Whether India Can Let Go Of Kashmir [Part 4 of #UnderstandingKashmir]

Posted on March 22, 2012 in Kashmir, Specials

By Karmanye Thadani:

Keeping the safety of Kashmiri non-Sunnis in a hypothetical independent Kashmir, as discussed in the previous article, aside, there are other considerations that the government of India would have to look into. Of course, the political power angle is paramount, since most Indians, oblivious of the historical background and ground reality in Kashmir, consider it as integral to India as any other part of the country, and so a government that allows Kashmir to secede will be voted out of power. Moreover, if Kashmir were to secede, it would give Hindu extremists a chance to say that Muslims have partitioned India yet again and are a threat to India’s integrity. It would be contended that the sacrifices of Indian soldiers who died in the wars against Pakistan and fighting militants in the valley went in vain and that the Indian government has played into the hands of its hostile neighbour that has been responsible for sponsoring terrorist attacks in India, that have taken the lives of so many of our innocent civilians. This propaganda would be accepted by a large section of the Hindu population, which, out of ignorance, already views the Kashmiri Muslims favouring separatism as anti-nationals, and it can cause widespread anti-Muslim riots across the country. Many Muslims would respond by killing innocent Hindus in Muslim-majority areas and carrying out terrorist attacks, and India will burn. No amount of convincing can make a vast majority of Indian Hindus (or even Pakistani Muslims) accept that Kashmir is not integral to their country, something that has been ingrained in them and on this count, it is very difficult for them to be objective and not get swept away by emotions. S.A. Iyer, a noted columnist, has argued against this, saying the following—

“Critics of a plebiscite claim that a vote for azaadi will trigger fresh partition riots, targeting Muslims throughout India. Really? Is supposedly secular India actually so communal that Hindus will slaughter Muslim innocents galore, with the state a helpless bystander? I have a better opinion of India than that.”

The Indian constitution is secular, and so is a vast majority of the Indian population, but there are extremists, both Hindu and Muslim, who can cause a lot of damage. Even the United States of America sees violent clashes between blacks and whites even today, as also bomb-blasts in abortion clinics by Catholic fanatics, and that country also witnessed violence against innocent Muslims and even Sikhs shortly after 9/11. Norway recently saw a shootout of a large number of innocent people based on faith. Northern Ireland still sees Catholic-Protestant clashes. We have seen communal conflagrations in the past in India at the time of the Babari Masjid demolition, which have continued to haunt us in the form of the train-burning in Godhara, the riots across Gujarat, the attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar and then, the serial blasts by the Indian Mujahidin, as also the blasts in the mosques in Malegaon and Madosa by Hindu extremists. Can we, as a nation, afford any more of that? And those Kashmiri separatists who claim to have an Islamist orientation, in this context, show no concern for their Muslim ‘brothers’ in the rest of India.

Then, the secessionist movements in Punjab and the north-east are bound to get a boost if Kashmir were to secede and fresh secessionist movements may also be triggered. Khalistani terrorism is seeing a resurgence now, and unlike the demand for Kashmiri independence, the demand for the creation of Khalistan has no basis in international law, nor do the secessionist movements in the north-east.

I understand that from the Kashmiri point of view, these are not valid reasons to deprive them of their right of self-determination. But for the government of India, its responsibility to the unity and integrity of India (the whole of India except Kashmir, for all other parts of India are indeed integral to it) and lives of innocent Indian citizens ought to be a greater priority than fulfilling the promise of a plebiscite to the Kashmiri people, something Prashant Bhushan needs to understand. Yes, if someone were to talk of amending or repealing the draconian laws in Kashmir, then that is something I agree with. Demilitarizing Kashmir is also an option that can be considered in the long term. But we are in no position to let go of Kashmir. When cranks like Arunadhati Roy and Nitasha Kaul go on with their rants, one can ignore them, but when an intellectual like Prashant Bhushan fails to look at the larger picture, it is sad indeed.

Having looked at the picture from the Indian point of view, the next and last article in this series shall examine from the point of view of the Kashmiri populace what the best deal for them would be.