The Kashmir Conundrum

Kashmir – An area of conflict in South Asia that hasn’t seen peace, freedom and security for a very long while. After several hundred years of imperial rule, part of Kashmir became a part of the Secular, Democratic, Republic of India while the other part became a part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A minute section of Kashmir is also occupied by China.

The History of the state is the key to understanding the basis of the Indo-Pak conflict and also offers the means for a peaceful resolution of the issue. The last ruler of Kashmir was Maharaja Hari Singh, a man who was despised predominantly by the Muslim population of Kashmir for his autocratic and anti-Islamic regime. It is Hari Singh who handed Kashmir over to the Government of India through a document of Accession which many claim he had no right to write in the first place by virtue of his lack of control over the Islamic rebel groups in his own kingdom.

This is where the feud between India and Pakistan began; over who had a claim over the territory of Kashmir. Pakistan chose to separate itself from India as a nation built for the Muslims because they felt marginalized in India. They claim Kashmir due to its Muslim majorities and India claimed Kashmir by virtue of the accession document signed by the Maharaja.

The real reasons are the strategic importance of the region in terms of Defense and Trade along with its abundant natural resources like water supply and the potential for agriculture. These reasons, along with a strong tendency towards power-play, are apparently sufficient for both countries to wage large scale conventional wars (1947, 1965 and 1971).

There are blatant human rights violations in the area coupled with a severe lack of development and employment opportunities that lead inevitably to large sections of the Kashmiri population living in conditions of fear, anger and squalor. They have not yet been given the right to exercise their will in this matter. This has led to the growth of various militant organizations in the region that oppose the oppression of the Indian Government. These “freedom fighters” are labeled terrorists by the Indian government justifying their military pressure over the entire civilian population in the area.

In 1947, when the Kashmir issue was first referred to the United Nations, India did not want to be at an equal footing with Pakistan while Pakistan was openly hostile towards the Indian Government. On 31st December 1947, Nehru wrote to the UN Secretary-General:

“To remove the misconception that the Indian Government is using the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir to reap political profits, the Government of Indian wants to make it very clear that as soon as the raiders are driven out and normalcy is restored, the people of the state will freely decide their fate and that decision will be taken according to the universally accepted democratic means of Plebiscite or Referendum.”[1]

More than 50 years have gone by and the Kashmiris are still not acquainted with “normalcy”. They still have not had the (long overdue) plebiscite.

India’s stand was that, Kashmir was formally a part of India according to a legal agreement with the Maharaja to this effect and that any claim to any part of Kashmir by Pakistan is illegitimate.

Pakistan was of the opposite view where it felt that the Maharaja was driven out of his country by the people of Kashmir and that he had no authority to hand over the state which wasn’t under his control anyway. This nullifies any agreement made between the Government of India and the Maharaja.

The road ahead

The most pragmatic solution to this dispute comes from an unlikely source… Pakistan’s Military Dictator, General Pervez Musharraf. He proposed a four-point formula that addresses the key problems to this feud:

1. Demilitarization of the disputed area.

This would be done by both sides; India and Pakistan in tandem with a UN sponsored cease fire leaving room for organizing a plebiscite in the area.

2. Self Government.

Self-Government by the Kashmiris implies that both India and Pakistan will need to bring the Kashmiri interests to the table and add them to what has become a bilateral argument involving only Indian and Pakistani interests. Let the Kashmiris decide what they want.

3. Softening of existing borders.

The primary reason for the existence of hostilities amongst India and Pakistan is Kashmir. Once the region is divided according to the plebiscite, there will be no reason to have gargantuan armed forces regiments posted in the area leaving room for more productive interactions like trade and development. This can be achieved through creating, in phases, a permeable border amongst India and Pakistan.

4. International supervision and guarantee from the UN and major regional powers.

International supervision is necessary to ensure that both sides are operating in the interests of the people caught in the crossfire. The border drawn after the plebiscite and division of Kashmir will need to be recognized by the international community.

The plan is quite straight forward. However, implementing this plan is another challenge altogether with the primary obstacle being India’s unwillingness to give up territory. The Government of India will have to be convinced about its priorities. Territory comes after people. The people of Kashmir are suffering and are being driven into desperation. This could pose a serious law and order situation in India through the coming years with an increase in the already high levels of “terrorist” infiltrations across the country. The Indian public also needs to be made aware of the situation that prevails in Kashmir today. The Government has skillfully kept this away from them through manipulation of the mainstream media. Demanding accountability and productive action from the Government of India should be the first step preceding international pressure through sanctions and power play.

This is an urgent situation that requires immediate remedial action before it exacerbates into uncontrollable dimensions.


