|Despite having the world’s largest, working and vibrant democracy, India is deemed to be a soft and vulnerable state; open to regular and frequent terrorist attacks, with hard laws but tepid implementation. “Weak State” is a sobriquet heaped upon India due to its following partisan and puerile political considerations. Lately, some people who practice or comment in line with such political considerations are selling that India is unnecessarily drawn into a conflict in Kashmir and that we should just let go. That we should exorcise this ghost! Let me provide relevant information and answers in this regard.
Since the partition of the country was engineered by the British in 1947, on communal lines, Pakistan has made several covert and overt attempts of violence to make the Valley of Kashmir secede from India. But on all such occasions the nefarious intervention of Islamic fundamentalists let lose from the theocratic country of Pakistan was defeated by secular and liberal elements of India. Tasting defeat on all such occasions of interference in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan adopted a clandestine strategy to incite and provoke some fringe, fundamentalist elements of the Valley to demand and agitate for the right of self determination and independence with the tacit aim of secession from the Union of India.
But while framing the logistics of such irrelevant demands, Pakistan ignored and forgot certain basic realities regarding Jammu and Kashmir. The fact that even the demographic composition of the State does not justify propagation of independence for Kashmir was ignored by Pakistan, when in 1989, it instigated its agents in the Valley to revolt and rebel against the duly formed government of the state.
The state has a diverse demographic composition, which does not give a dominant edge to any community or caste in the State by virtue of its numbers. It consists of three equally important Divisions:-
1 The mountainous, arid and rugged areas of Jammu Division.
2 The temperate and salubrious Valley of Kashmir.
3 And the cold, arid, steep mountainous gullies of Ladakh.
Vast chunks of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir Divisions are controlled by Pakistan through its vassal regime in P.O.K., that was installed after tribals with support of Pakistani regulars infiltrated into the State in 1947 on the eve of independence of the country. Unfortunately illegal occupation of vast areas of the State by Pakistan was frozen into perpetuity as a cold war measure by big powers when the issue of occupation was referred to the UN by India for intervention and vacation of Pakistani aggressors from the State.
The Valley of Kashmir has a predominantly Sunni-Muslim majority followed by Kashmiri Pandits. Moreover it has a sizable section of Shia-Muslims, a segment of Sikhs; as well as Dards in the border areas of Gurez and Teetwal. Ladakh Division is dominated by Buddhists followed by Shia-Muslims. Jammu Division has a Hindu-Dogra majority followed by Sunni-Muslims in Poonch, Rajouri and Udhumpur districts. It has also a large segment of Scheduled castes and Muslim Paharis with Gujar and Bakarwals dominating the borders with Pakistan. All these communities and castes have no common aims and ideologies on the politics and governance of the State and so none of them can be assumed to have the total view and support of people of the State. Even some Christians live in the State, who feel safer in secular India than in fundamentalist Pakistan.
A fringe of fundamentalist Sunni-Muslims of the Valley has fallen easy prey to the pan-Islamic machinations of Pakistan. This fringe propagates and works for the Valley’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan on the ground of religious affinity. But the rest of the people of the Valley do not consider that demand as fulfilling and viable. Even majority sections of Sunni-Muslims of the Valley who are secular, liberal and democratic do not contribute to the cult of hate and violence of the rogue elements. They have however been bamboozled into silence and submission in the face of rabid threats of violence let loose by Pakistan through its lackeys and agents in the Valley.
Many Kashmiri Pandits of the Valley believe in composite culture of Kashmir and have therefore no truck with the Islamic fundamentalist style of Nizam-i-Mustaffa, as a result of which this highly educated community was the first to be hunted out of the Valley by the terrorist forces. Shia-Muslims of the Valley have their own political priorities and they feel that they too, like other ethnic groups in the State have been neglected and exploited by Sunni-Muslims of the Valley and have inadequate political and government representation. Sikhs of Kashmir who are known for their secular and liberal views too do not concur with the Islamic fundamentalist ideology of rogue elements, who have trampled upon all other secular and liberal segments of the Valley by their methods of death and destruction. Even the Dards of the border areas of the Valley have no love lost for the Islamic fundamentalist forces of the Valley because of the fact that they are intimate witness to all the miseries and hardships that have been inflicted on their compatriots on the other side of the border, in POK, by Pakistan. They independently draw their comparisons and recognize the difference on two sides of the border.
