Kashmir and Sedition: Whose Side Are We On?

Kashmiri students in Meerut cheered when the Pakistan cricket team defeated India in the Asia Cup, were suspended, and charged with sedition. Since then madness has prevailed with people taking sides whether the students were right or wrong and whether the charges were justified or not. Pakistan, as usual, takes the cake for stupidity – its hearts and college gates have been thrown wide open for the heroes of the resistance.

I don’t know enough about the particular incident to wade into the controversy but there are things about it that seem quite obviously wrong and problematic. What, for starters, is the notion of an own side and why, for another, is one required or obliged to cheer only for it? Why should an accident of birth dictate my emotional attachment and why should I not have the choice to own the team I want?

The notion of an own side has never made sense to me even at the best of times. I always want the better team to win, feel happy when it does, and cheer its performance when it plays to its potential. But when the team that represents my country is plagued with all sorts of other problems – favoritism, selfishness, dishonesty, an abysmal lack of common sense – I feel even less inclined to line up behind it all else notwithstanding. I am not ready to concede that a motley bunch of individuals symbolizes the nation.

I suppose some will argue that the team that wins is by definition the better one. I disagree. It might be the case in a game over five days where the flukes get evened out but certainly not in the shorter forms where even one bad umpiring decision can tip the outcome let alone the fact that an otherwise ordinary player can get lucky on a particular day.

One can see the phenomenon much more clearly in a game like hockey or football where a team, as it is said, can lose against the run of play, sometimes just on penalties. By contrast, one rarely sees that in individual sports like tennis or badminton where, in general, the better player does end up on top.

At the same time, though, I do concede that in a less than perfect world such displays of team loyalty might have benefits. If the violence that led earlier to war between tribes can be sublimated into much less harmful passions focused on one’s team, the gains are well worth the grating residual jingoism. Ideally, one would get rid of the violence that lurks beneath the breast but, needless to say, we don’t live in an ideal world and should be grateful for small mercies.

All of the above notwithstanding, this is not an apologia for the Kashmiri students. It doesn’t come across to me that they were cheering for the better team. Rather, it seems much more likely that they were indeed cheering for the Pakistani team quite irrespective of whether it was the better one or not. And that should be worrisome for it prompts the question why so many were acting in that particular manner.

It would be easy to claim that they were acting such because they were disloyal but that only pushes back the question one degree. Why did they feel the need to be disloyal if that is how it is to be framed? There must be some grievance at bottom that manifested itself in a particular gesture of protest and defiance. In that sense was the gesture any different from the infamous black salute at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico?

Later, one of the protesters had this to say:  “If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

There is a profound lesson in that statement. The Kashmiri students are Indians, whether they do something admirable or something despicable. It is possible but not really sensible to laud them for their Indianness when they are well-behaved and to damn them for their Kashmiryat when they are not. That kind of attitude nurtures grievances whatever their cause.

America has come a long way since 1968 now with a black man in the White House for the second term even though much still needs to be done to remove the lingering wounds of discrimination. As many have noticed and remarked, the composition of its prison population continues to signal that the country is not quite a racial democracy.

India too has to figure out how to deal with the people at its fringes who do not yet feel fully accepted for whatever reason. Accusing them of sedition for cheering for the wrong side is to misread a signal and embark on a problematic path. In this case Indians might well want to cheer for their own team, good or bad, if, that is, they believe it is their own team.

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55 Responses to “Kashmir and Sedition: Whose Side Are We On?”

  1. Shreekant Gupta Says:

    I believe the nation state is a bogus concept. The best way to react to this ‘cheering’ is to ignore it. If we are going after these kids it is jingoism of the worst kind. Who cares? Who gives a damn why we root for X or Y? It’s a stupid colonial, most likely rigged.

    This is the same jingoism that led us us to massacre Sikhs because they were purportedly ‘distributing sweets’ when Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

    What is it in the human condition that forces us to be so judgemental and hate each other and to not recognise universal brotherhood? My answer — religion and the nation state — the two most pernicious and divisive inventions of ‘man’

  2. learningapproachforkids Says:

    Cheering for the favorite team is not sedition. After all many have their bets placed on their favorite teams and their is no reason they should not shout ‘buck up’ for them unless they wanted to lose. Games have also become ‘big business’, especially cricket and every better has his own favorite team or player. It makes no sense to allude their shouts to ‘sedition’ as that would be oppressive and amount to suppression of human rights and right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, it is quite normal for audience to call their ‘team played badly’ or ‘our team played good”..that is their option and should not be looked down upon as sedition for nationalistic or political motives.

  3. kabir Says:

    You have identified the critical issue here. As far as I can make out, this incident is not really about cricket. The Kashmiri students may have cheered for Pakistan more out of frustration with India than out of any special love for Pakistan. They may feel that India is occupying Kashmir or not responding to their legitimate grievances in an appropriate manner. On the other hand, many Indians are oversensitive about Kashmir and quick to look for any signs of “disloyalty” among Kashmiris (and sometimes Muslims in general), hence the sedition charges, which seem like a massive overreaction to a cricket match.

    This reminds me of the Tebbit Test which was proposed by Conservative politician Norman Tebbit to judge whether immigrants were sufficiently assimilated into the UK. If you cheered for England, you were OK. Otherwise, you were not “loyal” enough.

    It is important to look deeper into why a certain group may feel disenfranchised and not part of their country and then try to address these issues. To try to force people to be “patriotic” and punish them if they are not seems too close to fascism for my liking.

  4. ramblinginthecity Says:

    My grandfather (an Indian civil servant and adequately patriotic) always cheered the West Indian side in cricket, or whichever side had darker skin colour! Nothing to do with patriotism at all. I found that really interesting as a child. Sport is sport and I find it crazy that nations like India that are going through such huge societal changes should demand this form of superficial patriotic exhibition from its citizens!

