Monday, 13 October 2014

India an artificial construct?

Many people have commented in past on "fragility" of the Idea of Indian Nationhood, or looked at it as a "nation of nations" with various sub-nationalities living in India. Some even consider the British to be responsible for uniting India.

Was the Idea of nation hood born in Europe? At best we can say that the European Idea of nationhood was born in Europe certainly not the Indian Idea of nationhood. I am sure nobody will dispute that Indian Subcontinent is historically one civilization. If we look at pre-Islamic period then perhaps the geographic reach of Indian civilization was no less than from Afghanistan in the west to Indonesia in the east. The Idea of Bharat Vasha predates any foreign colonization of India and geographic extent was well understood to be from the mountains to the seas which pretty much covers the present territorial extent of India. Culturally India was united quite early in History. We have to consider the puranic references for this. Let me state a very common reference which is the story of Sati. When Shiva carried Sati's corpse on his shoulders around the world threatening to destroy the universe, Vishnu in order to save the universe from destruction cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces. Each location of the fallen piece is revered as a Shakti Sthal. Please look at the locations of the 51 Shakti Sthal. That is cultural geography of India. It covers entire subcontinent including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Srilanka. The majority of these sites are of course in India. 

When Adi Shankara traveled across India debating Indian philosophy in 8th century AD he was obviously not prevented from entering at any of the "political" kingdoms from Kashmir to Kanyakumari nor was he ever considered an outsider preaching "local" population. He established the various maths across India and the 4 sacred Dhams in 4 directions. There is no question on the geographical extent of India. 

The British were also not the first to politically unite India. We anglicized Indians conveniently forget the local tradition of a "Chakravarti" emerging time and again to politically unite India which was already geographically, culturally and perhaps economically one. Alexander's invasion of India triggered the revival and establishment of a pan-India Chakravarti. Mauryan empire covered India from frontiers of Afghanistan to almost the deep south of the peninsula. Harsha's empire, Gupta empire,Prithvi Raj Chauhan's failed attempt, Mughal and Maratha empires politically united India much before the British. One must understand that political unity requires communication technology. Which nation in the world as large as India could have been politically one without such communication? 

I would like to submit that the last such political unity of India was achieved when the Integration of Indian states was undertaken in post partition India. Our constitution is the latest indigenous Chakravarti India has seen and serving and protecting this Chakravarti is every Indian's duty.

I wish public figures would shun this illogical Idea of India being an unnatural nation which ignore the achievements of Indian Civilization and culture going back several millennia.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The moral basis of anti-caste legislation by Dr Prakash Shah

Here is an excellent article "The moral basis of anti-caste legislation" by Dr Prakash Shah, arguing why a blind rush to legislate under pressure of lobbies can lead to a risk of introducing social discord where none exists.
A debate around the issues that Dr Shah’s article raises are sadly missing in India itself. The theories of Aryan Invasion and equating caste with race, which have now been discredited, as no evidence exists, have sadly percolated in Indian society, leading to further discord in the society based on a manufactured history.
The issues raised about the motivation of the lobbies in the article are also pertinent. Using caste related problems for showing eastern cultures as ‘immoral’ and using these arguments for proselytizing is nothing short of attack on eastern cultures.

Lastly I am tempted to say that Europe including UK will do well in first removing discrimination against the medieval Indian migrants to Europe which are the Roma people which is a far bigger problem in western societies. Indian immigrants to the UK are sufficiently part of the western mainstream to recognize the evils of social discrimination and do not need paternalistic laws to govern their communities.

Dr Shah's article is very relevant for all Indians to debate on especially in the lite of the kind of destructive caste divisions are being manufactured in our country based on a totally manufactured history and example of which can be found in this news report http://www.indianexpress.com/news/tribals-backwards-seek-own-voices-in-durga-puja-this-year/1182314/

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Afzal Guru's book of letters and Jihadist Propaganda

Today I saw news about a book of compilation of Parliament attack co-conspirator Afzal Guru that has been released in Srinagar. He is being portrayed as a martyr and his letters(real or fictional) are exhorting people to "propagate martyrs' mission, because its the blood of martyrs that has kept resistance movement alive".
Unfortunately the youth of the valley today do not know of 1947, 1965, 1971. 1974 or recognize the violence against the Kashmiri Hindus as the first consequence of this "armed struggle" as it is glorified. They only know of the bloody violence starting 1989 and see everything from the prism of this violence. 

I am of the opinion that separatists survive on violence and international exposure for support. All humans value freedom and separatists appeal for "freedom" seems to get them instant favors in both capitals around the world and among the population of those countries.The voice of Kashmir's refugees is completely drowned out. Only those who have some Idea about the real history of Kashmir'a accession to the Indian Union and those who have a stake in the survival and prosperity of all the people of this union and by extension the entire subcontinent are able to realize the hollowness of these separatist arguments. Plebiscite and right to self determination argument was a non starter even when Nehru mentioned it because you could not have the losers of this so called  plebiscite living as refugees at worst or second class citizens at best in what ever is left of J&K after this plebiscite. This was realized by the leadership in New Delhi even in early 1950's. It is the leadership of J&K which failed to look beyond narrow interests and join the national mainstream without special terms and privileges that has lead to the current situation in the valley.

There is no right to self determination for the people of J&K it applies only to European colonies not to democratic states. But there is a right to return as per the UN principles of Human rights for refugees and Kashmiri Hindus have it.The real worry is the youth of valley for me who are easily radicalized and turned into cannon fodder by the Rawalpindi establishment which has its own axe to grind. The proxy war being fought in the valley has resulted in huge toll for the people of the state and the security forces alike while Rawalpindi can keep the fires burning at very low cost to itself. The task of security forces has been of finding needle in a haystack and the result of their heavy handed actions is that more and more youth are getting radicalized. Even to this day when a Hizbul militant is killed then processions take place in his village and he is hailed as "martyr". Old separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani visit such places and egg the villagers on while continuing to receive favors from Pakistan.When a J&K policeman or an innocent civilian or a public representative is killed by the militants then no protest take place. It is difficult to tell truth from propaganda when every unexplained incident of violence is quickly blamed by the separatists on the security forces and the state and national media plays it out every protest at that moment without following thrugh the entire investigation. I am sure excesses have occurred in the state at the hands of the security forces but in a destabilized environment that exists in the valley our institutions which cannot deliver even in calmer places are bound to fail.

There is no quick solution to this problem because Rawalpindi is secure and smug that no heavy action is possible from Indian security forces because of its Nuclear umbrella hence there is no reason for it to stop the violence. But there a fair bit which can be done to deny space to the separatist ideology in the national and international forums. Some people are doing that part and I appreciate whatever they have done so far. I wish more people come out in open to confront this victim hood perception that the separatists portray and the impossibility of the self determination argument they make.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Zubin is not Nero separatist leadership in valley is

This opinion piece appeared in The Hindu Zubin Mehta and the unequal music.
I was long expecting someone will try to make this Nero analogy. But unfortunately it doesn't stick on Zubin. It does stick on the separatist leaders who have lead the common people of the state to meaningless conflict, death and destruction while accepting diamond studded watches as gifts from Pakistani mentors across the border. Soon someone will argue that the Sindhu festival in Ladakh and the Amarnath yatra should be stopped. Zubin is an artist of world renown, the valley is fortunate to have him perform in Srinagar. Kudos to German embassy for arranging this in spite the terror threat and I salute the artists who came. Get over this separatism. The root of violence is not the Idea of India. It is the destabilization engineered by the ideologues in Pakistan. The same people who destroyed Afghanistan. There is no legitimacy in separatism in valley just as there was no legitimacy in separatism in Tamil Nadu. Get over it.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Fictions of Mirza Wahid

