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The Union Home Minister has declared that there will soon be a “Permanent Solution” for the Kashmir problem. The declaration appears more scary than comforting!

Kashmir problem has been hanging fire since the partition of the sub-continent. In fact, the creation of the two countries itself created the problem! Kashmir as an independent sovereign country has a history of more than 5000 years. Existence of Kashmir as an independent sovereign country has been mentioned in many ancient chronicles including those of Greece, China and various Arab countries. After four centuries of subjugation by external rulers Kashmiris had a chance to reclaim their independence and sovereignty but due to their misfortune they got entangled in the sub-continent’s religious and ideological conflict for no fault of theirs. This confusion and strife of the partition years, 1947 to 1949 fully chained them in a Gordian knot which no one has been able to disentangle so far.

The “problem” has been there now for 70 years! During this period thousands of Kashmiris have been killed, thousands injured and disabled, hundreds of women have been subjected to rape and property worth billions has been destroyed. Economically Kashmiris who used to be self-sufficient have been made totally dependent on external dole. Without outside financial help, the local government is not even in a position to pay the salaries of its employees! Had Kashmir been on its own, not only would it be able to sustain the local population on the most modern lines but also extended aid to its neighbours especially in the field of hydro-electric power of which it has abundant potential.

All these years Kashmir has been used as a whipping boy by the two of its neighbours in a state of perennial conflict. It is a playground for proxy wars for both the sides. Earlier it was so called “Secular and Democratic” Republic versus the so called “Islamic Republic” with Kashmiris as guinea pigs to test the two ideologies. Now it is in the open as “Hindu Rashtra” versus the “Jihadi Pakistan”. Both appear to be totally bent upon destroying each other. On this side the Brahmins are all out to create India of the Vedic times with the Cow as their decisive symbol enabling targeting of minorities who are being hunted in every possible way. The other side controlled by the Feudal Landlords for whom the extremists have become totally uncontrollable. Kashmir’s misfortune is to have been caught between the two bulls. As they say if the two bulls fight, the grass gets trampled and if the bulls make love, the grass stillgets trampled.

In such a situation what could be the permanent solution? The way things are happening one is very scarily reminded of the Hitler’s final solution of the Jewish problem which resulted in the holocaust of which Auschwitz is an example. One hopes the Union Home Minister is not thinking on the same lines for Kashmiris? Some of the recent moves give a creeping feeling of the worst still to come! Pitting the world’s third largest Army against just a couple of hundred militants amounts to using a wild elephant for killing a group ofants with tremendous collateral damage. It becomes what the Army Chief has called a “Dirty War”! Normally, the main principle of counter insurgency is based on the premise that a militant or a guerrilla fighter is like a fish which moves in water. The aim is to take way the water by winning over the people. Here, the reverse is happening. The anti-insurgency operations are providing the “Fish” more and more fresh water!

If the final and permanent solution is to crush people physically and economically, then the authors of that solution need to study the 5000 year old history of Kashmir. Mughals annexed Kashmirto their empire, then Afghans took itand after them the Sikhs annexed it to their empire. Ultimately, the British sold it to Dogras for their loyalty to defeat the Sikhs. All these Empires have disappeared and vanished into thin air but the Kashmiris are still there! Had Indian sub-continent not been partitioned, Kashmiris might have regained their independence and sovereignty. Even after partition, Kashmir could have been an ideal meeting point for the two conflicting ideologies had the leaders on two sides been intelligent and sincere to their own people. Kashmir Valley was the only place in the entire sub-continent which did not have any communal or religious conflict. The people here had been living for centuries with mutual amity and brotherhood.

Even now, the most ideal and sensible permanent solution could be to convert Kashmir into a real and genuine meeting point for all its warring neighbours as the Switzerland has been in Europe through the two world wars! It would be a more sensible and permanent solution than trampling the entire land along with its population through wild elephants. One needs to remember an African saying about the Elephants and the Ants. An Elephants trunk is a truly remarkable organ but it becomes its Achilles heels when dealing with an angry colony of ants. These ants can kill the elephant if these climb into his trunk. The elephant dies by smashing its head against the rocks as these ants make it go mad”!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir

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