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Disclaimer: I see Kashmir as a part of India as a geographic reality. If it becomes free, I will see it as free. I refuse to cater to bullshit that treats Kashmir as a separate country before it becomes one. This goes for separatists who don't like me calling Kashmiris Indian and this goes for nationalists who don't understand why I put a high priority on the rights of Kashmiris in Kashmir. For me Kashmir is India, rights of Kashmiris are rights of Indians, and that is that.

I believe Kashmir must have the right to determine its destiny - including making horrendous mistakes (which is how I see the separatist cause) if they are determined to do so.

As far as my opinion goes (not that anyone is asking) a free Kashmir is a myth and if Kashmir separates from India without war, it will either be a part of Pakistan or worse a puppet government of Pakistan (think Taliban conquest of Afghanistan), which will hardly be the nirvana separatists are peddling it to be. Kashmiris as puppets caught between the separatists and the state (and the separatists are winning). Taken to its logical conclusion, Kashmir will eventually likely be a part of China as their fee to Pakistan for safe passage through Balochistan on their way to the sea. That is the only way Kashmir can exit India through methods they are currently using.

India is paranoid and resistant to giving Kashmir any leeway for fear of losing it altogether, replacing a courageous political solution with the application of force to impose an indefinite limbo. This is not good for Kashmiris and it is not good for the Army either. You simply cannot turn a region into a massive prison and then also expect there will be no jail breaks. Nor can you expect an Army to live among people and have enemies among them. They are not police. Not in function, not in training and not locals themselves. Soldiers will break and kill innocents and brothers-in-arms and commit suicide. People will get cabin fever and make desperate attempts for freedom that have no sanity to them.

What Kashmiris need to realize is that India and Pakistan got their freedom not through struggle, but through the collapse of the British Empire. India may be on the way to collapse, looking at national data on many fronts, but that collapse is unlikely to be fast enough to force India to give up Kashmir in the near future. All the protesting is only going to keep the state tightening controls at every opportunity to make it harder to defy the state, increasing the claustrophobia.

The separatists want this prison so that their demand for separation is not forgotten. The Indian state wants this prison for control. The Army wants this prison to use the jail breaks to keep AFSPA alive (and get rewards for dead militants), since they too do not have the option of exiting. The only person who doesn't want Kashmir imprisoned is the Kashmiri who wants freedom.

Kashmiris are shown the carrot of a free Kashmir where no bad things will happen and the stick of human rights abuse and an emotional frenzy triggers a highly predictable cycle of protests, abuses and more imprisonment. I wouldn't be surprised if corrupt people in the Indian Army were paid by separatists to kill a few people to keep people protesting. Rewards for Army, rewards for separatists.

There are things India needs to do. The first being to stop coddling/fearing the Army as if they cannot or will not do their jobs without impunity for a few crimes on the side. More importantly, India needs to create opportunities for freedom for Kashmir. How can Kashmiris experience more of life doing what they want. There need to be protocols that recognize the unrealistic duration of time they have been living with heavy security and extra efforts to create protocols that don't confuse bullying with security.

Kashmiris need to realize that they are being used. There is no Nirvana. There is no freedom to be had like this, only a well designed prison. A peaceful Kashmir suits no one except them. Kashmiris need to engage more with their present than their past. However much they avenge the past, it cannot change. The need is to work on their present and ensure a better future, which conflict cannot provide. To refuse to risk life and limb and sanity in hate and conflict. Do all protests have to stop? No. But the protest must have a goal achievable by protest. If you must face a gun, then the need is to face it in order to secure something for yourself. Random anger spilling on the streets is a very high risk for no gain and plenty loss.

Should the dream of a free Kashmir be given up? I'd like to say yes, but Kashmiris are not asking me. In my view, if Kashmiris really want freedom, then the best way would be for separatists to enter politics and contest elections on the promise of a plebiscite. Even Indian freedom fighters participated in government in the British Raj, not just protested. Educated professionals, industry, prosperity, accountable leaders who believe in their freedom to take over. If "all" Kashmiris want freedom, it ought to be a breeze to get elected and then for the elected leaders to negotiate with India for a plebiscite, which kind of makes it difficult to say that the ones wanting to separate are a minority, which is how it appears at the moment.