  5. Mariam Says:

    “Mis-read a signal”?
    What if they read the signal precisely in the manner as the author suggests; that is, as a protest and the charges were leveled against the students to discourage others from protesting.
    Just another view of looking at it?

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Mariam: In that case the signal has been correctly read but the action is problematic. I doubt if protest (if that is what it was) can be discouraged in this manner.

  6. KTShamim Says:

    Global Justice. Not National Interest. But if our politicians ever publicly spoke of forgoing National Interests for Global Justice … good luck getting elected.

    Is it difficult for them? Yeah. Is it impossible for them? Hell no. Because they’d be happy to publicly forego National Interests and fight the press and what not to stay in power.

    This article is just an example of the fact that our population are fools who think patriotism requires forgoing absolute justice. Don’t be fair to Hindus and Christians but only to Muslims. Then it was don’t be fair to those of the other sect. Then it was just be fair to family. And finally even one’s own brother is not spared in our countries. Why? Because fundamentally men and women are selfish. “National Interests” is only a guise to cover that selfishness at the international level.

  7. SouthAsian Says:

    Professor Sankaran Krishna (Political Science, University of Hawaii) sent in the following comment by email:

    “I too am of the generation which dreamed of a world beating Indo-Pak XI.

    “I wonder what those silly administrators in Meerut would have done had they been at Chepauk stadium in the late 1970s when the Madras crowd gave a standing ovation to a brilliant counterattack by Javed Miandad and Wasim Raja (who was far and away one of my favorite batsmen in the world)? We all stood and applauded Javed and Wasim as they put on a partnership at more than run-a-ball. Sometimes I wonder if we only get sillier as the decades go by, rather than wiser.

    “The two occasions that I recall vividly with the entire crowd giving a standing ovation to the Pak batsmen occurred on the 4th day of the test – first for the 50 partnership between Javed and Wasim and next for the latter’s individual 50. The scorecard to the match can be found at the URL below. Looking at it I realized that my mind had not played any tricks for Wasim’s second innings 57 included 11 boundaries and came off just 66 balls (in a test match back in those days that was pretty fast).” http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63251.html

    Professor Krishna is a cricket fan with a great recall as is obvious from his comment above. His last piece I read was the following:


  8. SouthAsian Says:

    The details of the Wasim Raja – Javed Miandad innings and the crowds response are in Professor Sankaran’s latest column:

    “Which brings us to my third and last moment of brilliance: India versus Pakistan, fifth Test, Pongal time in Madras, 1980. A look at the scorecard will tell you that India won by ten wickets, knocking off 70-odd runs in their fourth innings. It will also tell you that Sunil Gavaskar’s iron-willed 166 and Kapil Dev’s dashing 84 in the first innings, along with his 11 wickets in the match, were the real reasons for the victory. Yet what I remember most about this match was something that happened on the fourth afternoon. Trailing by 158 runs on the first innings, Pakistan had subsided to 58 for 5, their galacticos (Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Sadiq Mohammad and Asif Iqbal) back in the hutch. An innings defeat by close of play loomed as a distinct possibility.

    At the crease were a young Javed Miandad and the incomparable Wasim Raja. You could not find a greater contrast than those two. If the stocky, right-handed Javed resembled the crafty Karachi streetfighter he was, the lefty Wasim looked like the lithe libero on a Brazilian soccer team. Slender in physique, bearded, and with bouncy jet-black hair, Wasim was a dasher. Electric in the field and given to hitting enormous sixes with a flick of his rapier-like bat, he was one of those players who kept your attention riveted. Surrounded by close-in fielders, and with the crowd baying for blood, the two Pakistani pirates launched a counter-attack of breathtaking audacity. They added 89 runs; Wasim scored 57 off 66 balls with 11 boundaries. Javed was content to play second fiddle, racing through singles to give Wasim the strike.

    The moment Wasim reached his 50, to a person, the entire crowd of 50,000 was up on its feet for a standing ovation. Nationalism, home-team support, defeating Pakistan – all this faded into the background as we applauded him for a memorable knock. Wasim fell soon after, flashing at Dilip Doshi to be caught at slip by Gundappa Viswanath, and the match was duly won. But that partnership and the crowd’s reaction to it was one of those sporting moments you live for….

    Country music and cricket are, literally, worlds apart. Yet a lyric from a recent song by singer George Strait captures the point rather well: “Life’s not the breaths you take but the moments that take your breath away.”


  9. Armchair Guy Says:

    Accusing these students of sedition is too extreme. But I think several comments are being too glib in downplaying its meaning. The original post is right: given all the context, it’s probably accurate to identify those who cheered for the Pakistani team as having a different set of loyalties than most Indians.

    The analogies in these comments (“cheering for the favorite team” and cheering the West Indies side) apply here only if you ignore all context. About cheering for teams other than India, or cheering for the best team, another analogy that’s often used is that of Indian-origin British citizens cheering for the Indian team when it visits the UK.

    The comments miss the point because they ignore the emotional and political backdrop. England or the West Indies and India are not considered to be enemies. Pakistan and India have serious problems with each other (and although things are calmer right now, they could become enemies again quite easily). The fact that the loyalties of Kashmiri Indians are already in question aggravates the situation further.

    Regarding the 1968 Olympics analogy, “It is possible but not really sensible to laud them for their Indianness when they are well-behaved and to damn them for their Kashmiryat when they are not.” — I don’t think anyone lauds them for their Indianness when they do something good; they laud them for doing that good thing! And similarly, no one is damning these students for their Kashmiriyat — they’re being damned for having a greater loyalty towards Pakistan! I don’t think that’s the reason for the preference for Pakistan.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Armchair Guy: I agree with you. The analogies in the comments are inexact. However, I would like to discuss further your comment that the students are “being damned for having a greater loyalty towards Pakistan.” My sense is that it appears that way – it is more likely an expression of unhappiness with India. Whether that unhappiness is justified or not and what is its cause is another debate that is not relevant to this discussion.

