Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mohan Guruswamy - For azadi for all, it is time to break the fiction of Jammu and Kashmir // BR Singh - Kashmir: Any workable solution would have to include restoration of full autonomy to Kashmir

Until the mid-19th century, “Kashmir” denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. The name Kashmir derives from the Sanskrit Kashyapmeru. The Greeks knew it as Kaspeiria. Herodotus called it Kaspatyros. Emperor Ashoka, who called it Shrinagari, founded the capital near present day Srinagar. The ruins of this Ashokan city still stand. Kashmir evolved with a strong Buddhist tradition, but Buddhism here like in the rest of India drowned in the wave of Hindu revivalism initiated by Adi Shankaracharya in the 9th century AD.

Muslim rule was ushered in by Shamsuddin Shah Mir (1339-42), a courtier in the court of King Udayanadeva who seized the throne after his death. The Mughals took control in 1586 during the rule of Jalaluddin Akbar. The region came under the control of the Durrani Empire in Kabul from 1753 to 1819 when the Sikhs took over. In 1846 the treachery of Gulab Singh, a Dogra general and governor of Jammu towards the Sikh kingdom of Lahore was repaid when the British gave him Jammu for it and further turned over the Kashmir Valley to him for Rs 75 lakh. And thus under the treaty of Amritsar Gulab Singh became the first Maharajah of the so-called princely state of Jammu and Kashmir – the first time Jammu and Kashmir became one administrative entity.

As governor of Jammu, Gulab Singh had also captured Ladakh and Baltistan. His son Ranbir Singh added Hunza, Gilgit and Nagar to the kingdom. Thus, a composite state of disparate regions, religions and ethnicities was formed. This is reflected in the present day demographics.

The Kashmir Valley of about 6.9 million people is 96.4% Muslim with Hindus and Buddhists accounting for just 3.6%. Jammu which has a population of 5.4 million is 62.6% Hindu and 33.5% Muslims, mostly concentrated in Poonch. Ladakh has a population of just 30 lakh with its 46.4% of Shia Muslims concentrated in Kargil, 40% Buddhist concentrated around Leh and 12.1% Hindus. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir areas, including Gilgit-Baltistan, are almost 100% Muslim. The total population now of J&K is 12,541,302, POK is 2,580,000 and Gilgit-Baltistan is 870,347.

The purpose of elaborating on this is two fold. Historically, all the regions of Jammu and Kashmir are part of the present narrative of India’s composite history. Despite its preponderant Muslim population, the history of the people of the Kashmir Valley is intertwined with all the different local histories of the many nationalities of present-day India, which is also home to the world’s second-largest Muslim population. There is no separate Kashmir story as there is for Afghanistan or Nepal. It was always a part of India, except for a brief rule from Kabul. There is no cause or case for a separate Kashmir, as the Tibetans may have or the Palestinians have.

The second point here is that the Kashmiris are a distinct ethnic group with little or no historical or social affinities, except Islam, with those of the other regions of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. This Jammu and Kashmir, with or without Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, is an artificial entity of recent origin.

Jammu and Kashmir is not the only princely state that acceded to India with some early hesitations and a bit of acrimony. The Maharaja of Jodhpur was an early ditherer who even contemplated acceding to Pakistan till sanity prevailed. The story of Junagadh is well known. Hyderabad, India’s biggest princely state and an inheritor of varied traditions including the Sathavahanas, Kakatiyas, Bahmanis and Mughals was, like J&K, stitched together with three large and distinct regions. If J&K had to be rescued by the Indian Army from tribal raiders from present day Pakistan and encouraged and provisioned by the new state of Pakistan, Hyderabad, surrounded on all sides by former British Indian Presidencies, had to be taken by the Indian Army from the dithering Asaf Jah ruler and his coterie of Muslim nobles and proselytising rabble.

But look at how differently these one-time princely states were dealt with. .. read more:

Anil Nauriya: Targeting Kashmir's leaders (2005)

Indians and Pakistanis tend to comprehend Kashmir through catchphrases – ‘Heaven on Earth’, ‘Paradise of the East’, ‘Switzerland of India’ and so on. Another set of catchphrases ‘atoot ang’, ‘shah rug’, and now ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ and ‘azadi’ dominate our image of the place, conjuring up visions of frenzied crowds and disfigured faces pockmarked and blinded. The ugly images of the results of crowd control measures repel sensitive Indians. The question is, what is to be done?

