India and Pakistan are at each other’s throats in global forums over Jammu and Kashmir where the death toll of civilians is rising but both mysteriously and sadly even the pious speeches delivered by Delhi’s and Islamabad’s representatives at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva haven’t halted the escalating violence in a region that US President Bill Clinton once called the most dangerous place on earth.
But within India, even as the central and J&K governments have given security forces the go-ahead to brutally suppress the Azadi movement, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson has advised Kashmir’s independence seekers to resort to a totally non-violent Gandhian movement for freedom to shame the Indian State and prick the conscience of the whole world. Another prominent Indian thinker wants the Indian government to implement Article 370 in J&K to demonstrate that its intentions are honorable and fulfill its constitutional obligation not to treat the border province as another Indian state. Rajmohan Gandhi, considered by many as India’s conscience, has urged Kashmiri protesters to stop throwing stones at the men in uniform and look for alternatives to embarrass the rest of India into caring and intervening.
Gandhi wrote in the Indian Express newspaper: “If India is serious about its prestige in the world, about being a major global player and about getting a permanent Security Council seat, then it will have to summon the will to find an agreement with genuine representatives of the people of Kashmir. If Kashmiris are serious about wanting a decent future for their children, they will have to think of fresh methods, free of radicalism and free of violence, for protesting excesses and demanding Azaadi. And they will need to forge a united leadership.
Mentioning Kashmir, Palestine and Tibet in the same breath, Gandhi underlined that the story of violent rebellion against overwhelming might is not encouraging. “It usually fails, it invites greater repression, and rebels and their families end up as the worst sufferers. This is what happened in India in 1857. It is what happened throughout Africa in the 20th century. In all cases, the power of the dominant state was strengthened and consolidated by unwise rebellion. Contemporary Palestine offers confirmation of this history. So does Kashmir over the last several decades. What is the way out for spirited Kashmiris (or Tibetans and Palestinians)? Do not infuriate the Indian people (or the Chinese people, or the Israelis). Shame and embarrass them, instead.
“Influence world opinion, as well as Indian (or Chinese or Israeli) opinion, by adopting unexpected and non-violent methods of showing rejection of uninvited rule. And thereby save precious Kashmiri, Tibetan and Palestinian lives, and restore a semblance of normal life for old, sick, and very young Kashmiris (and Tibetans and Palestinians). To eschew violence is no betrayal of your dream. No rejection is stronger than the one harbored behind a calm face. No arms are stronger than those — empty of gun, grenade or stone — that swing freely, with faith in the ultimate triumph of a pure goal. Is there a will for such a resistance in Kashmir?”
Kanti Bajpai, a world class strategic affairs specialist who has taught at Oxford University, believes that Kashmiris are angry because New Delhi and non-Kashmiris have not kept their word. Kashmir acceded to India and then negotiated a deal which guaranteed considerable autonomy. The deal is enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution which laid down that Kashmir would have considerable autonomy, with the central government looking after only three areas — defense, foreign affairs and communications. The steady dilution of Article 370 has caused Kashmiris to conclude that the central government is dishonest and no one outside Kashmir cares very much. And when a party like the BJP that talks of abolishing Article 370 altogether is in power, Kashmiris feel even more resentful.
The solution, according to Bajpai, is J&K doesn’t lie in riot control but in the immediate implementation of Article 370. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top leaders keep saying that they are willing to accept any solution within the framework of the Constitution. As Article 370 is part and parcel of the Constitution, it must be applied without any delay to win back the trust Kashmiris had reposed in India at the time of accession.