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Jammu and Kashmir: Revisiting India’s Partition

Updated: March 6, 2010 12:53 pm

Just days after the deadly terror attack in Pune on February 13, in which nine people were killed and 45 injured, top Al Qaeda terrorist commander Ilyas Kashmiri has vowed to continue attacks across India.

            In a message sent to a media group, Kashmiri, whose 313 Brigade is an operational arm of the Al Qaeda, has said that his group will attack India until the Indian Army leaves Kashmir.

            Interestingly, India, which had suspended all official talks with Pakistan, following the 2008 Mumbai attacks by Muslim terrorists from Pakistan, has now decided to hold foreign secretary-level talks in New Delhi on February 25, the Pune attacks notwithstanding.

            While Indian officials say that terrorism will be the main subject of discussion during the talks, Pakistan has, as expected, raised the pitch over Kashmir. Over the last fortnight or so, it has encouraged huge rallies in Lahore demanding India to leave Kashmir.

            Interestingly, Indian response to all this has been the statement of   Home Minister P Chidambaram that he would welcome the return of Indians from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Now, strictly going by Indian constitution, all the Kashmiris living the areas controlled by Pakistan are Indian citizens. If all of them return to that part of Kashmir, which is with India, does that mean that India is prepared to forgo the territory of Kashmir under Pakistan’s control in exchange of the population?

            Viewed thus, Chidambaram’s statement was not only untimely but also as bizarre as the prescription of some “liberal Indians” that if the Kashmiris do not want to remain with India, they should be allowed their “azadi” or independence. And no wonder why over the last few months the separatists in Kashmir have made crystal clear in their numerous rallies with so many Pakistani flags   that since Kashmir is essentially a Muslim-majority area the Muslims there cannot co-exist with non-Muslims, who, otherwise, constitute India’s majority. In other words, Muslims cannot be a constituent of “non-Muslim” India.

            So much so that it was a rude shock to this writer the other day when a highly educated Kashmiri friend pointed out that these days Kashmiris are not learning the Kashmiri-script since it is highly “Sanskrtised”. In fact, the Kashmiri children are now only learning Urdu and avoiding talking even in Kashmiri, one of the richest languages of India.

            This is nothing but the reassertion of the so-called “two-nation theory”, on the basis of which the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, whether we admit it or not. If the “liberals” accept this theory, what have they to say about the Muslims living in other parts of India?

            Secondly, and this is more important, nobody is highlighting “how” India should allow “azadi” to Kashmir. Is the process going to be conditional or not? The question of conditionality is important because of the following reason:

            When India was partitioned in 1947, the population figures were about 330, 27 and 30 million people in India, West Pakistan, and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) respectively. In terms of area, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh constituted roughly 1.3, 0.3 and 0.06 million square miles respectively. Thus, population percentages were 85 per cent, 15 per cent and land percentages were 75 per cent and 25 per cent for India and united Pakistan (West and East Pakistan) respectively.

            But then, united Pakistan was meant for “all” the Muslims of the subcontinent just as Israel was for all Jews of the world. If all the Muslims of the pre-August 1947 India had decided to go to the then united

Pakistan, Pakistani rulers could not have said nor done anything to the contrary. In cases of partition elsewhere in the world, there were always exchanges of population. The case of Greece-Turkey, Germany-Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria-Turkey, Poland-Germany, Bosnia-Serbia and Croatia-Serbia are recent examples where a full-scale exchange of population was organised, sometimes by the United Nations itself.

            However, in the case of India’s partition, a systematic exchange of population never took place. In fact, every liberal, secular and democratic Indian should be proud of the fact that India after partition continues to have more Muslims than either Pakistan or Bangladesh. That being the case, in 1947, India had to accommodate 85 per cent of the population in 75 per cent of the land of the undivided subcontinent. So, the then Pakistan got a much better but extremely unfair land deal during the partition compared to India.

            It may be argued here that the father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinah, talked of a Pakistan where every religious community could reside. He did not insist of the Hindus and Sikhs to flee Pakistan despite the horrendous ethnic cleansing in some border States of both India and Pakistan at that time. But the situation today is radically different. In 1947, Hindus constituted over 20 per cent in West Pakistan and 36 per cent in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Now, they are less than 1 per cent in Pakistan and about 8 per cent in Bangladesh, whereas in India, the Muslim population has risen from about 10 per cent in 1947 to about 15 per cent today. In other words, Pakistan and Bangladesh now have got lesser reasons to explain why they should have disproportionate land with them vis-a-vis India.

            Clearly, India is the aggrieved party over the manner the partition is sustained. Now, when one talks of “azadi” for Kashmir, he or she is precisely reopening the question of partition. Because, talking of allowing Kashmiris to secede just because they say that as Muslims they cannot remain in Hindu-majority India means that the process of partition of India still remains incomplete. And if that is the case, India has got every right to demand for the readjustment of the territories involving both India and Bangladesh. Are the Kashmiri separatists and their “liberal “supporters prepared for such an eventuality?

            Let Kashmir secede, but simultaneously ask both Pakistan and Bangladesh to return to India the excess land they have.

            Some “liberals” could counter-argue that Kashmir’s case is different because of its ethnicity, which is distinct from religion. But then if ethnicity could be the basis of dividing and uniting nations, Pakistan and Bangladesh have no right to exist as sovereign countries since Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are ethnically same and geographically both belong to the same landmass, having common flora and fauna. If geography and ethnicity are to be interpreted negatively, then too Pakistan’s legitimacy could be challenged, given the perpetual clash between Shias and Sunnis, not to talk of the ever-disenchanted Muhajirs, whose leaders are on record to have said that the partition of India was “A historic blunder”.

            If Kashmiri separatists, their official sponsors in Pakistan and their liberal supporters in India argue that the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims cannot coexist in Jammu and Kashmir and, therefore, the Muslims must either join Pakistan or form an independent country, then they should convince their Muslim brethren in the rest of India that they have done wrong by staying back in India and that they all should migrate either to Pakistan or Bangladesh, failing which these two countries should return excess territories to India.

            This is not to suggest that partition should be undone, but to emphasise that “the Kashmir for Muslims” approach is aggravating the crisis not only in Kashmir but also in the rest of the subcontinent.

By Prakash Nanda

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