Kashmir Unrest- Is The Fight For Autonomy?


Former Union Minister and Congress leader, Mr. P. Chidambaram, has given a statement that the Kashmir problem can be sorted out by giving a greater autonomy to the state. He says that people there are fighting for autonomy. We know that there is a secessionist movement in Kashmir valley, which is funded and supported by Pakistan. Those, who are involved in the agitation and terrorist activities, are demanding rights of self determination and a plebiscite to decide whether they want to be with India or secede. Their agenda is not hidden from anyone – they are supported by Pakistan, most of the extremists are supporters of Pakistan, and some of them even want to make an independent Islamic State ruled by Sharia.
Chidambaram is not an ordinary citizen. He has been a cabinet minister in the Union government for many years. When Kashmir problem was turning violent in 1980s, Mr Chidambaram was Minister of Internal Security in the government of Rajiv Gandhi. He had firsthand experience in dealing with Kashmiris from the very beginning. Chidambaram was also a Union Home Minister in the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh. He was also Finance Minister for some years. As Home Minister, he was dealing with Kashmir unrest was expected to understand the problems in all its dimensions. Thus, it is quite strange, when he says the problem of Kashmir can be solved by giving greater autonomy to the state.
Question arises as to what kind of autonomy are they demanding? Kashmir is already the most autonomous state of India. It has got its own Constitution under Article 370 under Indian Constitution. Article 35(A) of Indian Constitution gives its Constitution extra teeth. Not only it has a separate Constitution, the state has a separate flag too. Many Laws enacted by Indian Parliament do not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. Its Assembly has broader power to make laws. Hence, no one can have any doubt that under present Indian Constitution, Jammu and Kashmir has got the maximum autonomy possible. Demanding further more autonomy is tantamount to demanding complete secession from India and that is what they are asking for.
Pakistan has its own agenda in Kashmir. It claims that Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of Indian partition. Pakistan itself was created from partitioning India in three parts and two of them became Pakistan. Unfortunately for Pakistan, its eastern part became an independent nation of Bangladesh. Since, Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, Pakistan always thought it could take complete control over the state. But the circumstances developed after Independence made Jammu & Kashmir a part of India. Maharaja Hari Singh was its king and he wanted to remain sovereign joining neither India nor Pakistan, but Pakistan under the garbs of some tribal people attacked Kashmir and tried to integrate it with itself. Unable to fight the tribal people supported by Pakistan, Hari Singh asked India’s assistance. India wanted to support him only on the condition that he should join sign the deceleration of accession. He did that and Jammu & Kashmir became part of India. Only then India drove out the infiltrators, though the whole areas could not be reclaimed by Indian forces. India could have liberated the entire region by force, but it accepted UN resolutions, which asked for a plebiscite in the state giving its people choice to either opt for India or Pakistan. India was sure that people would join it; despite the fact majority of them were Muslims. But the plebiscite could not be held because of Pakistan. A precondition for plebiscite was the withdrawal of Pakistan army from the areas it had occupied in the state, but Pakistan never withdrew from the occupied Jammu & Kashmir and plebiscite could not take place.
Now, when Pakistan talks of plebiscite, it doesn’t seem to get the point that plebiscite could not be held initially because of its refusal to vacate the occupied Jammu & Kashmir. In addition, from Indian point of view, the resolution of United Nations is dead after so many decades, especially with the signing of Shimla Accord between India and Pakistan, which accept Jammu & Kashmir a bilateral issue between the two countries.
Chidambaram must know all the dimensions of the problem. It seems that he is raising the issue of autonomy of the state as the solution only to hog the limelight of media and showing his presence in Indian politics.

– Contributed by Kriti

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