Defending the Idea Of India in PoK

On 69th Independence Day Prime Minister, Narendra  Modi’s speech from the Red Fort was a surprise for many and shock for some. No Indian Prime Minister had ever spoken about Gilgit- Baltistan and human right violation there by Pakistan army. A few days later Nawaz Sharif while speaking at UNGA eulogized Burhan Wani and showed concern for Kashmir unrest. Each word of Sharif was laced with hypocrisy and bigotry as according to an estimate more than hundred political activists have been killed by the ISI  in last 2 years and human rights of thousands have been violated in PoK. Pakistan is indifferent to the condition of the people of PoK while shedding crocodile tears for Kashmir on international platforms.

PoK is a forgotten territory, people have no political right, have poor socio-economic conditions and the Pakistani deep state brutally curbs their freedom. Land to make highways, railways, and infrastructure is acquired from natives without paying any compensation. Rape, loot, killings are everyday affairs. Interaction with the outside world is almost nil. With media blackout and outsiders not allowed, POK is permanently under seize. In fact, the whole region was totally secluded till the earthquake of 2005 and flood of 2014 when the area was flocked by international NGOs and activists. Human rights have become a crude joke.

Demographic invasion of PoK has reached dangerous levels. The whole of Pakistan has a Sunni-Shia ratio of 80:20, while Gilgit-Baltistan has the polar opposite. The region, as it turns out is a Shia majority province. Over a period Pakistan has settled 3.5 lakh Sunnis in Gilgit- Baltistan to neutralize Shia uprising, disturbing the demography of the region. Not only Sunni, in 1988 Parvez Musharraf brought tribesmen from North West Frontier Province who looted the locals and destroyed their properties. As if it was not enough, on the pretext of the building and protecting China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a large number of Chinese soldiers and workers have flooded the area, exploiting the locals, further challenging the demography of the region.

 During Kargil conflict, troops from other ethnicities of Pakistan were withdrawn and only the North Light Infantry (NLI) were deployed in the region. NLI largely consisted of Shias and the locals of POK, loss of whom did not matter to Pakistan. They were used in the conflict and their unclaimed dead bodies were discarded without any proper burial.  Nawaz Sharif must feel ashamed that in Kashmir even a terrorist like Burhan Wani had had a respectable burial.

Pakistan exercises no tolerance policy for demonstrators and protesters in POK with detention, killings and sedition charges slapped on them. Deprived of basic amenities, the locals can’t even hold ordinary meetings. In 2004, 12-14-year-old Shia students refused to learn Sunni teachings. Not only were they detained but physically tortured also. POK born human rights activist Senge Hasnan Sering is raising the issue of Pak army atrocities for quite some time. An attempt is made to destroy local languages of the region. The Chinese language is taught forcibly in the schools. In a recent incident, a writer is booked for writing the history of a native language.

ISI has turned it into a jihadi hub and terrorist heaven by setting militant camps in the area. Though Gilgit-Baltistan is culturally and linguistically closer to India, Pakistan has turned it into a Chinese colony, courtesy the CPEC. And true to the Chinese political culture, any kind of resentment is dealt with an iron hand.

PoK is a geostrategically significant region for Asia and beyond. But it has the most immediate impact on India. CPEC is illegal as POK is a disputed territory. On the pretext of protecting CPEC, the presence of a large number of Chinese troops can affect Indo-Pak negotiations on Kashmir. Moreover, Pak is planning to set up a brigade-level military establishment in the Diamer district of the region. Heavy military presence could be dangerous for Kashmir, already facing Pak induced unrest.

Of late, protest in Kotli, Gilgit and Muzaffarabad have intensified as the awareness for fundamental rights and demands of PoK merging with India are rising. They are demanding the same rights what their Kashmiri brethren on the other side, are enjoying. And Inshallah, they will fructify. They have to.

In the Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare says at one point that there is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. India stands at the cusp of history, it is imperative upon us to seize the moment. India is morally bound to protect the ‘Idea of India’ in India. Even if the territory be under enemy occupation.

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