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Aazadi, Kashmir And Kautilya – OpEd


More than 7 months have passed since the Indian Parliament nullified Article 370 and 35 A which provided special status to the state. This was followed by a communication blockade and complete shutdown of Internet services which is now the longest Internet shutdown in any democracy. The solution to the Kashmir problem cannot be reached without taking pre-emptive measures to surmount Pakistan and deter China from becoming a party to the issue. In light of all these events, this article tries to analyse the Kashmir problem through Kautilyan thought and envisions the solution to it drawing from Arthashastra.

Lack of proper governance has always been a problem in Kashmir which in turn led to militancy which has further contributed to anti-India sentiments among the masses. The situation has further deteriorated after the abrogation of Article 370. Kautilya in Arthashastra cautioned not to use force against a large number of people. It is not advisable to control a large number of people with the use of force as it will further deteriorate the situation. Deployment of troops in large numbers and the subsequent curfews by the government have alienated people from the mainstream. This needs to be addressed sooner than later if peace and prosperity is desired. This is where Kautilya’s Arthashastra comes into the picture. In his Arthashastra he has written at great length about administration of a region including its defence, intelligence and welfare of people at large. 

He has written about the measures to adopt in situations when a part of the Kingdom comes under a conflict due to outside elements. Pakistan’s military doctrine of bleeding India with thousand cuts has been to an extent effective in Kashmir. It’s ISI has been successful in penetrating the Kashmiri Awaam with a sense of hatred towards India. In this regard, the great thinker writes, “It is the people who constitute a kingdom, a kingdom without people yields nothing”. 

The Centre of Gravity in Kashmir is ‘Awaam’ the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends. Assurance needs to be instilled among the Kashmiri Muslims. Even Kautilya writes in Arthashastra that towards a disaffected population the aim should be to gain the confidence of the people. The focus now should be on reviving the mutual connections between the Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits through common traditions and rituals. 

The communication blockade has created a feeling of fear and resentment in the valley. Brigadier A.S Chonker says, “The promotion of Kashmiriyat which is believed to be an expression of solidarity, resilience and patriotism regardless of religion can be applied to win back trust.” The Kashmiriyat has to be again evoked in the hearts and minds of people through a plethora of initiatives. The policymakers should praise the merits and good nature of the Kashmiri people through the use of vernacular media. 

The communication blockade is doing more harm as it has made them more vulnerable to separatist elements. Social media is a double edged sword and the state should try to imply it for its own benefit. Kautilya writes about Praising the merits of people through mutual connections. He also uses inducement as a means of conciliation. Social media is a powerful medium and was prevalent among the youth before the internet shutdown. Despite being a double-edged sword, social media can be used by the government to connect with Kashmiri youth. Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram etc. can be used to rejuvenate the lost Kashmiriyat. 

Education is another tool which can change the hearts and minds of hardened criminals. In this regard, Kautilya says, “Like a freshly made earthen pot is stained by whatever liquid is poured into it, a young mind soaks up whatever it is exposed to and considers it as an acceptable act”. Unfortunately, education has suffered in Kashmir due to mass protests and terror activities. As per the survey conducted by the Observer Research Foundation around 46.3% of college going students feel that Unemployment is a factor in the unrest. Over the period of time young bright minds have found it easier to hold a gun in their hands than a book. In this regard, special funds should be allocated to promote education at all levels. About 70% of the population in J&K is under 35. If skilled properly they can play a crucial role in development of the region. 

Kautilya says, “the king shall not act in such a manner as would cause impoverishment, greed or disaffection among the people; if however, they do appear, he shall take remedial measures”. Tourism is the backbone of the economy in Kashmir and 50-60% of the population is directly or indirectly engaged in tourism related activities. Tourist footfall has drastically fallen in the last 6 months and has impacted people’s daily livelihood. According to a report in Deccan Herald out of 4500 Shikaras only 400 are rowing in the famous Dal Lake that too against a 50% discount rate. Clearly people’s earnings have been reduced drastically, leaving their families impoverished. Thus developments in Education and Tourism can help revive the economy and restore Awaam’s trust in the government. This will in turn lead to true normalcy in Kashmir. 

Mughal Emperor Jahangir mesmerized with the beauty of Kashmir said “Gar Firdaus Bar Rue Zamin Ast, Hami Asto, Hami Asto, Hami Ast”. This Persian couplet beautifully describes Kashmir as a paradise on Earth. In the last few decades this paradise has witnessed violence and bloodshed on numerous occasions, largely driven by Pakistan’s deep state which dreams of bleeding India by a thousand cuts. The constant Chinese support to Pakistan has also led to instability in the region. Pakistan through proxy war has been trying to radicalise Kashmiri Muslims with extremist propaganda. 

Prolonged Internet shutdown and deployment of Armed forces cannot be a solution to the failure of local governance. Official accounts estimate that 40000 lives have been lost since the insurgency started in 1990s. The atmosphere of uncertainty in the valley is doing no good to ease the situation and Kashmiris fear that genocide awaits them. In these tumultuous times the policymakers need to revisit Arthashastra and take lessons from it to peacefully integrate the ‘Awaam’ of Kashmir with India. 

*Shahnawaz Mughal is an Independent Researcher. He has completed his Master in International Area Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Previously he has interned with Centre for Land Warfare Studies. His research area is Defence & Strategic Studies. He also has a keen interest in Kautilyan Studies. He can be reached at [email protected]

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