My op-ed in Mint: A new compact with Jammu & Kashmir

More than self-determination for the disaffected, India as a whole needs a dispensation where individual rights and freedoms are truly respected

A version of the following was published in Mint today.

Public consciousness in India received a rude shock a few weeks ago when public demonstrations erupted first in the Kashmir valley, and then in Jammu. For a public fed with accounts of a peace process with Pakistan, talks with Kashmiri separatists and a decrease in terrorism in the state, this return to a “1989-like atmosphere” was sudden enough to be incomprehensible. Coupled with a very sophisticated psychological operation (psy-ops) from Kashmiri separatists—and one that was met with a paralytic silence from the UPA government—this resulted some commentators despondently suggesting that it is time to “let go” of Kashmir.

But surely, it was always unrealistic to expect that just over five years of the Mufti-Azad government would reverse the impact of two decades of a violent proxy war that sharpened the differences between Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri on the one hand, and Muslim and non-Muslim on the other. Since 2002, the geopolitical environment compelled Pakistan and the separatists to lie low, for their old formulations found no purchase in the wake of 9/11. The moment this began to change, politics in Kashmir took a turn for the worse. Kashmir’s mainstream politicians, being bandwagoners, could always be counted on to join the side they thought was winning.

But how did they arrive at this conclusion? Well, because of a highly successful psy-ops that transformed concerns over a temporary transfer of uninhabitable land in remote snow-covered mountains into a narrative of a demographic invasion by ‘Hindu’ Indians. In a single masterstroke, this achieved something that two decades of militancy had failed to: generating ill-will for the Kashmiris among the Indian people. Kashmiris came out not so much to protest against the land transfer, but against a diabolic Hindu plan to reduce them to a minority in their own state. Non-Kashmiris saw this as a sign of Kashmiri religious intolerance. This led to, on the one hand, protests by the Hindu community in Jammu, and on the other, to suggestions that allowing Kashmir to secede would not be a bad idea at all. The UPA government in New Delhi was a feeble, non-entity in the entire affair. For instance, it took over 10 days to announce that Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz was not killed, as had been projected earlier, by Indian security forces at protest march. By the time M K Narayanan announced this, more damage had been done.

But let there be no mistake: there is a great affective divide between the Kashmiri people and the rest of India. The solution, however, is not secession. Advocates of a plebiscite and secession have a duty to articulate what happens next—to Kashmir and to the rest of India. The valley’s independence or integration with Pakistan will not miraculously solve the underlying problem. It will only cause its reconfiguration: from a domestic problem to an international dispute. And can any serious advocate of a plebiscite, leave alone secession, plausibly argue that such a move will be free of the immense human tragedy that characterised drawing of new international borders in the subcontinent in 1947 and 1971?

In fact, the idea of self-determination is a deeply illiberal one. An independent Kashmir or one that joins Pakistan will certainly have a fraction of people who are unhappy with their rulers. What of them? Will they in turn be given a right to self-determination, or forced to live in ghetto-like enclaves, or worse, subjected to ethnic cleansing?

What else would secession mean? Quite likely, Kashmir will come under the sway of a Taliban-like regime; or under a puppet regime that serves as the agent of regional and foreign powers; or under authoritarian rulers like those in Central Asia; or all of the above. One thing it will not become is Switzerland. What this implies for India is that the costs will not go away—they will mount. As for Kashmiris, self-determination is no guarantee that they will not be ruled against theirwills.

More than self-determination for the disaffected, India as a whole needs a dispensation where individual rights and freedoms are truly respected. The crisis in Kashmir is a urgent reminder of the need for a process of national reconciliation based on principles that are already enshrined in the Indian constitution.

Equality of all citizens is India’s strongest appeal. But the special circumstances of Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to India might well require maintaining the extraordinary constitutional arrangements that the state enjoys. While it is for the state government to realise that discriminatory property ownership laws are part of the problem, the Centre should refrain from creating quotidian inequalities—like waiving the need for Kashmiris to have passports while traveling across the Line of Control. Apart from violating the principle of equality, these contribute to India sliding down the slippery slope of estrangement.

Could anyone have blamed the Indian state if it had stayed out of managing religious shrines and pilgrimages? Here is a secular state that concerns itself with transfer of land to a religious institution which it manages. Here is a state that, among others, builds special airport terminals for Muslim pilgrims and accomodation on snow-capped mountains for Hindu ones. Getting the state out of religious affairs is generally a good idea. In the case of Jammu & Kashmir it is one of the most credible ways to take the wind out of the separatists’ sails.

