Kashmiris are insistent everyday as the current imbroglio precedes that jobs, development, opportunities—these are not the issues. Yet, these might indeed in time become issues of central magnitude for a prospectively landlocked valley to deal with, in the absence of both monetary and infrastructural resources.
Those resources then may have to come from other places with all the attendant implications, be it the Saudis, or the Yankees, or the Chinese. Altogether, a pickle-in-the-making.
If those be not unfounded considerations, what is to be done?
And it is time that the question is addressed with some candid concern.
A good beginning is made, I think, if all parties to the contention recognize that Kashmir is not a problem that may ever be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. And it would be wrong to think that what is said therein is merely a pre-emptive ploy. I doubt me much that time will prove me wrong.
Let me say atone that the two options which seem closest to the heart of contending parties—the Union and the Agitators—I see as non-starters, namely the wish on behalf of the Indian State, on the one hand, that things may drag on as before till exhaustion seals a fait accompli, and, on the other, the desire, however fervent, of the young Agitators for a country of their own in the valley.
The first is bad not only because such a fait accompli will not happen, but because it speaks poorly to the founding pretensions of the Republic of India-chiefly its claim to “unity in diversity.” And it reinforces a sentiment felt more widely than just in the valley that the Indian State has, since the 1990 beginning of the neo-liberal era especially, become increasingly impatient of both secularism and democracy, and wholly inimical to the rights of a majority of Indians who to this day, in Abdullah’s words, feel no “definite and concrete stake in India.” This applies as a thought to the lives of India’s tribal populations, to Dalits, and to minorities of various description on a differentiated scale of neglect.
In that context, the Indian State can only be fooling itself to think that sooner than later the Kashmiris will tire and turn around.
And the second is a bad option because, as suggested above, the consequences of the secession of the valley are potentially fraught only with negatives for all parties to the dispute, and to the subcontinent as a whole.
Those recognitions return us willy nilly to salutary reflections on the possibility of recuperating and refurbishing the covenant of the federative promise and principle—something on which the Accession of the State to the Union had been based in the first place, setting a uniquely outstanding example both in terms of plurality of citizenship and of political partnership in opposition to totalitarian impulses in both areas.
This Kashmiri still thinks that the Delhi Agreement (above) of 1952 still offers the most workable and fair point of engagement. With the caveat that with the advantage of hindsight any cool Kashmiri would recognize that extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India and of the Election Commission of India to the State, far from impinging on the State’s Autonomy, and would in fact be credible guarantees of protection from excesses and denials.
As to the majoritarian nationalists, they are as much a menace to the rest of India as to any attempt to arrive at a fair solution in Kashmir. That being so, the Indian State and Civil Society must needs muster the strength and the will to defy and defeat their shenanigans, if the nation is to be saved not so much from the Kashmiris as, first of all, from them.
It is good, late than never, that the Prime Minister has made some noises to the sort of effect suggested here. Let his government and society at large understand fully that it is now or never in Kashmir, and therefore avoid going into another decade-long siesta after the current violence inevitably lulls.
As to Pakistan, I am simply tempted to nod assent to what Sheikh Abdullah had told the United Nations when he went there to plead India’s case: “I refuse to accept Pakistan as a party in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir State; I refuse this point blank.”
After what it has done to its own people over the decades, that refusal seems most in order. What the occupied part of Kashmir in Pakistan may do with their fate is best left to them as well. Significantly, the most recent Chatham House conducted poll showed some 58% of Kashmiris willing to formalize the Line of Control between the two parts of Kashmir as the International border between India and Pakistan. That is as it should be. And once that happens, human and other commerce between the two Kashmirs can be put on a sound international footing, all ambiguities and hassles removed.
If initiatives along above lines are not undertaken soon, it may be pointless to write any further on the subject of the Kashmir problem. Not reason, analysis, or conjoint effort may then sort it out, but a conflagration that may lead who knows where.
Author’s Note: Literature on Kashmir is mind-bogglingly numerous, and I have sought to look into as much as time and tide allow. But, for purposes of this piece, I wish to record my indebtedness to three authors on Kashmir chiefly—Prem Nath Bazaz, Balraj Puri, and M.J. Akbar on whose work I have drawn with abandon, the interpretations thereof being entirely my responsibility.