The recent attack on Prashant Bhushan by activists of an obscure right wing organisation named Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena is no doubt regrettable. Being a democratic country, Indian constitution has reposed in its citizens multitudes of fundamental rights including freedom of expression and speech; and thus people of this country should respect the difference of opinions and viewpoints. Moreover, use of blatant and indiscriminate violence to stifle a free voice is quite unfortunate for a democratic country like India. But can Prashant Bhushan hide behind these pleas?

 The reason for that unfortunate attack was a statement given by Mr Bhushan in which he had supported withdrawal of army, repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and plebiscite in Kashmir. Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena claims that by demanding plebiscite and removal of army from Kashmir, Mr Bhushan is trying to ‘break’ India and that they will resist any attempt which according to them goes against the integrity and sovereignty of our country.

Let’s find out one by one why these demands of Mr Bhushan are baseless as well as detrimental to the people of Kashmir.

1) There are several aspects which have been deliberately overlooked by our civil society activists when they talk of plebiscite and removal of Indian army from Kashmir. The erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which got merged with India, after a brutal breach of confidence and trust by Pakistan, is not the same as it was in 1947. Pakistan illegally occupied our land in 1947-48 while China too has annexed a large chunk of Aksai Chin in 1962.

The Security Council resolution of 1948 specifically mentions that a plebiscite in Kashmir can take place only when it is under the administration of a single government based in a single city i.e. Srinagar. This is not the case so before pressing Indian government for changing its policy on demand of plebiscite Mr Bhushan should appeal the governments of Pakistan and China for the same. It seems quite absurd just like the demands of Mr Bhushan. International community, save countries such as Iran, too has duly expressed that the resolution of 1948 has no relevance left and that the very question of plebiscite for determining the future of Kashmir is an excuse used by Pakistan to garner some respect and sympathy at the international forum.

2) Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was not applicable to Kashmir before 1990. It was only after Pakistan started a proxy war  that resulted in complete failure of constitutional machinery in Kashmir that Government of India (GOI) was forced to extend it to Kashmir. The local machinery failed in providing protection to the Hindus who were forced to move out of their eternal homeland. Not only this, an ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus sponsored by Pakistan and implemented with the help of their local sympathisers resulted in a drastic change in the demographics of Kashmir.

According to estimates 95% of Kashmiri Hindus have, since, left their homelands. These hapless people who are forced to live a life of refugee in their country are still languishing in the makeshift camps of Jammu and Delhi. Would Mr Bhushan care to explain, how he can even think of a plebiscite which will decide the future of Kashmir without the voice of these 5 lakh natives of Kashmir? Why can’t he and his horde of human rights activists demand steps for their complete rehabilitation?

3) Kashmir was inundated by Pakistani tribal soon after its independence in 1947. It was only after the intervention of Indian army that the people of Kashmir remained independent from the clutches of terror originating from Pakistan. We have seen how unscrupulously Mr Pervez Musharraf tried his level best to change the demographics of Kashmir by masterminding the Kargil infiltration of 1999. Can Mr Bhushan give a guarantee to the people of India that withdrawal of army from Kashmir will not result in a similar kind of eventuality?

Mr Bhushan and his team of civil activists are trying to prove right what has been an official stand of Pakistan since eternity – plebiscite in Kashmir and a right of self-determination for Kashmiris.  He is again trying to establish something which has been discarded not only by people of India but also by the international community. In fact he is unknowingly helping Pakistan in furthering their agenda.

Mr Bhushan is envisaging a free Kashmir which would be secular, which would respect human rights and freedom of free expression. Isn’t this absurd considering the plethora of cases where Kashmiri Hindus were killed and forced to move out of Kashmir because of their religion?

He might be living in a state of constant denial, but we Indians are not. It’s high time that learned people like him , instead of knowingly or unknowingly playing in the hands of separatists, concentrate on solving the real grievances of Kashmiris.

Shekhar Sengar is a friend of CRI
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