Talking to Kashmir separatists

By K.N. Pandit

Recent turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir State saw some harsh comments from sections of national press.

This has hurt Kashmiri separatists.  It should not have happened. Some positive steps to normalize trilateral relations were in the process. An understanding on this complicated issue has to be brought about only through dialogue.

Masses trying to cross the line of control was not a wise decision. People should not have succumbed to irresponsible noise meant to raise people’s sentiments.

Expulsion of entire Hindu minority from the valley in 1990, another mistake,  is inexcusable; in fact a festering sore.

A feeling is that in the light of recent history of the subcontinent common Kashmiri is not educated objectively on his pro-Pak hunch.

Perhaps Kashmiris are looking at everything from the point of view of Islam and India vs Pakistan. Nobody denies the importance of religion.  But there are other important aspects, too.

Islamic link has its shortcomings. East Bengal Muslim majority region separated from Pakistan main body. Pukhtoon, Baluch and Sindhi ethnic groups of Pakistan are at loggerheads with Punjabi hegemony. Younger generations of Mohajirs  question the wisdom of dividing India in 1947. Sunni-Shia sectarian strife raging with fury has brought Pakistani society into disrepute. 17 lakh Shia’ of the State will not feel happy with any change in the present status. And the unending struggle for dominance between the orthodox and reformist segments in Pakistan has made the nation shaky. Kashmir Muslim society has left that stage behind in its march towards progress under democratic dispensation.

Kashmiris need a cool assessment of their gains during six decades of Indian secular democratic dispensation. It should take into account all aspects of a vibrant society like political, social and economic.

They are part and parcel of world secular-democratic dispensation. They need to volunteer for breaking the cobwebs of suspicion and misunderstanding and join international democratic mainstream.

It is important to come out of one’s shell.

I once jokingly told a Pro-Pak Kashmiri friend in a briefing in Geneva that if the separatists demanded secession from India and accession to the US, or UK or France, it did make sense – from a developing secular democracy to a developed secular democracy. But accession to Pakistan makes no sense.

Trade and commerce drive today’s world. Information technology and communication are vital to the growth of trade. Trade routes to and from the State of Jammu and Kashmir should be opened. Movement of people should be facilitated. Interaction among people should be encouraged.  If started today, the process will get stabilized in due course of time. It will straighten angularities.

Secession from India is negation of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom from autocratic rule. After thousands of ears of slavery Kashmiris got the right to self-rule in 1947. Kashmir is part of a large secular democracy. Kashmiris have the right to voice their grievances, seek redress of their problems, or demonstrate against what they think deprives them of their rights. The Indian political system allows and has been allowing all this. But beyond that is not realism. States do not go beyond constitutional limits.

Kashmiris will feel oppressed and stifled in a non-democratic environment. In 1947, Jinnah refused to grant safeguards to their identity. How come after doubting the sincerity of Kashmiri’s sincerity so long, the Punjabi hegemony will concede Kashmiri identity once it has Kashmir in its iron fist?

By boycotting elections, separatists and APHC send a message to the world that they are diffident of their popularity with the masses; that they are only rabble-rousers, not constructive politicians.  Non-participation in elections deprives them of the right to contest policies and decisions of the state and correct aberrations. It is a loss inflicted on the people of Kashmir.

People have to be educated.  It is the responsibility of all right-thinking people in Kashmir to disentangle themselves from lies and falsehoods, dogmatism and fear psychosis. One harsh reality is that no one in the world supports the idea of redrawing boundaries and relocating populations.

(The writer is the former director of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, Srinagar).

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