent terrorists to kill Texans with impunity. What would the United States government do in such a scenario? Those democratic nations who understand the need for social justice and minority rights will understand why Article 370 simply had to go.

The people of Kashmir have seen a dawn of new hope. Pakistan, however, is looking at the United States to support its nefarious designs on Kashmir. I doubt they will find any success because terrorism as a political tool cannot be supported by any democracy. As a persecuted Kashmiri Hindu, I however look at the United States to tell me what happened to the minorities of Pakistan and where did they perish?

(This rebuttal to an oped by former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan was originally published in Houston Chronicle on August 21, 2020.)
Vashisht is a columnist and political commentator who was displaced from Kashmir Valley in 1990.