If India refuses, such an elected leader could even appeal to the UN for intervention with very high credibility through the very nature of being elected. So far, even if the claims of Army forcing people to vote were true, there seems to be no indication that people wanted a pro-freedom government - even as a compromise. If separatists campaigned and won on the promise of a plebiscite, it would be clear and as good as a plebiscite on the need for a plebiscite, so to say. It would be something no one could dispute. This could help bring about a new plebiscite, even if Pakistan does not fulfill its original deal on PoK.

This will also force separatists to put their money where their mouth is instead conning Kashmiris for an unending propaganda war. It will prove the truth or lie of the claim that "All Kashmiris want freedom". It will also give the elected state government a lot of leverage during negotiations with the center on the AFSPA and many other things. A shift from arbitrary claims of support to democratic representation. Not to mention it would force India to address human rights issues on an urgent basis if they want the people to keep believing in them. More importantly, it will be an irreversible step toward solving the problem.

On the other hand, I think if it comes to a plebiscite, there should be an agreement before the plebiscite on whether it should be held for all of J&K state (which reduces the chances of separation) or for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh separately, with each choosing their destiny. Finally, the result of the plebiscite, if it happens or the failure to prove its need should be the end of the conflict.

All that said, freedom means the right to choose for yourself, even if the choice is a horrendous mistake. You simply cannot imprison people "for their good" and call it a good thing.

What about the Pandits?

What about them? They too should be a part of this to whatever extent they wish. It is not like the way we are proceeding is easy for them to return. No matter how unjust it is, it is impossible to move the clock back. It has to move forward. It is not even as if Kashmiri Musims are safe either. There will be a point, whether as part of India or free that they will have to decide if the risk of return is worth the reward of it. Kashmir is hardly likely to be completely safe in the near future.

Freedom, in my view is less about the name of the country you belong to, and more about if you can live freely. Content, happy people cannot be bothered to come out on the street and protest, whether in India or free. Indian government should stop this colonization method they use. Not just in Kashmir. People are dropping out of believing the state all over the country. Be it militant movements or Maoists or non-violent protests or anti-project movements or anti-rape protests or anti-corruption protests or whatever. The belief of Indians that the state can be trusted to rule them is at an all time low. India has to start listening to people and to serve them instead of control them, and Kashmir is as good a place to start as any.

I don't think Kashmiris can be free without letting go of hostility  however much injustice causes it. Even if India set them free right now, anarchists are not suddenly going to become creators. All it would be is a vacuum for the biggest gun to claim as their property and a new cycle of the same story.

Protests are an expression of anger. Freedom has to be a strategy.

When I wrote my post on Kashmiri Pandits, a friend responded privately with a nugget of political insight – before the ethnic cleansing, Kashmiri Pandits did favor independence over merger with India. If that is true, then Pakistan did Kashmir a grave disservice by sponsoring the butchers who devastated them and turned them firmly pro-India.

That got me thinking about the the differences between Pakistan’s supposed support for Kashmir’s freedom, and its actual actions.

Please note, in the following observations, I have no particular opinion on what “should” happen with Kashmir, though I do see a disadvantage for India, the region and the world if Kashmir becomes independent and a target for Pakistan’s strategic depth. Not to mention, I am convinced Pakistan will not allow an independent Kashmir beyond getting it to separate from India.

Here is why.

1. When India and Pakistan got independent, Kashmir also became independent of sorts. It successfully negotiated its Stand Still agreement and while we can argue intent till the cows come home, the basic fact stands that the supposed “occupation” of Kashmir by India came after the occupation of Kashmir by Pakistan.

2. Regardless of whether the occupation was valid/popular or not or when it was signed, another fact that cannot be disputed is that it was a reaction to the Pakistani invasion/occupation and based on the understanding of a merger with India, unlike Pakistani occupation, which violated a Stand Still agreement they had made with Kashmir.

3. While there are no doubt many Kashmiris who fought for independence from India, militants from Punjab, Pakistan cannot be called Kashmiris.

