Ever since my first posting to the Kashmir valley, about two decades back, I have wondered whether our policies in Kashmir are in our best interests, whether the massive effort being put in by the country to retain Kashmir as an integral part of India are worth it. Somehow, over the years I have been more and more convinced that all our efforts are in vain. In fact Kashmir has become a prestige issue with the country. India would be a much better and more prosperous country without having to devote time, energy, effort and resources not to mention the burden on the finance minister, towards Kashmir. Its an ungrateful people that we are talking about here. Kashmiris have little or no regard for the amount of funds that are being pumped into their state or the amount of subsidy being given to them.
However as Jug Suraiya succinctly put it in his editorial in the Times of India, available online at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Editorial/India_minus_K-word/articleshow/3382132.cms, “Any suggestion that Kashmir should, if it so wants, be allowed to secede from the Indian Union is immediately deemed to be treasonable, and its proponents to be agents of Pakistan’s ISI, who wish to hive off not just Kashmir but to fragment and balkanise India by fomenting insurrection across the country.” I have therefore never wanted to be branded a traitor or an anti national. And much against my instincts refrained from suggesting that Kashmir be allowed to secede from India.
In the last about five days I have heard or read a lot in the media suggesting what my instincts have been suggesting for a long time now. Maybe its time to give serious consideration to the idea of letting Kashmir fend for itself in the Jungle out there. Never before have I ever come across such suggestions in the media, be it print, TV or radio. For the benefit of those that have missed them out, there is the article by Swaminathan Aiyar in the Times available online at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Columnists/S_A_Aiyar_I-Day_for_Kashmir/articleshow/3372132.cms. And on TV a programme on whether Kashmir can or should be granted independence was aired in ‘Face the Nation’ on CNN IBN on the 19 Aug 2008. Jug Suraiya’s editorial column on the subject is available at the link in the second paragraph.
While one can argue and debate the pros and cons of retaining Kashmir till cows come home, the fact of the matter is that it is evident that the Kashmiris themselves do not seem to be in favour of remaining with India, not the ones in the valley in any event. The struggle and strife in the valley is looking uncannily similar to India’s struggle for independence. Should Kashmir ever gain independence, the Kashmiri terrorists of today, would become shaheed Bhagat Singhs and Chadrashekhar Azads of independent Kashmir’s history books. The current agitation in the valley, seems similar to the Quit India movement of 1942. Only, it has been precipitated by the inept handling by the govt of the Amarnath Shrine board controversy.
What we have to ask ourselves is whether it is worth its while, to spend the millions of dollars in Siachen glacier as also in the state of J&K on maintaining law and order, checking infiltrations, etc. Funds which are so badly needed by many other states of the country. What about the lives of the thousands of soldiers martyred in Kashmir? And the numbers are rising every day. What answer does the country have to the orphaned children of our soldiers? For what have they laid their lives down? In the 21st century, we are guarding our Line of Control like primitive people with eyeball to eyeball contact with our adversaries and by making physical fences along the border to check infiltration. Can a progressive economy like ours afford this kind of expenditure in this day and age?
Besides, one of the major problems that our country is facing today, is that, its large size is really becoming quite unmanageable. Unity in diversity is only a good slogan. We have MNS trying to oust North Indians from Maharashrta, the Bodos killing Biharis in Assam, south Indian states agitating against Hindi as a language, Maoists terrorizing innocent civilians in almost all parts of the country, and of course the much appeased, minority Muslims running amok creating terror in all parts of the country. And this is probably, just the beginning. In another couple of decades if things keep going the way they are we are going to have the Army in anti insurgency role almost all across the country. Currently we have about a third of the country’s army in J&K and other north eastern states facing insurgency problems. In a couple of decades at this rate, the entire Indain Army will only be tackling insurgency with no troops left to fight a war, should that be required.
We need not fear for the safety of the rest of our territory, once Kashmir is gone. Pakistan today is not in any position to wage a war with any country, it has enough problems of internal strife of its own. ‘As you sow, so will you reap’ is an apt idiom that comes to mind, looking at the state of Pakistan today. As for China, its much more busy trying to prove its supremacy economically, militarily and as a sporting super power at the world stage to have time to even think of waging a war with India. In any event a war at this stage would take China’s development back by a couple of decades. Something that China can ill afford at this time, given the fact that it has to compete with the United States for global supremacy.
It therefore appears to this blogger that the time may be right, to at least initiate a debate on Azaadi for Kashmir, or, as Arundhati Roy has put it, for Kashmir to gain azadi from India, and for India to gain azadi from Kashmir? The other choice of course is to retain Kahmir and give Pakistan a quasi legitimate gateway through which to keep bleeding our country, something that it has almost perfected in the last few decades.