Behind the India-Pakistan Tension: Kashmir is Struggling to Survive!
By Zeinab Daher
Beirut - While the military situation was heading to further escalation between New Delhi and Islamabad, an area stranded between them has not but barely come to the spotlight.
As always, mainstream media intend to serve the interests of its drivers; but unlike them, our website took it upon itself to shed light on the humanitarian aspect, bringing to the spotlight the suffering of Kashmiri people amid all these developments given the upcoming annual Indian elections.
Commenting on the situation, Kashmir-based PHD candidate Ms. Arshi Javid** told al-Ahed news website that 10,000 students have been forced to leave India and return to Kashmir during the tension, while Kashmiris staying at home were barely living amid the lack of fuel, food and security in their place.
The lady, whose fields of study are centered at gender and conflict, peace studies, and militant movements in South Asia described the situation as very tense, then went on as detailing the whole story as the following:
“It all started on the 14th of February when suicide bombers detonated a vehicle which was carrying an IED of 300 Kgs against an army vehicle. In this particular incident, 40 soldiers of the Indian army were killed. This event became a kind of galvanizing event around the whole of India in which people started saying that we want revenge for these killings.”
When India declared independence Kashmir was made a part of India on the condition that after sometime we will ask you, we will do up a plebiscite about the right to self-determination in Kashmir asking where do Kashmiris want to join. Ever since, India has not fulfilled the promise, she explained.
What happened later on?
In 1989, a militancy erupted because India has not fulfilled the promise and people want to express their decision whether they want to be with India or they want to be with Pakistan or they want to be independent, which India never gave it. So this militancy has been startled for years. Now, the condition is that organizations like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen… all these organizations are militant organizations… The blast on the 14th of February was performed by one particular organization. They claimed we have done this suicide bombing. After this, there was this call of revenge across India that we have to take revenge for this, she added.
Why deporting Kashmiri students?
"Almost, 10,000 Kashmiri students had to return home because there were attacks against them all across India."
“India has 29 states all across India, and Kashmiri students are a part of India. Kashmiri students are Muslims, and Hinduism is the predominant religion in India. They started attacking Kashmiri Muslim students, saying you and your sympathizers doing blasts and killing our soldiers. Almost, 10,000 Kashmiri students had to return home because there were attacks against them all across India. They returned to Kashmir because people, without right, were lynching them.”
Saying that it was the first reaction of people, Javid explained that then, there was this call of taking revenge. On the nights of Monday and Tuesday [February 25, 26] we heard the news that Indian Air Force has crossed into Pakistan and they have attacked the place where these ‘militants are getting trained by the Pakistani state.’ In order to assuage those calls for revenge, there were a major blunder of Indian Air Forces entering Pakistani territory, and there is no clear record on how many people did they kill there and what is happening there.
Pakistan said they have not been able to kill anybody, in fact the place they attacked is a forest, it is not inhabited by any human; it is a forest. So whatever they have made they have hidden some details, they have kept it confidential. But India was the first one to have entered the escalation and perform airstrikes.
The lady went on to add that on the next night, Pakistan entered Indian airspace and carried out some airstrikes which they said wouldn’t have done but are in retaliation to what was done.
“We are not at war, but this is in retaliation to what India has did, in which Pakistan managed to down two Indian fighter jets. One of them fell on the Pakistani side of Kashmir. The Kashmiris are also divided between India and Pakistan. A part of the Kashmiris are with Pakistan, another part of them are with China and another part are with India.”
Pakistan managed to get hold of one of the Indian pilots, but Pakistan has once again gave a message that we don’t want to go for war, we want to talk and we would also return your pilot. The Indian leadership for its part said it will not escalate because our very important soldier is with Pakistan, she added.
Life, humanitarian situation in Kashmir
"There is no petrol in the city, so there is no life."
“Now in Kashmir, there is a war taking place. People were informed a couple of days before war that they should fill their rations, they should have their food supplies intact, they should have their medicines. There is a lot of panic in Kashmir, a lot of panic, because people did get food, but petrol almost extinguished. There is no petrol in the city, so there is no life. People are at their houses, confined in their houses. There is no public transportation. You know how war is like… there are incidents of aerial fighting all the times and there are incidents of these fighter jets all over the skies. People are in trouble, people are really in panic over what was happening to them. There are even villages close to borders, which have been evacuated. We don’t know what would happen next because India has clearly said we are not going to de-escalate. One cannot imagine what would happen ahead.”
Whose interests does the escalations serve?
"The timing of this suits the elections."
De-escalation is connected to an important thing: India is going for annual elections this year, the ruling party has not performed very well, and it has very bad indicators in terms of the horrible GDP, human rights reports, the monetary values have decreased… I think this will depend on what kind of this party, the ruling party (right-wing Hindu party), they have always resorted to war and dirty tactics for electoral games.
20 days ago, it clearly looked that the ruling party might not come back to power. If they don’t come back to power thy will lose the ground. But in those same days, the situation has started turning in their favor because their narrative against Pakistan and against terrorism is very strong, and so far, it is like the balance with people, they are very good at this narrative as a strategy for electoral games.
I think if the party thinks the job is done and that they have managed to direct it, they might just stop. But if they need some more mobilization, there would be no end to it until elections.
To give it clearly, there is only one party which is gaining out of it. It is not the first time suicide attacks have happened in Kashmir. This is not the first time suicide attacks have targeted the army. It is not the first time Jaish-e-Mohammed has done any attack in Kashmir. This is not the first time any Kashmiris had picked up guns, but the timing of this suits the elections. Largely, it will depend on reports they will get about their own parties. Are they in the position to win or gain some more votes? Until the time their position is not built they will not de-escalate.
Events like this are a routine story in Kashmir, but this time it was played very well in media. Every other day something happens in Kashmir, but it is up to media to decide whether to play it up or not. What this current Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] have done is that he has purchased all the media, 98% of the Indian media has been bought by him. It was played up very well by the media. While I do understand that killing 40 soldiers is a big injury and it will have repercussions, but this man has been able to press down any news and press up any news, he can do anything that he wants to do.
**Arshi Javid is a PHD candidate at the Centre for South Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.