October 24, 2020
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Kashmir Now Or Never

It is time to recuperate and refurbish the covenant of the federative promise and principle, setting a uniquely outstanding example both in terms of plurality of citizenship and of political partnership in opposition to totalitarian impulses

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Kashmir Now Or Never
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

“Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit but not by the force of soldiers.”

-- Kalhana Pandit

I

So total has been the loss of hegemony of Kashmir’s elected representatives, in government and in the legislature, over the last two months, and so desperately brutal the recourse to coercive subjugation of fearless young anger on the streets of the valley, that if ever there was a time to say resistance to authority (sic) deserves to be rewarded with what it seeks, it has been now. If the prospect, that is, of the secession of the valley—since other parts of the state of Jammu & Kashmir desire, contrarily, not secession but more complete integration with the Union of India — were not fraught with incalculable negative consequences not just for India and Pakistan, but for the inhabitants of the valley itself.

To that I shall return.

Just the other day, the home minister made two significant averments in Parliament. One that the union recognizes that the accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir was a “unique one”; and, two, that, apart of all other things, the Republic and its successive governments had failed to keep promises made to the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

Since the time for pussy footing about Kashmir is conclusively at an end, it would help to flesh out those two averments beyond the minister’s sketchily en passant mention.

Uniqueness of the Accession

It is to be recalled that the two conditions agreed upon as the signposts for India’s pre-Independence Princely States as determinants of whether they would accede to India or to Pakistan were the religion of the majority within the states, and the congruity of the states to either Dominion.

In that context, the three states of Hyderabad, Junagarh, and Jammu & Kashmir offered interesting paradigms.

Where the first two had Muslim rulers but majority Hindu populations, J&K had a Dogra-Hindu ruler but a majority Muslim population. Of the three, clearly, J&K, being also contiguous with Pakistan, had the clearest case for accession to Pakistan.

Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, however, desired accession to neither of the two new countries, but wished to remain Independent.

Having succeeded in signing what was called a “Standstill” agreement with Pakistan, it was his hope to do the same with India. Except that the fates intervened in the shape of a precipitate invasion of the state he ruled by tribal warriors from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan with the latter's active support and involvement in late October of 1947.

With next to no means of his own to meet, let alone defeat the invasion, he found himself constrained to appeal to India for military help vide his request for Accession to India, dated October, 26, 1947. He wrote to the then Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma:

“The mass infiltration of tribesmen drawn from the distant areas of the North-West Frontier. . .cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provincial Government of the North West Frontier Province and the Government of Pakistan. Inspite of repeated requests made by my Government no attempt has been made to check these raiders or stop them from coming to my State. . . .I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government.”

That much for a Hindu ruler who had been reluctant to join even a Hindu-majority India but for the fact that circumstances forced such a decision upon him. Another matter that even on acceding, the Instrument of Accession he signed stated that the accession in no way bound him to “acceptance of any future constitution of India” (Clause 7), and that “Nothing in this instrument affects the continuance of my sovereignty in and over this State” (Clause 8). Stipulations that to this day continue to colour the fraught history of tensions between the Union and the State.

As a result, Article 306 A was adopted in the Draft Constitution, and in course became the much-talked-about Article 370 in the final Constitution of India. Most significantly, the “special status” thus accorded to the State of J&K, backed by the then Home Minister of India, Patel (who said to the Constituent Assembly “in view of the special problems with which the government of Jammu & Kashmir is faced, we have made a special provision for the constitutional relationship of the State with the Union”) was accepted without demur also by Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, a member of Nehru’s cabinet, later to become the most vociferous and disruptive voice of the Hindu right-wing. More of that below.

But the best part of the “uniqueness” lay elsewhere, namely in the heroically principled declaration of allegiance to a prospectively secular and democratic Hindu-majority India by a Muslim Kashmiri leader of a Muslim-majority state, Sheikh Abdullah.

Internally, within the Princely State of J&K, a popular movement for the overthrow of the Maharaja’s rule had been underway for two decades before 1947, precipitating in the events of July 1931, when some 21 popular resistors were gunned down by the Maharaja’s police force in front of a court house—a watershed event that led to the formation of the “Muslim Conference” which came to be led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, a post-graduate from the Aligarh Muslim University who was denied a teaching post in the state by the Maharaja’s regime at a time when educated Kashmiri Muslims could be counted on finger-tips.

