Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Kashmir conundrum!

It is said to be one of the most beautiful works of the man who rules the skies. The most skilled of painters could probably never create the magnificence that is Kashmir. Once the darling of Bollywood and the envy of Europeans, Kashmir now bears the scars of political upheavals and disturbances. The flower-ridden boats and the crystal clear lakes seem like a vivid memory to Indians who once referred to this state as the Crown of India. It suffices to say, that no king or queen should ever have the misfortune of such a devastated headgear. The problem of Kashmir has all the possible dimensions which makes it seem almost unsolvable. The political tussle between India and Pakistan, and their claims of sovereignty over the land; the pride and affinity towards Kashmiriyat as a way of life that is divergent from both the Indian and Pakistani way; the religious diversity which is concentrated in two different parts of the state; the geographical extremities of valleys and mountains; and the international spotlight which never seems to run out of battery. These are only a few of the problems that Kashmir faces. amid the venomous atmosphere that the extremists are trying to forge. It must seem like India has tried all the tricks in the book. Our politicians beat their chest about how Kashmir is like their own child, our constitution establishes it as an integral part of India, our governments have given the state hefty financial packages, our mainstream political parties have constantly aligned with their regional parties, and the state continues to receive plenty of sops in the form of IIMs and other national institutions. But look at where it has brought us? A curfew that has crossed 50 days and violence that has disrupted daily life. So where did we go wrong? Has any of our actions led the Kashmiris to feel shorthanded? Or is the problem completely out of our able hands?

The most important thing about the Kashmiri problem is that India's efforts at bringing about prosperity and the outcome of such endeavors does not have any bearing on the minds of the trouble-makers. Their minds have been hard wired in such a way that only so called 'Kashmiri freedom' will saturate them. Even if India creates economic and social utopia in Kashmir, these fringe groups will continue to fight the Indian union for cessation. So if action and results are not the answer to this problem, then what is? War, violence? The Indian armed forces have regularly been on their toes in the state and have neutralized many border incursions and extremist assaults. The recent killing of Burhan Wani was celebrated across the country as a great victory for the Indian side, but in Kashmir, there was undoubtedly mixed feelings. The killings have actually pushed the already brainwashed Kashmiris over the ledge and onto extremism. In this regard, Kashmiri extremists seem like the fictional terror organisation- HYDRA from the Marvel universe. Cutting one head off, only causes 2 more to regrow in it's place. The issue of Kashmir has never been one of logic or propriety. It has been muddled with egos and a multitude of dichotomous political views that has rendered a reasonable dialogue impossible. The extremists do not wish to sit at the table, and the government cannot exterminate them like they deserve to be. The extremists continue to thrive in the valley for a variety of reasons. The most important one is obviously the covert and overt blessings of  Pakistan and it's ISI in the form of arms and finance. The recent hoisting of the ISIS flag also suggests a growing pan-Islamic attention on the Kashmir issue. Another reason for the festering of extremists has been an age-old adage- revolution preordains local support. Indians cannot blindly believe that all Kashmiris are loyal Indians with zero sympathy for the extremist cause. To eliminate the threat of extremism, it is necessary that we pluck out all sympathy for this cause and create a crop of loyal Indians who walk with the mainstream.

The next problem pertains to Pakistan and it's claims of sovereignty over the state. It is safe to say that there is no imaginable scenario in which India will secede the state to Pakistan. And despite concrete legal and moral backing, Pakistan will not give up on PoK with much ease. Hence, the Indo-Pak tussle over Kashmir seems like one for the ages. Not only has it marred the other facets of Indo-Pak relations, it has effectively annulled all avenues of co-operation between the two countries. India continues to cite the rising voter turnout and the indiscriminate human rights violations in PoK to justify their claim over 'akhand Kashmir'. The Pakistanis however are a one-trick pony. They continue to draw attention to anachronisms like Hari Singh and his predominantly Muslim population and how they were apparently tricked out of sovereignty in the land. The historical facts seem anodyne and unambiguous. The British left the matters of the Princely states to themselves and endowed on them the right to join either India or Pakistan, or form an independent state. The pro activeness of the Indian state however ensured that Kashmir ceded to us. This of course meant that Pakistan resorted to their default tactic- orchestrate a dramatic infiltration which ended with Pakistan occupying a large swathe of Kashmir. The kind of international attention and sensationalism this issue has received means that neither state is likely to back out from it's claim. Kashmir thus stands alone and isolated as a trophy wife on whom both Indians and Pakistanis have a claim. There have been historical arguments regarding the root cause of this half -a- century standoff. Some people suggest that Jawaharlal Nehru was hesitant in the manner in which he fought the Pakistanis, and logged a case in the UN which brought the issue into international scrutiny and standstill. The ensuing diplomatic slug fest ensured that the Pakistanis had by then established  a firm grip on what is now known as PoK. So, what exactly is likely to be the climax of this epic stare-off? Needless to say, any government, whether in India or Pakistan is unlikely to last more than one day if they cede Kashmir to the other state. Since any kind of mutual aggression is deterred by the presence of a nuclear arsenal, the most plausible result seems to be status quo.

It is often said that Kashmir is a 'chakravyuh' that can be entered and but exited. Like the one that consumed Abhimanyu, this one too is scattered with treacherous mines and skilled warriors. Indian leaders and establishments over the years have tried many tactics to solve this problem, but to no avail. The thing about Kashmir is that it is a solitary case. It is highly unlikely that you will find a case with the same tenets as Kashmir in the folios of world affairs. By aiming to retrieve PoK, India are dealing with an enigma beyond their controls. A large swathe of territory, under the amnesty of Pakistan for more than 60 years is essentially Pakistan in every sense. The loyalty of it's citizens, the prosperity of it's people and the opulence of the land is only a speculation of the Indian government. The ground realities may be different. Pakistan in all respects is a failed state. As said in Atish Thaseer's 'Stranger to history', Pakistan is simply 'a place where people live'. There is no sense of progress or yearning for prosperity among their citizens. And it is important to understand that PoK is a province of this very Pakistan, and has suffered the same, probably even more neglect. Would India accept even a fictional proposal from the Pakistanis for the creation of an 'akhand Bharat'? No, because it is too big a baggage to carry. The deep seated hatred for India and the economic backwardness of the area would pull India back many years. Undoubtedly, the acquisition of Kashmir would be a huge achievement for the Indian establishment. So is touching a live Anaconda for an ordinary human. But what ensues this, involves digestive fluids and a slow painful death. India would definitely score a huge brownie point, but that is as much as there is to it!

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