If India is to make Jammu & Kashmir love India, referendum is the only way

The Congress failed in the 50 years after Independence to win over the minds and hearts of the people of the Valley. The reconciliation process began with Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Updated: July 31, 2016 12:12 pm
P Chidambaram, Chidambaram, Indian parliament, Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir, PoK, Pakistan occupied kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Zad kashmir, Article 370, Indian independence, Pakistan, India-Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BJP, Modi, india news, indian express columns Chidambaram has now broken the silence about the original bargain. Of course, he will be criticised.

There is celebration in heaven when a single sinner repents. In Indian Parliament, there is little freedom for back benchers to speak their own mind. Yet P Chidambaram has boldly spoken the unspeakable about Kashmir. He is the first ranking member of any of the political parties to say openly that India (that is all except J&K) has reneged on the bargain the Kashmiris were promised. He was shot down for this by Ghulam Nabi Azad as not reflecting Congress policy. That alone guarantees that he was telling an unpalatable truth to his own party.

What was the bargain?

There were two steps for princely states to join the Indian Union. First was accession and then came integration. In Junagarh and Hyderabad, a popular vote cemented integration. Kashmir was also promised such a popular vote but it never happened because of the war and the ceasefire policed by the UN. Any plebiscite became impossible as both parts of J&K could not be got together. Sheikh Abdullah was put under house arrest for 11 years without trial for arguing for plebiscite.

Elections were then rigged and a pliable leadership found to do Delhi’s bidding. The entire issue of popular consultation was forgotten. Article 370 remained in the Constitution but the state lost its autonomy as defined therein. The mantra became Kashmir is an integral part of India, proof of its secularism.

The Congress failed in the 50 years after Independence to win over the minds and hearts of the people of the Valley. The reconciliation process began with Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The issue involves three parties — India, Pakistan and J&K (plus PoK?). The solution has to be sought in a two-pronged fashion — India and Pakistan and India and J&K. It is when the small number of separatists try to join up the third side — Pakistan and J&K — that India sees red. The fear of the third connection has restricted and distorted India’s efforts to win the love of the Kashmiris.

Islamist terrorism began to infiltrate in the late Eighties and has been a nagging presence ever since. Each time someone falls victim to police or Army bullet, there is a funeral procession where young people shout ‘azadi’, which leads to more deaths. Azadi is a shout not for independence from India, but for autonomy, for the status quo ante, when the head of the government was called prime minister (as were all chief ministers of provinces before 1947) and the head of the state, Sadar-i-Riyasat.

Chidambaram has now broken the silence about the original bargain. Of course, he will be criticised.

But as a former home minister as well as a member of the Cabinet in several governments, he is well aware of all the issues. There is a bold way out. That is to conduct a referendum where all the citizens of J&K have a vote, as would have happened if the maharaja had acceded in good time before the invasion from Pakistan. Ask them if they want to be integrated in the Union or be autonomous. The latter is not the same as independence but what they had between 1947 and 1953, with Article 370 restored effectively.

If India is to make J&K love India, this is the only way.

This column first appeared in the print edition under the title 'Azadi'.

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    Tony Matts
    Feb 25, 2017 at 10:22 pm
    Thinking perhaps Congress may come to power again, Chidambaram is promoting the legacy of Nehru to further mess around and create confusion about Kashmir. Coincidentally, stan Army indulges in same tactics to keep the Kashmir pot boiling for their own survival. Solving Kashmir could blow a death knell for both!!
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    1. J
      Jai Kumar
      Jul 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm
      Few simple responses look what Brexit referendum has done to U.K. Society.lt;br/gt;Second Kashmir valley is a very small part of Kashmir.lt;br/gt;It's Nehrus romanticism hat has created this non issue.lt;br/gt;Has Northern Ireland had its referendum.lt;br/gt;Lastly remove Article 370 and the Kashmir valley will be amalgamated with few hiccups.
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      1. A
        Adi
        Jul 31, 2016 at 10:29 pm
        About time that the self declared nationalists see the foreign conspiracy fuelling Desai to go on this anti-indian rant. Somehow, Kashmiri natives- be it the pundits, who were driven out, or the muslims who sta back and are paying the price by their blood everyday for more than half a century, are simply irrelevant to this discussion. The issue of Kashmir is a simple one. Ego. When some flag becomes more important than the people. When the rhetoric takes center stage. When it is suggested that somehow its justified to use brute military force against the same people that you would like to imilate, for 6 decades and counting. Its time to call the bluff.
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        1. A
          Asif Ahmad
          Sep 14, 2016 at 6:17 pm
          so top ranks start accepting it. Great #kashmirReferendum #kashmir
          Reply
          1. W
            We want
            Jul 31, 2016 at 5:41 pm
            See the mentality of people's in India even lt;br/gt; a 0% humanity they don't have because they are suffering a disease namely stanphobia. Which is I think non-treatable , what ever you have with stan please go there and kill them don't bark only this side. But free our Kashmir.
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            1. D
              Danile Xalatan
              Jul 31, 2016 at 2:57 pm
              Bakhts and 9th cl literates will oppose this because this was not in their text books and goes against their ego
              Reply
              1. S
                sachin singh
                Aug 12, 2016 at 12:55 pm
                Anyone whose area where he/she lives has: broken roads, irregular water or electricity supply, poor people, no public health care, bad public transport, garbage on the roads, violence, lack of good efficient, honest policemen, starving farmers etc etc...they should possibly shut up? If you are so nationalist and such a patriot clean up the mess in your area before commenting on Kashmir? More than 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide and no one is really doing anything for them...go on be the patriot and do something in YOUR AREA FIRST, before meddling in affairs far far away. Kashmir will look after its own needs, you make sure your area does not have a single starving or sick or uneducated child and then lets talk. For most people who never never never stepped out to support the millions who work hard and yet starve don't show your fake patriotism here on issues about Kashmir.
                Reply
                1. S
                  sachin singh
                  Aug 12, 2016 at 12:54 pm
                  Anyone whose area where he/she lives has: broken roads, irregular water or electricity supply, poor people, no public health care, bad public transport, garbage on the roads, violence, lack of good efficient, honest policemen, starving farmers etc etc...they should possibly shut up? If you are so nationalist and such a patriot clean up the mess in your area before commenting on Kashmir? More than 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide and no one is really doing anything for them...go on be the patriot and do something in YOUR AREA FIRST, before meddling in affairs far far away. Kashmir will look after its own needs, you make sure your area does not have a single starving or sick or uneducated child and then lets talk. lt;br/gt;For most people who never never never stepped out to support the millions who work hard and yet starve don't show your fake patriotism here on issues about Kashmir.
                  Reply
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