Within mainland India, although the Muslim League came a cropper in the elections to the Provincial Assemblies of 1936, following upon the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935, between that loss and 1946, the Muslim League under Jinnah made huge strides among Muslims in the states of Punjab and Bengal.

It was during this time that Jinnah was to make fervent arguments to Abdullah as to the obvious decision that the Kashmir Muslim Conference must make for joining forces with Jinnah’s League, and for the Pakistan resolution which the League had passed in 1940.

Remarkably, however, despite the Kashmir Maharaja regime's concerted anti-Muslim rule, and despite having forged the “Muslim Conference,” Abdullah, by then the undisputedly tallest leader of the valley, and indeed the state, and despite the state having been a Muslim majority one, came to reject the two-nation communal thesis of the Muslim League, and declare his preference for the secular-democratic struggle that the Indian National Congress under Gandhi and Nehru had been waging against colonial rule, as he converted the “Muslim Conference” into the “National Conference” in 1938. Clearly, some nine years before the partition of India and of the tribal invasion of Kashmir.

Abdullah in these years spoke repeatedly to his convictions.

Arguing that the matter of accession could not be left to the whims and fancies of rulers, but must reflect the voice of the people, he gave public expression to the popular Kashmiri view in a speech on October 4, 1947 at a historic rally (some three weeks before the tribal invasion):

“We shall not believe in the two-nation theory which has spread so much poison (cf to the communal killings that had been underway in the Punjab and in Bengal). Kashmir showed the light at this juncture (Gandhi was famously to say that the only light out of the darkness of communal killings he saw was in Kashmir where not a single incident took place). When brother kills brother in the whole of Hindustan, Kashmir raised its voice of Hindu-Muslim unity. I can assure the Hindu and Sikh minorities that as long as I am alive their life and honour will be quite safe.”

Vide the Maharaja’s proclamation of March 5, 1948, Sheikh Abdullah took over as the Prime Minister of the state, and on the next day, he told a press conference:

“We have decided to work and die for India. . .We made our decision not in October last, but in 1944, when we resisted the advances of Mr.Jinnah. Our refusal was categorical. Ever since the National Conference had attempted to keep the State clear of the pernicious two-nation theory while fighting the world’s worst autocracy ( The Statesman, 7 March, 1948).”

On December 3, at a function of the Gandhi Memorial College at Jammu:

“Kashmiris would rather die following the footsteps of Gandhiji than accept the two-nation theory. We want to link the destiny of Kashmir with India because we feel that the ideal before India and Kashmir is one and the same.”

Those ideals—secularism, democracy, end to feudal landlordship—became the basis for the adoption of the “provisional accession of the state to India” by the National Conference in the same month of October.

II

The Betrayal

Although Accession vide Article 370 which conferred a “special status” on Jammu & Kashmir had, as stated above, received approval both from Patel and Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, a new situation was to develop as the Abdullah government in the state launched the New Kashmir Manifesto, bedrocked, among extraordinarily progressive pronouncements—equal status of women in education and employment being but one— on the promise of giving land to those who tilled it.

Thus, disregarding Clause 6 of the Instrument of Accession (“Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this state authorizing the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose,” and should land be thus needed, “I will at their request acquire the land”), Abdullah declared a maximum land ceiling of 22.75 acres, set up a Land Reforms Commission, and set about distributing surplus land thus acquired to those who actually were tillers on the soil. Abdullah was to rub home the point that such land reforms would never have been possible in a feudal Pakistan.

This was trouble royal.

Most of the land then was in possession of Hindu Dogras, and most of the tillers were Muslim Kashmiris.

Thus it came to be that the material loss of landholdings was sought to be converted into a communal question vide an opposition now to Article 370 by a newly organized forum called the Praja Parishad which came to be led by the very Mukerjee who had been a willing party to the adoption of the Article as a member of the Union Cabinet.

Under stipulations of the “special status,” Jammu & Kashmir had been granted to form its own Constituent Assembly. When elections to the CA took place in 1951, candidates picked by Abdullah’s National Conference won all 75 seats. The Assembly met on October 31, 1951. On November 5, Abdullah outlined the major agenda before it:

To frame a Constitution for Kashmir;
To decide on the fate of the royal Dynasty;
To decide whether there should be any compensation paid to those who had lost their land through the Land Abolition Act;
To “declare its reasoned conclusion regarding accession.”

