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'Even Pakistan will ditch Kashmir...'

September 16, 2019 19:58 IST

'.. if the cost is its own survival,' says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

IMAGE: Security in force in downtown Srinagar. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

First, a lesson is in geography. The restrictions are imposed on 3% of the land mass of Jammu and Kashmir.

In 97% of the state, Jammu as well as Ladakh, life is normal. Leh saw a successful conclusion of the Leh marathon and Ladakh festival. I was there for the last 10 days and except for an occasional unarmed soldier purchasing groceries, no armed military presence was seen other than on the border.

 

These are not 'Hindu' majority areas, but have Buddhist as well as Muslim populations.

The trouble in Kashmir is confined to the radicalised valley where there are ISIS banners. Does the world want the Indian State to succumb to the demand to create another Daesh in J&K? Has the world not had enough of Syria and Yemen?

Since August 5, when Article 370 related to J&K was altered, many in the valley are very angry. Blocking of communication tools like the Internet and mobile phones has caused inconvenience.

In all this, Pakistan is fishing in troubled waters and there are clarion calls to make Kashmir the 'Gaza' of South Asia!

But has anyone pondered over the fact that other than Pakistan, very few countries of even the Islamic Ummah have come in Kashmiris's support?

I can cite my personal experience to say what is wrong with Kashmir.

In 1991, nearly 28 years ago, I began taking an interest in the problems of J&K. I distinctly remember the poverty, especially in rural areas. It was poverty that made people risk their lives and ferry ammunition across the LoC for as little as Rs 200. I met these people in Kamalkot village near Uri.

While the rest of the world was seeing a computer revolution (the Internet was still far away), there were hardly any computers in J&K. Motivated purely by a wish to help fellow citizens, I managed to get old computers from Cummins India in Pune and sent them to schools in Kupwara.

In 1993 I propagated the idea that the Indian Army should help educate children, and the first army sponsored English medium KG school was started in Trehgam in North Kashmir. Today there are excellent Goodwill Schools run by the army all over the state.

Economic conditions have improved; there are mid-day meals for school children, free gas cylinders for the poor and subsidised food grain. The poverty level in Kashmir at 6% is the lowest in all of South Asia. Kashmiri students have excelled in competitive examinations and even topped the civil services.

Despite all this, Kashmir saw violence on every Friday even before August 5.

'All those years we were struggling for freedom, we thought the Article was safe,' said one resident of Samboora. 'Our efforts were beyond that. Now we have to fight to save that Article. Our identity is finished. There is no difference between us and other states.'

The key sentence is 'there is no difference between us and other states'. The world has realised that Kashmir's fight is not for equal status, but 'special' status! Does it mean that all other states of India have lost their identity or culture?

Among all the bizarre arguments put forward by Kashmiris and Pakistanis is that India is 'planning' a demographic change in Kashmir.

This really takes the cake as the only demographic change that has taken place in the Indian subcontinent in the last 73 years was in Kashmir when over 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus were threatened and hounded out of their ancestral homes by Kashmiri Muslims under the garb of the 'freedom movement'.

In 2014, when Kashmir was hit by devastating floods, the Indian Army rescuers were stoned by Islamists!

I recall an executive of a two-wheeler company telling me that when the company offered free repair services to those affected in Kashmir, instead of gratitude the company faced hostility. He contrasted this attitude with the gratitude the people of Chennai showed when after the floods of 2015 his company offered similar services there.

If one goes to any tourist spots in India, from Shravanabelagola in Karnataka to Baga beach in Goa, one finds Kashmiri tradesmen selling handicrafts. Should Karnataka or Goa cry that this is demographic change? Or deny the right to buy property to these Kashmiris?

The Kashmir conflict is essential for the survival of Pakistan.

Without this glue of hate for India there is very little that binds together the provinces of Punjab, NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Sindh and Baluchistan. Pakistanis are determined to fight India to the last Kashmiri!

Kashmir's history did not begin with 1947. The reigns of Awantivarman, Lalitaditya and ZainUlAbadin are forgotten today. The only way to peace lies in making a rational choice and shunning the influence of radical Islam that has crept up in the last decade or so.

With no sympathy from the Muslim Ummah, the world and the rest of India, Kashmiri secession has no hope in hell.

Even Pakistan will ditch Kashmir if the cost is its own survival.

This is the writing on the wall of history, heed it or ignore it.

The choice is for the Kashmir valley to become the Switzerland of Asia or aspire to be another Gaza, Syria or Yemen.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) has been working on Kashmir issues for 28 years.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd)
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