The question of Azadi (Freedom)

I don't usually visit Sulekha much these days. Today, during lunch I had some spare time and decided to see the "latest" developments on Sulekha.

Beside the fact that Sulekha looks even more cluttered than it's previous incarnation, I was pleased to discover that they had re-introduced their Columns section. Now at least the more serious writers will get some better "air-time" and all the stuff that accompanies it.


But I was aghast to read this nugget, written by our own personal enigma — Sri Anand Nair.

I had decided not to lock horns with this great soul again, but I have to do, this time. And I will post a comment on Mr. Nair's blog/column to give him the freedom to post his comments (either here or via his blogs should he be interested). 

 Let me quote freely from this article —

{xtypo_quote}After attending a massive rally of over 5 Lakh (500,000) protesters at Srinagar on 19 Aug 2008, Arundhati Roy is reported to have said, "India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs azadi from India". This statement brings to the foreground, the thorny issue of secession.{/xtypo_quote}

Has Miss Roy ever stopped to think of the population of Kashmiri Pandits, who were literally thrown out of the homeland of their ancestors (who roamed freely in the valley  long before the Moslems arrived)?

Has Miss Roy any idea what Kashmir means to Bharata Varsha (the Land of Truth)?

Probably not. You see, Kashmir was the land of Abhinava Gupta, Lalla, the mystics of Kashmiri Shaivism. This is the beautiful land from which finest of Indian Philosophical and Cultural treasures arose. It's easy to cater to sensationalism and proclaim Azadi in the hysterical style that is her trademark.  But that doesn't do anything to placate…nay! even understand the plight of those whose birthright it is to walk this land free.  


{sidebar id=22} The video clip above tells the supressed story. Amidst the rhetoric and lunacy that is the "Kashmiri Freedom Struggle" (read Terrorist Movement), the voice of this minority (Kashmiri Hindus) was all but lost. No one did a thing! The napunsak (eunuch) Indian Government was silent. The world community was silent. The (usually hysterical) NGOs did not say a word. The media merely brushed these things over. I hear that the Pandits still live in refugee camps in Delhi (almost 20 years since their displacement).

Let me quote some more from Sri Nair's article.

To answer these questions, we must first consider the basis of nationhood.

According to Arun Jaitly and many others, all that matters is territorial integrity. Any political discourse that questions this, must amount to sedition — and will need to be dealt with as such.

I would disagree with the above “popular” perception. To me, the basis of civilized nationhood can only be a broad consensus that exists among the people that constitute the nation. When a nation includes a variety of ethnic, linguistic, ideological and religious groups, nationhood must be based upon the general desire of these disparate groups to remain part of the union.

Indeed, I would strongly support any move that would grant the right to secede to regions within a nation — with laid down Constitutional procedures that would make actual secession rather difficult, but not impossible.

In particular, India is a large nation with a multiplicity of languages, cultures, ethnicities, religions and so on. From a moral perspective, our nationhood must be premised on continuing consensus among all federal constituents to voluntarily remain part of the Union. This will indeed put counter pressure on the larger communities, linguistic groups etc to be reasonably sensitive to the cultural/ linguistic/ religious sensibilities of the smaller groups. And pray, why not?

The exercise of the (proposed) right to secede would of course need to be circumscribed by elaborate Constitutional procedures. 

Mr Nair's logic states that any group or community that wants to break away from this federation of diverse entities can do so, and the Indian constitution should morally be obligated to support such a scenario.

Umm…okay. So let's drill down further (instead of India, the federation of states), let us take each state itself. So, let's take Sri Nair's own state of Kerala. Which a highly diverse and educated State (there are a substantial percentage of Moslems, Christians, Jews even besides your everyday Hindus in Kerala). If we were to follow Sri Nair's reasoning, the State of Kerala should also be morally obligated to allow say the Christian community to secede should they not be satisfied being a part of the collective whole. 

Once they had seceded from Kerala (formed their own state), they then might say (with or without some help from external factors) "Pah! We don't like this Indian Federation business…let us create our own Nation". The Indian Consititution, which now has been ammended to allow for such a situation will naturally allow such a thing to happen (of course, after circumscription of all the Constitutional procedures). So then this will/might set of a chain reaction. We already have some naughty agents of God working their magic in the North East. We've been hearing their calls for freedom too, since the past 30 years or so . So, naturally they will also be allowed to become "independent".

Say, the "secessionists" must be required by law to register their intent with the election commission and then be obliged to form a political party with the stated aim to mobilize support for secession. If minimum criteria as laid down for this are met, the election commission would declare a referendum (to decide the issue either way) five years hence. The five year period is for those who support/ oppose secession to mobilize public opinion in their respective favour — through peaceful democratic discourse. The referendum will settle the issue either way. It may be specified that over 66% of the registered voters of the region must vote in favour of secession, if this is to be upheld.

If the referendum gives a vote against secession, then there ought to be a bar against another constitutional bid for the same in next 10 years. On the other hand, if the result of the referendum favours secession, this should be followed up with a graceful transfer of power of the territory…

I do not believe that the above will lead to Balkanisation of India. On the other hand, this may well lay the groundwork to undo the partition. It is not impossible that the peoples of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka etc realize the advantage (to themselves) in becoming part of a larger federal republic — once they see that the Union is Constitutionally sensitive to regional/ subcultural aspirations and differences.

Hmm…doesn't that seem a bit insane? When a group of people of a particular community don't see eye-to-eye with the rest of the group (the majority), they obviously won't want to participate in the democratic process, will they? Because obviously they will lose. 

Mr Nair, please take a poll of every Indian today and see what percentage of their votes for the secession of Kashmir! The whole point of a nation being a democracy is that the members (of this democracy) decide via various means what particular course of action they will take (as a collective), based on consensus. How is this consensus arrived at? When a definitive majority comes to the same conclusion. So, while I am certain that Mr. Nair's provision for secession will not work (by virtue of being subject to democratic process), doesn't it seem unnecessary? I think it does.

But what this article doesn't address is that a wonderful portion of this landmass (that is India) and all it's historic and pre-historic memories, artifacts and culture is inextricably woven into the tapestry of India (the past, present and hopefully the future). The heritage of the Kashmiri Pandit is also the heritage of the average Indian in any city, any village. How then can we let go of this essential component of our existence as a nation?

This also brings forth these questions (surely been asked before) —

What is in the best interest of the Kashmiri people (and this also includes the Pandits along with the Moslem population)? Be a tiny little nation which lives off alms thrown at it by it's neighbors and the global community or a proud part of a growing world power?

Don't the Kashmiri people want to tap into the huge potential (slowly being kinetized) of the Indian being?

Has the toxic rhetoric of the terrorists (so valiantly supported by another paragon of democracy the Late Miss Benazir Bhutto, as shown in the video above) so poisoned the hearts and minds of the common people in Kashmir that they don't know what's good for them anymore?

Do these common Kashmiris even have a voice? Or is the majority of the noise being created by secessionists with a different agenda (sponsored by the neighbor to the west)?

A lot of questions. Do you, dear Medhavi have your opinion on this? Do share.


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