Headline on CNN about Leh floods: Death toll from Kashmir flooding rises to 112
Correction: Leh is not in Kashmir. There was no flooding in Kashmir.
A Vaishno Devi Pilgrim: I just returned from Kashmir. Things are peaceful there.
Correction: Jammu is not in Kashmir. There is no jehad in Jammu.
A University of Texas Website Article: refers to the 1999 war in Kargil, Kashmir
Correction: Kargil is not in Kashmir. It is in Ladakh province.
One of the frequent gripes that Kashmiris have about people from mainland India is that they don’t understand Kashmir and Kashmiris. That is true to a large extent. One of the myths that needs to be broken is that “Kashmir is J&K”, because it is actually only a small part of it – 6.98% to be exact. Even the saying that “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India is one” is not correctly worded because Kashmir is not the Northernmost part of India; Ladakh is. And if you believe in the official Indian map, then Gilgit and Aksai Chin are the Northernmost parts, none of these being part of Kashmir. Kashmir is well South of the Northern tip of India, so it is geographically a natural part of India. Even Azad Kashmir or PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) is not Kashmir. In this blog post I will explain why this discussion is important, considering the existing imbroglio going on in the Kashmir valley.
It has served some of the players in the game well to confuse the issue of Kashmir’s location and boundaries as much as possible. Most people, when asked about where Kashmir is on a map, will point to the “head” shape on the top of an Indian map and say “here it is!” (see the black arrow in the map below). They could not be farther from the truth. Look at the following map and see for yourself where Kashmir actually is.
The above official Indian map shows the complete state of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India, and the rough boundaries of Kashmir are shown in red. For a more “non-partisan” view, click the map on the right from Wikipedia, showing the Kashmir valley within a red boundary line.
Now, what is the difference between Kashmir and the state of Jammu and Kashmir? Well, Kashmir is the dispute and J&K is not. Kashmir is the Muslim majority area and other parts of J&K are not. Kashmir is what is shouting “Go India Go” (This is not a cheer in Kashmir!) and other parts are happy being India. Kashmir is a small part of Jammu and Kashmir. Compare the following land areas:
|Area of Kashmir:||15,520.3 sq km (Wikipedia)|
|Area of J&K under Indian Control:||~101,400 sq km (Forest Survey Website)|
|Total Area of Undivided J&K:||222,236 sq km (Wikipedia)|
Thus Kashmir is about 7% in area of undivided J&K, and about 15% of J&K under Indian control.
So, how do you define Kashmir? Well, the best way to define it is to ask Kashmiris themselves. In Kashmiri language, everything outside the valley is called “nebar”, i.e., outside or foreign. Kashmir is a geographically smaller portion of the larger state of Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises the provinces of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. Kashmir is Kashmir province only, comprising of previously undivided districts of Anantnag, Baramulla and Srinagar (now divided into 10 smaller districts). Kashmir is where Kashmiris natively live and where Kashmiri language is natively spoken. It is also this region of Kashmir that has dominated the politics of the region for the last 63 years.
Now, why is this distinction between Kashmir and J&K always fudged and why is this distinction important? It is this small part of the state that is a pain in the neck for India, because it is this Muslim majority portion that is holding the whole state and region to ransom. It is this Muslim majority portion of 7% of the state that cannot see itself fitting in a non-Muslim India. Jammu in the South of the state has a Hindu majority population, ethnically similar to neighboring states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh; Ladakh in the North of the state has predominantly Buddhist and Muslim population, ethnically similar to neighboring Tibet. Both are fine being India. It is just Kashmir that is inhabited by a large majority of Muslims (97%) that cannot see itself being India. The small population of non-Muslims has diminished with each migration and a history of conversions over decades and centuries. It is this geographically small portion that is the tinderbox of violence. It is this beautiful valley that was called Heaven on Earth and has now been turned into hell by the Islamic separatist violence. It is the majority of inhabitants of this small area (not of the state) who are clamoring for azadi (independence) for this small land of Kashmir. The diversity of the state fits perfectly well within diverse India, but this diversity does not belong to the green-flag waving, stone pelting separatists of Kashmir.
It has been a political compulsion for every party in the game to keep the disparate parts of this former princely state cobbled together. Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have nothing at all in common. Each has its own dominant ethnicity, its own dominant religion, its own topography, its own climate, its own diverse culture, its own distinct major language. No other state in the region has such intra-state diversity. Even India’s linguistic reorganization of states in the 1950s did not result in a division of J&K because of its “special status”. India apparently wants to keep the state together because Jammu and Ladakh act as a bond between Kashmir and the rest of India. India perhaps thinks that separating Kashmir out will be the first step towards its complete secession from India. Pakistan, on the other hand also keeps J&K clubbed together so that it can lay claim to the whole state and perhaps negotiate away the non-Muslim areas if it comes to a negotiation. For the same reason, apparently, they named the area they occupied as AJK (Azad Jammu Kashmir) when it is neither Azad nor Jammu nor Kashmir. The languages spoken in PoK are Pahari, Mirpuri, Gojri, Hindko, Punjabi, Pashto (Source: Wikipedia) and none of these languages is even close to Kashmiri. The people living in PoK are ethnically different from Kashmiris. This also means that the LoC has created no divided families.
