I thought it is high time for me to write about the Kashmir ‘issue’, specific and to the point. The media does an excellent job by sensationalizing things which probably should be boycotted by the Indian media. We do exactly what the separatists want us to do. But then, the greatest instrument of a free nation is it’s media. Yesterday, my brother Jatinder (hats-off to him for continuously posting Kashmir related news) posted on FB about a Pakistani flag being hoisted in Kashmir University. So Kashmir has been on the boil…what is it about and why is that the case?
First and most important, each of my readers should understand the difference between Kashmir and the state of Jammu & Kashmir which encompasses the Jammu region and Ladakh, which have nothing to do with this violence and are very patriotic people. Then what is wrong with Kashmir? Bear in mind that a small part of the Kashmir valley is with Pakistan (as a part of the larger PoK). The trouble started during and after partition. Muslim majority areas were to join Pakistan, and a small part of the Kingdom or Jammu and Kashmir was Muslim majority, albeit a very important part, which is the Kashmir valley. Pakistan tried hard to terrorize people (especially those who sympathized with India) by sending Afghan and Tajik mercenaries. They were quite successful as a lot of Hindu and Sikh Kashmiris moved to relatively calmer places in and outside the state, like Jammu.
This went on and we fought two wars with Pakistan in the meanwhile. In the 71 war, we were in a good position to negotiate with Pakistan (or simply put, kick them out of Kashmir with their sympathizers). But instead we maintained status quo (under immese Soviet pressure) and the LoC was formed. From 1990 onwards, Islamic propaganda took an ugly turn and virtually all of the non-Muslim Kashmiris moved out of the valley. These are known facts, but let me mention something about this that you probably won’t know. It is widely believed that these people (mostly Pandits) were forced to leave, the fact is that most of the Pandits were the educated and progressive folk who anyway chose to move to areas with better development, opportunities and less violence. This has contributed to the notion amongst the newer generation of Kashmiri Muslims that Kashmir is theirs, and always was. After all the second generation Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu or Delhi neither speak Kashmiri nor can read the Persian script in which Kashmiri is written. Right wingers in India keep shouting about the rehabilitation of Pandits. But who wants to go back to Kashmir?. Many of them are educated, and well placed people. Do you think they will just leave their lives and start growing walnuts again?
Between 1990-2000, the average Kashmiri was completely brainwashed into doing things which they never supported, like fighting against India. Amongst all the major Muslim communities of the world, Kashmiris were probably the most ‘moderate’. A feature worth noting is that in the early 1990s, militant attacks often killed civilians. Slowly, the scenario changed and with the ever increasing presence of people (and the Indian government’s helpless approach towards them) of Geelani and Yasin Malik, the movement turned separatist. The militant attacks only targeted security forces, to give an impression that because Indian forces are occupying Kashmir forcibly, they need to be taught a lesson. Geelani always maintained that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan because of the sole reason that it is an Islamic state. Where as the other were more ‘pro-freedom’ in nature. As of today, due to the complete lack of decisiveness on part of the Central government, the Hurriyat camp became unified. Geelani and co. argue that Kashmir was never part of India, and Arundhati Roy seconds him. Was Punjab or Bengal a part of India? Was Kerala a part of India? Was Manipur a part of India? What was India? Nothing… We are a union of common civilizations and cultures that have joined hands, because unity is strength and no one can deny that.
For the last six months, Kashmir has been on the boil. People have been killed left and right, and I have seen the situation first hand. The general public in the valley, have completely turned anti-India. The hard fact is that they don’t like us. We know that is stupid because Kashmir independently cannot survive (Kashmir lives on alms from India…it’s productivity is nearly zero). Yes, in 2010, there are all these people who would rather become a part of Pakistan because it has a green coloured flag, completely rendering the fact that we are secular (and how!) and that we have 130 million + Muslims in India unimportant. The fact is that Pakistan is a failed Muslim state and the whole idea of seceding from India in 1947 has now proven to be a mistake due the varying levels of progress and the fact that 130 million Muslims never thought it is a good idea anyway! So then you ask me, why is it that the Kashmiri Muslims dislike us? Well the answer is simple yet complicated. A big chunk of Kashmiri Muslims ARE very much a part of the people who believed in the two nation theory, and for the last 60 years Pakistan (despite it’s utter failure at home) has managed to keep them believing that it is a good idea, in the name of Islam of course.
