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.

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