Whither Kashmir?

The Modi government's recent decision to step up coercive measures in order to contain, or annihilate, the 'militants' of Kashmir has raised some controversies. Any sensible watcher of the Kashmir scene knows that it is a lie to call the entire range of disturbances as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Even in the latest incident in the district of Pulwama, in which four militants were reportedly killed, two of the killed are ex-policemen who have joined the ranks of militants. Most of the militants that have been killed over the past few years were citizens of Kashmir, not of Pakistan. It is also a fact that over time, there has taken place a growing isolation of the Kashmiri nationals as a whole from India. This has been recently pointed out several times by a newspaper group that was earlier thought to be communal and chauvinist. The resurgence of aggressive jingoism in the name of nationalism is the main ideological plank on which Narendra Modi wishes to base his Kashmir policy. But the point that needs mention is that Modi or no Modi, there has always been a not inconsiderable number of educated people who, used to the habit of thinking Kashmir as an 'inalienable part of India', are prone to advocate a jingoistic policy on Kashmir, paying least heed to the possible consequences. One of the opinions they are prone to articulate is that Jawharlal Nehru made a grave mistake when he announced before the United Nations that the future of Kashmir would be decided by a referendum. Lately, it has been frequently paraded that since Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir, had acceded his state to India, that was the final word. Those who argues in this fashion has little knowledge about the situation at that time, nor do they care to know. It needs to be remembered that after the then Government of India decided to send troops to Kashmir at the request of Hari Singh, Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor-General, wrote to Hari Singh that after the invaders were driven out, the future of Kashmir's status would be decided with a reference to the people of Kashmir. Nehru, in his speech before the constituent assembly and his broadcast to the nation, told that Kashmiri Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs together were fighting the invaders under the leadership of 'a great leader', and the Indian army was only helping them. It is easy to understand that driven by this conviction, Nehru assured of a referendum; he ostensibly thought that if a referendum was held, the majority of the Kashmiri population would agree to accede to India. By referring to a 'great leader' he clearly meant Sheikh Abdullah. But the issue of referendum was pushed into the background, probably under the pressure of the jingoistic lobby of the government and the ruling party, which Nehru could ill-afford to ignore. Thus began the process of alienation and despite various conciliatory measures from time to time, this alienation slowly gathered momentum. After the incarceration of the 'great leader' in the mid-1950s, not much was left of the freedom of the Kashmiris to choose their own destiny. The successive governments of Pakistan have of course been trying to fish in troubled water, but should the Indian people expect them to do otherwise? If a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem is urgently needed, it is not sufficient for the representatives of the governments of India and Pakistan to sit together. Real representatives of the Kashmiri organisations, even of the pro-Azadi outfits should be included in the process of deliberation. The Kashmiri pundits should also not be excluded. All these may be a cry in the wilderness as far as the Modi government and their supporters are concerned. They think that they should go on spending billions of rupees for keeping Kashmir in chains rather than finding a comprehensive solution. As things stand now, this will only multiply the ranks of militants and make an already difficult situation more difficult.


Vol. 51, No. 51, Jun 23 - 29, 2019