Religion can be such a unifier…or a divider. We are not debating whether what they think is right or wrong, because that is clear to any sane person. The Indian Government’s use of force, and several instances of human rights violations have further isolated the people. Such is the atmosphere today that if a person dies in Kashmir, for whatever reason, the ‘security forces’ are blamed! I know of a case where a suicide (over some family matter) lead to a protest against the forces for human rights violations!! Hurriyat, JKLF etc. are ever ready to lead these protests. I must also point out, that a ‘normal’ day in Kashmir, is hardly normal. They still hate us and our institutions, just that they aren’t throwing stones on those days, and we tend to believe that owing to divine intervention, everything is ‘calm’ and ‘normal’.
Perhaps the mistake that the Indian government did (it is actually our greatness and I shouldn’t really call it a mistake) is it did not affirm India as primarily the land for Hindus post-partition. We never asked anyone to leave then, nor do we ask anyone to leave now. The result of not doing this is, we can’t even ask the Pakistani sympathizers in Kashmir to go to Pakistan, because they won’t just go…they want their land too; and thanks to fifty years of Islamization, it ‘appears’ that they are the only stakeholders of Kashmir, completely forgetting about 3 million Pandits who also belong to the same piece of land, and much before Pakistan or even for that matter Islam as a concept had emerged. Can you imagine the state of mind of people, who burned down one of the best schools of Baramulla because it was a ‘Christian’ school, as an anti-America act. I mean, were Americans studying and teaching in Baramulla!? Each area of Kashmir still oozes Hinduism, from Shrinagar, to Varhamull to Anantnag, to Sheshnag, to Martand, to Avantipur etc. Anyway, if you still count J&K as one, by sheers numbers, the Indian sympathizers will probably be larger because of the Jammu region and Ladakh. Can you imagine the plight of the poor Ladakhis who have have to listen to news in Kashmiri and Urdu, which they don’t understand a word of, nor do they have anything to do with it. Can you imagine their plight when they cannot even understand what their Chief Minister says in a public rally in the capital of the ‘state’! Utter lack of vision on the part of Nehru and co. to not divide the states in three logical parts at the outset.
Let’s talk about the possible and realistic solutions. I don’t know how many of you know that Pakistan recently inducted ‘Azad Kashmir’ (includes Gilgit and Baltistan) as the 5th province of the country, and will now have representation in the Parliament. This effectively means that the LoC is now the International Border, so our offer (Vajpayee & co.) to make LoC as IB and retain the respective parts and solve the problem is now out of question. For those brave and patriotic citizens (Congress bashers) who want to be at war with Pak at every opportunity don’t realize that a war is out of question. We are progressing; Pakistan has failed. It wants to drag us down, initiating a war will completely ruin the 60 years of hard work. It is a trap; neither can we afford it nor will it solve anything. Remember Pakistan isn’t a Bangladesh or Sri Lanka…it is a big country with a huge army and nuclear weapons. Also, as you can infer, a war with Pakistan will leave us very vulnerable against China, which anyway is too hot to handle! And if you still want to be at war, then please do the honours, you know which way is Pakistan, don’t you? Don’t expect our brave soldiers to die for a war which cannot be won.
The other thing the government can do is categorically state to the Kashmiris that Kashmir is like any other state of India and any one who had a problem with this was free to immigrate to Pakistan. Unfortunately it is too late for this, because Pakistan isn’t going to accept any one from India (unless they bring their land with it). Efforts to integrate Kashmiris into mainstream India was another option, but our propaganda has failed against the green propaganda from across the border. We don’t know what we want to do with Kashmir. Sometimes I doubt whether we believe it is ours, because there seems to be disagreement over that as well. Why else would we tolerate staunch and categorically anti-Indian elements like Yasin Malik and Geelani? If they don’t want to talk to us, why do we keep asking them to talk? We even treat them for free in our hospitals, using my money! The reason why India hesitates is that it fears it might anger local Muslims (which again stems from the Nehruvian fallacies).