The novelist and Journalist from Jammu and Kashmir Mirza Wahid paints a very one sided picture of Kashmir with the militants and separatists as victims where as the security forces as "evil". May be loss of his family members and seeing death and destruction up close has gotten him to this victim mentality. What is missing from his account though are the atrocities committed by the militants and the silence of the separatist when targeted killings of those who do not agree with separatist ideology takes place at the hands of these Pakistan trained militants. The state of the Kashmiri Pundits who are refugee in their own country is hardly mentioned. His interpretation of Kashmir being separate from India is purely fictional too and reflects the unfortunate identity crisis that the youth in Kashmir are going through. The cause of this identity crisis is the failure of political leaders of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and central  government in 1947 to  bring about a merger with the Union of India without this autonomy provision which has left identity issues in the minds of the youth. Fact is that J&K merged with the Indian union under legal provisions of Indian Independence Act. The decision to merge with India rather than Pakistan was taken by J&K to save itself from destruction and occupation by the Pakistani invaders. That is when the Indian Army first went into the state to liberate not to occupy. There is no question about J&K being separate from India. Even the constitution of J&K recognizes this fact.

It is unfortunate that the State has seen so much violence since 1989 but the cause of this violence is Pakistani military which used a proxy war strategy to engender separatism in J&K. The first victims of this violence were the religious minority population of Kashmiri Hindus who were ethnically cleansed from the valley. 500,000 of these are living as refugees in their own country today this happens no where in the world. But because of the fear of violence from Pakistan sponsored terrorists they are forced to abandon their homes and live in slums in Jammu.

The death and destruction in J&K is heart rendering but what does one expect to happen when terrorists from all around the world driven by violent ideologies are pushed into the state by Pakistan to cause this very death and destruction. The security forces are not robots they are also human and thousands have laid down their lived to prevent the terrorists from running amok the way Taliban did in Afghanistan. For those who are moved by Mr Wahids fictional stories I would recommend read Vidya Bhushan Dhar’s work also to get a view of what really happened to the Kashmiri minorities when the violence in the name of religious ideology started in Kashmir.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Latest controversy on the national song Vande Mataram

Recently we were greeted by the news of a member of parliament walking out from the Lok Sabha while the national song Vande Mataram was being played. The speaker of the house has expressed her disagreement with what the MP did. The MP has justified her walking out for "religious" reasons.
This issue keeps resurfacing over and over again. It has become so politically motivated that one does not know what the real intention of people opposing or supporting singing the national song is. The fact of the matter is that the first two stanzas of Vande Matram is India's national song. The national song of India does not disrespect any religion. Singing it does not make you less in whatever religion you follow. The original song does have reference to Maa Durga but that this not the national song today. The first two stanzas of the original song constitute the national song today. People who make a controversy out of the national song citing history are not really secular in my view they are anti thesis of what it means to be secular. How does one undo the history of our freedom struggle and the part played by the national song just because someone thinks it is not secular?

The crux of the intellectual argument made against Vande Mataram is perhaps present in the often cited article by Mr A G Noorani. http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl1601/16010940.htm. There are other arguments made using terms not so much in the vogue in India regarding cultural nationalism against civic nationalism with an assertion that Vande Mataram represents cultural nationalism where as India only needs civic nationalism. Where as the fact is that any civil nationalism in practice has never subverted the culture of the land, say in a country like France it has meant that the French language has predominated. We cannot in India seek to subvert our own culture so as not to sound anti-secular. Breaking of coconuts and lighting lamps are part of our culture and any government cannot say that we are secular so we won't do this in official functions.

I do not agree with Mr Noorani on several of his other views specially on Kashmir and I do not consider him truly secular either. His article cited above though full of references and historical context failed to impress me. These intellectual positions are probably being used to justify the unjustifiable. The historical context of the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram as a national song should be seen only as the freedom movement(which is why it was made the national son g in the first place) rather than the story in the novel Anand Math and its interpretations. The national song deserves full respect devoid of petty sectarian politics.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Political Decentralization - Panchayati Raj v/s State Autonomy


Abstract: Political decentralization and political autonomy are sometimes used interchangeably in arguments asserting the need for greater devolution of power in India. In this write up I argue that such linkage or casual interpretation is not in favour of healthy political discourse in India. I assert that we need to use the term Panchayati Raj and only that term when talking about grass root democracy which is desirable. But we should not look at state autonomy as a solution to some of our governance problems. State autonomy I assert is of negative consequence and leads to a nation within a nation sort of discourse which I call a kind of Satrap system not suitable for a large diverse democratic nation like ours which is unique in the world.

One of the issues at stake in our national discourse today is that of political decentralization and political autonomy which are sometimes used interchangeably. Mahatma Gandhi was a proponent of political decentralization, what he called Gram Swaraj. I do not claim to know what Gandhiji really meant by all that he said, but herein you find a statement which is revealing “the 7 lakh villages should be self sufficient as village republics”. From this statement one can draw an intuitive understanding of a model of democracy that includes the people in deciding what is best for their immediate needs, rather than one that separates the state from the people and create a situation where people are dependent on a hierarchical system of governance even for their basic needs.  

This idea is what was called Panchayati Raj and strengthening of this institution was made a part of directive principles of state policy in our constitution at the time of framing of the constitution. The 73rd amendment of the constitution changes were made in '92 to overcome some of the reasons why Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRI) were not functioning as expected, like absence of regular elections, insufficient representation SC/ST and women, inadequate devolution of powers and lack of financial resources. As per this amendment a 3 tier system of village, block and district level panchayats are setup.  However more than 20 years after this amendment which was considered historic at that point of time the Prime Minister still had to make a speech recently urging center and states to “strengthen the panchayats” rather than be able to proudly commend them on their achievements in last 20 years. These issues are variously cited as to why the system is still not considered effective:- 

a) State governments are not devolving enough responsibilities and the center cannot force the state governments because these fall is states domain.
b) Members are not sufficiently trained and do not know their powers and responsibilities sufficiently.
c) Elected women are being represented by their husbands.
d) Non cooperation of bureaucracy
e) Major projects are implemented by the state government without involving the PRIs.
This is a short list of issues but I am sure people who are actually involved with PRIs know much better. 

Whenever I hear about the term decentralization of India being uttered especially in foreign academic circles (Sugata Bose et al) I hear it being accompanied with the term ‘autonomy’. This ‘autonomy’ is being pushed as the magic pill that will solve all of India’s problems. So for Jammu and Kashmir there is an autonomy solution, for Nagaland there is an autonomy solution and there is a domino effect of this demand in all the insurgency affected and even some non-insurgency affected states where on and off demand for autonomy are raised. Late Jyoti Basu former CM of West Bengal was a known supporter of ‘greater autonomy’ to the states especially to J&K. The greatest affront which I find in these arguments is a selective use of history to make a sweeping statement that India never had a ‘Unitary’ state and was instead always ruled as autonomous units. There are certain assumptions in this statement. The first assumption, which is incorrect, is that India today has a unitary form of government. The truth is that we are a federal state not unitary. The second assertion that India always had autonomous units is being used as a suggestion that it is good to have autonomy at state level, where the states have internal autonomy for everything and the center is limited to the triad of ‘Foreign Affairs, Defense and Finance(currency)’.  This extreme arrangement is something most people will have serious exception with. Such an arrangement with article 370 like provisions is what I would call division of India into Satraps, since this kind of autonomy is a question of sovereignty rather than governance. This leads to the notion of nation within a nation. It smells of an argument for creating various levels of sovereignty which is logical path to choose only for an outside power ruling over foreign land, the characteristic of which is leaving autocratic governors for the Satraps for indirect rule and extraction of tribute to keep the top most sovereign relevant. But this arrangement is entirely unsuitable for integration of a democratic nation. The sovereignty of the elected government of a democracy has to be absolute no only to be able to serve the interest of the people internationally but also to keep the movement of wheel of progress continuous in the entire nation as per the collective will of all the people of the country. This wheel like our notion of Dharma Chakra includes everything good that people desire in their lives. No one should be deprived of such progress which is something that can never be guaranteed in a structure with such autonomous satraps.

