Well, as a fiction author, I often am in a position to take liberties which policy makers and people in decision making positions can’t. This ‘wishful thinking” it the audacity of hope and optimism.
My latest book, “When The Chief Fell in Love” has a maverick futuristic chapter set in the Kashmir of 2030. It imagines a Kashmir where all is well and working backwards, spells out a broad roadmap towards achieving that utopian solution to the Kashmir dispute.
Peeling off some of the surreal elements of the roadmap and keeping it as realistic as possible, this is what it would read like.
First of all, Article 35(A) needs to be quashed by the Supreme Court. The article carries the bizarre provision of vesting full authority in the state assembly of determining who qualifies to be ‘permanent resident’ of Kashmir. This Article violates Article 15 of the Constitution, providing for equality to all, and if challenged unequivocally in the Supreme Court, it will not be able to stand legal scrutiny.
Second, let’s unapologetically acknowledge Kashmir is a demographic problem. Much of its problems emanated from the basic fact that for a land area that big, there were far too many ethnically diverse groups living within it. So, while the Kashmir Valley comprised largely of Kashmiri Muslims, with a small percentage of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, in Jammu, majority of the population was Dogra. Ladakh was Buddhist, while Gilgit and Balistan (now a part of Pakistan) had a majority population of Dardi and Balti tribes. The areas of Muzzafarabad and Mir, which are now part of POK, had a Punjabi-Muslim population, dissimilar from the Valley Muslims.
Even today, the demography of the Kashmir Valley , Jammu and Ladakh are distinct from each other. As a policy, irrespective of local disapproval, the Indian establishment’s attempt should have been to homogenise this demography across the state. Merging two districts of Himachal with the Valley could have been an option. In as difficult as it may seem today, it was not impossible to achieve this in the 25 years after Independence, more so in a phase when the National Conference and Congress had merged together in the 60s.
The government would probably have had to hard-sell the idea of restructuring the state purely on the economic plank and prove that it was more in the nature of an economic package for Jammu and Kashmir as it would boost the state’s revenues. But then this astute step would have secured peace in the years to come.
It is unlikely that a conducive situation for something as path-breaking will emerge in the foreseeable future but if ever it does, it will be in the long term interests of India’s future to explore this discourse- altering solution. Third, the country wouldn’t lose anything if we were to discuss whether Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir as an independent country like Bangladesh will serve India’s strategic interests better.
Finally, Kashmir needs a new political narrative. The last successful narrative was Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s — “Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat”. Now, is the time to add Hindustaniyant to it. Kashmiriyat needs to merge with Hindustaniyat.
Adi Shankaracharya had explored Kashmir in the 8th century; it was a second home to Sufi saints from central Asia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries . Adi Shankaracharya and Sufi saint Noor-ud-ddin Noorani need to be invoked to rid the valley out of Wahabi influences.
The broad solution to the Kashmir issue is simple: Kashmir needs to own India. Only a complete and un-hindered integration with India can solve its problems. For this, Delhi will have to reach out to the valley more than ever before, as much as the valley will have to shrug off its cynicism and show more gratitude.
Bottom line is that a vexed issue like Kashmir needs a big hearted, unconventional solution which hasn’t been considered yet.
Tuhin A Sinha
The author is a BJP leader and tweets @tuhins. Views expressed are personal