Both Buddhists and Shia-Muslims of Ladakh have deep rooted dislike and hatred against Sunni-Muslim hegemony of Kashmir, born out of accumulated distrust and dislike of Sunni-Muslim political leadership and bureaucracy, which. they claim have exploited them since 1947. They want divisional delegation and autonomy which will ensure and guarantee their equal growth and development in the State unlike as at present when they are not allowed to grow and bloom to their full capacities by Kashmir centric politicians and bureaucrats. They believe that they are being denied an equal share in the power structure of the State. They even prefer a centrally administered system of governance to the present one and do not mind cutting all links with Kashmir.
In Jammu Division, the Hindu Dogras too have accumulated frustration due to neglect and unfair treatment by Sunni-Muslims of the Valley. They desire and demand an equitable deal in which they too want full Divisional autonomy and delegation of all powers: political, legislative, executive and developmental. Presently, Sunni-Muslims of Kashmir have monopoly and hegemony and are accused of stealing and embezzling funds and programs from Jammu Division to subsidize and satisfy the needs of the Valley. Even Jammu Muslims are not ready to accept the leadership and monopoly of Kashmiri Muslims because of the fact that Kashmiri Muslims consider Jammu Muslims to be inferior in efficiency, intellect and capabilities. The recent ouster of Chief Minister GN Azad, a Jammu Muslim needs to be seen in this particular context in which Kashmiri Muslims strived hard to see that the first Chief Minister who was from out of Valley, even though a Muslim, was not allowed to survive and dominate in Kashmir centric politics of the State. The Paharis living in border areas of Poonch and Rajouri and Kuthwah districts also do not share any common cause with the Sunni Muslims of the Valley because of the fact that these people are witness to perpetual economic decline and political uncertainty persisting on the other side of the border and as such cannot be deluded by misinformation.
Even after living for 60 years in Jammu Province, the migrants of 1947 have not been granted civil rights of permanent settlement and political rights of voting in the State. They continue to be a class of pariahs who have been denied all civil and political rights by Sunni Muslim politicians and bureaucrats of the Valley. So they do not contribute to frenzied calls of Azadi from the Valley, which are aimed to establish Nizam-i-Mustaffa. Gujjars and Bakarwals who live and move on the higher reaches of the State to graze their sheep and cattle also have no illusions regarding the so called independence because they are also too close to the border to observe and compare conditions on both sides. They have therefore no fascination for the hollow calls of Azadi, leading to merger with Pakistan, when they know the plight of their relatives in POK. Sikhs of Jammu Division being arduous and liberal too have not fallen prey to propaganda. They want an equal and equitable share in the politics and governance of the State and so prefer a working autonomy in which their individual and community rights are guaranteed. This way, there is no common factor or platform existing even for the concept of autonomy, not to speak of Azadi.
So the hysterical slogans of independence of Kashmir by some fringe elements among the Sunni Muslims of the valley are not only hollow but ill-advised, which have no rational and political justification whatsoever. Indeed the apparition of independence was harbored into the fragile psyche of certain fringe elements within Kashmiri Sunni Muslims by Pakistan and its Agencies, ever since it failed in its frequent efforts to make the valley secede from the Indian Union with the use of both clandestine as well as overt means of force and violence. This feeling was also sold as a pan-Islamic Muslim expansion and extension of such influence in the sub-continent.
The idea of an independent Valley is also absurd on economical and geographical grounds because a chronically deficient Valley like Kashmir cannot even afford to dream of an independent status when it lives on the import of food grains, materials and other essential services. It has to import bulk of its food grains to feed the people of the Valley. An independent State has to have a viable self-sustaining and self supporting economy based on development of agriculture, a well calibrated industrial and a well oiled services sector. Unfortunately the State has nothing to show and has been living on doles of foods, industrial products, jobs, services and finances from Govt of India. The State has abjectly failed to harness its agriculture and industrial sectors. It has failed to lure the private sector to invest in the State as it is known for civil turmoil and political turbulence. Even for the sake of argument, how can such a feeble and sick State arrange and manage a defense and communication network which needs lots and lots of funds and resources. And then, the State needs to guard its vast, porous borders with countries like India China, Pakistan and Afghanistan that will landlock it. It will be foolish to assume that all these states will just let Kashmir be, without wanting to exercise any influence.
Besides, in the context of the present international environment, when Islamic fundamentalists are out on prowl to browbeat and pester even bigger powers like USA,Great Britian, Russia, China and India, it will be naïve and simplistic to assume that an independent Kashmir can retain its independence and sustain its economy, especially when it is deficient in all segments and sectors. Such an unviable State can become a hot bed of conspiracies and intrigue for bigger powers to exercise their muscles. Imagine the risks? Can we allow these?
To be continued.
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