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Kashmir: A Departure

or blackmail, or indigent circumstance, or Kashmir: A Departure woolly-headed notions of

A great weariness hangs over the idea of Kashmir. Most ‘mainstream’ or ‘nationalist’ opinion says testily enough is enough; after all the long rope during which time the Kashmiris have lived gluttonously off the centre, read India, it is time they fell in line, or else. The fact, however, is that in the absence of a politics that is willing to acknowledge the primacy of the Kashmiri experience, the authenticity of their struggle and sacrifice, to jettison red herrings, to own a large part of the responsibility and the guilt, the story of Kashmir, in Aditya Sinha’s words, will remain the “story of betrayals: Kashmir’s betrayal by India, by Pakistan, and by the Kashmiris themselves”.

For that reason, the weariness I spoke of has tended to colour most writings on Kashmir, both of the journalistic and academic kind. Often the failure of sympathy and, consequently, of a felt historical intelligence have tended to proliferate sometimes patronising, punishing, self-righteous, sectarian tomes of a thesis-oriented nature from outside the living centre of Kashmir’s composite suffering. Such pronouncements take on pretty simplistic or self-serving expression. Thus we will be told that the ‘Kashmir problem’ is essentially attributable to the fact that the valley is predominantly Muslim; that the bulk of Muslims in Kashmir are at heart Pakistanis; that the only Kashmiris who have been betrayed are the Kashmiri pandits. Or that the problem resulted, plain and simple, from Nehru’s refusal to yield to Patel’s superior tactical vision which had recommended that the 1947 Indian army putsch should have accomplished a more comprehensive job. Or, alternatively, in the mood of reconciliatory graciousness, that Kashmiris have really no problem to speak of, the villain being entirely a theocratic Pakistan hell-bent on destabilising the ‘unity and integrity’ of India. Or that the ‘Kashmir problem’ is, at bottom, the continuing expression of an imperialist design to weaken India.

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