Let Kashmir Decide Its Own Fate

Just about five years ago, I was a strong believer in the authoritative proclamation: “Kashmir hamara hai.” Anyone who even wandered about other alternatives was automatically considered an anti-Indian (or pro-Pakistani, which more or less meant the same thing back then).

Thinking about that polemic and rather one-dimensional sentiment now, I think that belief originally stemmed from a strongly conceived notion that Pakistan was trying to snatch Kashmir out of our hands, and we can not let them succeed. It was by no means a wrong judgment of our neighbor’s motives. Pakistan did try (and is still trying) everything they could to make sure that Kashmir remained at the forefront of India’s major concerns for last 61 years.

Then there was another (rather indirect) justification that if we let Kashmir go then other states and regions will start (or, restart) making secessionist or irredentist demands. This was an obvious concern since India has seen many secessionist movements after its independence – Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Assam and Mizoram.

Adding legitimacy to the belief was the fact that the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Sing, signed the Instrument of Accession in 1947 and according to that, Kashmir became a part of India. [Here is the full text of that Instrument of Accession]

Thus a strong national pride challenged by the malignant neighbor, a valid concern for the integrity of the nation, and legitimacy in the form of Instrument of Accession kept alive the staunch and stout belief that Kashmir is an integral part of India and we can not let it go.

My beliefs have changed over the years and now I realize that in all those rationalizations, I forgot to consider one vital point. The will of Kashmiri people. And how we promised to respect the will of the people by conducting a plebiscite. This promise remains unfulfilled, as it was contingent on Pakistan withdrawing their military presence from the Kashmir region. This is not totally unfair claim on India’s behalf. Pakistan does occupy the so called ‘Azad Kashmir’ and also another sparsely populated region known as ‘Northern Areas’.

Since then, Pakistan kept on infiltrating the region with terrorist, and training Pakistani as well as Kashmiri people in their camps. And India kept on sustaining and increasing its military presence in the region to counter-attack the terrorism, which came with the unfortunate side-effects of subjugation of the inhabitants and in some cases rapes and extortion of innocents. In the midst of power/dominance struggle between two nations, the fate of Kashmir remains uncertain. We never actually stopped and asked the Kashmiri people what they want.

In last 61 years, India had tried everything to please the Kashmiris (in the hope that they would stay amicably as a part of India). But  the situation have gotten only worse and more tenuous. What’s becoming more and more clear is that the Kashmiri people – especially in the Valley – don’t want to stay with us. They look at us as oppressors and consider Indian “occupation” of Kashmir as one form of colonialism.

Being a democratic nation, India is being unfair with a state that has no desire, and have never had any desire, to stay as a part of India. (Consider the following: Junagadh was a mirror image of Kashmir in 1947 – a Hindu majority state with a Muslim ruler. When the Nawab declared that he wanted to accede with Pakistan, India sent military to Junaghdh and the Nawab had to flee to Pakistan. Our justification for military intervention? The will of the majority is to stay with India, we said. But alas, we didn’t use the same yardstick with the situation in Kashmir. The will of the Maharaja took precedence over the will of the population.)

If we let Kashmir go, then following their streak, what if people from (let’s say) Punjab come up with the same demand, you might ask. First of all, that’s very unlikely. All secessionist movements in India had died away. And even if they get renewed, the case in point would be different and it would warrant a different solution than that of Kashmir. (Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in India. The only state with majority of the population that never wanted to accede with India.)

It’s time to hear from the people of Kashmir. A plebiscite is long overdue. If Kashmir wants to stay with us (the Hindu majority Jammu and Buddhist majority Ladakh region are likely to vote in favor of India) – fine. If not, let them try independence or merge with Pakistan. (The Muslim majority Valley is likely to go either way.) This, obviously is not easy to implement overnight, and I am no political guru who can lay out the game plan for how India and Pakistan should proceed. But as a believer in liberal democracy, I feel that we should take necessary actions and move in the direction of holding a referendum in Kashmir. Let Kashmiris, not the military, not the politicians, decide the fate of Kashmir.

