Kashmir is in the news again: This time after the death of jihadi terrorist Burhan Wani. So
Kashmir still continues to find itself in a quandary close to 70 years after India’s
Here’s the conundrum: a. Kashmir can’t really be an Independent country. b. It can’t be a part of Pakistan. c. It has a very uneasy relationship with India. So where does it go from here?
A look at this Catch-22 situation...
1. Kashmir can’t be independent
Every now and then, demands for Kashmir’s azadi are heard. In the Twitter age it’s in a hashtag called #Kashexit.
However a vicious circle was created soon after Independence and it is difficult to see how we can exit that. Post-August 15 1947, Kashmir was in limbo land and sort of independent.
India was ready to accept an independent Kashmir and the people there preferred that too. However Pakistan attacked Kashmir and attempted to annex it.
It was that move which landed Kashmir in India’s lap. Today in the unlikely event that India gives Kashmir its freedom—Pakistan will annex it again and destabilize the whole region. India will be forced to intervene once again.
There’s no way that an independent Kashmir can survive with a hostile Pakistan next door.
2. Kashmir can’t be part of Pakistan
This was a possibility in 1947, but impossible today. At that time both the titular head Maharaja Hari Singh and popular leader Sheikh Abdullah rejected Pakistan outright.
Again hypothetically if we talk of Kashmir integrating with Pakistan, it is simply not possible. For one India would never accept it. But more importantly, Pakistan is in no position to accept it too. The whole country is riddled with terror attacks.
There is a war raging with tens of thousands of terrorists in North Waziristan. Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is clamouring to return to India. A renewed independence movement has broken out in Balochistan, and they never accepted their integration with Pakistan in the first place. There’s no way Kashmir can unite with such a disunited country.
3. India also goofed up big time
Uttar Pradesh. Bihar. West Bengal. There are many States which have gone wrong in India. However thanks to the Instrument of Accession and Article 370, Kashmir is a special case. For some curious reason, post-1947, the Central government refused to develop Kashmir.
The tourism industry could have been made world class. Roads, railway tracks and other development projects would have given employment opportunities to the locals. The Centre has adopted a very lazy approach towards Kashmir.
The turning point was the 1983 J&K elections. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched a highly communal election campaign and the Congress lost to Farooq Abdullah. Instead of gracefully accepting defeat, she dismissed a popular government within months.
That set off a chain reaction. First there was political instability. Then we had the Kashmiri Pandit exodus. That gave power to Valley hardliners. After that came the 1989 kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed and the subsequent reign of terror in the Valley.
4. Peace and a four-way split
In 1990, 1000+ people died in terrorism in Kashmir. In 2001 the toll crossed 4000. But in 2008 that number dropped to below 100 for both civilians and security forces respectively.
That trend continued till the 2014 elections. (I had written about this in “9 stories which the media has underplayed”)
However there was a four-way split in those elections. In the 87-member House where 44 seats are needed for a majority, the tally for each party read… PDP: 28. BJP: 25.National Conference: 15. Congress: 12. In this broken House, the BJP is still a virtual outsider and shares an uneasy relationship with the PDP.
But to make matters worse, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died at the beginning of the year as it appears the dice is heavily loaded against Kashmir.
5. Abusing the Army is counter-productive
Certain sections of India keep abusing the Indian Army’s role in Kashmir, but did the defence forces come on their own? They simply can’t. They were ordered to come by the political class and still take orders from the Centre.
The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, was enacted when Congress Prime Minister VP Singh was at the helm. Congress PMs like PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh happily went along.
It is quite bizarre for stanch Congress supporters to rubbish the Army in Kashmir and not question the Prime Ministers who introduced and implemented AFSPA for decades. It doesn’t make sense to pretend that an intense political issue is merely a military one.
The Army will now stay in Kashmir for as long as Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants them to stay. Demonizing the Army will be nothing but counter-productive.
6. The real problem lies elsewhere
Again, it doesn’t matter what the governments of India and Jammu & Kashmir do. It doesn’t matter what the people of Kashmir do.
The problem lies elsewhere. Pakistan has been training thousands of terrorists on their soil and sending them into India for decades now. Till this issue is sorted out, the problem will never be eradicated. And here if the Indian Army takes orders from the Indian government, there the Pakistan government takes orders from the Pakistan Army.
Talks with the Pakistan government are futile. The Pakistani Army has zero accountability. So what can India do? Catch-22!
7. The Burhan offensive leads to a tricky situation
The killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was part of a latest offensive to bring peace in the Valley. Again the Centre finds itself in a Catch-22 situation.
If they continue this offensive, then there will be anger in the Valley and shockingly even India’s liberals and intellectuals seem sympathetic towards Burhan.
But if the Centre backs off, then all the terrorist groups will be even more emboldened and things could really spiral out of control. Things were quiet in Kashmir from 2008-14.
There was great hope in the Valley from 2014-16. But what happens next in Kashmir will be one of Modi’s biggest challenges and knowing his politics one feels that the hardline approach will continue.
Kashmir meanwhile will keep seeking that elusive peace that always seems just around the corner.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here