Prashant Bhushan in recent interview to a tv channel remarked that there should be referendum to vocalize local peoples wish on the continuation of AFSPA in Kashmir. The remark caught fire and the army of ultra nationalists, residing outside the valley, set out to punish the ignitor. The valley itself remained calm, barring few aristocratic comments. Sensing danger, the fledgling party immediately dissociated itself from the remark, abandoning its key member to his own defense, because he had gone mad once again.
Though there are many issues which are inflammatory in Indian democracy but none of them has as much spark as Kashmir has. Any out of box idea about Kashmir is considered aberration and invite large scale criticism all over. The only best thing that you can say about Kashmir in different gestures and postures is: Kashmir is an integral part of India. If anything preposterous slip out of your tongue about Kashmir be about its politics, the sacrosanct article 370, people, terrorism or whatever, a safety advice is that you must close your statement by quoting: Kashmir is an integral part of India. This can provide you the cover to some extent if you are not far off the conventional wisdom about the state. But if you go too far then even this chant is not sufficient to exonerate you from the charge of being an un- Indian, pro -separatist, pro-Pak, treacherous and even militant. You invite your nemesis at the hand of vigilantes who are out in the street to silence the idea or opinion of their dislike through violence. They might have no knowledge about the background of the issue, nor they are sympathetic towards the plight of people there, but they are whole heartedly ready to kill or die for Kashmir at the behest of their masters. Their bullying tactics has no other purpose than to keep Kashmir issue burning.
They do not understand that prejudice will lead us nowhere. Idea must be countered with idea, not with violence. Instead of resorting to violence, they should articulate their apprehension behind their objection to referendum on AFSPA in the valley. If there is a conflict, we need to first understand what interests of both parties are clashing? We need to understand the theory which justifies the continuation of AFSPA in valley. Just resisting to take the matter on board, or shooting the messengers will never resolve anything.
Let's tone down the rhetoric and shed the jingoism for a while to understand why such hallo bolo is for referendum? What harm it will cause to know the local people's opinion on AFSPA? Why we are afraid of even knowing their opinion? Will the opinion endanger our positing on Kashmir or will it weaken our stand on the issue?
Rejecting the idea altogether shows government in bad light. It seems that govt. lacks the courage to confront its own people. It is scared of its own people. It is not confident about its own People. Or the govt. thinks that people themselves are the threat to the nation? If People are threat or hostile to the state then who is at the erring side- people or government? Can a nation be said democratic where its people are not trusted by the government or vice versa? Should only one way of communication be allowed in the democracy? Is governance to be based only on rhetoric 'Kashmir to remain an integral part of India' or should it also be pitiful to the condition of its people there? What government cares of then, if not of its People? Is nation to be defined merely as the composition of its states? Is nation a body only and has no soul?
The principle argument that majoritarian opinion cannot dictate the terms for internal security matter is not very convincing. If the matter is internal then people directly feel its affect and that feeling must be taken into account in decision making. If the public opinion differs from the government's prudence, the later should justify its action and try to reach on consensus.
Other can also argue that situation is not favorable. It is difficult to understand what situation there will be considered favorable and what govt. is doing to attain that? What govt. is doing there to win their heart?
On contrary to the apprehension, I believe that referendum can bring about some positive change in the valley and can help in restoring the faith of people on government. Participation makes the people responsible which in turn influence their behavior towards the society. It bestows its people the purpose of their citizenship. Whatever the outcome of referendum, this will help us to improve the situation there. If majority of the people feel threat from internal factors, then they will approve the presence on the ground that local police is not efficient enough to handle them. If the general feeling is that military is their tormentor not protector then this makes really a strong case against the govt. on human right front and hence this obliges the govt. to rethink AFSPA in the valley.
I wish that AAP had shown the courage to stand by Bhushan as it would have consolidated their ideology where they claimed that people's opinion mattered. They did not .They cringed. This is the problem with our populist political ideology across the parties that they often fail in ordeal. They follow the ideology as long as it is smooth ride but once passes through challenging space and time they resort to theory of exception. When AAP can conduct referendum for whether to form the government in Delhi or not then what prevents them approving for same in Kashmir on AFSPA-owing to the fact that AFSPA is the internal matter and K is integral part of India.
I do not see any threat from referendum per se, in any place of the country on whatsoever matter provided that there is no warlike situation there. Is Kashmir in state of war forever?
This all round consternation even on the mention of referendum of any kind in Kashmir reveals our sense of insecurity on the issue. Fear that we will lose will not let us gain either. Status quo is monotonous; stagnancy is stinking, unhealed wound is bleeding.
If we do not dare, nothing will move. We must discover the lump if there is any in psyche of the people of Kashmir.
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