Dear Prime Minister Modi,
Many congratulations for taking the decisive step to scrap Article 370 and to bifurcate the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Over the last four years, I have differed with your brand of politics and I have contested the RSS ideology — but this time, like billions of Indians, I wholeheartedly stand by the decision that you and Home Minister Amit Shah have taken.
For it is not just about Kashmir, it is about the entire nation.
And for us Indians, nothing supersedes national interest and security.
Our nation is supreme — and that goes beyond politics.
This is the reason why in the past too, I have supported the surgical strikes post-the Uri attack and the air-strikes at Balakot after the Pulwama terror attack. And I will continue to support everybody who keeps the nation’s interest in their heart and works towards defeating threats to our motherland irrespective of the political party.
I reckon that you are a staunch critic of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. You hold him responsible for including Article 370 in the Indian Constitution. You accuse him of the Kashmir mess. However, while you criticise Pt. Nehru for Article 370, you overlook the fact that he was the one who didn’t blink even for a second before putting his friend Sheikh Abdullah in prison when the latter was accused of conspiracy against the state for purportedly espousing the cause of an independent Kashmir.
In the last 70 years, successive Congress governments diluted Article 370 — but it was not fully scrapped. I also believe that the step you have taken now should have been taken long back. I also believe that had Mrs Indira Gandhi lived longer, she would have taken a similar decision in due course of time that you took in both Kashmir and India’s interest. So, credit must be given to you for your decisive move.
Similarly, your decision to give Ladakh the status of a Union Territory is also credible.
Ladakh, which has a majority Buddhist population, has been demanding a separate administrative set-up for a long time. So, with this decision, the people of Ladakh can heave a sigh of true relief.
‘Kashmir Hamara Hai!’
We all have grown up listening to this statement. Ever since I was a child, I know that Kashmir belongs to India and India alone. That’s the truth.
For us 1.3 billion Indians, Kashmir is a jewel in the crown of India. No matter whether any of us has been to the Valley or not — it is an integral part of India that none of us wants to lose. Taking Kashmir away from India is like taking the heart out of a body.
On the one hand, we have grown up listening to how Kashmir belongs to us. And, on the other hand, the Valley’s atmosphere has always been full of violence. Though I have visited Jammu a lot of times, I have been to Srinagar only twice in my life. Unfortunately, both times, my stay in Kashmir was spent under curfew.
My first holiday in 2009 was a seven-day trip. But it passed completely in curfew.
In 2013, I went there again during my Amarnath Yatra. After reaching there, curfew made me see its ugly face again.
For the past 72 years, we have kept the Kashmir issue as a status quo. As an MBA, I have learned that the status quo never helps in making decisions. Similarly, the status quo in Kashmir hasn’t helped either India or Kashmiris. Both have been on the losing side. It was essential to upend the status quo.
And our government has done it.
The Article had restricted Parliament’s legislative powers in Jammu and Kashmir. The state even had its own flag. As J&K is very much a part of India, I see no reason why it shouldn’t proudly hoist the national flag. But I am glad that from this Independence Day, it did.
With the Right to Education Act, Minority Act, Minimum Wages Act, social reservation for the disempowered, along with corruption-free governance, Kashmir will now develop holistically. Earlier, residents of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed dual citizenship. This has changed too. In addition, Article 360, which allows the centre to declare financial emergency in any state, will be applicable to J&K as well.
The restlessness in the Valley has been continuing for many decades now. Nothing has worked in the disputed territory so far — that’s also why people like me have come out in support of this decision of yours, for we believe that the revocation of Article 370 will lead to the much-needed transformation that Kashmir deserves.
Kashmir: Hardship, Resilience & Hope
Kashmir has lived through terror for many decades now. The Valley is no stranger to bloodshed. In 1989-1990, Kashmiri Hindus were targeted by JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) and Islamist insurgents. Slogans and threats of all kinds were made in a deadly display of hysterical violence.
Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs were forced to either flee the Valley, convert or die. Thousands of innocent lives were taken, and criminal acts of all kinds were done by Islamist insurgents.
Almost three decades have passed — but Kashmiri Pandits who were thrown out of their homes have still not been able to return to their homeland.
Mr Modi, you are aware that Kashmir’s splendour may have awarded it the ‘heaven on earth’ moniker. But Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has made the Valley ‘hell on earth’. For many decades now, Hurriyat and separatist leaders have been exploiting Kashmir. The Abdullahs and Muftis have used it for their personal gains.
Separatist leaders, including the likes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, have been raised on the taxpayers’ money. Their children study in foreign countries with our hard-earned money. But they have been igniting a war in our country, against us.
These hardliners are the ones who kindle the Kashmir ‘azadi movement’ by encouraging local youth to join militancy. They brainwash the youth against the Indian armed forces and lure them into stone-pelting at them. Their agenda is to contribute to the gradual erosion of India’s security.
So, Mr Modi, now that you have crossed the rubicon in Kashmir, it’s time to understand the repercussions that this bold step has in store.
