Kashmir is a complicated problem and it is not what I individually believe in but it is what anyone who has seen the ground reality of Kashmir will agree to. As I understand, caught amidst their respective egos, India and Pakistan are absolutely not ready to compromise on Kashmir. It seems to be a political compulsion for both of them to continue with their stringent stands. Both of them can’t simply afford any soft stands on Kashmir. Though it is not what their democracies believe in but it is absolutely due to the arrogance of political greed grooming amongst the political tribes in both the countries. They see Kashmir as one of their biggest cards in the game of politics. And for the general folks in both countries, Kashmir represents an esteemed emotion that can hardly be interpreted beyond their religious or nationalistic obsessions. For Indians, leaving Kashmir is interpreted in terms of goddess Mother India losing its head to some imaginary character like that of the Ravana from the epic Ramayan. And for Pakistan losing Kashmir is interpreted in terms of some pious Islamic empire losing one of its noble lands like ‘Mecca ’ to the so called ‘Kaffirs’ of India. It is least known to them or atleast to their respective consciousness that the land that they are talking about is just a small piece of land where around 12.55 million people have been miserably wondering from the pillars to posts crying out loudly to the world that they have been caught amidst two ego-filled giants who have been constantly crushing them. Kashmiris time and again seem to be trying their level best to show their bleeding wounds to the world. However, whether their efforts are getting any recognition at the global stages or not is another question. Now, what next? How long will the current phase of unrest and violence continue? How long will the protesting Kashmiris sustain the pellet and bullet approaches of India? How long will India keep its eyes closed or how long will it try illusionizing of global forums about Kashmir? How long will such a weak economy like Kashmir sustain such devastating upheavals? These are some of the questions that need to be thought about seriously.
As for as the phase of current crisis is concerned, I have met dozens of Kashmiris who somehow seriously feel that thistime the Kashmir issue will get an everlasting solution. I feel pity on all such people. I extend all my sympathies to them. And I wish it was the same way they are imagining. To my tiny understanding, I don’t see the current situation leading to any substantial results for Kashmir. Sushma Swaraj’s recent UNGC address should be enough to understand that. As for as Pakistan is concerned, it will continue flocking its support for Kashmir’s independence to serve its Kashmir obsessed electorate. In this situation, what I see is that Kashmir is not only losing its precious lives, it is also swooping back to its early ninety’s situation where, forget moons and stars of freedom, Kashmiris will even have to starve for the basic amenities of life. There are enough reasons that make me think so. How long will a poor Kashmiri street vendor/shopkeeper survive whose meager savings are least expected to last for more than a two to three months time? How will an apple grower survive whose year’s harvest has got spoiled without seeing the market? How will a houseboat wala survive whose boat hasn’t seen any tourists for more than two and a half months now? What will a daily laborer feed his family with when he hasn’t been able to work for such a long time? What will an auto wala or sumo wala eat when his auto or sumo hasn’t seen the roads for over two months now?
All these people live a hand to mouth situation. And there are lacks of such people in Kashmir who will soon end up losing their patience and begin challenging the very basic rules set by the perpetrators of the current crisis. That is when the ‘counter-intifada’ will start exposing its edges. Are we ready to handle that situation as the leaders or holders of separatist narrative? And as for India is concerned, how long will it continue using its brutal approaches to crush the periodic phases of Kashmir uprisings? I am sure one day most of the Indian liberals will hit the streets to register their anger against their own Indian establishment for adopting such brutal means of managing the Kashmir situation. Infact some of them have already started doing that by organizing candle marches against the recent Kashmir killings in cities like Delhi and Bangalore. Most of them carried banners and posters that read ‘Not in my name’.
So, don’t you think it has become imperative for India as well to look for an immediate solution for Kashmir? Then what is India waiting for? Why not start the process of solution finding now? For Kashmiris , I think the best thing to do at the moment would be to stop fighting the forces with stones. Kashmir has lost enough of Rasheeds and Tawseefs and can’t afford losing more. Kashmir has got enough of Inshas blinded and simply can’t afford more. They should immediately stop banging their heads into the walls so that no more heads are crushed. However, it is for the leaders of Kashmir, both from mainstream and separatist league to unite and press India for an ever lasting solution for Kashmir.
As for as the solution for Kashmir is concerned, I have a simple idea which could be the first thing to do for India to initiate the process. I have seen loads of Indians justifying their Kashmir stand in terms of the security threat that the situation of India-leaving-Kashmir might invite for them from Pakistan. They say what will happen to Kashmir once India leaves. They seem to be very sure that the moment India leaves Kashmir, Pakistan will invade and occupy it. They also believe that once India leaves Kashmir, it will be easy for Pakistan to push more and more of its terrorists into Kashmir to create unrest in India. For this very prominent argument of Indian side, I propose a simple solution.
As the reports put it, more than seven to eight lack security personnel have been placed in Kashmir. Only a small percentage of it is placed on the LOC. Rest of it is camped across various villages, towns and cities of Kashmir. As I have personally felt, Kashmiris feel themselves highly insecure and vulnerable living amidst such a tight militarized arrangement. In such situation, why can’t India ask its troops to evacuate the villages, towns and cities etc of Kashmir and move as much military as it wants, to the borders of Jammu and Kashmir? The remaining part of the security personnel could be send back to India. If the borders are secured properly, why do you need to have military in Kashmir? Make Kashmir military free and let Kashmiris run it according to their own constitution. However, if India wants, it can retain its control over things like communication and security.
This move offers a bunch of advantages for India as well as Kashmir. First, Kashmiris will be happy to see a Kashmir without any Army wala, the scene that has always reminds them of the–as Kashmiris put it–’illegal occupation’ by India. This arrangement would also allow them to live or move as freely in Kashmir as they want. Second, for India it will end the element of threat expected to come from across the borders of a free Kashmir because India would itself be guarding it. That will also keep Kashmirs towns, villages and cities terrorist-free as given a situation of no-military out there, who will terrorists fight with so why would they come. And even if anything of such sorts happens, J&K police can handle it on its own. Afterall they have proved their anti-terrorist capabilities from time to time. They have lived the terrorist situation and hence have learnt how to manage it. However, I don’t think we will have any such situations when we have more than four or five lacks of well trained Indian security personnel guarding the borders of Kashmir. Who will dare to cross the LOC in that situation unless any of our colonels or generals signs a deal with his counterparts or anyone from across the border?
Third, Kashmiris would be more than happy for having a friend like India securing its borders without charging any costs. Forth, for India the costs of maintaining Kashmir will be far lesser than what they are in the current situation. Managing three or four lack security personnel would be always cheaper than managing seven or eight lacks of them. To my understanding this move will be a new beginning for both Kashmir and India. For Kashmiris, letting them run their state according to their own constitution will provide them with the sense of independence. Let them have their own laws and regulations according to their own taste. Doing that will attract all the separatist groups towards mainstream political space in Kashmir and hence dilute the element of–what many refer to as—the second intifada. Apart from creating an ideal situation of peace and prosperity in Kashmir, this move will also be a fundamental factor in bringing up peace to the whole of Southeast Asia.
I know the solution mentioned above could also be interpreted in terms of idealism by many of us, however, for a complicated problem like Kashmir, I think it is worth jumping beyond the limits of realism and looking for all possible options in the scales of idealism as well.
Akhter Bhat, Research Scholar (PhD Journalism), University of Mumbai.