Kashmir: a fragile peace?
On the streets of Srinagar and in the villages around, regular people, who are not writers or journalists or intellectuals, have come to hate Pakistan for what it has done to the Valley in the name of freedom. Also, what Pakistan has become, politically and economically, has ensured that accession to that country is not part of popular sentiment here anymore. In fact, there is even relief in Kashmir that historical circumstances saved the Valley from being a part of Pakistan. And what India has become, politically and economically, has made it more endearing than the Kashmiri elite wants to admit in public. But freedom from India remains a fervent wish for many, which means that an independent sovereign Kashmir stranded between India and Pakistan is the only option left. Kashmir’s elite, especially those who live in Kashmir, believe that a sovereign Kashmir is an impractical idea and to continue the status quo with the newly prosperous and somewhat secular India is the best way forward. “But we can’t say it, you know, we can’t say it publicly without a lot of our brothers from Dubai and America abusing us,” says one of the prominent journalists of Kashmir in an informal chat with me in the lobby of a hotel in Srinagar.
Is it obscene to search for happiness in Kashmir, is it obscene for a writer from the south of India to wander around Kashmir interviewing people who will tell him that they want to get on with their lives despite the presence of the Indian Army? What is the stake of an outsider in Kashmir? The fact is that Kashmir, too, has occupied India. Kashmir is the reason why India is one of the worst victims of terrorism. All Indians have a stake in Kashmir’s state of mind...
See also: In Kashmir, some hot potatoes, by Praveen Swami
New Delhi's policy establishment still imagines it is dealing with a Kashmir that disappeared two decades or more ago: an illusion sustained by the fact that so many key actors are the children of the men who made the deals that propped up the State's dysfunctional political order. Its key instruments remain cajoling and co-optation - and, when it fails, outright bribery. Meaningful political dialogue, least of all the new language of transparency, rights and empowerment Mr. Ahmad represented, simply isn't on the agenda. Prime Minister Singh's government won the war in Jammu and Kashmir, inflicting a decisive defeat on the insurgency. His government's actions suggest it is now doing its best to lose the peace.
And: Who are the real enemies of a happy Kashmir?