A question on Kashmir

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New Delhi – Writing recently  in “The Week” magazine that focused on the 1965 Indo-Pak war, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar has written, “Whatever the explanations, the fact was that neither side registered a decisive victory, though India did have an edge over Pakistan, particularly when it wrested Haji Pir and Tithwal, two important positions in Azad Kashmir”. I do not want to join the issue here whether the war was a draw or India won or Pakistan was the victor, though a just released study by the Indian Army says that India was the clear winner. What has struck me how such an experienced journalist as Nayar has freely used the term “Azad Kashmir”. We in India  term the territory that is under the control of Pakistan as Pakistan –occupied – Kashmir (PoK). Pakistanis have concocted the word “Azad” for an area which does not have a semblance of Azadi, not even 100th of the autonomy that Kashmiris in India enjoy.

But then Nayar, for whom I have great respect otherwise,  is a known ‘liberal” who has great sympathy for the leading separatists in the valley. I think like many other “liberals’, Nayar will not go with the cause for outright secession of Kashmir from India, but the fact that he has used the term “Azad Kashmir” implies that he is not fully convinced of  India’s official stand on Jammu and Kashmir. And as I said, he is not alone. In our “liberal establishment” there are many who literally lionize the likes of Yashin Malik and Syed Ali Shah Gilani, not to speak of the so-called moderate Hurriyat leaders. In fact, I have read  pieces and heard enough comments by such liberals over the last 24 hours that suggest that in the just disrupted talks between the Hurriyat leaders have come out as great winners as they have successfully internationalized the Kashmir issue.

I have been always surprised over the attitude of our “liberals” towards the separatists in the Kashmir valley, who for me are not for autonomy but more for radical Islamisation of the valley, known otherwise for its centuries-old Kashmiriyat based on moderation and Sufism. But this is something I will deal with in a future blog. But today, I want to take on the basic argument of these separatists that since Kashmir is essentially a Muslim-majority area the Muslims there cannot co-exist with non-Muslims, who, otherwise, constitute India’s majority. In other words, Muslims cannot be a constituent of “non-Muslim” India. That is why one witnesses so many Pakistani flags in the separatists’ rallies and that is why separatist leader Syed Gilani talks of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.

This is nothing but the reassertion of the so-called “two-nation theory”, on the basis of which the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, whether we admit it or not.  If the “liberals” accept this theory, what have they to say about the Muslims living in other parts of India? Secondly,  and this is more important, the “liberals” have not highlighted “how” India should allow “azadi” to Kashmir. Is the process going to be conditional or not? The question of conditionality is important because of the following reason:

When India was partitioned in 1947, the population figures were about 330, 27 and 30 million people in India, West Pakistan, and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) respectively. In terms of area, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh constituted roughly 1.3, 0.3 and 0.06 million square miles respectively. Thus, population percentages were 85%, 15% and land percentages were 75% and 25% for India and united Pakistan (West and East Pakistan) respectively.