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Mobile in Kashmir

Published Sep 06, 2012 12:00am


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PAKISTAN is fortunate that Dr Shashi Tharoor, the newest Icarus in the Indian National Congress, never fulfilled his ambition to become the next UN secretary general. He would have used the UN to resolve the problem of Jammu & Kashmir in less time than it took to create it.

Dr Tharoor has been endowed with all the boons his divinities could have bestowed on any Indian mortal: debonair good looks, a quick intelligence, the gift of oratory, a fecund authorship, and a dollar-denominated pension from the UN where he served as an international civil servant for almost 30 years. The price he was asked to pay in return was to become rabidly anti-Pakistan.

To hear him speak, to read his books, to watch him on talk shows is to realise what a narrow escape Pakistan has had. He is single-minded and obsessive in targeting his perceived enemy. One comment from a recent book of his serves well enough to indicate his animus: “A democratic Pakistan determined to focus on its own people’s economic development would be good news for India. On the other hand a flailing Pakistan, with a burgeoning population of uneducated, unemployable and frustrated youth prey to the blandishments of radical religious fanatics, and ruled by a military-dominated system that sees its security in destabilising others, could be a major threat to India.”

It is rhetoric such as this that brought him too close to the sun of his political ambitions. Too close, for he soon fell from the heights of being a minister of state for foreign affairs to the lower strata of a seat in the Lok Sabha. While he may not be as near, as he once aspired to be, to those who are policymakers in India, his attitudes are nevertheless of interest for they are reflective of a mindset amongst a newer generation of Indians.

Ironically, today, 65 years after Independence, Pakistanis and Indians are not only on opposite sides of the same border, they have reversed roles. Earlier, Pakistanis defined themselves by emphasising their separateness from everything Indian. Today, Indians seek to truss their national identity with a different sort of rope, a hangman’s rope from which to suspend not individuals but the Pakistani state.

Individual states within India may bicker with one another. But what binds them is a perception that unless they are overtly anti-Pakistan, they cannot somehow be Indian. This is apparent in Indian politicians, in the Indian press, and in that most pervasive of propaganda machines — Bollywood.

Many have suspected that the Indian media has been not the Fourth Estate in its societal structure as much as a suburb of the Ministry of External Affairs. Everyday its press lip-syncs official lyrics. Similarly, Bollywood has shifted away from the image of a Pakistani as a pre-1947 turbanned Pathan to a post-26/11 image of every Pakistani as a bearded terrorist who has to be eliminated by any of the triumvirate of Khans.

I have just returned from a visit to Kashmir where I breathed the same air as Shahrukh Khan. I drove from Srinagar to the mountain resort of Pahalgam and was prevented from entering my hotel, not because I was a Pakistani, but because Yash Chopra was shooting his latest blockbuster featuring King Khan near the hotel. Shahrukh Khan was the Indian hero hunting down terrorists who looked like me. I escaped to Gulmarg, and within a day, he had followed me there. I returned to Srinagar and was told that he was on his way down to shoot at Dal Lake. I fled to New Delhi and escaped him by immersing myself amongst its teeming millions.

To visit Kashmir is to understand why it has been such a fractious issue between India and Pakistan. Regardless of Radcliffe, regardless of the UN plebiscite, regardless of the porous border through which families, like mountain mists, permeate through borders, Kashmir is worth fighting for. Kashmir is the closest man will get to natural perfection. It was intended by God for the living.

The presence of the Indian army throughout the valley even now that there is a lull is as ubiquitous as the blood-red advertisements of India’s telecom giant Airtel. Individual sentries in lonely sentinel posts rely upon a mobile for company, groups of three or four sling their guns and use their free hands to text SMS messages, and corrugated steel-roofed cantonments resonate with the sound of incoming and outgoing signature tunes.

The sign across the road as one enters the upper reaches of the road used by pilgrims to Amarnath reads: ‘The Indian Army welcomes you to Sonmarg.’ It is the benign admission that there has been a change of strategy in Kashmir. The Indian Army has put stems of flowers into the barrels of its guns.

The average Kashmiri seems to have reconciled to the unavoidable. Any revival of hope for a plebiscite is not as important anymore as revival of its economy. Everything is now geared to restoring tourism in the valley. They have suffered enough from both sides. If a Kashmiri does talk about Pakistan or India, it is to emphasise that everything Kashmiri is distinctive and unique; from its scenery to its saffron to its wazwan cuisine. The only shooting they want to hear about is Shahrukh Khan this month and Salman Khan next month shooting films in their beloved valley.

Over the centuries, Kashmir’s geography had delineated its identity. Whatever will be the future of the Kashmiris, one thing is clear. Neither India nor Pakistan deserves Kashmir. It belongs as it has always done to the Kashmiris, as God intended.

