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Will Independent Kashmir Solution Work?

August 17, 2008

Today, two leading English dailies had editorial page articles exhorting independent Kashmir and plebiscite as a solution to the Kashmir problem. Vir Sanghvi in Hindustan Times asks us to think the unthinkable and Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar in his column Swaninomics in The Times of India suggests that plebiscite may just be the answer.

There are many times when I have believed that we should get rid of this problem by letter Kashmir handle things on their own. After all if there continues to be so much resistance to integration with a secular nation, then so be it. After all enough has been tried to appease the Kashmiris and the cost of keeping it together with the country is indeed too much, both in terms of money and human life. While I am no expert on the subject, it does pain me to see the gory headlines for so many years now with seemingly no solution. Much as we blame Pakistan for the Kashmir problems, we really don’t seem to have a solution. I am sure that if there is a plebiscite, there will be the small part of the Jammu and Kashmir state that will opt for either freedom or union with Pakistan. Most of the state (Jammu and Ladakh) will opt for union with India, at least that is the trend seen.

So what do we stand to lose in letter Kashmir go? The biggest is our pride. How can we just let go of what we have always believed to be an integral part of India? Kashmit’s location at the crown on India’s map makes the loss of pride even more prominent. And the fears that it will trigger many more such demands for independent. I believe that fear is not unfounded, given our history of states demanding independent or attempts and successes in redrawing many state boundaries, not to mention the name changes of cities. The growing Hindutva fundamentalism will only be fanned leading to fears of Muslim carnage and reliving the partition like massacres, again not completely unfounded. Will it lead to civil war situations in many parts of the country where Muslims are majority? It could happen, not something that is unthinkable. We may say that Indian Muslims don’t really care about Pakistan and they will accept the Kashmir solution easily. That is completely likely. But what about the Hindus? Won’t they see it as a serious pride hurting action and go on rampage? To me this is more likely scenario.

Actually it might be acceptable to let Kashmir go if it reduces the violence elsewhere in the country. Will letting Kashmir go eliminate the bomb blasts that are happening in various parts of the country? Will Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Mumbai, Delhi and even Lucknow be able to come out of the shadows of fear of bomb blasts? Is Kashmir the root cause of these blasts? See that’s the problem. We don’t know if letting Kashmir go will resolve many, if not all, of the other pain points in our multi-cultural society. It it does, my vote goes for letting Kashmir go. However I am not sure if that will happen.

So what is the solution? Is there something that can be done so that we have newspapers headlines that talk about things other than death and massacre across the country? Is there a solution that will prevent people from fighting for seemingly silly things? Neither the violence in Kashmir nor the bomb blasts across the country achieve anything other than more violence and more blasts.

The mind of the nation may say there is nothing wrong in letting Kashmir go, but the heart of the nation will resist it desperately.

So we will continue to live with deaths being reported every day. We will become even more immune to what’s happening around us. We will continue to blog, like this one, about how sad the state of affairs is and that there is no solution to these problems.

Interestingly, there was also a news item in the papers today about a man wanting divorce from his wife after living separately for 16 years.

Yet, court after court has refused to grant him divorce and legalise the separation.

This is what our relationship has been with Kashmir. Are we like the courts, who refuse to divorce Kashmir forcing Kashmir and rest of the nation to try to live amicably one more time?

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