Autonomy has been variously proposed in the past, say with the cabinet mission plan of 1946 which was in my view rightly rejected, in J&K where we have seen the result and is being demanded today by NSCN/IM insurgents. It is considered by some as the root cause of alienation in J&K rather than the other way round as proposed by some others. It is logical to see that when such an arrangement is made, then the first thing the state government tries to do, is to limit migration to the state and turns itself into more of what I call a ‘hermit state’ within the Indian union. Citizens of the country can migrate to another country and become legal foreign nationals but can never migrate to such states within the country itself. Economic and cultural delinking of the state with the rest of the country then follows. In J&K for example the residents of the other states were referred to as Indians while the Kashmiri’s would give their regional identities more importance long before any whiff of insurgency was felt in J&K.  We have seen an incomplete integration of J&K or rather gradual separation since independence which has lead to such identity issues as we see among some Kashmirs today. There are few other states where various degrees of state subject laws apply like Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim. I do not think any such migration restrictions applied to India in historical times otherwise we would not have such a diverse culture and diverse population which exist in the country today. You can find many ethnic minorities in each and every state of the country which have been living in that state for centuries, where as, they may be represented as ethnic majority in some other state. This is true even in these autonomous or semi-autonomous states that we have today.

The kind of political autonomy to the states which is being talked about increasingly in foreign and also Indian ‘intellectual circles’ as a way to go forward in my view will not lead to better governance for the people. What it will lead to is autocratic state governments, regional identity politics at the cost of nationalism and national interest, marginalization of and attacks on ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious minorities of the state as has happened in J&K, strong feeling of separatism, opportunity for foreign intervention and perhaps a complete balkanization as happened to a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. India of course is not Yugoslavia we are certainly hugely better integrated. Our integration is civilizational not just political and has occurred over several millennia. There are several threads that tie the various beads of India together; perhaps the beads themselves are made of the thread that ties them.  Using a term which Rajiv Malhotra has made famous I would say that we perhaps truly have what will be called an Integral Unity. In my view it is not possible to separate the beads without completely changing the character of India itself. Trying to break down India is a never ending exercise because there can be no two views which will match on what would constitute a truly independent and separate or autonomous part of India. You can literally break down into thousands of separate identities not just 10-15 hence balkanizing India is not going to bring any peace or prosperity for the people of the nation. Autonomy similarly will not bring any lasting peace or prosperity to the people. Even in a state like Sikkim which does not have any outside migration and has been largely successfully integrated into the Indian union we have elements of majority minority tensions existing though not very pronounced, certainly not like the kind which exists in J&K.

The political integration of India after independence done by the states ministry under Sardar Patel was the single most important political exercise in the history of post partition India. In modern times this exercise and the enactment of the constitution is what would be termed as the emergence of a Chakravartin in India. The Dharma Chakra in the tricolor is not bereft of the symbolic importance of this Chakravartin for our national integration and rule of law within our nation’s boundaries. For me the Ashoka Chakra has always been the most important symbol in our tricolor. The constitution is what guarantees that the wheel of law can move freely without interruption in our great country. This is why changes to the constitution which will make our savior and protector weaker is something we should always guard against. I am all for Panchayti Raj which I would say is a non translatable term for our kind of decentralization but I am certainly not in favour of state autonomy which will perhaps lead us back to the time of Western and Northern Satraps of historic times and the wheel of law will be found wanting in the country and leave us vulnerable to outside intervention and control.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Personal Tragedy V/S National Tragedy

When a man commits an illegal act and gets caught, it is no doubt a personal tragedy for him and his family. I am sure most people regret that they erred in their judgement. They would certainly not like to be in jail and would wish that the past act would never have taken place. Unfortunately the legal process in our country has its own pace. The under trial has to go through a long trial in the courts. For an innocent person such a trial can itself be the punishment on the other hand for the guilty it may even be an act of buying time. The Bombay blast case has gone one for 20 years. The victims of the blast have waited 20 years for justice which is still elusive because the masterminds of the blast are still beyond the reach of law.

Sanjay Dutt was convicted by the supreme court for illegal possession of banned weapons and sentenced to the minimum sentence prescribed by law. Then he along with some other accused punished for similar crime were given 1 month to surrender. Today Sanjay Dutt got another reprieve to surrender after another 4 weeks. He wanted to finish his films before going to jail to serve his sentence for which he wanted 6 months reprieve. So the court in supposedly "humanitarian grounds" gave him 4 weeks with no further extension and he accepted. All in all this whole episode gives the appearance of a bargain for delay rather than humane gesture. If the producers have money locked in on Sanjay Dutt then the question here is of money not of "humanitarian grounds". A mother who has a child appearing for his school exams probably deserves more humanitarian gesture for month delay rather than a movie actor who wants to finish his films so that he and his producers do not suffer a loss.

Whatever be the real truth, in the end this case gives an impression of deliberate delay to keep a rich, politically connected celebrity out of jail for as long as possible, rather than one of delivering justice where justice is due. Mr Dutt's claiming suffering due to inordinate delay does not cut the bill; after all Mr Dutt did not spend his years out of jail, since he was first arrested, doing national or social service to deserve a reprieve. He was busy making money, living the good life and working for entertainment of his movie loving fans. It does not quite cover for the loss that the victims of the 93' Bombay blast had to suffer. Given the circumstances under which he has been found in illegal possession of banned weapons, he has knowingly or otherwise been linked with the entire bombing episode which he should have certainly avoided.

Whatever be Sanjay's personal tragedy it does not cover for the national tragedy which people of India have collectively suffered. The court seems to have erred, but people are not pleased and the politicians along with the government of Maharashtra should be forewarned, not to act on Sanjay's mercy plea in a way which will lead to dissatisfaction among the people of Bombay, because they are in no mood to forgive.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

On Sanskrit and Urdu

Sanskrit is already being taught as a compulsory subject in many schools and was also compulsory in Central Schools until last year when it was made optional "like any other Foreign language" if one goes by the text of the article that was published in TOI last year. The difficulty is not that many students have not studied Sanskrit in schools, the difficulty is with the way it was taught. In many schools in India students have studied Sanskrit for 5 Years and yet have gotten very little out of it. So making Sanskrit compulsory is only a question of teacher training and curriculum and is apolitical decision in that sense. 

Unfortunately Sanskrit-Urdu debate has been politicized and divides people on communal lines. In my view Sanskrit Urdu debate is not even worthy of a debate. I don't think it is logical to have Urdu as compulsory all over India and it is important to assert that Urdu is not a language of Muslims. So Kashmiri, Malayali, Telugu etc Muslims should be studying their mother tongue, so that the local communities do not break apart. In Kashmir for example the Muslims students used to study Urdu and the Kashmiri Pundits would study Koshur. Perhaps politicians in J&K did not want young Kashmir Muslim students to study Kashur(their mother tongue) in Devnagari script(my speculation). The effect of dividing the people(along with other reasons) has been very real and the Kashmiri Pundits are today living in refugee camps.