  10. Armchair Guy Says:


    “My sense is that it appears that way – it is more likely an expression of unhappiness with India.” — Yes, I think you are right — although, since they realize it’s a zero-sum game (practically, it’s either India or Pakistan), those two things probably mean the same thing. Which aspects of this would you like to discuss?

    I’d guess the reasons lie in some mix of the well-known causes: religion, indoctrination, real or perceived atrocities by Indian forces stationed in Kashmir, real or perceived injustices by the Indian state against them, and a feeling that the Indian government isn’t doing enough for them. I’m probably missing a few.

    Maybe some of those students have thought through exactly why they prefer Pakistan, why they are unhappy with India, and can give a clearer answer, but I’d guess there are no real surprises here…

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Armchair Guy: In my view “preference for Pakistan” and “unhappiness with India” do not mean the same thing and that is what I would like to discuss.

      First, I don’t believe “it’s a zero-sum game” of “either India or Pakistan.” The students might prefer the alternative of being on their own. Of course, it’s their choice but personally I would consider them to be dangerously out of touch with reality if they harbored a preference for Pakistan.

      The way I see it, the starting point in this chain of events is, rightly or wrongly, an unhappiness with the Indian authorities. In that context the adage that applies is “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” I suppose in an India-Sri Lanka match, the students would cheer for Sri Lanka. The only reason Pakistan figures in this is that cheering for Pakistan gets under the skin of Indians much more than cheering for Sri Lanka – and that is an important objective when you wish to spite someone.

      This is a bit like Dr. Ambedkar expressing his unhappiness with Hinduism by cheering for Buddhism. What he would really have liked was to reform Hinduism but realizing the impossibility of annihilating caste, he preferred one from among many possible alternatives. It was the grievance against Hinduism not the love for Buddhism that dictated his action.

      Like all speculation, this could be wrong which is why we need a discussion.

  11. Armchair Guy Says:


    I think such a discussion would be valuable — but it would take a lot of time and involve much subtlety and splitting of hairs.

    For example, the reason I added “practically” in my comment above is that for all practical purposes, it is a zero-sum game: being on their own isn’t a realistic scenario in the near future.

    I think Ambedkar’s leaning towards Buddhism was influenced by a few different factors, not the least of which is its similarity to Hinduism. I’m sure the frustration that it would take many decades to stamp out caste discrimination from Hinduism had something to do with it, but he was looking for a close and meaningful alternative; it wasn’t just to spite Hinduism.

    I think we agree on the big picture, but disagree on some details.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Armchair Guy: There is a danger here of mixing human desire with geopolitical reality. I agree that “being on their own isn’t a realistic scenario in the near future” but that could still be the ultimate desire. In fact, the resentment might stem from that very fact – why can’t it be a realistic scenario? Why can’t a people be allowed to determine their own future? Why do they have to be integrated against their will – assuming, of course, that their will is to be on their own? Looked at in this perspective, one can see how Pakistan is irrelevant to the question except that some groups in the country feed on that unhappiness for their own selfish ends with no real interest in the welfare of the residents of Kashmir.

  12. Kabir Altaf Says:

    Those who have access to Youtube may find this clip of Kashmiri students being interviewed by Sagarika Ghose about whether cheering for Pakistan is sedition interesting. One young woman rightly points out that the students are not cheering for Pakistan because of special love for that country but because of their alienation from India. She says that the larger issue is the lack of self-determination for Kashmiris and the unresolved nature of the political issues between Kashmir and India

    • Kabir Altaf Says:

      Another interesting clip is this piece by NDTV where they interviewed people in Pakistan-Administered (Azad) Kashmir. What comes through very clearly is that whether it is Srinagar or Muzzafarabad, it is the ordinary Kashmiris who are suffering because of the conflict. Most Indians don’t like it when Kashmiris assert that they are not Indians. Similarly, most Pakistanis get very upset when Kashmiris assert that they aren’t Pakistani.

  13. Vikram Says:

    I am wondering how much of the rigidness we see in the Indian attitudes we see here arises from the ‘India’ centric nationalist narratives of both the secular and Hindu nationalists. There is certainly a distinct story of ‘Indian’ nationalism starting from the late 1800s, the freedom struggle, Constitution making and the history from them on.

    But there is another way to look at things, which urban, educated Indians are programmed to avoid thinking about. It is where we look at the history of a specific region (not necessarily corresponding to state boundaries) or even people, and see how it evolved in phases of both localized and centralized rule.

    Once we see things from this point of view, we see that Gujarat, Maharashtra, the Gangetic plains, Himalayan regions and Bengal were quick to enter into the nationalist movement because of their ambivalence towards centralized British rule. These regions, with the possible exception of Bengal, would have still remained on board the Indian project even without full democracy. In contrast, areas like Tamil Nadu and Kerala joined the nationalist movement at a later stage, and only really came on board the project once guarantees of democracy and pluralism were given to their satisfaction.

    Things get trickier once we start talking about Punjab and Kashmir. In Punjab, the Punjabi Hindus, although prosperous, quickly did come on board a nationalist movement, but was skewed towards the Hindu nationalist one, not the secular one. And once partition was done, they quickly established themselves firmly in the new pan-Indian project on the back of their existing wealth and skills, democracy mattered little. The Sikhs, favored immensely by the colonial rulers, were more ambivalent. Unlike the South Indians, they were never really given satisfactory reassurances and given their martial predisposition and the Indian state’s quick gun repression, Indian Punjab had to face very dark times, despite its continuing prosperity. Assam was another place which faced insurgency, but in the words of an ex-ULFA spokesman, there was sympathy for the ULFA cadres (based on very questionable grounds) in Assam but never empathy with their stated goal.

