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Monday, July 26, 2010

Kashmir conundrum

I wanted to write about Kashmir long time back but then always deferred for things to calm down from the preceding cyclic violence in order to avoid being overtaken by hideous emotional zeal. When it comes to dealing with Kashmir or more precisely with the situation there, the logic seems to be first victim. The misplaced frenzy on the part of those closely involved and those not even remotely involved takes surrealistic shape. Bizarreness on the part of latter is completely baffling and it rather displays dangerous mix of arrogance and ignorance than any reasoned and informed knowledge about the place and its history. The common refrain in Indian minds being that Kashmiri people are being misguided and incited by Pakistan and other foreign elements is just another ignorant humbug. The truth that the recent unrest in the valley was spread from one end to another belies that misguided notion; though, it would be naïve at the same time to rule out the roosting by external forces. That under no circumstance justifies use of brutal force unleashed by security apparatus of the state. Leaving aside for a moment the blaming game, a few fundamental things regarding Kashmir require consideration. The much often repeated 'mantra' of Kashmir being integral part of India does not hold any sanctity and in fact it never did. Like any fundamental truth it is a common knowledge that people of Kashmir, no matter what, do not want to be part of India, period. And that is the reality, which can neither be wished away nor explained by inexplicable excuses. To delve into the question 'why people of Kashmir don't want to be part of India?' one needs to open a complete encyclopedia of incompetence of Indian ruling class from time immemorial. History is replete with missteps, misdeeds both deliberate and malicious in conjunction with arrogance and, worst of all, in combination with brazen ignorance. One doesn't need to go too far back in time, one just has to dwell at a short-time window between creation of Bangladesh in 1971 to the execution of Bhutto in 1979. That was time when disenchantment in valley with Pakistan was complete and for once there was a collective but silent relief in minds of Kashmiri people for being part of a democratic country rather than Pakistan where an elected president had just been despicably executed. Zia-ul-Haq's effigies were burnt all over Kashmir and Jamait-e-Islami people were hounded into hiding. Fast forward to 1988 and when Zia died in plane crash on August 17 that year, people in Kashmir deeply mourned his death that was coupled with a total shut down and completed with an imposition of a valley wide curfew. Saner minds and serious and competent governments might have asked; how did status of Zia changed from a pariah to messiah? The answer is shear incompetency, arrogance and ignorance of the Indian rulers. The intervening events that shed light on those assertions are illegal, illogic and ill-conceived dismissal of a democratically elected government of Farooq Abdullah, installation of a corrupt puppet local government in place and most damaging being the presence a divisive figure of Jagmohan as a governor of the state. If anybody ever embodied Indian insensitivity towards Kashmir, there can never be a better example than Jagmohan. His leap to famed administrator originated from his overzealous servitude to Sanjay Gandhi during ill-conceived Indian emergency when he specifically targeted Muslim areas of Delhi in a drive towards beautification. Thus appointment of a governor, with such credentials, of a sensitive state in itself is a testimonial to the sensibility of Indian government and he (Jagmohan) lost no time displaying it by removing Farooq Abudullah and taking over administration after a short interluding puppet regime. One of the decisions of his administration was ban on selling of meat on certain days of Hindu festivals. Here was the much revered administrator at his imaginative best. These might eventually turn out to be just foot notes in the history but nevertheless these underscore the issue of Indian insensitivity in dealing with Kashmir and its population. As the events there after dashed towards total collapse and at every step Indian authorities were left gasping for a response. But the only consistency displayed by all successive Indian governments has been a total lack of imagination. Otherwise, how else was the then governor Sinha allowed to create a mess of gargantuan proportion over the land transfer issue or how else were petty bureaucrats allowed to shell out communalistic agenda from the then governor's office. The worst case scenario, in my opinion, that went completely unreported was that when new committee for Amarnath shrine was constituted under new enlightened governor, it did not include a single Muslim as a member. Amarnath shrine was discovered by Muslims and is revered as much by local Muslims as by Hindus. And Kashmir, particularly in rural areas, was always religiously integrated with a very thin dividing the two faiths. How authorities did choose to be so insensitive? Could it be possible that the well being of vested interests are higher than the state? Once again during latest round of violence in valley the Indian insensitivity and lack of understanding was at total display through use of indiscriminate force and complete harassment of local population. That is not how civilized societies function. When it comes to Kashmir, India as a state failed at every stage. It failed to capitalize when things were going in its favor; it failed to protect Hindus and in fact state under Jagmohan encouraged them to flee that place; it failed to provide dignity to any community of Kashmir because of its heavy reliance on use of security forces and bureaucrats who have nothing but their own ax to grind.
-Rajiv Kumar

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