Let’s begin with The Right. When I say ‘right’, I don’t mean the deranged morons shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ with a sword in hand and whose only towering accomplishment of life has been burning people who belonged to a faith different from theirs. Neither am I referring to the people who assault women visiting pubs or wearing ‘western clothes’ or those who indulge in careful vandalism on Valentine's Day. There are appropriate sections of IPC and CrPC to deal with such kinds of cretins. I am not saying they don’t count because such people have a lot of mass support and it’s both dangerous to ignore them as lunatics or give up in front of their insanity – simply because they fulfill agendas of much smarter and subtler people. But that’s a story for another day.
By ‘right’, I mean a large group of people, who otherwise are professionally qualified (often with impeccable credentials), had the privilege of getting a liberal education, are highly urbane and articulate and are quite capable of logical argument but have a ideas which endorse a complete free market economy, believe that Kashmir has always been an inalienable part of India, espouse the virtues of Hindutva and how Hindutva is a ‘way of life’ and not a religious doctrine, wax eloquent about Savarkars & Golwalkars, how there are ‘capitalist’ solutions like rapid urbanization and industrialization to get rid of our appalling poverty.
My problem is not so much with their points of view as it is with the associated dogmatism which often makes them to gloss over uncomfortable aspects like human rights violations and overplay otherwise irrelevant things like destruction of temples by Aurangzeb. Some (definitely not all) of these gentlemen (women are much less dogmatic than men when it comes to ideologies) often descend into that despicable practice of making personal attacks on people with whom they have an ideological disagreement. Some of blogs with such a lopsided view of are Offstumped, Atanu Dey and Shantanu Bhagwat.
Then, there is the whole tribe of hero-worshippers who follow these gentlemen on blogs, facebook, twitter etc. whose only accomplishment is to cheer their ‘hero’ and heap trash on any dissenter. These morons are intolerant of any point of view which is different from their hero’s, incapable of independent thinking, devoid of any logical argument and hence, most prone to mud-raking and resorting to uncivil language.
By left, I am referring here to that assorted group of people without any affiliation to any of the mainstream political parties otherwise born into privileged middle-class homes but who have veered towards the left side of the political spectrum either due to some overpowering influence during their formative years or driven by a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of dispossessed. Here, you have usual suspects a.k.a. jholawallas. Many of them happen to be alumni of a certain University situated in our national capital. Apart from that you have a motley group of academics belonging to both Indian and Western Universities, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, authors and yes, lest I forget, a Booker Prize Winner as well. It may not be far-fetched to say that there’s more to these people’s writings than what appears. However, there are some genuine unsung heroes (for me, personally) who have trudged along in spite of insurmountable odds. The most admirable thing about such people is that they persist in spite of knowing that they are fighting a losing battle.
1) Poverty/Development Models – Here, I veer more to the left than right. I feel that a free-for-all capitalism is definitely not the solution as is evident from what has happened over the last 2 decades in India (loot of natural resources being just one of the panaceas of liberalization) and the trajectory the US – that demigod of capitalism – has followed over past 90 years or so (Essentially, after the Great Depression of 1920s). But then I don’t want India to hark back to Nehruvian Socialism and License Raj era either. I seriously feel that the state has no business to produce railway carriages or steel or supplying electricity to people’s homes. Similarly, I have nothing but contempt for those intellectuals whose ideas involve revolution of proletariat and other such theories which in plain speak is nothing but equal distribution of poverty (as against the proclaimed "equal distribution of wealth"). So, what’s the solution? A capitalist model with a strict regulatory framework and constitutionally independent watchdogs, an independent judiciary and a fearless, unbiased media – something on the lines of certain West European nations. But then with corruption being as endemic as it is today in Indian life and innumerable examples of how vested lobbies have screwed up the US economy in spite of plethora of checks and balances, something tells me that nothing is sacrosanct, at least in Indian context – judiciary, media, executive, legislature. Nothing. So, what’s the answer? I don’t know.
Sometimes, I feel that the Mahatma’s model of decentralized village republics may have been better than Messers Nehru and Mahalonobis’ centralized planning system. But again, I am not so sure. Such a model may have kept large swathes of India in the 19th century (otherwise in harmony with nature and going to bed with full stomachs) while the rest of the world was building nuclear missiles and launching space vehicles. It may have led to more internal contradictions than what we have now.
