Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has demonstrated that unlike many, he realises that the current disputes between Pakistan and India do not have their roots in some obscure theoretical rivalry, but instead have anything to do with a Kashmiri people who since 1947 have been deprived of the universal right to determine their own political future. Imran Khan consequently stated the following:
“I am not worthy of the Nobel Peace prize. The person worthy of this would be the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people and paves the way for peace & human development in the subcontinent”.
I am not worthy of the Nobel Peace prize. The person worthy of this would be the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people and paves the way for peace & human development in the subcontinent.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 4, 2019
Kashmir’s struggle began on 14 October, 1947. It was on that day that the BJP aligned Hindutva militia group RSS instigated a massacre against Muslims in Jammu. 2,37,000 were killed in the violence according to the Times of London. It was this event which triggered retaliation among Pashtun tribesmen living in a newly formed Pakistani state. This subsequently lead to further rebellions in Jammu and Kashmir against the Princely rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. It was only after the Jammu massacre and subsequent anti-Princely rebellions that Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of ascension to India on 26 October 1947 – thus sealing the fate of Kashmiris in the most anti-democratic way imaginable.
The troubles for Kashmiris at once vindicated the creation of the Pakistani state as it became clear that one of the malign forces that would shape the post-colonial region would be the Hindutva extremism of the RSS. And yet in spite of the creation of Pakistan, Kashmiris remain a people whose de facto divided territory is partly occupied by over 600,000 armed Indian soldiers due to the fact that factions in New Delhi believe this to be a preferable alternative to allowing Kashmiris to at long last exercise their democratic right to self-determination as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 47.
While for the supporters of the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, the issues surrounding the occupation are those involving unbridled jingoism and a battle that puts a quest for resources ahead of justice for civilians, for Kashmiris themselves, it is a matter of being denied their UN mandated right to national self-determination which they have been waiting for since 1947.
The pressing issue of Kashmir was one of the first major challenges presented to a young United Nations Security Council which in 1949 passed Resolution 47. This resolution called for a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to decide on their own future according to the principles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was ratified in 1948.
“1. The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours:
(a) To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State;
(b) To make known to all concerned that the measures indicated in this and the following paragraphs provide full freedom to all subjects of the State, regardless of creed, caste, or party, to express their views and to vote on the question of the accession of the State, and that therefore they should co-operate in the maintenance of peace and order”.
But while arguments continue to be made regarding interpretations of Resolution 47, Kashmiris continue to pay with their lives for 72 years of sustained injustice. The only solution is for the UN to take into account a reasonable interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 47 and force the issue of the need for an immediate plebiscite throughout the entirety of Kashmir. This is absolutely necessary in order to make it so that there can be no question about the long-term status of the region.
A further matter of importance becomes clear when one realises that arguments between New Delhi and Islamabad regarding differing interpretations of the 1949 era UN Resolution do not directly take into account the feelings of Kashmiris themselves. Ultimately, the Kashmir crisis is one between the Kashmiri people and their occupier. It is only up to the Kashmiri people to define who and what is an occupier and this is why their voices must be heard by the international community without prejudice. Any nation afraid of such a plebiscite can logically be concluded to be a state afraid that its interpretation of the situation in Kashmir is one that will be exposed as incompatible with the feelings of Kashmiris.
Furthermore, as India has physically occupied much of Kashmir since 1947, there has been plenty of time for New Delhi to convince Kashmiris that they are better off in India than as an independent sovereign state or as part of Pakistan. The uptick in the intensity of the conflict within Kashmir since 1989 in particular, has demonstrated that far from using the delayed execution of the UN Resolution in order to make peace with Kashmiris, Indian forces have done everything they can to make the case for Kashmir leaving India according to the democratic will of the Kashmiri people.
Former US President John F. Kennedy famously stated:
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.
This quote could have been authored to describe the lingering deterioration of human rights and social cohesion in Kashmir as Kashmiris are pushing back only as much as they have been pushed. Contented populations are by definition not angry populations and likewise, no genuine uprising has ever been a result of prosperity, social harmony and a happy population. In this sense, the realities in Kashmir speak for themselves, not least because a genuinely contended population cannot be easily mobilised by external political proclamations.
Unlike many regional and global leaders, Imran Khan realises that the issue of Kashmir is more important than any temporary de-escalation between Pakistan and India. This is the reality because the wider regional tensions as a whole are rooted in the suppression of Kashmiris by the largest armed occupation force in the modern world. Until and unless Kashmiris are given the basic rights that they have been asking for since 1947, no one can realistically talk of peace or peace prizes. Once again, in his humility and honesty, Imran Khan has revealed a very important truth.