No doubt Urdu is a rich language since it has words from several languages but the fact is that Urdu developed from a common language of the Mughal armies and developed to language of poetry in the Mughal courts in Delhi along with Persian. It is primarily a North Indian language not pan-Indian. Making it compulsory all over India is illogical. Sanskrit on the other hand is Pan-Indian, as all Major Indian languages including Urdu have influence of Sanskrit so I don't think there is any debate between learning Sanskrit and Urdu in that sense. Sanskrit is the mother (or at least sister :-) ) of most Indian languages including Urdu. Unfortunately Sanskrit has suffered in India due to neglect. While the world is adopting it we are neglecting it. Where as the fact is that our knowledge of Sanskrit will not only make our local languages richer, it but will link us with the roots of our culture going back thousands of years.

Muslim league went to newly created Pakistan and look Urdu with it. A language which was spoken by approx 5% of the population of Pakistan then, was made the national language. India on the other hand does not have a national language but 2 official languages(for center) and 22 scheduled languages, and perhaps rightly so. Urdu is also well represented as one of the official languages in several states. So that is where things rest. 

In the light of all this Mr Katju's recent remark on making Urdu compulsory seems like a political gimmick. Sanskrit-Urdu debate should not be communalized and Muslim students in Hindi speaking states should be learning Standard Hindi(which has many Urdu and other language words) in school so that communities do not break apart like it happened in Kashmir. In other states too Muslim students should study their regional mother tongue along with optional Urdu or which ever language they want to learn. This is my view is a logical way forward. We have 1600 languages and dialects in India, forcing a language on people in India is a stupid thing to do. Hence making Urdu compulsory is not logical.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Is autonomy the solution to separatism in Kashmir?


Recent events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after Afzal Guru’s hanging have brought back attention to the interlocutors report in the media. The murder of 5 CRPF jawans in the terror attack in the valley in March invited panic reaction about doing something to solve the Kashmir issue. No doubt continued violence in Jammu and Kashmir is of great concern to all citizens of the country but can this violence really be brought to an end without ever considering how to address the source of this violence with exists across the border? India it seems has all but conceded that it can do nothing about the infrastructure of terror that exists across the border. We seem to have been lulled into believing that since the violence has been reduced relative to its peak, the will to inflict violence has also been reduced across the border too and we seem to have come to a conclusion that somehow ignoring Pakistan’s real intentions will make the problem go away. Without having done anything meaningful to coerce Pakistan to give up its desire to continue support of terrorism against our country especially in J&K, we hope to address the separatist question in Kashmir through negotiations or through promise of more autonomy in the state.

A lot has been said about alienation of the population especially the youth in the valley. No doubt there has been alienation of the people in the valley from the Idea of India and especially the views of the youth in Kashmir are of utmost importance. Any counter insurgency action as has been mentioned time and again by experts requires winning back the trust of the people and disassociating the support base of the insurgents and separatists among the general population. But questions need to be asked as to the effect that implementing suggestions in interlocutors report is going to have on the long term interest of the country and whether or not it will have any effect on the permanent end to violence and secessionist politics in the state. Several aspects of the interlocutors report have been discussed in the public domain but the primary questions remains, will offering more autonomy make the secessionists permanently quit the demand for secession and will no further separatist movement will ever emerge in J&K after that?

Before we address this question we need to be first clear about the nature of the demand from the separatists. It is insisted by the separatists especially in front of the international audience that their demand is of freedom and of independence. I would argue this is not what their demand really is and it is easy to logically derive why this is not true. Independence is what the Indian subcontinent got in 1947 from colonial occupation thanks to the Indian Independence movement. The movement for creation of Pakistan was not an Independence or freedom movement it was a communal movement for separation from India based on the so called two nation theory. The result of that movement was an unprecedented violence in the form of communal riots which claimed 1.5 million lives in the subcontinent and lead to a refugee crisis of over 14 million people which had never been seen in human history before. The region which was formed as Pakistan had at the time of partition close to 30% non Muslim religious minority population which is today reduced to closer to 1%, thanks to that very event. The movement in Kashmir which centers around the so called “right to self determination” is also in similar lines not a freedom movement it is a communal movement for separation and the first victims of this movement were the people belonging to the minority community of Kashmir.

In the book “Integration of Indian States” written by VP Menon he has mentioned that when Jammu and Kashmir merged with India in 1947 it was Lord Mountbatten’s strong opinion that given the special nature of the ethnic and religious composition of the population in the state there should be a plebiscite held in the state to confirm its accession to the dominion of India, after law and order had been restored, and the state had been cleared of the Pakistani raiders which had attacked the state to occupy it by force. This argument was agreed to by the government of India he was heading and formed the basis of India’s policy during negotiations with the Pakistan government to make them desist from trying to takeover the state by force. This policy was pursued in the negotiations that took place both before and after India approached the UN to seek peaceful withdrawal of Pakistan’s national and military personnel from the state of Jammu and Kashmir but was rejected first by Jinnah who wanted to claim the entire state based on the simplistic argument that it was Muslim majority and hence should go to Pakistan in its entirety and later by subsequent Prime Ministers of Pakistan who never agreed to the withdrawal of their forces from the state.

The fact that Pakistan was never really clearly recognized as an aggressor by UN thanks to perhaps a mistake by the team representing India under Sir Girija Bajpai in filing the appeal to the UN under chapter 6 of the UN charter which calls for bringing to the attention of the UN an event of a nature of dispute rather under chapter 7 which calls upon a to the UN’s attention to an event of the nature of external aggression. American diplomat Vincent Sheean in his book “Nehru: The years of Power” has mentioned that in his opinion it was a technical error on the part of India which lead to the situation where western diplomats in the UN sticky about matters of letter rather than substance used this to treat the matter as a dispute between two morally equal parties rather than a matter of aggression by Pakistan as it really was. It also provided Pakistan with an excellent opportunity to draw parity with India and introduce all sorts of matters including the communal riots of 47 under the pretext of genocide by India to the debate.

For India, perhaps going to the UN under any provision was a lose-lose proposition. Going under chapter 7 would probably have meant that UN Security Council intervention in the form of military presence would have become inevitable and this would also not have been acceptable to India. In hindsight taking the matter to the UN only ensured that Kashmir got dragged into the international cold war politics in which Pakistan was seen as a more reliable partner by the victors of world war rather than India. Hence in India’s view there was always a bias in the UN’s proceedings in favour of Pakistan which was clearly the guilty party. Later on this internationalization also lead to the situation where Shekh Abdullah was courted by the Americans and even the Chinese. The Americans planted and encouraged the idea of “Independence” with Shekh Abdullah and for the government of India the possibility of an American base in Kashmir became a real possibility, something which went against the non aligned foreign policy which India wanted to pursue. This is precisely the reason why India has been wary of approaching the UN for any such matter ever since 1948. We did not approach the UN during any subsequent aggression by Pakistan or during the China war. This is also the reason why we do not encourage any third party intervention in Indo Pakistan relations.