Further reading:

Vir Sanghvi argues that we should hold a referendum in Kashmir, not only because of democratic and ethical but also for economical reasons.

Swaminathan Aiyar writes about the farcical democracy of Kashmir that, according to him, started with Sheikh Abdullah in 1951. He compares Indian claim to the Valley with British claim to India before 1947. (I don’t agree with all of his point of views though.)

Pratap Mehta remarks that “The Indian state has a legitimacy crisis in Kashmir.” He also admits that “India has in the past sacrificed democracy in Kashmir to its own nationalism.”

Amit Varma believes that a plebiscite is desirable but impossible given the imperatives of Indian and Pakistani politics.

Update: More from Arundhati Roy. A shorter version of this essay is published (link) in Gurdian.

Comment Policy: Any comment that uses profanity, makes personal attacks or is irrelevant to the subject will be removed.

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22 responses to “Let Kashmir Decide Its Own Fate

  1. kaangeya

    You are mistaken. That’s for a start. In a nation of a billion, the wishes of 4 million Kashmiri Muslims occupying a valley must be balanced against the needs of the entire population. Secession is a right granted to an individual, not to regions or communities. All of India has a stake in preserving the Kashmir Valley. The Valley’s neighbours Ladakh and Jammu are the first claimants to national interest as the security of Kashmir affects their own security. These two regions although vastly more industrious and orderly have been treated shabbily in an effort to mollycoddle and appease the Kashimir Valley Muslims. Muslims in the rest of J&K will confirm that. Nations cannot and do not change their goals based on mere whims of a generation or two. If a people are unwilling to bend before the national will they should be brought to heel by all means possible. The future of the Kashmir Valley must be decided by all Indians not a a few thousand rabble. All else, referendum, plebiscite etc is hogwash. Nehru in a moment of weakness aquiesced to a plebiscite instead of marching the forces in Gilgit. It is time to reverse the mistake. The “will of the people” is rarely ever the best guide. And certainly the will of a bloodthirsty gaggle of butchers who cleansed and pogrommed the Hindus of the Valley of Kashmir should never be respected – it is worth nothing. It is a mark of your duplicity that you choose to forget the wholesale orgy of violence that has scarred the Valley not since the better known Krystallnacht of September 1989, but the more gradual extermination of the Valley’s pristine Hindu character from 1948 onwards. And as for you if you don’t have the stomach for the fight you too are free to secede. Good luck. But your land belongs to all Indians. Sabe?

  2. Kaangeya,

    >> Secession is a right granted to an individual, not to regions or communities.

    Are you referring to the Cuius regio, eius religio principle? You’re right, when the princely states were forced to sign away their political autonomy, the right to accede was to be chosen by the price, not by junta. But then, you know what happened in Junagadh (and Hyderabad to some extent), don’t you?

    >> The future of the Kashmir Valley must be decided by all Indians not a a few thousand rabble.

    (1) Not few thousand rabble, we are talking about 10 to 11 million Kashmiris here, and (2) You think it’s fair to involve the entire Indian population to make the decision on Kashmir — just because one person (Hari Singh) signed a document against people’s will in 1948? If so, then (again) how would you justify the situation in Junagadh?

    >> It is a mark of your duplicity that you choose to forget…

    I wasn’t writing a book here. This is not an all encompassing article that contains each and every thought/view that I hold about Kashmir. But judgement about my personality apart, what exactly are you suggesting? Should we force those 160,000 or so Brahmins (or their descendants) back to the Valley? Should we force Kashmiris to stay with us as a retribution for what some extremists did to those poor Pandits?

    >> And as for you if you don’t have the stomach for the fight you too are free to secede.

    Friendly advice: resorting to personal attacks is not helping much to prove your point. But thanks for enlightening me by letting me know what my basic human rights are!

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinions though. I appreciate that!

  3. kaangeya

    >> Secession is a right granted to an individual, not to regions or communities.

