Kashmir is not special. This multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-religious country is
By Jaithirth Rao
Posted online: Monday, September 01, 2008
The text of a speech the prime minister should give on Jammu and Kashmir, addressing the people of the state.
My sisters and brothers from the state of Jammu and Kashmir:
I speak to you today with the utmost candour and simplicity. Being candid implies being honest in an emphatic, even brutal manner. People use complicated expressions when they want to obfuscate. I intend to leave no opportunity for anyone to interpret or misinterpret my words as the case may be.
I want to make the following seven points:
1. India is not going to give up Kashmir. If you have been hearing that several so-called intellectuals have advocated this, then please do not over-estimate their influence. They can be concerned about abstractions like the arithmetic or the algebra of justice. That is irrelevant and inconsequential. The Republic of India is not going to confer Azadi on part or all of Kashmir. Nor are we going to let you join Pakistan. Please do not be misled by anyone who tells you anything to the contrary.
2. If the current unrest continues in the state, many people, mostly young people will be affected by violence. That is avoidable. Because there is not a hope in hell that all of this violence will persuade any government in India to let you secede.
3. People may be misleading you that if you indulge in public slogan-mongering, throwing stones or more lethal objects at the police in front of TV cameras of the international media, the chances of my government or any other government operating in its place agreeing to let you secede is high. They are dead wrong. We have violence and public demonstrations in dozens of places in our country every day. To some extent, we have become immune and these acts have limited impact.
4. Some may have given you the impression that Kashmir is a unique case on account of its history, geography or religious make-up. Please do not believe them. As far as the government of India is concerned, all secessionist movements, Naga or Ahom or Kashmiri, will meet the same response. They cannot be allowed to succeed. The fact that we frequently have “talks” with secessionists or quasi-secessionists should not lead you to infer that there is any weakness on the government’s part as far as fundamental issues are concerned. The “talks” are part of a strategy of combining firmness with dialogue in order to get people and their leaders to give UP their secessionist demands. By no stretch of imagination should this create the impression that we will give IN to these demands.
5. Our position is not based on issues that seem of great importance to you — whether non-Kashmiris can buy land in Kashmir or whether some shrine is run this way or that. Such issues are not the most important for us, even though out of democratic respect for your feelings we are willing to talk about them. The plain and simple fact is that India is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual country. We are not a nation-state based on one race, language or church. In this we resemble the empires of old. Consider the Austro-Hungarian Empire where Czechs from Bohemia, Jews from Vienna, Magyars from Hungary and German-speaking Catholics from the Tyrol all lived together peacefully and, more importantly, talented individuals from all of these groups were able to blossom, thrive and prosper. That is the Indian model with the added accoutrements of a democratic republic. We know what happens when great empires break up. For decades after that, the ensuing violence and anarchy turn the lives of millions of ordinary individuals and families into a living hell. In recent times as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have broken up we have again witnessed this tragic phenomenon. If India were to agree to one or other constituent part seceding, let me assure you that the likely ensuing violence will make the violence in the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia look like a mild tea party. No government in India, of India will countenance this. No prime minister will put himself in a position where history will hold that he or she was responsible for such a monumental tragedy.
6. You may also ask whether we have the stomach to put up with mounting casualties in the police and the army. My answer is an unequivocal “yes”. We are a nation of 1.2 billion people. We don’t want to sacrifice young men and women. But we are perfectly willing to do so to preserve our way of life. We recollect with awe that many continents away, a century and a half ago, the kindly President Lincoln had sinews of steel when faced with longer and longer casualty lists of the cream of American youth. But he prevented secession. He preserved the union. That is precisely what we will do. The misplaced secessionist attempts of some Naga leaders pre-date similar attempts by some of your leaders. We have not yielded. In the ’80s, my home state of the Punjab was troubled greatly by foolish insurrectionists. That too has passed. We are confident that the Indian state will prevail.
7. Let me close by appealing to each of you as individuals. My appeal is particularly directed to young people. Instead of spending time in agitations, demonstrations, attacking the police, etc I suggest that you learn skills such as computer programming, financial analysis and so on. Seek meaningful jobs anywhere in the vast integrated and fast-growing Indian marketplace. Get ahead in life as individuals. Fulfil your individual dreams. If you are stuck to a small state and do not see a large country and indeed the world as your canvas you as an individual will be the loser. The collective identity of being Kashmiri or Moslem or a Hindoo or a Buddhist is a seductive trap. You are individuals and you deserve a better life than screaming unrealistic and impossible slogans.
The writer divides his time between Mumbai, Lonavla and Bangalore email@example.com
Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi