Atanu Dey On India's Development

We must free the Kashmiris

The op-ed “India can’t afford to fall victim to psywar” in the New Indian Express of Sept 19th did not make much sense to me. I find the entire piece confusing. Perhaps I am simple-minded and cannot navigate through contradictions, or perhaps because it is an “op-ed by committee,” signed by 20 prominent people.

It begins:

SOME stray voices in the media have been questioning, with surprising nonchalance and lack of depth, the wisdom and expediency of retaining Kashmir as a part of India. This matters not because such voices reflect any growing view in our country but because they play into the hands of enemies of the nation. Their suggestions embolden subversive forces both within and outside the country, and encourage our adversaries to entertain the hope that with a little more effort, Kashmir will secede from India.


OK, so there are “stray voices” that do not represent the mainstream view, and they give hope to Kashmiri secessionists. If that is so, I agree it is not a good thing. Further down in the piece they write:

India has successfully overcome all secessionist threats faced by it. No responsible government can ever compromise India’s territorial integrity by even contemplating the secession of Kashmir.

This is not a trifling issue. If the Indian state is seen as weak enough to let Kashmir go, other states and disaffected groups within India will only get emboldened, leading to the unraveling of India.

So it appears that even “contemplating the secession of Kashmir” would lead inexorably “to the unraveling of India.” Which means that the fabric of India is rather tattered. One day you merely contemplate (not actually do anything) Kashmiri secession and soon enough “other states and disaffected groups within India” will want out and India unravels.

The tacit admission by the group that India is built on very shaky foundations — that there are groups all around that want to get out of the union — is pretty interesting. Perhaps they should sit down as a group and contemplate the matter and answer clearly whether there are so many groups tottering on the verge of secession that letting Kashmir go would immediately push them over the edge, and if so, why.

If there are so many disaffected states and peoples, then clearly the “stray voices” in the media alluded to earlier are articulating a problem that needs to be addressed. It appears to me that the writers of that op-ed are not so concerned about the underlying reality of the problem (if indeed there is a problem and I am not saying that there is) as they are concerned about talking about it.

“Let’s not mention the 800-lb gorilla in the room,” said he, “because if anyone does mention it, we will have to deal with it. We cannot deal with it and so if no one acknowledges the gorilla, we can all pretend that it does not exist and we will not have to fight it. We would lose the fight if it came to it. So let’s not go there.”

Their solution is to stifle voices that question the correctness of holding on to Kashmir.

India is a free and democratic country with a vibrant media and we are proud of it. But freedom of expression does not mean unbridled licence to flout the law of the land by airing or fanning seditious views.

Really now? So one has freedom of expression but only if the views expressed are officially welcome? We are not merely importing stuff from China, it would appear.

Such views also do a disservice to the people of Kashmir. We call upon the intelligentsia that has the power to shape public opinion to use their power with wisdom and maturity.

Ah I just so love the implicit assumptions and implications of the above. The implicit assumption that the people of Kashmir do not want secession. It may have been true 50 years ago but it is certainly no longer true. The ethnic cleaning of the Kashmiri pundits and the radicalization of the Muslim Kashmiris — thanks to Pakistan-mediated Saudi money and a bit of indirect help from the US — leaves very little room for the notion that the people living in Kashmir now want to be part of India.

The writers are essentially asking the “intelligentsia” (which I presume includes the ones with those “stray voices”) to use their power wisely and well. A clear admission that the people are sheeple (that is, they can be herded and believe anything that is told to them by an authority figure.)

The next lines leave no doubt that the writers have all but used the branding iron on the sheeple.

Irresponsible slogans do immense damage in open and democratic polities and can mislead people to take partisan positions without understanding the grave implications. We also urge the media to exercise restraint and show responsibility in the larger national interest.

For me the most puzzling line in the op-ed is this: “India is a free and democratic country with a vibrant media and we are proud of it.”

That line is inconsistent with pretty much the rest of the piece. If India is a free country, then why are people not free to express their opinions? And what is all this talk of “democracy” about? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? If democracy means what it is popularly understood to mean, should not the people have a say in what they want to be a part of? How does one square the idea of a “vibrant media” with the idea that only those views that don’t rock the boat are welcome?

