Friday, July 09, 2010

Kashmir

Cross-border terrorism is almost dead. Pakistan is engulfed in its own problems. So why does the Kashmir problem not die too?

Could it be because ordinary people do not like living in a police state? And, when they protest, they do not like being treated as terrorists and fired upon?

The local media is prevented from doing their jobs, and the "national" media (ignorant of Kashmiri, and broadcasting to those who are ignorant of Kashmiri) is free to lie. (Link via Shivam)

We shoot down unarmed protestors. Which incites more protest, and we shoot them down too. (Even unarmed motorcycles are not spared.) We ban the media. We squash civil liberties. And all this is "legalised" by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (which was originally framed for the north-east, and extended to Kashmir in 1990). Our "law" allows the army to fire on protestors, invade people's homes, search them, take people away without warrant, and be immune from prosecution for all this. That's the law that has ruled the north-east for over 50 years, and Jammu and Kashmir for 20 years.

Now, why do we call ourselves a democracy? Why do we pretend that we have a free press? And why do we expect the people of those states to be grateful for these things?

17 comments:

Anant said...

Excellent post.

Jai_C said...

I'm trying to imagine what an unarmed motorcycle looks like.

rgds,
Jai

Anonymous said...

we call ourself democracy because hypocrite like you can pretend to write for human right on selective basis. I see that your heart burn when a Naxalite dies or some Kashmiri fundamentalist who does not want any infidal near by. However, you have no comment on brutality of naxals and islamists.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anant - thanks.

Jai - it was a joke. As far as one can tell from the video, it is a normal motorcycle.

Anon: Ah, I was waiting for the anons. Thanks. Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

Anon (1:18 PM) - Hypocrisy is when a society that call itself democratic fails to uphold democratic values. Not when an individual chooses not to write about a certain topic. That is called bias. It is inherent in all blogs and articles.

gaddeswarup said...

Here is a review of a book by a Kashmiri:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jun/20/curfewed-night-basharat-peer-dalrymple

archie said...

Your post definitely outlines the general problems that culminate from having any state under siege for long - not just Kashmir. Of course in the case of Kashmir, the state of affairs has been triggered by cross border terrorism which I refuse to believe is dead - it may be lying low at best and planned for a major outrage at worst. However, though I also belong to the category of the armchair theorists who cringe at the draconian nature of some of the laws in our country, I am still not convinced about the futility of such laws. When someone is in a persistent line of fire by state backed terrorists, as our soldiers, the special powers that the state machinery endow them with in such extreme circumstances is not entirely unjustified. The developments in Kashmir since 1989 and the frequency/nature of terrorist attacks in the valley corroborate this to some extent. Of course, when perfect well-intended laws are implemented by imperfect human beings with all their frailties, esp. in such virulent circumstances that might accentuate them, excesses are committed - like the recent shooting of teenagers.

Anonymous said...

Rahul,

I should admit that I do not find your 'left leaning' arguments convincing at most times. However, in this issue, I have been left pondering along the same lines that you have done.

Any armed uprising which is 'suppressed' by the armed wings of the state would inevitably end up in a spiral of violence. However, we should all ponder over why so many Kashmiris continue to reject the Indian state. Given that some of the other options :... joining a banana republic like Pakistan, or ending up like a small impoverished country on its own.. are not exactly mouth watering prospects, the intensity and persistence of their hostility needs to be recognized.

It is high time that all Indians pondered over the future of Kashmir without falling for the jingoistic official line. We need to let go of the Kashmiris and let them decide their own future. The inability of Indians to debate on issues like this is a reflection of our shortcomings as a 'democratic' and a morally scrupulous society.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

archie - the AFSPA long predates "state-backed terrorists". That apart, I do not think the end justifies the means in these situations.

anon - thanks for the comment. Personally I think if Kashmiris had been treated fairly they would never have wanted to leave. I have heard credible suggestions that if India had actually held a plebiscite in the mid-1970s (when Pakistan's popularity was low because of what they did to their fellow-Muslims in Bangladesh, and India's popularity was high for the same reason), the problem would have been solved. But India lacked the courage to do that (yes, I know that the UN resolutions call for troops to withdraw from both sides before holding a plebiscite, but sometimes one can make a gesture beyond what was required, and in this case it may have worked out.) Worse, India (i.e. Indira) proceeded to rig state elections and installed dreadful puppet governments.

