When Nehru promised a plebiscite to the people in J&K several decades ago, the Princely State was identified as a unified whole. Pakistan by attempting a crude land grab of a significant amount of the Princely State along with massive influx of people from the Punjab and Tribal areas attempted to change the demographics in it’s favor. Those acts prompted the UN to clearly announce preconditions for a satisfactory plebiscite to be conducted. These conditions were:
- Withdrawal of Pakistani Forces from areas of occupation
- Returning to the original demographics.
Under present circumstances both these conditions are not achievable by any stretch of practical application or imagination. India tried its best to make up to these conditions by conducting several free and some possibly flawed elections to give a semblance of self rule to the State. It also gave special status in the form of an Art 370 that took self governance to the closest levels of independent statehood that the Indian Union could possibly afford to offer to any State within its ambit.
However within the Indian subcontinent there was one thing always kept changing every few decades, the nature/ boundaries of the States within the union were always of fluid permanence. A massive Punjab, Madras, Bengal, Tranvancore made way with time to other smaller entities. Some due to intrinsic dependency and some as a result of natural administrative requirement. Post Independence many new States have been incorporated, borders altered. Haryana formed from Punjab, Uttarkhand carved from UP, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and many more examples for better administrative and governing purposes have always kept emerging within the Union. The rigid boundaries of Statehood were never a permanent feature ever in the Indian context. That gave many in Post Independence India an opportunity to divide territories on a linguistic basis. Even these were later divided to administer or govern them better, many divisions based largely on prevalent public opinion. Whatever be the reason, the simple truth underlined was the non-sanctity of State Geographical boundaries in the Indian context.
With that in mind, it is an aberration that J & K’s century old boundaries be held as some sacrosanct. And particularly so after Pakistan annexed major parts, handed significant territories to China and China too annexed the Eastern regions brazenly.The sanctity of state boundaries were destroyed then itself in the most undemocratic manner. Apart from these many parts of the state are fed up of the perpetual violence perpetrated by Islamists and games that Pakistan and China play out in the region, yet helpless pawns as for some reason India does not integrate them fully. These regions are not small geographical entities. Looking at the map one will realize these regions are a major chunk of the geographical area of the erstwhile state. The clamor for a plebiscite and the principle of self determination (though initially invoked by Nehru himself) has been a steady calling of Islamists and Pakistan. The spirit of any referendum is in giving the people a choice of their liking. If the numbers polled are small enough then this choice is immaterial. Families that do not like the idea of living in US or UK or India have reasonable means at disposal to move to other countries of choice. Districts, like families in India would be too small and dependent to be able to be declared as independent countries. With that understanding we approach the Kashmir problem. Referendums are always to be about the wishes of the people, referendums are also about Integration and not necessarily separation if the people so wish. And that is applicable to a large number of major areas of Jammu and Kashmir. The only thing which keeps us from visualizing what this entails is the so called sanctity of the the boundaries of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, which already have been violated by Pakistan and China alike.
Ladhak and Jammu are two significant areas with a large Hindu and Buddhist (Dharmic) population and though several decades back clearly had affinity to the original boundaries and it’s princely jurisdiction, with the advent of Islamism many are now not particularly keen to associate with the State in it’s original format and are more keen to integrate with the Indian Union. To determine that a clear referendum ‘if they indeed are keen to integrate more keenly with the Indian Union than Art 370 allows them to‘ must be pursued. I personally am not aware of any Indian held surveys except a C Voter HT poll conducted one to that affect some time ago, but am of one significant one that was conducted by someone Pro Pakistan: Gadaffi’s son Saif. Even though he tried to influence the Kings College, London on tweaking the Survey results, Robert Bradnock insisted on carrying it out independent of influence. Meanwhile Saif Gadaffi, so influenced by Pakistani propaganda that Kashmir was absolutely Pro-Pak in it’s entirety must have been a bit shaken at the results that emerged from the survey. Some of the rude shocks both to Saif, the Pakistani establishment and possibly their Western moralist backers are listed here (included some from the C Voter HT survey also):
“Bradnock’s poll, the first ever to be held on both sides of LoC, unearthed that 98% of people in India-controlled J&K did not wish to be a part of Pakistan; and 50% in POK did not wish to remain with Pakistan, either.” (Saif Gadaffi sponsored Kings College Poll)
“While in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley in Indian-administered Kashmir, the proportion in favor of independence ranged from 74%-95%.But in the four districts of the predominantly Hindu Jammu part of Indian-administered Kashmir, there was virtually no support for independence at all.” (Saif Gadaffi sponsored Kings College Poll)
“Only six per cent in Kashmir wanted a “complete merger of the entire Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan.”