India today disowns the UN resolution 47 which asked for plebiscite in J&K. The reasons are that Pakistan never exited the area under its control, the negotiations held with Pakistan in the 50’s failed to arrive at an acceptable formula under which plebiscite could be held, Pakistan over the years changed the demographics of the regions of J&K under its control and the Shimla accord signed with Pakistan in 1974 made the UN resolution irrelevant. But the real reason why any resolution based on plebiscite could not be arrived at and I will assert will never be arrived at is the realization on part of any subsequent responsible Indian government that the very nature of the population mix of J&K which was sighted by Mountbatten as the reason why plebiscite should be held in J&K makes it impossible to make a just decision based on plebiscite. The fact of the matter is that the population of J&K is ethnically, linguistically and religiously a very diverse population living together in that state for centuries and for that reason any referendum which is really a communal question of separation will only be voted on communal lines, leading to complete destruction of the social fabric of the society of J&K. The scenarios of partition in ’47 will be repeated and will be followed by population movement and communal riots of the worst kind in the entire country. It will essentially change the complete nature of India as it exists today. We will never be a secular, democratic, republic where all diversity of population can live together and balkanization and radicalization will follow. Such a nightmare scenario is so gross and the human tragedy that might follow so unimaginable that no responsible person in India can ever agree to it.

The question of plebiscite having been dealt with as rejected in my understanding by a majority of public opinion in the country and my arguments about the communal nature of separatist demands having been made I would like to address the more difficult question of autonomy which has perhaps a more divided opinion within the country. Several people have been arguing including some political parties in J&K, that autonomy is the solution to the separatist problem. The interlocutors have in fact recommended making article 370 a special provision as against a temporary provision of constitution as it exists today also they have asked for review of all laws extended to J&K since 1953. The assembly of J&K had also passed a resolution to that effect for even reverting to the designation of Prime Minister and President of the state rather than the designation of CM and Governor.  They would like the IAS and IPS officers in the state to be replaced with the state service officers and removing the powers of national election commission, CAG and the Supreme Court in matters of the state.

All such moves to revert the status of government in J&K to the pre ‘53 status or close to pre ‘53 status in various degrees will in any logical person’s opinion lead to less integration of the state with the rest of India rather than more integration. Any such move will not weaken the separatist demand. The core separatist demand is not autonomy they have never asked for it and they will never be satisfied only with it. This will only play in the hands of the separatist and extremists who will see it as a step closer to eventual separation rather than settlement of their concerns. This move will also lead to more complications in dealing with other cases of insurgency in the rest of the country especially in the north east where it will be seen that extremist violence eventually does pay and demand for such a settlement in Nagaland and Manipur will gather steam. The fact of the matter is that more autonomy and provisions like article 370 and separate constitution for a state as exists in J&K is not a solution to problems of alienation of population it is in fact is a slow poison which over a period of time leads to degeneration of the state to a communal and identity politics of the worst kind. It also leads to bad laws and persecution of the minority population of the state. We have ended up creating a North Korea like hermit state within the Union of India where people of the state are deprived of progressive laws and progressive political movements of the rest of the country. It has lead to a situation that the government sector is seen as the only credible employer and lack of employment opportunities has lead to disaffection of the people from the government. The politics of the state as we have seen in J&K since 1947 is forever hostage to corruption, autocratic government, petty power politics and manipulation of the people based on ethnicity and religion. Today J&K is more ethnically and communally divided than it was at any point in its history and the persecution of minority population of Kashmir which is living as refugees in its own state is not hidden from anyone. Mr Balraj Puri and Praveen Swami in a series of articles for the frontline magazine had between 1999 and 2001 written extensively about these issues. Autonomy of the kind the state has been given has been seen as the main cause of such divide.

India exists because of the Idea of India which is centered on the diversity of its population and the values of tolerance, secularism, respect for others traditions and cultures, intermingling of populations and economic integration. This is what has lead to the cultural and political evolution of India. I would like to make another assertion that a person may be born an Indian citizen but no one is truly born an Indian. We are raised as Indians, just as anyone is never born into a particular religion, that person has to be raised as a follower of that particular religion. The virtues of Indian-ness of the kind I have mentioned have to be experienced. They cannot be imposed from the outside or by laws. They are experienced and learned in the environment of a child’s neighborhood, schools, colleges and work places before he or she can truly imbibe them. Unfortunately the identity politics of J&K and the retrograde state subject laws of J&K which have disallowed the population of Kashmir valley to ever experience this Idea of India, is today alienated from the population of rest of the country. I can’t imagine how any logical person will propose the same conditions which lead to the primary alienation of the population of the state as a solution to the current separatist problem in the state.

Having made my case against autonomy or conversion of article 370 which in my view is the root of the difficult situation in J&K into a permanent provision in the constitution  I would like to assert that I am in no way against decentralization of powers to the people at the local level. Local body elections and strengthening of the Panchayats are perhaps a more robust solution to delivering the experience of freedom to the masses of the state as has been argued by Mr Wajahat Habibullah. But economic development of the state is not possible without allowing economic migration of professional, workers and businessmen from other states to J&K. The cities in J&K can never become engines of economic growth unless they become cosmopolitan like any small or big city of the country.

In order to imagine what solution exists for the current problems of J&K one needs to look at the ways which will lead to the eventual peaceful return of the Kashmiri minority population to their homes and their being able to live in a peaceful environment where they are not deprived of any economic activity. The separatist movement and separatist propaganda survives on the oxygen of violence and international support including the primary source of violence and propaganda in Pakistan. Unless these two things are addressed and unless the freedom to local population in form of a well functioning local democracy and uncorrupted administration is delivered to the common people of the state in my view any other solution will only serve the purpose of appeasing the separatists and eventually serve the cause of destructive elements. Hopefully the government of India will not take any decision in panic which will lead to a situation that can only be described as consumption of the slow poison of arsenic out of an unfounded fear that the only alternative is consumption of cyanide.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Kashmir’s unsettled business - Don't tinker with the constitution


This post is in response to editorial "Kashmir’s unsettled business" that appeared in The Hindu of March 14, 2013. I do not agree with the conclusion of the editorial that solution to violence in Kashmir lies with what the editor has called implementing "sensible measures" in the interlocutors' report. The measures from interlocutors' report mentioned in the editorial are in my view not sensible at all. The interlocutors were sent to build bridges with population of J&K and what they are suggesting is raising even higher walls between the J&K and rest of India. One gentleman amongst them was recently quoted in Kashmiri media saying that "Kashmiris hate India like rats hate cats". The inherent contradictions in that statement not withstanding, it reflects a keenness for dramatics rather than responsibility. Such irresponsible people have come up with the most irresponsible suggestion of making article 370 permanent rather than leave it as temporary as it exists currently.

How can economic growth in J&K happen without more economic interaction with other parts of India? Would any of our larger metro cities be the engine of economic growth for us had they disallowed migration from other parts of India? The constitution of India sustains the "Idea of India". There is no peace and prosperity possible in India without this idea of India which thrives on tolerance for the other and interaction through mingling of diverse population of India is essential for experiencing the Idea of India. The root cause of alienation among the youth of J&K is that they have not experienced the meaning of what it is to be an Indian. Unfortunately the constitutional provisions given to J&K and the retrograde state subject laws are responsible for the degeneration of the politics of J&K to a communal and identity based politics. Let there be no doubt in the mind of anybody that the movement for separation in J&K among the separatist is not a movement for freedom it is a communal movement for separation and the minority population of Kashmir were the first victims of this movement. The nation within a nation concept is responsible for this movement to have gathered momentum as it did in '89 and allowed Pakistan to exploit the weakness exposed to them. 

