Mohsin Shahid |
It was 2004, a year before the devastating earthquake in Pakistan, when there was a murder in Dherkot, district Bagh in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). The story was told by one of my friends from Dherkot, a professor of international relations in Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad. That event, as he narrated with gloom, still haunted the locals in his area, as that was the only incident of murder in 30 years.
He told, “it is rare that a murder takes places in our area, as the people are so peaceful that no one requires a weapon in the house.” Such is the situation in the entire AJK even today where people live in peace and that peace of mind in the region permeates into the entire social outlook of the people in AJK.
Journalist community in India needs to think of universal ethics of journalism and report on the basis of facts and rationale. Otherwise, the only remaining hope of saving Indian society from the age of misinformation will also die down.
In the recent past, Indian media has fabricated some stories on the state of unrest and human rights’ violations in Azad Kashmir. At the same time, some reports indicate the lack of development and increased poverty in Azad Kashmir. Far from the reality, Indian TV channels and newspapers try to invent a fictitious uprising in Azad Kashmir.
Neo-media tendencies are haunting the Indian tabloid-journalist community – the community that has developed itself in a so-called secular India but the process has been halted by the rise of “Hindutva”. The whole journalist community has been forced to shelf their professionalism and render compulsory service for the BJP; a party that wants India to emerge as a country based on the ideas that never existed in the past but are now a part of their history.
In view of the emerging situation, a comparison of various areas of governance and people’s aspirations between Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) is direly needed. Azad Jammu and Kashmir is a semi-autonomous region of Pakistan with its own legislative assembly that consists of Kashmiri people. The AJK government has its own Interim Constitution Act that was passed by the AJK Assembly in 1974.
The state of India has intervened in public life in a way that the entire social setup is disturbed. This theoretically as well as practically goes against the very purpose behind the creation of a state.
AJK comprises of 10 districts with a total population of 4,045,366, according to National Census of Pakistan 2017. The total area of AJK is 13,297 square kilometers with 13% cultivated land. The literacy rate is 74% that is almost the highest as compared to the other provinces of Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan and FATA. The enrolment rate for primary boys is 98% and 90% for primary girls.
During the financial year 2017-18, the AJK government allocated 8% of its total budget for education. The per capita income of AJK is 1512 USD per annum. The entire population of the area is Muslim with religious diversity along sectarian lines. These statistics show how AJK is prospering with a developing infrastructure.
On the law enforcement front, the state of peace in the area can be assessed by the number of police personnel, which is around 10,000. Only one division of Pakistan army is deployed in AJK for the purpose of deterring the threat from the Indian side. Pakistan army has nothing to do with civilian dealings as it remains in the bunkers along the border. The army does not intervene in local matters nor does it take law and order in its own hands except when asked by the government of AJK for provision of security to conduct elections. As compared to other provinces of Pakistan, AJK has much a lower crime rate.
The constitution itself is a written guarantee for a group of organized people to be ruled by established rules and regulations.
On the other hand, Indian Occupied Kashmir comprises of 22 districts with the total population of 12.5 million (ranked 19th) according to 2011 census. The literacy rate of IOK is 68% that is 30th among all the Indian states, and probably the lowest. IOK is ranked 20th in GDP ratios of the Indian states and 7th in terms of the total percentage of people below poverty line. Similarly, IOK is ranked 18th in crimes being reported in the police stations. The state merely shares 6 seats in the lower house of the Indian parliament meaning each member represents 2 million Kashmiris in the lower house.
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The Indian army is the second largest army in terms of number of troops. According to Press Information Bureau, there are 1,427,258 active and 1,155,000 reserved soldiers in the Indian Army. Almost 700,000 troops including CPRF troops are deployed in IOK, which means one soldier for 14 Kashmiris. Contrary to the situation in AJK, the unrest due to legitimate freedom struggle in IOK is an open secret for the international community. Since 1947, more than 100,000 people have been killed by Indian Army and LEAs. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) from 2005 to present, IOK has experienced 6335 causalities including civilians, security personnel and freedom fighters. Since 2005, the total number of causalities in India is 21378, which means one third of causalities only in IOK.
The entire population of the area is Muslim with religious diversity along sectarian lines. These statistics show how AJK is prospering with a developing infrastructure.
There is a considerable difference of press freedom between AJK and IOK. In April 2017, Indian authorities in IOK banned 22 social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube. According to a 2016 report from the U.S. think-tank the Brookings Institution, India blocked access to the Internet in various regions in an attempt to prevent demonstrations 22 times from July 1st, 2015 to June 30th, 2016. These curbs against press freedom and right to information only indicate the sheer hypocrisy of India to keep its own people as well as the international community in the dark from its brutalities. In AJK, people have equal excess to Internet and cellular networks with the number of users increasing exponentially.
The fundamental argument about the existence of ‘state’ is ‘rule by mutual consent’. A state rules the people within the given parameters defined under the constitution. The constitution itself is a written guarantee for a group of organized people to be ruled by established rules and regulations. In political philosophy, the phrase “consent” of the governed refers to the idea that a government’s legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and legal when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised. This is all about democracy. Democratic rule is exercised in a way that peoples’ fundamental rights are protected under the given circumstances and that the people have a legitimate right to establish the fact whether the democratic rule is justified or not.
In view of the emerging situation, a comparison of various areas of governance and people’s aspirations between Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) is direly needed.
State is the outcome of an agreement among the people to maintain law and order. People render their freedom to the state in the hope of peace. However, this framework is missing in IOK. First of all, India has forcefully subjugated Jammu and Kashmir. So the question of basic principle for the existence of state is nullified there. Secondly, the state of India has intervened in public life in a way that the entire social setup is disturbed. This theoretically as well as practically goes against the very purpose behind the creation of a state. Indian government does not have peoples’ consent nor does it have any legitimate way to deal with the people in IOK.
Indian media has made an effort to compare the situation in IOK and AJK but social, political, economic, security and public settings on both sides tell an entirely different story. Instead of siding with the oppressed people of IOK, Indian media lobbies are standing with the oppressor (Indian government). It is proved now that, media industry in India is misguided and is misguiding the public opinion as well. Journalist community in India needs to think of universal ethics of journalism and report on the basis of facts and rationale. Otherwise, the only remaining hope of saving Indian society from the age of misinformation will also die down.
Mohsin Shahid is M.Phil Scholar in Area Study Center for Africa, North and South America, Quaid-e-Azam University. His area of interest is oriental studies, identity politics and narrative studies with special focus on international media. The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.