Sunday, September 12, 2010

A solution to the Kashmir problem - Part I

For more than two months the Kashmir Valley has been on a boil. In stones the Kashmiri youth now hold a more potent weapon in their hands than the AK 47 or 56. The script is simple - the “azaadi, azaadi” shouting youth would pelt a barrage of stones at the police and other security forces, badly bruised and hurt and more than that humiliated security forces would retaliate by hurling at them tear gas shells and finally by firing rubber and hard bullets; one or two of the stone-pelters would get killed, at their funeral the next day there would be more protests and stone throwing followed by the predictable and by now familiar police action and so the circle of violence and counter-violence would continue. International observers have started comparing what the Kashmiri youth are doing to “Intefada” of the Palestinians, the protesting youth of Kashmir have become the torch-bearers of separatism, its new icons.


The voluble but inexperienced and not-so-competent chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir is at his wits’ end and keeps rushing to New Delhi asking for help. He wants the centre to mitigate the situation by granting concessions like diluting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and if that is not possible by withdrawing it from six districts of the state where terrorist violence is on the decline, and releasing from custody the stone-pelters. New Delhi is expected to play along but the leaders of the separatists, Umar Farouq and Yasin Malik, have already rejected what they call half-measures. They demand independence from Indian rule and desire merger of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. The present government at the centre is weak and irresolute and is not able to articulate an effective policy to counter the determined separatists who have been playing to the international gallery quite successfully so far. 


The situation undoubtedly is very difficult but it is not impossible to tackle. What is required at the level of the decision makers in Delhi is absolute clarity about the issues involved, courage to put their views forward and solid determination to counter with facts and figures the separatists’ and their Pakistani handlers’ sustained campaign of misinformation. However, all that would be wasted if the central government lacked a back-bone and a political will to solve the problem once and for all.


For a start, the central government must recognize that the Kashmir problem can not be solved piecemeal, the solution may have many components but together it has to be one comprehensive solution. Further, it must understand and so declare that India’s territorial integrity can never be compromised. Jammu and Kashmir has very much been an inalienable part of India ever since its ruler, Maharaj Hari Singh, acceded to India in October 1947 and no sacrifice would be considered too great by the Indian people and government in order to keep J & K within India. Having settled this issue beyond the pale of any doubt by the separatists in the Kashmir Valley, their masters in Pakistan and the international community at large, the Indian government should get down to the task of unraveling the Kashmir tangle, and how – we shall see in the next post.

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