Instead of expanding economic freedom of ordinary Kashmiris, the current pattern of gigantic fiscal transfers and state-driven projects only manages to enrich the political elite. This must change. Also India must unilaterally liberalise trade with Pakistan, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. [See ‘No Kashmir for peace process’, Mint, 14 March 2007]

So there is much that India can do without having to engage the duplicitous Hurriyat. But how does one defuse the immediate crisis? This is a good time for the Indian government to institute a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation process in the state. This will need the Hurriyat to play ball, but New Delhi could take the first step. Done right, it will not only provide a way out of the unholy mess, but truly begin bridging the affective divide.

Copyright © 2007 HT Media All Rights Reserved

51 thoughts on “My op-ed in Mint: A new compact with Jammu & Kashmir”

  1. A pretty good article Nitin, although your solution sounds more like the appeasement policy already perfected by the Indian state.

    The problem is no-one in India wants to confront the Kashmir question. Not the state or the people. They just wish Kashmir goes away from news and is laid on the table of someone else. Or just hope time buries the separatist movement. I guess there is no fierce urgency to address the aspirations of several generations of Kashmiris.

    The only credible solution discussed by leaders who have dared to address the Kashmir problem in over two decades (Vajpayee and Musharraf) did go on the lines of psedo-independence. But alas, in this country, pragmatists who suggest self-determination are labeled despondent at best and anti-national at worst. Wonder how Vajpayee-Musharraf could have succeeded in this environment.

  2. Balaji

    I guess there is no fierce urgency to address the aspirations of several generations of Kashmiris.

    As if there is any fierce urgency to address the aspirations of several generations of Indians in general.

  3. Balaji,
    Please help me understand how can it be moral to demand the right to secede for a people who, little less than two decades ago, so capriciously trampled the rights of nearly half a million Kashmiris whose only fault was loyalty to their country and not facing West while praying.

    And in case you forgot, those Kashmiris, a majority of whom are still rotting in refugee camps in Jammu [you should visit them sometime], happen to be the aborigines of Kashmir.

  4. “Geelani, Mirwaiz Farooq arrested”

    Sounds like one of those headlines from 30s and 40s – “Gandhi and Pandit Nehru arrested ahead of a protest rally called by the Congress”.

    If nothing else, the government is providing a nice teaching tool for history teachers across the country. Students can study the Indian Independence movement with a live example rather than as some distant event buried in history text books.

  5. Good article Nitin!

    Refreshingly different from the mainstream thinking that “freedom is the best option to 1) get rid of this issue or 2) solve kashmir issue

    But I guess there is a massive move to mobilise public opinion towards giving freedom or at least a referendum. Inactive govt coupled with very very active media which is campaigning for the so-called liberal idea of freedom, which as you have pointed out is doing injustice to many who may not want that freedom.

    Why aren’t any of the MPs, MLAs, Ministers making any public statement for assuring the nation that nothing would happen in Kashmir and peace would be restored? Why isn’t PM making any public statements?

  6. Mohan,
    As Nitin pointed out in another thread, Gandhi and Nehru didn’t do the things after ethnically cleansing white Britons from India at gun point. That makes a lot of difference.
    I am sure the Father of the Nation must be turning in his grave.

  7. Mohan,

    There is no moral equivalence between the Indian freedom movement and the activities of the Mirwaiz & Co. Looking at mere headlines and arriving at this conclusion demonstrates flippancy and shallowness, not great insight.

    For instance, I’d like to see a single person from the Hurriyat declare that armed violence has no place in their struggle—much less halt the entire struggle because one violent mob torched a police station. Show me one single leader among the Hurriyat who would walk into the middle of a communal riot and fast to death until the riots stopped. What place do Shias, Hindus, Sikhs and others will have in the Kashmir Mr Geelani wants to rule? I’d say that trying to equate Gandhi and the likes of Mirwaiz merely because they use the same word is repugnant.

    You are right in one thing: India is not doing a good job in teaching the history of our independence movement.

  8. Nitin

    This whole thing is now falling like dominoes. All those yarns started by terrorists organizations like Hurriyat were a lot of poppycock:

    1. Jaitley cleared the air over the so called blockade, live talking to KT, there was disruption because of the Bandh first in Kashmir valley then Jammu
    2. Further, more Jaitley also made a startling expose, that it is not the apple season at all.
    3. That Sheikh fellow was murdered by his own cohorts to gain more notoriety to the whole thing.

    Also, I fail to understand that why are we reading so much about the MUSLIM numbers protesting against India? Why are we believeing in this dhimmimedia? For this crisis I have made it a point to read the J & K newspapers : Daily Excelsior, Jammu and Kashmir Herald,Srinagar.

    The fact remains that the separatists are a minority within this minority. Fruit growers are dead against the idea of seccesion from India, they reason, that where would they get a ready market of 100 crore people.

    I woudnt read much into this number game, projected by the dhimmimedia.

  9. >>“Geelani, Mirwaiz Farooq arrested”

    >> Sounds like one of those headlines from 30s and 40s – “Gandhi and Pandit Nehru arrested ahead of a protest rally called by the Congress”.

    Comrade Mohan,

    The above is good flame-bait, but very poor knowledge of history. I suggest that you read Gandhi’s “my experiments with truth”.

    Let us look at the cast of actors on the side of the separatists. It consists not only of terrorists who kill innocents in order to get their 72 houris, but also of dangerous, even if entertaining, characters like Comrade Drama Queen who, when they are not grabbing tribal land in Pachmarhi, advocate “armed struggle” — that is, murder and blood bath. I don’t know how you got into your head the weird idea that Gandhi supported murder and bloodbath. Perhaps you’re confusing him with Stalin.

  10. >>In fact, the idea of self-determination is a deeply illiberal one. An independent Kashmir or one that joins Pakistan will certainly have a fraction of people who are unhappy with their rulers. What of them? Will they in turn be given a right to self-determination, or forced to live in ghetto-like enclaves, or worse, subjected to ethnic cleansing?

    The problem is a larger fraction of people of Kashmir are unhappy with the current rulers. Hence it is a liberal solution to state secession. But a liberal solution is not always the right one or the palatable one.

    I do not see secession as a solution to Kashmir. What is more likely and viable is grant greater autonomy (esp. in civilian affairs)and show the economic benefits of sticking with India as compared to Pak/independence. We are a gaint market for whatever services or products they produce. We also pump enough cash in the form of government aid. What we need is some Kashmiri party/forum pushing the benefits that Indian union provices to them.

  11. Dark Lord,

    The problem is a larger fraction of people of Kashmir are unhappy with the current rulers. Hence it is a liberal solution to state secession.

    No it is not. Liberalism is not about the tyranny of the majority, but rather, the protection of the freedom of the individual in the face of the tyranny of the majority. Because self-determination implies giving in to the wishes of a group (albeit a majority), it is an illiberal idea.

    I am also not convinced that “greater autonomy” is in itself a solution. What it means in practice is important. If “greater autonomy” to J&K state results in ensuring that there is greater respect for equality, secularism and economic freedom, then it’s a good idea. If it only means that it will become a political fief, discriminates against Indian citizens and reinforces isolation, then it’s not a good thing at all.

  12. Murali, Nitin,

    Sure there are differences. But there are also similarities, more than we in India care to acknowledge. So far the movement has been portrayed as just terrorism, ISI handiwork, etc. Last few weeks have shown an entirely different picture.

    Whether Geelani can be compared with Gandhi or not, but the Indian government is doing a pretty good imitation of the British Indian government. Where was the need to impose curfew and shoot at the protesters when last week’s rallies had passed off peacefully? Are we scared of peaceful demonstrations also now?

  13. Mohan,

    First you imply that Geelani and Mirwaiz Farooq are comparable to Gandhi and Nehru. When challenged to prove this, you back off and claim that the question remains open (whether or not…). So do you admit there is a difference, or not?

    Now let’s take your new claim: that the Indian government is imitating the British Indian government? Really, perhaps by firing on a huge crowd as in Amritsar 1919? Even Arundhati Roy, in her latest article in Outlook says that the security forces did not fire on the protestors. So yours fact itself are not correct.

    But let’s look at the morality. Is every government that uses force to control mobs the same? So what do you think a government must do when a huge mob disrupts law and order? The difference is one of legitimacy: there is a huge moral difference between the use of force by a legitimately elected government of a democratic state and that by an imperial government. Now, you might say that the Indian government is an imperial government. That is nice as polemic; but that position is factually wrong.

    What do you know about the situation on the ground that makes you so sure that a curfew and firing was unnecessary?

  14. >>No it is not. Liberalism is not about the tyranny of the majority, but rather, the protection of the freedom of the individual in the face of the tyranny of the majority. Because self-determination implies giving in to the wishes of a group (albeit a majority), it is an illiberal idea.

