Not far from the bacillus of violence mushrooming through the Middle-East, levels of bellicosity have escalated in the volatile South Asian region : Indo-Pakistani skirmishes have been rekindled. This Sunday, the trading of mortars erupted along the 125-mile (200km) border between Pakistan’s Punjab province and the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. The renewed open fire has uprooted several thousands of people from their province and sentenced dozens to death.
Under the trappings of order and peace in the word’s biggest democracy, the devils of enmity and persecution has led to a heightened state of internal and regional strife. Amidst India’s innumerable banes including that of rape levels, corruption, human trafficking and so forth, the dire Kashmir situation is the bête noire of domestic affairs- a bloody heritage which has been polished, inherited and passed on for generations. In thrall to the pestilent neighbors’ sporadic bouts of belligerent moves along the de facto demarcation Line of Control (LoC), displacement, fear and animosity are the rusty shackles which have clamped generations of Kashmiris and retain their solid grip till today.
Building a fortress India, barricaded and penned up behind its barbed-wired and mined Line Of Control woefully dubbed Asia’s Berlin wall, is a sign of repressive nostalgia as “The 21st century is not for building political walls along borders but to dismantle them”, bemoans Shabir Shah, a pro-independence leader in India-administered Kashmir.
Since the dawning of Simla Agreement ratified in 1972 after three consecutive proxy wars (in 1947, 1965 and 1971) this cease-fire line is symbolic of the clogged, congealed avenues of peace building and change both parties vehemently defend. With dearth of political will and vested interests in sustaining antagonism, Kashmir has thus become hostage to bitterly contending nationalities. With two Pakistan-controlled areas and three under India’s dominion, the province is a heartland of discrepancies and divides, torn between pro-Pakistanis, pro-Indians and those striving for self-determination.
The Kashmir conflict embodies a complex amalgamation of religious, nationalist and political factors with the particularity of bearing a dual nature : it conflates the tenets of an interstate and intrastate conflict. Deep-rooted in national psyches, moored on grievances dating back from the 1947 secession which have entrenched ethnic hatred and fostered a rise in extremism, this 60-years-long protracted conflict between two rabid foes is nothing less than “business as usual”. It a status quo is fraught with games of hypocrisy where deflecting blames, unabated violence, and consolidated coercion is nurtured by both sides in their vie for absolute prominence. Understandably, motives for the continued dispute are manifold harking on issues of interests, identities, rights and resources, yet much has to do on averting what both sides deem as excruciatingly intolerable : discomfiture and loss of face in front of regional and international communities.
India and Pakistan schism much like the rift pitting Israel and Palestine, is hinged on a reality which has inexorably normalized the abnormal. The large scale presence of Indian troops partaking in mass human rights violations results in the creation of a hostile, over-regulated environment where Kashmiris’ civil rights, and political liberties are virtually inexistent. Furthermore, playing on atavistic affects both sides have conditioned mentalities and attitudes to be premised on preconceived stereotypes which father festering animosity. India is conceived as the Machiavellian tyrant with an appetite for control through territorial encroachment in its quest to stunt the last remnants of Kashmir’s 1950’s political autonomy. Pakistan is in itself a rogue, Islamist-backed state teeming with Muslim militants devoted to its endeavor to heal a butchered nationhood.
Rote education and mass media which galvanizes and exacerbates these stark divides , has given rise to expectations that place India and Pakistan at the antipodes. Prospects of reaching a common ground remain slim. And, let us not omit that the tenuous, foiled relationship which places Kashmir on the brink of implosion is harrowingly compounded by the nuclear menace, ominously weighing on both sides.