    Are you referring to the Cuius regio, eius religio principle? You’re right, when the princely states were forced to sign away their political autonomy, the right to accede was to be chosen by the price, not by junta. But then, you know what happened in Junagadh (and Hyderabad to some extent), don’t you?
    ———————————————————————————————————————
    Vishal, you don’t get it. The Kashmir Valley belongs to India, as does Pak-Oppressed-Kashmir, Gilgit, and Aksai Chin. That is not even a logical deduction that must proceed from axioms. We decided on obtaining a signed instrument of accession then because that was the best we could do, not yet a free country, with Mountbatten and his greedy minions breathing down our necks, planning to slice and dice the country into 100s of principalities. India is a timeless national entity that became a modern nation state in 1947, as Ambedkar would have said. India as a nation isn’t something created by our erstwhile colonial rulers, and their opinions on what belongs to India and what doesn’t is consequential only to the extent our power and might cannot force the issue. The residents of Kashmir have nothjing to do with it. There’s no way Junagadh and Hyderabad were going to be gifted away to Pakistan, not with Patel around. There’s no fairness axiom in this. India was then and should now and forever be guided by the empirical reality. And that dictates we put down the rebellion in the Valley by all means possible. And also plan to ultimately reclaim Aksai Chin, Pak-Oppressed-Kashmir and Gilgit. BTW there’s a Parliamentary resolution to that effect. Doctrines of fairness, predent etc., are all irrelevant. This is our area of influence and it is our rules that must prevail. Simple.

    >> The future of the Kashmir Valley must be decided by all Indians not a a few thousand rabble.

    (1) Not few thousand rabble, we are talking about 10 to 11 million Kashmiris here, and (2) You think it’s fair to involve the entire Indian population to make the decision on Kashmir — just because one person (Hari Singh) signed a document against people’s will in 1948? If so, then (again) how would you justify the situation in Junagadh?
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    10-11 million? Where did you get that number? J&K’s population is ~10 million, of which Jammu accounts for >60%. Consider it, 4 million people, that’s a medium sized Indian city. Imagine the havoc if we decided to hold the next political Kumbh Mela in Dal Lake, the cut-throat rabble of the Valley would have to retreat into a sulk. Over 20 years of policing and law enforcement, we have significantly raised the stakes for anyone intending violence in the Valley. There’s a v.high price to be paid for messing around with the rule of the law in the Valley now. Which is why the rebels themselves have taken to cheap tricks to assasinating their own to score cheap points. The latest you know on Shake Abdul Aziz, the guy who was killed in a march last week, is that he was bumped off by the terrorists themselves in order to smear the security forces. And in any case the security forces are more than capable of dealing with these cut-throats. They have proven themselves over years of fighting the rebellion. Only the political will is dodgy on the issue. With the entire UPA and eve the commies trying to score brownie points backing every jihadist group in the country, it is easy to be misled into believing there is actually a case. Again who says that there was anything like the “peoples’ will” that hari Singh went against in 1948? There’s no data whatsoever. and in any case the “peoples’ will” is inconsequential. Let’s see a few thousand Indians on August 20, 2008, decided that they want to be paid for a full day without showing up to work. That’s peoples’ will for you. An empty phrase.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    >> It is a mark of your duplicity that you choose to forget…

    I wasn’t writing a book here. This is not an all encompassing article that contains each and every thought/view that I hold about Kashmir. But judgement about my personality apart, what exactly are you suggesting? Should we force those 160,000 or so Brahmins (or their descendants) back to the Valley? Should we force Kashmiris to stay with us as a retribution for what some extremists did to those poor Pandits?
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    You don’t want me to judge your personality but when you trot out phrases like those 160,000 or so Brahmins (or their descendants) back to the Valley?. The process of edging out the Pandits began not with the Islamic organised pogrom and ethnic cleansing of September 1989. The softer pogrom that began in the early 1950s and forced the exodus of the Pandits turned into the hard vicious pogrom of 1989, when muezzins and naazims, and even the Muslim on the street turned on his neighbour hacking up the man of the house, raping his mother, wife, sister, and daughter. I change my mind Vishal, you aren’t duplicitous, you are simply disingenuous. The nation first of all owes justice to the Pandits, it must return them to their lands, and ruthlessly put down anyone who attacks them. This is not retribution, simply justice. And no we shouldn’t force the Valley’s rabble to stay with us. We should give hem the option of leaving for Pakistan or throw them out.
    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    >> And as for you if you don’t have the stomach for the fight you too are free to secede.

