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Ashok Mitra's column

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    Ashok Mitra's column

    Let go of Kashmir!

    What about a few words of caution to the crowd gone gaga over Kargil?

    The Nawaz Sharief set-up had its own reasons to foment trouble along
    and across the Line of Control in Kashmir. As long as the hapless people
    of Pakistan could be persuaded to forget their daily woes -- didn't they
    know, the infidel Indians were about to overrun their country and enslave
    them -- it was easy for the Islamabad regime to identify the item to occupy
    the top of its agenda.

    This regime presides over a bankrupt economy, it does not know from
    which source the next lot of foreign exchange crucial for its sustenance is to
    come. These matters, experience has told it, have a way of taking care of
    themselves; the principle task is to steal a march over the Bhutto daughter
    and ensure that she fails to take advantage of the people's discontent.
    Destabilising the status quo along and beyond the LoC in Kashmir, it
    concluded, served that objective beautifully.

    Quite by coincidence, the Islamabad line was manna from heaven for the
    caretaking stragglers in New Delhi. It fitted in snugly with both their
    short-term interests and long-term ideology. The war psychosis would
    yield, in their judgment, millions and millions of extra votes in September.
    At the same time, giving a bloody nose to Pakistan would be in essence
    according to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Vishwa Hindu Parishad
    vision of the future.

    Whatever helps rouse the non-thinking masses of this country against
    Pakistan will duly lead, the assumption goes, to the crystallisation of a
    collective prejudice against Islam. Nothing is dearer to the cause of the
    revivalists, all this constituting the preliminary steps towards the full
    reconquest of the Hindu territories the Congress leadership had gifted
    away to Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

    Those greatly concerned over the prospect of fundamentalists wresting a
    permanent lease on the administration in New Delhi had a wonderful
    opportunity to take a principled stand on the issue of Kargil. The Bharatiya
    Janata Party government -- they could have gathered the courage to state
    it openly -- had no business to blow up the skirmish in Kashmir into a
    situation with the trappings of a fullscale war. The defence minister, once a
    formidable trade union leader, who was also a major functionary of that
    charming, fraternal sounding body, the Socialist International, choosing to
    toe the rabid communal line, of course, did present a spectacle. This
    should have caused no surprise though. Second Internationalwallahs, the
    history books proffer evidence, have a reputation for flexible morals.

    It is, however, the total endorsement the BJP comrades received from the
    Left that boggles the mind. There was hardly any reason for ideologues,
    who have always taken pride on holding high the flag of secularism, to
    surrender so meekly to the patriotic demagoguery unleashed by the
    BJP-RSS-VHP regime. By doing what they did, the secularists rendered
    hollow the claim of their main concern, at present being the containment of
    the fundamentalist threat.

    The Left could have proved its credentials by not falling into the Kargil trap
    set for it by the BJP-RSS-VHP triumvirate. Instead, it fell for it

    The procession of leaders of the so-called secular opposition trooping into
    South Block with ponderous faces to listen, in the manner of obedient
    students, to the briefings of the prime minister was a bizarre sight. It was as
    if by some magic the fundamentalist line had been transformed, courtesy
    Kargil, into a secular one. The latest turn of events contributed to the
    suspicion that Kargil was perhaps a marionette dance sponsored by the
    Americans; by their demeanour, the Indian Left proved to be very much a
    part of that ensemble.

    Should not the secularists, even at this late hour, engage in some
    soul-searching? It is 50 odd years since the Kashmir problem reared its
    head. The Indian administration has spent over this span of time several
    billions of rupees in order to establish the point that Kashmir is an integral
    part of India. Our politicians, civil servants and hired propagandists have
    pontificated day in and day out: no power on earth could detach the valley
    from India. The assertion has had no resemblance with ground reality. Not
    even one per cent of the valley's population, it is possible to lay a wager, is
    going to agree with the proposition that it comprises, honestly, the
    darlingest children of Bharatmata. To be unhappy with the so-called
    international community if it too nurtures a healthy scepticism with respect
    to the Indian claim is pointless.

    The recognition of what is what, in fact, ought to proceed further. The
    details are well known; we have not exactly covered ourselves with glory
    by the manner we have gone about in the valley in the half century since
    1948: the saga of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammeds and the Gul Mohammed
    Shahs encapsulates the Indian record.

    There is now very little to show as an achievement against the billions of
    rupees spent in the effort to maintain Kashmir as an inalienable part of
    India. No genuine democrat would go along with the view that you cling to
    a territory even when the entire resident population dislikes your presence.
    Why not be brutally frank: India's presence in Kashmir is only as an army
    of occupation. The cost of this forcible occupation has been incalculable
    for a poor country such as ours.

    Leave aside for a moment the consideration of the state of affairs in the
    valley. Even otherwise, this is altogether an unquiet country. Signs of
    incipient insurgency are rampant in the North-East. Conditions of anarchy
    prevail over large stretches of Assam. The People's War Group of
    different shades are active in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and part of
    Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh as well. Our integral security
    arrangements are so wobbly that a sandalwood poacher has been
    operating unhindered for more than a decade along the Tamil
    Nadu-Karnataka border. Caste warfare, often assuming violent forms, is
    the staple political activity in many states. Corruption has corroded the
    polity from top to bottom. Should we not move to even more basic issues?
    Despite half a century of independence, close to one half of the population
    remains functionally illiterate and one third of the population subsists below
    the line of poverty. The quality of nutritional intake, particularly for women
    and children, beggars description.

    It is not being suggested that were the billions of rupees sunk in Kashmir
    instead put to use for purposes of development in the other parts of India,
    all the ills the nation is suffering from would have been instantly removed.
    But the permanent crunch on resources, inhibiting development activities
    on the part of both the Centre and the state governments, would without
    question have been substantially eased if the white elephant of Kashmir
    were not there.

    A hypothetical example of what could have resulted from careful
    alternative uses of the money poured into Kashmir may be taken note of.
    Way back in the mid-'80s, a Reserve Bank of India report, much
    concerned at the persistence of monocrop farming in most parts of the
    eastern and northeastern regions of the country, had suggested a string of
    irrigation works to blanket the area. These works, if implemented, were
    expected to turn the agricultural tracts in Assam, West Bengal, Orissa,
    Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh following the completion of the
    Bhakra-Nangal and similar other irrigation projects. The committee had
    endorsed an irrigation investment programme of this nature for the eastern
    states because of the possibility of the petering out of farm production in
    the country's north-west consequent to the exhaustion of the irrigation
    potential there; the need was to open up new areas if the tempo of farm
    growth were to be maintained.

    The aforementioned report had proposed an outlay of several tens of
    billions of rupees, to be spread over a number of years, to convert the
    irrigation dream for eastern and north-eastern India into a live reality. New
    Delhi would not, however, touch the report even with a barge pole.
    Honey, where is the money, has been the standard response from the
    powers that be. The opportunity cost of not spending this amount where it
    ought to have been spent is, one dares to say, the near anarchy now fast
    spreading over large parts of the country, the caste, sect and ethnic riots
    not excluded.

    So what, national integrity uber alles, life is apparently not worth living for
    the secularists unless they join the bandwagon of Hindu revivalism. The
    cost is no consideration, even if it be wholesale national disintegration.

    the incident in kargil was not a skirmish.pakistani intruders entrenched themselves deep inside india and were actually claiming to have captured it.if you think that being secular means giving up your land to anyone who claims it,you're grossly mistaken.


      read Varsha Bhosle's reply to Mitra


        Saisuresh Sivaswamy in reply to Mitra