As an ‘argumentative Indian’ it pleases me when someone starts an argument with me. It pleases me even more when the challenger is a respected intellectual with more years of journalistic experience than little old me. So I was flattered that Prem Shankar Jha should consider it worthwhile to write a long, thoughtful piece in this newspaper last week to disagree with what I said on the current situation in Kashmir. What I said in this space was that it was disturbing not to hear Kashmir’s supposedly moderate leaders speak in a moderate voice at a time when sensible voices were so badly needed.
Mr Jha accused me of being “both simplistic and unjust”. In his critique of my piece he gave a lengthy account of the history of the Amarnath Yatra but ended up half agreeing with me: “Ms Singh is right when she says that (Yasin) Malik, the Mirwaiz, Geelani and even Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti fanned the agitation by joining it. But had they not done so they would have written their own epitaphs in Kashmiri politics.”
My answer is they should have. Kashmir needs leaders not politicians in its present crisis. If all that the ‘moderates’ can give us is politics and political expediency it would be better if they wrote their epitaphs quickly. It would make it easier for us to deal with the secessionists and jihadis who should under Indian law be tried for treason. Ten years ago I wrote a book that blamed the Government of India squarely for denying Kashmiris their democratic rights, thereby driving them towards armed insurgency. I believe this gives me the right to say that this time the Kashmiris have no cause.
No country could have dealt with a secessionist movement more gently than India has after those initial mistakes in the early nineties. The movement for azadi turned into Islamist terrorism and India did nothing. Kashmiri Hindus were ethnically cleansed from the Valley and India did nothing. Jihadis came across our borders and turned Kashmiri Islam into a Saudi facsimile and India did nothing.
This is why when something as absurd as the Amarnath land row should have brought thousands of Kashmiris into the streets carrying Pakistani flags and shouting jihadi slogans the reaction from Indians has been: get out. Enough is enough. In Delhi’s liberal drawing rooms they put it diplomatically. We should have a referendum, they say, and if the Kashmiris want to go to Pakistan then it’s time to let them go because, poor dears, they have suffered so much for their azadi.
As a reporter who prefers to listen to what ordinary people say let me tell you what I hear when I put my ear to the ground. I hear people say that anyone who wants to go to Pakistan must be allowed to leave and never allowed back into Kashmir. I hear people say that they are not prepared to surrender another inch of Indian territory. If Kashmiri Muslims have a problem living with us let them emigrate to that Islamic country across the border. Whoever wants to go must be helped to go. But, there will be no more changing of India’s borders. The more belligerent say let the Kashmir Valley go to Pakistan but then there will be no room in India for Muslims.
What I also hear is huge support for the movement in Jammu. So when our political leaders and politically correct TV anchors equate the two agitations they make a serious mistake. The way ordinary Indians see it is that we have one set of protesters who carry Indian flags and are ready to die for Bharat Mata and they cannot be equated with those who openly state their allegiance to Pakistan.
It is no longer about the Amarnath Yatra. It is about whether the Indian state has the courage to defend India from breaking up. And, defend the values India stands for. We stand for democracy, secularism and fundamental human freedoms that include the freedom of worship. These are good values and we must defend them against those who would have us make compromises with religious fanatics and traitors.
Those who do not share our values have every right to leave and find a country more suited to their way of thinking and their beliefs. But, if they choose to stay in India they must abide by the values of this land. In the name of ‘secularism’ Dr Manmohan Singh’s Government has made too many concessions to jihadis and other lowlifes. This is being seen as a sign of weakness by those who have no compunction about waving Pakistani flags on Indian soil. If this is a ‘simplistic and unjust’ assessment of the situation in Kashmir so be it.
Courtesy: The Indian Express