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Overlooking The Obvious--Don?t Soft-Pedal On Kashmir PDF Print
Written by Varun Gandhi   
Sunday, 14 May 2006 00:00

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The Hurriyat is a bunch of wily non-representatives self-styling themselves as leaders and refusing to participate in the electoral process. They are completely anti-India. Yet one wonders why the government pays for their security and permits them to dine with the Pakistanis?

Why does India soft-pedal on the Kashmir issue? Is the government in a perpetual state of psychosis of losing Kashmir? India is not weak to ever lose Kashmir, neither militarily nor politically.

The Central Government has been more than generous to the State. In 2002-2003, it gave Jammu and Kashmir a grant of Rs 13,188 crore or three times more than Bihar, India's poorest State, which received Rs 4,047 crore. For the Tenth Plan, Jammu and Kashmir got a per capita allocation of Rs 14,399 whereas the national average was Rs 5,668.

A foreign power played on the Hindu-Muslim divide and Partitioned the motherland on religious grounds. But this is no 1947, and India is no longer enslaved. The only truth is that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

Those who do not believe this must be forcibly removed from India. Instead of adopting a clear strategy to resolve the issue, the government offers increasing budgetary sops to Kashmir without any accountability. It is akin to paying hafta (extortion money) to the disgruntled indulging in subversive activities. Why does India soft-pedal on the Kashmir issue? Is the government in a perpetual state of psychosis of losing Kashmir? India is not weak to ever lose Kashmir, neither militarily nor politically. Sadly, the problem could have been resolved in 1972 itself had Smt. Indira Gandhi's Principal Secretary, P.N. Haskar not applied the Treaty of Versailles logic to the Shimla Accord to avoid driving Pakistan in a corner and to accommodate Bhutto—the head of a defeated country—who hastened his country's vivisection, when he confirmed the ground-level military reality in East Pakistan, telling its leaders, tum udhar, hum idhar.

Some postulate the Kashmir problem to be due to the alienation of Kashmiris from mainstream India, I would ask, who should be blamed for this? It is a handful of Kashmiri leaders and elites who have promoted the artificial, We are different concept and fanned the evil of separatism. They are the real enemies of the Kashmiris.

Why does the government continue to romance with the Hurriyat Conference? The Hurriyat is a bunch of wily non-representatives self-styling themselves as leaders and refusing to participate in the electoral process. They are completely anti-India. Yet one wonders why the government pays for their security and permits them to dine with the Pakistanis? Hurriyat leaders like Yasin Malik, the founder of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), even effectively use the media to further their own interests. The case of Shabir Shah, a separatist leader, is another example. Media reports repeatedly refer to him as the Nelson Mandela of Kashmir. How can Shabir Shah, put behind bars for subversive anti-national activities be compared to Mandela? Has staying in jail for a couple of years become the only criterion for a public hero? Does it not matter for what reason one was put behind bars in the first place? Why does the media, give them such undue publicity?

Another misconception spread about Kashmir, is that its problem is due to neglect by the Central Government. Nothing can be farther from truth. The Central Government has been more than generous to the State. In 2002-2003, it gave Jammu and Kashmir a grant of Rs 13,188 crore, or three times more than Bihar, India's poorest State, which received Rs 4,047 crore. For the Tenth Plan, Jammu and Kashmir got a per capita allocation of Rs 14,399 whereas the national average was Rs 5,668. The Prime Minister also announced a Rs 24,000 crore economic revival plan, out of which about Rs 5,800 crore are a new addition, the remaining Rs 18,200 crore were previously committed towards ongoing power projects of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. More government jobs are available to Kashmiris than to any other Indian. Jammu and Kashmir employs 3.5 lakh people giving it a high-ratio of 34.5 government employees per 1,000 Kashmiris. On the other hand, Rajasthan, having a population five and half times larger than Jammu and Kashmir's population, employs only six lakh government employees. Even in terms of socio-economic development, Jammu and Kashmir is fairly well-placed. It's literacy, infant mortality, birth and death rates are better than most Indian states. It's per capita income of Rs 12,399 is lower than the national average of Rs 16,707 but better than Bihar's Rs 5,108 or Orissa's Rs 8,547. In the last ten years, Jammu and Kashmir's poverty level has dropped from 25.17 per cent to a mere 3.48 per cent, whereas poverty levels in India hover around 26 per cent. Kashmiris are richer than the average Indian! But when it comes to tax collection, strangely Jammu and Kashmir falls behind. In 2002-2003, it raised only Rs 936 crore by way of taxes. Even Bihar collected more at Rs 2,814 crore! The bigger share of the Rs 936 crore that was collected came from the Jammu region. Is the luxury boats' industry employing over 10,000 people and having its tourist revenue running into crores paying even a single naya paisa as service tax? Does the government keep a check on how much of this money is channelled to fund militancy? How many private doctors, traders and businessmen in Srinagar pay Income Tax? The government must get its act together bring out a White Paper on the State's administrative affairs and evolve a strategy to increase tax and revenue collection over a five-year period.

