For a way out in J&K

WITTGENSTEIN AND Popper were two of the best-known philosophers of the Twentieth Century. They met only once and had a famous quarrel. It happened in a small room in King's College, Cambridge, in the presence of a distinguished audience that included Bertrand Russell, the faculty, and students of philosophy of Cambridge University. However controversial the rights and wrongs of the dispute might be, with such an astute audience, there should not have been any dispute about the facts of the case. That was not so. The quarrel resulted in repeated acerbic exchanges in print between various witnesses of the scene. Even a substantial book has been written about it. As the author of the book remarks, to this day no one can agree on precisely what took place.

The confusion was mainly about a poker. Was it hot, or was it cold? Did Wittgenstein threaten Popper with it, or did he merely use it to make a philosophical point? It is generally accepted that Popper remarked, "not threatening a guest with a poker is an example of moral principle". However, there is no agreement whether he said it after Wittgenstein walked out in a huff, or before.

That there has been no agreement on the facts of the case, even though all witnesses could be expected to be acute observers, should give us food for thought. In particular, we should be charitable to poor news reporters when they get their facts wrong. More often than not, they cannot see, or hear, clearly all that is happening. We should be charitable even to famous prize-winning authors when they get their facts wrong, and declaim eloquently on horrid incidents in Gujarat that did not happen.

Popper has postulated that we can only disprove a hypothesis but not prove that it will be right. For instance, we know that the sun rises in the East. Can we prove then that it will rise in the East tomorrow? Almost certainly, sunrise will be in the East but we can never prove that it will definitely be so. That is the problem of using any postulate to predict the future. We can at best talk of possibilities, can point out possible consequences, but can never prove what will actually happen. Usually, we forget that limitation. We either assert that such and such is the only correct solution, or trash any move that is not to our liking by concentrating on its defects and ignoring its virtues. Wise people do not look for perfection; they will explore every alternative that promises to improve matters — on balance.

On that premise, let us explore some facts and some hypotheses about Kashmir. Fact one: events in Kashmir have tended to make people forget Gujarat. Hence, we may postulate: if you want people to forget any blunder that you have made, try committing a bigger blunder. Most Governments in India seem to like that principle. They seem to have become adept at covering one blunder by perpetrating another. At a guess, someone in the Government must already be cooking up a newer blunder to divert public attention as and when the Kashmir issue becomes intractable.

Fact two: in India, politics is managed by buying out political opponents, and by buying votes with bribes for favoured constituents. However, people develop immunity to bribes very fast. Hence, bribes are effective only in the short run. The largesse that the Prime Minister has promised to Kashmir is virtually a bribe. We may postulate that, Kashmiris, who have been promised such bribes before, are unlikely to be tempted. Fact three: all schemes of this type are a bonanza for corrupt politicians and their henchmen in the bureaucracy. We may postulate that most of the Rs. 6,000 crores that has been promised for Kashmir will be siphoned away, that little of it will actually reach the people.

The accuracy of these three facts will almost definitely be contested. By Popper's hypothesis, the postulates too cannot be proved. Moreover, these propositions do not point to plausible solutions. Actually, critics do not, as a rule, bother to find solutions. They take the cue from Professor Parkinson who has argued that it is enough to tell how fast weeds grow; it is not necessary to suggest how they may be got rid of. Nevertheless, let me proffer some solutions.

I start with the fact that, in India, unemployment among the educated is as high as 8 per cent, and with the assumption that educated unemployment is bound to be even higher in Kashmir. I postulate that so long as educated unemployment remains high, Kashmiri youth will be restive, and that once they are assured secure employment, much of their resentment against India will fade away.

The problem is most unemployed youth are unemployable. Largely, that defect may be remedied by apprenticing them in well-run organisations. In that case, a useful way of deploying the Prime Minister's largesse to Kashmir will be to institute attractive apprenticeships for unemployed Kashmiri youth in reputed industries and businesses. (About 10,000 of them a year, and for no more than three years should be adequate. That should cost less than Rs. 300-400 crores a year.)

As Kashmir has next to no commerce and industry, those apprenticeships can be enjoyed only outside the State. That is likely to generate many benefits. One, the youth will be physically away from trouble spots. Two, they will meet other Indians. That will help the Kashmiri youth to appreciate that Indians are no worse than any other breed of human beings, and that they are not the ogres they are thought to be. Three, the more enterprising among these apprentices will exploit the skills they acquire to start new businesses in Kashmir, and thereby help to rejuvenate its economy. For these reasons, I postulate that spending money on apprenticeships will be more fruitful than giving fictitious contracts to favoured politicians, which is the usual way of allocating windfall grants.

That brings us back to the problem of corruption. It is a known fact that transparency prevents corruption. Then, suppose all business transactions of the Government cease to have the protection of the Official Secrets Act, and all related files will be, by statute, freely available for public scrutiny. That will not fetch the Prime Minister many political friends. I postulate that, instead, it will fetch him many votes.

Will our politicians agree that it is a fact they are corrupt? Will they accept the proposition that their unbridled greed and corruption has alienated Kashmiris? Like the story of Wittgenstein and Popper, the fact of political corruption will be disputed, and holes will be picked in the proposition that corruption has harmed our interests in Kashmir. Nevertheless, I postulate that Kashmir will be won not by defeating the Pakistani Army but by winning the hearts of Kashmiri people. Then, the crucial question is, will our politicians reform or will they revert to form, and divert the Rs. 6,000 crores for their private use?

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