The extremist Hindutva elements in India with their collaborators in Jammu, tried to effect total merger and integration of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir right from the day of the signing of the instrument of accession by the then Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir, late Hari Singh. The accession itself was limited to three aspects and was conditional subject to ratification by the people of the state through the exercise of their free will. In fact, allegedly, Maharaja himself was not very keen for the merger of the state with the Indian Union and wanted to maintain an autonomous status. His hand is supposed to have been forced by the Tribesmen entering the state with tacit Pakistani approval. The story of those turbulent times has been recorded in umpteen numbers of books written by a galaxy of historians, the connected officials, politicians and others. While on one hand Pandit Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and others were trying to woo Kashmiris to a so called secular India of Tagore, on the other hand Patel with the help of RSS and others was trying to force complete integration of the State into the Golwalkar’s India!
In the beginning, Sheikh Abdullah, the tallest Kashmiri leader was taken in by the bonhomie of Pandit Nehru and others but the subsequent agitation of Parija Parishad in Jammu for total integration which was sternly put down by him causing a tremendous media furor in entire Indiamade him doubt the correctness of his decision, the expression of which landed him in prison for eleven years! The major official integration was effected in the time of G M Sadiq. The “tunnel” of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was utilized to effect integration in various spheres including the political, financial and other aspects. The so called Article supposed to be safeguarding the State’s Autonomy was extensively used to integrate the state into the Indian Union and it is now only a hollow shell! While on one hand hue and cry is raised about the removal of this article generating upheaval among the local people, on the other hand very subtly measures are taken to integrate the state fully in a very surreptitious manner. The apparent aim seems not only to merge the territory into the mainland but also to make the local people totally dependent on outside aid.
The most important resource, the water has already been mortgaged by the so called leaders. The state could not only live but be very prosperous without any outside dole had Kashmiris been able to exploit the potential of hydro-electric power on their own. The campaign for outside dependence was started from the very day of the deposing and imprisonment of the Kashmiri leader who had been used to gain the peoples’ support for the accession of the state. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad started the culture of subsidy which has finally reduced the state to an economic wretch!
Some of the recent moves appear as the final touches to the full geographical, economic and political integration of the State. The conversion of REC into NIT which changed its composition of 50% State and 50% Central to 80% Central and 20% State; the recent trouble at NIT; the move regarding the identification and process for acquiring land for setting up Sainik colonies and composite townships for Pandits; the proposal for setting up shelters for outside labour almost a million of whom are already here, have been alleged by local leaders to be moves to change the demography of the State. The continuous presence of Army and Para-military along with outside labour has already changed the demography.
However, physical integration of any territory in the world by turning the locals as inmates of a big prison does not last long. This is a historical fact which the authors of the present move for integration need to keep in mind. The British had to leave India in spite of having held it for two centuries. The French had to leave Algeria; the Italians had to leave Libya and in recent times the Americans had to leave Vietnam and the Russians Afghanistan! The Americans are right now in the process of leaving Afghanistan!
The only integration which lasts is the integration of the mind and the soul. Both the Indian Government and the Indian people in general have so far utterly failed in integrating the mind and the soul of Kashmiris into the Indian mainstream. The stark evidence of that is the extreme alienation especially among the new generation of Kashmiri youth. One and all have admitted this alienation caused by the suppression faced by the people during the last two decades at the hands of the security forces operating with total immunity. The extent of alienation is evident from the increasing new wave of militancy and the total outright open support of the people to these new militants.
There are two possibilities. Either the neo-nationalists in India realise that by forced physical integration of the land they cannot win over Kashmiris and take practical measures to end the oppressive regime. This would involve repealing AFSPA and all other black laws, releasing all imprisoned youth and leaders, and starting a realistic political dialogue both with the local leaders and across the border for the final resolution of the problem. In the alternative, the continued oppression even if ensuring total physical integration of the land will result in a massive outburst which no one will be able to control and may ultimately result in a South Asian Armageddon !