    Friendly advice: resorting to personal attacks is not helping much to prove your point. But thanks for enlightening me by letting me know what my basic human rights are! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinions though. I appreciate that!
    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    Personal attacks aren’t meant only to reinforce my point, they are meant to draw my opponent out, and it works as you can see or else you wouldn’t utter a priceless one like
    Should we force Kashmiris to stay with us as a retribution for what some extremists did to those poor Pandits?

    Let’s say the project of the Indian nation is a very very old one. There will be many troubles like this one. Firm enforcement of the writ of the state is required at all times. Not warm and fuzzy punch lines copied from tipsy discussions in drawing rooms in South Delhi!

    Thanks for hosting my post. It is rarely that I get to talk to a “let’s lie back and play dead” permissive.

  4. Hi vishal. Let us for the sake of argument assume that we have conducted a plebiscite and the people of the valley have voted for an independent nation (or go along with Pakistan, I don’t see the difference between the two really, if Kashmir becomes independent obviously Pakistan will have a heavy influence on it). What next? What happens after plebiscite? Does it mean that we can automatically get rid of the extremists who have caused so much of trouble for India? What if I.S.I. which has been conducting only covert operations in Kashmir starts fullfledged operations in Kashmir? Now that Kashmir is out of our hands we will not be able to control the proliferation of terrorist camps. How will we be able to protect Kargil, Ladakh and Jammu? What if Kashmir becomes the hot bed for recruiting terrorists and extremists for wars to be fought against the infidels and idolators? Pakistan cannot rein in the I.S.I. in its own soil. How will Pakistan control the I.S.I. in Kashmir? What if Pakistan wilfully supports the I.S.I. in Kashmir to destabilise India? What if Kashmir turns into another haven for Al Qaeda like Afghanistan? There are so many questions which needs to be answered before we can conduct a plebiscite. It is in India’s national interests to keep kashmir. Sometimes it is more important to keep geoplotical interests in consideration rather than libertarian principles.

  5. Vishal

    Rags, those are very valid concerns. But think of it this way, – if the Valley decides to go with Pakistan, then all those “what if X happens in Kashmir” and “what is Kashmir becomes Y” questions change to “What if X happens in Pakistan” and “What if Pakistan become Y”. Pakistan would gain some territory and most of the 4 millions inhabitants of that region. So all those “what if” questions are not in fact consequential concerns (of secession/merger with Pakistan). India faces these questions even today. Pakistan is doing stuff on the other side of the border. Pakistan will continue to do stuff on the other side of the border after secession – only change will be that the border will shift eastwards.

    Extremism (and terrorism) is an issue related to the Kashmiri agitation and they both surely have significant degree of overlap, but I think those two can be handled somewhat separately. Solving one issue might or might not solve the other.

    And letting the Valley go doesn’t mean we would not protect our borders. In fact, once legitimate borders are formed, the infiltration issues are bound to decrease (as opposed to the situation with the LOC). And in any case, keeping the Valley has not helped us much to diminish extremism and terrorism anyways. (Once might argue that it’s actually the root cause of such activities.)

    And my rationalization for plebiscite is not based on a speculation/prediction that this would solve all of our security issues related to terrorism and infiltration. I favor plebiscite because I believe that, as Mehta has mentioned (in the article linked to my post), “India in past has sacrificed democracy in Kashmir to its own nationalism” and if we decide to continue sacrificing liberal democracy in future too, then situation is going to get worse (as it has in past 61 year). Nationalism is important, but not at the cost of human rights.

    And don’t you think India has tried almost everything it could to stabilize the situation in Valley? But that doesn’t seem have any positive effects on the people of Valley. In fact, in trying to bring peace and harmony in the region, Indian military has done much harm and aggravated the feelings of injustice and occupation in Kashmir. We have also showered the Valley with billions of dollars as grants. They like to keep the money, but continue to be unsatisfied and even hostile to Indians.

