The Kashmir Question
The Beginning; Article 370
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of India, but it is governed by a special provision of the Indian constitution often referred to as Article 370. This article was introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru the then prime minister of India. There was no compulsion on the Indian parliament to enact this amendment which required a 2/3 majority, but Nehru in his wisdom got this article incorporated in the constitution.
The article in short states that Kashmir's accession to India was conditional and the state was allowed to have its own flag and a separate constitution. The state was insulated from the rest of India by a proviso that no other Indian could buy any immovable property or settle in the state. More important no central law passed by parliament was applicable to the state till its legislature approved it. This was a draconian proviso and sowed the seeds of separatism, for which history will never forgive Nehru. He died in 1964 but left this article like an anchor around the neck of the Indian state and now one does not know what to do. Successive Indian governments have grappled with this measure but nobody has had the guts to abrogate this proviso. This includes the BJP led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee who ruled for 6 years. Even this man who was a die-hard opponent of Article 370 did not lift a finger to remove this obnoxious article. It is worth noting that such a proviso does not exist in any other constitution of a major power in the world, yet it is very much there in the Indian constitution.
The River of No- Return
The writer Mikhail Sholokov wrote," And quiet flows the Don". This is an eternal river of Russia and it flows slowly and there is no going back. To my mind. the same applies to Kashmir as even now with a so-called strong leader in Narendra Modi, the article 370 remains and is fundamental to the present violence that has gone on unchecked for almost 90 days. Despite the curfew, this seems to have gathered more momentum than ever. What is the solution? Modi when in the opposition talked about many things. Notably, he talked of a uniform civil code and the abrogation of Article 370.
People took him at face value for all that he stated and the RSS the parent body has been talking about these two factors for the last 70 years. Sadly talking is not doing and their earlier plea that there were not in power and could not act on these two contentious matters that bedevil the Indian state does not hold water now. But despite being in power these worthies have not moved an inch in the direction. Granted, a historical aberration is not easy to correct, but some action was expected on these two issues and despite the BJP being in power for 6 years earlier and now for close to 6 years the matter has not moved forward. These two look like the Rock of Gibraltar that is supposed to be unsinkable.
Kashmir is a part of the Union of India only in the maps and paper. One-third of Kashmir is occupied by Pakistan and another major part( 30000 square miles) is occupied by China.This is the Aksai Chin area which for years was left untended and without the semblance of any administration by none other than that worthy, the then Indian prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. This man also agreed to a ceasefire at a time when the Indian army was driving the invaders back. Historically his apologists have never explained the compulsions of Nehru on these points. In addition, he also accepted the demand for a plebiscite in the state for the people to decide for them. He even made this announcement in a public speech in Srinagar in 1948. Later he tried to backtrack by not holding the plebiscite as he was well aware that the vote will be against India.
Last Word; Way Forward
The question now is where do we go from here? A plebiscite will mean that Kashmir at least the valley will vote to secede from India and that will be the end of the Indian union. It cannot be allowed as the right of self-determination cannot be exercised by a small group of people. It could well open a Pandora box as other states may also want to secede. One should not forget that in the late sixties, Annadurai the Tamil leader had in a speech in Madras articulated freedom and secession from the Indian union.
The states in the North East will also ask for the right of self-determination. At the same time, India is unable to control the valley which has seen a rise in militancy in daily attacks on the security forces. Thankfully the suicide bomber concept has not caught on in the Valley, otherwise, there could be hell to pay.
The only choice is to meet force with force. Look at the way the Russians crushed the Chechen rebels. It was a ruthless attack with no quarter given. Has the Indian state led by a Hindu leadership this mettle? One does not have to look for answers as it's crystal clear that the Indian leadership itself all along was reluctant to take action against Islamic militants as it would alienate the vast Muslim minority in India as well as the Islamic nation who with one voice support Pakistan. One could also take a leaf from China which is crushing Uighur Muslim revolt ion Sinkiang.
There appears to be a change after the advent of Narendra Modi and the Army has killed five times more militants this year compared to earlier years. This does show a new resolve and there is a possibility that Islamic militancy and terrorists can be controlled. But the only way forward is the removal of Article 370 and 35a. Who will bell the cat?