Abdullah noted: 

“The real character of a State is revealed in its Constitution. The Indian Constitution has set before the country the goal of a secular democracy based upon justice, freedom and equality for all without distinction. This is the bedrock of modern democracy. This should meet the argument that the Muslims of Kashmir cannot have security in India, where the large majority of the population are Hindus. Any unnatural cleavage between religious groups is the legacy of imperialism. . . .The Indian Constitution has amply and finally repudiated the concept of a religious State which is a throwback to medievalism. . . .The national movement in our State naturally gravitates towards these principles of secular democracy.”

And, on Pakistan:

“The most powerful argument that can be advanced in her favour is that Pakistan is a MuslimState, and, a big majority of our people being Muslims the State must accede to Pakistan. This claim of being a MuslimState is of course only a camouflage. It is a screen to dupe the common man, so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal State in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power. . . .Right-thinking men would point out that Pakistan is not an organic unity of all the Muslims in this subcontinent. It has, on the contrary, caused the dispersion of Indian Muslims for whom it was claimed to have been created (a perception first voiced by Maulana Azad in a prescient interview given to the Covert magazine in 1946, a year before Partition)”

Abdullah considered the third option of Independence (Kashmir as an “Eastern Switzerland”), and concluded as follows:

“I would like to remind you that from August 15 (the day of Indian Independence) to October 22, 1947 (when the tribal invasion began) our State was Independent and the result was that our weakness was exploited by the neighbour with invasion. What is the guarantee that in future too we may not be victims of a similar aggression.”

All that notwithstanding, the Hindu right-wing assault began also to gather force, as it launched the Jana Sangh (precursor of today’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP) in 1951—the same year as the establishment of the Constituent Assembly in the State. And its leader became Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, with the RSS lending two of its leaders for support, namely Atal Behari Vajpai and L.K.Advani.

As stated earlier, stung by the redistribution of landholdings, it sought to make the terms of the Accession the issue, and defying the democratic-federal principles enshrined both in the Constitution of India and in their reflection in the trust reposed thereof by Abdullah, it announced a programme ostensibly aimed to strengthen national unity. At its first session, it called for:

An education system based on “Bhartya culture” (read Hinduism);
The use of Hindi in schools (in full knowledge that, other than Kashmiri, Urdu was the language predominantly used by educated Kashmiri Muslims; indeed, from about the first decade of the twentieth century, the wholly artificial cleavage between Hindi and Urdu had begun to be deployed by communalists on either side to press their claims to “true” national allegiance; )
The denial of any special privileges to minorities; 
Full integration of Jammu & Kashmir into the Indian Union.

On the other side, in letters exchanged over a period of time between Abdullah and Nehru, the shape of an agreement between the State and the Union was taking shape.

That came to be called the Delhi Agreement (1952). It stated:

Commitment to Article 370

That the State Legislature would be empowered to confer special rights on “state subjects” (a right that had been won through the anti-Maharaja struggles of 1927 and 1932—a form of privilege restricted to permanent residents of the State in property ownership and jobs); 

That Kashmir would have its own flag, although subordinate to the Union Tricolour;

That the Sadar-e-Riyasat (later on Governor of the State) would be elected by the State Assembly, but would take office with the concurrence of the President of India;

That the Supreme Court of India would, “for the time being,” have only appellate jurisdiction in Jammu & Kashmir;

That an internal Emergency could only be applied with the concurrence of the State Legislature.

Late in the same year, the riposte to this from the Hindu right-wing came in the form of the following slogan—one around which the Jana Sangh sought to mount its attack on the terms of Accession. And the slogan was:

Ek desh mein do Vidhan,
Ek desh mein do Nishaan,
Ek desh mein do Pradhan,
Nahi challenge, nahi challenge.

(We will not accept two Constitutions, two flags, and two prime ministers in one and the same country.)

This communalist right-wing putsch against the principles on which the State had accepted to accede to India began to find resonance also within a section of the Congress Party. To Nehru’s great chagrin but helplessness, his candidate for the first President of India, Rajagopalachari, was rejected in favour of Rajendra Prasad (who was soon to lock horns with Nehru on the Hindu Code Bill, and to go to the Somnath Mandir ,once ravaged by Ghazni, among many other chieftains of old, to effect renovations on State expense—a move wholly in conflict with the secular foundations of the Republic).

