How To Integrate Kashmir With India [Part 1: Introduction]
By Karmanye Thadani:
It is indeed quite obvious that allowing Kashmir to secede is not an option that India can exercise (I have elucidated on this in a piece I had written). On this very portal, I had written a series of five articles, which explored an attitudinal shift in the valley. I pointed out that though Kashmiri Muslims, by and large, have not undergone any transformation to become patriotic Indians, they care for a life of peace and normalcy more than anything else, and so are enjoying this calm atmosphere in the valley and the boost to their economy by a huge inflow of tourists, numbering more than a million in 2011 and with rates of guest houses skyrocketing (my father, who is a businessman, now frequently gets business offers from Kashmir). And my reading of the situation proved correct with there being virtually no one turning up for a Hurriyat protest at Lal Chowk in Srinagar before the unfortunate incident of the fire in the shrine of the Sufi saint Abdul Qadir Jeelani, besides Kashmiri separatists on online forums acknowledging how India was ‘using’ peace as a medium to make Kashmiris forgive, forget and move on (to quote from a Facebook note by Irfan Mehraj, a Kashmiri separatist “…the efforts being made to incorporate us into the so-called mainstream are meant to subdue us into forgetting and moving on”), and it’s quite interesting to see those complaining of human rights violations now warning their fellow Kashmiris of not getting carried away by peace!
The very same Irfan Mehraj has written another Facebook note in which he mentions that while ‘azadi’ is a long-term goal, Kashmiris have decided to move on with their lives and make Kashmir a better place to live in the present scenario. To quote him – “Kashmiris no longer place the ideal of Azadi on a pedestal higher than their own immediate concerns.”
The common man of Kashmir, though not a patriotic Indian, hardly feels represented by the separatist leaders anymore. After the fire in the shrine, Shabbir Shah, a prominent Hurriyat leader once universally loved in the valley, showed up at the site, but the angry mob, leave alone lending him an ear, smeared ash on his face, as can be seen in the photograph, and this event was witnessed by people in the valley I happen to know (so, Shabbir Shah’s own account is meaningless as far as I am concerned). For Kashmiris, publicity-seeking stunts by separatist leaders are now as much dirty politics as the gimmicks played for electoral vote-banks by political parties contesting elections.
This is something India needs to cash on if it wants to put an end to this conflict. The Pakistani establishment would like to keep it alive to retain its very identity (though the civil society of Pakistan has been of the view that there’s little point in focusing on Kashmir when the country is in such a dismal condition with its own secessionist and radical Islamist movements), but that country has enough problems of its own to effectively threaten India (it can only support terrorists but not defeat India in a war, though this is not to say that I am insensitive to those who die in terrorist attacks), and many Kashmiri Muslims on the Indian side of the LoC, especially the educated ones, now have a hostile attitude towards Pakistan as well, realizing that the Pakistani establishment was using them as pawns to further its own agenda, besides the Kashmiris in Pakistan not being treated very well to say the least.
India has done a laudable job of checking unrest by way of helping bring about economic prosperity in recent years (however, more needs to be done in this sphere as well, particularly checking electricity theft, a problem that has existed in the valley even before the militancy erupted, unlike what some separatists would like us to believe), though this would have never been possible had the Indian military and paramilitary forces not been able to overpower the militancy, which has now almost, though not completely, come to an end (having said that, the threats to elected village chieftains in the valley is a matter of grave concern that needs to be addressed). However, this is not to condone human rights violations committed by rogue elements in the Indian security forces, but having said that, no military or paramilitary force in the world stationed in a conflict zone can claim a completely clean human rights record and as regards what the Pakistani Army did in East Pakistan in 1971 or has been doing in Balochistan for decades, less said the better. That being said, only putting an end to armed hostilities and bringing about economic development in the valley is not enough on the part of the Indian establishment. There is indeed more that the Indian government and civil society would have to do.
They would have to address the root causes of the conflict, which can be broadly categorized into Kashmiri Muslims’ basic reluctance to identify with the idea of India on a plain theoretical level and the human rights violations committed by Indian military and paramilitary personnel. For the former, it would have to ideologically combat the ideology of azadi, and for the latter, some transitional justice mechanism would have to instituted or at least an apology rendered, taking steps to ensure that the same do not recur. Also, in the spirit of fairness, the concerns of those who have suffered at the hands of the militants need to be looked into as well.[box bg="#fdf78c" color="#000"]About the author: The author is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. He has co-authored two short books, namely ‘Onslaughts on Free Speech in India by Means of Unwarranted Film Bans’ and ‘Women and Sport in India and the World’. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]