Kashmir is turning into a quagmire—a peculiar mess of sorts where all the measures of amelioration are complicating the situation further. The so called freedom fighters and their sympathisers have unleashed a state of anarchy in the Valley. Blaming it entirely on the Centre, when the centre of gravity lies across the border is naïve, shortsighted, and against national interest, not to mention regional stability. Now the situation has come to a pass where mobs are leading the leaders, not the other way round. Leaders are not listened to anymore. They sway no command. On the other hand, separatists and their ideological sympathisers in India and across the border are hell bent to write the obituary of democracy in the Valley. Will the utopian Kashmiriyat survive in such a situation?
Due to continuing violence the Election Commission has decided to cancel the bye-election of Anantnag Lok Sabha seat. The Srinagar by-election held last month recorded all-time low 7 per cent turnout, and the senior National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah couldn't even muster fifty thousand votes out of eleven lakh electorate. Though he got elected, his tantrums and flip-flops have always raised question vis a vis his stand on Kashmir. The inconsistent position of the Kashmiri leadership and the marriage of convenience to remain in power and enjoy its benefits as Kashmir's political elite have been responsible for muddling the situation and misguiding the youth all these years. When in office, the Kashmiri political dispensations try to show allegiance to the Centre and Indian Constitution, when out of power they start batting for the separatists and their divisive Kashmiri sub-nationalism. One can't have the cake and eat it too. The mainstream national parties of India on their part have also not been quite successful in managing this shrewd political opportunism over the years.
Today it's a pity to see the schools burnt down, banks looted, local police personnel killed by the terrorists and their families intimidated, leaving aside routine attacks on armed forces.
The mob waving Pakistani and IS flag is a stark reminder of the disaster, and massive human suffering Islamic State has unleashed in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. If that's the model of the ideal state separatists and terror groups want Kashmir to turn into, then it's indication of doomsday for Kashmir, Kashmiris, and Kashmiriyat. As far as India is concerned, mobilisations under Pakistani and IS flag, either pretended or real, gives it an even stronger reason to toughen its stand aginst militancy further. India would not want to hear even a faint trampling of IS in its backyards.
Although, some optimists and senior journalists make it out to be a mere childish provocation which is better ignored. Alright, then by the same logic government and security forces should also ignore the band of militants brandishing their arms and spreading messages through social media as well. The Centre is also being advised to reach out to the stakeholders in the state. It's easier said than done because in the state of programmed anarchy, how can the stakeholders be identified? No government anywhere talks to violent, unruly mobs. So the first stage can only be to control this mob anarchy either by persuasion or by the use of force permissible under law. Political posturing aside, in such a situation, no government whether UPA or NDA can think of any other option. Rising above party lines why a political consensus can't be reached out?
Kashmir is neither UPA nor NDA problem. It's a problem of India and South Asia's geopolitical stability. If things go out of hand, the consequences will be disastrous for all, including the Kashmiris themselves. The initial demand for self-determination is now gravitating towards radical Islam and the ideology of Islamic State or 'Daesh'. The next stage will be the demand for the establishment of the Caliphate. The calls will be shot by the hardcore terror outfits hiding in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria. The local youths will soon become their pawns. Will there be any scope for nurturing Kashmiriyat in that? Does the misguided Kashmiri want to convert the land of 'Darvesh' (Sufis) into the land of 'Daesh'?
The Kashmiri separatists and their ideological supporters in universities, media, political parties and elsewhere must understand that the sweet dream of Azadi (independence) is in fact even worse than a nightmare. It's both impractical and detrimental to the interest of the whole region including Kashmir. Pakistan may support the cessation of Kashmir from India but will not accept its demand for independence as it stands to lose the POK. In the wake of regional instability, the international community will also not accept the demand of independent Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan will not like this as it may set in motion the process of Balkanisation in the region which may lead to similar demands in both India and Pakistan. Pakistan will suffer more quickly due to its sham democracy, oppression, and injustice it has meted out to the Sindhis, Mohajirs, and Baluchis in Sind and Baluchistan. Pakistan has given de facto control of the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region of northwest Kashmir to China. Both Indians and Americans are worried that leviathan China may convert this region into another Tibet. Secretly, Pakistan is also aware of the threat it has invited.
Both India and Pakistan will not like this as it may set in motion the process of Balkanisation in the region which may lead to similar demands in both India and Pakistan. Pakistan will suffer more quickly due to its sham democracy, oppression, and injustice it has meted out to the Sindhis, Mohajirs, and Baluchis in Sind and Baluchistan. Pakistan has given de facto control of the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region of northwest Kashmir to China. Both Indians and Americans are worried that leviathan China may convert this region into another Tibet. Secretly, Pakistan is also aware of the threat it has invited.
The elusive Azadi, if it ever comes to Kashmir will be at a cost which generations will not be able to repay. It is not a veiled threat, but a risk assessment. Liberal democracy has no substitute. Indian polity and Constitution ensure it. Kashmiri separatists must realise this before stretching the matter too far.
(The writer is a senior academic and a socio-political commentator. Views expressed are strictly personal.)