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Between the line

The problem of Kashmir
September 11, 2013

Zubin Mehta, before leaving for Srinagar to conduct his orchestra, said: “There will be no violence.” German Ambassador Michael Steiner, who facilitated the concert, said at Srinagar that the world was watching Kashmir. Both observations have a ring of truth. The success of concert has proved that.

If New Delhi has been able to put across a message, the Hurriyat leaders have to blame themselves. They, also known as the separatists, unnecessarily made the concert an issue by playing up their boycott. If they had ignored the event, it would have passed without much notice. This was not the first concert. The late Jagajit Singh gave a gazal programme in the heart of Srinagar.

A band from Pakistan played at Srinagar other day. New Delhi was wise enough to treat it as a routine matter and gave the musicians visas. Nobody took any notice of it. The media too paid no heed. The Hurriyat, still equivocal about its demand for azaadi, voiced no protest against the Pakistan band. This only underlined the impression that the Hurriyat tended to tilt towards Pakistan.

The Hurriyat is a divided house. Some, led by Syed Shah Gillani, want the state to ‘join’ Pakistan. And the others, led by Yasin Malik, demand azaadi. Then there are those who are confused. Not long ago, when most Kashmiris, alienated from India as they are, favoured the integration with Pakistan, the Kashmiris would have voted for Pakistan if there had been a plebiscite. Today, a preponderant majority of Kashmiris, want azaadi.  Yasin Malik has been able to veer them round from being pro-Pakistan elements to making them accept the demand for an independent, sovereign state.

Yet what the Hurriyat does not realize is that azaadi is an ideal, not a feasible proposition. When the British left India in August 1947, they gave the princely states an option to stay independently and they did not want to join either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the then Jammu and Kashmir ruler, declared that he would stay independent. The land-locked state had to have the support of both India and Pakistan for access to the outside world. He did not want to depend on one.

With the Muslims in a majority in J and K, Pakistan expected its accession. When it did not take place, Pakistan sent its irregulars, backed by the regular troops. The Maharaja sought the help of India which insisted on the accession before sending its troops. He had to sign the Instrument of Accession Act.

The task of the Hurriyat is more difficult than that of the Maharaja. The two parts of the states are against azaadi. Jammu, the Hindu majority part, would like to join India. The Buddhist majority Ladakh, the other part, want to be a union territory of India. Therefore the demand for azaadi is essentially that of the valley which has nearly 98 percent of Muslims.

When India is in the midst of endeavour for polarization and when a political party is playing a Hindu card, it is difficult to imagine that the ruling Congress or any other political party, including the Communists, would support the Hurriyat. Even otherwise, all political parties are opposed to the demand for independence, although some may go to the farthest in giving powers to the state.

After 66 years of partition, the wounds inflicted because of the division have not healed yet. How does the Hurriyat expect the people in India to reconcile to another partition, however genuine and strong are the sentiments of the Kashmiris? If partition is again on the basis of religion, the secular state may not survive as it is. True, the 15 crore Muslims in India are equal citizens and they cannot be treated as hostages. But the valley’s secession may have such repercussions which are dreadful to imagine. The constitution, guaranteeing equality to all Indian citizens, may be of no avail.

India and Pakistan have fought two regular wars on Kashmir, apart from a mini misadventure in Kargil. The valley continues to remains part of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Several thousand Kashmiris have died for the cause of azaadi. For India, they were insurgents. They were crushed by the security forces which too lost thousands. Even now some militants from across the border attack some places but are rebuffed. For example, on the day of Zubin Mehta’s concert, a post of Central Reserve Police Force in the southern Kashmir was targeted with rockets. There was a hartal at Srinagar. But this exercise has been gone over by many a time before.

Yet both countries signed an agreement in 1972 at Shimla to end hostilities. They pledged to sort out their disputes, including Kashmir, through bilateral talks. This has held the ground for the last 31 years. A few meetings between the two countries have been held since. By all means they should hold further talks on Kashmir. But they cannot fructify unless one of them changes its stance. New Delhi considers Kashmir as its integral part and Pakistan would like to have the valley to merge with it. The Hurriyat continues to expect a solution which does not seem possible. Six decades have gone by. There is yet nothing on the horizon. International opinion is mute and it has left the matter for the two countries to settle.

The Hurriyat has to introspect and change its tactics. It has to prove that it counts. It should capture the state assembly if the Kashmiris are with it. It can have its own chief minister who could forcefully articulate the demand for azaadi. But does it have the following? It is easy to gather the crowd but difficult to convert it into votes.

The Hurriyat, it seems, is riding to many horses at the same time. It wants to mean everything to everybody in the valley. And then it wants Jammu and Ladakh to stay with the valley. If it wants a sway over the entire state, it should win over Jammu and Ladakh which oppose the Hurriyat tooth and nail. To represent Kashmir, it has to have Jammu and Ladakh with it. Then the Azad Kashmir under Pakistan would also listen to the Hurriyat. The valley by itself has a weak case. EOM
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