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Whither Kashmir?

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This has reference to the editorial 'Kashmir on Boil' (Frontier, July 31-August 6). On Kashmir, two phenomena must be distinguished, the mood of the Kashmiri people and the policy of the Pakistani government to fish in troubled water. The killing of Burhan Wani might have sparked the present unrest, but it cannot be gainsaid that Kashmir was already on a volcano The killing of just one person cannot unleash such a wave of death-defying protests, unless the situation is already inflammable. The Pakistan government may have been a factor, but such mass unrest is patently inexplicable by referring to Pakistani incitement alone, the central government has nevertheless repeated this formula once again like its predecessors.

In various parts of India, there, however, prevails an opinion, propagated by chauvinists of various guises and swallowed by the ignorant that the decision of Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, to accede to India in the wake of the Pakistan-supported invasion in late 1947 is the final word on the subject. These people find it convenient not to mention the decision of the cabinet, taken after the decision to send troops to Kashmir, that after driving away the invaders, the question of accession would be 'settled with a reference to the people of Kasmir.' Put in simple words, this meant the holding of a referendum. While the battle was going on, Jawharlal Nehru emphasized in his speeches that the Kashmiri people, irrespective of religious faith, were actually fighting the battle under the leadership of a 'great leader' (meaning Sheikh Abdullah) and the role of the Indian army was that of a helper. In those speeches, he also reiterated the promise of taking the consent of the Kashmiri people before accession. Most probably he had thought that in case of such a referendum, the overwhelming majority of Kashmiris would opt for India as their country. It is also possible that he was right. Those who, in perfect conformity with their ingrained jingoism, never tired of referring to Nehru's 'blunder' of promising a referendum before the United Natidns are deliberately indifferent to the fact that Nehru, in this case at least, behaved democratically. That referendum was never held and thus the process of alienation started. Since the 1990s, communal tension has grown owing to the actions of Muslim communalists as well as the behaviour of the flag-bearers of aggressive Hindutva.

The largest circulating daily of India, in a trenchant editorial dated 13.8.2016, has pertinently stated that a solution must involve talks with the Kashmiri people, even the pro-Pakistani separatists like Syed Ali Shah Gilani. The daily, which is not in favour of an independent Kashmir, has nevertheless read the mood of the Kashmiri people correctly. The costs, both human and material, of keeping Kashmir as an 'inalienable part of India' have mounted astronomically and the opinion expressed in the said editorial is the reflection of the attitude of many who, although not in favour of a formal separation, are not blind to the reality. But the forces of jingoism are still strong in India, and it is doubtful how far such advices and warnings will be heeded.

Correction
In the penultimate paragraph of Vaskar Nandy's article, 'Plight of Tea Workers' (Frontier, July 31-August 6, 2016), a sentence reads as, "Recently, the central government has announced that it will demand a minimum wage in the tea industry". Here the word 'demand' should be read as 'declare'. The error is regretted. — Fr

Frontier
Vol. 49, No.7, Aug 21 - 27, 2016