Kashmir: It is time for a final push

Kashmir: It is time for a final push

India is currently warming up for election season. Myriad of political outfits are already engaged in competitive political mobilization for encouraging the public to cast their vote in favor of respective symbols.
Virtually anything and everything gets politicized in this volatile period and anyone can be targeted and labeled as per the exigencies of the warring political groups. Besides, anything right or wrong is determined along the lines of affiliation to ideology. This is the time when all arguments are supposed to get hijacked by blinded politics as logic or reasoning has no meaning to the overzealous political class vying for vote. Hence, it was natural that noted legal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan will face the flak for airing a considered view of involving the Kashmiri people to decide on the army’s role in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Perhaps, Bhushan has forgotten that election or no election; the cost of saying even the right thing on Kashmir in the world’s largest republic is getting blasted mercilessly. Unfortunately, little value is given to introspective voices even as a pernicious tendency has gradually gained ground among the political class and the military leadership to encourage vengeful retaliation whenever the status quo is questioned. Neither the military nor the politicians, who are supposed to be the vanguard fighter for democracy, can digest any sober suggestion concerning the unshackling of Kashmiri people from the fetters of emergency laws.
While it is understandable that those who have offered their blood, toil and sweat for preserving India’s delicate linkages with Kashmir have developed an intense sentiment over the years, New Delhi however must learn to embrace the reality in good spirit. Even, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was confident of alluring the Kashmiri people into emotional submission, also recognized the fatal consequences of keeping control over Kashmir by military force endlessly.
Nehru did underscore the urgent politico-strategic need for hastening Kashmir’s accession to India, but at the same time acknowledged that it cannot be done without “the goodwill of the mass of the population.” And creating a special provision in the constitution to accommodate Kashmir’s unique culture plus ensuring that the average Kashmiris, especially Muslims, feel safe in the Indian Union was one such way of winning the hearts and minds. Hard-liners like then Home Minister Sardar Vallabbhai Patel and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee too accepted the necessity of adopting a psychological approach in the prevailing circumstances. Incidentally, the same duo, considered as unmatched protectors of India’s territorial integrity by BJP, moved a bill in Parliament to provision a special tag for Kashmir, that too in Nehru’s absence.
Were these legendary political personalities anti-nationals that they sided with what BJP believes to be Nehru’s felony? No. They simply acted in good faith, keeping the interest of their newly liberated motherland above everything. May be, today’s political class would find fault in their predecessors act. But the fact of the matter is that a combination of factors like broken promises and series of stolen elections in the 1980s helped plant the seeds of rebellion in Kashmir. Till then the Kashmiri people had not even contemplated organizing violent revolt though they were not particularly happy with their status in India. But this unhappiness, one must understand, has nothing to do with treachery or any anti-India sentiment embedded deep inside. It was more about the psychology of longing to live an independent life in their earthly paradise. After all, like the ethnic minority populace in India’s northeastern fringes, they too posses a fiercely independent psyche and value their cultural identity more than anything else.
There are reasons to believe that India has come around to accept the inevitability of providing Kashmir as much free space as possible and the necessity of giving a post-election final push to the issue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given a clear hint of inching toward an out-of-the-box solution by acknowledging that a breakthrough was imminent at one point of his decade-long tenure. Those who have all these years worked tirelessly behind the scenes to stitch together an acceptable solution on Kashmir will privately admit that the province was destined to be South Asia’s Andorra since the inception of this festering dispute.
Even, the hard-line Hindu nationalist BJP, which thrives on hyperbole so far as the Kashmir issue is concerned, was all set to sign a historic deal with Pakistan during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s premiership. And the agreement envisaged a condominium like status for Kashmir without disturbing India and Pakistan’s sovereignty over the picturesque region.
Significantly, the BJP too has softened its stand on a special constitutional provision that provides Kashmiri people a separate set of laws, as evident from party president Rajnath Singh’s compromising overture recently. Indeed, the time has arrived to gracefully concede that New Delhi has all these years heaped full of indignity and inconveniences on Kashmiri people in the name of maintaining law and order. Why would the people in Kashmir think of themselves as Indians when the Indian establishment has failed to come out of the traditional mindset of treating Kashmiris as subjects instead of fellow citizens?
Unfortunately, by remaining mute witnesses to the mass-exodus of Hindu Pandits under duress, a vast majority of Kashmiri politicians missed the very opportunity to raise a united voice against all injustices. It is still not too late for Kashmiris of all faith to unite and restore the dignity of Kashmiriyat — Kashmir’s unique ethno-nationality.

- Seema Sengupta is a Kolkata-based journalist and columnist.
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