The scrapping of the Special Status for Jammu and Kashmir is surely a masterstroke of the Narendra Modi government. It required a lot of courage, guts and political will to reverse the 70 years of History in J & K. However, looking at the complexities of the Valley, we cannot be sure what lies in the womb of tomorrow. Pakistan is jittery at the Indian move. Reports from journalist-friends suggest an undercurrent of restlessness in the Valley.
As I understand, history is much more than records of events. It is not, as Voltaire said once, “a pack of tricks we play upon the dead”. It is a medium that monitors and surveys events, classifies and analyses for posterity. Those who learn from history do not repeat it. Those who fail to learn are condemned to repeat it. Herein lies the tragedy of the Central establishment in New Delhi. The quality of decision-making process by Central leaders, of a complex situation in J & K has always been lopsided. We have, therefore, never been able to assess yesterday’s happenings in the light of the present.
Prime Minister Modi has apparently not allowed himself to be caged by religious considerations for separatist politics. He was apparently guided by national perspective and put a stop to the separatists’ political platform, away from the all-embracing Congress. Amidst varied factors, the seeds of separatism and terrorism in J & K were sown due to the Pakistani mindset to grab the State by hook or by crook. Regrettably, going by stray reaction of some Congress leaders, it seems that the historic party has not learnt from its past blunders.
Our leaders have made several mistakes while dealing with Kashmir. One was the delayed decision of Jawaharlal Nehru on the question of accession of Kashmir. This delay enabled Pakistan to mount aggression which subsequently resulted in the Kashmir problem.
Nehru was undoubtedly a great man, but like all great men, he had his weaknesses. His closeness to Sheikh Abdullah created a sort of “terror” in the mind of Maharaja Hari Singh, who did not want to be humiliated by the Sheikh. In any case, the Maharaja waited and watched and did nothing till the tribal raids, unleashed by Pakistan, reached at his doorsteps. The instruments of accession were subsequently signed, but at a price as Nehru was misled by his close aids.
Perhaps, the “Lion of Kashmir”, Sheikh Abdullah, was not secular in the true sense of the term. He cared little for Jammu and Ladakh or for Hindu and Buddhists. His concern was mainly for the Muslims of the Valley. He opted for the accession to India because he had no place in Pakistan, having burnt his bridges with Jinnah and other leaders of that country.
If Kashmir became a problem, it was because Indian leaders chose to live a make-believe world. We did not know how to deal with a “Muslim majority” state. We allowed personal factors to determine national issues. We thought we had to purchase the loyalty of Kashmiri Muslims by giving them concessions and concessions in the name of autonomy.
Even after the two-nation theory had brought about partition, we accepted the “separateness” of Jammu and Kashmir by instituting Article 370. This was a grave error. We went too far. We have made concessions to Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram and some other states too, but only the Kashmir Valley remained insatiable. Its plea for autonomy, over a period of time, turned into a demand for separation. It was wrong on the part of the leaders at the helm that they should have allowed passions and prejudices to have an upper hand in matters of crucial national importance. We have already paid a heavy price for our past blunders.
Ours is not an activist civilization, crusading for causes. In Kashmir, it was undue dependence on the Sheikh which brought us in a messy situation. No doubt, the Sheikh was a tall leader among his people. That was no reason to have made him a “hero”, even though he refused to be called “an Indian”. Ironically, today he is protected by an Indian regiment in his mausoleum!
In an overall perspective, the Kashmir situation is highly explosive since Pakistan, though bewildered right now, invariably plays its old games of the proxy war and tries its best to send trained militants across the border in the Valley!
The Indian establishment needs to realise that it should not be guided by dubious politicians, nor by parties solely based on a communalized thrust but by our secular ideology.
In his book ”, Prof Rasheeduddin Khan of JNU, holds that the trouble with much publicized Vedantic ideal of respect for all faiths ) is that it has led to an attempt “at fusion of religious symbols, idioms and social rituals, which has meant in effect reconciliation of multiple obscurantism and mixing of all mythologies”.
In fact politicians, who are generally ignorant on most matters, had not only confused the people but also made the usual process of adjustment – political and social – impossible. They are responsible for reducing every complex problem to simplistic terms and rituals. Take, for example the reading of scriptures from all religions at state functions.
Prof Khan says” “There can be no more spurious interpretation of secularism than this”. He further states such an interpretation does not take into account the basic difference in approach of Hinduism and semitic religions. While the electic perception of Vedantic Hinduism is based on the essential unity of all religions, the dogma of semetic religions like Islam and Christianity condemns eclecticism as heresy, he adds.
According to Prof Khan, “a more relevant strategy is to emphasise the civic secular rational ideology of political culture and statecraft and leave question of reconciliation of religions and belief patterns for voluntary social action and accommodation”.
In any case, we have to learn from past experience. We must be proud of our heritage and civilizational values. Nothing ought to be inimical to what India stands for on Kashmir. The Valley politicians also need to look at Kashmir’s past. They must not overlook India’s achievements, its understanding and tolerance which provided “space to Islam to flourish”. Even a Pakistani scholar Dr Akbar Ahmed has said that “it was in India, in contact with Hindu civilization, that Islam flowered”!
Looking beyond, there can be no shortcuts to the people’s democratic process in the Valley. Peaceful processes have to be evolved to silence the guns of Pak-sponsored militancy. For this purpose there has to be a price and determined approach to men, matters and issues. Herein lies a big challenge for the Modi government for creating Naya Kashmir.