On August 15, India celebrated independence from the British Raj. But Kashmiris staged a bandh demanding independence from India. A day symbolising the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolising Indian colonialism in the Valley.
As a liberal, i dislike ruling people against their will. True, nation-building is a difficult and complex exercise, and initial resistance can give way to the integration of regional aspirations into a larger national identity — the end of Tamil secessionism was a classical example of this.
I was once hopeful of Kashmir's integration, but after six decades of effort, Kashmiri alienation looks greater than ever. India seeks to integrate with Kashmir, not rule it colonially. Yet, the parallels between British rule in India and Indian rule in Kashmir have become too close for my comfort.
Many Indians say that Kashmir legally became an integral part of India when the maharaja of the state signed the instrument of accession. Alas, such legalisms become irrelevant when ground realities change. Indian kings and princes, including the Mughals, acceded to the British Raj. The documents they signed became irrelevant when Indians launched an independence movement.
The British insisted for a long time that India was an integral part of their Empire, the jewel in its crown, and would never be given up. Imperialist Blimps remained in denial for decades. I fear we are in similar denial on Kashmir.
The politically correct story of the maharaja's accession ignores a devastating parallel event. Just as Kashmir had a Hindu maharaja ruling over a Muslim majority, Junagadh had a Muslim nawab ruling over a Hindu majority. The Hindu maharaja acceded to India, and the Muslim nawab to Pakistan.
But while India claimed that the Kashmiri accession to India was sacred, it did not accept Junagadh's accession to Pakistan. India sent troops into Junagadh, just as Pakistan sent troops into Kashmir. The difference was that Pakistan lacked the military means to intervene in Junagadh, while India was able to send troops into Srinagar. The Junagadh nawab fled to Pakistan, whereas the Kashmir maharaja sat tight. India's double standard on Junagadh and Kashmir was breathtaking.
Do you think the people of Junagadh would have integrated with Pakistan after six decades of genuine Pakistani effort? No? Then can you really be confident that Kashmiris will stop demanding azaadi and integrate with India?
The British came to India uninvited. By contrast, Sheikh Abdullah, the most popular politician in Kashmir, supported accession to India subject to ratification by a plebiscite. But his heart lay in independence for Kashmir, and he soon began manoeuvering towards that end. He was jailed by Nehru, who then declared Kashmir's accession was final and no longer required ratification by a plebiscite. The fact that Kashmir had a Muslim majority was held to be irrelevant, since India was a secular country empowering citizens through democracy.