By Syed Tahseen Gilani
As violence continues to take its toll in my beautiful Kashmir and the people of Kashmir remain helplessly trapped between two nuclear countries claiming right over the land and people of Kashmir, the voice of Kashmiris is often lost in the shrill between India and Pakistan regionally and internationally. Does anyone ask as to what people of Kashmir want?
The call for independent Kashmir started soon after Pakistan and India came into being as independent countries in 1947. However, it had been suppressed by these nations until the 80s and 90s, when it started becoming a significant demand in the dispute. This period of time saw significant rise in numbers of Kashmiris actively demanding an independent state, neither belonging to India nor to Pakistan. The youth became particularly attracted towards the movement. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is the founder of current independent Kashmir movement and perhaps one of the very few reasons for Kashmiris to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. JKLF is the only truly secular Kashmiri party in the state too. It believes in equal rights for every Kashmiri without any discrimination whatsoever, and the only Kashmiri party, which is followed across the Line of Control (LOC) as well in Gilgit Baltistan.
JKLF has always believed Kashmir issue as the root cause of all the problems between India and Pakistan. Whether it has been the wars in the past or the continuous tensions in the region, Kashmir issue has been at the heart of all things bad between India and Pakistan. Economically, both countries have poor economies despite being two of the largest markets in the world with significant resources and potential. Socially, the issue has been source of frictions between followers of different religions especially in India. The issue has, without any doubt, hindered the development of the region and elements such as high rate of poverty, political unrest, and lack of harmony are evidence of this. And, despite three wars between India and Pakistan, they still seem to be failing to comprehend the damage that it is causing to both the countries. Kashmir is more than capable of becoming an independent country. As a state full of natural resources, tourism potential and key hydropower generation capabilities, it has the potential to have a smaller but much stronger economy than both India and Pakistan.
The emotional attachment of Indian and Pakistani citizen to Kashmir is borne out of the stubborn claim, propaganda and often brutal occupation of Kashmir by these countries. The continuous portrayal of the issue as a matter of national honour and pride by both countries is not only ignorant but also very dangerous for the entire region. JKLF believes, however, that independent Kashmir is the only solution, which could bring peace and prosperity in the region without hurting the ego of any of the parties involved. An independent Kashmir could become the starting point of a better life of hundreds of millions living in the entire region. Particularly, for India and Pakistan, an independent Kashmir could help build the bridges between the two countries. JKLF has always believed in an independent, secular state of Kashmir which would play a positive and constructive role in the entire region. In the times of significant religious tensions, an Independent Kashmir would be an example and a promoter of peace and harmony in the region.
JKLF believes in an independent Kashmir which is completely neutral towards both India and Pakistan. This is the underlying reason why the party has always believed in a treaty between Kashmir and both India and Pakistan which would guarantee this neutrality of an independent Kashmir state. It would be like the Switzerland of Europe. It is the time for both countries to realise that the only mileposts they have achieved after 69 years of conflict over Kashmir are poverty, instability, religious extremism and numerous other socio-economic problems. Kashmiris, on the other hand, have been victims of this conflict without being at any fault and they continue to be so. The current situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir has claimed over 50 innocent lives, over 3,000 injuries and over 200 blinded youths by pellets shot by Government forces. Yet the continuous resistance by Kashmiris in the face of heinous forces is a clear statement that the fight for freedom from the occupiers will carry on until the complete independence of Kashmir. Kashmir is no one’s except Kashmiris’.