On July 1, 2020, Bashir Ahmed Khan, a 65-year-old Kashmiri, was shot and killed in front of his 3-year-old grandson. While the police claim that it was militants who opened fire on the civilian, the family believes that it was the police who killed him. This isolated event that causes debate between the placement of blame, with the involved parties being the police and militants, is emblematic of the precarious social and political climate of Kashmir, and what its people currently have to endure.
Photographs of the child sitting on his grandfather’s blood-stained chest became viral, along with a video of the boy crying as Indian police officers try to console him by giving him biscuits. This incident sparked the outrage of Pakistani citizens on social media regarding the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir. But just like before, the conversation eventually died as the short attention-span of the Internet moved to the next abomination that it will focus on for a few days and then neglect.
Yet, one must ask, why do such occurrences recur?
Last year, there was a lot of media frenzy surrounding the revocation of Article 370. India had initially sent in thousands of its troops, closing off educational institutions placing the Kashmiri political leaders under house arrest. Then the Indian government officially placed Jammu and Kashmir under lockdown from the 5th of August, 2019. The occupying government stripped the citizens of Kashmir of their autonomy and the right to retain their land. There have also been frequent communication blackouts and countless human rights violations.
Pakistan has been an active part of the Kashmir conflict since 1947 when India and Pakistan refused to give up the hotly contested region and declared it to be disputed territory. The citizens of Pakistan even condemned the actions taken by India in 2019, calling it an ‘illegal’ occupation. The country cut off diplomatic ties with its neighbor and suspended all trading activities.
There have been talks about mediating the Kashmir conflict via the Saudi-dominated OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) platform. The basis of the formation of the OIC was to promote solidarity amongst its members and to preserve Islamic social and economic values. However, the members of this Muslim group have often remained silent whenever Pakistan brings up Indian villainy. Case in point, the Kashmir issue.
Because of prolonged inaction by the OIC, the issue keeps getting delayed. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, lashed out at the lackluster follow-up of the OIC. He stated clearly, that if there is no response, ‘I will be compelled to ask the Prime Minister to call a meeting of Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims.’
While this may be an appealing back-up option for Pakistan, it is also necessary to gear up, increase the economic status of the country, and to never stop speaking up regarding the rights of Kashmiris. Ultimately, it comes down to the people, especially the youth of Pakistan. One repeatedly sees evidence of what this demographic can accomplish – be it climate change marches, raising its voice for feminism, or calling out the injustices exhibited in the grading practices of certain examination boards.
Moreover, the government, as it is, is burdened with the on-going pandemic, its years and years of debt, and bloodthirsty corruption. The people must remind the government what matters the most to them: is it Kashmir?