    There are valid concerns and issues that would need a lot of attention if India ever decides to go for referendum in Kashmir. It’s definitely not easy. But I feel that we need to move in that direction. (Thanks for disagreeing with reason and grace, and not calling me names BTW! 🙂 I am sure many readers must have concluded by now that I am some unpatriotic, anti-Indian, duplicitous, disingenuous person who doesn’t care about the national integrity on India etc. etc.)

  6. Kaangeya, I don’t want to make my blog a battleground for making personal attacks, so I am gonna stop debating with you. You remind me of a Chinese saying “Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and the pig likes it.” You’ve already thrown dirt on me, and I have a feeling that you are quite enjoying it.
    Congratulations, you have drawn your opponent out!

  7. Hi. Discussions about an issue doesn’t make a person unpatriotic or anti Indian. We all need to move away from jingoistic nationalism if we want to analyse issues. So don’t worry.

    Coming to your point, you has said “So all those “what if” questions are not in fact consequential concerns (of secession/merger with Pakistan)”.

    I don’t quite see it that way. With Pakistan only a few miles away from our territories the dangers would only increase, not decrease. Like I said before Pakistan can’t control the I.S.I in its own soil. How will it control the I.S.I. in Kashmir (provided they actually want to control it!).

    “And in any case, keeping the Valley has not helped us much to diminish extremism and terrorism anyways. (Once might argue that it’s actually the root cause of such activities.)”
    The root cause of terrorism. Now that’s interesting. I don’t think one can reason with a terrorist. Kashmir is an excuse for the mercenaries now , tomorrow it will be that the idolators of India are not treating Indian muslims properly (Isn’t that the reason for the bomb blasts?). For a group of people who are not willing to come under the banner of secularism , it won’t take long to manufacture another cause to wage a proxy war against India. After all , according to them it is Hindustan, not India. They see everything through the prism of religion and expect everyone else to be like them. (I attribute this intolerance to Islam but more about that later).

    “India in past has sacrificed democracy in Kashmir to its own nationalism” and if we decide to continue sacrificing liberal democracy in future too, then situation is going to get worse (as it has in past 61 year).

    I don’t understand how liberal democracy can be applied to a group of people who are bent upon exterminating the minority population in the Kashmir valley. Who are the liberals here? A bunch of gun toting terrorists?

    “Nationalism is important, but not at the cost of human rights”.
    So can we sacrifice the interests and lives of Kashmiri pundits at the altar of Kashmiri nationalism? Kashmiri nationalism is not so important that they can trample freely upon the minorities in the valley. Let us assume that Kashmir has seceded. What of the Kashmiri pundits who have been driven out of the valley? How are they going to get back their land? Will the Kashmir government allow them back? Even if they do, how will they protect them from terrorists? Hinduism is the majority religion in India. If we can’t protect the rights of a few lakhs of Kashmiri Pundits what signals are we sending to the rest of India? And please don’t tell me that KPs are a miniscule minority. I can apply the same logic to the rest of India and come to a variety of conclusions….

    At present the Indian goverment is strongly aginst secession. I don’t see them changing their stance overnight. But yes, once these problems are addressed we can try to move in that direction.

  8. Ritesh

    I agree with rags to a greater extend. Are we thinking that due to our 50 years of suffering in the valley, this must stop? If that is the case of our argument about succession, to stop the terror activities, its a mistake.

    Yes, they will always look upon India as “Hindustan”, recent bombings are an example of it. “Taking revenge for the people killed in riots” – this are kind of statements released by them on their websites or during police intorrogation. Riots, partition and the kashmir problem itself is not dear to any one, atleast not in India. We want an end to it, ut do we ahve a light of hope at the end of never ending tunnel.