My perspective is that the problem of Kashmir is not new at all. It fits in quite consistently with the pattern that was very clearly and forcefully demonstrated with the division of India into two parts in 1947. What was the primary motivating factor? Whether one’s “secular” sensibilities likes it or not, that factor was that Islam forbids Muslims from co-existing with kafirs (kuffars, or non-believers, idol worshipers.)

India was divided not along some political, linguistic, or ethnic lines but along strictly Islam and non-Islam lines. That distinction cannot be wished away without questioning the very definition of what Islam is all about. Islam divides humanity into the good (the Muslims) and the evil (the non-Muslims) and divides all lands into Dar-ul-Islam (the land of Islam) and Dar-ul-Harab (the land of War). Pakistan is in the former and India is the latter.

Cut it any which way you want, Islam does not allow non-Muslims equality with Muslims. That is why when the occasion arose, Pakistan was formed. That is why numbers of non-Muslims in Pakistan (and Bangladesh) have dropped consistently. That is why the Pandits have been driven out of Kashmir. That is why the Muslim Kashmiris will not want to be part of India.

My recommendation

All things considered, I am disappointed by the op-ed but I am heartened that at least it was written. It is a good beginning and perhaps they would consider a resolution something along these lines.

India was partitioned once and the division of land between the Good (Pakistan, the Land of the Pure) and Evil (India, the land of the Filthy Unbelievers) was largely fair (with the Good naturally getting a better deal), in my opinion. Populations moved and people decided which side of the border they wanted to be on. I am glad that India was divided. One should not have as one’s neighbors people who consider one evil and unclean.

Now that partition should be read as done and over with. No more division of land and no more bitching about how co-existence with kuffars is a pain.

Now if someone — anyone, not just Kashmiris — don’t like it within the present day borders of India, they are free to leave. India should not behave like the former East Germany and prevent people from leaving India. Indeed, India should have a fund which subsidizes the travel for people who wish to take a one-way trip out of India. Not just that, India should make it mandatory for people who wish to not be part of India that they take a one-way trip.

I think that Kashmir is part of India and therefore Kashmiris are Indians, regardless of their religion. But if any Kashmiri wants to be a Pakistani instead, I think he or she should be encouraged to go to Pakistan.

I think that a referendum would be a great idea. Let them decide if they want to be a part of India or part of Pakistan. If they vote to be part of Pakistan, let them pack up and leave without delay. I am sure that the Kashmiri Pandits would be delighted to have their land back and not have to get ethnically cleansed.

I think what India (and by that I mean the people, the press, the “intelligentsia,” the government, and all) needs to do is to declare that the borders are non-negotiable but the people are free to go wherever they want to go. After that, let’s talk about Kashmir or any other part of India. Most of all, let’s not stifle stray voices. They add entertainment.

NOTES: Please visit The Acorn and check out the excellent discussion “On psywar and sedition.”

  • SG

    But how do you explain that to pseudosecular sympathizers of the religion of peace whose heart bleeds for mothers of terrorists giving them sleepless nights, while Hindus continue to be attacked viciously every few weeks and nary a tear is shed.

  • Asheesh

    Atanu,

    On this topic I disagree. I think we should look at Kashmir dispassionately, cutting through the rhetoric in terms of the economic and human cost that India is paying to retain Kashmir.

    The economic cost that India is paying is huge, Central govt. has been financing almost 100% of Kashmir’s budget for almost 2 decades. In return of financing the kashmiri’s the citizens of rest of the country don’t even get the right to do business in Kashmir!! add to it the cost of maintaining the counter-insurgency operations for 2 decades. As for the Human cost it is even higher ( Approximately 21,000 (discounting the insurgents)). We have lost nearly 10,000 security personnels in the anti-insurgency operations. My question is why should we keep paying this enormous cost to hold onto this tiny strip of land?

    My solution – divide J&K into three territories, Jammu, Kasmir & Laddkah. Have a referendum in Kashmir and if it is independence they want then hand it to them and make sure that they will not be allowed the use of Indian air space or Indian ports for their business. Let them enjoy their land locked independence surrounded by Pakistan, China & India.