I was raised to be proud of my Kashmiri heritage. It is who we are and why shouldn’t we shout it from the rooftops?

When stating ethnicity, it was always British Asian Other to emphasize that I was Kashmiri – not Pakistani or Indian.

At school, when learning about ethnicity, Kashmiri was disregarded. Pakistani students tried to claim us as did the Indians and teachers refused to acknowledge the issue.

It has been a constant battle of trying to claim something that has always belonged to us.

We were invested in Pakistani politics and Indian politics because the decisions made by both countries wholeheartedly affected Kashmir. We also held onto the hope that one of those elected officials would have the balls to give us the independence we were entitled too.

Currently, the way things stand is complex.

Pakistan administers the Western regions and India administers the southern and south-eastern regions. Both countries have granted some liberties to my region by allowing devolved political powers, but the fact that my family still needs Pakistani ID cards proves that we are not as independent as they try to dupe us into believing.

A map of the Kashmiri region, highlighted with a blue line. The Pakistani-Administered region is in green, the India-Administered region is blue and the Chinese claims are in yellow
[Image Description: A map of the Kashmiri region, highlighted with a blue line. The Pakistani-Administered region is in green, the Indian-Administered region is blue and the Chinese claims are in yellow] via Wikimedia Commons
In 1947, when India was going through the partition process, 60 percent of Kashmir was Muslim but the Maharajah of the region, Hari Singh, was Hindu. The Maharajah was hostile towards the Indian Assembly, but he also opposed the Muslim Brotherhood and their push for a separate state for Muslims i.e. Pakistan.

The Maharajah initially supported the idea of being an independent state and signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan that allowed travel and trade to continue between the new country and the Kashmiris. Partition was a violent time and as the violence increased across India and Pakistan, Pakistan urged the Maharajah to join them. However, Pashtun tribal leaders from Pakistan invaded Kashmir and defeated the Maharajah’s forces in September 1947.

The Maharajah appealed to India for help who were ready to send troops, on one condition – Kashmir had to accede to India. The Maharajah agreed, signing the unconditional Instrument of Accession to the Dominion of India on the 26th October 1947, starting the first Indo-Pakistan War that lasted for two years.

The Maharajah was eventually ousted by Indian politicians but it was his decision that led to the conflict that continues to this day.

Unrest is prominent in the Indian-administered regions where allegations of human rights abuses and high unemployment are well- known, thanks in part to the increase in social media use.

More than 500 people were killed in 2018 as a result of the constant unrest – arguably the deadliest year in a decade.

And yes, Pakistan and India agreed to a ceasefire in 2003 along the de facto border (the Line of Control) with Pakistan promising to stop funding insurgencies and India offering an amnesty to the insurgents if they renounced the military. Both countries have given devolved powers to their administered regions which allow for elections independent of the rest of the countries.

But low and behold, a new government came into power in India in 2014 (the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party), who promised a tough line on Pakistan and pulled out of the coalition with the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (the elected party in the Indian-administered region). This means that the region is now under direct rule by New Delhi which further intensified the unrest.

And the latest unrest with airstrikes, bombs, and attacks are proof that we are all back to square one.

But I am done hearing the voices of the Pakistani people and the Indian people.

I am done hearing what the politicians and the celebrities want. I am done reading the words of peace envoys and human rights defenders of the region celebrating or calling for war.

Their voices are not important.

This is not a war that should even be happening nor should they even have any input in it.

The decision, as stated in the Indian Independence Act 1947, should be left to the Kashmiri people. This has been repeated countless times by the United Nations  – leave it to the Kashmiri people.

Do they want to be a part of Pakistan, India or solely independent?

In a study conducted by British academic, Robert Bradnock in 2010 found that around 87 percent of people across the region (Pakistan-administered and Indian-administered) want independence from both countries.

Our voices are more important than theirs and we refuse to be silenced anymore. Ask us what we want – not the Indian and Pakistani people and politicians. We are the ones suffering, not them. We know what is best for ourselves. Ask yourselves why there has been no referendum in regard to independence ever administered in the region.

Because both India and Pakistan know the results – liberty from both countries.

Kashmir is a beautiful country in the Himalayas. We have natural resources, beautiful scenery and was the holiday and vacation point for many British elites during colonialism. We believe in education for all – including girls. Our culture mixes Hindu and Muslim traditions together and there is so much we can do and be if we were given the chance.

India and Pakistan have their own problems in their countries to deal with.

Kashmiri people deserve a voice and we deserve to be heard. Listen to us and help us fight for our freedom.

We will not be silenced anymore.

  • Zara Shabir is an introverted writer and reader, who recently graduated with an MA in criminology, specialising in human and women's rights, counter-terrorism and homicide. She has a passion to destroy toxic masculinity, raise awareness against violence towards women and promote and encourage education. When not doing the above, she is an amateur historian, a stationary addict and spending her weekends at home with her cat and a good book.