No component of the Independence Day 2016 speech from Red Fort has merited so much attention as the reference to Balochistan. Nearly ten days down the line the reverberations can still be heard of a debate which, to begin with, had very little to say. However, now, with three Balochis, reportedly, being charged with sedition by Pakistan for having praised the Indian Prime Minister, the matter is not going to fade away soon.

No one is denying the significance of the reference to Balochistan. What was said was, prima facie, quite innocuous, because the Prime Minister was only expressing his reaction to the way the people of Balochistan have referred to him recently. Seemingly, it is innocuous and can hardly be seen as a threat to anyone. That it has been put to use that way is perhaps best understood by the kind of critique that a handful of people have made of it.

The writer has been in and out of Jammu & Kashmir since 1978, when he was invited to deliver the keynote address of what was perhaps the first seminar in Kashmir University on the “freedom struggle” in Kashmir. The then Chief Minister of the riasat, Sheikh Abdullah had on the eve of the seminar hosted a party at his official residence in Lal Chowk. Gracious as always, when thanked for the role he had bestowed upon this writer in the seminar, he responded by saying “In years to come your generation will have the responsibility of taking this forward. I see you as their representative.” Little did I realise, then, of how prophetic his word would be.

Through the years, my association with both Jammu and the valley widened and deepened in many manifestations. This is not the best place to recount the crests and the troughs. It has, nonetheless, been almost continuous, giving an occasion to interact both with the high and mighty and the lowly and the non-descript of the suba.

Not many people realise how Kashmir valley has been the cradle at one point of time of the Shaivite creed and this is comparable only to the way the valley has nurtured Sufism. The growth of Buddhism in Ladakh and Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra are obvious realities. 

I have been at a loss to understand the extraordinary focus the various episodes of south Kashmir and some other places have received. The CM is reportedly of the view that not more than 5% of the state population is involved in the current agitation. It is true that the state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of a large number of ethnic groups—from Bakarwals of Rajouri and Poonch areas to the Mongoloid tribes of Ladakh. The religious diversity of the entire state makes it, by definition, an essay in sanguine tolerance. Notwithstanding some well-known strife episodes during the Dogra rule in Srinagar, the state has been remarkably stable and tolerant. They have not only shared among themselves the productive processes of the suba, frugal as they have been, but also, in their shared habitat, respected each other’s core beliefs and essential fabric of the economy.

Not many people realise how Kashmir valley has been the cradle at one point of time of the Shaivite creed and this is comparable only to the way the valley has nurtured Sufism. The growth of Buddhism in Ladakh and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu, Katra are realities which would be obvious even to those who do not wish to see.

The Prime Minister was right in giving a political message to political sabre-rattling from across the border, not withstanding some usual pseudo liberal use of free speech within India. What is sauce for the goose must clearly be sauce for the gander. Jinnah’s military resolution of Balochistan tribal autonomy is a fact which no amount of propaganda can erase. The resistance the Baloch have offered to integration with Pakistan is a tell-tale story. The Prime Minister did not politicise the movement of dissent. If there was a hint of such a possibility, it was most appropriately subtle and totally “un-stated”.

Accordingly, it’s difficult to understand how a handful of people could be comparing the goings-on of Kashmir integration with India to how Balochistan was handled historically by the state of Pakistan.

The purpose of this text is not a judgement on the political merits and demerits. The purpose is to underscore how ethnographic and anthropological realities determine the growth of decision making institutions. Social reality is the seed bed of the control of the decision making process.

No other country in the world has ever been created to placate religious appetite. That partition of India was an essay in this direction can be explained variously. However the ground truth remains: any partition does not solve a problem, it only bisects it.

Vinayshil Gautam, PhD; FRAS (London), is Senior Adviser, KPMG & Hon. Dean KPMG Academy, and Chairman, DK International Foundation

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