I just read these three interesting articles about the entire Kashmir agitation issue and was a little taken back by the almost extremist stance taken by at least two of these articles.
While Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar has always been known for his crisp and candid comments in his famous “Swaminomics” weekly column in the Times of India, this particular article of his is a little radical in suggesting that the Indian Govt. go ahead and give the Kashmiris a plebiscite where they could decide between (a) independence (b) union with Pakistan (c) union with India. He cites history wherein the Kashmiris were denied their promised plebiscite in 1947 when the Union Govt of India wrongly denied these people their basic right of choice regarding their alignment and secessionism.
While this particular article does delve into history and talk about how India used force to secede the princely state of Junagadh (which had a Hindu majority but was ruled by a Muslim Nawab) and draws parallels with Kashmir (which had a Muslim majority but a Hindu ruler), the sheer audacity with which Swaminathan Aiyar seems to suggest a plebiscite and letting the voice of people win reeks of ‘blissful ignorance’ or ‘sheer innocence’ or a bit of both. And either of these traits coming from someone like him is a little disturbing.
The other article by Vir Sanghvi (who for some particular reason keeps shifting his loyalties in and out of the Star Group and the Hindustan Times, as well as between Television and Print as media-of-choice), is way more radical in suggesting that based on a pure cost-benefit analysis the only thing that makes sense in this whole chaotic Kashmir situation is a referendum. Although the choices offered to the people are the same as Swami Aiyar’s (for obvious reasons), the logic offered by Vir Sanghvi is reasonably different.
He seems to suggest that Kashmir or Kashmiris are taking too much advantage of the fact that they enjoy the privileges that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution offers them, and at the same time are utterly thankless to the rest of the Indian taxpayers who are pretty much subsidising every Kashmiri’s life today. His reasonably angry article (well, he uses the words “Damn all”) is peppered with facts and figures which seem to suggest that Kashmir gets over ten times more Govt. Grant than Bihar does, and that too in the form of money rather than grants or subsidies, but is absolutely thankless.
I then read the original post from The Acorn by Nitin which pointed me to both these articles in the first place. And I completely agree with him when he says that plebiscite is probably not the right way to go in a situation such as this where a majority of the people will vote purely based on current sentiment and historical reasons rather than looking forward to a better future. Nitin’s suggestion that “To ensure the well-being of people in the region, including those of its neighbours, India as a whole, and not just Jammu & Kashmir, needs to place a premium on individual freedoms on the one hand, and on tolerance on the other” is probably one of the better constructed sentences in all three articles.
I personally have no answers to this tricky question, but then somebody has to ask them and ask them loud enough so that the people who can look for answers hear them.