    I am confused. I agree that liberalism implies freedom of individual(in the face of tyranny/harassment/discrimnation of manjority/government/big bro etc). But when you say self-determination here, are you restricting to Kashmir (given the expected consequences of secession)? Your reasoning for self determination being illeberial implies all moves for self-determination are illiberal.

  15. Dark Lord,

    Yes. I’m saying that all moves for self-determination are illiberal because self-determination is usually sought based on some kind of a group identity.

    Thinking aloud, the exception to this is when self-determination results in a constitutional set-up where rights of the individual are upheld. But a priori, how do you know? Look at the countries that achieved self-determination after World War II. Not a great advertisement for individual freedoms, I would say.

  16. Nitin,

    > So do you admit there is a difference, or not?

    I did say there are differences.

    > Even Arundhati Roy, in her latest article in Outlook says that the security forces did not fire on the protestors. So yours fact itself are not correct.

    I was referring to today’s firing.

    > Is every government that uses force to control mobs the same? So what do you think a government > must do when a huge mob disrupts law and order?

    Except, as I said, last week’s rallies had passed off peacefully, so there was nothing to suggest that today’s rally was going to turn violent. What disruption of law and order are we talking about? If government’s reasoning is that a huge crowd gathering peacefully in a ground disrupts normal life, then how have they improved it by imposing curfew?

  17. @Mohan,

    No, no. Let’s take a step back dude. If I’m asked to decide between believing the chaps whose job depends on it versus some bloke who reveals a disturbing lack of ability to distinguish right from wrong, there’s no question who I’ll choose.

    If you have some gyan besides trying to establish a counterfactual, do let it on. I can’t believe people on this blog are taking your arguments seriously!

  18. In this entire ‘conversation’, so to say, Shri Mohan alone displays grit, courage, integrity, clarity, intellectual heft, tenacity, a peerless combination of pragmatism and principle, idealism and ideation, compassion and craft, etc.

    By going against the grain, he has d0ne yeoman ser-vice to every true Kashmiri freedom fighter fighting the evil, realist, impe-realist fascist military occupational power.

    He alone has been wise and reasonable, open-minded and persuasive, con-ascending and radiant admist egregious name-calling (‘comrade’?) and venom by a gang-up of paid agents fr the said imperial power.

    He merits the salutation of crores of liberals in Pakistan and India. Salaam namaste, gr8 one.

    /
    “Whew”.

    Now, can we get back to topic please?

  19. Nitin:

    More than self-determination for the disaffected, India as a whole needs a dispensation where individual rights and freedoms are truly respected. The crisis in Kashmir is a urgent reminder of the need for a process of national reconciliation based on principles that are already enshrined in the Indian constitution.

    This part of your piece needs more attention and traction. Kashmir may be a special case with an international history, but were Assam and Punjab really that different other than that. Or the continued strife in the NE. What about Naxals? Gujjars in Rajasthan, Hindu-Muslim problem in Gujarat, Singur & Nadigram in WB and so on. The list goes on.

    As you have rightly brought out–
    This is a good time for the Indian government to institute a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation process in the state.

    The debate has so far been struck on the agenda set by the Arundhatis and Sanghvis. Even here at this blogpost, most commenters are refusing to look at the path ahead and stuck in the old paradigm. The need is to debate the Truth and Reconciliation commission.

    For eg., who heads such a commission? Does it need an act of parliament or a civil society movement? There can be many more questions about the proposal that needs to be vigorously debated.

  20. @Sud: Heh.. do you keep this comment in stock? Didn’t you say almost exactly the same words to some other commentator recently?

  21. Nitin: you’re falling into the trap of appeasing Mohan that you’re usually positioning against. It’d be interesting, instead, to explore Pragmatic’s questions about the structure of Truth and Reconciliation. This reader is skeptical that it will work with Hurriyat anywhere near it that has so much invested in conflict. Takes 2 hands to clap – I do not see the other hand.

  22. Among all the discussion on the subject; not just here but on several other blogs, news papers etc.; I find a curious absence of our Prime Minister (apart from his mumbling on the Independence Day)and his Government. Hope he is not pre-occupied with the events unfolding in Vienna and Washington.

  23. 1. Kashmiris are not special. Unfortunately, the vocal ones at least seem to think they are.
    2. As is very clear from this, the problem lies with people in the Kashmir Valley, not J&K
    in general.
    3. The valley has systematically been ethnically cleansed. The current population distribution
    in the valley is going to be the basis for separatist claims. Incidentally the separatists
    are among the ones primarily responsible for this ethnic cleansing.
    4. Kashmir already has special rights in the Union. Try buying land there.
    5. The appropriate solution to this is economic and demographic. Get rid of Art.370
    of the constitution, and allow for people from outside to buy land or settle in
    the valley.
    6. The legitimization of the current separatist claims will make it a lot easier for
    any random group in India to claim independance.