The writer is an author.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (53) Closed

Shan Sep 06, 2012 06:18am
A democratic Pakistan determined to focus on its own people
anon Sep 06, 2012 06:50am
deswal Sep 06, 2012 02:39pm
please read history before commenting on it
basit Sep 06, 2012 07:03am
because of money
KnightRider Sep 06, 2012 05:04pm
Why you are blaming Shahi Tharoor. He has said nothing wrong
Roto Corp Sep 06, 2012 04:03am
sir ,with due respect do Pakistanis deserve Pakistan ? like what you are doing to each other in name of religion and that the same virus your countrymen have exported to Afghanistan and Kashmir.
sparky singh Sep 06, 2012 08:01pm
Sir, my Indian passport does not give me the right to own any fixed property in Kashmir. It has been this way for many decades now. Just wanted to point this out for the benefit of other readers.
shubham Sep 06, 2012 07:50am
".....use their free hands to text SMS messages,,,,," sms service was banned in the valley couple of years ago. If u r so intent on bashing india, atleast get ur facts correct.
Viraj Nasare Sep 09, 2012 07:01am
I agree with you.
BH Sep 06, 2012 08:46pm
Yes, I was also trying to figure out what was wrong with that statement. If making his statement makes you a fundamentalist, then count 99% of india as fundamentalist, the rest 1% is congress.
raju Sep 06, 2012 08:04pm
This article dwells on so many aspects and so many questions for the readers. I have never seen my friends or people I know bothered to talk about pakistan, or I can say whatever agony exists its due to the infiltration from Pakistan side. We never learned in our schools to hate pakistan. and whatever Tharoor wrote is logically right. Is it bad if Kashmiri's have started living normally or Pakistan does not want that to happen. By Gods grace this summer Kashmir had record number of tourists and my family was one of them. The people of Kashmir are very friendly and loving.
Zahid Sep 07, 2012 01:39am
It is better to see verbal skirmishes from both side of the border than military adventures.
BHB Sep 06, 2012 07:51pm
I was going to make the same comment. Isn't that the truth. Many reasonable Pakistanis will also agree with it.
sparky singh Sep 06, 2012 07:57pm
Dear, writer of this article.. The last line of your article says "as God intended". Please let us know who made you the spokesman for god? If your mind meanders to something at least have the courtesy to use arguments to illustrate the soundness of your views. Why use the god loophole to escape the burden of logic? Yours truly - nice little atheist man
Ajaya K Dutt Sep 06, 2012 02:53pm
Dudenator Sep 06, 2012 01:01pm
Can someone please explain me whats the point of this article? What is the author trying to convey? Does speaking the truth means that a person is anti India or anti Pakistani?
Ahmed Sultan (India) Sep 07, 2012 10:50am
only 1% of Indian movies has the word Pakistan in it.
Jag Nathan Sep 07, 2012 01:17am
Wrong again. A lie told a 1000 times does not become the truth
Victor Sep 06, 2012 03:59am
If Bollywood was so anti-Pakistani why do Pakistani singers and actors keep running to India for work?
yoginder nath tickoo Sep 06, 2012 09:40am
A gr8 pleasure 2 read ur lines.
R K HASTIR Sep 06, 2012 03:27pm
Fine,,writer is not comparing education policy of both country ,otherwise he should have written article in different form.god bless their so called intellectuality.
Jay Sep 06, 2012 04:18am
The author writes "He would have used the UN to resolve the problem of Jammu & Kashmir in less time than it took to create it." Most normal people would regard that as a good thing, don't you think?
Pip Alvi Sep 06, 2012 11:21am
the author says -Indian institutions are anti Pakistani,it is very difficult to find something likeable about the Pakistan state and society currently,and why do you expect Indians to be positive about Pakistan after all we have had nothing but trouble from our fanatical neighbours.
JP Singh Sep 06, 2012 01:53pm
just gibberish, doesnt make sense of anykind, if you are in India try to see how many indians discuss pakistan.
Saroj Sep 06, 2012 04:40am
I really don't get if there is anything wrong in what Sashi Tharoor has mentioned. It is a very generic statement which can be given about any neighboring country. Other than this, the article is ideal from all views, but I doubt whether a free Kashmir will ever become a reality !
circut00 Sep 06, 2012 04:54am
After reading the whole article, im still puzzled what was author trying to prove by quoting Shashi Tharoor's book?? Wht he wrote is truth.But then again Pakistan sees everything with conspiracy glasses.And yes Pakistan dont deserve Kashmir at all, first learn to take care of what you were given in 1947, then talk about Kashmir.bbye
Krishna Sep 06, 2012 04:56am
