Amritsar Treaty: Agony of Kashmiris
The very agony of the people of Jammu and Kashmir started on March 16, 1846 when the Treaty of Amritsar was signed. Under the Treaty, British colonialists sold Kashmir along with its people e to a Dogra Hindu, Gulab Singh for 7.5 million rupees. The Treaty of Amritsar which was signed by Gulab Singh, Hardinge, Currie and Lawrence had common cause among the parties with the aim to end the Muslim rule in Jammu and Kashmir. Gulab Singh thus became the founder and first Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
As a consequence of the Treaty of Amritsar, a reign of terror was unleashed by the Dogra dynasty on the Kashmiris. During the Dogra rule (1846-1947), Kashmiri Muslims were leading so miserable life that it was difficult to differentiate them from beasts. Slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror was order of the day.
In this regard, Yousaf Saraf in his book, ‘Kashmiris Fight for Freedom’ calls it “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of goods across the far-flung areas.” Atrocities of the Dogra regime could also be judged from the book of Sir Walter Lawrence, ‘The India We Served’. While describing the pathetic picture of the Kashmiris, he writes, “Army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the soldiers came at harvest time and when the share of the state had been seized” and “there was very little grain to tide the unfortunate peasants over the cruel winter.”
On April 19, 1931, the ban of Eid Khutba ignited widespread demonstrations in the Jummu city. For the first time, people openly opposed the oppression. On July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the Central Jail Srinagar. As the time for obligatory prayer approached, a young Kashmiri stood for Azan. The Dogra soldiers opened fire at him. In this way, 22 Kashmiris embraced martyrdom in their efforts to complete the Azan.
The people carried the dead and paraded through the streets of Srinagar, chanting slogans against Dogra brutalities. Complete strike was observed in the city, which was followed by weeklong mourning. This incident shook the whole state and the traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and Srinagar to Jammu came to halt.
However, upon these ruthless killings, the Kashmiri leadership realized the need to form a political party, Muslim Conference (MC) with a view to waging struggle for their freedom. Later, in 1934, state’s first elections were held and MC won 10 out of 21 seats, and after two years in 1936, it succeeded in getting 19 out of 21 seats. Indian Congress was upset with this situation and tried to create division in the ranks of Kashmiri leadership. Afterwards, on July 19, 1947, MC passed a resolution to merge Kashmir with Pakistan, considering the geographical proximity—majority of Muslim population (77%), language and cultural relations of Jammu and Kashmir.
During the partition of the Sub-continent, in 1947, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, in connivance with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Governor-General Lord Mountbatten, had decided to join India, quite contrary to the wishes of the majority of Kashmiris.
When a contention arose between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute in1948, India took the issue to the United Nations Security Council and offered to hold a plebiscite in the held Kashmir under UN supervision. On February 5, 1964, India backed out of its promise. Instead, in March 1965, the Indian Parliament passed a bill, declaring Kashmir a province of India.
While passing through various phases, the struggle of Kashmiris which has become an interaction between Indian state terrorism led by the Indian security forces and war of liberation by the freedom fighters, keeps on going unabated.
Despite the employment of various forms of state terrorism by the Indian security forces, war of liberation intensified since 1989.
A report on human rights violations by Indian Army and its paramilitary forces in Indian-held Kashmir disclosed that since 1989, there have been deaths of 93,274 innocent Kashmiris, 6,969 custodial killings, 117,345 arrests and 105,861 destructions of houses. Indian brutal security forces have orphaned over 107, 351 children, widowed 22,728 women and gang raped 9,920 women.
Besides Human Rights Watch, in its various reports, Amnesty International has also pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, indicating, “The Muslim majority population in the Kashmir Valley suffers from the repressive tactics of the security forces. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, security forces have extraordinary powers to shoot suspected persons.”
Particularly in 2008, a rights group reported unmarked graves in 55 villages across the Indian occupied Kashmir. In this context, in August, 2011, Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially acknowledged in its report that innocent civilians killed in the two-decade conflict have been buried in unmarked graves. Notably, foreign sources and human rights organizations including Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) have pointed out that unnamed graves include thousands of innocent persons, killed by the Indian military and paramilitary troops in the fake encounters including those who were tortured to death.
It is notable that leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has taken various steps to strengthen Indian illegal control on Kashmir. The Modi regime hurriedly decided to forcibly annex disputed territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, uncovering its intentions to wrap up the article 370 of the Indian constitution which ensures a special status to J&K. Therefore, United Nations Military Observer Group India and Pakistan in New Delhi was asked to vacate official accommodation. In fact, BJP government‘s long term strategy is to affect demographic changes in the Indian occupied Kashmir by composition of the region—predominately with Hindu population.
During one year of People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-BJP alliance government in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, BJP in aid of RSS has furthered its agenda of complete integration of Kashmir into India. Though legal experts of India and IOK High Court have clarified the permanent status of Article 370 of Indian Constitution, BJP’s agenda of trifurcations is still on table. In this context, BJP is in hot pursuit of Mission 44+in IOK Assembly elections 2020. However, short of that, BJP and RSS are busy in changing religious identity of the State. For example, special concessions were given to expand the horizon of Amarnath Yatra to project that Hindus have greater stakes in IOK than Muslims.
Special efforts are being made for demographic engineering in the State. For instance, West Pakistan Refugees have been recruited in the Indian Armed Forces from IOK quota. Allocation of lands for separate cities for repatriating Hindu Pundits and allocation of INR 2 million for rehabilitation of each Pundit family in the Valley are aimed at creating Hindu constituencies in a thorough Muslim region of the Valley through delimitations.
Kashmiri Hurriyat leadership has been suppressed by the PDP-BJP government by not allowing them to organize rallies for demanding freedom and expressing love for Pakistan. Their leaders were detained in Police Stations or kept under house arrests during all important events. Detention of Masarat Alam, even after acceptance of bail by IOK High Court, exhibits coercive mechanics of Indian forces/police in the State.
Indian malicious intent is evident from the blame game against Pakistan for every internal security issue, merely to avoid serious dialogue on bilateral issues as well as the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. Pakistan is committed to the just and democratic solution of the Kashmir issue, which is plebiscite, however, India has never been serious in resolution of the dispute, neither through bilateral dialogue nor involving third party mediation nor by abiding by the UN Resolutions.
Returning to our earlier discussion, the Treaty of Amritsar is the genesis of the agony of the Kashmiris, and their war of liberation keeps on going, and will continue untill they get their legitimate right of self-determination.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations