MUSAFIR

The people of Scotland have decided to remain with Great Britain. Only four constituencies voted in favour of separating from Great Britain, and among the 86 per cent who voted, 55 per cent said “No” to the idea of forming a separate nation.
Irrespective of the results, latest developments in this part of the world have invoked similar demands among the Kashmiri separatists. They ask: If Scotland can have a referendum, why can’t Kashmir? These suggestions and demands for a referendum haven’t just surfaced due to the developments in Scotland, they have been in circulation for many years. Suggestions for a plebiscite were raised back in 1948 in United Nations also.
Umpteen articles on the Internet are appearing on various regions that want to go their own ways, including Kashmir. The usual suspects have started appearing on intellectually-befuddled news channels to explain to Indians how parallels can be drawn between the need for Scotland to exist as a separate country and the need of the Kashmiri people to get a country of their own. The only similarity in both the situations is the people making a similar demand and this is where the similarity ends.
Historically, Scotland has been a different country whereas Kashmir has always been a part of India. The Scots are a different race. Not many British have a direct claim to the Scottish terrains. Through various political manoeuvrings and vicissitudes. Scotland ended up being under the greater British Empire. There have been multiple wars and invasions between both the countries.
Kashmiri separatists use the logic that it’s a Muslim-majority region and hence it should be separated from the rest of India as a Muslim country. Or as some argue, it should be allowed to join Pakistan. Pakistan even mounted an attack on India back in 1947 because its leaders thought that since Kashmir had a Muslim majority, it should go to Pakistan.
Just like most of the regions in the Indian subcontinent that were overrun by Mughal rulers, Kashmir has had a strong Hindu history. Hindus, Buddhists and Shaivats co-existed peacefully for thousands of years until Muslims came and turned it into a monotheistic region. More recently, the Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh was a Hindu. It was the great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka who originally established Srinagar as the capital of Kashmir. Jammu has more than 65 per cent Hindu population. In the Ladakh region, there are 46 per cent Buddhists.
Sadly, Muslims haven’t had a good history when it comes to preserving pluralism and protecting minorities.
In 1947, there were around 30 per cent Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan. Now they have been reduced to just 1 per cent and even those 1 per cent are not sure whether they’re going to survive the next day or not. The condition of Hindus in Bangladesh are dismal too. Just imagine, if most Hindus have been chased out of the Valley right under the nose of Indian authorities and they are not allowed to visit pilgrimages in their own country, what is going to be their fate once Kashmir becomes “independent”? All hell will break loose for the minorities.
The Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh seceded to India because Pakistani forces, along with mercenary Muslim tribals, were raiding the Valley waste. Women were being raped in the streets, houses were being burned down, properties were being looted and young and old men were being butchered in most gruesome manner. The current Kashmiri generation wouldn’t have survived had the Indian Government not interceded back then, it’s a fact. People in Kashmir throwing stones at the Indian Army owe their survival to the grandfathers of many of these men.
The issue of the separation of Kashmir isn’t just confined to Muslims inhabiting the State. Many people have a stake in it, including people of other communities all over India. Just because right now Muslims have a majority there doesn’t mean such a beautiful land should be taken away from India and its people. Why, just because a particular community is intolerant towards other communities, should we deny our families and our future generations an opportunity to settle in this region if they so wish?
In fact, people from all over India should be encouraged to move to the Valley. They should be given incentives for buying properties and setting up businesses there. The demography of the Valley should be changed so that it becomes a pluralistic region that embraces all thoughts and all religions.
Kashmiri separatists and the Indians who sympathise with these separatists say that the accession to India was a historical wrong. It was an act of arm-twisting. It is actually the other way around. The historical wrong is that separatist Kashmiris have been given way too much leverage as Indian leaders were quite soft and apologetic at that time.