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  • Writer's picturePancham Oza

The Kashmir Conundrum

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

While discussing any such sensitive topic, I feel it is important to get a clear understanding of the key words used in the discussion. Because the reader and the writer might have different interpretations of a particular word or phrase. And that may lead to chaos. Throughout this article, whenever I am talking about Kashmir or Kashmiris, I exclude certain people from these Umbrella terms. I exclude all the separatist groups, parties, their leaders and followers. I exclude all the stone-pelters who sell their souls and loyalty for a few hundred rupees (for whatever reasons). I exclude all those who join the funeral procession of a terrorist like Burhan Wani and make a hero out of him and such other terrorists. I exclude all those who supposedly give shelter to these terrorists in their homes and mosques. And lastly, I exclude all those who committed (or supported) all the atrocities in the world on Kashmiri Hindus thirty years back. But oh. Did I just exclude almost the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir? I am sure I didn’t.

the Kashmir conundrum

It has been more than one year since the Articles 370 and 35A were abrogated, thereby converting the state of J&K into two Union Territories. As a result of this measure, J&K entered into a lockdown much before the rest of India, albeit for different reasons! Needless to say, the economic losses to J&K have been disproportionately higher / bigger. Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry reports that more than 4 lakh people in the erstwhile state have lost jobs since August 5 last year and the economy has suffered a loss of over 40,000 crores. The tourist footfall has drastically decreased due to heightened tensions throughout the year. There are many such facts and figures coming out that portray a grim picture of the valley in the last one year or so. It makes me wonder though, whether one year is enough to gauge the success or otherwise of a move of such a scale in the toughest of times this country has ever seen. Would it be fair to compare seventy years of J&K with Article 370 to one year without it?

In the last one year, I see so many intellectuals worried about the state of affairs in J&K. People like Arundhati Roy are now worried about the ‘cultural erasure’ that has taken place in the valley in the last year. Maybe she wasn’t born or was too young when 5,00,000 of native Kashmiri Hindus were forced to move out of their own state by ‘just a handful of disgruntled youth’. Or maybe she thinks not all ‘cultural erasures’ are bad. People like her also bicker over the assertion that this move completed the process of integration of the state with India. I don’t think anybody said that. This move has definitely started the process of integration of the state, which can be completed in due course, in spite of Roy and her friends creating all possible obstacles. Because these people feed on such issues. This is aptly conveyed by Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpai) in the film Aiyaary, “When so many people are benefitting from a problem, you do not solve it, instead you endure it. Kashmir is not the name of a place, it is a full-scale industry, lots of shops thrive here.” If such issues are resolved, these shops of intellectuals and political parties in the region will run out of business. They will have to continue creating issues out of thin air to thrive.

The Kashmir Conundrum

One more argument is the detention of leaders of different political parties functioning in J&K. How can the Government detain the leaders without any charges? While I am strongly against the prolonged detention of political leaders, we must understand that these are the same leaders who openly proclaimed that Article 370 can never be abrogated. These are the same leaders who said that either keep 370 or see a separate Kashmir. Don’t you think that these leaders will do everything in their control (and so much was in fact, in their control, at least till now) to prove this move wrong? So, let's first be sure whom we are fighting for. Just because we don’t like a person with Kurta and a long beard, we must not speak in the language of separatists unless like the British and other foreign invaders, we also believe that India is just a collective of many independent nations which has to break someday.

(Today, Gupkar Declaration signatories, including National Conference President Farooq Abdullah and PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti, reiterated their commitment to restore Articles 370 and 35A. Saying that any division of the state of J&K is “unacceptable” to them, the leaders added, “We unanimously reiterate that there can be “nothing about us without us”.)

Yes, the schools have been closed. Yes, the businesses are shut. Yes, the tourism sector has suffered a huge setback. Yes, the internet is restricted. But I believe this is too early to judge the success or failure of this move based only on the developmental aspect of the region. As Lt. General Syed Ata Hasnain (retd.) says It’s an expression of naiveté that instead of attempting to comprehend the level to which the eco-system of separatism and terrorism is being progressively marginalised by these decisions, observers do a bean count of welfare projects and development in the very first year to determine success; there will be enough opportunities for stock taking of these in years that follow.” I couldn’t agree more.

Having said this, I also think that the ultimate litmus test of this move will only be the development of this state in the medium to long run. We have to look at the 5-year or 10-year horizon to see the fruits of this move. In the coming years, the Government must be ready to do everything possible to complete the process of integration of the state into India, eradicate separatist and terrorist activities from the valley and economically develop the region into a forward-looking and prosperous one. Not to forget the safe and sound return of Kashmiri Hindus in the valley. If this happens, I am sure that most of the people excluded by me in the first paragraph will become proud Indians like the rest of us. The likes of Roy may still be unhappy, as they probably have a different dream for Kashmir and the rest of India. But let’s keep that for some other time.

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