4. Pakistan has initiated two “sly captures” of Kashmir territory since, which certainly cannot be called an indigenous Kashmiri independence struggle, since they escalated into wars between two armies.

5. Militants with pro-Pakistan agenda, comprised of Pakistanis (and other nationalities, trained in pakistan) have outnumbered and indeed hampered Kashmiri militants (who received far less assistance).

6. The ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits also came at a time when the voices in Kashmir demanding independence from both countries gathered momentum. If we add this insight that influential Kashmiri Pandits supported independence for their own reasons, it translates to not only an ethnic cleansing, but also a weakening of the political voice for independence (as opposed to merger with Pakistan – which the Kashmiri Pandits didn’t want).

7. Pro-independence separatists and moderates who have no specifci pro-Pakistan agenda have a disconcerting habit of turning up dead, being blamed on Indian Army and then being found out as work of militants or the unseen “hand”.

8. Rallies in Pakistan demanding conquering Kashmir from India via jihad have few Kashmiris – largely Punjabis.

9. Every conflict Pakistan has engaged in has been about land – specifically control over land and denying its citizens control over their land – be it the Balochs, be it the Bangladesh, be it the Taliban prop-up in Afghanistan (against both Soviets and later Afghans themselves) or be it Kashmir.

10. Pakistan’s idea of independence can be understood from Azad Kashmir, where freedom means political leaders must swear allegiance to Pakistan to have the rights to come to power.

11. Muslim Kashmiri who does not want to be identified points out that Kashmiri Muslims who are pro-India also get killed and many have migrated out of Kashmir too – which is even more ignored than Kashmiri Pandits.

12. He also points out that the area of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan has been heavily resettled by people loyal to Pakistan. Sunny Singh says something similar too – ‘azad’ Kashmir has been re-settled by Punjabi primarily ex-military personnel as part of a policy of demographic shift in contravention of a UN directive – while Pakistan publicizes demands for a plebiscite, it has itself violated conditions for it – conditions that were likely to lead to a “1947 like” result for independence.

Stray observations. I don’t believe for a minute that if Kashmir becomes independent, it will remain independent. It will either be attacked and absorbed into Pakistan, or it will become a puppet state like Afghanistan under Taliban – the dirty work and plausible deniability terrain.

Whether this means Kashmir should not be given independence? I don’t know. Having a potentially hostile neighbor cannot be reason enough to deny the right to self-determination. But this question gets muddied if we look at experiences of other territories of interest to Pakistan. Would it be human rights to leave them at the mercy of such? I don’t know that either.

I do know that there are atrocities happening in Kashmir, which are totally unacceptable as a long term state of existence (or short term for that matter) and they need to stop. My article on AFSPA talks about that.

I do think that unless there is a space for feeling safe created, Kashmiri responses are going to be ones of panicked escape. It could be from the frying pan into the fire, or it could be from hell to paradise. We don’t know. What I do know is that even if we were to give Kashmiris freedom (or not), the desperate, survivalist state of mind and the resultant domination of public space by reactiveness (pro or anti India/independence/Pakistan will be detrimental to everyone’s interest, in every condition. This protection of human rights is as necessary for us as a democratic country, as it is for a thoughtful, responsible solution for Kashmir to eventually emerge.

Unconscious processes are those we are not aware of. Before all the high IQ internetizens assault me, let me say, most of what we do is unconscious. We are automatically reacting to many things which come to action only if there seems to be no automatic response possible, or if something unexpected happens. Like, you are reading this page and scrolling as needed automatically. If I changed the behaviour of the page in how it responded to the mouse, you'd notice, consciously figure out how to achieve what you wanted.

There are also many layers and processes happening simultaneously - sometimes related, sometimes independent. For example, while you read the page and scrolled, you were also maintaining balance, evaluating what you read, planning a response.... none of which changed or even became conscious when you addressed the dissonance with the scrolling.

Many, many things we understand somewhat are unconscious. Stereotypes, superstitions, bias, reactions, perceptions....

