Sunday, September 19, 2010

What I feel about Kashmir

I hate that our government squandered the precious peace we obtained after defeating the insurgency in Kashmir. The pause in violence was earned not just by our soldiers dying in the many hundreds, but paid for by Kashmiri civilians and many other non-Kashmiris who died in terrorist attacks all over India. We were supposed to use this time wisely. We have failed. We should have have flooded the valley with an economic tsunami. Instead we are sending a hail of bullets, which starts a firestorm of stones, which creates a new hail of bullets, and so on.

I support strongly the reduction or repealing of the draconian laws that Kashmiris have to live under. But I do believe that, while the anger in the streets is real and the protests are mostly peaceful, no government in Delhi and no political party can give Kashmiris the political solution they most desire. The numerics of India's democracy are cruel: 7 million Kashmiris may want their independence, but a billion Indians do not.

My friends, Kashmir may be your home, but it is our country too.

What can be negotiated though, is how the Kashmiris can live with dignity under Indian rule. Its also clear to me that much wiggle room exists within the Indian constitution. While Jammu and Leh will probably remain as proper parts of India, the Valley itself can be offered a variety of solutions. In fact, we have precedents for most of these agreements, ranging from independent dependencies (like Bhutan) to union territories with significant cultural and ecological value (like the Andaman and Nicobar Islands).

The nationalists may hate this special treatment, and the Kashmiris may rage more against the cold mirage of independence, but an agreement which angers all parties may actually be the most just.

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