  24. “No it is not. Liberalism is not about the tyranny of the majority, but rather, the protection of the freedom of the individual in the face of the tyranny of the majority.”

    For the last 61 years, Nitin, Kashmiris have not got that protection from the Indian army. That is why you are worried that in a plebiscite, they will reject India. Self-determination will be more liberal than this continued oppression.

    “I’m saying that all moves for self-determination are illiberal because self-determination is usually sought based on some kind of a group identity.”

    Bringing Kashmir into India was also on the basis of “some kind of a group identity.” That was also illiberal then? For God’s sake, your whole blog is about “the national interest”. That isn’t based on group identity? Is that also illiberal then? I’m glad to see such a frank admission…

  25. Amit,

    For the last 61 years, Nitin, Kashmiris have not got that protection from the Indian army. That is why you are worried that in a plebiscite, they will reject India. Self-determination will be more liberal than this continued oppression.

    Let us, for the sake of argument, accept that Kashmiris didn’t have their rights protected. You still have to make a case why an independent/Pakistani Kashmir will be more liberal than status quo, and more liberal than is possible in future if it remains part of India. Shouldn’t you be devoting your energies in trying to make sure that the Indian state protects their liberties than throwing them to what is certainly an illiberal cesspool?

    Bringing Kashmir into India was also on the basis of “some kind of a group identity.” That was also illiberal then?

    Not quite sure what you mean here. If there was a “group identity” used to bring Kashmir in, then do tell us what it was.

    For God’s sake, your whole blog is about “the national interest”. That isn’t based on group identity? Is that also illiberal then? I’m glad to see such a frank admission…

    Where did I say that The Acorn or The Indian National Interest, or indeed my own arguments in the op-ed comply to classical liberalism? My point is simply that self-determination is an illiberal idea. That doesn’t mean I am a classical liberal. I said that because many of those arguing for self-determination (eg Swaminathan Aiyar) do so citing liberalism.

    So where do I stand, you ask? Here is the frank admission you wanted.

  26. Shouldn’t you be devoting your energies in trying to make sure that the Indian state protects their liberties than throwing them to what is certainly an illiberal cesspool?

    They haven’t done this for six decades, and are making no promises to that effect now. So why should the people of Kashmir harbour any hopes from them?

    “Not quite sure what you mean here. If there was a “group identity” used to bring Kashmir in, then do tell us what it was.”

    India.

  27. Amit,

    So why should the people of Kashmir harbour any hopes from them?

    My question was directed at you. If you prefer to give up, then you are bringing about that very outcome.

    If there was a “group identity” used to bring Kashmir in, then do tell us what it was.”

    India.

    Yes. National self-determination was an illiberal idea. How can it not be? It was thanks to the Indian Constitution that the resulting nation state announced that it was a liberal democracy, and tried to be one, by and large. Look at other products of national self-determination, and see how much liberty their citizens have today.

    But it does not follow that reversing the process will therefore be justified on liberal grounds.

  28. Amit,
    There is a compact between a govt and its citizens. The compact is that the citizenry are guaranteed their rights when they agree not to commit violence against the state, or against their fellow citizens. Kashmir has not been exactly a place where violence against the state does not exist. Attempts by the state to ensure the basic security environment required for govts to be formed and civil liberties to be fully exercised have been thwarted repeatedly. Finally, there is the little problem of ethnic cleansing of fellow Kashmiris.
    What the current round of violence and trouble makes quite clear is the remarkably self serving nature of the Kashmiri polity. They want “liberty” from India for all of J&K under the guise of a separate “Kashmiriyat” identity, but clearly people outside the valley don’t want anything to do with this. It has become pretty evident that the argument for separatism is a communal one, and people in Jammu and Ladakh don’t believe that their rights and protections would be safe in an entity separate from India. So, answer me this, do you think it is worthwhile supporting a polity that has either openly or covertly supported the religious targeting of minorities in the valley, because of their dubious claims to self determination and violations of civil liberties? What would your stand be if the Hindu majority in Gujarat systematically drives out the muslim population and then asks for self determination? If Tamils feel oppressed and decide they want a separate state?

