OPINION
KASHMIRIS AND FREEDOM
Would Kashmiris reconsider the demand for Azadi?
- Justice Markandey Katju
Would Kashmiris reconsider the demand for Azadi?



Many Kashmiris demand azadi (independence) for Kashmir, and some non Kashmiris too e.g. some students of JNU etc who supported the demand. To examine the justification for this demand certain basic concepts need be cleared up.

The test of every political act or system is one, and only one: does it raise the standard of living of the people? Does it give them better lives? Keeping this firmly in mind, it is evident that azadi itself cannot be an end in itself, it can only be a means to an end. The end must be raising the standard of living of the people, and giving them better lives. If azadi leads to this end it should certainly be supported, but not otherwise.

Let us take a historical example. Kashmir was independent till 1587 when the last independent ruler Yusuf Shah Chak was deposed by Mughal Emperor Akbar, and Kashmir was incorporated into the Mughal Empire, whose capital was Agra.

Now this deprivation of azadi of Kashmiris in 1587 far from harming Kashmiris, benefited them, because it resulted in raising their standard of living and giving them better lives. By becoming part of the Mughal Empire Kashmiri handicraftsmen got a huge market in India for their handicrafts e.g. pashmina shawls, carpets, etc.
 
Kashmir got a share of the huge resources of the Mughal Empire, with which great works like the Mughal gardens (Shalimar, Nishat and Chashme Shahi) were built. There can be no doubt that Mughal rule benefited Kashmiris. It was like incorporation of many parts of Europe into the Roman Empire, which while depriving people there of their freedom in fact benefited them by the Roman technology, roads, aqueducts etc.

So I appeal to Kashmiris to go a bit deeper and stop parroting azadi and talking of UN resolutions in the abstract.

What is the ideology of the present leaders of separatists and militants in Kashmir? It is Islamic fundamentalism.
 
So if Kashmir becomes independent today it will be hurled back into the Middle Ages, sharia law will be imposed with barbaric rules of stoning women to death for adultery, etc, and women will be compelled to wear the burqa

Consider another matter. Kashmir today has a massive handicraft industry, and this has a huge market in India. Almost every one of the hundreds of towns in India has shops run by Kashmiris, who bring their handicrafts from Kashmir and sell them there. Once I went to Kovalam beach near Tiruvananthapuram in southern Kerala, and found two Kashmiri shops there too. 

Now what would happen if Kashmir becomes independent?
 
This huge market would be lost to Kashmiri industry, since then Kashmiri traders would not be able to come to India without a visa, which would be very difficult to get. The result would be that much of Kashmiri handicraft industry will have to close down, throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of employment. Has this been considered by those demanding azadi?

I have always strongly criticised atrocities on Kashmiris by Indian security forces e.g. when some civilians were killed in Pulwama.
 
Although I am a Kashmiri Pandit, my DNA is the same as that of Kashmiri Muslims, whom I regard my brothers and sisters. So I feel their pain e.g. when there was a shutdown and cut off of communications in the valley after 5th August (which I have strongly condemned ). I have helped creating the Chinar Foundation for uniting Kashmiri Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs (for details contact Fauzia Jalali at fauziasyeda5@gmail.com).

Nevertheless, I appeal to Kashmiris to reconsider their demand for azadi. The correct demand, in my humble opinion, would be reunification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (see indianreunificationassociation.co.in) under a secular government, which when attained, will automatically solve the Kashmir problem.

  
Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. 
 

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