“The desire for independence for the state is not shared in the Jammu and Ladakh parts however, where 76 per cent and 70 per cent wanted a “complete merger” of the state into India.” (C Voter Poll)
In a response to a question: “Will an end to militant violence help to end the conflict?” “Opinion ranged from 0% in Rajouri to 98% in Anantnag and Kathua, while in Pakistani-administered Kashmir it ranged from 27% in Kotli to 75% in Bagh.”
Now while it cannot be denied a majority do wish for Independence, it is also important then that a major geographical area of the State and it’s inhabitants are completely against that independence. So can a Hispanic Majority Miami realistically ask freedom for an entire Florida? By any stretch the Buddhist and Hindu denizens of Ladhak and Jammu are in no way going to acquiesce living in an Islamic Republic of J&K. And their wishes must be honored more than the assumption of a large populated group in a small sized district that believe that the larger State boundaries must be maintained for eternity. As i have mentioned earlier that has not happened ever in the Subcontinent. And a Referendum in these areas should put these shenanigans to an end once and for all.
Let us look at the maps below will provide a perspective on the problem area with respect to the geographical area of the State:
It is clear that from the area of the erstwhile State of J & K that is under India, Ladhak and Jammu are the biggest geographic entity. A referendum to them to integrate with the Indian union void of Art 370 would entail that most of J & K is geographically integrated into India’s mainstream. It would leave a district or two sized North Western Kashmir Valley District (KVD) that we would have to continue with the Art 370 as it is unlikely they would vote for lifting of Art 370. Yet we must offer the others their wish to integrate with the Union.
The salient advantages/ features that the Integration Referendum would offers
1. It evokes the very Principle India’s major detractors ‘scare’ us about: A Referendum.
2. It integrates the largest possible area using the referendum principle into the Indian Union.
3. It becomes possible for Indians to settle and own land in these areas.
4. Confines the ‘disturbed’ areas to district level. This has many advantages in control and depreciation of propaganda.
5. India gets complete grip on water resources emanating from the region, One of Pakistan’s major reasons to control J&K.
6. Seeing the development that Ladhak and Jammu will make on integration, NW Kashmir Valley district (KVD) will possibly have the best chance to change in time.
We gain everything by having a referendum in these districts including the Kashmir Valley district (KVD) on the simple issue if they would like a fuller integration with India devoid of Art 370. KVD will by most indications as in the Surveys reject that option, yet, Ladhak, Jammu and the many associated Shia districts will opt as the surveys clearly show. KVD, Pakistan and the West cannot object as the principle of Referendum and self determination is being invoked here in sincerity and transparency. It would be hypocritical to oppose this Referendum and the desire for people to integrate from any quarters.
This solution will go a long way to solving the Kashmir problem, albeit in a few simple steps. Yet it is important that this happen soon as demographic changes in the Ladhak and Jammu regions can be drastically altered in less than a decade and certainly in two. External influence and intense demographic Islamization can poison the initiative to integrate these areas fairly in accordance to the wishes of the people of these regions. The percentage of Dharmics in Jammu and Ladhak is deteriorating at an extremely fast clip from 90% just a few decades ago to around about 60-70% today. This referendum, thus needs to be carried out urgently at the earliest. It is important to make people understand, this solution is in very much in accordance to the principles that the UN mandates. The West, Pakistan, and the homegrown Separatist too has been parroting the line: That India respect the wishes of the People of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. So be it and we do: We carry out the Integration Referendum.