    Refferendum will not solve the nucleus of the issue. The people of Valley do not want to join India, well its not because India purely is Hindu nation, probably they as muslims would be treated well in secular india rather than Islamic country like Pakistan, where they might be easily labelled as “Muhajirs”. They are inclined (and majority of them, still NOT all, if all were inclined the JKLF and other folks would not demand for Azad kashmir.) to pakistan because of various reasons. The perception about indians always willing to harm them, the army will always take away muslim girls – they will never get their rights or treated equally by Indians, well for them this is not about Kashmir, or fighting for Kashmir problem. It is a part of overall jihaad, similar to something in Afghanistan, or Iraq or palestine in that matter.

    What if they claim hydrabad or any other dense muslim city ( eventhough muslims are still in minority in this cities).There are certain issues, where National interest must supercede any other democratic or human rights concern. By giving them Kashmir we are surely inviting trouble.

    By the same logic of succession, the other way to thing about solving this problem is to attack pakistan, take away POK and other north-east territories. But in modern world this is not a solution, as referendum and plebicite also.

    Vishal, I know you personally and hence I would like to ask you what is your opinion about “Narmada Bachoa Andolan” and the question of “human rights” associated with that. (It is still in National interest to build the Dam, for better irigation, better drinking water and lot of other reasons benificial to the nation.)

  9. Rags,

    >> I don’t understand how liberal democracy can be applied to a group of people who are bent upon exterminating the minority population in the Kashmir valley. Who are the liberals here? A bunch of gun toting terrorists?

    We can not generalize the act of terrorism to the whole population of Kashmir. There are 4 million people in Kashmir and not all of them are terrorists. But majority of them are (most likely) against Indian “occupation”. If we ever decide to hold a referendum in Kashmir it would NOT be for the sake of those terrorists, but for the sake of Kashmiri people as a whole. It’s easy to be carried away by an obvious understanding that anything that the terrorists want is bad, and we can not let it happen. But let’s not ignore the will of the majority just because it overlaps with the will of the handful bunch of terrorists.

    >> So can we sacrifice the interests and lives of Kashmiri pundits at the altar of Kashmiri nationalism?

    I am sympathetic to the fate of Kashmiri Pandits (about 100K or so who were displaced from the Valley). But their fate is not very different from those unfortunate civilians who had to move across borders during partition. If Kashmir was not unfortunate to have a Hindu Raja who signed a document against people’s will in 1948, then Kashmir might have joined Pakistan. And in that case I can imagine most of the Kashmiri Brahmins would have moved to India anyways. Now having said that, I don’t mean to ignore or forget what happened to Kashmiri Pundits. Their unfortunate migration owes a lot to Kashmiri Nationalism (as you’ve mentioned) as well as India’s inability to protect them when they were being driven out.

    I honestly don’t know what the best solution would be for the Kashmiri Pundits. I am not sure what they want and I am not familiar with any first hand account of their plea. All I know about them is through vote-thirsty politicians who tried (very successfully) to invoke Hindu sentiments. Anyways, if the situation is Kashmir keeps getting worse, or continue to stay the same, then I can not imagine that they would want to go back there and try to make a living. We can help them make a living in India – as we did for all those refugees after partition.

  10. “Their unfortunate migration owes a lot to Kashmiri Nationalism (as you’ve mentioned) as well as India’s inability to protect them when they were being driven out”.

    I am not at all comfortable with this whole “majority determining the fate of the moinorty” line of thought. I want Kashmiris to give adequate compensation to all pundits. Then we can talk about referendum. If the majority always determine the fate of the minority what about India? Oh yeah, I forgot we are supposed to be “secular”!

  11. Ritesh,

    Thanks for sharing your comments and concerns.

    My basic premise for holding a referendum in Kashmir is NOT because I believe that it will solve all the terrorism issues. If that was the case, then it would have meant that I was bending over to the terrorists and willing give them what they want. Also, I didn’t change my mind (from ‘Kashmir hamara hai’ to ‘Let them decide their own fate’ ) because I feel that India has been treating Kashmir badly in last 61 years.

    Yes, referendum will not solve the nucleus of the issues. There’s no single thing that can achieve that. There are many more battles to fight and win to kill the nucleus of the issues. But I believe that plebiscite in Kashmir is one of the things that we can do to help solve the issue.

