Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Aug 06, 2016
Kashmir: No algorithm for Azadi

The road between objectivity and subjectivity is perilous, strewn with imponderables. Obviously the prism that one views things from also matters. The thinly veiled allure of Azadi now believed to be stark and programming the subconscious of the unemployed youth in Kashmir remains a distant dream, for in the collision of two worlds — Hindustan and Pakistan — it is the Muslims of Kashmir who are sacrificial lambs. On examining the granularity, one discovers that the Sunni Muslims of Kashmir are holding the state to ransom. What is this Azadi that the separatists are seeking? What are its narrow contours? Is this concept limited by geographical boundaries or economic limitations? Is this really feasible when you are fenced in? Maharaja Hari Singh and his PM Ram Chandra Kak flirted with the idea just as Sheikh Abdullah contemplated an Asian Switzerland in the 1960s. Hari Singh thought his State could remain independent and thus made a hash of things by waiting interminably. Sheikh allied with Nehru to build a secular Jammu & Kashmir and then probably had a change of heart. The insular and bigoted Kashmiri ultras led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani forget that Kashmir Valley has no way out or in, it is a cul de sac controlled by India of which the State is a sovereign part. A cul de sac where their misplaced aspirations and priorities lie trapped. Living in a make-belief world, these Kashmiris with warped minds who espouse the cause of freedom in the Valley forget that India has moral, legal and constitutional validity over the state. Geelani and his cohorts need to understand that there is no algorithm for Azadi.

The total population of the state of Jammu & Kashmir as per the 2011 census is 1.25 crore with Kashmir Valley having the largest chunk of 69.08 lakh, while Jammu Division is 53.50 lakh and Ladakh division just a meagre 2.90 lakh. Now, let us do a deep dive into this concentric circle and scrutinise the data. Contrary to popular and widespread perception, separatism as a sentiment is narrow and limited to Sunni Muslims who constitute approximately 23 percent of the state's population. It is this Sunni block which controls Kashmiri politics and forms the rump of the Hurriyat as well. Look at the facts — Ladakh with 58 percent of the area has three percent of the population, while Jammu has 26 percent of the area and 45 percent of the population and Kashmir Valley has the least amount of land — 16 percent of the area, but 52 percent of the population. As many as 15 percent of the state's Muslims live in the Jammu and Ladakh divisions and harbour no sentiment of self determination. About 14 percent of the people in Kashmir division are the nomadic pastoral Gujjar and Bakarwal community. Ditto for them and their vote for India. Finally, there is the minority Shia population numbering close to 15 lakh or roughly 14% of the entire state population. They lives in a handful of pockets in Kashmir. In Srinagar, for instance, they are mostly confined to Dal (Mir Behri), Zadibal and Shalimar areas. Budgam is the only town in the Valley where Shias form a majority and they have traditionally shunned separatism.

The total area of the state is 222,236 sq km. It remains India's only Muslim majority state with a Muslim population of 68.3 percent, 28.4 percent Hindus, 1.9 percent Sikhs, 0.9 percent Buddhists and 0.3 percent Christians. Along with Srinagar, there are 10 districts in the Kashmir division — Ganderbal, Budgam, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwana, Shopian, Baramulla, Bandipura and Kupwara. The state, in all, has 22 districts and militancy is limited to Kashmir Valley alone. Obviously this 222,236 sq km doesn't include  78,114 sq km under the administration of Pakistan (POK), 5180 sq km handed over by Pakistan to China and 37,555 sq km under the administration of China in Ladakh district.

Now let us get down to the brass tacks — who wants Azadi? The state of J&K was bigger than France on October 26, 1947. Separatists sitting in Srinagar are delusional when they think that they control the 10 districts which comprise the Valley of Kashmir or that they represent the Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir. Of the total state of J&K, Kashmir Valley is a puny 15,938 sq km hemmed in on the southwest by the Pir Panjal Range and on the northeast by the main Himalayas range. Also known as the Jhelum Valley, the river flows out from the spring at Verinag in Anantnag district, passes through this Valley at a very slow speed and ultimately flows out through a narrow gorge at Baramulla. Districts of Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kupwara and Pulwama lie in this valley. At best, it is 135 km long and 32 km wide of flat upland bowl of lakes and orchards rimmed in by alpine peaks. The fountainhead of secession remains Srinagar where the separatists live and practice their dishonest craft. Other than these saboteurs, a vast majority of Kashmiris living even in the Valley aren't convinced that they want independence.

Moreover, as one saw in the aftermath of the Amarnath Yatra fiasco in 2008, the economic blockade brought about by The Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti in Jammu crippled the Valley completely. It brought the state to the brink as the BJP and its affiliates cut off the Valley's lifeline — the Jammu-Srinagar road, leaving the PDP-Congress coalition in tatters. PDP pulled out on the emotive issue and CM Ghulam Nabi Azad quit on the floor of the house. Things precipitated  and went out of control as PDP and Hurriyat leaders gave a contrarian call of Muzzafarabad Chalo to sell their produce. All Party Hurriyat Conference separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz was killed in police firing at the time. When both sides finally pulled back, President's Rule and a new Governor restored a semblance of order to the strife torn region. But the lesson was learnt and felt by those living in the Valley and it was the same BJP which is now in a coalition with the same PDP that wreaked havoc in Jammu then.

