The recent attack on AAP leader with the media going berserk on a simple remark regarding lessening of military foot prints in Kashmir vividly exposes the colonial mind set of certain sections of Indians. Over the years these rabidly communal Hindutva elements in India have been projecting Kashmir as something on which the very survival of India as a country depends. It has to be retained in India at all costs. The entire “National Interest” depends upon its retention as part of India regardless of the fact that it may be an unwilling part! Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in India which is considered to have become part of the country in very complicated circumstances of 1947, the partition year of the sub-continent. One need not recount all these events which have been recorded not only in dozens of books but are on the record of the world peace watch dog body, the United Nations Security Council itself. Howsoever hard one may try to conceal the facts; no one can deny that there is a dispute in Kashmir. This problem has been languishing for over 65 years or so. It has resulted in a number of wars and a proxy war continues in spite of the best efforts to maintain the peace. Unfortunately for Kashmiris it is an unending match between two neighbours mistrusting each other in which they are being used as a football.
The major chunk of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir has been under Indian control since 1947. However, the majority of the people at present are totally alienated from the mainland. This alienation is not only because the people want their aspirations for total and absolute freedom to be fulfilled but also because of the failure of the Indian government as well as the bulk of the Indian population to make Kashmiris feel at home in India. Almost all the political leaders as well as people in general talk of Kashmir being an integral part of India, the crown of India but hardly any one mentions Kashmiris. Over the years Kashmir has become a symbol of all anti-Pak attacks or rather a stick for bashing Pakistan. It is generally given out to Indian public that all Kashmiris are Pakistani spies or militants. On one hand all the time there is so much negative media hype about Kashmiris that everyone starts believing that Kashmiris especially Kashmiri Muslims are trouble makers for India. On the other hand, the Government media paints a picture that everything is honky dory in Kashmir and it is only few Pakistani infiltrators which are creating trouble.
For all practical purposes the chauvinists in India have forced the Government to turn Kashmir into a colony. It is claimed by many including some top journalists as the most militarised area of the world. The estimates of troops, paramilitary and other security and intelligence agencies vary from half a million to over seven hundred thousand. Not only is the place teeming with troops and paramilitary but these people have legal coverage to commit any heinous act they like against the local population including cold blooded murder and rape. Even the highest court in the country favours them rather than the local population. The “collective conscience” of India will remain satisfied only when Kashmir is retained as an “Integral Part” regardless of the wishes, aspirations and consequences to the people of Kashmir. To keep Kashmiris in eternal bondage is in India’s “National Interest”!
Till some years back a similar obsession existed on the other side. They considered Kashmir and not Kashmiris their jugular vein. After having fought three wars, losing half of their country and turning their budding youth into suicide bombers, they seem to have lost interest and have virtually decided to leave Kashmiris to their fate. Seeing Pakistan losing interest in their resolve of staking everything to get Kashmir, the Indians have over a period of time stiffened their attitude. In earlier times, the Indians were in two minds and would consider Kashmir an undependable possession. However, now they appear to be basing the very survival of their country on holding Kashmir at all costs. But this hue and cry is only superficial and directed at somewhere else. The saner element still considers Kashmir to be a mill stone in India’s neck! Some years back when Kashmiris were on the boil one Thakur, supposedly an ideologue of the RSS had suggested dis-investing Kashmir. He had worked out that by letting Kashmir go, the Indians would not only save a huge amount of security related expenses but would get billions of dollars of foreign investment from NRIs who are at present hesitant because of “Kashmir Problem” which may end everything in smoke!
Kashmir cannot be retained by India unless Kashmiris are made to feel at home both in Kashmir itself and in other parts of India. Kashmiris have aspirations which need to be fulfilled. They have lost generations to attain those aspirations. The new generation which was born and brought up in the raging fire of the turmoil of nineties is extremely alienated. Their urge cannot be suppressed by acts committed in Pathribal and Machail. The Army and the Paramilitary with the cover of AFSPA or even with some more new black legislation will not be able to contain it. The cauldron is simmering and may boil over without any warning. The colossal corrupt political and administrative set up may once again collapse under its own weight leaving Indians nothing to hold on to as happened in early nineties.
The fundamental requirement at least to assuage the hurt feelings of Kashmiris is to recognise the existence of the basic political problem and address it unconditionally involving all stake holders. Retention of Article 370 or grant of full autonomy is not going to address the basic problem. These would again be firefighting measures. The least the Indian Government could do to show its goodwill would be to revoke AFSPA, withdraw Army and Paramilitary from civilian areas, release all political prisoners and remove restrictions on the fundamental right of the freedom of expression. This could generate atmosphere for a dialogue to find a practicable solution. Trying to retain Kashmir in “National Interest” through the present rabidly communal approach instead of integrating it may disintegrate India itself!