Good analysis.. but I do argue that Balochistan belongs to Balochis...
vijay, chennai, India Sep 06, 2012 08:19am
What binds us Indian is our culture.
OMG Sep 06, 2012 05:03am
So when did an honest assessment become tantamoint to animus?
santhosh Sep 06, 2012 05:04am
I thought F.S.Aijazuddin would finish that he is the god. But it's okay. Is this an article based on ground situation.
suneel Sep 06, 2012 05:38pm
well said...I wanted to say the same.........
dks Sep 07, 2012 03:24am
The author need to unlearn what he read in Pakistani text books...
meow Sep 06, 2012 05:25pm
at the most a half cooked article.. sometimes I think Dawn needs some help is finding good authors. Starts from tharoor and tries to define tharoor as India. Does any1 know who is Pak?
Mano Sep 06, 2012 04:12pm
Has any Pakistani reached the heights that Shashi Tharoor has reached? Or has even failed at? How many Pakistani Senators can even speak good english? I heard a Pakistani TV anchor say that when Shashi Sahab speaks Pakistanis get scared. Boss, the man has the ability to handle your countries entire foreign policy successfully on his back if you guys have the ability to enroll or manage a calibre of his. You guys are seriously suffering from the desease of hating your neighbor and pathologically lying to your own audience.
kausar Sep 06, 2012 12:11pm
saach bahoot kadwa hota hai...ha.haha..
C. Nandkishore Sep 06, 2012 05:52am
"But what binds them is a perception that unless they are overtly anti-Pakistan, they cannot somehow be Indian" Don't give yourself airs. As far as the new generation is conserened, its 'Pakistan what?'
Khuram Saqi (@khuramsaqi) Sep 06, 2012 12:09pm
Kashmir is belong to Muslim, not even Pak or Ind
raika45 Sep 06, 2012 06:22am
At least the Indian government ,it's army and the people of Kashmir have come to some sort of understanding.Can that happen in Baluchistan? Will your government and army allow that? Remember no non Kashmiri can own property in Kashmir.Will your people follow the same rule in Baluchistan?
Subramanyam Sridharan Sep 06, 2012 10:15am
Mirza Nadeem Mir Sep 07, 2012 01:11am
Yes, as Apkistani I admit that has to be the truth. Do not know what the author was trying to say or mean?
nt Sep 06, 2012 08:43am
You are very right ,Kashmiries need peace now,enough blood shade,please Pakistan,give peace to Kashmiries,when real peace prevails there,Indian army will disappear from there
Sandip Sep 06, 2012 09:37pm
Unless it does not favor pakistan :-)
Mirza Nadeem Mir Sep 07, 2012 01:09am
Mukesh, what was so anti indian in his article? Iknow truth is bitter and it hurts!!! I hope for peace between the two countries but Kashmir will forever be for KAshmiris,no ifs and buts about it!!!!
Sridhar Sep 07, 2012 12:51am
The author, I suppose, is not a regular reader of The Dawn. Every issue of the paper, especially, columnists such as Ifran Hussain and NFP have made similar observations about the failed or failing state of Pakistan. So the members of the US Congress and the British newspapers. Having a healthy neighbor who is pursuing prosperity in every nation's dream so that one does not have divert valuable resources to thwart belligerent, frustrated neighbor gone berserk.
shalin Sep 06, 2012 07:12am
Arun Sep 06, 2012 07:13am
This is a rambling article with no particular point other than for the author to express his dislike for Indians and Indian institutions like Bollywood and the Army. People like this are a dime a dozen and have no ideas for the future. Is Dawn losing its touch?
Deepak Sep 06, 2012 11:50am
We Indians need not be anti-Pakistani to prove our patriotism. If Pakistan stops creating trouble in the region, Indians won't even remember that Pakistan exists.
mukesh Sep 06, 2012 09:59am
why such anti india fundamentalists are allowed to enter India and roam freely.
Mirza Nadeem Mir Sep 07, 2012 01:15am
Saroj, As a Kashmiri ,let me tell you thatsooner or later Kashmir will be free. World maps change very quickly as you may have noticed. And why is freedom bad ofr kashmiris? You Indians and Pakistanis do not deserve us. We have nothing in common with Indians or Pakistani Sindhis, Baluchis, Punjabis or Pathans. we area a unique race with our own culture, language,, cussine and heritage!! We have nothing in common with Indians or Pakistanis.
Prakash Sep 08, 2012 07:47am
Dawn need not bother about any of our politicians to have courage enough to resolve this issue,as we are too lenient and tolerant especially where Pakistan is concerned.
nimesh Sep 07, 2012 03:13am
Sorry but I can see the 'animus' in this statement: :
raj Sep 07, 2012 01:09pm
So what...???? Even u can't buy property in Andaman & Nicobar, Himachal, sikkim & other north-east state.
shakeel khan Sep 06, 2012 04:02pm
what a great show of intolerance on your part!!!!!!!!