The Kashmir Conundrum

The crisis in Kashmir is at a crucial stage. Our actions at this juncture will not only decide the fate of Kashmir and India but of entire South East Asia. In the last few days we have seen a sudden spate of views not just by left liberals but also by centrists like Vir Sanghvi and Swaminathan Aiyar suggesting secession of Kashmir from India. It is really baffling to see them suggesting this just because demand for secession has increased in the last few days.

Was the merger of Kashmir with India unjustified ?

Swaminathan Aiyar questions the merger of Kashmir with India by comparing the merger of  Junagarh with India. He conviniently forgets that India is a secular country wheras Pakistan is a theocratic state. A Hindu majority region could not have merged with Muslim Pakistan. Muslim majority region could merge with India because India is a secular state. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nahru, Sardar Patel and millions of Hindus and Muslims who stayed back in India, did not approve of Two Nation throry and that was the reason India remained secular. If Kashmir secedes from India just because it is a Muslim majority state, it will validate Two Nation theory and pave way for India to become a Hindu Rashtra. Besides, Two Nation Theory was debunked in 1971 with secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan and continuous illegal immigration of crores of Bangladeshis in India since then. Invoking Two nation theory to support secession today is devoid of any logic.

Is Kashmir a colony of India ?

Swami has went a step ahead and compared Kashmir to British India. This despite the fact that Kashmir is the only Indian state to recieve almost 100% funding from Central Government for its five year plans. The poverty level in Kashmir is lowest of all Indian states. A state like Bihar, which is one of the most backward state in the country, gets per capita central assistance of Rs 876 per year. Kashmir gets over ten times more: Rs 9,754 per year. It is the only Indian state to recieve special privileges under Article 370 that bars any non Kashmiri Indian from buying property in the state. Ofcourse, Kashmiris are free to buy property anywhere in the country. Now which “colony” in the history of the world was so pampered ? Vir Sanghvi rightly mentions that most elections held in Kashmir were not as free and fair as in rest of India. But how can this argument be used to merge Kashmir with Pakistan, which has been under dictatorship most of the time since its existence ? Even democratic Governments in Pakistan were always under the shadow of Army and no one can deny that even today Army and not the civilian Government is the most powerful establishment in Pakistan. So if Kashmir merges with Pakistan, would it get any special democratic right which is not enjoyed by the rest of Pakistan? Besides the status of Human Rights in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir should give an inkling to Kashmiris about the state of affairs in Pakistan. Compared to PoK, violation of Human Rights is far less in J&K as said by European Union, Human Rights Watch  and other agencies.

What if Kashmir secedes ?

Most probably we would see a repeat of communal violence that engulfed the nation in 1947, if Kashmir secedes. The only difference would be that now we do not have a Mahatma Gandhi who could soothe communal tensions.

Secession of Kashmir would open a pandora’s box and we would see similar demands from other regions in the country. When Raj Thackeray says that Maharashtrians have first right over any job created in the state, he is bashed by all and sundry (and rightly so), however we would see a Raj Thackeray in each state of India who would have some or the other grievance. Ironically, the same people who harshly criticise Raj Thackeray (and rightly so) do not find anything wrong with the seperatists of Kashmir !!!

As mentioned above, Kashmir’s economy is heavily dependent on Central Government’s aid. An independent Kashmir would be as successful as Pakistan or Bangladesh are today. Crores of Bangladeshis have already made India their home illegally. There is no strong reason to believe that the same story wont be repeated with Kashmir. Pakistan would obiviously try to annex Kashmir, which would be resisted by a strong section of Kashmiris and this will only make the entire South East Asia more unstable.

What is the solution ?

There is no quick fix. The Government needs to take all affected parties into confidence and resolve the Amarnath dispute, which triggered the current crisis. Even if Amarnath land transfer issue is resolved, we need to make a road map for a permanent solution. Pampering Kashmir with special status and a generous central financial assistance hasn’t worked. Financial assistance need not be stopped as the state is victim of terrorism, however Article 370 is part of the problem and not the solution. It is very important that Kashmiris mingle with people from rest of the country and Indians accept them as their own. But you need two hands to clap. Kashmir should be as open to rest of the country as is any other state. Abolishing Article 370 will bring Kashmir and India closer. This ofcourse is not the right time to abolish it but the Government should have a concrete road map to do so. Barring the two elections of 1977 & 2002, all elections in Kashmir are alleged to be rigged. We need to make sure that such mistakes are not repeated and Kashmiri participation in democratic processes is as good as any other state in the country. In short, Kashmiris should be encouraged to join mainstream India but not at the cost of injustice towards rest of India.

As Muzaffar Razmi said, Yeh Jabr Bhi Dekha Hai Tareekh Ki Nazron Ne, Lamhon Ne Khata Ki Thi Sadiyon Ne Saza Payee (History is witness to incidents where mistakes were made during split seconds for which entire generations had to pay the price till centuries). The Indian sub continent is still paying the price for the khata (mistake) made in 1947. Let us learn something from that mistake rather than repeat it.

For more insight on the issue read All Talk and No Action, MJ Akbar, K Subrahmanyam, Arif Mohammed Khan & Mohammed Wajihuddin