Friday, September 08, 2006

Kashmir VI: Was accession legal and ethical?

Dweep asked... (as a comment at my blog)

"BTW, I'm interested to know if you have a personal judgment on whether the Kashmir accession was correct - legally and ethically."

I try my best not to take an ethical stand on historical events- sometimes it is hard to say if a certain decision is ethical or not - unless it is a glaring violation (like genocide committed by Nazis) or an obvious act of good faith (like that of Mother Teresa). Legal actions need not necessarily be ethical. Law is bound to a land and can change with time. What is legal in US need not be legal in India. What is legal in India in 1800s need not be legal now. Slave trade was legal during 1600s but would we think it is ethical now?

Is colonial rule (that spanned more than three hundred years and covered half the world) ethical? There are certain benefits that came about while there were many sufferings. Is killing and violence in a fight for freedom ethical? We hail Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose as heroes but imprison Kashmiri activists. Is killing in a war ethical? Some soldiers are tried for war crimes while some are rewarded medals. There are many events in history of mankind on which it is difficult to comment whether it was ethical or not. Definition of what is ethical itself changes with time and place. While most Indians sleep next to their kids, most Americans do not and believe that it should not be encouraged so much so that their law has a say on it. We in India believe that our war with Pakistan (in 1971) to liberate Bangladesh was a heroic deed- because we saved a lot of Bangladeshis from subjugation and outright massacre. But let's assume if the newly formed Bangladesh could not sustain itself and succumbed to a barbaric invasion from Myanmar right after its independence. In retrospect, would we be happy with our actions?

While I believe accession of Kashmir is legal (because a piece of paper was signed before or after Indian troops landed in Kashmir), to say whether it was an ethical move is debatable. If I was alive during the time of Independence, I would have been happy that we saved Kashmir from an invasion, but the subsequent events in that state tell me that India has not done a good job keeping the good faith of that people. I guess, only the results and consequences of such controversial actions will determine whether it was the right move or not (unfortunately, in retrospect). Kashmir’s history is filled with false promises, unfulfilled guarantees, misrule, deceit, suffering, pain and tragedy. If the Muslims of Kashmir are suffering, if the Hindus of Kashmir are suffering, and if the Indian armed forces are suffering, I am not sure if it was the right move.

There is nothing wrong in admitting that we made a wrong move and start making reparations. And according to me, India can make amends by giving independence to Kashmir (and providing safe haven and compensation to Kashmiri Hindus). To be able to do something like that, we need lot of courage, strength of character, moral fortitude, dose of empathy, and confidence in ourselves as nation and people, because we would have to swallow a lot of pride and egotistic sentiments. Wise people and similarly wise countries admit their mistakes and are ready apologize to make amends. Immature people and similarly immature countries are ready to kill and die to uphold their false beliefs in spite of many opposing evidences.

Right now, I believe that we are not doing a good job in the North-east either. Our policies, our attitudes and our actions will come back to haunt us. There will be a day in the near future when we will be debating whether we should let North-east go. We can't get away scot-free after such a lousy job spanning fifty years. We shouldn’t be expressing surprise when these regions fight for their independence. If you beat up the kid all through his young age, ignore his concerns, not take care of him, not attend to his needs, I don’t think you should be surprised if he grows into an adult and adamantly fights to leave the house.


  1. The whole of Indias history and politics since independence is filled with false promises, unfulfilled guarantees, misrule, deceit, suffering, pain and tragedy - all over India

  2. Glad to see you write on a controversial subject. In general, it is hard these days to have any civil discussion on anything about Kashmir or Hindu-Muslim things. People are either too diplomatic, or just too charged-up when talking about these topics.

    To me, a logical way out of this is - exactly what you suggest - development. Development as in balanced and distributed growth of all regions.

    That may take care of North-East, naxalism etc, but the Hindu-Muslim two nation theory thing can have only two logical ends.

    1) There shouldn't be two nations but just one.

    2) India should let go of its secular identity.

    Allow me to explain the second bit. Controversy about legality of accession apart, Kashmir is like an "identity" problem for the two nations. India is a secular nation, it can't give territory away in the name of religion. Pakistan is Islamic, and seems to see muslim-majority territories (and perhaps all Indian Muslims?) as its own.

    Two nation to one thing can happen in two ways. I hope and think that it will happen the Germany way. We lived together as a loosely bound "region" for 5-6 centuries, can do it even today.

    The second way in which this 2-to-1 can happen, lets all pray it doesn't.

    Okay, the comment has grown too big. Perhaps a post on this subject on my blog if I can muster some time and courage.

  3. I'm wondering if morality and ethics can take precedence over national interest.

    "And according to me, India can make amends by giving independence to Kashmir (and providing safe haven and compensation to Kashmiri Hindus)".
    If Kashmir attains independence they wouldn't bother about protecting rights of Kashmiri pundits. They would annihilate what is left of the pundit population. What if Kashmir aligns with Pakistan post-independence (they most likely will)? That will be the greatest security threat India will ever face.

  4. Good writing but look that you are writing your self not for Indian people.


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