[One may want to read Kashmir I, II, III, IV, V, VI to get the premise. Here, I answer some of the questions that arose during the discussions on prior articles].
Can an Independent Kashmir sustain as a nation?
When in doubt, think of Bhutan! There are many countries that are far smaller than Kashmir Valley which survive as nations. The concept that a nation should have a large land mass and big population with abundant natural resources is unique to populations of big countries. There are examples galore that suggest that a nation does not have to fit this description. Vanuatu, Belize, Luxembourg, Andorra, etc, do not have large land mass nor large populations but survive as nations. How about Lesotho and Gambia who are completely surround one single country? What about their protection? Though China laid claim to Bhutan it accepts its existence a bit hesitatingly because it is protected by India. There are many small countries on the planet whose security is guaranteed by big brothers. Such a protection to Kashmir is not unthinkable.
Some Indians ask ‘Is it worth it- to stay so small? Why not stay with a big country and enjoy the benefits?’ I wish the answer was that simple! If it was the only prevailing rationale, then we should be seeing only big countries in the world right now. They shouldn’t be breaking up into smaller nation states. The whole of Central America should be one big nation! Nations are not necessarily born out of economic reasons. They are born out of aspirations of its people to govern themselves. If a majority in a certain land believe they are ethnically, linguistically, culturally, racially, or religiously different from the other parts, and if they wish to be independent, they can form a nation. There are no preset rules to form a nation. Being landlocked and mountainous doesn’t seem to deter Switzerland from performing as a nation. As we saw recently with Soviet Union and Yugoslavia breaking up, there is a potential for many nations to form, and as seen with Germany uniting, many nations could merge. Every nation will have to find its own set of ingredients to survive and develop- there are no rigid parameters that are equally applicable. The notion that it may not survive economically or will not be able to sustain itself is not a valid reason for denying independence.
Do people in Kashmir Valley really want an Independent country?
It looks like they want it. There are no valid statistics to ascertain this since India never wanted to face the reality. But all the Kashmiri protests, their complete renunciation of every Indian effort, their lack of faith in Indian institutions including constitution and local elections, their support to freedom movement allowing foreign mercenaries to fight India, etc, reflect their disassociation with India. India does not entertain any talks that include independence to Kashmir, so how is one to ascertain the exact statistics? Some readers quoted an article in Dawn, which in turn refers to TOI:
A poll by TOI indicates that nearly 53.9% in Kashmir Valley ask for Independence. One should not quickly conclude that other 46.1% want to be with India. How many want to be with Pakistan, and how many have not expressed their opinion is not mentioned in this report.
What about Hindu Pandits?
The story of Kashmir is an unresolved issue that has its origins in Partition of India. For a long time, we covered up all the Kashmiri protests and misgivings, and pretended all was well by running puppet administrations. The time caught up, and after a series of bungled-up episodes, people of Kashmir Valley rose in protest against Indian Administration during 1980s. However, most Indians would like to believe otherwise- that it is a Pakistan-sponsored program; that it is an Islamic fundamentalist ideology in tune with what’s going elsewhere. By clubbing the situation with these bogeymen, we do not take any responsibility and instead lay the blame onto the forces that lie outside.
Imagine the whole of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to Pakistan during Partition. Wouldn’t those quarter-million Hindus have migrated into India back in 1947-48 leaving behind their properties, just like million others? The actions of Kashmiri Muslims that have led to migration of Pandits in 1989 are inexcusable. [The story of the migration of 1989-90 is itself mired in controversy where Jagmohan’s actions are questioned by Pandits who ask if indeed there was a real threat that warranted this migration.]
The problem of Hindu Pandits is a problem of India. It has to deal with it the way it has dealt with million other Indians who have migrated into India from Pakistan during Partition. No practical solution (unless India resorts to the methods employed by Israel) can envision their return to Kashmir Valley. It’s a sad reality that India has to wake up to. Do Hindus of India lay claim to their ancestral property in Pakistan’s Punjab? They do not. It is understood to be a consequence of our Partition. In an effort to separate conjoined twins, Partition has performed a surgical procedure and it resulted in death of more than half a million people and migrations of 15 million. We do not lay claim to the lands lost nor ask for compensation for the lives lost. We see it as a result of the decisions we made (during Partition) and bear the consequences to provide aid, help and support to those victims.
Can India give freedom only to Kashmir Valley?
Nations change shape all the time. They add new lands and lose few lands. Some change their identity; some new ones are formed from old countries. Nothing is forever- especially not the nations.
