Has democratic India and Indians lost the woods from the trees?

Has anybody allowed the people of the Vale of Kashmir as a whole group to freely voice their much-suppressed desire for determining their future?

Those are the woods that cry out for a distinct recognition and thence the solution.

In 1947, Mountbatten did not, Patel did not, Jinnah did not, and Raja Hari Singh did not. All were “foreigners” deciding on the fate of Kashmiris.

Since Kashmir was/is majority Muslim and had a long border with “future” Pakistan, Mountbatten in July 1947, and as required by the agreed methodology for the Partition, had asked Raja Hari Singh to join with Pakistan and Sardar Patel had concurred (Nehru had no say then as he was not yet a prime minister).

Hari had said “Nah”, not even with India. He wanted to remain an independent country. Mountbatten had not agreed saying you will be swallowed up by the tiger to your east and the lion to your west. Hari Singh did not make the final concluding meeting with Mountbatten feigning a bellyache.

The rest of 1947 to Amit Shah’s speech on August 5, 2019, is irrelevant history often pouted. Except, for over 70 years—as agreed by Nehru on October 24, 1947 and subsequently mandated by UN—the required plebiscite did not take place; whereby the Kashmiris would have decided their future. Instead, the 1954 invocation of the lame Art. 370 (temporary or not) and 35A etc by Nehru, with a kind of “yes you are India but you can make some laws of your own” carrots offered.

Nehru, a Kashmiri Pundit as the PM until his death in 1964, was never going to relinquish one acre of Kashmir! (He said as much to Mountbatten in late 1947). So doubletalk and obfuscation for international gallerying were the norm. And now, Modi flexes his muscles, because India has achieved a quasi superpower status and it is arguably the world’s largest customer for military hardware. So effectively a Modi—fiat is promulgated— “Kashmir, No you cannot make any laws since you are an Indian Union territory”. In fact, you are less than an Indian State, with a limited legislative council and you are under Delhi, BJP and Hindu control.

Are Kashmiris Indian or Pakistani? Did any one ask the Swiss whether they are German, French or Italian? They are Kashmiris and want to maintain their culture, traditions and way of life, no different from the Swiss. Like the Swiss in the Alps, they are cloistered in the valleys and hills of Himalayas. And, no different from the Tibetans, who did not want to be part of China or India. But Chinese sent hordes of troops in 1959 and took it over. Sounds familiar?

Why cannot Kashmir duplicate Bhutan, a quaint, eco-friendly, Shangri-La with its independence and much cherished natural beauty in abundance untouched. Not littered with concrete jungles called development shrouded in pollution.

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What of the legality of this takeover in Kashmir? The Supreme Court of India could be hoodwinked into accepting the constitutional legality of Amit Shah’s unilateral promulgation (notwithstanding the vote in the “whipped’’ parliament) with the facile assumption that the concurrence of the governor of Kashmir is the same as the concurrence of the absent constituted assembly of the state of Jammu and Kashmir!

Or will this apex court of India exercise its remit and its vaunted fame and interpret the intent of the Constitution and vote to overturn the diktat of the parliament—on the basis of absolute justice and the Indian motto— “Satya Mev Jayte’’. Not likely, the “learned-very” judges are human too and unfortunately emotions and survival instincts will cloud their judgment. I sincerely hope to be wrong.

Otherwise, what will Pakistan do? To quote the Greek fable, “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” Lunacy started in India, it will in-spite of the closed border migrate to Pakistan. It will go to war with nuclear weapons, since conventional weapons’ superiority of India will rule out that option. A desperate unstable state, with contesting power centres, bound by a Hatred-of-India glue—now reinforced, cannot do otherwise, and Imran Khan said as much this week. Modi’s promise of ensuing peace in the valley is wishful thinking and myopic and it will backfire.

To avoid this Armageddon, this month in Washington, US and China must compromise on their puny trade war and join hands to force a settlement in Kashmir. A rigidly enforced, free and fair plebiscite could be the start, which would answer the fundamental question—What do the Kashmiris want? Conditionalities as to the status of Jammu and Ladakh can be included/negotiated. An answer to that cannot be contested by either party, and sanity will return, and Gods Hindu and Muslim pacified.

In this context, it should be noted that the US did not use nuclear weapons in the Korean and Vietnam wars since the US was not threatened. Berlin after the WWII had four powers armed with nukes growling for 45 years, but did not also similarly use nuclear weapons. But Pakistan is very different. Its survival is now at stake, and unlike these other countries with nukes, Pakistan is not a cohesive and a stable unit.

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