There is good reason why article 370 was agreed to after great disagreement only as a temporary provision by the founders of our Nation. It was expected to only lead to greater integration in course of time unfortunately the integration process was not pursued vigorously and the State degenerated towards greater communal politics and regionalism. The root cause of the violence in J&K is the existence of machinery in Pakistan to wage a proxy war against India and that is the cause of disturbance in J&K ever since JKLF came into existence. We have been shying away from this root cause and have no strategic vision on how to coerce Pakistan to stop this activity. If insurgency in J&K and the destabilization that has occurred there has to be cured then the source of the arms supply and the source of training and motivation for insurgents should be neutralized first. Separatists can only be marginalized when violence and the international support including that from western countries which they get comes to an end. They cannot be marginalized with any kind of appeasement in the form of greater autonomy to the state. They have never asked for it for settlement and that will only lead to legitimizing their cause. It would be seen as step closer to eventual separation. There is no reason why Indians should start doubting our founding principle of tolerance and unity in diversity which are the basis of the Idea of India. There is everything in the constitution which guarantees equality before law and government to every citizens and nothing in the constitution that tramples on the instinct of self preservation of any individual, family or community. Political autonomy of the kind that was given in article 370 is a slow poison that has caused great stress to our integrity and political unity. There is no "sensible measure" in consuming arsenic in a panic reaction out of an unfounded fear that the only alternative is consumption of cyanide.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Let us forget the "Day We Want to Forget” - Response to piece by Dr Altaf Hussain


Kashmir Times published an opinion article on 16 March 2013 “Sale of Kashmir: A Day We Want to Forget” - Dr Altaf Hussain Para. The author of the article seems to have made a very selective reading of Indian History while making his assertion about the “darkest day in Kashmiri history” and his assertion that “a group of otherwise unrelated tracts were converted to form a Princely State, which had nothing in common except a ruler imposed on it, purely for political considerations”. It does not serve truth because many rulers in Indian history had formed several states by conquest or treaties. This is precisely how the Mughal Empire also came into existence. Another fact of the matter is that the strategy used by the British to extract rent from Indian rulers and conquer territory was pretty much the same throughout India. It is described in one line as "Divide and Rule".  Story of their capture of Punjab and treating Jammu and Kashmir as a vassal state was no exception and similar history can be found starting with the British capture of Bengal with the aid of Mir Jaffar in 1757.
 
People of the country have moved beyond the past because the past rulers and the British intrigues of the past are no longer relevant. After all every community or ethnic group of people can harp on the excess committed by some Maharaja or Nawab or Emperor depending on how you want to read history and how far back in history you want to go. Each one of us be it Punjabis, Gujratis, Sikhs, Bengalis, Rajputs, Malyalis or so on can cite from history how one ruler was replaced with next and how he was worse than the last and so on. The British ruled us by dividing us on religious and ethnic lines and left a parting gift of Partition of subcontinent on communal lines which lead to a million plus people who were otherwise living peacefully together getting killed in communal riots.
 
It is relevant to note that the independence of the entire subcontinent of India from the European colonizers was brought about through what is known as the Indian Independence movement. The entire population of the subcontinent became free thanks to that. The movement for creation of Pakistan was not a movement of independence of Pakistan it was a communal movement for separation and we all know the consequence. It is hence important to note that the future of the people of what is left of India lies in the best traditions of secularism, tolerance and respect for law. There is noting to be gained from the kind of article Dr Altaf Hussain Para has produced except to inflame passions and create regional divide in the minds of the people of State of J&K in terms of ethnicity and religion.
 
The state of Jammu and Kashmir on our side of LOC is a single democratic political state unit, people belonging to all ethnic groups, all religions groups are equal and have equal right to life and liberty. The present phase of violence which started in '89 will in larger context only be seen as blip in our history of coexistence in peace. Peace can only prevail in J&K and by extension in rest of India through secular traditions, tolerance and respect of law and constitution, which is the only guarantee for safety and prosperity of all communities including minority communities in any part of the country.
 
The Idea of India and the legal representation of the Idea of India which is the constitution of India is what guarantees safety and prosperity to any kind of minority or majority population in the subcontinent. From Afghanistan to Myanmar only India stands out as a country where by constitution and law minority rights are protected, stresses to this guarantee in the form of operational weakness of our democratic and administrative institutions not withstanding. No other country has managed to do this. Hopefully the people of J&K and the readers of Kashmir Times will take a more holistic approach to our shared History rather than make selective reading from it for narrow political motives.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Kashmir - Is more autonomy the solution?

When one reads about the clamor in media for implementation of more autonomy proposal from GOI interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir one wonders if more political autonomy is a solution. The real question to ask about solution for Kashmir is to ask what are the steps that need to be taken to ensure that the Kashmiri minority which has had to escape the valley and is living like internal refugees be able to return to the valley and live in peace?

There was an article published in the Greater Kashmir newspaper published in J&K under the headline "Kashmiris hate India like rats hate cats." about a statement made by one of government appointed interlocutors. There are many contradictions in those statements and the headline in the newspaper. Saying "Kashmiris hate India" is a suggestion that India and Kashmir are separate entities. Then the generalization that Kashmiris hate India is far too casual. The interlocutors could not have met each and every Kashmiri nor would they have thoroughly analyzed all the reasons and aspects of their dislike or hatred to come to the conclusion that they hate 'India' or is it that they are filled with hate thanks to certain events of their life post 1989 cycle of violence and what is needed to get them on board is 'truth and reconciliation' not appeasement by promises of autonomy which is path to further alienation and drift from the national mainstream. What exactly about India do the ones who are filled with hatred hate? Is it that India is a secular, democratic, republic which by its constitution guarantees equal rights to all irrespective to his or her background? I doubt if any Indian can hate an India built on as noble and progressive ideal like that.

When even culturally and civilizationally independent countries of world are moving closer to each and removing barriers by creating EU and APEAC, we in India who have inherited an Idea of India which was bold and unique for its time and lead to the creation of a multi-cultural pluralistic multi-religious, multi-ethnic, secular and democratic republic for the people of the subcontinent, who are tied to each other by history of coexistence and civilizational ties over several millennia are unfortunately drifting apart due to petty regionalism and communal divisions. I am in no way a so called 'Hindu Nationalist' nor am I sympathizer of a reactionary  ideology of majority domination. I am sold to the "Idea of India" as any as might exist and with the force of those credentials I have exceptions to some of the suggestions of the interlocutors report created by the team. The most exceptional was on the Idea that Jammu and Kashmir needs more autonomy. I agree to the Idea of more decentralization of governance but not more autonomy of the kind that are contained in some of the provisions of article 370 which are so divisive and so against the Idea of India that the great makers of our constitution who under grave misgivings agreed to it only as a temporary provision. I am making an assertion that if the people of J&K are alienated today it is not because of removal of autonomy it is due to the sense of separation which was unfortunately built by the existence of such a provision for a 60 years. It does not take long to see what might happen say if you apply this article 370 to any part of India. The population of that part will forever be hostage to the regional and communal strife and identity politics rather than be on path of economic prosperity. If no outsider is allowed to become a Kashmir and adopt Srinagar or Jammu or Rajauri as home because of the retrograde state subject laws that exist there then what ties with the other regions of the country do we expect. It is 60 years of drift that had to be corrected not create a recipe for more drift. If it was the partition of Bengal and the separate electorate on the basis of religion that sowed the seeds of India's partition on religious lines then it is also the kind of constitutional provisions that were created for J&K with lead to growth of separatism in the valley.

The extermist forces in Kashmir will assassinate every voice of reason and are responsible for many a deaths including that of Maulana Showkat who had raised his voice against stone pelting by youth in 2011. There is a constant propaganda  regarding various aspects of Afzal Guru case that goes on in the local Kashmir media. While it is true that his abrupt hanging and denial of the right to his family to meet him for the last time was cruel and I second some arguments about jumping the queue but I am not sure if we can sit in judgement about the merits of the pronouncement of death sentence to him. I am not sure if not executing Afzal Guru for political reasons would serve the image of justice and law in our country either. Can we trust nothing in this country not even the highest court? Can we go on delaying carrying out court judgments for political reasons? How do we propose to fight extremism? By cowing down to it or by addressing the reasons for it.

