But read the lament quoted above, and there is not a jot more or different that informs the frustrated Kashmiri youth in the valley who are at this minute agitating in the valley, willing to confront police bullets.
It is another matter that long years after in 1974, Abdullah signed an Accord with Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India which stipulated, among other things, that
Parliament will continue to have power to make laws relating to the prevention of activities directed towards disclaiming, questioning, or disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India or bringing about secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union….
When the Indian Home Minister therefore speaks of keeping promises with the Kashmiris, those promises have a much wider ambit than the question merely of amending the vile Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which allows the least army man to shoot to kill without accountability.
Throughout these turbulent years of conflict, never once has any government of India sought to formulate schemes whereby talented Kashmiri Muslims, products of an educational explosion—all thanks to Abdullah’s New Kashmir programme, could be made to feel not just safe in the heartland but valued assets in the ongoing story of national “development.” Not to speak of the communal lens through which Kashmiri Muslims continue to be viewed by Indian society at large, an old malaise made dangerously trenchant subsequent to the era of “terrorism.”
And, paradoxically, the more that strong- arm methods and vicious prejudices fail to deliver desired results, the more the State means to persist with them. And now that some streaks of recognition seem to dawn on policy establishments, the present-day incarnation of the old Praja Parishad and Jana Sangh are back to the same old perfidies, robbing the secular democratic sections within the Congress chiefly of any will or courage to disregard Hindu right-wing communalism and do right by Kashmir.
Some 51 teenage Kashmiris screaming for secession have died in the last two months from police bullets in the valley.
Quite apart from the legalese of the question (the Sheikh/Indira Gandhi Accord for one), and apart also from the hard reality that such secession will neither ever be agreed to by any political establishment in India or any government of the day, or accepted by Indians at large, hypothetically, what prospects could be envisaged were the other parts of the State who do not want secession to be persuaded that the valley of Kashmir be bestowed Independence and Sovereignty?
— Following such a declaration, demands for Azadi could gain legitimacy in Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, to name a few, and be hard to deny once a precedent is set.
— A Hindu communalist backlash could ostensibly engulf India, rendering the lives of Indian Muslims tenuous, and leading to demands that India be declared a Hindu State, since the secession of the valley would have proved the two-nation theory to have been correct after all.
— Within Pakistan, first the Baloch, and then the Sindhis might take heart and set themselves the objective to be freed of Punjabi ethnic dominance through secession.
— Within the valley, a Bangladesh-like situation might well emerge, namely a struggle among those who will wish to retain a secular democratic state and those who might argue for an Islamic state. It is well to remember that of its forty years or so of independent nationhood, brought about under the leadership of the Awami National Party on secular principles, some thirty years were to see the communalist Leaguers in power. Until now when under the present regime again the Supreme Court there has struck down Article 5 of the amended constitution, and thereby once again reverted to denying any religion-based party formations, but after the spilling of much blood.
This writer has often been accused of exaggerating the sufi-secular orientation of Kashmiri Muslims, and of sentimentally misreading acts of personal and individual camaraderie and brotherhood displayed by Kashmir Muslims towards visiting Pandits as representative of the totality. I have also been kindly once commented upon as a “Jehadi lapdog” (see Google). But all that notwithstanding, it remains a fact that at the time of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley in 1990, a campaign was in evidence as loud-speakers from mosques blared how the “Nizam-e-Mustafa” (Islamic Statehood) was at hand, how the Pandits must hasten their exodus, taking care to leave their women behind, though. You will also hear the speculation that one reason why elements within the valley do not, at bottom, wish the Pandits to return home en mass is that they do not wish an Indian “fifth column” to be reinstated therein, since with them gone, the desire for an Islamic State acquires greater facilitation. Much as the Jews in Israel, for example, fear the return of Palestinian refugees into what was once their homeland.
I must also confess to another sort of experience on some recent visits to the valley, namely the chagrin with which any mention of “Kashmiriyat” (denoting the good old syncretic ways of Kashmiris) now tends to be received there. Indeed, I recall being at a seminar in the university in Srinagar where a senior academic read a one or two page “paper” titled “Kashmiriyat” only, in fact, to rubbish the concept, without much substance albeit.
“Kashmiriyat” is now seen as something of a trick to deny the fact that Kashmir in essence is Islamic, something that finds increasing expression in text books on history and culture, as the pre-Islamic period (roughly upto the fourteenth century, A.D.) is sought to be relegated.
Then the incident that happened not so long ago at Pulwama, where a Sikh Kashmiri was surrounded, and asked to speak the Islamic Qalima, failing which some of his hair was shorn off. Let it also be said that the incident, uncharacteristic in the extreme, drew condemnation from all sections of Kashmiri leadership.
Although, therefore, some residual Kashmiri Pandits who never left the valley continue to be protected by their Muslim neighbours, and their weddings and funerals organized with customary syncretic brotherhood, and although their periodic visits from camps outside the valley to age-old Hindu shrines in the valley are greeted with warmth, it would be wrong to deny that after the near-total evacuation of the Pandits, the impulse to forge a Sovereign and Independent valley into a theocratic state might not be altogether a baseless surmise.
Be that as it may, what might be the security logistics of the new state, bordering as it does Russia, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and in that situation, India as well? To return to what Sheikh Abdullah had said with regard to this option (“Eastern Switzerland”), how might the new state meet those vulnerabilities?
And how might it be said that Imperialism from you-know-where, already stationed in countries nearby, might not feel that at long last the valley was his for the taking, with all the Afghanistan-like consequences that could follow, both in terms of turmoil and cultural defilement?
Not to speak of the kind souls from Pakistan’s wild-western provinces, many in fact now resident in the main city centres of Pakistan? How might Kashmiris resist their call to a Jehadist embrace, in disregard of time-honoured ethnic Kashmiri prizing of exclusivity and identity? And if they became insistent despite a polite “no”, who might come to the aid of the Kashmiris?