Time and time again the Kashmir issue comes up in the press. The latest furor was cause by the views of Shri Prashant Bhushan that he aired openly. His view was somewhat simplistic – “people have a right to decide” – nothing wrong with that per se – it’s an utopian thought. Though it leaves us with an issue / the definition of “people” is quite vague. Which “people” will decide exactly what ? This posting is a result of my Kashmir visit as couple of months ago. It is a bit directionless, but nevertheless my views in light of the recent news.
Part of the issue is minority appeasement – this is encouraging the ultras , in exactly the same way that the Bihar CM refuses to speak against the Indian Mujahedin or Mulayam refuses to acknowledge SIMI, Indian politicians have chosen to ignore separatist activities in Srinagar – this should not be tolerated – its okay to demonstrate, it okay to express opinions – but as soon as you speak about seceding from the state – that is illegal and the leader needs to be arrested following the letter of the law (and each time till the miscreants get the message) – India should not be scared of Geelani or Malik or others – Geelani did not need house arrest – it accomplishes nothing – he should have been sent to Tihar – only then would he have learnt. And the message should be simple – no excesses – if you break the law, you will go to jail in accordance with the law – the same should be applied to demonstrators who turn violent (but directed more at the leaders who encourage the violence) – but no excesses after all we are dealing with Indian citizens with the same rights as other Indians.
Minority appeasement so far has not helped. It in fact has kept the minorities poor. In the US for example, there is minority quota for the Native Indians – of course, no prizes for guessing that they are the worst off community. I remember during Hanukkah , people with Jewish skull caps were all felicitated – was this an appreciation of their religion – I don’t think so. It was an appreciation of their economic prowess , their economic wealth. Their control of Wall Street and the Media in the United States. If you want to help the minorities , educate them – bring all up to a certain standard to that they can earn and think for themselves and create wealth – but minority appeasement is not that , it is simply using the minorities as a Vote bank – simply put, use and throw.
Partly the problem is one of marketing in which it seems the ultras are better than the law makers. Lets say there was a terrorist organization and it called itself (a name I have made up for example sakes) “United Front of Poor And Hardworking Souls” (like the Aam Aadmi slogan is being misused by the Congress and the BJP of late) – would you ever believe that such an organization could commit crimes ? No – Similarly Mujaheddin means soldier of Islam – a nobel cause from the sound of it. Lawmakers should only use acronyms or numbers when referring to terrorist organizations and perhaps it should name its police units better to ensure moral support from the masses (all masses) including keeping people informed (via media). The battle against terror is to be fought both with guns and guile and probably more of the latter.
Special Rights For Kashmir / Perception
This is more than half the problem. Open any checking account in a bank in Delhi – there are special rules for people from Jammu & Kashmir. There are special rules for phones from Kashmir including lack of usage of any one-time passwords, etc. If we are to do national integration, we should fully implement it – why all these exclusions for people from Kashmir – this is the fault of Delhi law makers for sure.
Article 370 needs to be quashed. More so there is another law (referred to as the “J&K bill 2004”) that disbars kashmiri women who marry outside the state – their ability to buy land in the state and other property rights – how can this stand in a country like India
Sometimes, I think we in India need to get our “head out of our as*es” – Kashmir is India, but the perception on the streets is not so – this has to change !
Plebiscite – Yes, Kashmir needs plebiscite
But not how everyone thinks. Srinagar is a small village essentially – a very small suburb of Gurgaon, etc – this small village cannot hold the rest of India hostage. Kashmir belongs to India and Indians need to decide. Some weak kneed politicians angling for some minority vote gains cannot be allowed to make the decision for India – YES *if* there should be plebiscite – there should be a pan-india vote asking all Indians if they wish to allow Independence of Kashmir and based on that vote , the decision should be made once and for all. Geelani is one man – his processions have a thousand or so – how can the country like India be held hostage to this ? As Mr. M J Akbar has said – when the British left , there was only the scope for creation of India and Pakistan , no third country – and the ruler of Kashmir signed the Instrument of accession – so where is the issue? The main outstanding issue in my opinion ,is the illegal possession of Gilgit, Baltistan and other areas by Pakistan
So In Summary What is the Kashmir Problem ?
In my book, the current issues (aka the Kashmir problem) are :
a) Law and order – caused by appeasement policies in Srinagar – this is intermittent though. Geelani causes it every now and then. Yasin Malik has of course decided to get married and live in bliss (did he not vow celibacy at one point ?) – maybe shaadi.com and the ability to date across borders changed his mind – I believe he has married some red-haired liberal artist – and, of course, one hardly hears of him any more – probably romancing on the Dal lake and why not.
b) Militancy – This is largely under control – I was vacationing there a few weeks ago. It was as peaceful and beautiful as described. Yes, the airport security was a bit of a nuisance. But clearly people who complain have not traveled abroad. In the US when you are asked to strip down to your “chaddis” – you will know. Its not the the Srinagar airport security is more stringent. It is that the airport security elsewhere in India is lax.
But there may be trouble brewing. The “War on Terror” is ending in Afghanistan and U.S. troops are bound to leave. Will this have any effect on India – time will tell. But one needs to be cautious on our borders. In far away Andaman islands, a newspaper had recently highlighted this risk. While most of the Delhi newspapers were busy focusing on Katrina Kaif’s (the “kashmir” focus of the masses) love interest.
c) Tourism – A beautiful place like Kashmir needs a lot more tourists. People are dependent on it. A couple of forts , historical monuments (Hari Parbat, Pari Mahal, etc) are still occupied by the Army – there is perhaps no need for that. Let historical monuments be used as centres of tourism and not as military barracks. I am not advocating the Army leaves or anything close to that – if a border area needs the army it should be there – but there is no need to take over some of the important historical monuments.
What was surprising was that I was able to visit the Hazratbal mosque with ease – there was hardly anyone there in a monument of such importance. Hazratbal should be one of the most important monuments in Islam having one of the three relics of the Prophet – I would have thought there would be mile-long line – Kashmir could do with a lot more tourism.
d) Womens Rights – Scrapping of the 2004 Land bill – this is totally against equality and would not stand any legal scrutiny
e) Scrapping of Article 370 – 370 is not an umbilical cord, it is more like the appendix or a wisdom tooth that is no longer required. There should be no argument on it – a Presidential ordinance can scrap it and it should be done away and dealt with – life will go on without interruption. The “problems” caused by the scrapping is just a paranoia that has been created.
f) Return of Gilgit and Baltistan – In discussing with Pakistan if we begin from the thought that we want the rest of the land back – that is a far better starting point for negotiations than simply going to one’s knees (and talking about the LOC) – and if fact this is not even a point for negotiation – we actually do want it back.
And frankly, why do we even need to discuss Kashmir with anyone else, its ours after all!