The quest to preserve Kashmiriyat
Most of us seemed to have been taken aback by the recent occurrences in Kashmir. However, if you are a kashmiri, than you have not had the liberty to indulge in a deep slumber of security and aspiration that most of us can redeem. Headlines of death, despair and agony seem to have found residence in what was once fabled as ‘heaven on earth’. The violence in Kashmir cannot be attributed as a product of this government or its predecessor. It is the enduring blot that has stained the cloth of Indian independence for decades. It is the story of pain and fear that should hold no place in a democracy, let alone the worlds largest.
This article however is not intended to reiterate their plight and delve emphasis on the atrocities suffered by the Kashmiris. I see no joy in aggravating wounds, especially ones that haven’t had time to heal. What the essay attempts to execute is the responsibility that very citizen of the Indian republic must undertake, a political discourse towards a resolution to the tribulations of our people.
Realities of Kashmir
For this act however, we must first understand the realities of the region. The people of Kashmir may not want to be a part of India. In a region of war and violence, dwindling aspirations, a lack of security for life and eternal conflict it is difficult to imagine otherwise. This resentment however isn’t directed towards the idea of the Indian republic but towards what it has become auxiliary in their minds with. It is only ordinary to assume that a populace would direct accountability in lieu of their social and economic being towards their administration. Their fight for azaadi is directed to a sense of independence from their circumstances rather than a misdirected sense of nationalism.
Secondly, we must accept that the current system of firefighting for the problem of Kashmir is simply ineffectual. Essentially as an accepted principle, dialogue should precede coercive action. But the Indian government waits for deterioration to a point of coercive action and then tries to save face with dialogue.
Third, human rights violations in the region are a reality. Scores of innocent lives have been taken and many childhoods turned into deathbeds. The loss of lives of Kashmiris is a loss of our own, and we mustn’t see this as a necessary sacrifice at the alter of national interest. It is the very interest our nation vows to protect in its constitution.
However, this is no condemnation for the Indian military. The armed services aren’t trained to be part of civilian life. The Armed forces special protection act (AFSPA) gives necessary but arbitrary powers to the armed forces. It leaves little space for discretion and evaluation of the situation, as immediate action is the statuary protocol. The forces as much as the kashmiris want normalcy, so that they can go back to their requisite roles of national security and being a progressive civil society respectively.
The solution to the Kashmir paradox cannot be external. External help is more an outcome of vested interests and the current conditioning of international politics rather than moral correctness. Case in point, China’s decision to veto the listing of certain Pakistani terrorists by the UN. Not only is this measure inadequate, it isn’t conceivable due to India’s insistence on bilateral resolution. The second solution that is often propounded by Pakistan is to hold India to the Nehruvian promise of a plebiscite. To such theorists, I would ask for a referral to resolution 47 passed by the UN for the plebiscite in question. Pakistan was to recede all its forces and India was then to reduce them to a minimum and hold the required plebiscite. The first requirement was never fulfilled by Pakistan, as they claimed no control over the ‘Azaad Kashmir’ forces. Why a plebiscite is impossible today is still the same impending withdrawal. In any circumstance a plebiscite today would be a larger outcome of the prevailing sentiment rather than collective will. Kashmiris today would be governed by immediate sentiment and not long-term welfare. It is the peril of prolonged oppression. So much Indian blood has been shed on the lands of Kashmir; even the flourishes of flowers carry its essence.
What can be done then? Is there a solution to the violence within the confines of political realities and pragmatism? The first thing to do would be to follow the J&K chief ministers advice and institutionalize dialogue between New Delhi and kashmiris. We need to provide an outlet for their concerns that doesn’t adhere to taking up arms. Secondly, we must work on the principle of ‘isolate and integrate’. The policy decision to disallow Indians from settling in Kashmir has isolated them and their concerns. Kashmiri Muslims should also be provided incentives to come and work in other parts of India. To migrate, prosper and inspire people around them. Also, it is important to separate the administration in the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The small state theory will not only ensure development but will stop the impediments in the Kashmir valley from hindering the progress of the other regions. We must make Jammu and Ladakh examples of what peace and prosperity can bring to the region. This type of a dual integration system will lessen the alienation and administer the true idea of India; a nation on the path of progression and development to accommodate the dreams and aspirations of all its citizens.
The answer to Kashmir lies in political discourse. 'We the people' are the defining principle. In a democracy it is the people who choose their representatives and the ideologies that they represent. We must elect the right mandate, but for that we must have the right understanding of Kashmiriyat. The sense of nationalism that erupts in us even with the mere mention of Kashmir must transcend the love for its land to the people of Kashmir. In the words of martin luther king jr. darkness cannot remove darkness, only light can. Let us make India the light for our people in Kashmir and realize that the region is not mere territory, sand, dust, river and mountains. It was given name by its people; it breathes Kashmiriyat.
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