An Indian view on Kashmir: Do we deserve this valley?

Indian leadership and smug middle class see Kashmir from the same prism as the British used to see their colonies

Sanjay Kumar February 05, 2011
A visit to Kashmir will remind you of Kabul: a war torn region where the penetrating eyes of hostile security forces watch your every movement.

Over the past half century much has changed in India and Pakistan but not the persistent conflict over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmiris have continued to gradually lose trust in the Indian government’s ability to give them a fair deal. This raises the question of how successful Indian democracy has been in dealing with the wishes of a people who want to be maintain a unique identity.

In the valley political protest is seen as sedition and anti-India activity. The attitude of the Indian government and the major political parties towards the people of Indian Kashmir is also discriminatory.
More than one hundred people lost their lives in protests last year. The local chief minister was clueless about events on the ground and was unable to control the situation or even sympathise with his own people.

An even fight: Tanks versus stone-throwers
The Indian government was busy formulating new military and security strategies to contain the stone throwers rather than providing relief to hapless innocent victims.
With a few exceptions no mainstream political parties came out in support of the agitating masses of the valley. Even civil society remained largely silent against the brutalities of the security forces towards the people of Indian governed Kashmir. Some international journalists who did dare to write objectively about the situation in the valley have been denied an extension of visa.

We have conquered this valley

The march to hoist the Indian flag at Lal Chowk in Sri Nagar by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the right wing main Opposition party shows how one section of society thinks.

The BJP wants to treat Indian governed Kashmir as a land that marks India’s ‘victory’ and its people as their subjects. Perhaps this is why the party does not condemn killings of citizens in Kashmir – even though they claim they are Indians.

The attitude of the Indian leadership and smug middle class society towards Indian governed Kashmir reminds me of the way the British used to see their colony, India. They were as immune and indifferent to the English atrocities on the freedom fighters as we seem to be towards Kashmiris today.

Democracy now (and other legends)

India’s much touted democracy and its economic power has failed to win the hearts and minds of people in Kashmir. There is an elected government in Indian governed Kashmir but it does not enjoy the same legitimacy as elected state governments enjoy in other parts of the country.

Kashmir has become a pawn, a prestige issue for the Indian government.

Recap: Pakistan versus India

This is why the government shows much rigidity in solving the contentious issue with Pakistan, which claims to have equal rights over the area. Pakistan wants the United Nations to intervene and investigate plebiscite in the region to decide. India rejects any outside interference and wants to keep the dispute bilateral.

For the past two years talks between the two countries have been completely stalled due to India’s precondition to punish the perpetrators of the 26/11 attack.
A new and bold approach is needed by both the countries to come to a settlement on the issue. As an established democracy India needs to show insight in dealing with the crisis.

Keeping the issue hanging for ages only complicate the matter and leads to frustration.
Stanley Wolpert’s latest book India and Pakistan suggests the:
“ acceptance of the current Line of Control the northernmost international border of India and Pakistan” as the “most realistic” solution to the Kashmir conflict. Wolpert, an old hand in South Asia and a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, says that Pakistan’s “failure to sustain a freely elected civil polity” and its inability to control the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban militants who inhabit its entire Afghan frontier, and to end the nurturing of the Pakistani soil of suicide bombers, its demand for a democratic resolution of Kashmir conflict will have little credibility and win scant support.”

The South Asian expert argues that India should stop the military occupation and “praetorian attacks on Kashmir’s Muslim majority”.

He says that the people of Kashmir themselves should be permitted to choose their own leaders in free and fair elections and “New Delhi should solemnly commit to supporting Kashmir’s provincial autonomy and human rights of the people.”

Is India ready to be an enlightened democracy and address the genuine grievances of a people who want to maintain a separate identity?

Success of a democracy depends not only on holding regular elections but also upon giving political space to a people who want to write their own destiny.

If the military might cannot hold South Sudan with the North, if enlightened despotism could not stop the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and if thirty years of strong armed tactics cannot curb the democratic aspirations of the people of Egypt - can the controlled and manufactured mandate in this valley kill the idea of a free and separate Kashmir?
Sanjay Kumar The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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