Through her politicking with dubious characters, Indira Gandhi was singlehandedly responsible for both the Punjab problem and the reignition of the Kashmir problem. She paid the price for Punjab. We are still paying the price for Kashmir.

Anonymous said...

Rahul,

Indira Gandhi surely did pay the price for Punjab. The unfortunate part is that thousands of others also ended up doing the same. However, Punjab is certainly an interesting data point. It has rebounded from the depths with remarkable alacrity. In my opinion, it would be futile to hope that the same will happen in Kashmir sooner or later ... which i believe is the line which the establishment seems to harbor. I am not so sure whether the Kashmiris would have preferred to stay, even if India would have treated them fairly. In any event, the absolute callousness with which we have treated them is a disgrace.

What disappoints me acutely is not the unreasonableness of the 'educated' Indians, but the absolute disregard for the lives of millions of people, we are hell bent on 'claiming' as our own.

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Jai_C said...

Rahul,
"..when Pakistan's popularity was low because of what they did to their fellow-Muslims in Bangladesh, and India's popularity was high for the same reason.."

Thats interesting. Do you have any links? I've believed the Kashmiris (those visible on media at least) mostly supported the (West) Pakistani line and have for the longest time been grateful and indebted to Pakistan- the khoon ka karz if you will... (never mind this is smashing up their peace and their valley)

Were they particularly happy about BD? It would be unthinkable even now for K separatists or any other Ks to celebrate Bangladesh -IMO.

It seems even less likely in the aftermath of 1971. But this is way before my time. Links welcome.

thanks,
Jai

Anonymous said...

Reference for support for a plebiscite - anecdotal but at least from a Pakistani:
Tariq Ali's "The bitter chill of winter" in the London Review of Books some eight years ago. A fantastic piece of prose that gently massages every prejudice a secular left-leaning Indian might have.

Ravi

archie said...

it is not about end justifying the means. It's the fact that special situations need special powers. The same strategies cannot be imagined to work in case of exigencies, like the present situation in Kashmir. How to minimize the excesses is a different question altogether.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Jai, Ravi - I don't remember the sources but one source may well have been the Tariq Ali article, which I have read previously. Ravi, thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I have heard credible suggestions that if India had actually held a plebiscite in the mid-1970s (when Pakistan's popularity was low because of what they did to their fellow-Muslims in Bangladesh, and India's popularity was high for the same reason), the problem would have been solved.

All this is about as credible as the many reports saying that "India and Pakistan were close to a deal in {Agra, Simla...} but (insert villain of choice) scuttled it."

There can hardly be any doubt that Kashmiri Muslims - at least the politically conscious ones - for the most part, never identified themselves as Indians. Much before the current round of troubles started (late 80s), my father, an ex-bureaucrat in the telecommunications department, told me, how when he asked someone in Srinagar about some equipment, got the immediate reply "We have to import it from India." I have come across many other anecdotes in a similar vein.

There can be no doubt that the government of India did not help matters much through its incompetence. But we would be kidding ourselves in thinking that the Kashmiri Muslims would have opted for India over Pakistan in mid 70s or whenever. Nothing wrong in that - it is their right to decide where they want to be.

At any rate, what is going on in Kashmir is intolerable. As a democracy, as you note, it shames us. We have to accept the inevitable (it will take time) but that still leaves us with some very difficult issues: Do we conduct a referendum across the entire state? Or do it district-by-district? Should the referendum give independence as a choice? (The UN resolution did not envisage this choice.) There will, almost inevitably, be some migration -- how do we deal with it?

A mess alright, no matter what we do. But we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Cross-border terrorism is almost dead.

What a remarkable statement.Please don't be so naive!

I have heard credible suggestions that if India had actually held a plebiscite in the mid-1970s... the problem would have been solved.

Let us imagine that there was a plebiscite in 70s and imagine that Kashmiris decided to stay with India. Do you think that would have ended all problems ?!

As long as we do not know how to address this issue (reported by ANI), we will continue having security problems. No point in running away from the truth!