    Govts, even democratic, are inherently violent and oppressive, since one of their jobs is enforcement. They also are entities who constantly attempt to increase their power and authority over the citizenry. Democracy is but an imperfect solution to satisfy the dual goals of having a consensual social body that enforces basic laws that maintain stability and order, while at the same time making sure that no single group of individuals have complete and untrammeled access to power. When the writ of Govt is threatened at the level it is in places like J&K, parts of the North east, and increasingly parts of Bihar and West Bengal, its response is pretty visceral, and in the basic language of govts anywhere-force. The truth is that civil liberties have a cost to them in reality, and the cost is to accept the writ of an authority like the Govt (in this case the Govt of India). If Kashmir gets independence tomorrow, the average Kashmiri will still have to live with this reality and make this tradeoff.

  29. Amit,
    I have been trying to get an answer to my question below for several days now, from Balaji, Mohan or anybody else. Hope you will oblige.

    How can it be moral or liberal to demand the right to self determination for a people who, a little less than two decades ago, carried out the ethnic cleansing of their state’s largest minority?

  30. Amit,
    Also I forgot to mention that this line: “For the last 61 years, Nitin, Kashmiris have not got that protection from the Indian army” is a canard. J&K has been under regular rule by elected state govts for a large proportion of the 61 years that you mention. The army’s presence in J&K has been prominent only since the early 90’s, and this only because the Kashmiris were unable to run their state properly without resorting to violence against the
    State.

  31. Nitin

    “My question was directed at you. If you prefer to give up, then you are bringing about that very outcome.”

    Well, the people of Kashmir have certainly given up, and the Indian state isn’t even trying. It’s you who are indulging in wishful thinking.

    “National self-determination was an illiberal idea. How can it not be? It was thanks to the Indian Constitution that the resulting nation state announced that it was a liberal democracy, and tried to be one, by and large.”

    It wasn’t me but you who said that self-determination on the basis of group identity is illiberal. Your sarcasm, thus, is directed at yourself.

    Trilok,

    “How can it be moral or liberal to demand the right to self determination for a people who, a little less than two decades ago, carried out the ethnic cleansing of their state’s largest minority?”

    The people asking for self-determination are the same people who carried out the ethnic cleansing? Do you maintain a register? Can I see the names please?

    Krishna,

    “J&K has been under regular rule by elected state govts for a large proportion of the 61 years that you mention. The army’s presence in J&K has been prominent only since the early 90’s, and this only because the Kashmiris were unable to run their state properly without resorting to violence against the State.”

    Suggestion 1: instead of armchair-theorizing, go to Kashmir and speak to people there about their experiences. Suggestion 2: read some histories of Kashmir to find out what actually has been happening there since 1945.

  32. Amit,
    You are being childish.
    I can very easily respond with – The people who,you claim, are asking for “self determination” are just a vocal minority whose leadership is on the Pakistani payroll.
    No reasonable person, except you and Arundhati Roy of course, can expect a nation to hold referendums whenever a bunch of thugs gather a few thousand people and have them shout anti-nation slogans.
    Any local politician worth his salt can gather a few hundred thousand people in India and have them shout pro or anti Unicorn slogans.

    Now, can you please respond to my query seriously, please.

  33. Amit

    Well, the people of Kashmir have certainly given up, and the Indian state isn’t even trying. It’s you who are indulging in wishful thinking.

    My question was directed at you. My point is that if you give up the Indian state won’t even try.

    As for wishful thinking, why you might have said that about Punjab in 1985. Or Mizoram in the 1970s.

    It wasn’t me but you who said that self-determination on the basis of group identity is illiberal. Your sarcasm, thus, is directed at yourself.

    Where’s the sarcasm? If you have read the previous comments on this thread, I have argued that self-determination—even in the case of Indian independence—is an illiberal idea. Why you find this sarcastic?

  34. Hey Amit,
    Next time somebody in your presence says that, Narendra Modi is responsible for killing a thousand Muslims in Gujarat, I hope you respond with, “did you maintain a register?”, “can i see that list” “did you see Modi kill anybody?”

    I just couldn’t resist.

  35. Trilok

    “I can very easily respond with – The people who,you claim, are asking for “self determination” are just a vocal minority whose leadership is on the Pakistani payroll.”

    A vocal minority, you think? I’m assuming you haven’t been to Kashmir recently. Correct?

    And if it’s just a minority, hold the plebiscite — if you’re right, Kashmiris will choose India, and the debate ends forever.

    “How can it be moral or liberal to demand the right to self determination for a people who, a little less than two decades ago, carried out the ethnic cleansing of their state’s largest minority?”

