I vividly remember that day in school when a simple exercise about map explanation turned out to be a big shocking experience for me. The assignment was to draw the external boundaries of various Indian states and mark important cities therein.
Each student chosen to draw the boundaries of one Indian state would also mark its major cities and explain the state’s historical, geographical and political importance to the whole class.
I was to explain about Jammu Kashmir.
“This is Jammu Kashmir and this is the state’s capital city Srinagar,” I said pointing my little fingers towards Srinagar on the map.
“…the famous 'silk route' passed through this state which served as the world’s major trade route since ancient times. Jammu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffarabad, Gulmarg, Mirpur are other important cities of this state. The state has famous pilgrimage centres such as the Sharada Peeth, Amarnath Shrine and Mata Vaishno Devi….” I went on with my erudite explanation about the state.
“So, where do you want to go in Jammu Kashmir?” the teacher asked.
“Hmmm….well, I want to go to Sharada Peeth,” I said after a brief pause.
I had read that Sharada Peeth was the great centre for learning and was the place where our Vedas were first written, but this seat of high learning was now in ruins and shambles. Yet, being a student I felt a strong connect with Goddess Saraswati's abode--the Sharada Peeth, and wanted to visit the shrine.
The teacher smiled and said, “Yes that is a noble thought but you need to have a passport to go there...so go get a passport.”
“Passport? Why do I need a passport to visit an Indian city?” I said in exasperation.
“Well, the Sharada Peeth is part of a large region that is with Pakistan and is now known as Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK)…so you must seek Pakistan’s permission by taking a visa to visit any place in the PoJK,” the teacher explained.
“B...but how can this be true… see this is the map of Jammu Kashmir and here are Sharada Peeth, Srinagar, Jammu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Gulmarg, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad which are all within the territorial limits of this state and a part of India so why do I need a visa and a passport…,” I blurted out.
“Yes this is true but then this truth exists only on paper…in reality a huge portion of our Jammu Kashmir is still with Pakistan which is known as the Pak occupied Jammu Kashmir…so cities such as Gilgit-Baltistan, Sharada Peeth, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad are all under Pakistan’s illegal control ever since India’s independence. And we in India have still not been able to get control over this entire region...,” the teacher elaborated as I listened with stunned silence.
When this incident took place I was a student of standard sixth and found it hard to believe and digest that India has not been able to take back its own region from Pakistan.
This was several years back.
Much water has flown through the Jhelum and Indus rivers of Jammu Kashmir since then, but I still find it hard to digest why India has not been able to wrest back its own region-- the PoJK, from Pakistan.
Ironically, Pakistan that has committed worst forms of human rights violation with the people of Gilgit-Batistan, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, destroyed the centre of learning--Sharada Peeth, and many other parts of PoJK, celebrates a “solidarity” day for “Kashmiri people” on February 5.
The Pakistani establishment commemorate this day to reaffirm their commitment to support all kinds of terrorist activities on the Indian side of Jammu Kashmir.
Pakistani politicians, ministers and terrorist leaders take a pledge on this day to provide arms and ammunition to separatists and terrorist outfits operating across Jammu Kashmir to help them continue their proxy war against the Indian security forces and Indian establishment.
This year also the Pakistan National Assembly passed a resolution expressing moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Jammu Kashmir. In fact, in the garb of providing support, the Pakistani authorities provide covert funds to Separatists and for various kinds of terrorist activities across the state.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm in India, the Ministry of External Affairs need to take up these issues at the diplomatic level with Pakistan. It is high time that the mist be cleared about Jammu Kashmir's accession to India and everybody should know that we do have a watertight case against Pakistan on Jammu Kashmir.
Consider this: The accession of Jammu Kashmir with India happened through the same process as that of other Princely States so no questions can be raised about the region being an integral part of India. Even the oft-repeated claims of Plebiscite in Jammu Kashmir had become invalid after United Nations said that Pakistan never fulfilled the mandated preconditions before a referendum could be held in the state.
Further, on February 22, 1994 both houses of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) passed a unanimous resolution reaffirming its stand to take back the region of Jammu Kashmir occupied by Pakistan.
“On behalf of the People of India…(we) firmly declare that the State of Jammu Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means... and demands that Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression and resolves that all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely,” reads the Indian Parliamentary resolution of February 22, 1994 in clear terms.
Hari Singh, erstwhile Maharaja of the then princely state of Jammu Kashmir had on October 26, 1947 signed the instrument of accession with the government of India. With his signature on the instrument of accession and India's acceptance of that letter, the entire state of Jammu Kashmir became an integral part of India and that includes Gilgit-Baltistan and other Pak-occupied regions of Jammu Kashmir. And it is in these regions wherein the revered Sharda Peeth lies. Sadly, this pious pilgrimage site where our Vedas were written is in ruins. It is time that the world knows about Sharda Peeth and its importance for Hindus. It’s time that we initiate processes to bring back the remaining portion of Jammu Kashmir to India. Annual pilgrimage to the revered Sharda Peeth in the PoJK could be a beginning point.