Friday, September 17, 2010

Failed salesman

India has failed to sell the idea of India to Kashmiris (In the valley, to be specific. Jammu, Leh/Ladakh seem to have no such issue).

What is the idea of India? As per our constitution, India stands for a plural democratic country where seven fundamental rights are guaranteed. The Right to Equality, Freedom, Freedom from Exploitation, Freedom of Religion, Cultural and Educational rights, Constitutional Remedies and the recently added Right to Education. As rights go, they are the fundamental freedoms that are essential for both individual and community. These are the rights that are enforceable in a court of law. That's what our constitution says.

At a practical level, what has India meant to us? India, the country is an ancient country that has shaped itself on a pluralistic platform. It is a country which has seen the birth of more than a few important religions and movements. It has welcomed numerous religions, races and peoples into its folds. In the land of a million gods, a few more were more than welcome and this tradition has continued in the general tolerance and adopting belief systems in its populace The country has seen off numerous invasions and murderous invaders apart from diseases and natural and man made calamities throughout its history.India has been a melting pot of cultures, each entity providing a distinct nuance to what India is today.

What else does it mean? Media is free in India (if they chose to be), women have equal rights as men (in general), there are a multitude of schools and colleges available, property rights are relatively well enforced and yes, while we are not perfect as a country we are a relatively free nation. We have progressed ever since the economy was opened in 1991 by the venerable Narasimha Rao. And from then on, with the strength of our GDP, we have created a decent name for us in Information Technology and Services. India is also home to a good number of private companies that have created a name and space for themselves in the world space. It is a country where there is no thought police or religious police and in general, your god can go with you. You can worship anything, almost anywhere. So, that's India for you in a nutshell, a quilt woven across the centuries, religions, cultures, languages and people.

Yet, think about it, did we give Kashmiris a fighting chance to join this idea of India? To be honest, we did not. We failed to sell the idea that Kashmir would survive and thrive in its own identity as much as a Rajasthan or a Kerala does. Article 370 ensured that Kashmir would be trapped in a limbo - never independent, yet not completely sold onto the idea of India. We failed in selling the idea of India to Kashmiris despite sending in crores worth of development every year. Despite building railways at tremendous cost and risk. And then again our salesmen were not the best. They were corrupt or inept or both. The whole idea was to integrate it into the Indian Union at some point of time - that can happen even now, but given that we have constantly selected invertebrates as our leaders, this is not likely to happen anytime soon. And so with Article 370, we left the doors open for persuasion of another kind - a persuasion that will literally create a desert in paradise.

Sure, as a country we are not perfect. Is it worth fighting for? Clearly yes, because given all the imperfections, the opposite of this is quite unimaginable. And this is exactly what will become of Kashmir under the leaders they so religiously follow because of the strings that their masters have religiously (pun intended) attached to these leaders. I can imagine fighting for freedom, but fighting for the opposite of it and claiming it is a fight for freedom?

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