Finally I would like to say that any solution to the difficulties in Jammu and Kashmir lies in more integration not less. Sikkim  has been successfully integrated in India and is today not only showing high economic growth and lower poverty levels but is peaceful and comfortable both in its regional and national identity. The reason why the Moists extremists of Nepal were not able to fan the flames of the Greater Nepal movement is a testament to its successful integration. I am in no way expecting that the entire article 370 can be abruptly removed but giving more autonomy to the State government is certainly a step in the wrong direction. More decentralization can be attempted and the state gov can be encouraged to implement some of the panchayat governance reforms which are clearly helpful in winning the hearts and minds of the people which is quite evident from the assassination of the sarpanchs by extremist forces. We should be doing everything that the extremist forces do not want us to do while keeping in mind that we do not wish to take steps that lead to less integration.

As a thought experiment I would say what are the steps that need to be taken to ensure that the Kashmiri minority which has had to escape the valley and is living like internal refugees be able to return to the valley and live in peace. We don't need to heed to divisive forces but answer to the steps that lead to improvement of the lives of ordinary citizens and marginalize the very vocal separatist and extremist forces. In a talk show organized by noted Pakistani progressive writer and editor Tahir Gora has given a forum to Kashmiri minority and Kashmiri Muslim participants to discuss the problems of the minorities and what is the reason they feel has lead to this alienation in Kashmir. There in lies the real solution unfortunately no one in India is listening.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Idea of India and Kashmir

The separatists in Kashmir valley which gain publicity with every disturbance in Jammu and Kashmir reflect a sense of alienation which is very real in the valley. Yet every time the valley erupts a common Indian wonders why the Kashmir valley is in such a turmoil and exactly which freedom did the Kashmiris not enjoy in their history since independence that any other Indian did enjoy. In my view there have been two over lapping trends of alienation in Jammu and Kashmir. The first trend is the pre-89' trend and the second trend is the post-89' alienation. In order to exploit the pre-89 trend and the unfortunate event of the 1987 elections which were widely believed to be rigged the Pakistani establishment used its lessons from Afghanistan to engineer conditions for destabilization in the valley. When militant and terrorist activity increased and the state government appeared to be incapable of dealing with the disturbance on its own it lead to a response from central security forces and the army which unfortunately has lead to the conditions of post-89' alienation where the population of the state has begun to see themselves living under a police state with several alleged incidents of human rights abuses by the security forces which have gone unpunished.

The violence in Jammu and Kashmir and the failure of our institution to restore peace without excessive use of force leads to incidents of police shootings of protesting mobs and a cycle of violence which erupts once in a while even to this day. There have been various claims by the human rights activists in the state of events where torture, disappearances and civilian killings in crossfire have taken place. Allegation of rapes have also been made against the security forces. But these are part of the post-89' alienation. I would like to address here what has lead to this unfortunate end in the first place. This is a story of 40 years of alienation of the state and particularly the valley which became a happy hunting ground for communal extremism and Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Since independence the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been governed by a different set of laws compared to the rest of India. The fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizen of the country do not apply to the state the regressive state subject laws deny the right to 99% of Indian citizens which are not permanent residents of the state from acquiring property in the state and migrating to that state. A woman marrying a permanent resident of J&K becomes a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir but no other citizen of India except those born to permanent residents of the state can become state subjects.

Right to property of the state subjects only leads to a situation where very few Kashmirs in the valley have experienced growing up with people from the rest of India as neighbours. The Idea of India where every citizen of India can live with dignity and right to life and property requires that all citizens are treated equally before the law. The citizens of various states with varying ethnic, religious, linguistic upbringings share their future in the Idea of India in which tolerance for the other and respect for various religious and cultural traditions is a must. The Idea of India has a  natural resonance for the subcontinent which is the most diverse in the world. India is a unique country to call itself home for such a diverse groups of people. People of India have a history of coexistence over a millennia. A coexistence which has been brought about by migration and  contact over thousands of years. The republic of India has been built around this Idea of India and it forms the spirit of India.

No human is born a Muslim or a Hindu or Christian every human child has to be raised as a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian. Similarly while every child born in India to either parents being Indian citizen acquires the citizenship of India by law however he or she confers to the Idea of India when he is raised as an Indian. The child has to experience the Idea of India to be raised as an Indian that experience comes from growing up with the friends and neighbours with different background. By going to school where the Idea of India is both experienced in the form of the diversity experienced in India and also this Idea of India is taught by teachers who belong to diverse backgrounds. This is the most essential experience that when a child is deprived of, then the Idea of India does not take root in his or her mind.

Since Independence in Jammu and Kashmir the retrograde state subject laws have been perpetuated. This law was create by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in 1927 to disallow non state subjects from purchasing property. After independence the same law has resulted in denying other state residents from acquiring property in Jammu and Kashmir. In the 70's a  law was created by state government to allow resettlement of Pakistani citizens of the region of erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan's control back to the Indian state of J&K, but at the same time high walls have been created to disallow residents from other states of the country from acquiring property in the state of J&K. This highly discriminatory law has lead to a situation where an entire population of Jammu and Kashmir has been denied the experience of the Idea of India and the entire population of other states of India have been deprived of the right to become residents of J&K and participate in the economic and cultural growth of the state.

Such divisive laws and a constitution of Jammu & Kashmir which give rise to communal and identity divisions in the state have resulted in extremist forces taking over the erstwhile secular traditions of the state. Root cause of the alienation of the youth of Kashmir valley is the denial of the Indian experience of unity in diversity to them not the devolution of autonomy as is being projected by some political parties in the state.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Myths About Kashmir

I am utterly dismayed by the way foreign media and supposed foreign analysts describe the Kashmir issue and the way that they discuss it in television debates. They start with such factually incorrect assumptions about Kashmir’s history and its current problems that I wonder if any discussion or suggestions about the solution of that problem will lead us anywhere. I understand the truth is so glaring that recognizing the truth will probably make the complete mockery of the position of Pakistan and many international powers particularly the western countries, that they and their misinformed media perpetuate these myths. I wonder whey India turns out so defensive in the world in its position on J&K. As long as there is conviction amongst Indians in the Idea of India there is hardly any reason to be defensive about it, except that we were limited in our history by our resources and by being on the wrong side in terms of national self interest with the west and China. My conclusion is that in the world of international diplomacy it is not about truth but self interest and we have been collectively let down by our defensive approach in communication and diplomacy while Pakistan and its strategic friends in their single minded pursuit of self interest have managed to bog India down. This post is an effort to dispel some of these myths which have been perpetuating in the world for so long that some of them have even come back and occupied a considerable space in Indian national consciousness.

First let me address what Kashmir is in terms of the territory of Kashmir. What the world calls Kashmir is not Kashmir it is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is only a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The size of the valley of Kashmir is about 140 Km long and 32 Km wide which is comparable to the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh which is currently under Chinese occupation. The world seems to know that Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan where as the fact is that Kashmir is not divided, the entire valley of Kashmir is within the Indian side of the Line of Control, what was divided thanks to the Pakistani invasion in 1947 was the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The entire Jhelum valley which is Kashmir was completely cleared of the Pakistani invaders in 1947. In fact what Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir is not even Kashmir it is a part of Jammu which it continues to occupy after 1947 invasion.

