For an abiding solution of the Kashmir problem Kashmiriat--a happy synthesis of Saivism and Sufism, Islam and Hinduism, must be accorded a dignified space.
Madan G. Gandhi
President, Gandhi Earth Vision Foundation
KASHMIR IMBROGLIO: DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES
The valley of Kashmir looks celestial, nestling picturesquely as it does, against the backdrop of the Himalayas. Its splendour and serenity is simply divine. As is wont, most beautiful countries have often lured predators and marauders of various hues from far off places bringing a lot of misery for its inhabitants and turning such heavens on earth into homes of tragedy. This valley, set in emeralds, too over the centuries paid for her beauty.
Accessible through over twenty passes providing points of entry to this valley, Kashmir's apparent impregnability could not save it against the depredations of many gun-totting adventurers and malcontents.
For the last fifty five years Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan, the two largest countries of the South Asian sub-continent. It remains one of the oldest unresolved problems. It is commonly captioned as a time-bomb, a flash-point for nuclear confrontation, a disputed legacy, a valley in crossfire, a wounded civilization.
The creation of Pakistan was made possible by using the religious idiom to forge an ideology of religious communalism as the basis of the new nation-state. Though this was a false consciousness, it possessed the minds of the people for a while and howsoever truncated and inadequate, it created a sense of nationhood. Once an identity came into being it needed an adversary to keep it going. Hence hate-India mentality became essential to sustain its new-found identity. The millennia old-shared culture, language and ethnicity were suppressed and religion became the sole sheet-anchor of the state policy. India, on the other hand, under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi held fast to Sarv Dharm Sam Bhava and the ancient Indian spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam or Earth is one family. As a result, despite the division of the sub-continent on the basis of religion, a vast majority of muslims chose to stay as Indian citizens instead of going with Pakistan and did not buy the argument of two-nation theory. They preferred the democratic secular and pluralistic India where they have lived in communal peace and harmony since many centuries.
Undeniably mass mobilization in the name of religion is easy to be done but it in turn negates the national identity thereby accentuating the intra-communal discord. A stage is reached when the religious zealots in respective communities come to control the levers of power and political destinies of their peoples. Most regrettably this is currently happening in India too. In this we are going counter to our age-old tradition of universal brotherhood, diversity in unity, tolerance and communal harmony. In a country of multi-layered and criss-crossing identities like India, secularism must remain the ruling credo and needs to be sedulously fostered among the people.
Here it would be pertinent to address the Kashmir problem from diverse perspectives including the conversion of the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir into an International Border. For this would entail neither transfer of population nor surrender of any additional territory and this could well serve an ethnic and linguistic frontier.
The other option involves holding a referendum in the midst of continuing cross-border terrorism, proxy war and induction of fideiheins and militants on such a large scale in the valley from across the border and is hence not deemed practicable. If the choice is given to the people of Kashmir, they might opt for an independent Kashmir or even trifurcation of Kashmir. Any one side losing the vote will nurse a permanent grouse and be at the destabilizing game.
In regard to the option of an independent Kashmir it may be said that it may easily become a fertile ground for great nations' rivalries in the sub-continent and will not be acceptable to the people of Jammu and Leh-Ladakh region. This will also not address the problem of the Kashmiri- speaking Hindus or Pandits who were driven out of their hearths and homes in Kashmir and who now vociferously demand a homeland in the valley with a union-territory status.
Another proposal envisages a phased withdrawal of troops by both countries and disarming of Kashmir- and -Pakistan-based militants culminating in a referendum in fifteen years and the process to be supervised by the U. N. Committee. This proposal is too far-fetched and ignores the ground reality. This implies a solution beyond the Simla Agreement involving a third party intervention which the Indian side will never accept.
Similarly the proposal to redraw boundaries of Kashmir on religious lines by taking the river Chinab as a natural border is fraught with dangerous pertents of re-enacting the scenes of the large waves of migrations causing untold misery to the people and even leading to widespread violence and bloodshed on communal lines.
As is evident from the British Foreign Office files, both the United States and Britain were, soon after the Indo-China war, urging India and Pakistan to find a partition solution. Britain shot the US proposal for an independent Kashmir for fear that Russia and China would bring the new sovereign state under the communist influence. Soviets too disapproved the idea of independent Kashmir for fear that the US might use it as a base. The partition plan remained a non-starter.
Another proposal favours converting the valley into a sovereign entity with free access to and from both sides of India and Pakistan. And the part of Jammu and Kashmir constituted into a new state will be under an internationally monitored agreement involving the Kashmiri people, India and Pakistan. On all matters other than defense and foreign affairs, this new state will have the authority to legislate. This proposal assumes joint funding of defense and foreign affairs and congruence of world views in matters of foreign policy. The present line of control will remain unchanged but the entire area of this entity will be turned into a demilitarized zone.
Kashmir imbroglio has been in the grievous grip of intrigues, diplomatic deceptions and manipulations in which the poor people of the sub-continent have been made to suffer the most and Kashmir bled white for over half a century. The senseless killings of innocent people in crossfire between militants and security forces have deepened the sense of alienation and helplessness of the people in the valley. The real breakthrough can come if we all make a common cause against the problems of illiteracy, backwardness, poverty and emerging fundamentalism that is creating hell in the sub continent and not letting the people live in peace. The on-going arms race between India and Pakistan will do no good but give a fillip to belligerency and disproportionate defense spending. It will generate fear-psychosis among the people and resurrect the prospects of thermonuclear confrontation between the two fraternal countries with spillover effects on other countries of South Asia.
Only peaceful dialogue, multi-track diplomacy and spirit of reconciliation and accommodation will help contribute to its solution. For an abiding solution of the Kashmir problem Kashmiriat--a happy synthesis of Saivism and Sufism, Islam and Hinduism, must be accorded a dignified space. In this scenario there is a need of coming together of all lovers of humane values of civilization to blaze the path in this fast deterioting environment of nihilism, darkness and despair and write a new history of a democratic secular confederal subcontinent, true to the dream of Indian seers and sufi saints.