The Kashmir Bridge?

By K.N. Pandita

With many politicians and commentators, diabolic avowal and patent cliché is the idiom for speaking about Kashmir issue. Many of them would want to create an impression that earlier politicians were unable to reach the bottom of the jinx, and that only they have the divine gift of a revealed and unassailable formula for Kashmir. One such example refers to the interview recently given by the leader of the opposition to this paper.

Read between the lines, the entire prognosis is built around subjective perception with an air of willing suspension of disbelief about hard facts of so complex an issue as Kashmir. Take the assertion that “Kashmir can become a bridge between India and Pakistan”. What are we actually going to bridge over? Pakistan, as a homeland for the Muslims of India, is just 63 years old. Against this, Kashmir rightly boasts of more than three thousand years of historical, spiritual and cultural continuity, out of which seven hundred and odd years are filled by secularist indulgence.  

Is it feasible to build a bridge with one embankment made of solid rock and the other of slipping sands?  From the day of inception, Pakistan coveted Kashmir, and to wreck its indigenous identity made three attacks plus the ongoing proxy war, in the course of which it lost one half of its domain to Bengali Muslims.  Do we want to build a bridge to tell Pakistan that since she failed miserably to wrest Kashmir, or to maintain one half of her eastern colony,  therefore here we are, in following our true tradition, coming over the bridge to offer you the land  and the people whom your leaders never trusted and never took into confidence?

Moreover, which Kashmir do the visionaries want to make a bridge? The Northern Area (Gilgit and Baltistan), previously integrated into Pakistan, have now been ceded to the Chinese as their foothold in Central Asian region. The remaining tiny part called “Azad Kashmir” is governed directly by Islamabad through the Secretary Kashmir Affairs Ministry. These occupied parts are not going to be the bridge, and what remains of the slogan “Kashmir as the bridge” is the valley, not even Jammu region. True some valley people have sentiments about Pakistan. So have the Hindu Punjabis and Sindhis about their original home in West Punjab and Sindh. Nobody thinks of providing them a bridge with their original homeland? Have not the Mohajirs of Karachi sentiments about their original homeland in Bihar and UP? Why not provide them with a bridge? Are they devoid of sentiments?  No, they are as good human beings as anybody else.

Where is the Kashmir issue in reality that the leader of opposition is obsessed with its solution? Do not Kashmiris enjoy and exercise the power given to them by the constitution? Did not PDP come to power through the provisions of constitution? Is it not sitting in opposition through the instrument of constitution? Why did not it solve the problem if it thought there was one? Kashmir is a bone which crushed Pakistan’s teeth while trying to snatch it from Kashmiri people. Anybody contributing to Musharraf’s six zones plan leaves no doubt that he is a contributor to wanton slicing of the State into pieces, something worse than two-nation theory. How is it possible for vibrant, fast growing and outreaching Indian economy to dovetail to the crumbling economy of a feudal-military state surviving on the crumbs from a super power in return for accepting the status of a client state? Kashmir economy is receiving its due share in the burgeoning Indian economic structure and needs no economic zone therapy. To put the record straight, Prime Minister Vajpayee never threw the N C’s greater autonomy plan into waste paper basket. All he did when it was presented to him was that he called the then Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah and asked him to tell him where he was not autonomous in the existing constitutional arrangement so that grater autonomy would be considered. Dr. Farooq had no answer and left the room. Out of 97 items identified by Sheikh Abdullah government in 1975 for review, 95 were found to have gone through proper constitutional and legal process. The same is true about the “self-rule formula” usually boasted about by the leader of opposition. Nobody’s voice is muzzled in the state; the press is free; the platform is free and elected leaders are free to spit anti-India venom. There are more papers in the State that are critical of the government and there are some that have always towed the line of the separatists. They were never banned and are thriving. The reason for extraordinary security bandobast on martyrs’ day is the old rivalry between the jihadi groups and the anti-autocracy groups in Kashmir, the sher and bakra in their new avatar. This see-saw game between them is part of Kashmir history. Every conscious and responsible government has to take preventive measures, Terms like “muzzle”, “siege” “repression” etc. intended to deride the ruling coalition speak more of mean vendetta and feud psychosis than of political acrobats. Unfortunately, last year some stone throwing youth got killed in police action to curb lawlessness. We honestly hope that the victims were not the beneficiaries of Mufti’s “healing touch” programme.

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