First, I'm sorry that I haven't been around the last couple of days, I was in Calcutta on some personal stuff. That city never ceases to amaze me, especially the fact that how eating and drinking out can be so much cheaper than the capital. Of course, what also doesn't cease to amaze me that in today's day and age, a general strike can only cripple one city in India - Calcutta. Am I the only one to think the cricket match is not quite co-incidental?
Two articles by two quite different writers this Sunday, in two generally pro-establishment papers has set the cat among the pigeons when it comes to Kashmir - Swami and The V have compelling and disturbingly similar arguments. Here is the strange thing, as far as media reportage goes, we know that the most mainstream English news channels (with the exception of Times Now) are fairly lenient towards the Kashmiri Muslims, and the exact opposite is true for most mainstream Hindi channels.
Both the writers make one crucial point, why on earth should the Indian state spend thousands of crores of rupees propping up the state? Left unsaid was the bit about the money going into the coffers of the Abdullah's, who I'm quite sure will seek asylum in India (Farooq's fate in an 'independent' Srinagar might be the same as Mussolini) and continue to milk the country. However, I think missed the the point about water. All the rivers that flow into Pakistan flow through Kashmir, and that is essentially why Pakistan wants Kashmir and why we won't give it up. Or so I think, and I'm no genius at geo-politics.
But even some people in the right now believe the situation will soon start to mirror Palestine, sure Israel has kept the West Bank under its thumb, but at what cost. India has more than enough souls to spare, but both writers ask whether it is worth keeping the Indian establishment locked in Kashmir forever?
Now, such thoughts will rankle the nationalistic feelings of almost everybody who read it, "Over my Dead B", people will scream. My civics teacher in high school, who never let us forget that she lost her husband in the 1962-War particularly once when I had the 'temerity' to suggest that we should delete Askai Chin off our maps - it isn't as if China will give it back. To even agree to the suggestion of these two quite different, yet extremely capable writers would be social hara-kiri for some, but in a weird sort of way, and I don't think this was planned, (some suspect it was) it is good that we are having this debate. Some think the arguments are petulant, but if Kosovo can gain independence (despite having nothing in the form of resources other than EU aid) why can't a part of the world blessed with a nice. Sure, separate Ladakh and Jammu, but democracy has brought us here. I still think the Kashmiri Muslims are mad to join a state that might break up itself very soon - honestly, I think Pakistan is on the verge of collapse.
It won't happen, I know that and you know that, for another 50 years at least, by which time, Swami and The V will be long gone and I will be on the verge of going as well. It will be political heresy to even suggest it, but the very fact that we are writing about it in the most mainstream of mainstream papers, something I'm sure the Kashmiri leadership will not allow (imagine a Kashmiri Muslim leader who doesn't swindle money from India writing that 'We should stay with India' - won't happen even if they believe it in their heart of hearts) is good. Sure, some might be cynical and claim that these articles were meant to provoke controversy, but I don't see why that is a cynical opinion. They clearly were, and aren't we a democracy - sure, we have awful leaders, but aren't we a democracy where debate is hopefully still a cherished thing.
Sure, there is a bit of the ultra-nationalistic Indian in me thinks that Swami and The V are treasonous, and after a few drinks too many when all rational sense goes out the window, I'm sure I might even find myself agreeing that 'things' should be done to them. But, stone-cold sober, I think The V's article wasn't his best-written one, and nor was Swami's, purely from a writing point-of-view, but both raised a question that we will have to answer someday.