Other collateral tendencies began also to surface, such as bespoke scant regard on behalf of the Union of India for the federative principles. In his despondent letter to Maulana Azad, dated 16 July, 1953, Abdullah complained about the usurpations underway, in contravention of what terms had been agreed upon:

“We the people of Kashmir, regard the promises and assurances of the representatives of the government of India, such as Lord Mountbatten and Sardar Patel, as surety for the assistance rendered by us in securing the signatures of Maharaja of Kashmir on the Instrument of Accession, which made it clear that the internal autonomy and sovereignty of the Acceding States shall be maintained except in regard to three subjects which will be under the Central government (namely, Defence, Communications, and External Affairs).”

And:

“When the Constituent Assembly of India proceeded to frame the Union Constitution there arose before it the question of the State. Our Representatives took part in the last sessions of the Assembly and presented their point of view in the light of basic principles on which the National Conference had supported State’s Accession to India. Our view-point drew appreciation and Article 370 of the Constitution came into being determining our position under the new Constitution.”

Abdullah pointed out that although it had been agreed that the “Accession involves no financial obligations on the States” such demands were being made; and “the changes effected on several occasions in relationship between India and Kashmir greatly agitated the public opinion.”

And on the other source of perceived menace: “A big party in India (the Jana Sangh) still forcefully demands merger of the State with India. In the State itself Praja Parishad is threatening to resort to direct action if the demand for the State's complete merger with India is not conceded.”

Abdullah’s anguish at what seemed gathering storms on two fronts—the subversion by the Union of the terms of Accession, and a Hindu communalist putsch to undo Article 370, found poignant expression in a speech he had meant to deliver to an Eid gathering on august 21, 1953 (twelve days after his government was dismissed and Abdullah arrested and incarcerated). In that he wrote:

“. . .there is the suggestion that the accession should be finalized by vote of the Constituent Assembly.” “It is the Muslims who have to decide accession with India and not the non-Muslims. . . .The question is: must I not carry the support of the majority community with me? If I must, then it becomes necessary that I should satisfy them to the same extent that a non-Muslim is satisfied that his future hopes and aspirations are safe in India. Unfortunately, apart from the disastrous effects which the pro-Merger agitation in Jammu produced in Kashmir (the valley). . .the Muslim middle class in Kashmir has been greatly perturbed to see that while the present relationship of the State with India has opened new opportunities for their Hindu and Sikh brothers to ameliorate their lot, they have been assigned the position of a frog in the well. . . . What the Muslim intelligentsia in Kashmir is trying to look for is a definite and concrete stake in India.” (emphasis added)

As stated, the dye had been cast, and his great friend Nehru had him arrested on the suspicion that he had been hobnobbing with the Americans for support to secede from the Union and declare Independence. Although there might have been grounds for such a suspicion, to this day no proof is forthcoming.

But read the lament quoted above, and there is not a jot more or different that informs the frustrated Kashmiri youth in the valley who are at this minute agitating in the valley, willing to confront police bullets.

It is another matter that long years after in 1974, Abdullah signed an Accord with Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India which stipulated, among other things, that 

“Parliament will continue to have power to make laws relating to the prevention of activities directed towards disclaiming, questioning, or disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India or bringing about secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union. . .” etc.,

When the Indian Home Minister therefore speaks of keeping promises with the Kashmiris, those promises have a much wider ambit than the question merely of amending the vile Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which allows the least army man to shoot to kill without accountability.

Throughout these turbulent years of conflict, never once has any government of India sought to formulate schemes whereby talented Kashmiri Muslims, products of an educational explosion—all thanks to Abdullah’s New Kashmir programme, could be made to feel not just safe in the heartland but valued assets in the ongoing story of national “development.” Not to speak of the communal lens through which Kashmiri Muslims continue to be viewed by Indian society at large, an old malaise made dangerously trenchant subsequent to the era of “terrorism.”

And, paradoxically, the more that strong-arm methods and vicious prejudices fail to deliver desired results, the more the State means to persist with them. And now that some streaks of recognition seem to dawn on policy establishments, the present-day incarnation of the old Praja Parishad and Jana Sangh are back to the same old perfidies, robbing the secular democratic sections within the Congress chiefly of any will or courage to disregard Hindu right-wing communalism and do right by Kashmir.

III

Azadi

Some 51 teenage Kashmiris screaming for secession have died in the last two months from police bullets in the valley.

