Last night I had a long talk on whatsapp with a group of Kashmiris. It was arranged by my journalist friend Wahid Kashir, who lives in London, and often holds video shows about Kashmir
I told the Kashmiris that I too am a Kashmiri, and sympathise with their sufferings
Nevertheless, I told them, their demand for azadi was wrong, and I explained why.
I said that the test of every political activity and political system is one, and only one : does it raise the standard of living of the people ? Does it give them better lives ?
Once we keep this thought firmly in mind, it becomes evident that azadi cannot be an end in itself, it can only be a means to an end, and that end must be raising the standard of living of the people, and giving them better lives. If azadi for Kashmir results in raising the standard of living of Kashmiris I will support it, but not otherwise, and I gave two historical examples where people benefited by being deprived of azadi.
The first example was of Kashmir itself. Kashmir was independent only till 1587 when the last independent Kashmiri king Yusuf Shah Chak was deposed by Mughal Emperor Akbar, who then incorporated Kashmir into the Mughal Empire.
Now by being deprived of political freedom in 1587 Kashmiris greatly benefited, as their standard of living rose substantially. This was because (1) the Kashmiri handicraft industry, which gave ( and still gives ) employment to hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris, got access to the huge market of the Mughal Empire, where they could sell their products, and thereby it flourished. (2) Kashmiris got access to Mughal technology. For example, the Mughal gardens ( Shalimar, Nishat, and Chashme Shahi ) were built using Mughal technology.
The second example I gave was of ancient Rome. The Romans conquered many European and Mediterranean tribal people, and deprived them of their freedom. But these people benefited thereby, since by being incorporated into the Roman Empire they got access to Roman technology, e.g. the method of building roads, bridges, aqueducts, etc, and to Roman methods of agriculture.
The Kashmiris then complained of abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution on 5th August 2019, and non holding of elections for a state assembly.
I replied that how does it matter whether Article 370 was abrogated or retained ? Does it affect Kashmiri people’s standard of living ? Clearly it does not. So it is irrelevant.
As regards holding elections to the state assembly, I said experience has shown that the Kashmiri political leaders and elected M.L.A.s in the past were totally corrupt, and looted Kashmir. So how does holding or non holding elections matter ? Will the standard of living of Kashmiris rise if elections are held ? Will they get better lives ? Clearly the answer is no.
I told the Kashmiris that there was only one way of solving the problem of Kashmir, and that was reunification of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh ( of which Kashmir will be a part ), under a secular government led by patriotic, modern minded leaders determined to rapidly modernise and industrialise the country, and give our people a high standard of living and decent lives. But that will take time.