First, we should rule out what cannot be done. A plebiscite is not possible. Of the many resolutions the UN passed on Kashmir, only two are relevant to the plebiscite: those of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949. A plebiscite was to follow the complete withdrawal of tribal invaders and Pakistan forces from the invaded areas of Jammu & Kashmir, after which India would draw down its forces to a number just sufficient to maintain law and order and hold a plebiscite. Pakistan never withdrew its troops, and one cannot imagine it withdrawing them now. That rules out a plebiscite permanently.
Imagining what can be done in Kashmir requires suspending prejudice, and abandoning preconceived notions. The grievances of Kashmir’s Muslims are not only genuine, they fester at the core of their emotional being. Any workable solution begins with recognition by Delhi that the root of the problem lies in its own actions since 1953, bearing in mind that what would have worked in the 80s had lost traction in the 90s and the openings available in the new millennium may no longer work in 2016.

Despite the hardline S A S Geelani, and the more recent Islamist tendency among youthful protestors it is wrong to suppose that there are no reasonable voices left in Kashmir. It is not possible in this short piece to detail the grievances Kashmiris have against India, many real, some imagined. They have multiplied as the decades passed. The Sheikh’s arrest, rigged elections, police rule under Bakshi and his successors are some.

After militancy erupted, India’s record of human rights violations, the humiliations inflicted on Kashmiris and the sheer indifference to their plight only added to the alienation. India prides itself on its democratic traditions and the rule of law. Kashmiris have seen little of either. They firmly believe that Sheikh Abdullah made the wrong choice in 1947, when he chose Hindu India over Muslim Pakistan.

Any workable solution therefore must address the full gamut of Kashmiri anger, even if no solution can fully assuage the intense negative sentiment about India. It is a feeling of impotence against an overbearing Indian state that propels successive generations to increasingly violent expression of their rage. In the short run, India can hope at best to neutralise the anger. It cannot build emotional bridges, let alone win hearts.

The solution must distinguish between the Kashmir problem, which is an international issue between India and Pakistan, and India’s problem in Kashmir, which is a domestic matter. The Kashmir problem may never be solved, but India’s problem in Kashmir is amenable to positive outcomes even now. Subtly handled it can have a favourable impact upon the international issue as well.

A flexible approach will allow various paths to a solution. It must be acceptable to the majority of Kashmiris as well as satisfy Jammu’s Hindus and Ladakhi Buddhists, and non-Kashmiri Muslims. It must provide for the expelled Pandits living in forced exile.

Amendments can always take care of constitutional impediments if they arise. We amend that document more than once annually on the average. In fact, the J&K Constitution will need amendment too. Separatists are prone to think of J&K as sacrosanct: it is however only the malformed and malfunctioning product of a treaty between Gulab Singh and the British, a treaty upon which Kashmiri leaders regularly heap curses.

It is possible to make the entire state autonomous as the Constitution envisages, or only parts of it, such as the Valley, and if the residents want, the adjoining Muslim majority areas. Regional autonomy is possible for Ladakh and Jammu. Special relationships between Delhi and some parts of the state such as Leh can be envisaged in a deal, which gives Kashmir full autonomy over all matters outside those specified in Article 370.

Pandits who want to return should be enabled to do so, unconditionally. It is their legal right; Kashmiri Muslim clusters have come up in Jammu city without interference from its Hindus, the same principle applies to the Pandits. Government sponsored colonies are a bad idea; but what is there to prevent housing cooperatives?

Article 370 allows trade and travel across the LoC. The restricted trade across the LoC needs to be expanded through a currency arrangement. If Kashmiris want their own currency, why stop them? Scotland after all has the Scottish pound freely useable in the UK.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally spoke on Kashmir he commented that Kashmiris have as much ‘azadi’ as other Indians. This misses the point. Kashmiris have not been struggling for the ‘azadi’ that other Indians have; they want more. It is what the Constitution promised them. All states want less control from Delhi, but only J&K had it guaranteed under Article 370. If Islamists are gaining the upper hand it is because Delhi will not relent on restoring what it has taken away without popular sanction.

see also