As Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, giving special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir stands abrogated and Jammu and Kashmir overnight becomes two Union Territories, I recall the first time I visited the state on an army junket.
General after army general would say, “Give us the political will and we will bring PoK back to India in 48 hours, the rest of Pakistan within a week.”
In my naivetè as a club reporter, I believed them then. But as I grew into an understanding of statecraft, I realised it was not a question of political will alone. Even the army generals had no wish to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio.
While he was speaking in Parliament, I noticed something that Amit Shah said – we have sent Crores of Rupees to Kashmir but the money has all disappeared because there is so much unchecked corruption. The autonomy of the state insulates it from agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation– now there will be more control over the finances.
Control. I thought that was the key word for Jammu and Kashmir. All sorts of control. Not just financial. My later study of Jammu and Kashmir taught me many things – that both in India and Pakistan, the state is all about control and that is what it was always ever about.
Neither the Indians nor the Pakistanis ever wanted to lose control – and that is what would happen if the Jammu and Kashmir issue would be settled amicably. But much of this issue of control and corruption also has less to do with politicians on either side of the border than with the two armies - both get highly funded with unaccountable money that helps to keep their home fires burning. But for that they have to keep Kashmir burning and that is why I knew long ago there would never be a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.
However, over the decades, the state had settled into a groove with democratically elected governments and separatists not making much headway. Now, I am afraid, the Kashmir valley might be alienated again for no people can be integrated with a nation at gunpoint.
Kashmir, as a Muslim majority state, has always been important to India as a living example of the negation of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's two-nations theory.
However, one tends to forget that the two-nations theory was first propagated by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and even before him by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. I have always insisted that if the kind of upper caste majoritarian paranoia of Mukherjee and his cohorts had not prevailed, Bengal would never have been partitioned and so, never, would have India.
But Mukherjee, as the founder of the Jan Sangh, is after all the progenitor of the current dispensation which, though propagating Akhand Bharat from the rooftops, nonetheless acts in a fashion that could inevitably lead to another partition of India – not just to the west but also the east which also has many states with special status like Jammu and Kashmir, where there is more insurgency than Kashmir ever had and whose people are more ethnically different from India but of one with China. These factors will inevitably put pressure on India's fabric to our own detriment.
But I guess it is the word “special" that irritates the current dispensation more and is the key reason why the government has violated the terms of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir.
This also has to be seen in conjunction with its triple talaq bill a few weeks ago which was absolutely needless in view of the Supreme Court having outlawed triple talaq much earlier and it affecting not too many Muslims either. As I have written before, triple talaq was practised in India by only Sunni Muslims and that, too, by the Hanafis among them. They were thus a miniscule minority within a minority. So why did the government take so much pleasure in putting the noses of these Muslims out of joint?.
It has to do with the word ‘special’. Every minority community has a special status in every country of the world, as indeed even Hindus do in nations like the United States and United Kingdom. But now with the triple talaq bill and with the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the ruling dispensation is telling the Muslims of this country, “You are not special anymore.”
In some ways, I believe, the Muslims may have brought this upon themselves, not now but historically. Jinnah picked up on Savarkar's two-nation theory and insisted on Pakistan without giving a thought to the loss of bargaining power of his community in the event of Partition.
Had they stayed with India, we would have had five Muslim chief ministers in the states of Bengal, Kashmir, Punjab, North West Frontier Province and Sindh. That is more than the collective bargaining power of the southern states or even the north eastern states, given their geographical spread and the population of these states
Now, though there are more Muslims in Bangladesh and India than in Pakistan, the Indian Muslims are left with no bargaining power at all, even in a state like Kashmir where they are the ethnic and religious majority – that was of value when successive governments believed in secularism. But when a government whose core belief is Hindu majoritarianism is in residence, Muslims are now having to suffer more than just the loss of territory or bargaining power.
Yet, from my interactions with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, I can say that no government can hope to control the state with arbitrary diktats from New Delhi or Islamabad. When I had visited the borders with Pakistan, one Kashmiri had taken me atop a hill and asked me to cast my eye across PoK territory.
I did not find anything remiss but then he pointed to the tens of ugly green-coloured mosques dotting the Pak side of the border and then asked me to turn around and spot one similar mosque on the Indian side. I couldn’t see even one.
“That is the difference between them and us. They (Pakistani government) have imposed themselves on our brothers that side. Here the Indian government leaves us free to live our lives the way we want to. There is talk of Azadi but even if we get Azadi, I think I would much prefer to live under the shadow of India rather than align with Pakistan."
I wonder if he still might tilt towards India today. That India tilt is what the Modi Government has now put at risk.