[1] Jawaharlal Nehru, as quoted in Korbel, Danger in Kashmir, p. 98.

Is Banning Students’ elections justified?

Students in a rally

Mayawati has announced a ban on students’ polls in UP. The youth politics has gone haywire but the ban is not justified. The active presence of constructive politics and true democracy can effectively defend the anarchy and disharmony in campuses.

SUPREME COURT recently gave the judgment that the country needs good students and not leaders engaged in ‘goondagiri’ and ‘dadagiri’ in colleges and universities. As if taking cue from this observation, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister announced a ban on students’ elections in the state. Since independence this is the fourth time that such curbs have been imposed in the state. The ban, says the CM, will improve law and order on campus and regularise academic sessions. In December 2006, we saw unrest in Lucknow University over the recommendations of Lyngdoh committee on student polls.

I have been to Lucknow University (LU) myself and there is no doubt that the campus election has become a playfield for small time ‘netas’ who masquerade as students. There is lot of tension whenever a poll is round the corner and major sufferers are common students. The problem is that politicians meddle a lot in student elections of LU. The students go and harass business establishments to extract money before elections. Aspiring candidates have at least four gunmen and new cars for the campaign. They are not afraid because of political backing. This criminalisation of youth politics is very disturbing.

However, a ban is unjustified. Political activities in the Universities are natural because the university is a community of thinking people; of those who are exploring the frontiers of knowledge and of those who criticise and evaluate every idea before accepting it. The active presence of constructive politics and true democracy can effectively defend the anarchy and disharmony in campuses. There are also evidences of harassment faced by students in the “non-political campuses.” The college authorities in the name of campus decorum crush even the genuine protests of the students against misdeeds and exploitation. In private campuses the students’ council is a nominated one and which is mere puppet in hands of management.

Instead of such blanket ban, state government should ensure they implement recommendations of Lyngdoh Committee. This lackadaisical approach on the part of national parties and poll authorities will only delay the process of political socialisation and undermine the spirit of healthy competition among many who may become India’s future leaders.

Indian Youth and Politics

Politics has lost its charm among Indian youthPOLITICS is perhaps the most commonly used word in every sphere of life these days. Now when independent India has reached the age of 60, why not have a look at the youth and their perception of politics?

Independent India has completed a journey of 60 successful years. During this period we have witnessed the worst and the best. The changes our country went through have helped it to evolve as a stronger and progressive nation in the world. It’s no secret that for our generation politics as a career comes way down the career option list. Politics is losing its appeal amongst the youth of India.

Reasons are many like rampant corruption, criminalisation of politics, apathy towards people’s needs; lack of accountability and the list goes on. When we have so many options to explore, why should we dirty our hands in politics?

We put the blame on the government and our elected members whenever we see or feel that our representatives are not doing their job efficiently. But more than 50 per cent of population does not take part in political process of our country. Thus we have no right to blame anyone except ourselves. We all feel that the system needs to be changed but we don’t want to take the responsibility on our shoulders. We have potential human resources who can change the scenario, but they choose to go to UK or US for studies and jobs and restrict their lives only to their “secured” jobs and settle there permanently.

The perception of our generation about politics has generally been negative. Though we have few young politicians, they have not been allowed to stretch their wings. The politicians need to open up and promote the young generation in the mainstream politics. It is stereotype to think that only people with gray hair can become successful politicians. In UK, Tony Blair retires at 58 while in our country the chief posts are mostly occupied by the politicians above 50 years of age. The younger generation doesn’t have any outlet to show their principles of leadership. Now ask the youth of India about the politics and there’s an answer straight on your face. Who wants to join the politics?

But is turning away from the politics and maintaining a distance form political class really a solution?

Changing dysfunctional behaviour is difficult but not impossible. If we as a nation have to move ahead and build the country of our dreams, we have to use politics as a medium to ensure that government remains sensitive and accountable to the people. We come back to the same question. Who will take this country into the era of prosperity, economic growth, sustained development and all round progress?

It will have to be a collective effort. We will have to work together with a common goal in mind. We have come a long way but journey by no means is over. It is important to make this growth sustainable. India has large productive and young population as her asset.

If we truly believe that the future of any country lies in the hands of the youth than we need to take a step forward. Only youth can change the pace and width of the course of our nation’s progress and make India a global giant. If we want to see a better India it’s time to take charge. We have to build a foundation now for a prosperous future. Unless youth feel concerned and gets involved in politics at all stages, we cannot expect a nation to grow.

Remember, it is not good for a nation when its citizens only complain and expect someone else to fix their problems.