Even before the liberation of India and Pakistan from British rule in 1947, the two new countries fought over claims to the Kashmir territory. They settled on an unsteady compromise that allowed both nations to lay claim to certain areas of the region. Since India and Pakistan both still desire control of the whole territory, the world has come to know Kashmir as the world’s most militarized zone, creating a detrimental living situation for the Kashmiri people.
After decades of warring over the territory, India and Pakistan agreed to a mutual ceasefire in 2003 with peace talks progressing between the two countries. While tensions remained high, the countries had mostly halted physical violence until 2015 when India alleged that Pakistan groups attacked an airbase in Pathankot. Since then, the countries have ceased peace talks. The most recent attacks between India and Pakistan have seemed much more calculated, posing a much larger threat to those in Kashmir and surrounding areas.
The death of 40 Indian soldiers in the February 14, 2019 attack has escalated the violence, causing India to pledge retaliation against Pakistan. Days later, on February 28, India launched multiple airstrikes in Pakistan territory. Pakistan responded by shooting down two Indian jets that had crossed into Pakistan territory. This rampant back-and-forth has left many wondering if the growing wave of violence will engulf both nations and Kashmir entirely.
The repeated clashes between the two countries have had extreme consequences for civilians of Pakistan, India and Kashmir. Throughout 2017, these clashes killed more than three hundred people as Kashmiri citizens fought for independence from India. Protests and militant forces in Kashmir continued throughout 2018, increasing the death toll to 500, the highest number in a decade.
In addition to the high death toll of civilians, Pakistan and India simply cannot afford to go to war without further hurting their respective economies and livelihood of their citizens. A fifth of India’s citizens and a third of Pakistan’s live in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 a day). A new war would have disastrous consequences for citizens’ land, livelihood and income potential, especially if other nations become involved.
The Hashtag Heard Around the World
While the India-Pakistan conflict has escalated immensely, there is still hope for peace. Around the world, celebrities, civilians and activists are alerting governments to their desire to end the violence. The hashtag #SayNoToWar has been a trending topic since February 2019. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan used the hashtag in its comment on the conflict, stating, “More than ever, it is now critical that both India and Pakistan show restraint, and heed all those calling for mature diplomacy rather than provocation and aggression.”
Others used #SayNoToWar to bring attention to the fact that both countries need to work together to fight issues of illiteracy and poverty. Kevalsinh Rathod, an Indian social activist, noted there are far more important issues to be addressed in both countries, ” issues like poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, casteism, untouchability, income inequality and many others. We should fight against the issues not each other.”
Voices for Peace
While this hashtag may seem simple, it could offer civilians another platform for their voices to be heard regarding the violent conflict. The amount of pushback from the populations of Pakistan, India and Kashmir seems to be working. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, said that his country is seeking a calm conversation with India, mentioning the need for a “better sense to prevail.”
The cries for peace raised from the citizens of Pakistan, India and Kashmir are increasing awareness about the violence happening across the three regions. Though the world will have to wait for the India-Pakistan conflict to officially be resolved, it can take Pakistan’s willingness to have a dialogue with India as a sign that the people are being heard. Hopefully, both nations will choose to fight inequality, illiteracy and extreme poverty instead of each other.
– Holli Flanagan