October 16, 2011

life in general: prashant bhushan, anna hazare, kashmir and plebiscite

Today is Sunday. Three Sundays back, on 25 Sep 2011, Prashan Bhushan [an active lawyer, advocate at the Supreme Court of India and an active member of what is referred to as Team Anna (the group of people behind Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign)] was speaking at a "Meet the Press" program organised by Kashi Patrakar Sangh at Varanasi. Whether he was speaking on behalf of Team Anna at that press conference I am not sure (this Times of India newsreport dated 25 September is all that I could find on the web and it is not clear on this aspect).

Anyway, someone must have asked him a question on Kashmir to which his response, most likely in his personal capacity and not as a representative of Team Anna, among other articulations included his point about a plebiscite that could be held in Kashmir to ascertain the people of Kashmir's thinking about whether they wanted to stay as a part of India or to become an independent country.

Last week, on Wednesday, 12 October, Bhushan was physically attacked by three persons of an extremist group called Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, as a protest over his 25 September remarks on Kashmir plebiscite.

The next day, on Thursday, 13 October, a few public supporters of Anna Hazare, were brutally beaten up by other activists of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena on the road outside a court where the bail application of Bhushan's attacker was being heard.

Yesterday, on Saturday, 15 October, Anna Hazare says he strongly disagreed with Bhushan's views on Kashmir and so he and other core committee members of Team Anna, excluding Bhushan, will decide on whether Bhushan will continue to be considered a part of Team Anna or be excluded. See newsreports here and here.

The above is the background.

Now my views:

I not only agree with Bhushan on a plebiscite in Kashmir but I think there should be an official plebiscite policy whereby once every 50 years there should be a plebiscite in every state of India to determine whether the people of a state wanted to continue to be a part of India or become an independent country (no third option of joining any other country should be given and it should be made illegal to become a part of any other country afterwards in case a choice of independence is made). For the plebiscite to be valid, a minimum voting turnout of 75% has to take place and of the votes given at least 75% has to be for becoming an independent country (if less than 75% of votes given is for independence then that state continues being a part of India). In case, a state chooses to become indpendent, it should be legally bound to hold a reverse plesbicite after 50 years whether its people want to revert back to India or remain independent.

I would prefer seeing every country in the world (including Pakistan) have a similar plebiscite policy with regard to their different states/districts, and if any country does not have such a formal policy the United Nations should exclude them from its membership.

But it is perfectly fine for anyone to think that Kashmir is an integral part of India and that there should be no question of a plebiscite. Bhushan has a view. I have mine. They have theirs. There is no need for violence. Bhushan's views or mine are not seditious because he, and me, are not telling Kashmiris to take up arms to have a plebiscite. We are sharing our thoughts on what we think is fair and we certainly do not want to incite anyone to violence to implement our thoughts. So, there is no question of sedition. I, for one, as a voter registered in Bombay in Maharashtra, will in any plebiscite held in Maharashtra, will vote for it to continue to be in India and not become an independent country.

Coming to Anna Hazare's threat of expelling Bhushan from Team Anna, I find it to be representative of Hazare's support for authoritarianism and his tendencies to be un-democratic. Bhushan would not lose anything in not being a part of Team Anna, but Anna Hazare would lose a honest and hard-working supporter in his campaign against corruption.

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