Kashmir: Timely lid on fallacy of Azaadi
by Jaibans Singh on 25 Aug 2020 4 Comments

As the situation turns for the better in Jammu and Kashmir with reorganisation of the State into two Union Territories and abrogation of Article 370, there arises a need to look at the by now failed concept of “azaadi” (freedom) propounded for decades by some self-appointed leaders of the Kashmiri people. Has the concept failed because it was not practically applicable and would not have benefited the people in any way?


When India gained independence and was partitioned on religious grounds, Jammu and Kashmir caught the evil eye of Pakistan before its destiny could be decided. The invasion of the Princely State by Pakistan unleashed untold barbarity on the hapless people. The Indian Army went in and saved the day. After centuries of exploitation, Kashmir finally became “free” as part of democratic India. Sadly, a portion remained under Pakistani occupation but will, in time, rejoin India where it belongs.


Some political leaders and heads of feudal families in Kashmir leveraged the conflict between India and Pakistan to further their personal ambitions. They used certain provisions of the Indian Constitution and vulnerabilities of their docile people to call for complete independence of the former princely state, a dispensation where they would be free to lord over not only the Kashmir Valley but the entire state. Thus, the concept of “Azaadi” took roots.


It did not take Pakistan long to understand the fissures and move in to exploit them. A failed attempt in 1965 to wrest Kashmir from the Indian Union through a mercenary ingress supported by a conventional war changed to the policy of a thousand cuts. It involved fanning insurgency, terrorism and violence through the call for Azaadi. A revolt was engineered in the valley in 1989 with the help of organisations like Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Pakistan took things a step further by juxtaposing the call for Azaadi (freedom) with jihad (holy war). The end result was a breakdown of the social fabric and introduction of a virulent brand of Islam. It is so sad that the Kashmiri leadership, for petty personal gain, allowed this political, social and religious churning to take place.


The proximate aim was Kashmir’s crossover to the Pakistani nation. A wider ambition was to catalyze a civil war in India. Hafiz Saeed, chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), often boasts that his aim is to, “set up, through Kashmir, a Mujahideen network across India which would lead to disintegration of the country”.


The fallacy of Azaadi is obvious. What harm has the Indian Government caused to the State and people of Kashmir? What atrocities have been perpetrated on the people and property of this region? Does it transgress liberty if the Union government builds a railway line and connects far-flung areas of Kashmir with the rest of India? Is azaadi compromised when the Union Government pours developmental aid into the state? Successive Union Governments in their attempts to normalise the situation have been inviting self-appointed stakeholders and so-called political leaders for dialogue; why have the offers been rejected and talks scuttled? 


One often wonders what the so-called leaders who bay for ‘azaadi’ would do if, perchance, it comes their way. These people are unable to resolve their internal contradictions; there are those who want to remain independent and there are those who would like to join Pakistan and in each demand there is a clear vested interest. All such eventualities are non-starters. What independence would be gained by leaving India to join Pakistan whose record of democratic rule is abysmal? In case they decide to remain independent, would hawks such as Pakistan, China or the Taliban allow it? Can the landlocked small region survive in the midst of covetous and malicious dragons?


The hue and cry often raised by Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists about Kashmir being under Indian occupation also needs to be tested. For instance, which occupation force would allow masses to protest the way they do in Kashmir? Which occupation force would dodge stones being pelted at them by paid stooges of disruptive forces? The very fact that Kashmiris are enjoying the liberty to openly and fearlessly harangue against India speaks volumes for the tolerance of the Indian political system and its belief in the ideals of democracy.


The state government is invariably elected by the people themselves in free and fair elections; the majority of functionaries are from the Kashmiri Muslim community. Under these circumstances of virtual self-rule with more than ample economic support from the centre, is there any plausible reason to be dissatisfied? The call for azaadi has always been a manipulation of Kashmiri sentiments for huge personal gains of power and wealth.


The young boys of Kashmir, like everybody else in India, aspire for a life of hard work and good money. The constant grouse against India that their elders harbour has created in them a feeling of frustration; a totally false belief that India stands between them and their aspirations has been constructed in their minds.


It is time for the people of Kashmir to introspect. Democracy gives power and freedom to the individual to progress and prosper; this has to be leveraged by the individual personally. Kashmiris should understand that at the behest of a few corrupt families they have been walking on the wrong path and inflicting untold damage on their coming generations.


Finally, instead of aping a new form of fundamentalism being thrust down their throats by those who wish to keep them subservient, they should open their minds to the national mainstream. It is heartening that a timely lid on the fallacious concept of azaadi has been put by the Kashmir people themselves.


(Jaibans Singh is a security analyst, writer and speaker)

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