Authored By A.V:
For the last several weeks, we have heard and read about the recent unrest in the Kashmir Valley. People like me have had bitter exchanges with kashmiris who want an independent state and view India as an evil force. When I reflect on the things I have heard from separatists and Kashmiri Pandits who have been victims of an ethnic cleansing operation hardly anybody talks about, I feel India’s approach to J&K has been wrong all the time.
Let us first fix the blame. The mess we are in can be blamed on Congress and especially the Nehru regime. And to some extent on our constitution which through Article 370 gave Kashmir a special status. The special status awarded to Kashmiris have worked against India in 2 ways Firstly, it had led Kashmir to believe that they are NOT India. Secondly, it has helped them ignore the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. When Pandits who were Hindus were driven out by Islamic militancy in the late 80s, the separatist leaders sat through the brutality. Now, if you talk about rehabilitating the displaced Pandits back, the same separatists say that this is a conspiracy by India to change the demographic of the region.
I wish the issue here was devoid of any religion angle but unfortunately it isn’t. If it were, the kashmiri youth, Muslim of course, would have supported the return of Kashmiri pandits. During my heated exchanges on twitter with Kashmiris who were very keen on painting a negative picture of the Indian Army and the state, whenever I brought up the issue of Kashmiri Pandits rehabilitation, the conversation would use to go quiet and would resume only if the topic was human rights and independence. My frustration and anger at Kashmir stems from the fact that it expects all the favours from India but still doesn’t want any association to India. Kashmiris come to Delhi and speak against India in the country’s capital. We let them do it in the name of freedom of speech and because the constitution has made them special. And then they go back and bad-mouth us on the internet. They need to look left and right – at China and Pakistan and decide which country treats dissidents with such respect.
As much as I would want the Article 370 to be repealed, it won’t happen with the current state of national politics where different parties cannot unite even on issues of national interests. However, even with this constraint, there is scope for a change in strategy which can help India strengthen its support in those parts of J&K which are not anti-India.
Let’s leave out the area of J&K which is currently under the illegal occupation of Pakistan and China. There are 3 major regions in the state of Jammu and Kashmir – the Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh. It is unfortunate that we in India often forget about Jammu and Ladakh in the midst of the constant trouble in Kashmir. These are the often overlooked areas of the state and these regions are definitely not anti-India. But that should not lead us to believe that we can take them for granted.
So, here is my strategy. Change the constitution if you have to but carve 3 states out of J&K – The Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Work at war footing to build democratic structures in Jammu and Ladakh, invest heavily in Education and Infrastructure and prioritize the improvement of living standards in these two regions. Let the misguided separatists in Kashmir Valley look at their neighbours with awe. Let us not forget that it’s Kashmir which is the disputed part, not Jammu and Ladakh. Kashmir issue should not be allowed to prevent the other parts from developing. If we are able to do this, we can be reasonably assured that even if there is a plebiscite in these two regions, India is going to win.
The other thing that I fail to understand is why India is blocking Pakistani TV channels in Kashmir. Let’s not fear that these channels will brainwash kashmiri population against India as even without these channels, the kashmiri public behaves like a stooge of Pakistan. So, allow TV channels from Pakistan including the ones which show the wonderful quality of life in that part of the world. That will tell our Kashmiri friends what awaits them on the other side of the border. And finally to tackle the useless chant of independence which Kashmir won’t be able to sustain even if it gets it with Pakistan and China lurking in the shadows, India should make it clear to Hurriyat, other separatist factions and the people of Kashmir that they should not expect any military, development or economic aid from India. Why should they expect any assistance from us when their agenda has been India bashing all this time and when India is the devil incarnate for them?
I am sure this strategy cannot make us any worse than what we currently are. The heaven on Earth is in Jammu and Ladakh; not in a terrorist infested Kashmir valley. Let’s reward those who will stay loyal to us rather than running after the ones who will stab us in the back.