Kashmir, the home of 12.55 million Kashmiris has been the center of oppression even before 1947. The region has a Muslim majority, 61% of the population (2019); but despite the majority, Muslims have been persecuted and oppressed at the hands of Hindu rulers. Before 1947, Muslims had to face high taxes, unpaid forced labor, and discriminatory laws at the hands of the Hindu elite. The height of oppression was such that some Kashmiris were forced to move to Punjab to escape the suffocating Dogra rule. 73 years have passed and Kashmir stands where it was decades ago, perhaps living in Kashmir now brings more uncertainty than in the past. However, to understand the persecution that Kashmiris have gone through it is essential to look into the past, present, and future of Kashmir.
PROLIFERATION OF TERROR
Before 1947, the region of Kashmir had a Hindu leader – Hari Singh and a Muslim majority population – 77%. Singh was unable to make a decision and so to delay the decision he signed a standstill with Pakistan. During that time, protests sparked in the Poonch district, against high taxation – the chants for an ‘Azad Kashmir’ intensified. The protestors were met with extreme force by the government and so the revolt was joined by Pashtuns from the KPK region in Pakistan to support their Muslim brothers against the regime’s atrocities. Singh was unable to contain the situation and appealed to the Indian government for assistance, the only way to do that was by signing the Instrument of Succession to India.
Once Kashmir was a part of India, on the eve of 26 October 1947, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar, where they fought against the Pashtuns and local Jammu and Kashmir forces. Later the Pakistani forces entered the battlefield and the fronts gradually solidified around the Ceasefire Line. The result of the war was inconclusive, which pushed the conflict into further uncertainty. Soon India appealed to the UN for intervention, which led to the formation of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). The UN Security Council passed Resolution 47. This resolution presented a two-part solution; an immediate ceasefire followed by an impartial plebiscite. The resolution called for a two-step process to withdraw forces from the region; in the first stage Pakistani troops to leave the Kashmir region, and in the second stage, Indian forces do the same. After both countries had left the region a plebiscite was to be conducted.
However, the plebiscite was never held because India considered Kashmir to be a part of India by the virtue of accession, and Pakistan did not recognize the accession as Kashmir had signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan. Both countries went head to head again in 1965 and 1971. The following year, in 1972 Simla agreement was signed by Pakistan and India. Both countries agreed on two main points; firstly the Line of Ceasefire was converted to the Line of Control (LOC) which was not to be violated, and secondly, they agreed that the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue which the two countries will solve through peaceful negotiations.
Upon the change in politics in the subcontinent, Sheikh Abdullah CM of Kashmir realized that there was an urgent need to stop pursuing confrontational politics and promoting the solution of issues by a process of reconciliation and dialogue. He compromised on the promise of a plebiscite and held elections in the Kashmir region for the formation of a democratically elected government, he was re-elected as the CM. It is widely stated that the elections of 1977 and 1983 were the only fair ones in the region. The results of the election highlighted the disparity in the region, with Congress winning most seats in Ladakh and Jammu region and NC winning in the Kashmir valley. This divide between Hindu-Muslim interests proved to be catastrophic later on as the Indian government continued to rule the valley by force.
The conditions of Muslims in the Kashmir valley continued to worsen; killings, forced disappearances, rape, torture, custodial killing, and firing on demonstrators were common. With no major world power willing to help the Kashmiris, they took matters into their own hands which led to the formation of several organizations such as Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Hizbul Mujahideen. These groups were even wrongfully linked to the killings of civilians and the crackdown on these organizations intensified as mandated by the Indian government. The Indian government tried its best to crush the spirit of the Kashmiris, but Burhan Wani was to challenge that.
Burhan Wani was a commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, he used social media to gain support for the Kashmir conflict. Wani became every Kashmiris voice, providing them with a platform to speak about the injustices in the Kashmir valley. He provided a modern shift to the militancy movement, all while conveying a youth-oriented image of militancy, and this led to an increase in youth joining the Kashmir movements. The Indian government had sought him out for a while and in 2016, Wani was killed in an encounter with the Indian forces. Burhan Wani’s death rocked the valley and massive protests sparked all across Kashmir.
The impact of Wani’s death is perhaps the most important change in the valley since the 1980s, which marked the rise of armed rebellion against the government. Following his death, youth-led protests erupted across the valley which led to the death of 120 civilians. This use of force in 2016, was then followed up by a 53-day long lockdown. The Kashmir valley was placed under a media blackout, newspaper ban, internet censorship, and the use of pellet guns, along with mass arrests of human rights activists became common. This blatant abuse of power and human rights did not end here, the Indian government imposed another lockdown on the Kashmir valley in 2019.