I am sure that you, along with our intelligence agencies, must have been thinking along the same lines. You are aware that Pakistan will retaliate. Kashmiri youth that has been radicalised in the name of religion would not accept this move easily.
And, even if it wants to accept it, the Hurriyat and separatist leaders and regional parties who will be unable to run their shops now will further radicalise the youth. So, importantly, you will need to de-radicalise the youth.
That will not be easy.
It will be a test of time and patience.
India will need at least ten years to achieve the results of this anti-radicalisation drive in Kashmir. An effective information campaign should be launched at a massive scale, ensuring that the fringe elements are kept away — not just mullahs and maulvis, but also Hindu fundamentalists like the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad), etc., who may exacerbate tensions in the Valley.
I understand that one of our government’s most crucial projects is to rehabilitate Kashmiri Hindus. However, at the same time, don’t let the Kashmiri Muslims feel that their identity is being snatched from them. For de-radicalisation of the youth, you need to bring in spiritual people and counselors on board.
As you rightly said in your recent address to the nation, J&K has the potential to become the world's largest tourist destination. When it starts attracting investments from the world, the ease of living will increase for Kashmiris.
Now that Mr Mukesh Ambani has promised to invest in J&K and Ladakh, I hope other industrialists will also follow suit and J&K will return to normalcy through jobs, trade and economic development.
Along with the focus on developing Kashmir economically, social development should also be our government’s prime motive. Collectively, this will be the stepping stone on the path of anti-radicalisation of the Kashmiri youth.
Then there are international concerns too — which dictate the looming danger on India’s security. With Donald Trump getting ready to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, Afghanistan may again go back to the Taliban. There is a huge possibility that a ceasefire between the US and Taliban can mean hundreds of Jihadi mercenaries may find Jammu and Kashmir as their new destination.
Saving J&K from lurking Jihadi activities is critical for the safety of the Valley and India.
Pakistan will try to revive Khalistani terror
As a Punjabi, whose interest lies in her state, I would also like to remind you that the abolition of Article 370 may have dramatic repercussions beyond J&K.
While you, Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval will be focusing on J&K for the next one year, the volatile land of Punjab shouldn’t be omitted.
For the enemy could sense the lack of attention towards Punjab and start a guerilla war by attacking the state.
I am the co-author of a book on Punjab with the late KPS Gill. As Punjab has lost one generation to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, I must have spent hundreds of hours discussing Punjab and the terrorism era in the state with Mr Gill. During my numerous discussions, I asked him if militancy will ever revive in Punjab. He always asked me not to pay heed to Referendum 2020 and Khalistan supporters.
He thought militancy would never be revived in Punjab, and I believed it too.
But — not anymore.
Knowing Pakistan and the fact that it thrives on its hatred for India, I have this fear in my heart that Punjab may witness that black era of terrorism again.
For our neighbour has still kept its grudge going against us for the 1971 war and Indira Gandhi’s bold move to split its country into two. In a bid to avenge the doing of Indira Gandhi, Pakistan has been running a proxy war on India for many decades now.
So, now when Amit Shah has challenged Pakistan in Parliament with words like “Whenever I talk about Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Aksai Chin comes under it and we can die for it”, Pakistan’s army and ISI will not keep mum.
And for them, the best target other than Kashmir is Punjab.
You must not disregard the fact that Punjab is another state which is ruled by a minority. If J&K has a Muslim majority, Punjab has a Sikh majority. I have full faith in the patriotism of my Sikh brothers, and I am sure that for them, the nation comes first.
However, we must also acknowledge the fact that a considerable population of Sikhs lives abroad.
And the Khalistani Sikh diaspora, fueled by Pakistan, has long been involved in radicalising gullible youths of Punjab. They consider India an enemy and endorse Referendum 2020. These Sikh extremists are easy pickings for Pakistan now.
Further, the Kartarpur Corridor, for which a group of Punjab cabinet ministers will be crossing over to Pakistan around August 22 and August 28, is another threat to India’s sovereignty. As I already highlighted in one of my previous articles, building a corridor from Gurdaspur in India to Kartarpur in Pakistan will act as a bridge to the neighbouring country, reviving the Khalistani terror in the state.
To fund terror in India, Pakistan is already sending drugs to Punjab and Kashmir. Every year, tonnes of drugs get confiscated on the borders of both these states. It’s time you strengthened these highly porous borders and prevented the youth of Punjab and Kashmir from being radicalised.
The Kartarpur Border is another unfolding of Pakistan’s strategy to disrupt India.
The ‘dream’ that it has shown to Sikhs living in India will become a ‘nightmare’ for the entire country if it becomes a reality. Don’t get me wrong here. I love Sikhs, I have many Sikh friends and relatives, and I respect them the most.
But I can’t trust Pakistan.
And you shouldn’t too.
Mr Modi, I welcome the measures you have taken to strengthen the nation’s security. And I request you to stay the course on your path of countering Pakistan. Our neighbour is not and never will be a believer in peace.
Stick with your stance on Pakistan. And ensure that every Indian — from Kashmir to Kanyakumari — lives peacefully.
Always a proud Indian,