Since Muzamil Jaleel is an award-winning journalist, I read his recent piece (IE, August 12) titled ‘What Kashmir says’ carefully to understand what new light he wants to shed. But I failed to understand how the solutions hinted at by him are going to solve the current Jammu & Kashmir imbroglio. I had the same feeling when I was listening to the latest debate in Rajya Sabha on the Kashmir situation a few days ago. All non-NDA parties were clamouring only for dialogue and a healing touch, Jaleel seems more forthcoming and blunt in suggesting that “New Delhi must accept and engage with the evident reality that a vast majority of Kashmiris don’t want to be a part of India.” What is this “New Delhi”? Is Srinagar a foreign capital? Does he mean that we should allow Kashmir to secede?
Let’s deal with the advice for engagement first. Advising dialogue is easier said than done. But nobody says with whom and on what issues dialogue should happen. Firstly, let’s discuss the much talked about cause of secession. All those who harbour some sympathy for the secessionists must understand well that Articles 3, 5 and 147 of the constitution of J&K — adopted by the people of the state — foreclose this option. Remember, J&K is a part of India not just because India wants it that way but also because the people of the state too had decided the same way and that too years before the state’s constitution was adopted 1957.
Even if the unfounded and debatable claims of Jaleel about the so-called vast majority of Kashmiris not wanting to be a part of India is considered factual for the sake of debate, there are questions galore. What is the basis for this presumption? Will Jammu and Ladakh also go with this secessionist streak? Besides, can state assemblies constitutionally take decisions on redrawing national boundaries? And should the Indian parliament accept this? Will it not endanger the unity of the Republic of India?
One fails to understand what are the other options available to the Modi government, or for that matter any other government, at the Centre. All governments have been working within the framework of our constitution which provides no room for any response other than what Modi gave. Healing touch, dialogue and engagement are all nice terms but how can any government heal wounds, mostly self-inflicted, repeatedly by a section of the people? It is fashionable to attack the security forces working in conflict areas, but to forget what the army and security forces did for our brethren in the Valley during the 2014 floods is just ingratitude.
It would be naive to believe that all stone-pelters are capable of understanding the concept of freedom in whose name they claim to fight. Is it not a fact that only children belonging to economically weaker sections are lured by and eventually sucked into the organised industry of stone pelting? Again, if it’s really a question of catering to the aspirations of the people of the Kashmir valley, why has the 14 per cent population of Scheduled Tribes in the state been deprived of a quota in electoral positions? Kashmiriyat is important, but is it larger than Hindustaniyat or Bharatiyata? And what about Jammuiyat or Ladakhiyat? If a huge non-Jammu-region population can freely settle itself down at Bathindi near Jammu, why aren’t non-Valley Kashmiris able to gather the courage to settle down near Srinagar?
All right thinking people, who want to see J&K prosper like other parts of India, want equal azadi for them. Democracy with development is the only way to make that happen. But it must be understood that democracy is not mobocracy, violence mongering and arson is not a freedom struggle and hundreds of stone-pelters can’t be allowed to hijack the development agenda of a large section of people in J&K.
To those elected representatives who succumb to so-called populist pressures, Edmund Burke’s advice is worth pondering: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only but his judgment and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Those talking in the name of the so-called “vast majority” in Kashmir should understand that the “will of the people” — in this case, undoubtedly doubtful — cannot necessarily be equated with the “good of the people”. And believe me, this is “What the nation (J&K included) says”.