    As you lack the ability to understand sarcasm, let me try a straight answer to this question: It’s as ridiculous to deny the people of Kashmir a referendum on the grounds that some of them persecuted Kashmiri Pundits as it would be to throw all Gujarati Hindus into jail because of the Gujarat riots of 2002. Compendre? You might have several valid reasons for feeling that there should be no plebiscite in Kashmir, but the treatment of the Pundits is not one of them.

    Nitin,

    “My question was directed at you. My point is that if you give up the Indian state won’t even try.”

    Damn, am I so important? My name must be Manmohan, not Amit. I mean, Sonia.

    “If you have read the previous comments on this thread, I have argued that self-determination—even in the case of Indian independence—is an illiberal idea. Why you find this sarcastic?”

    Ok, I misread the sarcasm. So let me get this right: You feel that:

    a] There should be no self-determination is Kashmir because it would be illiberal

    b] India’s independence was illiberal

    So, if you could be transported back to 1946, would you oppose India’s independence as well, on the same grounds as now?

    I’m really beginning to like you now. You’re a funny guy.

  36. Amit,

    Nitin is not arguing that there should be no self-determination in Kashmir because it would be illiberal. His reasons for opposing self-determination in Kashmir have nothing to do with liberalism or illiberalism. He is only saying that those who are asking for self-determination citing liberalism are on shaky ground because self-determination itself is an illiberal idea.

    For what it is worth, I am on your side on this debate. Just wanted to point out that you have misunderstood Nitin’s point and wanted to cut short the cycle of rebuttals.

  37. People,

    If you must mention visiting a place in a discussion, at least give some facts that came to light during your visit.

    Merely hinting that you’ve visited a place adds no value to the discussion whatsoever. Plus, let me assure you that mentioning your visit does not give you any aura of authority in other people’s eyes. Most of us get turned off from the discussion because of such poor attempts at argument-by-authority.

  38. Mohan,

    Thanks. That’s an accurate summary of my arguments.

    And Amit, yes, I think you are important. All of us are important. If you believe you are not, you will never be. This may sound like something out of those self-help books, but I feel most of us are taking the lazy route to citizenship. We just expect the Indian state to miraculously, of its own volition, do this and that. So we expect the Indian state to uphold individual liberties in Kashmir, but what do we do to push it in this direction? Ask yourself. [This is not a personal comment, I don’t know you, and you might well have done something. The point is, in general, we don’t take citizenship seriously]. And when faced with a crisis in Kashmir, we advise “letting them go”, as if that will somehow improve matters.

  39. The award of land to the shrine board – the protest in kashmir regarding this “demographic invasion” – the subsequent surrender to fundamentalists – the retaliation in Jammu – the fiction of “economic blockade” – the lying and the duplicity of kashmiri politicians – the very provocative “Jaan denge par zameen nahin denge” spoken right inside our own Sansad Bhavan – and now all these gentlemen and gentleladies coming out of the woodwork, gently one by one, advocating Azaadi for kashmir – the smug fool swaminathan aiyar, the idiot socialite editor vir sanghvi with his clueless wife, the amits and navneets on this forum, the bird brain and career activist roy, the entire JNU-Jamia gang of “secular-liberals”.

    It all seems like a story straight out of a bad B grader hindi movie. The print of which we forgot to burn back in 1948.

  40. Amit,
    Your non response is very illuminating. You made the contention regarding 60 years of Indian army dominance in J&K, so the onus is on you to prove these assertions. I am quite aware of Kashmiri history, and I know that there are Indian citizens who have become refugees in their own country. Something you have conveniently forgotten, and refused to address. Your reference to visiting places and speaking to people is hardly the basis for a cogent argument.
    Essentially your argument boils down to 1) the Indian army has been oppressing Kashmiris, 2) they don’t want to be a part of India, so 3) they should be allowed to secede. This is an intellectually lazy argument, pretty devoid of any serious factual basis. In addition, it ignores 1) the long history of terrorist activities in J&K, actively abetted by the worthies in the Hurriyat conference, who also espouse “independence”,
    2) the systematic ethnic cleansing of fellow Kashmiris of the wrong religion in the valley, 3)the fact that people in Jammu and Ladakh don’t appear to have any interest in such an agenda.

  41. Comrade Amit Mohan Chorakkot,

    >>The people asking for self-determination are the same people who carried out the ethnic cleansing? Do you maintain a register?

    Yes we have a register. The names of all those who live in refugee camps in Jammu figure there.