Quite apart from the legalese of the question (the Sheikh/Indira Gandhi Accord for one), and apart also from the hard reality that such secession will neither ever be agreed to by any political establishment in India or any government of the day, or accepted by Indians at large, hypothetically, what prospects could be envisaged were the other parts of the State who do not want secession to be persuaded that the valley of Kashmir be bestowed Independence and Sovereignty?

--following such a declaration, demands for Azadi could gain legitimacy in Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, to name a few, and be hard to deny once a precedent is set;

--a Hindu communalist backlash could ostensibly engulf India, rendering the lives of Indian Muslims tenuous, and leading to demands that India be declared a Hindu State, since the secession of the valley would have proved the two-nation theory to have been correct after all;

--within Pakistan, first the Baloch, and then the Sindhis might take heart and set themselves the objective to be freed of Punjabi ethnic dominance through secession;

--within the valley, a Bangladesh-like situation might well emerge, namely a struggle among those who will wish to retain a secular democratic state and those who might argue for an Islamic state; it is well to remember that of its forty years or so of independent nationhood, brought about under the leadership of the Awami National Party on secular principles, some thirty years were to see the communalist Leaguers in power; until now when under the present regime again the Supreme Court there has struck down Article 5 of the amended constitution, and thereby once again reverted to denying any religion-based party formations, but after the spilling of much blood.

This writer has often been accused of exaggerating the sufi-secular orientation of Kashmiri Muslims, and of sentimentally misreading acts of personal and individual camaraderie and brotherhood displayed by Kashmir Muslims towards visiting Pandits as representative of the totality. I have also been kindly once commented upon as a “Jehadi lapdog” (just use Google). But all that notwithstanding, it remains a fact that at the time of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley in 1990, a campaign was in evidence as loud-speakers from mosques blared how the “Nizam-e-Mustafa” (Islamic Statehood) was at hand, how the Pandits must hasten their exodus, taking care to leave their women behind, though. You will also hear the speculation that one reason why elements within the valley do not, at bottom, wish the Pandits to return home en mass is that they do not wish an Indian “fifth column” to be reinstated therein, since with them gone, the desire for an Islamic State acquires greater facilitation. Much as the Jews in Israel, for example, fear the return of Palestinian refugees into what was once their homeland.

I must also confess to another sort of experience on some recent visits to the valley, namely the chagrin with which any mention of “Kashmiriyat” (denoting the good old syncretic ways of Kashmiris) now tends to be received there. Indeed, I recall being at a seminar in the university in Srinagar where a senior academic read a one or two page “paper” titled “Kashmiriyat” only, in fact, to rubbish the concept, without much substance albeit.

“Kashmiriyat” is now seen as something of a trick to deny the fact that Kashmir in essence is Islamic, something that finds increasing expression in text books on history and culture, as the pre-Islamic period (roughly up to the fourteenth century, A.D.) is sought to be relegated.

Then the incident that happened not so long ago at Pulwama, where a Sikh Kashmiri was surrounded, and asked to speak the Islamic Qalima, failing which some of his hair was shorn off. Let it also be said that the incident, uncharacteristic in the extreme, drew condemnation from all sections of Kashmiri leadership.

Although, therefore, some residual Kashmiri Pandits who never left the valley continue to be protected by their Muslim neighbours, and their weddings and funerals organized with customary syncretic brotherhood, and although their periodic visits from camps outside the valley to age-old Hindu shrines in the valley are greeted with warmth, it would be wrong to deny that after the near-total evacuation of the Pandits, the impulse to forge a Sovereign and Independent valley into a theocratic state might not be altogether a baseless surmise.

Be that as it may, what might be the security logistics of the new state, bordering as it does Russia, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and in that situation, India as well? To return to what Sheikh Abdullah had said with regard to this option (“Eastern Switzerland”), how might the new state meet those vulnerabilities?

And how might it be said that Imperialism from you-know-where, already stationed in countries nearby, might not feel that at long last the valley was his for the taking, with all the Afghanistan-like consequences that could follow, both in terms of turmoil and cultural defilement?

Not to speak of the kind souls from Pakistan’s wild-western provinces, many in fact now resident in the main city centres of Pakistan? How might Kashmiris resist their call to a Jehadist embrace, in disregard of time-honoured ethnic Kashmiri prizing of exclusivity and identity? And if they became insistent despite a polite “no”, who might come to the aid of the Kashmiris?

