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KASHMIR CRISIS--SYED ZUBAIR
This has been a summer of discontent for the Kashmir valley. The death of a17-year-old Tufail Mattoo fatally hit by a teargas shell, and the Shopian tragedy became rallying grounds against an insensitive state apparatus. The home minister has acknowledged that the nature and intensity of the current agitation are different from the past. This is the first acknowledgement of the ground realities by the government of India.
Over the past 60 years, India has adopted an ostrich-like approach denying acceptance of the truth that, emotionally, Kashmir was rarely with it. Commencing with Sheikh Abdullah's arrest in 1953, the systematic "management" of successive elections, the heavy presence of the Indian army, the absence of real development and the lacklustre performance of Kashmiri politicians present an amalgam that lies at the heart of the disturbances today. But perceptions outside Kashmir often belie the truth. While the flawed development paradigm largely implied food and grain subsidies, the rest of India thinks that it is a pampered state, treated with kid gloves because of its geographical and emotional proximity to Pakistan. Article 370 guarantees Kashmiris special privileges. Over decades they received subsidies, their lands have been unjustifiably protected under the Constitution prohibiting the rest of India to buy land or invest in parts of Jammu & Kashmir. They can never be allowed a plebicite for their loyalty is suspect.
Over the past six decades, no government has sensitised India to the unique situation of Kashmir. There is no sensitisation to affirmative action and no dissemination of information that, if there is Article 370 in Kashmir, there is also Article 371-A for Nagaland, 371-B for Assam, 371-C for Manipur, 371-D for Andhra Pradesh, 371-F for Sikkim, 371-G for Mizoram, 371-H for Arunachal Pradesh and 371-I for Goa. All these Articles grant special rights and privileges to these states depending on their culture, society and history. But society has not been adequately sensitised which has resulted in the complication of the problem. The fallout is now before us. The central and state governments are scampering for solutions. Curfew, the last resort for any good administration, is for the past two months a way of life. In the holy month of Ramadan when people fast and pray, fasting students confronted the Indian military. There are no medicines for the old, no milk for babies, no food for the ordinary person. Mothers deliver babies at home, there is no emergency aid for the critically ill, no business and work for the daily artisan, the weaver, the ordinary Indian Kashmiri, no birthday celebrations, no weddings. There is no politically effective party left in Kashmir and each party is perceived as opportunist.
So what is required to rebuild peace in this land of Sufis and saints. What is the deeper meaning behind the cry for azadi? Does the Kashmiri really expect azadi? Does any right-thinking person actually wish to associate with a failed state like Pakistan? Or is it that in the garb of this exaggerated cry, the Kashmiri actually wishes to use it as a bargaining chip to extract the maximum autonomy that the government of India can concede, perhaps go close to the Agreement of 1952 signed with Sheikh Abdullah? He is keen for restoration of normalcy and true democracy but will not let this movement die till he something concrete comes out. He seeks freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom from the awesome presence of the army and its pickets. He does not wish the next generation to grow up under the shadow of the gun. That is what Azadi means for him.
It is, therefore, incumbent on the governments in New Delhi and the state to create an atmosphere conducive to talks. Sooner the better.
(Syed Zubair is from South Hall Univeristy, London. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org))
Lastupdate on : Wed, 22 Sep 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 22 Sep 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 23 Sep 2010 00:00:00 IST
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