Kashmir and Chidambaram

Despite widespread fears, the Eid-ul-Zuha festival on August 12 passed offrelatively peacefully in the Kashmir Valley. Restrictions remained in place and under the watchful eyes of the security forces, people gathered in smaller mosques to offer prayers on this joyous occasion.

There were sporadic incidents of stone-throwing and sloganeering but these were controlled by the security forces. No loss of life was reported on either side.

Yet, the foreign and anti-government media chose to highlight the complete lockdown in the Valley to allege a denial of civic rights to the people.

Following the revocation of Kashmir’s special status, precautionary measures such as the denial of all communication facilities, closure of most satellite television channels, etc., was considered necessary. In a phased manner, these facilities are being restored depending on the mischief potential of each district.

In some districts near-normalcy has already returned. Considering that the anti-India campaign was concentrated mainly in five districts of Kashmir, these may be the last to get back to normal. Of course, curfew and other restrictions cannot last indefinitely.

But after the huge shock of outright deletion of Article 370 and Article 35A, and the division of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate Union Territories, people would need to channel their anger and protest.

They should be allowed to do so in a peaceful manner. You cannot beat a child and then deny it the right to cry. Certain elements in Kashmir have been wrong in waging a war against the Indian State at the instance of Pakistan.

In spite of the Indian State going out on a limb, as it were, to mollycoddle Kashmiris, the call for ‘azaadi’ was an affront to all democrats in the rest of the country.

Whether anyone likes it or not, no-one, least of all the present dispensation in New Delhi, would countenance anything that seeks to break the bond of Kashmir to this ancient land. In this context, we are glad former Union Home Minister put his finger on the real problem.

Speaking in Chennai on Monday, P Chidambaram rhetorically asked if the BJP would have still scrapped Article 370 if Hindus constituted a majority in Kashmir. Of course, it would not have.

For, if Kashmir was Hindu-majority there would have been no need in the first place for according it a special status. Chidambaram clearly recognizes that Kashmir is a problem because it is a Muslim-majority.

And drawing its sustenance from Pakistan, being an Islamic nation it claims to speak for Indian Muslims, it instigates insurrection in the Valley. Were Kashmir to be a Hindu- or a Sikh- or a Buddhist-majority, there would have been no Kashmir problem as we know it.

Given that it abuts the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, the scope for fanning jihadi fires increases manifold. Now that Chidambaram has confessed that Kashmir trouble is rooted in the religion of its majority, we may ask a question of our own:

Did Congress defy a near national consensus to vote against the scrapping of Article 370 in Parliament with an eye of the sizeable Muslim vote-bank? He need not reply; everyone knows the right answer.

Meanwhile, the frustration of the Pakistan Government in raising the Kashmir issue in the international fora suffered a further setback with Poland, the current chair of the Security Council, pouring cold water on the Pak entreaties to put it on agenda.

China, which is putting down ruthlessly the Uighur Muslims under its jackboot, and has problems in Hong Kong, is hardly in a position to lend much support to Pakistan in the matter. Russia has already made it known that the changes in Kashmir are an internal matter of India.

The US is not interested in providing succor to Pakistan when it continues its duplicitous role in bringing round the Taliban to ease the honourable exit of the Americans from Afghanistan in time for Trump to boast at the next election campaign that he has fulfilled his promise.

The UAE and the Saudis too are on record that it is an internal matter of India. Yet, there could still be some murmurs of protest in the international fora, but not such that India cannot take into its stride.

The real challenge, as we have said earlier in this space, remains domestic. It is to get Kashmiris to come to terms with the new reality. Pakistan cannot come to the rescue of the domestic insurrectionists and other elements shouting ‘azaadi’.

The destiny of Kashmiri is irretrievably linked to the destiny of over one billion Indians. Merely because they share a boundary with Pakistan they cannot think of breaking away from this country because, as Chidambaram implied in his rather indiscreet reference to the religion of the majority of people in the Valley, they are co-religionists.

Religion, unfortunately, became the basis of the Partition. It cannot be allowed to be so again. We shudder to think of the consequences for the rest of India.

By S Sadanand