A government that cannot audit its books cannot supervise its tax collections. A government that cannot collect tax is no government! In Kashmir, government books have not been audited for over a decade. No one knows where all the money has gone. Consequently, corruption has assumed mammoth proportions. Some say, in Kashmir corruption is a greater evil than cross-border terrorism. As a result, there are hardly any public works or infrastructure developments to show. The State's roads are in a terrible condition, the power situation is miserable. Public sanitation is underdeveloped and the untreated sewage flows into the Dal Lake and drains into the Jhelum. Inspite of such utter neglect by the governmental machinery there is a massive spurt in private construction activity,and land prices have hit the roof. What has fuelled the property market? Where has this money come from, if no one, but Kashmiris are permitted to buy property? Well, almost every second new house being built is believed to belong to a government employee either directly or indirectly. Jammu and Kashmir is the prime example of "trickle down economics".

John Galbraith described trickle-down economics, it is akin to feeding race-horses high-quality oats so that the sparrows can eat the dung! Instead of fresh thinking on the Kashmir situation, this government is doing what all governments have done—putting money into the hands of those who least need it.

Has anyone questioned how much of this money has reached the Kashmiri Pundits? Jammu and Kashmir is not all about Kashmir alone? Forty per cent of it's population is Hindu, and reportedly 95 per cent of the Kashmiri Pundits have become refugees in their own country, having borne the brunt of the extremist separatism. Kashmir has witnessed the most efficient ethnic cleansing in the world since the Holocaust. Reports put the numbers of internally displaced Kashmiri Pundits at about four lakh. Instead of blindly giving grants to the Jammu and Kashmir government, the Central Government must evolve and implement a focussed economic and rehabilitation package for the Kashmiri Pundits. Give the Kashmiri Pundits proportional representation in Jammu and Kashmir based on their percentage before they were displaced. A special task force should be created by employing Kashmiri Pundit youths in paramilitary forces to protect their pockets form extremist attacks. But the government chooses to befriend the Hurriyat, and neglects the loyal Kashmiri Pundits.

Other Indian states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka are registering high rates of growth because they are all inter-connected through business networks, infrastructure networks, and links to markets and ports. Kashmir's continuous isolation is due to Article 370 that prevents any non-Kashmiri from purchasing land in Kashmir.

Under the guise of protecting Kashmiriyat ( the very essence of Kashmir), a vast number of political parties in India, driven by the evil compulsions of vote-bank politics, have deliberately labelled the demand for the abolition of this Article as a communal demand. They have linked Kashmiriyat with religion and not with culture. In fact, Article 370 remains the single greatest obstacle towards the economic development of the State. Why stop Indians from migrating into Kashmir and becoming a part of this Kashmiriyat? They play the politics of division. Instead of integrating the society, they spin their webs of illusion and lies, divide people by religion by telling the Muslims that, somehow, their rights are threatened by the abolition of Article 370. In doing so, they do a great disservice to both India and to her minorities. Such a myopic anti-progress attitude has kept the archaic Article 370 alive, and resulted in next to negligible industrialisation of Kashmir. There is no multi-national interest other than cross-border terrorism. The State misses out on investment opportunities in electronics and precision engineering, modernisation of the sports goods industry, setting up of manufacturing plants for textiles and ready made garments, and high-turnover selective mining and mineral based industries among others. Farmers' and rural empowerment is unheard of, and the Kareva-highlands growing saffron suffer from low productivity. There is also no adequate tourism promotion plan towards Kashmir projecting it as the Switzerland of the East.