Thus the Valley is completely boxed from the Jammu side. Similarly, Zoji La Pass is the entry point from Kashmir to Ladakh (there is also a Manali-Leh route). Of course there is a third way in to the Valley which is the Muzzafarabad road to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. This is the road used by the kabalis and raiders in 1947 when Jinnah tried satiating his lust by pouching the Valley. In a goodwill gesture, a 170 km bus service to Muzzafarabad was started on April, 2005. So, we come back to this slogan of Azadi which fat cat separatists have been using to keep Kashmir burning. Geographically too, Azadi is not possible. Linking Kashmir with POK and the Northern Areas is what India wants in any case, for Pakistan has usurped those territories by force and deceit.

Kashmir Valley's independence is a pipe dream. Economic and geographical boundary compulsions fetter the Valley from looking at any option other than staying with India. The state of J&K acceded to India and the people of Kashmir acquiesced through their popular leader Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah's secular outlook and visceral hatred for Mohd Ali Jinnah's sectarian and theocratic state of mind. Yes, militancy is a reality which cannot be ignored, but local militancy has more or less been stamped out. The Indian Army continues to patrol the border and kill insurgents without giving any quarter. ADGP State CID S. M. Sahai has called the CM Mehbooba's bluff by telling The Week magazine that she was in the know of all the operations. That meant she knew about the operation where Burhan Wani was eliminated too. So, if she once again panders to a domestic Kashmir Valley audience and cites the martyrdom of militants like Wani, then she is obviously barking up the wrong tree.

In the smoke and mirrors of Kashmir operations where subterfuge and chicanery are par for the course, separatism, plebiscite and self determination are nomenclatures of urban legends. It is the Sunni Muslim dominated Hurriyat, suborned by Pakistan, which keeps the idea of Azadi alive. In the joust between jingoism and separatism, the state of J&K is very much Indian and nationalist despite the protestations of a few schismatics. India has to overcome these rebels, and the BJP has to decide what it wants in J&K. Just power in the Jammu Division or the state as a whole. Its writ only runs large in Jammu and probably Ladakh, while the PDP which won electorally in Kashmir and tried pushing the envelope by releasing dreaded militant Masrat Alam Bhat last year, appears to have been discredited after the recent protests. The erosion in its equity after the recent outcry and demurral quite graphic.

The dust bowl of history offers many reminders, the question is does one want to pay attention to minutiae. The UN Security Council on March 14, 1950 adopted a resolution appointing a single mediator in J&K. The mediator's task was to bring about demilitarisation of the state on the basis of the principles of the McNaughton (Gen. McNaughton of Canada was the Security Council President at the time) proposals or such modification of these principles as might be mutually agreed to. He was also authorised to make other suggestions which would be likely to contribute to the expeditious and enduring solution to the dispute.

The mediator Sir Owen Dixon arrived in India on May 27, 1950. After preliminary discussions and study, he invited the PMs of Pakistan and India to a joint conference in Delhi. The conference, which took place on July 20-24, discussed various proposals for the holding of an overall plebiscite in the state. No agreement could, however, be reached between the two governments over the question of conditions that should govern the plebiscite. Sir Owen therefore put forward that wherever the desires of the inhabitants were known, the territory should be allocated between India and Pakistan, due regard also being given to geographical, economic and demographic considerations. Exactly the point that I am making in this treatise and of course it holds good even 66 years later. Sir Owen, the former chief justice of Australia, also maintained that where the desires of the people were uncertain, a plebiscite should be held for ascertaining them. The voting would be confined to that limited area.

India without entering into any commitment expressed its willingness to consider a solution on these lines, but Pakistan refused to entertain this proposal. Sir Owen then indicated to India certain conditions he had in mind for a partial plebiscite. The major condition was the transfer of the complete authority and functions of the then Plebiscite Administrator. India rejected it on the ground that this justified the aggression by Pakistan and was contrary to the resolution of August 13, 1948, in which the sovereignty of J&K Government was recognised over the entire territory of the State, including the area under occupation illegally by Pakistan and Azad Kashmir forces.

Finally, in a report to the Security Council on September 19, 1950, Sir Owen expressed the view that when the frontier of J&K was crossed by hostile elements in October 1947, it "contrary to international law" and that when units of regular Pakistan armed forces moved into the territory of the State, "that too was inconsistent with international law." Stating that all means of settling the dispute had been exhausted, the mediator recommended that India and Pakistan should now be left to negotiate a settlement themselves. The Security Council should, however, press upon India and Pakistan to reduce the military strength of the two governments holding the cease fire line to the 'normal protection of a peace time frontier.' As regards the question of plebiscite, Sir Owen remarked, "If there is any chance of settling the dispute by agreement, it lies in evolving some means of allocating the Valley of Kashmir rather than through overall plebiscite."

Now, back to the future.

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Ritika Prasad

Ritika Prasad

Ritika Prasad Student Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)

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