    Kashmir. which was not in the picture during the nationalist movement, and joined tentatively with a promise of special protections under the ambit of Indian democracy. And this really leads us to the root cause of the Kashmir issue. Like every other region in India, Kashmir thought it would get democracy by coming on board the Indian nationalist project. But it got repression and rigged elections instead. And once, unrest started, it very quickly took on religious overtones as it had done in Punjab, even though the underlying reasons were political. And after the Pandits were expelled and full scale Pakistani-backed jihad was launched, violent unrest became religious war.

    So once Indians take a disaggregated view it becomes clear what our failures in Kashmir were and why we have Article 370. Trouble is that, not only does our education system not expose to such a view, it (and the media) actively discourages thinking in these terms.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: I agree with the essence of your argument that we would do better if we look at the specifics of each region to understand its politics. And your perspective leads to an advance in appreciating the unique issues pertaining to Kashmir. The same would hold for Balochistan in Pakistan.

      I feel your account of Sikhs in the Punjab might need to be re-examined. Punjabi Sikhs were ahead of other regions in not only anti-British sentiment but active resistance. The Ghadr party formed in 1913 had a significant representation of Sikhs of whom Bhagat Singh became a symbol. This article by Radha D’Souza would be of interest:

      Click to access Revolt_and_Reform_in_South_Asia.pdf

      The roots of Sikh disaffection might perhaps be traced later following the truncation of the old Punjab in 1966.

    • Kabir Altaf Says:


      You are right that the official histories of most countries favor looking at issues through one particular “nationalist” lens. In Pakistan as well, not enough attention is paid to the unique histories of Sindh, Punjab, KP, etc–they are subsumed into “Pakistan Studies” which is only one point of view. This distorted education and lack of other perspectives leads citizens to tow the official line on contentious issues and become very upset when their received truths are challenged.

      I think that one has to look at the distinct histories of the princely states and British India. In British India, Partition was conducted on relatively simple lines–Muslim-majority districts would go to Pakistan and Hindu-majority districts to India. If Kashmir had been part of British India, it would have become part of Pakistan and there would have been no controversy.

      The problem arose because different rules applied to the princely states. The ruler had the right to choose which dominion to accede to, keeping in mind the demographics of the population as well as the geography of the state. Most of the over 500 states were very clearly in India, so there was no question of their acceding to Pakistan. Kashmir, however, bordered both new dominions and could have gone either way. The ruler was Hindu while the majority of the population was Muslim (the reverse of Hyderabad). The Pakistani argument is that given the demographics of Kashmir, Hari Singh should have chosen Pakistan. The Indian argument is that as the ruler, the Maharaja had the right to choose and he acceded to India. Another issue is that India did not follow consistent principles in the disputed states. The Nawab of Junagadh chose Pakistan, but because the majority of his population was Hindu, India refused to accept his choice and held a plebiscite–the same was not done in Kashmir. Finally, Hari Singh acceded to India primarily to get military help when his state was invaded by tribals from Pakistan. We can presume that, given the choice, he would have preferred to keep Kashmir independent of both countries.

      I think the fundamental problem in the whole Kashmir dispute is that the people have never been asked what they want. You write that “Kashmir joined India because it thought it would get democracy”. I would argue that the Kashmiri people didn’t join India–the Maharaja did (and whatever his motives were, they probably had little to do with “democracy”). Sheikh Abdullah was arguably in favor of accession to India because, as a secularist, he preferred to join a pluralist state rather than an Islamic one. Even then, he wanted special protections and autonomy for Kashmir–autonomy which India has gradually chipped away at.

      India and Pakistan both need to take the Kashmiri people on board and work with them to resolve the dispute diplomatically. Both countries should realize that the most important stakeholder in the conflict is the Kashmiris (on both sides of the LOC), not either Indians or Pakistanis. But this does not have a high likelihood of happening when the debate in India begins and ends with “Kashmir is an integral part of India” while in Pakistan, the official line may be “self-determination for the Kashmiri people” but the subtext is “Kashmir banega Pakistan”

  14. Kabir Altaf Says:

    Here’s a clip from today’s debate on NDTV about PM Modi’s first visit to J&K since taking office. Personally, I don’t see why India is getting so upset about Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry stating that Kashmir is “disputed territory.” Pakistan is not saying anything new, but simply restating their long-held position. Modi cannot simply promise “development” to the people of J&K without dealing with the underlying issue of the Kashmir conflict.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Kabir: Not even Pakistanis take the pronouncements of the Pakistan Foreign Ministry seriously. If others do, it must be because taking them seriously serves some political purpose. To ignore or not is a choice and the exercise of that choice is motivated by political interests. Whether those interests are shortsighted is another discussion.

      The discussion on Kashmir needs to be freed of these empty day-to-day he-said/she-said pronouncements that will become meaningless over time. It needs to be viewed in a very long time frame.

      Consider this analogy: Algeria was a part of France from 1830 to 1962, controlled not by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs like its other protectorates but by the Ministry of Interior. In 1954, Francois Mitterrand, then a young minister in government, proclaimed: “L’Algérie, c’est la France!

      Well, so much for seemingly-profound pronouncements of ‘integral part’ and ‘jugular vein.’ Try and look ahead to figure out what the situation might be in 2079.


  15. Vikram Says:

    SA, my comment was in relation to the nationalist movement lead by the INC, which is the reference point today. There were certainly other nationalist projects, including the Hindu nationalist, Muslim nationalist and the Ghadar party led. Some of these proved influential, some not.

    Regarding the Sikhs, what is important to note is that they were not really fully on board with the Congress in 1947, they were mostly represented by the Akalis. So there was a gap to start with, and because it was not proactively addressed (as it was with Tamil Nadu), demands and the reactions to them grew progressively more extreme. Truncation of Punjab was in fact the principle Sikh demand since independence, so that a Sikh majority state could be achieved. However, much like the partitions before, this one did not turn out to be very useful for most of those in whose name it was demanded. So the quite extreme Anandpur Sahib resolution was put out by the Akalis and so on.