The issue of Naxalism is again too complex and has too many layers. It is futile to even try putting arguments in favour and against of both the State and the rebels in neat, separate boxes. Probably, sometime in future I will attempt that as well.
a. There should be a complete ban on all public expression of religion – be it bhajans from loudspeakers or azaans from mosques (For the sake of peace, if not anything else). Anything causing inconveniences like traffic disruptions from Ganapati visarjans or tazias on Muharram should be prohibited. Religion is a private thing. Let it remain that way. Again, state should not interfere with personal expressions of religion like wearing turban or burkha.
b. Bring in a Uniform Civil Code – Here, I am more close to the political right. I agree that state has no business in meddling in people’s religion but at the same time you can’t expect to be a liberal, developed state with almost every facet of life of a significant section of population being dominated by a code of conduct written in seventh century Arabia. People have to move on with time. That’s how civilizations have evolved and prospered over the history of mankind – by embracing change and not getting stuck in a time warp.
I feel that India has permanently and irretrievably lost the plot in Kashmir through a series of blunders, which include everything from taking the issue to the UN to rigging elections to human rights abuses to mismanagement of popular sentiment to sheer indifference – the list just keeps going on. For all the supreme sacrifices made by our men in uniform, for all times Haji Pir pass was captured at the cost of tremendous casualties and subsequently handed over to Pakistan on a platter, for all those gallantry medals won in the line of duty, for all those hardships endured by men posted along LoC under inhospitable conditions, for all those numerous Kashmiri Hindus butchered over the years just because they were Kafirs, for all those Pandits who have been rendered refugees in their own country – I still feel that we have too much blood on our hands. I don’t want the honour of my country to be further besmirched, trying to salvage a situation which is essentially unsalvageable. BJP and ultra-nationalists may keep on harping about ‘Akhand Bharat’ and Kashmir being an unfinished business, the fundamental issue is that of alienation of an entire population. When an entire population doesn’t identify with India as a country and everything she stands for, no amount of effort to win their ‘hearts and minds’ is going to help. But when I see a Chitpavan Brahmin of Girgaum, a maka-pav Christian of Bandra, a Bhaiyya auto-driver in Andheri, a Tam Bram from Matunga and a Pestonji Batlivala of South Bombay all sharing the same space of Bombay (that microcosm of India itself), I can’t fathom what’s wrong with Kashmiris. I don’t have an answer – probably except Religion (Considering the fact that Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state of India). I, also, personally feel that the Kashmiriyat line dished out by separatists is a farcical bullshit. If Kashmiriyat would have been such a shared bond cutting across religious boundaries then Pakistan would not have been able to play the kind of havoc it has.
So, let Kashmir go (which will be the result of a plebiscite in any case) – but only the valley – not Jammu, not Ladakh, not Kargil. In other words, only those 10 districts of the valley (comprising of the earlier undivided districts of Srinagar, Anantnag & Baramulla) which constitute a Sunni Muslim majority population. This post by Mr. Raman Kaul is the one the best articles I have come across on any proposed solution to this vexing problem, apart from the oft-cited BBC article (Before you develop any pre-conceived notion due to the surname of the author, I suggest you read the article in entirety). Any change in demography brought in by unnatural forces like forced conversions, exodus of Pandits should be taken into account at the time of any plebiscite or referendum (easier said than done). Let them join Pakistan. Let them embrace Azaadi. Let them establish an Islamic theocracy. I don’t care a damn. I wish them heaven.
That is only till the time, I don’t have a look at the map – not the one Survey of India loves to publish – but the present, on-the-ground representation of status quo. A casual glance will tell you that how vulnerable it will make us if even the valley is controlled by a power hostile to India, which in any case will be. (The JNU types can vehemently disagree and Geelani saab may assure that all non-Muslims will be allowed to consume alcohol in Azad’ed Kashmir but geopolitical realities are defined by histories (and host of other factors) and not by some fanciful, utopian conjectures of a separatist whose interpretation of Wahabi Islam and sworn allegiance to a power which has been hostile to us for the greater part of our 64 years of shared history, is a matter of record. Yes, I am referring to Yoginder Sikand's brilliant article which even a left-leaning publication like EPW considered good enough to be published). As my friend S (who is anyways a ‘hawk’ which is unsurprising, given his background) once remarked to me, “No sane Indian should even think of letting Kashmir go.” So here again, I don’t have a black and white answer.