Nothing is ever new in Kashmir and nothing ever changes. Every party, whether local to J&K or from the Rest of India (ROI), has failed to either win the support of the people or to contain the dissidents of one colour or another. J&K remains the only state where ROI needs to send delegations of MPs (obviously they never visit the state on their own) or interlocutors ( whose reports are invariably ignored). In no other state in ROI, mobile phones are jammed if the PM is visiting.
J&K (or rather K alone, not J) is an orphan child. The only reason why India hangs on to it is because Pakistan covets it. Ever since the first India-Pakistan war soon after Independence, Kashmir has never been at peace. Jawaharlal Nehru put Sheikh Abdullah in prison without trial in 1953, and kept him there for ages while Delhi manipulated who ruled in the state. It became a ‘guided democracy’.
Jammu used to be less troubled, but then, since the late 1980s, it has also been miserable. Add to that Islamist terrorism imported from Pakistan or local homegrown for the last 30 years.
Compulsions in Delhi have mattered more than the sentiments of people on the ground. Of course, each party blames the others, at least while it is out of power in Delhi.
There is no point in going on doing the same thing again and again, though that is all everyone will do. There will be Governor’s rule at least till the general election, whenever it is. We will then get another coalition from the mix of the NC, PDP, BJP, Congress. The coalition will come to power but not last five years. There will be no difference in the number of civilians or soldiers or police killed, plus the usual tally of terrorists. Pakistan will be blamed as will the local dissidents. TV news channels will wax eloquent. And so it will go on.
We need to think not just outside the box but to throw the box away. How about testing opinion in the state as to whether people of J&K like being in the Union? Truly speaking, they have never been asked in a clean honest referendum. Forget the UN Resolution and the promise to hold a plebiscite in the whole (undivided) J&K. That’s now impossible since Pakistan has ceded some territory to China in settlement of a border dispute. China is not likely to cede it back. The whole territory as of 1948 can no longer be consulted now.
A referendum in the Indian part of J&K should ask the people a simple question: Do you wish to stay in India or not? The referendum should be held in each region of the state: Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. The votes should be counted in each region separately.
Everyone in India is agreed that the dissidents are a tiny minority. If we genuinely believe that, it should be easy to test that proposition. It cannot be that India would have held on to J&K against the wishes of its people. Those who want out will be shown to be a minority.
No such referendum will be held. J&K is an integral part of India. The bloodshed will continue.
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