Headline: Stick approach is misguided

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Subhed: Consider Kashmiris as Indians first

Photo caption: Kuljit Bains

By Kuljit Bains

Writer for The Tribune newspaper

CAPTAIN Amarinder Singh wrote an article in The Tribune, which has been an immense success. Though a Congress man, he has been hailed by supporters of all parties for the views.

Not going by the title of the article, which on the face of it sounds just fine — “Let us stand by our soldiers in Kashmir” — I find it betrays no different an attitude towards Kashmir than the British would have had for India. Worse, it reveals that the writer does not believe that Kashmir is an “integral part of India” (a much-overused phrase); rather, he sees it as an occupied territory, meant to be subjugated.

If ever you think of a people as your own, you cannot write the following paragraph that the good Captain did: “The Army must be allowed to bring militancy under control to a point where those professing it realise that the time has come to talk. Yes, people will die in the ensuing action, then so be it. Kashmir is Indian territory.”

Mark the confidence, belligerence, righteousness, and arrogance in the words “so be it”, and “Indian territory”.

He comes from a family of rulers (Indian rulers were no better for the people than the British, only a little cruder), a military history, and the ease of a man who in his life has come across mostly supplicants. And he has spoken very honourably when measured against the scale of a feudal lord and a military man, who are no different whether they are British, German or Indian.

Being the straight-speaking man that he is, Captain Amarinder Singh most likely will agree with all that I am accusing him of. He probably meant to but stopped short of saying (in deference to people’s sensibilities) that “yes, we have occupied Kashmir, and let us show these blighters their place”.

I condemn this attitude, and find it damaging to everything that India stands for. I am a desk journalist who has never run more than 10km, and that too in the fine parks of Chandigarh. Because of that I may seem “unable to empathise with our soldiers”.

But soldiers are not the point here. The “sort the blighters out” attitude is responsible not just for misguided Kashmiri civilians dying, but equally for the suffering of our soldiers. Violence does equal harm on all sides — and both to the body and mind.

Force – military, diplomatic and that of money – does have a role in a situation such as Kashmir. But we have to know the difference between enemy and fellow citizen.

If some bad element has got your kid addicted to drugs, your approach to the two will be different. You will take police action against the peddler, but try and rehabilitate your child. But that is if you believe he is your child, and love him.

Kashmir, or any separatist territory, is no different. Keep Pakistan out with full force. Have a heart inside Kashmir.

There have been periods of relative calm, at times imposed by use of force. But those windows have not been used for building any bonds, only petty politics kept playing. Infusion of doles for Kashmiris cannot buy loyalty. They are not sending their kids to harm because they want free electricity or rations.

Many in India say Kashmiris have never felt loyal to the country. We must ask of ourselves, did we ever consider them our brothers and fellow citizens? The fact is it has been India’s requirement that Kashmiris should feel like Indians; Kashmiris never asked to be assimilated into India. If the requirement is India’s, then the duty to win over their hearts is also India’s.

Captain Amarinder Singh put that superiority and confidence of the victor in black and white. He has done a service by not being a hypocrite. It may be a good idea for everyone to first state what their true view is. We have to know where we are starting from. Only then can a route to success be charted.

If it is occupation of Kashmir that we seek, then the path shown by the military man is the one to choose.

If we want Kashmir to be a part of India, then first believe in your own heart that it indeed is. The rest will follow.