ONLY FIVE DISTRICTS
Okay, let us iterate for the nth time that Kashmir is an intractable problem, defying the best of minds these past seventy years. The open sore on the body politic has bled for as long as one can recall. Yes, there have been periods of relative lull and “normalcy”, but do recall that Pakistan has fought three wars, beginning with the first in 1947 itself, to snatch Kashmir from India. And each time India has rebuffed it.
Therefore, it is a bit rich for someone like the former Home Minister P. Chidambaram to suggest that the Narendra Modi government might be losing Kashmir. However complex the problem, the truth is that Kashmir is going nowhere. The Indian state is neither so fragile nor so fickle-minded as to allow anyone to snatch Kashmir from us. The origins of what we call the Kashmir problem lie in the woolly-headedness of those who presided over the Partition of the sub-continent into two hostile countries. Period.
But our purpose in writing about Kashmir is not to apportion blame for a conflict which has continued to exact huge costs in men and materials since the birth of Pakistan. No, it is to remind the ordinary readers about the known-knowns about Kashmir, which, unfortunately, seem to be absent from the popular consciousness, whenever something scary in the valley hits the headlines. Which, alas, is very often these days. Since these known-knowns are actually unknowns for most people, here is something that is doing the rounds of social media to lend a correct perspective to the Kashmir problem:
• Total area in the state of Jammu and Kashmir: 101,380 sq km (excluding Pak-occupied Kashmir).
• Kashmir: 15%
• Jammu: 26%
• Ladakh: 59%
• Total population: 1.25 crore.
• Kashmir: 69 lakh, with 13 lakh people speaking non-Kashmiri languages.
• Jammu: 53 lakh, with Dogri, Punjabi and Hindi as main languages.
• Ladakah: Three lakh who speak Ladakhi, excluding 7.5 lakh, who live there but do not enjoy citizenship rights.
• Of 22 districts in J& K, five are in the grip of separatist violence; these are Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramullah, Kulgam and Pulwama.
• Other 15 districts strongly oppose separatist campaign.
• Separatists at best constitute 15% of the population of J&K and they are mostly Sunni Muslims.
• Among more than a dozen religious/ethnic groups, which constitute 85% of the total J&K population, there are: Shias, Dogras (Rajputs, Brahmins and Mahajans), Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Buddhists (Ladakhis), Gujjars, Bakarwals, Paharis, Baltis, Christians, etc.
• Only a third of the people in the Valley speak Kashmiri, though they dominate the separatist narrative; this one-third also dominates business and public services in Kashmir.
• Notably, though Poonch and Kargil are Muslim-majority, people here do not participate in anti-India protests.
Simply put, what we call the Kashmir problem is confined to five districts and less than 15% of the population of J&K.
Admittedly, the media cannot be blamed for reporting various acts of arson, rioting and Pakistan-sponsored terrorist acts in the Valley, but a correct perspective in view of these facts will help tamp down the shrill message as if the entire state was on fire. It is not. And has never been all through the years since the artificial creation of a religion-based Pakistan.
Of course, the current stalemate in Kashmir has to yield to a thaw, sooner than later. No one in his right mind would slink away from talks, which decidedly would help lower the temperature in the murderous valley. But so long as the stone-throwers, or rather their paymasters and controllers across the LOC, do not stop their provocations, the Indian State would find it hard to talk peace with those who seek azaadi. Maybe, in the meantime, the two countries can revive the backchannel process away from the glare of publicity, with the designated representatives meeting in third countries to evolve a modus vivendi for the restoration of what is normalcy in the context of Kashmir.
However, ordinary Indians would do well not to be swayed by silly questions such as “is Kashmir lost for India?” If truth be told, the conditions were created for its loss by the revered leaders of the questioner. And, again, if truth be told, it was the intense pressure from the revered leaders of the present-day rulers which prevented its actual loss to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, those who wear their pseudo-secularism on the pallu of their sarees, ought to also spare a thought for the poor security personnel who in the most trying of conditions resist extreme provocation from the same 14-year-olds throwing stones meant to blind them. The Army jawan too is someone’s son, someone’s husband, someone’s father and deserves our gratitude. Why should our tear ducts overflow only when a secessionist meets his just deserts?
Yes, a peaceful campaign for azaadi could still be condoned, but a violent protest for secession in any democratic country would be, should be, put down with the use of force. Those seeking azaadi are in a woeful minority and cannot be allowed to hold the entire people of J&K, nay, of all of India hostage. Nation-breakers do not deserve Indians’ sympathy; Pakistanis’ is readily available.
HYPOCRITICAL ON CORRUPTION
A day after the Delhi voter rejected his brand of politics, Arvind Kejriwal rehashed his anti-corruption charade, telling the handful of newly-elected corporators to stay loyal to the party. But given that the Kejriwal government is itself immersed neck-deep in corruption, his words sounded hollow. For a Chief Minister who has had to sack half of his ministers on account of corruption, while another one or two face serious charges of wrong-doing, to tom-tom honesty is rather disingenuous.
The truth is that the AAP crowd, including Kejriwal himself, was in a hurry to enjoy the perks of power, what with the commandeering of spacious houses, frequent foreign jaunts, a four-fold increase in salaries and perks et al. For such a group of self-seekers to talk of public service is tantamount to pulling wool over peoples’ eyes. However, the voter in Punjab, Goa and now Delhi has seen through the Kejriwal game.
A PLOY TO DEFANG THE MEDIA
Journalists in Chandigarh should rest assured that they have the full support and sympathy of the entire tribe of hacks everywhere in their fight to assert our birthright to imbibe the heady brew. The Chandigarh Press Club, through a quirk of distance measurement, was found to be within the 500-meter of a state highway and thus was forced to go dry as per the firman of the Apex Court. After initially shutting down the bar, the CPC resumed serving liquor once the local administration certified that the motorable distance from the highway was 507 meters.
Unfortunately, a few days later, the Excise Department changed the parameters of measuring distance. Now the club was found to be in breach of the 500-meter bar (no pun intended). As a result, the bar remains shut, with 1,100-odd parched souls in these hot summer days looking desperately for the mood-altering elixir. But they have not given up. Hopefully, yet another newer way to measure distance would be found.