But what is the compulsion of Kashmiri separatists to keep talking about J&K, when they actually are only bothered about Kashmir? Kashmiri Muslims, in their arguments against Indian rule say that they are ethnically different, they have a different dominant religion, and so on. Most of them don’t see themselves as Indians. But then, it is exactly those things that set them apart from Ladakhis and Jammuites, who do see themselves as Indians. In fact, Kashmiri Muslims have been fighting against the rule of Dogra King from Jammu even before they started fighting against Indian rule. So, how do they resolve this paradox? How can they lay claim to other conquests or purchases of the Dogra king when they fought against being under the Dogra king himself. Ladakh, Baltistan, and Gilgit were not even part of the state when Dogras purchased it from the British. Apparenlty, Kashmiris have two main reasons for talking about J&K, rather than Kashmir — one, since Pakistan no longer remains a flauntable destination, and with Islamic extremism having lost its flavor the world over, they need to be seen as desirous of a “secular azadi”, rather than an “Islamic accession to Pakistan”; secondly, it gives them something to bargain for with India.
The fact that Kashmir is actually a very small part of Jammu and Kashmir has other ramifications too. Since Jammu and Ladakh are happy being part of India, it makes no sense to impose so called “azadi” on them. Now that leaves Kashmir with its 15000 sq km area as one of world’s smallest land locked countries – bigger than only Vatican City, Luxembourg and couple of other non-countries. How valid and how long-lived will this “independence” driven by Islamic fanaticism be? Obviously, since they will have just divorced India, they will be absorbed into Pakistan in no time. This is what some of the Kashmiri leaders want in the first place, but is that what most Kashmiris are bargaining for? Will they get a special status like Article 370 in Pakistan? Does such a small land area have enough resources to sustain itself as a country?
The fact that Kashmir is actually a small part of Jammu and Kashmir also negates the “democracy logic” for separation of Kashmir from India. Yes, majority is authority in a democracy, but the majority concentrated in a 7-15% area of a state taking or influencing a decision for the whole state is equally undemocratic for the rest of the state. Why would a Dogra person living in Kathua want to live under Nizam-e-Mustafa? Kashmir is flanked on three sides by areas which are definitely India, and on the fourth side by an area occupied by Pakistan. For a sovereign democratic country, how large does a locality have to be to give its residents a right of self-determination? For the sake of democracy, does it make sense to ask a Muslim majority mohalla in Hyderabad or Meerut whether they want to stay in India? In fact, if we give any credence to Kashmiri Hindus’ demand for their piece of the homeland (Panun Kashmir), which they want to be an integral part of India, Kashmiri separatists are left with even less of a “country”.
In retrospect, the only solution that would have made more sense would have been, in 1947, to carve out the valley and give it to Pakistan. That did not happen because of the incongruent composition of the state — a Hindu king ruling a state composed of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim regions. If that had happened, the region would have been much more peaceful. My community (the Kashmiri Hindus) would have been settled in other parts of India, just like other migrants from Pakistan were. Whether Kashmiri Muslims would still have been happy, it is hard to tell. But I am sure there would have been no “freedom movement”. Now, with hindsight being 20/20, Kashmiris should thank heavens for the incidents of 1947 and be happy they are not part of the failed state of Pakistan.
Azadi just doesn’t make any sense to me. If Kashmiri Muslims see themselves primarily as Muslims aligned with Pakistan, then accession to Pakistan makes sense. If they see themselves as secular, inclusive people, then what is wrong with being part of India? All others in the state, other than Muslims of the valley, see themselves as Indians.
As an Indian, I see it clearly that the trouble in the valley has reached cancerous proportions. Although it is hard to stop the rest of the country from bleeding in case of an extreme measure, it may make more sense to either cure it completely or cut it off. Either integrate the valley completely into India (no Article 370, no autonomy, no special status) or cut it off. Blast the Banihal Tunnel and let them go to…. heaven. Kashmiris should however stop the hypocrisy of secularism, azadi and caring about Jammu and Ladakh. Go be “independent” or join Pakistan and see if your future generations are thankful to you for that. Given the small size of Kashmir, and the size of area already with Pakistan and China, it won’t make much difference to India’s map. And then, who is to stop us from keeping showing it in India’s map?
It is painful to see the violence, the killings, the inconveniences in Kashmir. But why are people getting killed? Isn’t the presence of army in Kashmir the consequence, rather than the reason, of the separatist movement? If the religion inspired protests end in Kashmir, would anyone be hurt? Kashmiri separatists know the answer to this. They know they can stop getting their children killed any day, but then, how will they get Sharia and Nizam-e-Mustafa?
However, no-one in the Indian government has the willpower to facilitate either of the extreme solutions — full integration or full severance. So, it is in the interest of Kashmiri Muslims to go for status quo ante: give up fighting, stop the anti-India jihad and start going to schools, offices, cinemas, gyms, even bars. Go into pre-1989 mode, sans Hindus. Hindus have already been pushed out – they will never return. They have never returned in the past — just keep renewing your fake invitations. You can continue dominating the rest of the state. With Article 370 intact, you make sure you can settle down anywhere in India, but no outsider settles down in Kashmir. So, you can have the best of everything. Just drop the stones.
An update: Read my next post on the subject: Is Kashmir Not Even That Big?. This is based on additional information from the BBC site.