Arindam Chaudhuri
[September, 2010]

More than a year ago, I wrote a cover story in this very magazine stating, WHY NOT AZAADI FOR KASHMIR? I argued why keeping unwilling Kashmiris as a part of India was a huge drain on resources as well as on India's moral authority. Moreover, unlike all other parts of India that may also demand independence tomorrow, Kashmir has a huge and long history attached; and worldwide, when such groups have historically staked a claim for their independence, democratic nations have obliged. My article had then triggered a tremendous response – ranging for praise to virulent abuse! I still stand by my point that it is pointless to force Kashmiris to remain with India at gunpoint. This only triggers ill feeling. I have many Kashmiris and Muslims studying in my institute and even working with me. And many are also linked up with me on my Facebook account. When I at times go to their profiles and check out the material that they post, it scares the wits out of me. They are mostly openly anti-India. They write stories of all that they have gone through. They post videos that will make anyone hate India. They themselves almost hate India! And they want azaadi for Kashmir.

Digressing a little, if Facebook is any indicator of what real people of Kashmir want, that's freedom from India. When I read their posts, two things cross my mind. Firstly, are they potential terrorists? The answer is, of course not… I know a lot of them. They are educated, nice people. It’s a free nation and they speak their minds out of their personal experiences. The second thought that crosses my mind is obviously how Facebook has become an open forum to actually spread hatred; and that the Intelligence departments of India should keep a track of the communication happening there… My blood oft en boils when I read so much of open anti-India comments. And imagine I have to oft en see these people the next day walking into my office! It is surely a great test of patience and belief in democratic values for a patriotic Indian. I do try to understand their perspective too and realise their reasons for hating India. But I must add that while I can vouch for a lot of my students that they are nice people, I obviously can’t vouch for their friends. The situation now is such, that completely anti-India people are openly spreading hatred for India amongst Indian Muslims. Accept it or not, there are clear signs that a strong united community of India haters is developing, who are connected not as friends but by their hatred for India – something that was not that easy in pre-Facebook days. Anyway, I will leave it at that.

Coming back to my original topic – should we give azaadi to Kashmir? I still say, yes, of course! Keeping people dictatorially bound to a nation under gunpoint is totally meaningless and almost inhuman. But I do realise the problems that the Indian government has in hand. An azaad Kashmir must come with some pledges from whoever becomes the leader of Kashmir. A pledge to take back hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and allow them full freedom to earn a living and practice their religion. A pledge to allow similar freedom to the Buddhists, Shias and other minority communities. And a pledge to remain a secular republic in both form and content. Of course, the question is, will those leaders be able to give such pledges? And will they be thereon willing to keep them? The truth possibly is that within 48 hours of such independence being granted, Kashmir will become a part of Pakistan and an Islamic state. Soon after, China would gain control of strategic parts of the region. And we must remember that India is the only major nation to have systematically lost national territory in the 20th century. From the Government of India's point of view, it surely cannot afford to lose more, nor can it afford to let azaad Kashmir become a playground for Islamic radicals and China.

Click here to see the TIMELINE of J&K

So what does India do? That’s a tricky one to answer. But right now, all I can say is that from a political perspective, the Congress can’t take the situation lightly and keep waffling on it and let anarchy prevail. It’s actually sad to see our liberal and so-called secular intellectuals bend over backwards to be politically correct even when faced with dangers of hardline Islam. If someone from the Hindu or Christian community is a bigot, we never hesitate to denounce such an individual openly. Why do we then hesitate to denounce in the same tone, when it comes to a Muslim bigot? Why can’t we tell radical Muslims – just as we tell radical Hindus – that their ideology and vision is simply not acceptable to India? That oppressive and regressive parts of the sharia are as unacceptable as parts of the manu code of the Hindus? It's time the government took a strong stance – whatever it is – and engaged the masses to make their viewpoint logically clear to Indians at large who are finding the government weak at this point of time.

I am reminded of the days of the Shah Bano case when the Congress, having absolute majority in Parliament, was the unquestionable dominant political force and BJP was in the fringes. Post the Shah Bano case [when Congress passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, overruling a Supreme Court verdict], we saw the dramatic growth of BJP from 2 seats to 85 seats to even majority as the nation in general clearly saw the government's attempt to overrule the verdict of the Supreme Court of India as an illogical appeasement of the Muslims. The current happenings can possibly give Indians a similar feel. And if the Congress doesn’t look decisive, this could be the opportunity that BJP might have been waiting for. BJP's Ram Janmabhoomi plank might be dead, but its 'non appeasement of Muslims' plank is very much alive. Masses are also getting enlightened today. They are on the same Facebook. They see the pseudo-intellectuals speak. And they know this can take a dangerous turn. They may not take much time to turn the wave during the 2014 elections, giving the Congress a nasty shock and leading to a dramatic revival of the BJP.
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