    How do _you_ know that the people that drove Hindus out are NOT the same people that the victims point fingers at?

  42. Amit,

    The Gujarat analogy would only hold if:

    a) Gujarat’s Hindus had targeted their state’s Muslims for ethnic cleansing without any provocation. I.E. No Godhra.

    b) Gujarati Hindus had actually ethnically cleansed their state of almost all Muslims.

    I guess you are unable to come with a rational answer to my query. Typical.

  43. Amit,
    Even John Rawls denied the right to secede to those who had subjugated or persecuted other people.

  44. I disagree. Assymetrical federalism, reccognition of the unique nature of specific areas, differential treatment of citizens — all of these are effective tools in addressing regional aspirations around the world, and have generally been more successful in defusing violence than a French-style approach of citizen-equality.

    It is illiberal. So what. Group identity is real, not an irrational figment, and attempting to impose liberal individualistic policies (like your land purchase argument) on collective-oriented societies is stupid. To coin a phrase, it is not reality-based.

  45. Ikram,

    Indeed. The secessionists themselves are making the case based on group identity arguments. I do not agree with them, but I can appreciate that it is an honest articulation of their position. My critique is against those who presume to use classical liberalism to argue the case for secession.

    As for whether unequal rights and discriminatory citizenship helps, well, let’s see (a) the emperical evidence and (b) it’s applicability in this context.

  46. One of the arguments made here seem to imply that separation for self-determination is a bad idea because the people seeking self determination may be illiberal, or more illiberal. That is not always a certainty though in the case of Kashmir valley it may be very likely. The contra case is India itself separating from British. For all its faults independent India is (and has mostly been) much more liberal than the British colonial rule.

    Also, this idea seems to be akin to Churchill’s rationale to deny India’s independence – Indians cannot rule themselves and will tear each other apart. Therefore they need to ruled by British civilization ( I might the exact quote wrong). All these years of Indian democracy proves that wrong.

    Note that I am not saying about the morality of Kashmir’s independence or its costs to India – an article by Mukul Kesavan on Indian identity in a Kolkatta newspaper explains it extremely well. What I want to point out is that the presumed bad behavior of group is not valid argument against their wish for self determination.

  47. @Ramana

    For Gods sake, there must be some prima facie basis in comparing 2 movements. You compare a movement led by such great visionaries like Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel and a galaxy of other stalwarts with these moronic, quasi-islamofascists who keep blaberring about kashmiriyat without the remotest idea as to what they would do once they acheive their “Azadi” !! then reach a conclusion that if India can survive as a demcracy, there is agood chance that kashmir too can – PREPOSTEROUS – thats the word. The former set were fired by a consructive and progressive vision for the country and they stuck to some core principles to achieve the objective. Remember, what Gandhiji did after Chauri Chowra – thats called standing upto one’s principles. Or how the leadership stuck to their secular principles despite the death of a million people due to religious riots in 1947. Democracy doesnt happen by accident as you seem to think. It happens because the underlying movement is led by great leaders, noble principles and leaders who are willing to stick to those principles, whatever the cost. The contrast with the kashmiri movement couldnt be starker. What did they do when the Kashmiri pandits were chased out of the valley? And does atleast one leader have the moral courage to say that the current agitation against the land allocation is morally wrong? At the same time, these guys shamelessly espouse the merits of secularism! If a movement has such narrow minded , intellectually and morally bankrupt people as their leaders, you can bet that nothing good can come out of giving them freedom.
    BTW, Churchill was partially right – look at Paksitan and Bangladesh. These were part of the larger Indian society upto 1947 – ever wondered why these two are almost failed states while India continues to be a vibrant democracy?

  48. Sai,

    Yes, t here is definitely no comparison between the movement led by Gandhi and the agitation in Kashmir. For that matter, Gandhi’s movement is morally superior to other independence movements in its approach. For example, the US independence movement led to an actual killing war. Resulted in a pretty liberal state ,though. But I was not comparing the two movements in any way.

    The argument is not about the “moronic, quasi-islamofascists…”. It is the set of people who identify themselves as Kashmiris and ‘completely different than Indian’. For most part India accepted and encouraged group identity (think state re-organization), and that has greatly contributed to the multicultural quilt that is India. If Kashmir valley is biggest exception and they think that they are not only different but also subjugated then saying that “your” leadership violently fights against “us” and therefore “you” do not deserve anything is not the strongest.

  49. How come a whole lot of pragmatic/liberal intellectuals start sounding like a bunch of ignorant emotional fools, when it comes to Kashmir? It seriously baffle me!

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