Justice Markandey Katju-
Many Kashmiris have been demanding azadi, and so certain points need to be clarified:
- Kashmiris say that Kashmir was always independent. This is historically incorrect. Kashmir was only independent till 1587 when the last independent ruler Yusuf Shah Chak was deposed and exiled by Mughal Emperor Akbar who incorporated Kashmir into the Mughal Empire. Later, it passed under Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rule, and ultimately came under the British. Maharaja Hari Singh was only nominally independent, but like other princely states in India, the real ruler of Kashmir were the British who had their army there.
- No Indian government can survive if azadi is granted to Kashmir. If Kashmir is granted independence, then Nagas, Mizos, Tamilians, Khalistanis, etc may also demand independence, and India will be broken up and balkanised.
- Kashmir has a massive handicraft industry, and the market for this is mainly in India. Almost every one of the hundreds of towns in India has shops run by Kashmiris, who bring carpets, shawls, etc. from Kashmir to sell there. I even saw two shops run by Kashmiris in Kovalam beach near Tiruvananthapuram in southern Kerala. This huge market will be lost to Kashmiris if Kashmir is allowed to separate from India, for then Kashmiri traders cannot come to India without a visa, which would be difficult to get. The consequence will be that thousands of Kashmiri industries will have to close down, and lacs of Kashmiri workers will become unemployed. Kashmiris never think of this while parroting ‘azadi’ ‘azadi’. Also, Kashmir will lose Indian tourists, Amarnath Yatris etc. who contribute to the Kashmir economy if Kashmir is separated from India.
- Kashmir is too small to remain independent. If it is separated from India it will soon come under the Pakistani (or Chinese) jackboot. Some Kashmiris refer to small European countries like Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Monaco, The Vatican, etc. and say that when these can survive independently why can’t Kashmir? They overlook that these are developed countries, and have their own histories. So, the analogy is misplaced.
- The ideology of the militants and separatist leaders is Islamic fundamentalism. That is why the Kashmiri Pandits were killed and hounded out (see details on Google ). Many Kashmiri Muslims say that it was Governor Jagmohan who threw out the Pandits from Kashmir, but this is totally false. The truth is that in the 1990s many Pandits were brutally killed in Kashmir ( details are on Google ), loudspeakers from mosques in Kashmir used to blare out that the Pandits must convert to Islam or get out, notices were put up on Pandit houses to get out of Kashmir or be killed, mobs used to come to Pandit houses shouting that the males should leave the Valley but the females will not be allowed to go ( my own relatives have told me this ). This so terrified the Pandits that they had to flee. So if Kashmir becomes independent it will revert to the dark Middle Ages, with the regressive sharia law enforced, women being to be forced to wear the burqa and stoned to death for adultery, etc. The reports I have got is that already Sufi Kashmir has been largely converted into Wahabi Kashmir, and the situation will become much worse if Kashmir is granted azadi.
- It is true that 2 or 3 families were ruling over Kashmir and looting it, while the ordinary Kashmiri remained poor. What were the assets of these families before they entered politics, and what are their assets now? Is it not true that relatives of separatist leaders are studying/working abroad? This should be investigated, and the facts widely publicized.
- As regards converting J&K into a Union Territory, perhaps the Kashmiris deserved this for kicking out and ethnic cleaning of the Pandits, just as Germany deserved its fate after 1945 for what the Germans did to the Jews. At any event, how does it matter to the ordinary Kashmiri whether Kashmir is a state or a UT?
- The restrictions presently imposed in Kashmir have no doubt created difficulties for the people, but they will be lifted gradually, as announced by the Union Home Minister.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]