Chop Kashmir off India so that I can party in Bombay seems to be Amit Varma’s mantra. Varma’s hypothetical equation of India=British Empire or whatever is a mere diversionary couch to rest his laziness to learn, if not in depth, at least the outlines of the Kashmir problem. That in itself is not a huge issue except when he starts making presumptuous statements based on the above equation.
I suspect that your sentiments will then appear rather similar to those expressed by Winston Churchill when he opposed Indiaâ€™s independence. The principle that our freedom fighters fought for then was that Indians alone should be in charge of Indiaâ€™s fate, and not the British; it could similarly be argued today that Kashmiris alone should be in charge of Kashmirâ€™s fate, and not other Indians.
Don’t you just love Varma? There are a few layers here.
In a stroke, he speaks for all of us–Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris alike. Hell, I thought Varma was one “liberal” who staunchly fights for this cherished principle: don’t let me what’s good for me, don’t impose your opinion on me, and variations thereof? I don’t need a Churchill to validate what I feel about the history and/or the geography of, or my experience of my nation and everything associated with it. I may or not share Churchill’s sentiment. To me, Churchill, for all his merits, was an imperialist, racist extraordinaire. Whatever your suspicions, Amit, please state unambiguously that they are your own.
Second, and more importantly, Amit Varma implicitly, and already assumes that Kashmir is not part of India. In Varma’s book, the one thing remaining is the formal, geographical, and political slicing away of Kashmir. By asserting that Kashmiris alone should be in charge of Kashmirâ€™s fate, and not other Indians, Varma victoriously stands forefront in the ranks of the separatists (a euphemism for Pakistan-supporters if not ISI agents). On my part, Kashmiris are Indians.
Either Varma is utterly ignorant of history or he gets a kick out of throwing this kind of stupidity out in the open, only he knows. For one, I don’t buy the bogus Kashmiriyat identity/experience. Kashmiriyat is again, another euphemism for an Islam-centric cultural experience that cropped up after the systematic ethnic cleansing that occurred in the valley. A few tidbits about the said cleansing as late as 1998.
In addition to the account of the gathering at Muridke, the January 1998 issue of Pakistan’s carries a detailed interview with the Amir of the Lashkar Taiba, Mohammed Khan. “There are Muslim organizations which preach and work on the missionary level inside and outside Pakistan,” the Amir tells the correspondent, “but they usually steer clear of jehad. However, not only has the need for jehad always existed, the present conditions demand it more than ever.”
Nor is the Amir at all reticent in naming the targets of the organization’s jehad. He tells the publication,
“Our jehad is confined strictly to non-Muslims, and particularly Hindus and Jews, the two main enemies of the Muslims. The Quran too has declared these two groups to be enemies (of Islam). These two powers are creating problems for Muslims and for Pakistan. “To my mind the Hindus are what the Quran calls ‘mushriks’ (polutheists). This (Hinduism) is the worst form of shirk (polytheism) in which 30 million gods are worshipped. And from here shirk has been smuggled to other nations of the world. Hindus are creating problems for us directly. If God gives us the power we will enlarge the scope of jehad to include the Jews, who are the worst danger for the Muslims.”
After the mass murder, we now have a group of people who are variously called separatists, Kashmiris, or whatever catches your fancy. According to this logic, they have the last word on their intent to “stay” with India or otherwise. Hence Amit Varma to whom shared historical and cultural experiences don’t matter, national consciousness doesn’t make sense because he goes duh when you ask him what it is, and what differentiates him from me is the kinship I feel with “Kashmiris” as Indians. But what matters to him is the expediency of the moment: just give ‘em the damn Kashmir and let’s move on. When he bolsters this assertion with second-rate columnists who say
â€œAs a liberal, i dislike ruling people against their will,â€ writes Aiyar, and suggests a plebiscite in which â€œKashmiris decide the outcome, not the politicians and armies of India and Pakistan.â€
According to this, only the words of liberals matter to him, and correspondingly, it should be what policymakers should abide by. I won’t elaborate on Rohit’s superb dissection except to say I agree with him. If we let “Kashmiris” decide the outcome, tomorrow, we’ll have to let Assamese, Bengalis, Oriyas, and Marathis decide on similar such outcomes. It’s also pretty hilarious when Varma compares Kashmir with the North East, which is basically a criminal canard spread by the Missionary movement. Does Varma know that the saree for the Goddess in the Kamakhya temple in Assam (yeah, North-East) is sent from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu? What does that tell about India? If that’s the kind of cultural unity that extends to that remote part of India, you cannot even begin to outline the same about Kashmir, the birthplace of an entire spiritual branch. The accurate term to describe the Indian government’s treatment of the North East is neglect. Which is a few thousand miles removed from imperialism.
I might be talking to a wall. Since when has Amit Varma cared about such nonsense as culture? He has a nice word to dismiss it: nationalism (and its variants). It would be interesting to watch if he bothers to respond to this post, with the same fervour that he exhibited earlier, on the Baroda episode.