Sunday, August 24, 2008

LET KASHMIR GO????????

68% Indians say NO to the above question, as per the Sunday Times headlines today. This survey was conducted by Times of India in 9 cities across India. The highest in any city - 88% of those surveyed in Hyderabad said no. This proves that Indians want Kashmir to continue to be a part of India. Why is that so?

A similar question was asked to me by a Pakistani Doctor when I was living in Toronto, Canada. We met on a number of occasions and became intellectually attracted to each other. Normally we used to avoid anything controversial in our conversations - he was aware that I had been a fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force. One day out of the blue he asked me about Kashmir. He mentioned that Kashmir was a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu ruler at the time of partition. He also said that Junagadh and Hyderabad were exactly the opposite and that the rulers had wanted to accede to Pakistan, but India had forcibly annexed them. By the same logic, Kashmir belonged to Pakistan. I kept quiet, not wanting to get into a debate with him. He again asked me 'Will India ever give up on Kashmir, because if India gives up Kashmir, then the two nations can come closer'. I had to respond this time and the only answer that I could give him was that this will never happen. 'Why?' was the next question. The answer was that Pakistan was formed as a Muslim majority country, and has since become an Islamic country, as per the wishes of M A Jinnah, whereas India was formed as, and still is, a secular country, where every religion was practised and there was no state religion. In case India gave up on Kashmir, it would be a big blow to secularism, and our democracy. Pakistan wanted to prove that religion was the basis of nationhood and that is the reason why Pakistan cannot give up on Kashmir. It had become even more important for Pakistan to prove this after the formation of Bangladesh.
The formation of Bangladesh in 1971 was the major event that proved that religion alone cannot be the basis for the existence of a modern state. A modern state needed some more rational and practical reasons for its existence. Religion was a very personal matter and governed only one's own connection with one's Creator. It taught us values that are very dear to our Creator. However, we still needed practical laws to govern our day to day life in this widely diverse universe. This part was provided by the modern nation state - the more liberal, the better. Why? It is only in a liberal setup that we can reconcile the widely divergent views and opinions of ordinary humans. Indian democracy has proven that diversity can be best managed, and governed, through a democratic setup. I do hope that our neighbours see the benefits of a democratic form of governance. This will definitely help them govern their own citizens better, and will also indirectly benefit India too.