Z. G. Muhammad
Who named the line dividing Jammu and Kashmir for past seventy years as the bloody line? Google, which responds to commands on smartphones like genies in old films also could not help me in finding an answer. Nonetheless, it is the most appropriate title given to this artificial line dividing not just the territory but the people of the state- dividing a brother from a brother, a sister from a sister and husband from wife.
Since the birth of this line, armies of India and Pakistan have been facing each other eyeball to eyeball in the battle ready gears to the discomfort of about two million people living along it on both the side. The 800kms long- perhaps longest and oldest Ceasefire Line in the world is, in fact, tragedy incarnate. A mere skirmish between armies of the two countries breaks loose all hell on the people living not just along the LOC nee Ceasefire Line but miles away from it. Barrages of miseries from death, destruction, and displacement have been descending on the hapless people for none of their faults. Because no organization in Kashmir, India, Pakistan and at the international level having so far carried out a census of people killed, maimed, disabled and uprooted from their homes and hearth because of the ceasefire violations by the armies of the two countries the world at large is yet to appreciate the magnitude of tragedies that are enacted in Jammu and Kashmir on daily basis. And the killing of citizens of the state for a sport is passed on to to the media in dismissive tone as ‘ceasefire violation’. Sadly, even the United Nations Military Observers Group stationed in the State has not come up with a report about the number of the people killed on the Bloody Line during past six decades – that, of course, runs into thousands.
Since 2014, there has been an unprecedented spurt in the exchange of fire along the LOC. In May 2016, the Ministry Home Affairs, (MHA), Government of India in response to an RTC said ‘at least one incident of ceasefire violation by Pakistan took place daily along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir in 2015 and 2016. That means seven hundred thirty times guns have boomed and spewed thousands of mortars and bullets along the dividing line. Islamabad has equally been blaming India of violating the Ceasefire line and every now and then summoning Indian envoys in Islamabad and registering protests against the killing of children and women on Pakistan side of the LOC. These violations have defeated the November 2003 Ceasefire Agreement, which had come into being after two years standoff between the two countries. The agreement which was largely attributed in Indian media to the political astuteness of Prime Minister, Vajpayee beside paving way for meaningful engagement with Pakistan on Kashmir had also brought ten years respite to people of Jammu and Kashmir living on the LOC. Scores of lives were saved from getting killed and maimed. The BJP government in India and the N. Leauge government in Pakistan need to draw a lesson that how despite the hostile situations and longest standoff the two countries had signed the Ceasefire agreement and respected it in letter and spirit.
People in the state are not interested in the debates, which country fires first and which one retaliates it with equal forces. But what is much of consequences to them is that it is a citizen of the Disputed state whether in the Neelam Valley or Samba that is getting killed, wounded and dislocated.
In a highly militarized State in the world, with a huge concentration of armies of inimical countries claimants to the Disputed State equipped with heavy and highly sophisticated weapons facing each other along an invisible line clashes and exchanges of fire are a natural corollary. Nevertheless, whose job is it to rein in the armies of the two countries and prevent shelling of the civilian population on both the sides of the State. Of course, it is the responsibility of India and Pakistan who are signatories to the Karachi Agreement of 1949. The agreement that had established a cease-fire line after the India-Pakistan War of 1947 was signed by the military representatives of the two countries under the aegis of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan. The agreement by all standards is an international agreement and no bilateral agreement like the Shimla Agreement can override it. The mother of this agreement, in fact, was the UNSC resolutions of 1948 and 1949, that guaranteed the exercise of the right to self-determination to people of the state to decide their future. Moreover, this agreement bound the two countries for ensuring peace in the State for creating a conducive environment for conducting a plebiscite in the state.
True, the United Nations Secretary-General, has time and again been expressing concern over the ceasefire violations and asking the two countries to resolve their disputes peacefully. But, these meaningless concerns and hollow statements have so far meant nothing to people living along the LOC- they have not mitigated their sufferings. At the cost of repetition let me reiterate the question that has been debated in this columns more than once. Whose job is to ensure New Delhi and Islamabad abiding by the Karachi Agreement and ensuring peace along the CFL/ LOC. The fact of the matter is that the Ceasefire line was not born in the capitals of India and Pakistan but after marathon sessions on the floor of the United Nations Security Council. The part one of the UNCIP resolution binds the two countries to order their armies to refrain from violating the agreement. To prevent any violation of the ceasefire the United Nations Military Group Observers Group (UNMOGIP) was placed on both the sides of the line. The presence of the UNMOGIP as Josef Korbel has written ‘contributed immensely to the calming of the hostile spirits.’ The military observers continue to be stationed on both the sides but their ineffectiveness is because of the slackness of the United Nations. In the post, 1972 Simla Agreement, the UNSC has failed to impress upon New Delhi to allow the Military Observers to discharge their duties.
For ensuring the security of life to the multitudes of people living along the LOC, it is the job of the United Nations Secretary-General to see the two countries allowing the military observers to function smoothly and respecting the agreement regarding cessation of hostilities along the dividing line and saving the lives of people of the State. The Secretary-General will have to go beyond rhetoric.
-Z. G. Muhammad is a columnist born in Nowhatta, Srinagar, Kashmir. After studying at Islamia School he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Science and a master’s degree in English literature from Kashmir University followed by a course in Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication New Delhi. Currently he is editor of Peace Watch Kashmir, a journal dedicated to peace in South Asia, and a regular ‘Columnist and Writer for Greater Kashmir, Srinagar.