Akrita Reyar Ever since the Kashmir cauldron went from cool to simmer and now to boil, there has surprisingly been a glut of intellectual opinion that advocates a policy of going with people’s free will. That people should be allowed to script their own destiny sounds very just and theoretically ideal; but the scenario that will emerge thereafter will be far from perfect. I am afraid the Indian liberal is getting perilously generous. National interest comes first and it cannot be compromised at any cost. Our large heartedness must not be allowed to push the fate of a nation over the precipice; for we cannot let someone commit suicide in the name of free will. 1. Challenge to our Identity: The very concept of Indianess that holds this country together rests on the rejection of the two-nation theory. The idea that the Hindu and Muslim communities cannot co-exist peacefully with one identity of citizenship was not acceptable to us in 1947, and remains equally non grata today. We face our own challenges, but at least a paragon of secularism has been set. Loss of territory apart, the psychological wounds of such a division continue to linger and create anguish. India is not available for amputation a second time! 2. International Standing: After years of subservience and exploitation, India is beginning to take its place under the sun. This is our century and we cannot afford to fall back. In this day and age posturing does matter. An option of plebiscite will make us look meek. Every leading country on earth faces secessionist forces. China & Russia are two examples in our own backyard. And whatever the Kashmiris may say about excesses by the Indian security forces, we look almost tender compared to our neighbours’ iron-fisted rule. Big countries don’t lose territory; they expand their sphere of influence! 3. Pandora’s Box: India has confronted and successfully overcome several attacks on its territorial integrity. There were shrill and violent outbreaks and upheavals in Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Punjab. The secessionist forces were crushed in each case and peace was restored; to the advantage of the very people who first raised the banner of dissent. A deviation from our policy of zero tolerance towards separatists will breathe life into dormant secessionist movements. I am not trying to play Cassandra here, but there is a real possibility of a ricochet effect that may lead to an ultimate balkanization! 4. Security of Muslims: The most ghastly effect will probably be felt by the Muslims of mainland India. They are yet fighting the prejudice that convulsions of the 1947 partition threw up. A second schism and that too on religious lines will lead to such paroxysms of bloodshed that generations of Indians will not be able to wash it off. Some vested and right wing forces in the country will want nothing to do with a community that would have twice betrayed their motherland. And it is the flag bearers of Azadi who will have blood on their hands! 5. In the Interest of Kashmiris: One of the most important reasons why we should not let Kashmiris go is because they are Indian. They can cry hoarse saying they are not; but that is because of their deep sense of alienation caused by our own flawed policies, provocation from across the border as much as by the failure of Kashmiri leadership. There is no problem on earth for which a solution cannot be thrashed out across the table. More than anything else an independent Kashmir is not an economically feasible option for them. The backers of “free choice” have added that besides not wanting to suffocate people’s voice; they wanted to jettison a burden that has politically and financially frustrated us, dragged down our growth and put our security forces to extreme hardship. While I agree that Kashmir has been a headache, it must add to our sense of urgency and strengthen our resolve to put things right. Discarding a problem area would be selfish and unpatriotic!