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Secession is not an option

Secession is not an option

Author: Editorial
Publication: Free Press Journal
Date: August 22, 2008

The continuing unrest in the Kashmir valley has made a number of editorialists so desperate that they seem to have lost faith in the innate ability of the Indian State to offer a viable solution. Not unlike the surgical chopping off a human limb wasted by gangrene, these worthies have suggested that India should let go of Kashmir. The suggestion is preposterous, of course. For, nobody willingly parts with a limb which is crucial to one's very survival. Like it or not, the Kashmir secession, voluntary or otherwise, would mark the beginning of the end of a secular Indian State. Not because the Hindu majority aspires to a theocratic State. No, because the failure in Kashmir would unleash its own dynamics which would dissipate the energies of the secular Republic to guard itself against retrograde forces. Of course, it is undeniable that over the last 60 years, the ruling class has made grievous mistakes in Kashmir. Nehru's emotionalism contributed vastly to the mess that has been Kashmir all along. His blind faith in Shiekh Abdullah, because he was a close personal friend, soon turned into an implacable personal hostility, resulting in contrary policy responses. The nomination of Bakshi Ghulam Ahmed as the Sheikh's successor became a metaphor for the carrot-and-stick policy successive Congress regimes at
the Centre have followed in Kashmir.

Turning a blind eye to the gargantuan corruption of the `nominated' rulers in Srinagar, while condoning a total lack of good governance, was the favoured policy tool of New Delhi. The central government betrayed a lack of faith in ordinary Kashmiris, glossing over the corruption and incompetence of the nominated Kashmiri leaders.

A measure of such a short-sighted policy was the willing subversion of a truly democratic process in J and K. The Centre feared that a genuinely representative government in Srinagar could up the ante and openly pass a resolution in the State Assembly calling for secession. The fear was misplaced.

The New Delhi-nominated Kashmiri rulers not only aggravated the feeling of alienation ordinary Kashmiris felt, but they drove the real leaders to openly raise the banner of revolt against an overbearing New Delhi. It wasn't so much that the Kashmiris were rebelling against India as they were rebelling against Indian leaders who distrusted them so deeply that they denied them a representative government.

However if in Nepal yesterday's Maoist revolutionaries can be suitably tamed for them to embrace the democratic path, there could be hope in Kashmir too. Remember in Kashmir there are no Prachanda-like revolutionaries, only disgruntled and opportunistic Kashmiri leaders. And to get their own back against an overbearing and unresponsive central government, which treats them with extreme suspicion, they play the Pakistani card against India. For, the so-called Kashmiri secessionists crying `azadi, azadi' know full well that they will feel suffocated if Kashmir were to join Pakistan. Pakistan would not only fully assimilate Kashmir into itself but would also ensure that its `pure' Kashmiri demographics is altered beyond recognition. India, despite pressures, has most conscientiously refrained from doing so, though in hindsight it could be considered a weakness of its initial Kashmir policy.

Instead, successive governments in New Delhi have pumped hundreds of billions of rupees into Kashmir in the hope of buying the goodwill of ordinary Kashmiris. The per capita income of Kashmiris is a multiple of the national average because of the misplaced generosity of successive governments in New Delhi. The Kashmiris have been pampered. Yet, they behave as if they have done India a great favour by staying with India. Secession not being an option, the only alternative, to begin with, maybe to treat Kashmir on an equal footing along with the rest of the States. Give them a representative local government within the four walls of the Indian Constitution. Yet, the full force of the Indian State ought to be brought to bear on them should they seek to breach the original compact with the Indian State.

Precisely because successive rulers in New Delhi have been assailed by doubts about the true value of accession of Kashmir to India, they have handled the Kashmir problem with kid-gloves.

Be correct but firm in dealing with Kashmir. More than sixty years after the accession, there is no scope for opening up that done deal again. But do not follow a duplicitous approach towards Kashmiris. Be up front. Let them know where they stand vis-a-vis the Indian scheme of things. And, having done that, come down heavily on any breach, minor or major. And, for god's sake, stop throwing honest tax-payers' rupees at them. A sure way to spoil a child is to give it candy every time it sprawls on the floor crying. Discipline yourselves to discipline the Kashmiris.

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