Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Turmoil in Kashmir

The Times recently shed some light on the increasingly dire, yet overlooked, situation in Kashmir. An excerpt:

It is true that India’s relations with Pakistan have improved lately. But more than half a million Indian soldiers still pursue a few thousand insurgents in Kashmir. While periodically holding bilateral talks with Pakistan, India has taken for granted those most affected by the so-called Kashmir dispute: the four million Kashmiri Muslims who suffer every day the misery and degradation of a full-fledged military occupation.

The Indian government’s insistence that peace is spreading in Kashmir is at odds with a report by Human Rights Watch in 2006 that described a steady pattern of arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial execution by Indian security forces - excesses that make the events at Abu Ghraib seem like a case of high spirits. A survey by Doctors Without Borders in 2005 found that Muslim women in Kashmir, prey to the Indian troops and paramilitaries, suffered some of the most pervasive sexual violence in the world. Over the last two decades, most ordinary Kashmiri Muslims have wavered between active insurrection and sullen rage. They fear, justifiably or not, the possibility of Israeli-style settlements by Hindus; reports two months ago of a government move to grant 92 acres of Kashmiri land to a Hindu religious group are what provoked the younger generation into the public defiance expressed of late.

As always, the turmoil in Kashmir heartens extremists in both India and Pakistan. India has recently suffered a series of terrorist bombings, allegedly by radicals among its Muslim minority. Hindu nationalists have already formed an economic blockade of the Kashmir Valley - an attempt to punish seditious Muslims and to gin up votes in next year’s general elections. In Pakistan, where weak civilian governments in the past sought to score populist points by stirring up the emotional issue of Kashmir, the intelligence service can only be gratified by another opportunity to synergize its jihads in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

...India’s record of pitiless intransigence does not inspire much hope that it will take these necessary steps toward the final and comprehensive resolution of Kashmir’s long-disputed status. In fact, an indefinite curfew has already been imposed and Indian troops have again killed dozens of demonstrators. But a brutal suppression of the nonviolent protests will continue to radicalize a new generation of Muslims and engender a fresh cycle of violence, rendering Kashmir even more dangerous - and not just to South Asia this time.

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