A question is raised several times that a plebiscite promised by India on the Kashmir question was not honored. The true facts are that Kashmir became an international dispute in 1948 when India appealed to the United Nations for its intervention on the Pakistani aggression on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The fact that it was considered a dispute at all in the UN rather than an act of aggression by Pakistan continued to dismay Indian government for several years. How could the UN have considered an aggressor and a victim of aggression at par by legitimizing it as a dispute between India and Pakistan, where as it was clearly Pakistan which had attacked the state and India had gone in to defend the state after it had legally acceded to India, so it was Pakistan which was in illegal occupation of the territory when India went to the UN. Kashmir issue became and international dispute thanks to a technical error in the appeal which was filed by Sir Girija Bajpai in the UN which was filed under chapter 6 of the UN charter which deals with peaceful resolution of disputed rather than chapter 7 which deals with acts of aggression. The gross disservice done to the nation by the team filing the appeal should have been an issue of national debate and questioning but it was hardly ever raised for the last 65 years in the country. But this technical error gave Pakistan the opportunity and the western country an excuse to hide behind the technicalities of appeal in order to pursue their own national interest at the cost of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The UNSC resolution 47 which was finally passed in April of 1948 mentioned plebiscite as means to decide the fate of Kashmir but it was conditional on the Pakistani forces being removed from the region and an impartial plebiscite to be conducted under supervision Indian armed forces. Since Pakistan had no intention of withdrawing, a plebiscite could not have been held. Thanks to its aggression Pakistan had already been rewarded with a portion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmir had become and international dispute thanks to its desire to acquire more portions of the state by all means possible at its disposal.

Another myth which is perpetuated is that Jammu and Kashmir region has been a source of bitter territorial dispute between India and Pakistan for which they have gone to several wars. The assumption in any such argument is that both sides have been attempting to change the status quo on the line of control and trying to occupy territory in each others control. Where as the fact is that starting from 1947 when Pakistani invaders first attacked the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir it is Pakistan which has been trying to alter the situation by force and not India. Every invasion in the Kashmir region has been initiated by Pakistan. Pakistan thanks to its covert invasion in 1947 managed to acquire a considerable territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1965 brimming with self confidence with their plum acquisition of American Patton tanks and encouraged by the favorable outcome of Raan of Kutch invasion they planned and executed the so called Operation Gibraltar and invaded in Jammu & Kashmir. In 1971 it was Pakistan which chose to first expand the war of Bangladesh Liberation in the western sector by planned air strikes and then tank invasion to acquire territory in Kashmir by force. It was Pakistan which in 1989 chose to apply lessons learned from its Afghan operations to Jammu and Kashmir and wage a proxy war on India, they armed and trained disaffected Kashmiri youth and also Pakistanis and Afghans and other foreigners and sent them out to wage a ‘Jihad’ in J&K. In 1999 again it was the Pakistani Army which invaded and occupied mountains in Kargil on the Indian side of Line of Control and expected to get away with it thanks to its nuclear armed status. What is also pertinent to note is that in each of these instances of invasion and violence in J&K starting with 1947, the Pakistani Army has initially denied having any role to play and the west has remained silent on it (except perhaps the Kargil war of 1999) not in the interest of truth but for its own self interest.

Now let us understand Jammu and Kashmir in terms of its people. Arguments are made by Pakistan and sometimes echoed in the west that ‘Any resolution of Kashmir has to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people’. In order to understand the wishes of the Kashmiri people we have to first understand who the Kashmiri people are?  Are they only the primarily Muslim Kashmiri speaking population of the valley? Or are they the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. The thrust of the argument by Pakistan here is that the wishes of a section of the people of the Kashmir valley who are vocal in espousing the separatist cause should matter and the views of the rest of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and those in the valley who do not espouse such a cause should essentially be silenced. It should be reminded that it is a voice that the population of Jammu and Kashmir has consistently been expressing in the various elections that have taken place in the state under Indian constitution. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of the cultural diversity of Jammu and Kashmir which I have come across was in an article in Frontline Magazine in 2001 by Mr. Balraj Puri. Jammu and Kashmir in spite of no permanent immigration to that state since independence because of its special status granted to it in the constitution is one of the most diverse of all regions of India in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion and sects. How can such a region have a singular opinion on the so called resolution of Kashmir? Whose opinion matters most? The Kashmiri Muslims, the Kashmiri minority refugees, the Buddhist Ladakhis, the Muslim Ladakhis, the Pahadis, the Gujjars, the Dogras, the Sikhs? Is the future of Jammu and Kashmir to be determined by a very vocal separatist block which has also espoused to violence at the behest of their controllers in Pakistan Army and the silent majority which has consistently been expressing its opinion in the various elections in the past about trust in Indian democracy should suffer the consequence of the separatist agenda?

The real fact of Kashmir is that Kashmir is not a territorial dispute at all. Kashmir is an ideological dispute. It is a dispute between the Idea of India which is a pluralistic multi-religious, mutli-cultural, multi-ethnic, secular  democracy and the Idea of Pakistan which was based on a two nation theory which states that Muslims of India and the Hindus of India are separate nations. So the Pakistani claim on Kashmir is based on the religions identity of Kashmir where as India's claim on the state of Jammu and Kashmir is based on its identity as a mosaic of ethnic, religious and linguistic groups of people.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Our bigger defence scandal - Arjun and INSAS story

This post refers to Shekhar Gupta’s editorial “Our bigger defence scandal”(IE Feb 16). I fully agree with his call for greater private sector participation in defence production, an increase in the FDI allowed in this sector will be a welcome decision. However he has mentioned only a partial story about the Arjun Tank. The fact of today is that this tank is indeed among the best in its class and has outperformed the T72 and T90s of the Indian Army in field trials. The delay is a story of difficult development under sanctions and technology denial and also of the ever changing requirements specs of the Army. The army now claims that the tank is too heavy for its requirements so it is buying thousands of foreign T90 tanks that had poor performance in the desert heat in Indian conditions.  How come the requirement to keep the tank under a certain weight was not conveyed at the outset of the program why suddenly now these excuses are being made? Also if the tank is too heavy for our bridge infrastructure to cope with then how does the Army plan to move its Agni V and Agni VI launchers which would be much heavier. While the Army continues to bad mouth the Arjun tank it continued with its T90 purchases in spite of several issues in its trials.It has been reported that Army is also blocking further trials of Arjun in Punjab to allow the T90 purchases to go through unhindered.

A similar story is about the INSAS service rifle of the Indian army after inducting the rifle in large numbers (around 300,000) now the army is realizing that there are design flaws in the rifle and will spend Rs 10,000 crores to buy a foreign weapon. Why were these flaws not found and corrected during the prototype stage? How can such a colossal waste in case of Arjun and INSAS in particular be allowed to go unchallenged in our country? There are clearly vested interests involved. Every serious military power in the world has indigenous weapons manufacturing. No country can hope to import its way to national security as we have found in every war we were forced to fight, every time the supplier countries threatened to pull the plug on us if it did not serve their strategic interests. Failure of Arjun and INSAS are failure of India's defence ambitions.

In conclusion I would say that public sector units can perform if allowed to be run professionally and in Indian context allowed to compete and collaborate freely with private sector.  After all the Soviet and Chinese defence production was all in public sector. We can even follow the example of Singapore where the government via Temasec owns a majority stake in ST Engineering but allows it to operate like a private company staying hands off from management of the company. We need a stronger indigenous defence sector public, private or joint and perhaps we need more foreign investment in local industries but we cannot continue to rely on imports to satisfy our defence needs.