Usually, when something is inexplicably illogical on the conscious plane, something contrary to what is in our consciousness exists in our unconscious. This is a vast and diverse subject, which I cannot do justice to in article, so I suggest reading up a variety of writers and learning from observing the world, if you find this intriguing. Good start is "Shadow Aspect - Jung" or Freud. But there are many.

The thing is that these processes being UNconscious, pointing them out is usually met with utter disbelief, rejection and disagreement. That is because they are not conscious, duh. It takes some digging and examining data rather than memory - which is 'written' by the unconscious anyway.

Unconscious perceptions rarely evolve without conscious intervention. For example, a child's instinctive fear of heights keeps getting revised with his awareness of increasing capacity to handle it. Even an adult will balk at a fall greater than he believes he can jump, but that distance keeps getting revised as improved ability is registered. People also fear heights irrationally. They have usually 'clubbed' all heights as dangerous rather than 'graded' their threat. Point being, new information needs to be assimilated in order to revise old perceptions.

I have a diagnosis on Kashmir's problems with the Army.

Kashmir is an integral part of India is the government line. Kashmir feels occupied rather than included is the Kashmiri. There are a million dimensions and psychological processes.

One big thing. The unconscious is fairly primitive. Expect ghastly things, zero logic beyond action-consequence, imagery rather than complex ideas and feelings driving everything once you step into the 'zone'.

Kashmiri Pandits were persecuted out of the valley. It was horrendous. It 'hurt' India deeply. The Army presence increased. The Army are 'protectors'. The Kashmiri Muslims were the 'culprits'. India is largely Hindu. The unconscious perception of the country as well as the Army becomes that the Army is dealing with the Kashmiri Muslim barbarians to protect the country from their criminal acts.

Since then, militancy has become better understood, better controlled. However, we have not stopped thinking of the Kashmiri common man as inherently dangerous. The Army is still "protecting" the country from its own citizens.

In effect, the country has unconsciously judged Kashmir for the ethnic cleansing of the Pandits and the Army holds them imprisoned for the safety of all. To the unconscious, these things like human rights don't exist. Either you are for, or you are against, and if you are against, you will be picking up fights. Be it detentions, rapes, tortures, killings, whatever. Consciously, of course they don't. OF COURSE. They fully believe that they are protecting the Kashmiri citizens as well, but some will keep 'breaking rules' so to say. The unconscious sense of revenge is a powerful thing.

It is equally true for the Kashmiris. To them, the Army is the 'enemy'. They can do no right. No matter what they do, they are evil. Anybody being hurt for any reason by the Army is an intentional Army atrocity intended to attack kashmiris. Etc

This process is locked in a strong, defining perception. It isn't going to go away unless addressed specifically. It is powerful enough to create memories to illustrate, and it is powerful enough to suppress memories that don't fit - on both ends.

Similarly, the separatists, Pakistan, etc have their own narratives. Equally illogical. The only reason I'm not listing them out is that there is no point in the specifics and getting into arguments - the point is in looking beyond assumptions of reality. These 'jumps of logic' will actually be individual to each person and it reflects in what they speak of the most.

The unconscious 'knows' what is right/wrong based entirely on the experiencing. I can tell you a tale of some atrocity done by a fictitious king of a fictitious country on fictitious citizens of unproven innocence and if you even have so much as a strong opinion against that king now, I can give you a book a year later with the hero having the same name as this fictitious king, and you'll call it a lousy book. You may not even remember the story I tell you now, but still! How many times have you been inclined to think of someone favourably or unfavourably simply based on look or name? Your unconscious decides that if they look like that, they abuse their dog, or if they have this name, they are snobbish - likely because you formed that perception elsewhere with someone else who looked like that or had that name. That's how the unconscious operates. Logic has nothing to do with it, and it is devastatingly real. It has a name. Its called projection. Google it up. Its fascinating insight into just how primitive we all are.

A participant in a lab where we explored unconscious processes once said that the scariest thing in the entire world was what she could discover hiding in her own mind.

The only fix is making it conscious. Questioning those perceptions and re-evaluating reality.

All parties should also look into their own projections and come to a more reality oriented understanding of the picture. The answers will always be uncomfortable, because they were suppressed for a reason - discomfort. However, those buried realities skew everything they look at.