Kashmiris are insistent everyday as the current imbroglio proceeds that jobs, development, opportunities—these are not the issues. Yet, these might indeed in time become issues of central magnitude for a prospectively landlocked valley to deal with, in the absence of both monetary and infrastructural resources.

Those resources then may have to come from other places with all the attendant implications, be it the Saudis, or the Americans, or the Chinese. Altogether, a pickle-in-the-making.

IV

If those be not unfounded considerations, what is to be done?

And it is time that the question is addressed with some candid concern.

A good beginning is made, I think, if all parties to the contention recognize that Kashmir is not a problem that may ever be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. And it would be wrong to think that what is said therein is merely a pre-emptive ploy. I doubt me much that time will prove me wrong.

Let me say at once that the two options which seem closest to the heart of contending parties—the union and the agitators—I see as non-starters, namely the wish on behalf of the Indian state, on the one hand, that things may drag on as before till exhaustion seals a fait accompli, and, on the other, the desire, however fervent, of the young agitators for a country of their own in the valley.

The first is bad not only because such a fait accompli will not happen, but because it speaks poorly to the founding pretensions of the Republic of India—chiefly its claim to “unity in diversity.” And it reinforces a sentiment felt more widely than just in the valley that the Indian state has, since the 1990 beginning of the neo-liberal era especially, become increasingly impatient of both secularism and democracy, and wholly inimical to the rights of a majority of Indians who to this day, in Abdullah’s words, feel no “definite and concrete stake in India.” This applies as a thought to the lives of India’s tribal populations, to Dalits, and to minorities of various description on a differentiated scale of neglect.

In that context, the Indian state can only be fooling itself to think that sooner than later the Kashmiris will tire and turn around.

And the second is a bad option because, as suggested above, the consequences of the secession of the valley are potentially fraught only with negatives for all parties to the dispute, and to the subcontinent as a whole.

Those recognitions return us willy nilly to salutary reflections on the possibility of recuperating and refurbishing the covenant of the federative promise and principle—something on which the accession of the state to the union had been based in the first place, setting a uniquely outstanding example both in terms of plurality of citizenship and of political partnership in opposition to totalitarian impulses in both areas.

This Kashmiri still thinks that the Delhi Agreement (above) of 1952 still offers the most workable and fair point of engagement. With the caveat that with the advantage of hindsight any cool Kashmiri would recognize that extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India and of the Election Commission of India to the state, far from impinging on the State’s Autonomy, would in fact be credible guarantees of protection from excesses and denials.

As to the majoritarian nationalists, they are as much a menace to the rest of India as to any attempt to arrive at a fair solution in Kashmir. That being so, the Indian state and civil society must needs muster the strength and the will to defy and defeat their shenanigans, if the nation is to be saved not so much from the Kashmiris as, first of all, from them.

It is good, late than never, that the Prime Minister has made some noises to the sort of effect suggested here. Let his government and society at large understand fully that it is now or never in Kashmir, and therefore avoid going into another decade-long siesta after the current violence inevitably lulls.

As to Pakistan, I am simply tempted to nod assent to what Sheikh Abdullah had told the United Nations when he went there to plead India’s case: “I refuse to accept Pakistan as a party in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir state; I refuse this point blank.”

After what it has done to its own people over the decades, that refusal seems most in order. What the occupied part of Kashmir in Pakistan may do with their fate is best left to them as well. Significantly, the most recent Chatham House conducted poll showed some 58% of Kashmiris willing to formalize the Line of Control between the two parts of Kashmir as the International border between India and Pakistan. That is as it should be. And once that happens, human and other commerce between the two Kashmirs can be put on a sound international footing, all ambiguities and hassles removed.

If initiatives along above lines are not undertaken soon, it may be pointless to write any further on the subject of the Kashmir problem. Not reason, analysis, or conjoint effort may then sort it out, but a conflagration that may lead who knows where.


Note:

Literature on Kashmir is mind-boglingly numerous, and I have sought to look into as much as time and tide allow. But, for purposes of this piece, I wish to record my indebtedness to three authors on Kashmir chiefly—Prem Nath Bazaz, Balraj Puri, and M.J. Akbar on whose work I have drawn with abandon. The interpretations thereof being entirely my responsibility

 


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