One of the other possible solutions, which I think is what will be, is to keep things as they are. We are growing at 9% annually. Pakistan is no competition. We have 1.2 billion people, a few hundred deaths each year at the hands of Pakistani terrorists doesn’t change anything for the country as such. I know it is a very cynical way of looking at the picture, but unfortunately it is true. Kashmir is a white elephant, zero production only expenditure. We provide everything to Kashmir, food, roads, education, water, power, everything. Even the tourists are naturally all Indian (and the few westerners who com there still go there because it is in India…don’t know how many westerners go to Gilgit). If you are to visit J&K, you will be surprised by the quality of roads. Bombay doesn’t have have good roads as Kashmir does even though Bombay generates 16% of the Indian GDP. But we must retain Kashmir for two reasons. One because all the important rivers of Punjab originate/flow from the region (which means we can impose a drought on Pakistan whenever we want) and the second is to prevent the Pakistan China axis from getting any stronger by giving them a large shared border (which they’ve still managed to create in Baltistan) but thanks to our position in Siachen, it is still very difficult for them to carry out their logistics while avoiding us.
Another alternative to tackle this problem is by integrating Kashmir in India by allowing (by design) lot of non-Kashmiris to migrate there. This is again is not the best good approach as it will have its repercussions, but that is exactly what China did in Tibet. In 50 years from now, one won’t even know what is Tibet and Tibetans will be Mandarin speaking people. Last year a the controversy erupted over the Amarnath Shrine Board land allotment, which shows how difficult this approach will be. This is because we have given way to much leeway to Kashmir from day one, so much so that people don’t even want a few acres of land to be allotted to an Indian body. And to add to that sense of isolation, our right wing patriots in Jammu blocked roads to Srinagar, preventing movement of essential supplies for over a week.
Lastly, the approach I believe will work. Counter iron with iron. Counter green with green. Counter Islamic propaganda by leveraging the 130 million + Muslims of India. 130 million people stay here and supposedly reject the theory of an Islamic state and of partition. We cannot ignore this fact. No one can. What I am trying to say is if Geelani and others can in the name of Islam convince the Kashmiri Muslims to take a step which is insane (join Pakistan…who on earth would join Pakistan especially now!?), our Ulemas and Maulvis who love India (and claim to at every given opportunity) can also convince them they are being misguided. A couple of months back, the Darul-uloom Deoband, one of the world’s largest and influential seminaries for the first time said something on these lines proactively; but I suggest is that the government must use them and others who can shape public opinion (amongst Muslims) to our advantage. The famous freedom fighter Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, who visited Darul Uloom during his visit to India in 1969, had said “I have had relation with Darul Uloom since the time the Shaikh-ul-Hind, Maulana Mehmud Hasan, was alive. Sitting here, we used to make plans for the independence movement, as to how we might drive away the English from this country and how we could make India free from the yoke of slavery of the British Raj. This institution has made great efforts for the freedom of this country”.
So, realizing that this institution contributed to our fight for independence, we much harness it’s potential in helping solve the Kashmir problem. There are other institutions like the Aligarh Muslim Univeristy, the Jamia Milia Islamia, Hamdard etc. which can be harnessed, and the few Kashmiri Muslims who come to study to ‘India’ often study at these institutions. I am sure this is a new thing that I am proposing, but I some how trust it’s potential. The only way to win the Kashmiri Muslim’s trust is to convince them that their community and culture can thrive within the framework of our nation, just as 130 million others continue to, while also highlighting the miseries of the people of Pakistan.
Please feel free to comment your thoughts on this issue, and in case you want any specific opinion from me, please e-mail me. Thank you and Jai hind.