Next step: A West Bank in Kashmir?

I have long advocated a plebiscite in Kashmir, allowing the Kashmiris to split way if they so choose, as the only moral, liberal solution. Alas, all political parties reject that…

Continuing with Article 370 of the Constitution — as many liberals and political parties want — would mean continuing the decades-old military occupation of an unwilling people, replete with human rights violations, with no end in sight. This is, frankly, a non-liberal non-solution.

Abolishing Article 370 and converting Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory to gradually force demographic change that produces a Hindu majority will accelerate militarization of Kashmir, greatly increase human rights violations, and worsen Kashmiri alienation and insurrection. This, too, is a non-liberal non-solution in the foreseeable future. However, in the distant future, maybe 50 years hence, it may just produce a stable Hindu majority equilibrium, though that is far from certain.

It is easy for liberals to criticize the BJP, but no good liberal alternatives are on the menu. The original sin was Nehru’s decision to get the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir to accede to India. Congress did not have to agree to partition India along Hindu-Muslim lines. Indeed, the Congress had been the greatest opponent of partition until early 1947.

However, after agreeing to partition on communal lines to bring forward independence, it was rank hypocrisy for Nehru to try and make Muslim-majority Kashmir part of India. Kashmir’s Hindu Maharaja had bought Kashmir from the British for Rs 75 lakh. The notion that this gave the Maharaja the right to speak for his mostly Muslim subjects was farcical. Yet, that was Nehru’s line. Behind a thin secular cloak, it was as Hindu nationalist as anything the BJP has been accused of. Indeed, the BJP is simply completing the hatchet job started by Nehru.

Optimists claim that with better management Kashmir could have happily been integrated with India. I gave up that illusion long ago. With Pakistani and international Muslim support always assured for an uprising by alienated Kashmiri Muslims, insurrection was always on the cards. To check this the Indian state went for military occupation, heedless of the way this eroded harmonious integration into a military occupation. Today there are no liberal solutions save a plebiscite, which no party thinks feasible.

The BJP has long sneered at the futile efforts of secular parties to win over militant Kashmiris in the Valley demanding “azaadi”. The BJP wants to abandon western notions of human rights and use an iron fist to accomplish vital nationalist aims, as Israel and China have.

Assuming that the courts uphold the BJP’s move, what will Kashmir’s future be? I see three possible guiding scenarios — China’s relatively peaceful takeover of Tibet; China’s herding of one million Muslim Uighurs into concentration camps to control Xinjiang province; and Israel’s relentless creation of Jewish settlements on the Palestinian West Bank.

Tibetisation seems impossible. The Dalai Lama swore by non-violence and rejected armed insurrection. India, which gave sanctuary to fleeing Tibetans, forbade any attempt at armed insurrection. However, insurgents in Kashmir will get full-blooded diplomatic and arms support from Pakistan and other Muslims nations, so relatively peaceful demographic change a la Tibet is impossible.

Uighurisation also seems impossible. India is a democracy with functioning courts that simply will not allow concentration camps to be set up with a million Muslims herded there for “re-education” in nationalism and patriotism.

The most likely BJP approach is to mimic Israel’s Jewish settlements in Palestine. Fortified Hindu settlements plus high walls and check-posts can keep spreading, gradually converting Muslim-majority areas into isolated regions cut off from one another. Settlements will probably start by carving out Hindu-majority areas in and around Srinagar, just as Israel did in and around Jerusalem. Later settlements can be expanded to rural areas by acquiring entire villages and giving this land free to ex-servicemen willing to settle there and act as a trained self-defence force.

A demographic takeover can be much faster in Kashmir than in Palestine. Jammu already has a Hindu majority. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir can acquire a Hindu majority in two or three decades of sustained settlement.

This will, of course, mean a militant Kashmiri rebellion backed by Pakistan and other Muslim states. It will mean decades of violence, as in Palestine. The BJP is ready for that. So are many other parties. Do not expect Congress resistance to be overwhelming. After all, the BJP is completing a takeover that Nehru began.

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