Sunday, March 9, 2014

Kashmir Games

In India (under a hypothetical BJP majority coalition rule) an open question that will be frequently raised is whether  Muslims are "Indians first" or not. This is basically a proxy for whether Muslims prefer Pakistan over India or not. This was probably the case even before, and the consequences have been deadly in the past, but now the situation has become highly delicate. This is especially so as political parties have been indulging in match-fixing- engineering riots for the express purpose of segregating majority and minority votes.

For most parts of India, Muslims are in a minority and too much tied to Hindus (in economic terms if not social terms) to raise their voices. And if they do so the backlash is swift (in Asom, UP,...etc.). In Kashmir however people grow up in a Muslim-only society (having cleansed the valley of all minorities themselves) and a popular slogan is "bhooka nanga hindustan, dil se pyara pakistan." The Abdullah family is allowed a free hand (to steal) and the suppression of liberty directly leads to discontent (and to provide fertile grounds for the extremists to recruit).

But things will not remain frozen in time/space and the potential for friction will rise fast. Indian Hindus as a group are shifting right-ward and this matches with the trend elsewhere in the non-western world. There will be little or no ground to be given to minorities, including Shias in Sunni land. Even in the west, the forces on the right are gaining ground, especially in Europe.

In the mean-time Kashmiris need education and jobs. The Kashmir valley population is 6.9 million (as per 2011 census, 97% muslim). Jammu meanwhile is 5.35 million (31% muslim) and Ladakh is 0.29 million (54% muslim). There will not be enough opportunities in the Gulf for the youngsters (or enough asylum claims to be sustained in the West). As far as political freedom goes, anything except soft boundaries may not be negotiable under any sort of political regime.

Let us be clear, if war breaks out (supported by jihadi squadrons from the western front) and history repeats once more, it will be much harder on the Kashmiri population. Jaganmohan may have been bad but Modi will be even worse. World-wide the patience with Jihadism will be much lower now, and the worst case (Syria like) scenario cant be ruled out.

Thus the (practical) choice for both Kashmiris and Indians is to find a way to show mutual tolerance otherwise the situation may reach boiling point. Will a soft borders resolution with Pakistan be a helpful compromise? It may not be clear to the politicians but it is urgent that the ball moves forward after the elections. Otherwise be prepared for incidents like this to snowball into something major.

A private university in Greater Noida on Saturday expelled six students — four of them Kashmiris — from one of its boys' hostels after a stand-off between two groups over last Sunday's India-Pakistan cricket match. It's the second such controversy this week after a university in Meerut suspended a group of Kashmiri students for celebrating Pakistan's victory in the Asia Cup match.

The expulsion came after a tense week at the Sharda University hostel where the Kashmiri students allegedly cheered for Pakistan. Another group protested that night, but the standoff escalated midweek after a student's provocative comments on a social media network.

The student cited the example of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut, demanding similar action against the four Kashmiri students. The post elicited strong reactions and students started mobilizing on campus. When the situation threatened to go out of control, Sharda university authorities called police. Ranvir Singh, students' welfare dean, said the university expelled them from the hostel to maintain discipline. All of them are first-year students.
   regards