    My whole reasoning is mainly based on what happened in 1948. For all those years, I’ve been thinking that India has a right on keeping Kashmir because Raja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession. But now I realize that it was unfortunate and quite unfair with Kashmiris. It was definitely not democratic. (In fact, many of the accession of princely states were forceful and can be considered unfair but I don’t have issues with those because in all cases – other than Kashmir – the majority of the people wanted to join India.) We promised plebiscite in Kashmir, which, I think, was the right thing to do. Let the people of Kashmir decide, not some whimsical madcap raja who, in his fearful and weak moment, signed a document to join India.

    And letting this happen in Kashmir doesn’t mean that other part of the country (Hyderabad, as you mentioned) would become eligible to make similar demands. We have to make it clear that Kashmir situation is special. The only (princely or otherwise) state that had a muslim majority. There’s no other state in India that has a muslim majority. No other state enjoys article 370, and no other state can demand similar treatment (as Kashmir) to the plea of secession. If others starts making similar demands, we can handle them in the same way how we handled separatists in Naga Land, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. (In all cases, India won over the separatists, and today all of those separatist movements have faded away.)

    Kashmir is a special case. They NEVER wanted to join India. And after 61 years, they still don’t.

    “Narmada Bacho Andolan”. That’s a whole separate can of warms. I will try to write another post on that or discuss with you personally. How about that? 🙂

  12. Vishal

    Rags,

    I also don’t like the idea of “majority deciding the fate of minority” line of thought. A democracy that is only about the “will of majority” can very well be termed as illiberal democracy. [Secularism on the other hand has nothing to do with democracy, by the way.]

    Individual interests are often going to collide with each other, but a decision has to be made. There’s never going to be 100% agreement on any issue, especially as big as this one. The junta can not be punished for eternity because some of them want one thing and some the other. If ignoring the will of minority is a bad thing, then what would do you think about ignoring the will of the majority?

  13. What about the will of the majority of India? Does that count here? The majority of India want Kashmir to be a part of India. What aboout their will?

  14. As preposterous as it may sound – I actually don’t think so. I don’t think India has a right to impinge its own will on Kashmir, if that is opposite of what Kashmir wants.

    I can now clearly see that there’s fundamental difference in the crux of our arguments.

    Your line of reasoning begins with a hypothesis that Kashmir is an integral part of India. (Mine doesn’t.) And the conclusion you derive thus is: we can NOT let Kashmir decide its own fate, because it’s just another *Indian* state with secessionist demands (like Punjab in the 70’s and 80’s, for instance)… the rest of the India should decide its fate because we kind of, for a lack of better word, ‘own’ Kashmir (in a similar way how India owns any other Indian state).

    I thought that our solutions for the Kashmir issue (plebiscite vs. no plebiscite) were different. But that’s actually because our hypothesis are quite opposite of each other.

  15. I don’t believe Kashmir is an integral part of India (not after all these protests and the manner in which Raja Hari Singh signed the accession with India), but I do believe that India has more rights on Kashmir than Pakistan. After all, disputed or otherwise Kashmir has been considered a state of India for the past 60 years. Your POV is different, I can understand that.

  16. Chaitanya

    If Kashmir Muslims want freedom from India they r most welcome to leave India and settle in Pakisthan.

    I want to Make one Important Note That is When America planned to attack Afghanisthan and Iraq then Muslims in India from Small towns they showed there support to Iraq and Afghanisthan. Now my question is for Kashmir is, On which way they want to go.

    And one more thing where from Kashmir Muslim Come from is Kashmir Belongs to them then My Answer is no they came from Arab Country’s to India and now they are asking free Kashmir ok if we accept this not a problem. after some years they want West Bengal after that they Want Delhi and so on.

    According to me there is only one solution for this that is []

    Note from Vishal: The rest of the comment is termed inappropriate and deleted.

  17. Chaitanya, please refrain from using obscene words in the comments section. I have removed the part of your comment that was inappropriate.