But for most Indians, most things in life are sacred, including their map, their National song and all associated symbols. They believe in sanctifying them for eternity. Most Indians are reluctant to see any breakup, even that of their states. They impose sanctity to all shapes and fight tooth-and-nail to protect it. For them, LoC is sacred and so is the indivisibility of all states including Jammu and Kashmir.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of three distinct regions with different geographies, ethnic compositions and histories. To club them into one does not make sense- we will not be able solve the problem that will satisfy all. The aspirations of these three regions are different as well. While the people of Kashmir Valley ask for Independence (or want to merge with Pakistan), most others (in Ladakh and Jammu) do not. Even during the partition, it was discussed whether it made sense to club this entire region as one entity. But since, this region was under one king, it was thought appropriate not to complicate things (since we used the same argument for annexing some kingdoms into our country).
Granting Independence to Kashmir Valley will satisfy the aspirations of its people that originate during Partition of India. Retaining Ladakh and Jammu will keep our commitment towards these people who wish to remain with India.
Is ‘what is good for India’ good for Kashmir?
Many Indians believe that 'what is good for India' should be good for Kashmir too. We can’t imagine, believe nor accept that Kashmiri Muslim are actually fighting us including our values- the same values that we cherish and believe to be universal. Indians believe that these Kashmiri do not know what they want. We want to educate them and teach them how benevolent we are, and why it is in their interest to be with us. We want to tell them the greatness of our institutions- democracy, freedom, liberty to women, and our secular principles, and show them our track record that we are so proud of (in comparison to those next door). We want to explain to them how being with India is in their best interest- like enjoying good economy and a better standard of living (unlike the other ‘backward’ neighbors). We cannot imagine how Kashmir wants to become a ‘regressive Islamic state’ when they have a choice to be with ‘progressive democratic and secular nation’ such as ourselves? They ask, “Can’t Kashmiri see that their youth has better future with us than in an independent Kashmir? Look at what happened to Pakistan and Bangladesh? Can’t they see the obvious?”
This was the exact mindset white man had when he was the colonial master. The white man’s burden- his duty to civilize the world, led him to conquer continents, wage wars, and kill millions in the process, all in the name of that single belief, that he was ordained by certain higher power to instill such institutions in uncivilized world. Some leaders in Britain (including Churchill) were opposed to granting independence to India because they believed Indians were better off with British Empire. They could not imagine nor believe Indians will be able rule themselves.
Churchill, speaking to an audience in London in 1930, claimed that if the British left Indian sub-continent, then "an army of white janissaries, officered if necessary from Germany, will be hired to secure the armed ascendancy of the Hindu”.
Few months later, he said, "to abandon India to the rule of the Brahmins would be an act of cruel and wicked negligence". According to him, "India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages".
Speaking in 1931, Churchill said:
“At present the Government of India is responsible to the British Parliament… To transfer that responsibility to this highly artificial and restricted oligarchy of Indian politicians would be a retrograde act. It would be a shameful act. It would be an act of cowardice, desertion and dishonour. It would bring grave material evils, both upon India and Great Britain…”
Indians echo such similar sentiments now when asked about Independence to Kashmir. “How are you going to guarantee the rights of all sects? How are you going to guarantee rights of women? Will this country not go Islamic the Taliban way? How will they survive as a nation?”
The contemporary American imperialism is based on the notion that ‘what is good for America is good for the world’. Once a major chunk of population and administration believe in this notion, it becomes easy to manipulate its people to do anything sinister, including waging a war in the name of promoting those American values in foreign lands. No wonder, George Bush II had popular support before invasion of Iraq since it was supposedly ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, designed to liberate the oppressed people and install ‘American style’ democracy there. Now we see the Iraqis fighting these forced values vehemently and vociferously, blowing themselves up in the process. Most Indians grow up believing 'what is good for an Indian' should be good for Kashmiri as well. If need be, we would like to hold that population at gunpoint to instill our values into them. We don’t realize that such forceful shoving of values make those populations choke on them; they reject them by vomiting it out.
What most of these Indians fail to understand is that the notion of 'what is good' is different for different people. A Danish jail cell may provide all amenities, including TV, daily food, good clothing and work, but an Indian would rather live in a slum in Delhi to be free. Freedom! That single word that spawned so many struggles of mankind, including our glorious Independence Movement in which we wanted to define it according to our terms, and yet we are now defining it for others, making it paradoxical.