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Killing fields of Kashmir: Can there be peace forever?
The militant attack on police and army camps in Jammu reminds the nation that the Killing fields of Kashmir have been flourishing. Over 47,600 people including 5700 security force personnel have died there till 2011. Will this human tragedy continue for ever? It is time we became pragmatic, held a plebiscite and give independence to the valley if they want it.

The militant attack on Kathua police station and Samba Army Camp on September 26, 2013 that resulted in the deaths of two army men, five policemen, some civilians and three militants reminded the nation that the killing fields of Kashmir are flourishing.

They have been flourishing since 1990. As per the information accessed by Times of India from Government of Kashmir 43,460 people have died in violent militancy related incidents between January 1990 to April 2011. In addition about 10,000 are missing. Some of the missing are dead. Others have crossed over to Pakistan to become militants.

Needless to say, the casualties have been continuously mounting and could well have exceeded 50,000 to date. The breakdown of the death toll is interesting. Of the 43,460 people, who have been killed in Kashmir in the 21 year period mentioned above; out of that 21,323 are militants; 13,226 are civilians killed by the militants; 3,642 are civilians killed by the security forces and 5,369 are security personnel and policemen killed by the militants.

The 21,323 militants were killed in operations by security forces and include both Kashmiri and foreign militants. Of the 5,369 members of the security forces, around 1,500 are Kashmiri policemen. The number of civilians killed by security forces vary from a high of 539 in 1990 to 120 killed across the state in firing by the police and paramilitary forces in 2010. Of the 13,226 civilians killed by militants, 11,461 were shot and 1,765 died in grenade blasts and exposions.

The saddest part of the story is that no one, either in the government or the opposition, the bureaucrats or upper echelons of the security forces, the media, militants or the people are agitated or upset by the mounting human tragedy. Death, except of near and dear ones, are just an item of news.

As per some politicians security forces are enrolled to die, bureaucrats and the media are of the view that militants must be killed and collateral damage to civilian life and property is an unfortunate reality. The Kashmir problem is an unfortunate legacy of our independence. India and Pakistan have fought four wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and the Kargil War over Kashmir issue.

The Kashmir insurgency has been going on for 23 years. Various governments  be it of  Narsimha Rao, Deve Gowda, I K Gujral, Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh have spoken to their Pakistani counterparts since last 23 years. What they keep saying to each other is neither clear nor productive.

All the time the killing fields of Kashmir flourish. More and more wives are widowed, more and more children are orphaned, more and more families loose their bread earners and kids. Who cares? Is the compensation paid enough?Are the Killing Fields of Kashmir to flourish forever? Does any one have a workable plan to end the tragedy?

Understanding the demography of Kashmir

Demographically and geographically, the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir can be divided into three parts.

Kashmir Valley: This area, north of the Pir Panjal range of mountains and West of the Zanskar Mountains (Zojila Pass) and the valley of the Jhelum River, has almost 100 % Muslim population. Some of the population is anti India. Most of the separatists live here. Almost 90 % of violent incidents and deaths occur here.

Jammu Sector: This part of Jammu and Kashmir has a substantial Hindu and Sikh population. This part is more peaceful and happy being an integral part of India. 

The Ladakh Sector: This part has a substantial Buddhist population and is totally pro-India. Hardly any violent incidents occur here.

A possible Solution

India should declare that it will hold a UN supervised plebiscite and grant full independence to the Kashmir Valley (defense and foreign affairs included) on 1st July 2017 if the majority of the people of the valley vote for it. However, no plebiscite will be held in the Jammu and Ladakh Regions and these areas will be amalgamated into India without any special status as states or Union Territories.

Muslims will not be allowed to migrate from the Kashmir Valley to Jammu or Ladakh unless they have property there. In any case they will not be granted refugee status and will not be entitled to financial assistance. However, Muslims of Jammu and Ladakh region will be allowed to migrate to the Valley if they desire to do so.

The Plebiscite should be held in May 2014. If the people of the Kashmir Valley opt for independence, the next three years should be used to plan a smooth transition. Some steps should be: Redrawing of boundaries between Republic of Kashmir and India's Jammu and Ladakh regions so that the new border along the Pir Panjal Range and Zanskar Range is defensible against Pakistani attack.

The Amarnath Shrine, Banihal tunnel and Poonch should be part of India. Redeployment of Indian Army and BSF from Uri and Dras Sectors and the Valley to new locations along the new border and inside India. For this new permanent defenses and accommodation for the Army and BSF will have to be constructed on priority.

Develop a new road and rail system to improve communication to cater for defense requirements and lateral communications between Jammu, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh.

Conclusion

Many of the Muslim population in Kashmir valley are anti India and have little gratitude for the Indian lives that have been sacrificed to protect them and the Indian money that has been spent to make their lives more livable. Though mostly Shia or Sufi Muslims and well aware of the persecution and discrimination against their kind of Muslims in Pakistan, they still look upon Pakistan as their saviors.

So if the majority of the people in the valley want independence, let them have it. A divorce is better than a painful and unworkable marriage. It must also be made clear that India would not intervene if Pakistan attacks The Republic of Kashmir nor allow refugees to flee into India. Let us be realists and destroy the killing fields of Kashmir.

Cessation is not a dirty word. Czechoslovakia split amicably into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Yugoslavia has split into Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo and are living peacefully ever since. North and South Sudan have separated and hopefully will live in peace.

We have handed over Kachchatheevu Islands to Sri Lanka without consulting Tamil Nadu. So what is the problem in giving Independence to Kashmir Valley if the people of Kashmir want it? If Pakistan thereafter annexes Kashmir Valley let them do so.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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