    Contrast this with the case of Maharashtra. 105 people were killed in cold bold by security forces in 1960 during the agitations for creating Maharashtra, but there was no long term insurgency against the centralized state. Note here that the Marathas had a history of armed rebellion. If this dispute did not escalate like the Khalistan and Kashmir disputes, the major reason was that the Congress based secular nationalism had enough of a base in Maharashtra, and even the most extreme groups knew that demands of secession would not carry any weight.

    So to sum it up, the disaffections were present in all three cases (Sikh, MH, TN), but they took the specific form of an armed insurgency because of the original relationships with the nationalist movement, decisions by the centre and proximity to foreign countries. In these, it is the first that Indians always ignore, and the last that they always emphasize.

  16. Vikram Says:

    Kabir, agree of course with your opening para and the rest of what you have said as well.

    But I am not sure how central the princely state aspect is to the dispute in terms of the on the ground emotions. Regarding the will of the Kashmiri people, of course, that was never really ascertained. Sheikh Abdullah himself wanted a secular democracy for them, and he went with India initially, wavered, was punished, patronized the Plebsicite front and eventually signed the Indira-Sheikh accord.

    I think the insistence on Kashmiri self-determination has little credibility, especially after the removal of the Pandits and the foreign backed armed insurgency. There is also the case of Jammu and Ladakh, and they see their future in India, Jammu as a separate state and Ladakh as a Union territory.

    Most thinking Indians realize that Kashmiris dont share any national feeling with them, and if anything want ‘India to get out of them’. I think the best strategy right now is to keep increasing the number of Indians who think along these lines and go for a settlement once a tipping point in public opinion has been reached.

    • Kabir Altaf Says:


      I agree that the princely state aspect may not seem relevant to the on the ground situation. However, it is important to keep in mind the special circumstances under which Kashmir acceded to India. This history has an impact on how Kashmiris understand their distinct identity and also on how Indians and Pakistanis understand the dispute.

      The UN resolutions regarding the plebiscite may not be practicable anymore because of the changes in demography (such as the expulsion of the Pandits) but I think it is still important for the Kashmiri people (all the citizens of the state) to be taken on board by both India and Pakistan and to have a say in discussions about their future. As for solutions, perhaps Jammu and Ladakh can remain part of India while the valley could be merged with Azad Kashmir (though I personally don’t want to recommend another Partition). Whatever the ultimate resolution, it is important that some sort of a resolution be reached. The present military occupation of the valley is not sustainable.

      • Vikram Says:

        Yes Kabir, I think most people are clear about the status of Jammu, G-B and Ladakh. It is the valley and Muzzaffarabad areas where matters need to be worked out.

        • Kabir Altaf Says:

          Vikram, what are your thoughts about partition of J&K? Based on the scenario we have been discussing above, Gilgit-Baltistan would be formally incorporated as a Pakistani province, Jammu and Ladakh would remain part of India, the valley would merge with Azad Kashmir and either be incorporated into Pakistan or perhaps become an independent unit. This would entail India ceding territory to Pakistan as well as giving up its claims on “POK”. Pakistan, in turn, would give up its claim on Jammu and Ladakh. It would seem a reasonable compromise–neither country gets everything they want, but both get something.

          However, based on the experience of the first two partitions, I am not sure that this compromise would not just be a recipe for more bloodshed and rancor. Proponents of an independent Kashmir have also historically intended for the whole princely state to remain one unit.

          Obviously, any compromise solution must be acceptable to the Kashmiris themselves. But this scenario offers some food for thought.

          • Vikram Says:

            Kabir, I dont think any official loss of territory will be accepted by India. Let me add that, theoretically this is not even possible as per the Indian Constitution. And changing that article in it is not only *extremely hard* but will open up a huge Pandora’s box. Note that the Indian Constitution has achieved a quasi-scriptural status among most of the Indians (one of the three national holidays commemorates its adoption), and amending such a fundamental tenet is nearly impossible.

            Pakistan giving up its claim on Jammu and Ladakh means little, it is in little position to bargain on those areas. I dont think it had much of a case to begin with there.

            But Kashmiri autonomy to a great extent, open borders between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, with Kashmiris getting a choice between Indian and Pakistani citizenship on reaching adulthood might be a solution that works for everyone.

            India does not have to make any major changes to its Constitution, and secures its strategic interests.
            Kashmir gets its religious and cultural autonomy secured, and individual Kashmiris get the freedom to associate with the country of their choice.
            Pakistan keeps G-B and its link to China (at least until China has control of Uyghuristan)

            There will still remain the question of Siachen and the Shaksgam valley (with China).

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Kabir: I fear you are slipping unconsciously into the old ways of looking at Kashmir, parceling out its territory to satisfy various third-party claims. This has two major problems. First, it reduces Kashmir and its people to a secondary status – i.e., let’s see what emerges out of the satisfaction of the above-mentioned claims. Second, it does not question the legitimacy of the claims themselves. What kind of claim does Pakistan have on Jammu and Ladakh or Kashmir as a whole for that matter? None whatsoever. All it can legitimately claim, based on earlier agreements or promises, is that the people of Kashmir should be free to decide the arrangement under which they wish to live. And, if it is sincere in that position it should offer the same choice to the people of the part of Kashmir under its control.

  17. Kabir Altaf Says:

    South Asian: I don’t mean to reduce Kashmir and its people to a secondary status. As I have consistently stated above, any solution to the dispute must be acceptable to the Kashmiris themselves–they are the most important stakeholders in the whole conflict. The partition scenario was merely introduced as a potential compromise.