And we have an instinctive understanding of this, because there have always been demands of going back into history to investigate and "fact find".

This will help resolve Kashmir, because it will allow people to work with reality. It will help the Army regain its honor. It will help the Kashmiris regain their dignity. It will even help Kashmiri Pandits find acknowledgment - they are currently buried next to all the suppressed issues around their story. It may not solve any political problem, but being able to address the human conflicts will allow breathing space and healing for better answers to emerge.

India has many excellent people who have devoted their lives in the study of the unconscious and its impact on people. It might be worthwhile to invest in entirely apolitical large scale interventions for all stake holders as a humanitarian contribution towards resolution. If Kashmir is suspicious of India, it could even be possible to ask foreign social scientists.

Think of it. We have trauma counselling for a reason. The entire valley AND the soldiers qualify.

Note: All the intense Kashmir debaters on both the three sides of the two sided coin, please excuse. I am not about judgments. I throw in everything that seems significant. If it makes sense, great. If it doesn't, that's okay too.

“Our republic cannot bear the stain of killing its children like this” ~ Indian Supreme Court Judge on possibility of extra-judicial killing of Maoist Azad.
There is hope.
This isn't a matter of supporting Maoists or not, but the profound simple matter of the role of the police in carrying out the stated will of the government. If it turns out that the stated will of the government differed from its real will, that should become clear too.

He had turned himself in. He died under mysterious circumstances, and botched cover up led to a covert autopsy that contradicts the police story of how he was killed.
It is fantastic that people took matters up and brought things to this stage.
The Maoists are India's greatest challenge, and while Internet warriors may find it easy to condemn them, the fact is you can't call a country a democracy if half its people are outlaws one way or the other. And we have many such illegitimate children - Kashmiris, North East, Red Corridor.... And then we have neglected children - suiciding farmers, generations lost to drugs in Punjab, tribals, displaced Kashmiri Pandits.... to name a few.
To be a democracy, we should be including these people in our journey, and its no use grudging the loss of speed that means. If we travel together, slower is more meaningful than traveling fast in a way that Arundhati Roy describes excellently as the secession of the upper and middle classes from the masses.
This should be marked as a turning point in the history of India, when the law spoke and spoke firmly to uphold the rights of Azad, even if he likely was a criminal, because he represented an important part of our population.
If half the country is criminals one way or the other, perhaps its time to change laws. ~ Vidyut Kale

As I read the Wikileaks and newspapers on Kashmir and a hundred other places, one big thing stands out.

Where the human rights suffer, the wars are exercises in frustration. An Army hurting civilians is an Army actively creating enemies and making its own job harder. It seems tempting to ignore abuses. Who would know unless we told them that x number of civilians died? Why demoralize soldiers by punishing them?

Yet, we see over and over. Other civilians know. And they take opportunities to strike back. They may appreciate the purpose of the Army, but it becomes less important than finding justice. If they fail, eventually, the purpose becomes undesirable, and a thirst for unending 'justice' builds up.

In Kashmir, the Indian Army is doing a magnificent job of maintaining security. For all that it is the most militarized zone in the world, it is an enduring operation, one that has actually caused less casualties for comparable scope than anywhere else in the world. Yet, what is it that the people remember? What is it that drives the Kashmiris to fall victim to Pakistan sponsored elements trying to destabilize the region? Listen to the protests. Their people got killed, and the perpetrators got away with it. They don't believe that India has their safety in mind.

If we read the Wikileaks, we see the Pakistani Army doing similar things in Swat and Balochistan. Civilians killed feeds the Taliban, soldiers killed feeds revenge killings. Unending conflict that feeds itself.

Earlier Wikileaks describe similar issues in Afghanistan and Iraq. Human history is filled with stories like this, with one common factor. It is overwhelmingly difficult to violate human rights and win.

I think it is high time human rights violations were ruthlessly proscecuted, because failing to do that will only explode war expenses on a purely un-emotional level and increase unnecessarily all the grief and devastation of war for people who were not the real targets to begin with.