THE AGE OF TERROR
On 5th August 2019, India revoked Kashmir’s special status and introduced Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. This act enables the government to make two states an official part of India as the citizens of other states are now able to now apply for ‘permanent residency’. This is an attempt by the fascist Modi government to change the demographics of the single Muslim majority area in India and further influence the political sphere. After the introduction of this bill, the government placed Kashmir under lockdown and has increased the strength of soldiers in the region to 4 civilians per soldier. The government has also arrested more than 4000 civilians including politicians, sparking outrage in the international community. 
Today marks the 353rd day of Kashmiris in lockdown. With little or no access to communication and media with the outside world, it is almost impossible to record the violations happening right now. But, the Kashmir region is no stranger to atrocities, the Indian government has used every tactic from mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape, and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech. In the past, instances like rape and forced disappearances have sparked protests across the valley such as the Shopian rape and murder case.
There is very little accountability for the Indian officials as they are protected under India’s Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This protects the officers from being tried in court or have charges against them. Another key issue is the use of pellet guns, which has been responsible for so many deaths and injuries. In the following seven months of Burhan Wani’s death, over 6000 people have been injured by pellet guns, in some cases causing permanent blindness. Pellet guns are not made for crowd control and are a violation of the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. India denies any such allegations and alleges that the use of force is only for security purposes. The lockdown imposed is now extended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
COVID toll in the valley stands at 8429, with 3042 active cases as of 5th July. Around 1.3 million people that live below the poverty line are unable to access necessities, due to the extended lockdown. Most of these people are engaged in unorganized work, making them ineligible for financial assistance from the Labour Department or Social Welfare Department. Additionally, the valley has poor infrastructure and climatic conditions, which makes it poorly equipped to deal with an outbreak. Coronavirus itself isn’t that big of a threat for the valley, rather the poverty that comes with it can be fatal for Kashmiris. This makes the Kashmir conflict, a progressively demanding issue to solve.
THE END TO TERROR?
With India’s forceful control over Kashmir, it has raised major concerns about the treatment of the Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian army. The advent of Kashmir joining Pakistan or becoming a separate independent state is trampled now. However, one thing is certain that President Modi desperately wants Kashmiris to become a part of India. But, with the lockdown and increased militarization, India is sending an opposite message. Delhi desperately wants the international community to know that the situation will soon be normal in Kashmir, to normalize the situation it would mean to give voice to the people on the ground, which has never been India’s desire and neither will it be.
Pakistan has always considered the issue of an international dispute and will try to raise the issue on multiple platforms based on human rights violations. China on the other hand has been involved in skirmishes along the Aksai Chin area, but this dispute is not predicted to turn into a war. China and Turkey are allies of Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute, but as COVID ripples through the countries, it is unclear where the level of importance for the Kashmir issue lies.
The future of Kashmiris is uncertain right now, more clarity will be once the lockdown is lifted. It appears that the limitations of democratic access, to include the internet, free movement, the press will be provided, giving them all constitutional rights that every Indian enjoys. One thing is for sure that once the lockdown is lifted, there will be mass protests in the Kashmir valley. But what is the effectiveness of these protests? Will India ever reverse its move? Will Pakistan be able to help the Kashmiris?
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 Burton Stein, A History of India (John Wiley & Sons, 2010).
 Christopher Snedden, Kashmir-The Untold Story (HarperCollins Publishers India, 2013).
 UN Charter (Full Text), April 15, 2016.
 Simla Agreement (1972), July 2, 1972.
 Mridu Rai, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights, and the History of Kashmir (C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2004).
 “Why the Death of a Militant Has Kashmiris up in Arms,” BBC News, July 11, 2016, sec. India.
 “Mobile Internet Services Snapped in Jammu,” Greater Kashmir, July 10, 2016.
 “FullTextofJ&KReorganisationBill.Pdf,” accessed July 9, 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/news/resources/article28823852.ece/Binary/FullTextofJ&KReorganisationBill.pdf.
 “Thousands Detained in Indian Kashmir Crackdown, Official Data Reveals,” Reuters, September 12, 2019.
 “Deaths Provoke Kashmir Protests,” June 1, 2009.
 “What Life Is Like Inside the World’s Longest Lockdown,” Time, May 5, 2020.
 “India Also Released Captured Chinese Soldiers in Galwan Valley, Claims Gen VK Singh,” Deccan Chronicle, June 20, 2020.