    As far as your point about the legitimacy of Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir–from one perspective, the logic is that of the “two-nation theory”. As a Muslim-majority state, Kashmir would have naturally formed part of Pakistan. If it had been part of British India, it would have been allotted to Pakistan in 1947. Personally, I don’t believe in the TNT but that was the basis on which the Partition of 1947 was carried out. I agree with you that if Pakistan is sincere about defending the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination, it must offer that right to the people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as well.

    Vikram: I agree with you that either country giving up on any of the territory it currently holds is unlikely. The most feasible solution is the status quo, with the LOC becoming the permanent border and some sort of autonomy for Kashmiris to move back and forth across the line. However, this would entail the Kashmiri people giving up on their right to self-determination.

    Also, according to the Indian Constitution, doesn’t “PoK” form part of India? In the solution you envisage, India would have to give up its claim on that territory, which would entail changing the Constitution. Finally, doesn’t Article 370 form part of the Constitution? Yet, PM Modi was recently talking about abrogating it and giving J&K the status of any other Indian state.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Kabir: You have introduced a big IF into the discussion by extrapolating what would have happened to Kashmir “if it had been a part of British India.” The fact is it was not. It was a princely state the rules of accession for which were very clearly spelt out.

      Even had it been otherwise, your premise that Kashmir “would naturally have formed part of Pakistan” or “would have been allotted to Pakistan” is mistaken. The demarcation in the provinces of British India was based on a population count at the district level which is why, for example, Punjab was divided in such an odd manner leaving a lasting legacy with the alleged fudging of the Radcliffe Award. Kashmir would have been divided on the same principle so all of it would not gone to either India or Pakistan.

      Lastly, the choice of the word “allotted” is very unfortunate – it still leaves the impression that you are thinking of Kashmir as a piece of property to be given to someone or the other.

      • Kabir Altaf Says:

        South Asian,

        Isn’t part of the dispute the fact that the rules of accession for princely states were not “very clearly spelt out”? I know that it was up to the ruler to choose which dominion to accede to, but he was supposed to keep in mind the demographics of the state as well as geography. In the three disputed cases, Hyderabad was forcibly annexed to India, Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan was not recognized and a plebiscite was conducted and Kashmir acceded to India after an invasion by Pakistan-based tribals. From one perspective, India should have followed consistent principles: If the population of Junagadh was given the opportunity to choose India despite the ruler’s wishes then why refuse the same choice to the population of Jammu and Kashmir? Is it because India feared that due to the demographics of J&K, the people would choose Pakistan?

        However problematic the lines drawn in British India were, they have largely been accepted. That leads me to think that if Kashmir had been under direct British control, its status would also not be in dispute.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Kabir: Kashmir was not under direct British control so there is no point in introducing that hypothetical.

          I knew someone would bring Hyderabad into the discussion but how does that help now? Are Pakistanis holding Kashmiris hostage to ‘avenge’ Hyderabad and Junagadh? Both sides did the same thing – India invaded Hyderabad and succeeded; Pakistan invaded Kashmir and failed. Wouldn’t it make more sense to lump it and move on?

          • Kabir Altaf Says:

            South Asian, I agree that both sides did the same thing. All I’m saying is that the rules for princely states were not at all clear cut. It should have been either the will of the ruler or that of the people–not a mix of whatever suited India in each particular case.

            I agree with you that we have to move on and come to some resolution of the current dispute. But I also think we have to remain cognizant of the history.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Kabir: I agree, we have to be cognizant of history AND move on. The urge to right every wrong, even at the cost of inflicting further misery on people one purports to be serving, is neither wise nor honest.

  18. Vikram Says:

    Kabir, the Indian Constitution has a territory listed as Jammu and Kashmir with Srinagar as its capital. So a truncated Jammu and Kashmir will not be an issue. The current consensus is that Article 370 can only be amended if the J&K Constituent Assembly reconvenes. There are specific sections of the Constitution which can only be changed if the affected state legislatures approve of the changes.

    • Kabir Altaf Says:

      Thanks for the clarification. One further question follows: If the Indian Constitution doesn’t require that “PoK” be part of India than why has every Indian government so far stridently proclaimed it to be territory occupied by Pakistan? Is this just a negotiating position? Since India is a status quo power, wouldn’t it make sense from its perspective to make the LOC an international border and stop talking about anyone “occupying” parts of Kashmir? Of course, this solution would require Pakistan to also stop talking about “Indian-held Kashmir”, which doesn’t seem likely at any time in the near future.

      • Vikram Says:

        Yes Kabir, the Indian establishment and most of the population will be quite happy with the LOC becoming an international border. The claims on Gilgit and Baltistan are from a negotiation standpoint.

        • Kabir Altaf Says:

          Vikram, it seems to me that it would lower the temperature a lot if both sides cease using the word “occupied” to refer to the other’s part of Kashmir. Then they could come together to work on a solution which would formalize the status quo. So far, all PM Modi has done is change “PoK” to “PoJK”–not a particularly meaningful step.

          • mazhar butt Says:

            Since there is a dispute on Kashmir between India and Pakistan it isn’t totally incorrect to call both the parts held by the stake holders as OCCUPIED. However, if this term offends someone let’s call both the parts as DISPUTED territories,,,which would be fair enough for all to understand the status of Kashmir.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Mazhar: That won’t resolve the issue. Kashmir is already referred to as disputed territory. When reference has to be made to its parts falling in either country, some other term is needed. ‘Controlled’ might be an alternative although from the perspective of the Kashmiris occupation might actually be the appropriate term.

          • Vikram Says:

            Kabir, I can give you the Indian perspective. The official position is that J&K (the whole of Jammu & Kashmir & Ladakh & Gilgit & Baltistan & Aksai Chin) acceded to India. Therefore the regions that are not part of India currently are occupied by foreign powers, namely Pakistan and China. Using any other label would revoke India’s position on the matter.

