Monday, September 01, 2008

Kashmiri choice, August 24, 2008

A Kashmiri Muslim student came to see me last week and it was not long before our conversation turned to the current azadi wave in the valley. He did not think that an independent Kashmir was viable, and its only choice was either to be with India or with Pakistan. After a pause he asked guilelessly, why was India a democracy and Pakistan an autocracy? This set me thinking. I told him that Pakistan was more the norm--third world countries do not generally become stable democracies. India is an exception.

India’s democracy and Pakistan’s autocracy have deep roots in history. India’s nationalist movement was older and more widespread. Millions of ordinary Indians were drawn in by Mahatma Gandhi. Muslim nationalism emerged later and did not become a mass movement--Jinnah was more comfortable in the drawing room rather than the ‘dusty road’. While Indians prepared for democracy over three generations, Pakistanis-to-be got the itch only a couple of years before independence. After Independence, Pakistan’s politicians performed abysmally. The Muslim League Party disintegrated; there were nine governments in ten years; and the army under Ayub Khan seized power in 1958.

Jinnah’s great error as to impose Urdu as the national language when only 8% of Pakistanis spoke Urdu and 55% spoke Bengali. Thus, he sowed the seeds of Bangladesh. Sri Lanka made the same tragic mistake. India did not succumb to this anti-democratic temptation by imposing Hindi. This is how India gave space for sub-identities to flourish, allowed the rise of peoples’ leaders from linguistic states, and deepened democracy.

Although his slogan in the 1945-46 elections in undivided India was ‘Islam is in danger’, Jinnah wanted to build a modern nation. Even though General Zia ul Haq reinforced theological priority, I do not believe Islam prevents Pakistan from being democratic. The rise of Islamism does tear the ordinary Pakistani’s loyalty between the brotherhood and the state, but the Maulvi is not Pakistan’s natural leader as in Iran. The chief obstacle to democracy is the army. Hence, I am relieved that Musharraf is gone. It does create a vacuum that might be filled by extremists, but longer term the best thing for India is to have a democratic Pakistan.

For a brief moment in the mid-1970s the two nations seemed to converge. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto began to steer Pakistan towards genuine democracy while Indira Gandhi took India on the path of dictatorship. The paths diverged after 1977 as Mrs Gandhi called an election, and Bhutto was executed by Zia in 1979. India returned to the path of democracy, whose binding glue is the liberal notion that all Indians are equal citizens before the law, owing loyalty to the Constitution. This is a British legacy. Before that we were a collection of communities and kingdoms. Although we still feel loyal to our caste or community, we are different from tragic Pakistanis whose land has been hijacked by the military. Once there is military rule you get a state within a state. You are powerless to stop your secret service from creating monsters like the Taliban, and before you know it your country has become the world’s top university for terrorists.

I then turned to my young Kashmiri friend. He wished more Kashmiris could come and see India’s vibrant democracy, its confident economy, and the rise of the low born. ‘There is a simple choice before all Kashmiris,’ he said: ‘If you want to be a citizen of a modern democracy with unparalleled opportunities, you will choose self-assured India. If you believe that Islam is in danger and you want the army’s protection, you will choose tragic Pakistan’.

5 comments:

Cane-an said...

Gurcharan,
Well said.
In all this though, I cannot help but be saddened by the utter incompetence of the Indian state.
True, people have the capability to think, but a mob does not. What happened in Kashmir was the take-over of the situation by a mob. In such cases, the state has to stand firm and uphold the law. Not let it be broken by a mob driven by a few politicians with their own agendas.

All this talk of an economic boom is great but if our dream run is going to be stymied by our petty politicians who do not have enough managerial capability to run a farm, we have only ourselves to blame..

Sometimes this makes me wish for a China style dictatorship instead of the free-for-all democracy we have.

Protege said...

Hello Gurucharan, Nice thought and well said.
I find your comments about Pakistan's Goverment (or failure of Pakistan Government - to say) quite insightful and supported by facts.

I am equally Patriotic about our country as you and feel that India has done quite better than the so called norm for the third world countries.

However I guess Indian government has also failed to include everyone in the hyped 'democracy'. In my perspective - North East and Kashmir has received step brother attitude and that in many ways- it is responsible for the current state of affairs in these regions. I am afraid that our future generations might wake up to a LOC in Arunachal Pradesh as well. I wish I am proven wrong.

I do not understand the dynamics of people politics. Nevertheless - I can see the situation slipping away from our hands if we continue to ignore the facts and accept our shortcomings.

Coming back to your post on Kashmiri Choice - I think it would have been representative of the Kashmiri sentiment if the atrocities of the Indian military and the neglect of State and Central government would also have received an equal reference in the post as the misgivings of the Pakistan's democracy.

I would be eager to know your perspective on this.

I definitely enjoy reading your posts as it broadens my horizon.

Keep writing
Jai Hind
Giriraj

Suraj Jain said...

An exceptionally lucid and perceptive article. But the difficulty is that most Kashmiri youngmen do not care for democracy. They care more for what their muezzins tell them in their mosques. Indian government also has not helped the situation by having too much of army in the Valley. For most Kashmiri muslims it is a visible symbol of police state.

Anuj said...

very well put indeed. but i dont actually trust the feasibility of your solution.

you tell a kashmiri to move out and see the strong economy, the strong democracy india bosts off. but what actually happens when a kashmiri tries to move out.

try telling a authority person or anyone you a dealing with that you are a kashmiri and to add to it a muslim, and notice the change in attitude of the person.

kashmiris are still treated with suspicion. we are so insecure in our minds that on the mere utterence of word kashmir, reminds us of terrorist.

so what i want to say is that, first we need to accept kashmir as an integral part of our country. which is present not only on our political map but also our hearts. and than there would be no need to ask kashmiris to make a choice for they too will feel the harmony with the state and will automatically be inducted. its like you never need to tell your brother that you are his brother. its felt, thus it is everlasting.

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