Kashmir has been our Achilles heel, no doubt. It has taken a toll of our national budget, and in human terms. Things like Kashmir, Sikkim etc have not exactly enhanced our democratic credentials.
Personally opposed to the idea of forcing nationalism down the throat of the unwilling I do not support coercion in any form, by any one. [Which means that I consider PoK even worse off]
The Kashmiris [Muslims and Pandits, both] who perished, suffered economically and lost opportunities deserve the deepest sympathies. They didn’t deserve this, at all. I generally do not call them militants and instead use ‘separatists’. Yes the Kashmiris themselves can legitimately call them freedom fighters. But in the name of struggle a number of goons, fanatics and mercenaries have played havoc with life, dignity and property.
Personally as an Indian Muslim I would love Kashmir to not only remain but integrate with India. But this must be sought out of love and mutual cooperation rather than under duress. [I may share here that I had written to PM Vajpayee and later followed up with his NSA, Brijesh Mishra offering to go serve in Kashmir voluntarily for two years on some developmental schemes]
The rest of India is gruesomely misinformed on Kashmir. This is an instance of what havoc state propaganda / policy can wreak. Ditto about Pakistan and China. The perception of an average Indian is pathetically distorted on these questions. In such a scenario no forward movement can be possible. Hence educating the Indians [and I suppose the Pakistanis] is of dire importance. In this context such discussions can contribute positively.
By way of postscript may I add:
I had found the Kashmiri Muslims [way back in 1978 through 1980 when I lived there] amongst the most catholic and secular of Muslims in the sub-continent. Their women were far more friendly and liberal in the best sense of the term; they did not observe the letter-box burqua. They made no big deal about namaaz and could offer the prayers on any grassy footpath quite unassumingly. Their dealings with Hindus and other nations were far less complicated and fanatical. Indeed, quite a few of them actually converted to Christianity and not much of a ruckus was caused then… That things changed badly cannot be blamed entirely on them.
May Kashmir return to being Jehangir’s Firdaus bar ruway zameen..