Kashmiri strawberries, peaches and apples are among the best in the world, but the State lacks processing plants. Its export potential lies underutilised and underdeveloped, while neighbouring Himachal Pradesh has one of the best food processing industries. Why can't the Himachal model be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir? The inadequate road and rail infrastructure should be improved. To facilitate transport and trade with the rest of India, an alternate highway should be built into Kashmir from Himachal Pradesh. But first, the government must de-communalise Article 370 and evolve a consensus for its abolition. The Article does not behove a strong India. It is an aberration to our sense of nationhood.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a call to convert the world's highest battlefield—Siachen—into a "mountain of peace". What was the Pakistani reply? The Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani said, India committed aggression in 1983, it has to vacate the aggression to make Siachen Glacier a peaceful area. I am surprised that no one has condemned such a Pakistani response! If Pakistan considers the 1983 decision, by Smt Indira Gandhi to station Indian troops in Siachen, an aggression, then what was the 1948 attack on Kashmir—an act of brotherly love? India cannot negotiate with such an unrealistic attitude. Why is Pakistan so much after Siachen? The truth behind the Pakistani demand is strategic. If India withdraws her troops from Siachen and the Saltoro Hills, Pakistan would be able to straighten the passage from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir into Aksai-Chin (occupied by China)!

Instead of talking of troops withdrawal from Siachen, India must reorganise her security considerations in Kashmir. Instead of reducing the military, in the short-term, India must increase military presence in select areas, to restrict militant movement. In the long-term, India must aim at making Kashmir more ethnically diverse. As has been seen with China in Tibet, wherein Tibet has been populated by the Han-Chinese, thereby reducing the percentage of dissent. Similarly, industries should come up job opportunities must open up and various schemes must be launched to accommodate more non-Kashmiris into Kashmir. We must also evolve a strategy to give the army more space in regulating civilian life in Kashmir. Based on Shri KPS Gill model in dealing with terrorism in Punjab, give the army more freedom to tackle terrorism in Kashmir. If there is trouble, a solution also exists. The solution to militancy has no half-measure. It lies in making the borders and the LoC impenetrable, locating the cross-border underground tunnels, targeting the training and funding apparatus of the terrorists. A government must be realistic in accepting and implementing the solution and not idealise in vain about de-militarisation in face of unwarranted and planned cross-border terrorism.

India must change her perspective on Kashmir from an accommodating one to a pragmatic one. We should stop treating Kashmir as a Muslim buffer between India and her neighbours. Kashmir is no Bosnia, it has never been one. Kashmir is no Palestine, it shall never become one. Kashmir has always been India, and shall continue to be so. Our perspective must be centered strongly on what 100 crore patriotic Indians want, and not on what a tiny section among 40 lakh Kashmiri residents, or Pakistan wants. The demand for plebiscite is not of our generation. A large number of those alive in 1947-48 are already dead. The participation of Kashmiris in free and fair democratic Indian elections is akin to a plebiscite. Arguably, when no plebiscite was held in undivided India to ascertain the Hindu-Muslim views, how then, can a plebiscite be held as a consequence of the original question of Partition? If plebiscite had to be held, it should be held to question Partition itself—an aberration of the past 59 years—and advocate the remerging of Pakistan into the dominion of India.

Nonetheless, a Pakistani veto on Kashmir can only be removed by adopting an aggressive posture to terrorism. Having done that, the government must open up Kashmir to Indians, to the world and to industry. The calls of a pseudo-jehad provide no jobs but only death. The Hurriyat offers no employment but only false promises. What Kashmiris need is neither the Hurriyat nor the jehadis. They need the abolition of Article 370, governmental accountability, development and human security. And these are what the government has failed to deliver.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 September 2010 18:28
 

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