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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
What should Kashmir's future be?
More than half a century after the last Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir signed up his princely state to be part of India, the issue of Kashmir's status has still not been resolved.
Over the past twelve years, at least 30,000 people have died as Kashmiri separatists - supported by Pakistan - fight to end Indian rule.
After all this bloodshed, should Kashmiris now be reconciled to Indian rule? Should India offer autonomy to Kashmir, the only part of the country to have a large Muslim majority?
Or should Kashmiris be allowed self-determination, as the separatists - and Pakistan - insist? And if so, what should they choose - India, Pakistan, or even independence? Tell us what you think.
The World Today's Andrew Whitehead visited both Pakistan-administered and Indian-administered Kashmir and hosted the debate live from Srinagar.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Having visited Kashmir several times in the past few years, I have been struck by the poor state of affairs there. Living conditions, environment and the
law and order situation are all in an appalling state in a region once touted for its beauty and serenity. In my opinion, Kashmir can only improve when the people there realise that fighting for a cleaner environment, better economy, and improved living standards has to take priority over suicidal squabbling over the issue of independence.
People sitting in Pakistan and talking of democracy in Kashmir, first let them think of their own democracy before getting involved in the internal matters of their neighbour.
If India is so democratic why does it not exercise this democracy in its largest state and listen to the people? Why are there tens of states in India fighting for their freedom? The truth is repression and continued annihilation for over half a century has resulted in the Kashmiris picking up the gun and their helpers coming from all over the world. Just like they did in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia. Only freedom can bring about peace in Kashmir which India will resist with all its might.
Who gave India the right to interfere in Kashmiri affairs? It's absurd to blame Pakistan alone for any intrusion. Indian army atrocities are record-level in Jammu and Kashmir, funnily they call it a fight against terrorism.
Self-determination is a noble principle. It is also Utopian. Much as we would like it not to be so, the fact is that affairs of state are not governed solely by rules of morality and goodness. Even in the best of nations, they are conducted in a manner that ensures the best possible outcome for the maximum number of people. The ends justify the means. Both Pakistan and India work by this rule.
Sanjay, India/ Japan
Democracy's role is to respect the views and opinions of the majority of people, no matter how bitter and sad the outcome may be. The majority of people in India want Kashmir to stay in India, so it must stay. Plain and simple
I think the best scenario will be Kashmir as an independent Islamic republic with common defence and close economic co-operation and ties with Pakistan. That will take care of both Islamic and nationalistic forces and may unite the country (Kashmir).
Murad Ansari, Pakistan
Nothing should be done to Kashmir for the next 10 years as according to world scholars Pakistan is going to be fragmented by then and India will not only have Kashmir but also five more provinces currently known as Pakistan as bonus.
I am a Hindu Kashmiri from Jammu and I am currently in the USA. If Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan, there will be massive ethnic cleansing of the Hindus and Buddhists of Jammu and Ladakh. Does a fundamentalist country like Pakistan have the right to a region with such a substantial non-Muslim population? What the Taliban did to the Buddha statues, the Pakistanis will do to the Kashmiri Hindus and Buddhists.
Every state in India has the right for self-determination. India is not a country with communist, military or a king as an authoritarian ruler. In a democracy, people's mandate is important and that is what the constitution says. All the rulers are only servants of the people. Religion is for peace and not for revolution. It is better to remain united. As told by Christ, a country which breaks away has no stability. Therefore, get the people's mandate if Kashmir want to separate.
The issue is not essentially based on religion as India and Pakistan would have you believe. It is based around the founding ideologies of India and Pakistan. Pakistan cannot allow a Muslim-majority state to remain part of India because that would undermine the ideology on which Pakistan was created i.e. a separate Muslim nation. If India allows Kashmiris their right to self-determination they will surely be either completely independent or join Pakistan. In either case that will undermine the ideology of India, i.e. that all minorities can be part of one Indian nation.
Granted that Kashmir achieves freedom, who can guarantee that it won't become another Afghanistan? India might be a poor, developing country, but it is nevertheless forward thinking, secular and a potential economic power in the region.
Kashmiris must concentrate on building up their state with the autonomy they already enjoy for the future of their children and all generations to come. Any other option will prove disastrous in history. The unification of Europe must be a inspiration and model to us all in the subcontinent.
I thought democracy was something in which people have the right to self-determination. Now that raises an interesting question. Is India really a democratic country? If it means self-determination for all ethnic communities in India resulting in 100 independent states, then so be it. That is what democracy is all about.
Arun Kumar Sinha, UK/ India
India and Pakistan should allow an independent party to arbitrate - like the UN. That's why it was created!
As a Kashmiri, I believe it is my legal and fundamental human right to call for self-determination in the region. India refuses to abide by international law and continues its unlawful oppression of the Kashmiri people. All this is indicative of the country's hypocritical and undemocratic stance. How can it continue to claim to be a democracy when it blatantly disregards the rule of law.
Mohammed Jamil, UK
It is nice to talk about stuff like self-determination and so forth. But the reality is that a minority which constitutes around 20% of the population is vocal and willing to use every dirty trick in the book to achieve its aim. In the interim, India might want to take a leaf out of the Pakistani political system to create separate electorates to cut the gravy train of the Sunni fundamentalists.
Yes, Kashmiris have the right to self-determination but only under peaceful circumstances. India however has every right to ensure that Pakistan does not end up creating another "Afghanistan" on our doorstep.
How about a middle ground? Let Pakistan keep what it has and India keep what it has.
Kevin Fernandes, Canada
The Indian constitution provides for equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their religious background. I see precious little to be gained (by the separatists) by separating Kashmir from a functioning democracy.
An honourable solution is what is needed which may not be what either India or Pakistan find easy to stomach but otherwise there is no other choice. How much more blood should be shed? Or should we wait until Kashmir has been burnt out completely?
Pakistan and her Western backers have been harking on about self-determination for Kashmir for a long time. Yes, self-determination for Kashmir provided that it is also allowed for all those minorities - very significant, large minorities - who had been living in what is now Pakistan from ancient times and whom Pakistan has ethnically cleansed and evicted from the country - people such as the Vajpayees, Advanis, etc.
The Government of India should never autonomise or shall hand over Indian administered Kashmir to Pakistan. I am sure Kashmir can turn out to be a better place for all minorities and majorities living there if Pakistan stops interfering for its unjustified selfish interests.
The Kashmiris have the right to self-determination, and India which regards itself as a large democracy, should give the people that right.
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