    You bring up an interesting point though. You say they came from Arab countries and now they’ve started making demands.

    That’s ignorance at its best and exaggeration at its worst. There are many muslims who claim to be immigrant-descended (Ashraf), but the fact is that most of the the muslims in India are actually converts (forceful or otherwise). This feeling, that they came from outside and now asking for our land, is quite prevalent but based on wrong notion. They are one of us, albeit with a different religion.

  18. Vikram

    Hey Vishal,

    A very good and balanced article – Riteshbhai told me about it. I do have the following points for you to noodle about:

    1) Millitarily – A large and vulnerable country like India needs all the buffer zones (I guess I am takin a leaf out of colonial policy but that dfinitely works) that it can. Strategically and Geo-politically Kashmir is just a very important place to not have. We have the bed rock of Islamic terrorism at our door (Pak & Afg), an upcoming superpower (China) and a former cold war biggie that has found a resurgence in energy stakes (Russia).

    2) In having such a policy (even though it is counter-intuitive) nations do have to maintain such “forward” areas. Think about US in the 19th century when it went ahead with California as a buffer zone (but ultimately took it and that is a different story).

    3) It is because of such importance that Sardar and inteliigence were very adamant on having Kashmir during our early years.

    4) India has a history of not attacking any country (Many claim that India is the only major civilization in the world not to have incaded other lands) – but unfortunately many have had a longing for invading us. It is great that we have the opportunity of having natural boundaries and it acts as an apt foil to whoever wants to come here.

    5) Last but not the least – I like the reasons that you have mentioned about Kashmir being a special state and Article 370 – but giving it up suddenly will definitely (I am cent per cent sure) provide a great impetus to all the fanatics who will ensure that they get their 2 seconds of fame. I am not only talking about Hyderabad or Juhapura but Naxals/North Eastern regions/all kinds of slam-bangs which may take a great toll on the fine thread that holds India together now.

  19. Vishal

    Thanks for your comments, Vikram.

    – I understand where you’re coming from. Your concern about national security is very valid. But to me, that doesn’t take precedence over liberal democratic values. I think India is militarily sufficient and powerful enough to fight with any such invaders, independent of whether the natural boundaries are in favor of us or not. Unfairly occupying a territory based on their own selfish interest suits a communist country like China, not India.

    – On the holistic level, the debate around Kashmir oscillates between liberalism and nationalism, between righteousness and pragmatism. Finding the right balance between these two, often conflicting stances, is the right way to go.

    – Giving up Kashmir immediately is not what I am proposing here. I think we need to move in the direction of holding a plebiscite. And while I don’t (and can’t) claim that I know the intrinsic details of how we can achieve a task as big as this one, I can say that it can take many years.

    – I’ve already addressed the concern about the stimulus to other secessionist demands from other parts of India, but I guess my points are not convincing enough. After all, each one of us have our own pre-conceived notions and beliefs that are very subjective and often hard to change.

    Again, thanks for stopping by.

  20. “They are one of us, albeit with a different religion.”

    I have to disagree with you here. This is the most common mistake made by impartial observers like you. Islam is not just a different religion, like the multitude we have in our culture. It makes a sharp distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’. And its followers depend on it not just for their sense of identity but also their view of reality.

  21. Vishal

    Point taken. From my admittedly superficial knowledge about how Islam views the “non-believers”, I do concur with you (about “a sharp distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’).

    But my argumentative response to Chaitanya was not about Muslims vs. the rest of the world (or Hindus in the context of the discussion). It was about (Indian) natives vs. outsiders. The claim that Muslims came from somewhere else (outside India) and are now making demands is, in my opinion, quite preposterous. Wouldn’t you agree with that?

  22. Hi .. chanced on seeing this. Nice discussion. Any of you a Kashmiri?

    BTW, did you know Kashmiri People also includes around half a million Kashmiri Pandits who would like to Vote India! The people whpo orginally inhibited this land for 5000 years and who were hounded out just 20 years back and have been living in exile in various parts of the country. These are the very people that gave the free India its first Prime Minister.

    Regards

    Ravinder

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