The myth of political solution in Kashmir
Do you remember what our so-called liberals were recommending when Punjab was literally burning during the Khalistani agitation? Had the then Punjab director general of police KPS Gill listened to these liberals, dominating our think tanks, universities and national media, Khalistan perhaps would have been a reality by now! Similarly, if we go by the recommendations of these liberals for Kashmir now, it will become the surest way towards the country’s disintegration.
What do these liberals say? For them if Kashmir is in turmoil, it is precisely because of the unholy alliance between the BJP and PDP in the state at a time when a man called Narendra Modi is India’s Prime Minister. For them, whatever we are seeing today in Kashmir has nothing to do with terrorism and fundamentalist Islam. They do not accept the fact that Kashmir’s present woes are essentially because of the diminishing phenomenon of “Kashmiriyat” based on the “Sufism”, the principal feature of the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. Sufism talks of coexistence with, not total domination over others as propounded by the fanatic Wahabism, financed by Saudi Arabia and implemented by Pakistan in Kashmir. The disturbing elements in Kashmir are essentially Islamists, not freedom fighters that they claim to be. Just see the videos of the speeches of any Hurriyat leader to realise this point.
It is a huge myth that Kashmir will be normal once the government starts dialogue with the separatists. The then prime minister Manmohan Singh had held three Round Tables with all the stake holders in the valley. He had set up five working groups as a result of the round table initiative, including one on Centre-state relations. But when things were to be implemented, came the stone-throwing incidents in 2010, inviting police retaliations that resulted in 112 deaths.
Good-governance and restoration of Kashmiriyat are keys to the peace and prosperity of Kashmir, not talking to the Islamist separatists. The latter need to be dealt with as sternly as possible, not pampered as they are now with crores of rupees spent on their security and health. And for this, the state needs judicious use of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), not its total withdrawal as demanded by our so-called liberals. Contrary to what the habitual army-bashers say, if Kashmir continues to be with India and if any organisation that the ordinary Kashmiri, as distinct from the separatist and Islamist, is most comfortable with, then it is the Indian Army.
It is equally a myth that restoration of pre-1953 status or position in Jammu and Kashmir will solve the present mess; it is easier said than done. As it is, thanks to the Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir has a separate constitution of its own. The sum and substance of this Article is that with regard to Jammu and Kashmir, the Union parliament cannot make any laws in the central and concurrent lists apart from those in the areas of defence, foreign affairs and communications. Laws passed by it will be applicable to the State only if the State government concurs with them. Thus there are many significant central laws that are not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir. These include the anti-defection laws (in the state legislator can be unseated by the party-President, not the Assembly Speaker), equal rights of sons and daughters in the matters of property and citizenships etc. Article 360 that empowers the President to impose financial emergency in the country does not extend to Jammu and Kashmir. The only significant central laws that have been extended after 1953 to cover Jammu and Kashmir are Article 356 (imposition of the central rule, called Governor’s rule in the state) and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Now, if all these central powers, acquitted after 1953, need to be withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir for a political solution of the ongoing impasse, let us see the consequences. Suppose, for the sake of “defence”, the Army needs base there in the state but the state government refuses to give the required land, as it knows pretty well that in the absence of the Article 356, it cannot be dismissed by the Governor.
Similarly, in the absence of the writs of the Supreme Court and Election Commission, imagine what will happen when it is well established that the Kashmir valley dominates in resources, powers and representations over Jammu and Ladakh. People of Jammu and Ladakh have legitimate grievances when they point out that over the years the power-structure in the state has permanently tilted in favour of the valley-elites. For instance, Jammu is 70 per cent larger than Kashmir and has 45 per cent of the state’s population. But Jammu has only 32 seats in the state Assembly, while Kashmir has 42. In fact, if one adds the areas of Jammu and Ladakh together, and here the people have no quarrels with Delhi-establishment, and leave the Shias living in the Kashmir valley, the valley-based agitators turn out to be the least-representatives of the people of the state as a whole.
Likewise, given the quantum of the central funds that goes to Jammu and Kashmir every year, imagine what will happen to the concept of accountability and probity if the CAG has no job in the state. According to a recent analysis by the Hindu newspaper, Jammu and Kashmir has received 10 per cent of all Central grants given to states over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh makes up about 13 per cent of the country’s population but received only 8.2 per cent of Central grants in 2000-16. “That means Jammu and Kashmir, with a population of 12.55 million according to the 2011 Census, received Rs 91,300 per person over the last sixteen years while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs 4,300 per person over the same period,” said the paper, adding, “ Even among the special category states, Jammu and Kashmir receives a disproportionate amount of Central assistance. The state received Rs 1.14 lakh crore in grants over the sixteen years under review, according to the Union Finance Ministry’s data, which is more than a quarter of the Central funds disbursed to the 11 special category states in that period.” Broadly speaking, nearly 75 per cent Jammu and Kashmir’s revenue comes by way of the transfers from the central government in some form or the other year after year. But the valley-based elites will not like a single question from Delhi as to how the money is being spent.
And that brings me to the final point of talking to the “separatists” as stakeholders in the state, something our bleeding heart liberals recommend. As pointed out, the separatist now want to join Pakistan under the veneer of self-determination or plebiscite. Let me quote an article that appeared in The Economist which wrote as far back as November 1, 1947, “Would he (the UN Plebiscite Administrator) be able to prevent communal massacres and fresh fighting after a plebiscite – for whichever side wins will tend to take drastic action to settle account with losers?” All told, as Sir Owen Dixon, who wrote a report on Kashmir for the UN, observed, “Jammu and Kashmir is not really a unit geographically, demographically or economically. It is an agglomeration of territories brought under the political power of one Maharaja.” Let me quote yet another UN official Josef Korbel, who has authored a book titled Danger in Kashmir. Based on “discouraging experiences in Europe and elsewhere, he was of the opinion that plebiscites did not solve a problem anywhere as these “had turned into mere instruments of propaganda, pressures and falsification”.
So, will any political dialogue end the impasse in Kashmir? Will it be for “azadi from India”? Will it be for a referendum to determine the will of the people that the separatists are demanding in the name of self-determination? This is a question that our bleeding-heart-liberals in the intelligentsia and almost all the opposition parties, including the Congress, deliberately gloss over.
The most formidable challenge today is how to thwart the collective radicalisation of the Kashmiri youth. While meeting this challenge, it is but obvious that the Indian democracy will be forced to sacrifice some freedoms in the Kashmir valley for the security, unity and integrity of the country. We cannot afford to make Kashmir another Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. We cannot let Kashmir turn into another hotbed for religious extremism of the Islamic State variety. All told, these misguided radicals may be targeting the security forces and the Hindus today, but time is not far off when they will start attacking the Shias, Buddhists and liberal women as well.
Let us not be unduly influenced by our bleeding-heart liberals. In fact, the need of the hour is effective counter measures not only against the Kashmiri radicals’ friends and mentors like Pakistan and Islamic State internationally but also against their sympathisers in Delhi. I will go up to the extent of saying that these sympathisers in Delhi are the bigger threats than Pakistan and Islamic State(IS) to Kashmir’s integration with India. Beware of them.