          • mazhar butt Says:

            There is no doubt about it that Kashmir remains to be a disputed part of the sub continent Indo-Pak. We may conjecture and surmise over its legitimacy or otherwise for any or both the parties concerned but the fact still remains that Kashmir is a disputed land.
            The ‘temperature’ between the two claiming countries can only end ,,,most probably though…if the UNO intervenes and takes up this issue seriously; It seems that the UNO and the bigger powers are not taking the issue seriously and letting the two countries down in limbo, the Kashmiri’s mainly being the main sufferers. This situation must be put to an end by international intervention..in order that peace be brought to the area and Kashmiri’s are allowed to have their say, I don’t think any other alternative exists to bring down the temperature between Pak and India,,,or even China being the 3rd claimant over a part of Greater Kashmir.

  19. mazhar butt Says:

    I think the word ‘controlled’ seems more like the Taliban cliche ..
    How about referring to the divided territories as ‘North Kashmir’ and ‘south Kashmir’ as is the case with North and South Korea?

  20. Kabir Altaf Says:

    Vikram, then we are at an impasse. India will continue to refer to “PoK” and Pakistan will continue to talk about “Indian-held Kashmir”. Personally, I think such terms are offensive and not likely to lower the temperature on either side. The UN’s use of “Pakistan-Administered” and “Indian-Administered” Kashmir acknowledges the reality without being gratuitously offensive.

    • Vikram Says:

      Kabir, I think you are overestimating the impact of using these words. Despite India referring to Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, as PoK, a large section of Indians understand that those areas have no desire to join India. I would also be surprised if Pakistanis seriously think that Jammu and Ladakh would want to join them.

      Regarding the UN, I think that the term Indian-administered is completely off the mark for Jammu at least. Even Ladakh wants union territory status. And as far as the valley is concerned, the term actually seems rather benign.

      • Kabir Altaf Says:


        I don’t at all think that the words used actually impact the situation on the ground. But language does have a political meaning. Why else does Israel insist on referring to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria”? Personally, I had never heard the term PoK until a rather heated discussion with an Indian friend after 26/11. My first reaction was just “What are you talking about? Do you mean Azad Kashmir?” I feel that “occupied” is a loaded term and may turn people off, precluding the possibility of discussion.

        I think the UN just tries to use neutral terms to acknowledge the dispute without taking sides. “Administered” or “controlled” is certainly more neutral than “occupied”.

  21. Vikram Says:

    SA, Christine Fair has a new book out on the Pakistani military, and it confirms and articulates what Indians have thought for a long time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3DIOjTmX0M

    She points out that settling the Kashmir dispute is simply not possible as long as the Pakistani military is *the* major player, and in fact Kashmir is a foil for the broader ideological/philosophical/civilizational (she actually uses all three words) conflict the military thinks it is in with India.

    So discussing Kashmir might be moot.

    • Kabir Altaf Says:

      Vikram, I actually attended the event at the Hudson Institute (that you linked on Youtube). Christine Fair has done impressive research on the Pakistan Army and I think her point that the US erred in thinking of Kashmir as a territorial rather than an ideological dispute is valid. If it were simply a territorial dispute than if it was resolved Pakistan would feel secure and give up the use of “non-state actors”. However, as you rightly state, if it is an ideological dispute than it can never be solved as long as the Pak Army controls India policy.

      However, I think Fair went too far when she stated that “Pakistan has no claim on Kashmir”. As we have been discussing, it is a bilateral dispute that has been recognized by the UN. I thought that, as the moderator, Ambassador Haqqani would have pushed back on that a little, but he chose not too. At a previous event at the Middle East Institute, he had however stated that as a Pakistani, he believed that Kashmir should have formed part of Pakistan at 1947.

      • SouthAsian Says:

        Kabir: The following is a useful article that in a way re-opens the question of borders and proclaims “the whole map of the world to be a holy mess of conquest, massacre, imperialism, and other nasty embarrassments to democracy and justice.” It ends with a question of theory: “If we don’t understand why territorial rights are justified in a general, principled form, then how do we know that they can be justified in any particular solution to a dispute?” How would we look at the LoC in the light of this argument?


  22. hem raj jain Says:

    Sub:- (i)- Political future of Modi (projected and perceived to be unprecedentedly strong PM) at stake if India now doesn’t take POK (ii)- Calling off Indo – Pak talks is secondary, primary issue is retrieve of POK (iii)- Mere verbal commitment by India to territorial integrity meaningless unless backed-up by action on ground (iv)- With battle lines already drawn, Modi should get Article 370 repealed (v)- Retrieve of POK will be game changer for South Asia, both India and Pakistan being nuclear countries

    Dear All

    Entire media and political commentators are baffled that when Pak – Separatists talks happened in past also then why did Government of India (GOI) call off Indo-Pak Foreign Secretaries talk scheduled on August 25, 2014 on the pretext that Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit, despite warning from GOI, talked to Kashmiri Separatists [Moreover given the fact that (i)- In bilateral talks officially only governments of India and Pakistan participate and not any Kashmiri or their organization etc from either side of LOC (ii)- Pakistan (Islam) which, as per media reports, has already laid down lives of about one hundred thousand Muslims for Kashmir, can never agree that J&K is an integral part of India] .

    Reasons given by Defence Minister Arun Jaitely that Pak PM Nawaz heeded the advice and stayed away from the Hurriyat group when he came to Delhi on May, 26 has no meaning in international law. Because this was an occasion of different category being oath taking ceremony of PM Modi and this secret and personal advice by India to PM Nawaz was not made known beforehand to the people.

