Kashmir and Identity
Image Credit: Uniphoto Press

Kashmir and Identity


The protests in Jammu and Kashmir over the past month have raised important questions about the ‘idea’ of India. At a time when the country is getting global recognition for its democratic values, its rising economic might and for being a country of opportunity, one state is still holding out and refuses to be seen as part of this narrative.

The fact that it’s doing so places a big question mark over the country’s ability to resolve its internal problems successfully. Does India lack the necessary imagination and boldness to do so?

It’s a reasonable question considering the seriousness of the protests in Kashmir, protests that have come despite the presence of a democratically elected government, despite the boom in tourism in the valley, and despite significant investment by the Indian government to boost local infrastructure.

More than 60 years since India secured independence, the government appears to simply accept the alienation of the Kashmiri people from the mainstream and seems to look upon the genuine political grievances of the valley as largely imported from across the border. It took more than 50 deaths during the protests for the state’s elected leadership to start trying to connect with the people and for the state chief minister to pay a visit to a hospital to see the victims of police bullets.

Meanwhile, the leadership in Delhi is still just talking. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid a day-long visit to Leh to console the victims of the natural disaster, yet no leader from Delhi has so far gone to the valley to console families who have lost love ones shot by police. With this kind of indifference, how can we seriously think of finding a political solution? How will granting autonomy solve the problem if we don’t try to win the hearts and minds of aggrieved locals?

If news reports are to be believed, the Indian government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since the 1950s in Jammu and Kashmir, but the money has failed to impress the people. Are those faceless young people who take to the streets with stones in their hands demanding jobs or just respect from their government.

From what I’ve seen when covering the conflict area in the North-east of the country, rather than trying to solve the problem, the government is trying to tire the movement out. Despite being in talks with the Naga rebels since 1997, the government has failed to come up with any solution to the six-decade-old insurgency movement—it just seems to be stalling for time by holding countless rounds of talks without offering anything concrete.

And this is what the central leadership has been doing in Kashmir for decades. Every time there’s a problem, it offers to dole out some autonomy and political engagement, but forgets its commitments the moment the protests peter out.

The world often seems enamoured with our country, but our people are losing faith in the Indian political leadership’s ability to assimilate the disparate ethnic and political voices in its narrative for the country.

September 9, 2010 at 20:29

Regarding the endless rounds of talks.That is much more preferable than conflict.Let it take years.Everybody knows that the Nagas and Kashmiris do not want a solution within the Indian constitution.So what can the Govt. do but just keep on talking or trying to talk.The GOI can tamper with the sovereignty of India only at its own peril.The other option is to use total force for years like the Lankans.Obviously not a very good choice.
So keep on talking no matter how long it takes.

Jaganniwas Iyer
September 1, 2010 at 11:06

Tian’s patronising advice to India to act “democratically” has to be dismissed for the rant that it is. As our friend Footloose has so aptly put it, the complexities of a free society are the domain of grown-up, mature humans, something that people who have known only a totalitarian way of life – and aren’t too uncomfortable with it, preferring the confines of a state-controlled oligarchy to human freedom – can never comprehend. Let’s talk about Tibet and what the Hans have done to a glorious, truly peace-loving, harmless culture and way of life, Tian.


September 1, 2010 at 06:35

@Tian: …and your reasoning explains China’s bullying behavior everywhere in its neighbourhood. Don’t mind, my friend, take it easy ‘cos you are not trained to reason. You can never comprehend the complexities of a free system. Its the domain of grown ups.

September 1, 2010 at 06:04




September 1, 2010 at 03:43

India is a Democracy. Takes pride in being so. Then act like one and give the Kashmiris what they want.
Simple as that.

What else is there to talk about, other than hypocrisy?

Alex Thomas
August 31, 2010 at 17:44

Very articulate and an eye opener. I strongly favor your POV.

August 31, 2010 at 15:47

Agree with you. I want to add a very important point about our security forces posted in the region. I have been reading lots of stuff about human rights violations recently, but what those writers tend to easily forget is that the same security forces have helped out the Kashmiris in difficult times. Its like when they do good job, no one mentions that. But if some unfortunate incident happens, the internet is abuzz with anti-army news.

Last weekend, Barkha Dutt’s ‘We, The People’ held a debate at the ‘Dal’ lake. I wondered what is the plan? Where do the protesters see themselves, say 5 years from now.
A. A theocratic state with Sharia. I mean, do you think the fundamentalists (all the potential leaders of such a state from separatists to extremists) won’t implement such laws. And how will such a state be better off than secular Indian state.
B. A part of Pakistan. Holy Mother of God! that will be hell of an adventure, given the state of Pakistan.
C. An independent state. But won’t that state be extra anti-Indian and pro-Pakistan and hence, pro-China. Why does any sane soul on the face of earth think India will allow that.

Also to mention, I fail to understand why this idea of freedom is not imported and is being taken up as a religious fantasy. If those youth think that Bihar, Chhatisgarh and many other states have better leaders, roads, electricity, honest beurocrats, they are wrong. Indian government must have been spending more money on keeping Kashmir alive and within India, than it must be getting a revenue from it. We all know that Kashimiri-Pandits were threatened out of the valley as a first step by the terrorists, so why is it not a religious fantasy rather than a thought out independence struggle.

One surprising factor is to understand how can 11 year old boys be sent on streets to join the protests and that too, at a time when civilian deaths are mounting. One educator at the debate was emphatic to say that he has closed his school to support the greater cause and someone even said that the schools are better closed ‘cos in the so-called peaceful days, the teachers have to count the number of pupils alive. So, how come the same people are sending their young ones out on streets to pelt stones on the forces. My heart goes out for any civilian killed in the conflict. But please be sane and realize that you don’t have a solution. What’s going on seems to me as a playful act of politics, playing on your emotions and religion.

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