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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trouble in Kashmir-a democracy in peril


Kashmir is in turmoil again; well that is not the news, it has been in turmoil since summer or more accurately since many summers. May be my cynicism is over powering me because I started for seeing the trouble in Indian democracy itself. Indian democracy has been through many eras of troubles and even through the times when everything seemed to be lost, only to see it emerge not only unscathed but even healthier than before. It has been that very democracy in its chaotic form that even enabled a multinational and disparate country to not only remain united against odious odds and dubious premonitions of pundits, rather allowed it to stake its place as an emerging economic power house on its own at the world stage. All this has been possible when despite all short comings the country never let go of its chaotic democracy and democratic rules always prevailed and civilian democratic institutions held precedence over everything else. In contrast to neighboring Pakistan, army and allied institutions were always held subservient to the elected civilian authority. Fading out of Field Marshal Manekshaw under Indira Gandhi after his misspeak in press and dismissal of Admiral Vishnu Bhagat by the Vajapayee government represented the high points of Indian democracy putting it in same league as the dismissal of roguishly brilliant General Douglas MacArthur by Harry Truman. The intransigency and insensitivity on the part of successive Indian governments to address the Kashmir problem is not only making any solution intractable by the day but it has started eroding the very core of Indian democracy that has sustained India as a country. The promulgation of completely undesirable armed forces special power act to deal with armed insurgency becomes a complete anathema in democracy if allowed to deal with stone pelting crowds demanding their rights. Epithets of incompetence hurled at Omar Abdullah by vicious rightist saffron thugs become meaningless until he is able get very genuine demands including abrogation of armed forces act fulfilled. A completely unnoticed and out of character development has been the public airing of opposition against removal of the act by the forces including chiefs of the staff. This opposition by security services is being played to the hilt by shameless BJP and will eventually prevent even a semblance of progress on the issue. Syed Ali Shah Geelani is able call shots in Kashmir because insensitive Indian regimes never offered any concessions when moderates were in ascendancy. And worst of all, in the guise of insurgency in Kashmir, the military officials continued to make statements beyond their mandates. Omar Abdullah is not asking for withdrawal of the infamous act from entire state but only from the districts where unarmed people are demanding their rights and where armed forces have not been and should not have been asked to intervene. The situation in Kashmir through blatant mishandling has reached a point of no remedy but it is the Indian democracy that is reaching its peril by allowing civilian authorities to be pushed by the subservient institutions. To let decisions drag at the time of mounting civilian casualties and to let hardliners set agenda are never signs of a healthy democracy. Offering of concessions never bring down the countries but stupid intransigencies do.

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