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We were told that surgical strike was a decisive blow to Pakistan and it had been taught an appropriate lesson. Then we were made to believe that demonetization would break the backbone of terrorism and Naxalism. It was hoped that such incidents would cease. But there doesn’t seem to be any effect. Pakistani, terrorist and Naxalite attacks continue to take place as before.
Targeting Pervez Musharraf in Gujarat assembly elections and claiming to possess a 56-inch chest Narendra Modi had boasted of having the ability to teach Pakistan a lesson. But he seems to be clueless about how to check these incidents. Narendra Modi, with the objective of establishing India’s credentials in the world, made a whirlwind tour of nations all over the globe but today our relations with several of them, including our neighbors Pakistan, China, and Nepal, have soured. India has been cornered in United Nations. India didn’t allow the UN Human Rights Commission team to visit Jammu & Kashmir whereas Pakistan allowed them access to Kashmir in their control. What is India trying to hide in Kashmir from the world’s gaze?
The situation in Kashmir has never been this bad. The reason is that the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party and the wider Hindutva pariwar believes in the binary that you’re either a patriot or anti-national. Earlier some youth from Kashmir went to Pakistan to receive training in terrorism. However, today children, students, and women hurl stones at security forces. The government of India believes that all of them are anti-national and Pakistani government instigates them and aids them financially.
This is incomprehensible. Pakistan is an external agency. Kashmir has been with India for 70 years now. How is it possible that Pakistan is able to manipulate every individual in Kashmir and the people there don’t consider themselves as part of India? Somewhere the Indian government has been at fault in its approach towards Kashmiri because of which the Kashmiri, over a period of time, got thoroughly disillusioned with India. Kashmiri women and children, fed up of the presence of military and the danger of being humiliated by them, are outraged to pick up stones against the security forces. They want the security forces to vacate Kashmir. Maybe even this freedom will bring relief to them.
But what to talk of removing the army, when Omar Abdullah, as Chief Minister of J&K, suggested the withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from J&K, it was vetoed by the army.
The government of India would like to think that life in Kashmir is normal, there are regular elections, local parties run the governments, but doesn’t allow the state government to function democratically and independently. In the name of national security, the army overrules the state government and even the national government doesn’t intervene in such a situation.
Normalcy cannot return to Kashmir without the withdrawal of army. The government of India must completely trust the state government to govern on its own once and let the army take care of security at borders. What to talk of special provisions under article 370 of the Constitution, the Indian government doesn’t even extend the freedom to J&K which other states enjoy.
We blame the Kashmiris that they do not consider themselves as part of India. The truth is we don’t consider Kashmiris as part of ourselves. For if we did we would never use pellet guns there which have made hundreds of people there physically challenged or visually impaired. It is unthinkable that these guns could be used anywhere else in India. When a Member of Parliament Raghav Lakhanpal Sharma attacks the residence of Senior Superintendent of Police in Saharanpur, U.P. along with two Members of Legislative Assembly and supporters it is not considered an anti-national act but when a Kashmiri throws a stone at security forces it is considered as such. What is the difference between the two incidents? In both people who represent the Indian state are being attacked.
In the process of administering Kashmir with the help of Army for such a long period of time, the people of Kashmir have become disillusioned. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has been an MLA in J&K three times but the Indian government’s policies transformed him into a separatist. Geelani’s hold on people is greater than any of the people’s representatives there. The Indian government says it’ll not talk to separatists but in Nagaland, it did engage them and also reached an agreement. It is a different matter that the agreement has not been made public.
Some people have begun offering the suggestion to Kashmiris that if they don’t want to live in India they should leave Kashmir. This represents a feudal and colonial mindset. It is a right of people anywhere in the world to decide how they would like to live. In our struggle against the British, we considered it our right to choose a system of government of our own for ourselves. If we’re not able to convince the Kashmiris to live with us it is their right to decide an appropriate system of their choice for themselves. This will be good for both India and the Kashmiris. If the Kashmiris decide on their own to live with India it’ll be a more harmonious relationship because then it would not be a decision imposed upon them by the Indian government. India should not treat Kashmir as its colony. Instead, it should be granted a degree of autonomy. Otherwise, people will continue getting killed or seriously injured on both sides without a solution emerging.

Sandeep Pandey

Sandeep Pandey is an Indian social activist. Magsaysay Award recipient, Gandhian and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a co-founder of Asha for Education. He is a Former Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

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