    India does not arrest Separatists because they are Constitutionally protected under freedom of expression (as is the practice in modern democracies including in USA where Americans openly talk about secession and even move Court for it). But Aug, 25 Indo Pak talks were called off as Basit allegedly violated diplomatic norms under Geneva Convention regarding warning given to him (to not talk to Separatists) by GOI in view of territorial integrity of India

    [Though legally India made its case weak because Basit did not go to Srinagar but Separatists (whom Pakistan considers its citizens) came to Delhi to meet Basit which was known to GOI through media too – then why did GOI not stop Separatists from meeting Basit. If some Kashmiris from ‘Pak Occupied Kashmir’ (POK, whom India considers its citizens) want to meet Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan at Indian embassy then how can Indian High Commissioner refuse to meet them]

    Therefore this is not such a simple matter of calling off the talks due to any reason but of territorial integrity of India which demands retrieve of POK by India. Hence it has a potential where either Modi will go down in Indian history as exceptionally daring, brave and committed Prime Minister or will loose his Prime Ministership sooner than later, as explained below:-

    (1)- First and foremost it should be understood that notwithstanding the flirting with Federalism in democracies including in India, only martial matters legitimately belong to Union / Centre / Fed and civil matters to States, because Union has military whereas States have police as sanctioned physical coercive apparatus. Therefore even if any PM flounders on civilian matters it does not knock out a PM from office permanently. But if any PM blunders on military matters (including territorial integrity or Sovereignty) then he/ she can never survive in office .

    (2)- For example all these PMs could not survive in office after trifling with military matters- (i)- Nehru after India’s humiliating defeat in 1962 Indo – China war (ii)- Shashtri after cheaply surrendering conquered territory during 1965 Indo – Pak war (iii)- Indira Gandhi after using military in Golden temple instead of using police especially after DIG Atwal was killed by terrorists at Golden temple in 1983 (iv)- Rajiv Gandhi after half heartedly intervening militarily in Sri Lanka through IPKF in 1987

    (3)- Here it is in context to add that former PM Manmohan may not like to be PM Candidate in future due to his age factor (like Vajpayee) or out of unwillingness due to any other reason. But he still has a chance to return as PM because he lost power not due to blundering on martial matters but only on civilian matters (as rightly admitted by former Union Minister Kapil Sibbal also during a TV interview that the way GOI under PM Manmohan allowed Supreme Court and CAG the over reach and itself committed mistakes in case of cancellation of contracts especially of foreign companies in 2G spectrum, retrospective taxation, presumptive losses, clearance of projects etc ,- it triggered such anti-government massive wave engineered by business interests that it caused unprecedented defeat of Congress in 2014 Parliamentary elections)

    (4)- What is pertinent is that no PM will survive martial bungling and PM Modi will also not be an exception. India has been criticized all along that Pakistan believes J&K as its part hence it tried to take remaining J&K militarily in 1947, 1948, 1965, 1971 during Kargil etc, but India which also believes entire J&K to be its part, never tried to take remaining J&K militarily, not even once (even after UN Resolution 1948 on plebiscite failed because Pakistan refused to vacate POK, militarily). This was making the claims of India on POK untenable under international laws due to acquiescence and inordinate delay on the part of India in retrieving POK.

    (5)- Earlier also talks were called off due to allegedly Pak sponsored terrorist attacks in India or killing of Indian Jawans at LOC etc, but never on the ground of territorial integrity of India. Hence now when on the principle of territorial integrity of India GOI has called off August, 25 talks, it is imperative under international laws that India now should take POK in a time bound program, militarily or otherwise and which will be a game changer for South Asia, both India and Pakistan being nuclear countries [of-course India and especially BJP (who’s government acquired nukes in 1998 before retrieving POK) government considers it a white-man’s burden that how nuclear flare-up will be prevented in case India tries to retrieve POK militarily].

    (6)- PM Modi could have continued for his remaining term even if he does not deliver satisfactorily on civilian matters (like price rise, inclusive growth, unemployment, GDP growth, etc ) but he has no chance to remain in office if now India doesn’t take POK in a time bound program and instead under pressure from USA etc resumes dialogue (except for retrieving POK) with Pakistan, by giving some lame excuses. Moreover with battle lines already drawn (may not be publicly for some time), Modi should get Article 370 of the Constitution repealed not for changing demography of Kashmir valley in favor of Hindus but because it will go a long way in keeping anti – national element and terrorists, operating from J&K and especially from Kashmir valley, under check

    Therefore when India for the first time under PM Modi has taken a strong & irreconcilable position on territorial integrity of India then it should be taken to its logical conclusion by retrieving POK in a time bond period. Otherwise if any PM does not handle military matters with requisite responsibility, seriousness and application and rather trifles with it then he / she is not a Prime – Ministerial – Material.


    Hem Raj Jain

    (Author of ‘Betrayal of Americanism’)

    Bengaluru, India. email : jainhemraj59@gmail.com

    • Kabir Mohan Says:

      Hem Raj Jain Sahab:

      In your opinion, how would India go about taking “POK”? Pakistan would not surrender what it considers to be its territory without a fight. This would lead to war between two nuclear-armed states which would have bleak consequences for the entire subcontinent.

      Regarding repealing Article 370, it is my understanding that even the mainstream political parties in Kashmir such as Omar Abdullah’s National Conference are against this step. Omar Abdullah has said in an interview that it was on the basis of Article 370 that J&K acceded to India. Thus, attempting to repeal this article would open up the entire question of J&K being an “integral part of India”.

      On the cancellation of talks: It is my understanding that Pakistan had met with Hurriyat leaders prior to any major talks with India. This is a longstanding policy and had been tacitly condoned by previous Indian governments. It seems to me that this is a weak excuse for cancellation of talks. Although it was undoubtedly insensitive for the Pakistani envoy to persist in these meetings even after being warned by India’s Foreign Ministry.

      In my opinion, the Kashmir issue can only be resolved if both India and Pakistan take the Kashmiri people on board. Whether we like it or not, the Hurriyat represents the views of a substantial section of the Valley. There is no solution without getting the buy-in of this group.

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