The recent round of killings in the Kashmir Valley not just shocks but provokes one to ask the basic question: Are killings going to resolve the crisis or only widen gaps?Kashmiris are describing the situation in the region as worse than ever before. A new report ‘Terrorised: Impact of Violence on the Children of Jammu and Kashmir’ launched on March 29 by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society says “In 15 years since 2003, 318 children (in the age group of 1 and 17) have been killed and no one among the perpetrators of these heinous crimes has been brought to justice till date.”
The report is an assessment of the violence against children in Jammu and Kashmir in the last fifteen years (2003 to 2017). It also focuses on the grim reality that ‘there are no legal and normative processes or practices protecting children’s rights in Jammu and Kashmir as hundreds of minors have been booked under the repressive Public Safety Act (PSA), with total disregard to the fact of their being children.’
To further quote from this report, "Children in Jammu and Kashmir are living in the most militarised zone of the world, with the presence of 7,00,000 troopers, which exposes them to the risk of all grave six violations against children as laid out in United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child... The killing of 318 children constitutes 6.95% of the civilian killings in last fifteen years, as 4,571 civilians have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the same period. At least 16,436 killings were recorded in Jammu and Kashmir, and the majority of them included alleged militants numbering at least 8,537 killings. The numbers indicate that in the last fifteen years Jammu and Kashmir in an average year has witnessed at least 1,095 killings, which belies the government’s claims of ‘return to normalcy.”
“The pattern of killings of children in the fifteen-year period suggests that children were direct targets of state violence, as part of its stated offensive to curb uprising and militancy. At least 144 children were killed by Indian armed forces and state police in Jammu and Kashmir, which alone accounts for nearly half, i.e. 44.02% of the total children killed. Most of the children, at least 110 of them, killed in state violence were shot dead in different incidents of violence, and not less than 8 children died due to injuries inflicted from pellet shot-guns fired by government forces. Twenty-seven children died to due drowning either caused due to the negligence of armed forces in the Wular lake tragedy or being chased by government forces during a protest, where victims find no way of escape from the armed forces and forced to jump into water bodies, resulting in their death.’
If only the political rulers read Christopher Snedden’s recently published book Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris, then perhaps a solution could be found. That is, of course, if our rulers do genuinely want a solution to the Kashmir crisis.
The complete and realistic ‘situation’ in the Valley lies well tucked in this volume. Snedden has not overlooked any of the realities, as he writes in this book "Nevertheless, since 1947, J&K-ites have never been asked what international status they would like for their state. They also have been subjected to ongoing hardships and sufferings that the average Indian or Pakistani either doesn't know, or possibly doesn't care, about. These include: severe dislocation by the heavily-militarised ceasefire line/LOC that dissects most of J&K and makes meetings and mourning of the dead almost impossible for relatives and friends; the ongoing presence of large, heavily-armed militaries and the associated disruptions caused by these forces as they mount operations, are re-supplied, or move along narrow roads and highways; heavy and often arbitrary exchanges of small arms and artillery fire across the ceasefire line/LOC ...Although most simply, and stoically, get on with living their lives, they nevertheless would benefit by having this dispute resolved.'
Christopher Snedden doesn’t mince words. "In the 67 years of the India -Pakistan dispute over J&K, 'the third party' to the Kashmir dispute—the people of Jammu and Kashmir—have never been consulted in any meaningful or inclusive way on how the dispute over J&K should be resolved. This ignores the fact that J&K-ites are actually the 'first party' to the Kashmir dispute simply because this dispute is about their state and homelands. Indeed, J&K-ites are actually the ‘first party’' to this dispute because they instigated the fight over J&K’s status in 1947 before the Maharaja’s accession to India in 1947.’
And with his characteristic forthrightness, he also offers a way out, ‘One way for India and Pakistan to resolve this matter would be to mutually agree to devolve it to the people of J&K and allow them to discuss, debate, and determine what solution or solutions they want for what are, after all, their (disputed) lands.’
He goes ahead with the exact specifics. "Such a devolution would be possible under Section 1.ii of the Simla Agreement. It states that India and Pakistan can “settle their differences through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon”. Both nations therefore could agree to devolve the resolution of the Kashmir dispute to J&K-ites. I call this approach—Let the People Decide."
Writ large throughout the book is Snedden’s connect with the Kashmir Valley; though this Australian politico-strategic analyst is presently working as a professor at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies (Honolulu, Hawaii), he has been visiting the Kashmir Valley for research and to interact with the people.
I hope the political rulers in Srinagar and New Delhi read this volume and pay heed to Snedden’s advise, and with that take the trouble of reaching out to the masses in the Valley; involving them in finding a way out of the ongoing crisis.