India and Pakistan are not doing enough to solve the problem, say participants
The trauma of Kashmir, the dilemma of a nation otherwise with a conscience, was debated by eminent writers and political analysts in a session on public affairs at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Sunday.
There was no scope for conjuring up a three-nation theory for the mainland at present, as the two-nation theory, which led the creation of Pakistan, too was a “failed” attempt, some of the speakers said.
The session, conducted by senior journalist and author M.J. Akbar, rather dismissively debated the demand for plebiscite, considered the idea of cessation — to dismiss it at the end — accepted the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits who are forced to live like refugees in their own country and expressed concern over the Army excesses. They, in unison, registered great anguish over the future of Kashmir's youth and said both India and Pakistan were not doing enough to solve the problem. It was a tightrope walk for the panellists as the debate was in front of an international audience.
The Front Lawns at the Diggi Palace were overflowing with listeners, who included Pakistan's High Commissioner to India, besides senior political leaders and retired senior personnel of the Armed forces. Though the panellists — Nitasha Kaul, Rahul Pandita, Mirza Waheed, Swapan Dasgupta and Basharat Peer — held on to their own viewpoints, they appeared to be agreeing with what Mr. Akbar said at the outset: “The Kashmir issue has a tendency to be emotional. This can come in the way of proper understanding of the problem.”
“What is the issue in Kashmir, is it for cessation or is it the violation of human rights,” Mr. Akbar pondered, while adding that India with its strong civil society could always keep a watch on such human rights issues. Of the four non-negotiables for a modern nation — Mr. Akbar cited them as: democracy, secularism, gender equality and economic equity — India possessed all except the last. “The Indian state would hold the country [together]. Please do not punish India for the sins of the Indians,” he said.
“The past summer was unusually violent for Kashmir. The Armed forces equipped with special powers and an unrelenting youth…I am worried about the future of Kashmir's youth,” said Peer, whose first book, Curfewed Night, deals with the Kashmir conflict. “Will there be any serious move from the authorities to resolve the issue?”
Author-scholar Kaul, who has written copiously on Kashmir, was more critical of the authorities for the excesses on the Kashmiri youth.
“Kashmir is a complicated issue. It is grossly simplified into an India versus Pakistan and Hindu versus Muslim matter. The centres of power were unaware of the excesses taking place in Kashmir. The authorities do not involve people of India or the Kashmiris in the processes.”
Mr. Dasgupta said there was a time when the “liberal, left-dominated media dismissed the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from their land as voluntary action.”
“The question of Kashmir is also linked to the idea of India,” he said, pointing out that along with the four non-negotiables he would also add that the “nation is bigger than the sum of all its parts.” Mr. Dasgupta was emphatic that people were against cessation, but autonomy was an idea which could be thought about — “for India never had just one form of government only in the past.”
Mirza Waheed, the Kashmir-born BBC's Urdu Service Editor, said the Kashmir issue was solely between India and Pakistan, and the problem was in their not talking.