- We saw in Part I that the Princely States had the option of joining India or Pakistan or remaining Independent, how States like Junagarh, Jodhpur, Travancore and Hyderabad resisted integration with India and how they finally merged with India.
- Part II explained how Pakistan’s pressure tactics aimed at forcing J&K to sign the accession agreement with itself resulted in J&K signing the agreement with India and the different steps followed by India to ensure wholesome merger of the States.
- Part III explained that India gave more time to J&K to decide on merger with India because of the war situation, Nehru-Gopalaswamy Ayyangar team introduced Article 370 and the arguments for and against the same.
- We explained in Part IV how both the options-remaining independent or aligning with Pakistan- would have left the people of J&K in a much more miserable state than what they are today.
Am I suggesting that the situation prevailing in J&K is the ideal one? No. I am only pointing out that aligning with India was perhaps the best out of the options available to J&K 60 years back. But the situation there by no means is the best.
Then what needs to be done?
- During Nehru’s period J&K was given an unduly special status; it was pampered. Come Indira Gandhi’s period, it was treated like any other state, all of a sudden. (Of course she had a problem with strong state leaders wherever they were.) People found it difficult to adjust to this sudden shift. The current UPA government seems to think that J&K is doing us a favour by choosing to remain with us whereas we have seen that it is the other way. The government first needs to get out of this mind set.
- Then it has to effectively convey this to the people of J&K - how India has been supporting J&K and that the other side is not greener. The Indian success story viz. development and growth in the rest of India, particularly the success of Kerala in tourism, should be taken to the nooks and corners of J&K so that the people realize what they have lost by remaining separate and what they can expect by integrating with India. Realize, they will because they don’t have the baggage of columnists/ political parties/ religious groups. But this requires concerted effort from and greater involvement of Indian government and results cannot be expected in the short term. (Unfortunately the UPA government is busy managing one crisis after another; it has no time for such long term efforts.)
- Delink religion from this issue. Do not treat it as Hindu-Muslim issue because that is how Pakistan has been treating this and that is how separatists have been putting forward this problem to the people. They take extreme positions, demand undue concessions. If India also takes this line, it has to beat them only by taking further extreme position, offering more than their expectation. There will be no end to this race.
- Militancy and violence need to be put down. People of J&K should perceive India to be a strong nation. As long as India does not do this, the common people will dismiss India as and incapable of protecting them from militants. Consequently even if they are convinced of the Indian arguments, they will not have the courage to accept.
- Giving more grants is not the solution. The problem is that most of these funds do not reach the people; the funds evaporate somewhere along the delivery chain. As a result when the separatist or pro-Pak militants preach either the independence or “align with Pakistan” theory, they strike a chord with the common people. So while this problem viz. government schemes not reaching the poor, exists throughout India, we cannot afford to have this at least in J&K. No short cuts to this problem. Simply ensure delivery.
- Gradually, but in a time bound manner remove one by one the restrictions placed by Article 370.
I think J&K problem can be solved; but it requires sincerity and commitment.
Hope government also thinks so.
PS: While some of you have put your comments in the site, those who differed from my views or those who wanted me to emphasize certain issues, either sent me mails or called me over phone. Perhaps they did not want to put these comments in the site. I have tried to address their points in the subsequent parts. Where I could not agree with them, I explained to them why I could not. One more point. I have consciously kept these articles simple so that everyone gets interested in them; I have avoided quoting sections/ articles/ clauses. Many. many thanks for all your comments and views.