Saturday, December 4, 2010

Are we headed towards another Partition?

In light of the sedition charges registered against Arundhati Roy for her speeches in Kashmir, I was forced to reconsider my position on the issue. The one statement she made that had the country's (including mine) eyebrows raising, probably had some truth to it.

In 1947, when the country was being partitioned, princely states (which included Jammu and Kashmir) had been given the option to accede to India or Pakistan, or to choose to remain independent. The basis of Partition was religion. So predominant Muslim states were given to Pakistan and predominant Hindu regions became a part of India.

Now Kashmir was an interesting case. It had a predominant Muslim population, but a Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh. Given the dominant religion, Pakistan wanted the state to join its territory. So tribals backed by Pakistan invaded J&K on the 20th of October, 1947, to gain control. The Maharaja fought back for seven days, but finally gave up and appealed to the Indian government for help.

The Indian government agreed to send aid, only if Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India and that was that. Since then, India considers Kashmir "an integral part of India".

But according to Roy, the people of Kashmir do not consider it so. Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah pointed out that Kashmir had only acceded, and not merged with the Indian Union.

I am a patriot Indian who would never want an Indian state to secede from it. But I also advocate democracy and consider people's voice paramount. So if the people of an Indian state prefer independence from the Indian Union, given the unique circumstances of the case , they should be entitled to it.

However, I see several problems with that - a) I don't know if secession is what the majority wants in Kashmir, perhaps it is only the separatists promoting their agenda, b) Even if the majority wants it, is it right to have the minority go through a repeat of the Partition? and c) If Kashmir secedes, it will pave way for rebels in every state to ask for secession from the Indian Union and there will be no India left anymore.

So perhaps Roy is right in saying that Kashmir was never an integral part of India (historically speaking), but inciting people to demand its freedom in this manner is not a solution to the problem either.

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