Prashant Bhushan, the prominent lawyer and Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader, highlighted the dilemma faced by Indian intellectuals and rights activists when he stated the obvious: that if Kashmiris wanted freedom, no amount of force could keep them down. He also proposed that there be a referendum there about whether or not Indian security forces should remain there. However, he withdrew his proposal after it was disowned by the AAP chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, who said that these were not the party’s views, and after the political spectrum, as well as the Indian media, came down on him like a ton of bricks. Bhushan had already said that there had to be a solution within the Indian Constitution, and in his retraction repeated the atoot ang mantra, saying that Kashmir was an integral part of India. While the later statement may have been dictated by politics, with the AAP not wanting to go into this year’s election having given a lever to the ruling Congress and the main opposition BJP, the earlier displayed the realization among thinking Indians that India’s position in Kashmir is untenable. It is obvious that it involves holding down the Valley against the aspirations of the Kashmiri people by force, and stationing of vast contingents of what are not providers of security, but occupiers.

Mr Bhushan’s initial statement is to be welcomed as realistic, though it fell short of recognizing that the Kashmir problem will only be solved if the people are allowed to exercise their inalienable right of self-determination, and if the referendum is under UN supervision, not Indian. The AAP arose from Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption, and has not only attracted into its ranks people like Mr Bhushan, who is the son of Morarji Desai’s Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, but has propelled it to power in Delhi. At a time when the Congress and the BJP seem to be competing in being more anti-Pakistan and more repressive of Muslims, including Kashmiris, this statement shows the sort of realism that has led to the AAP emerging.

The reaction to Mr Bhushan’s statement should also show Pakistanis that the Indian establishment, which occupied Kashmir and poured unending force in its attempt to make good that occupation, is still alive and kicking. Its goodwill can only be counted on if it is allowed to get away with its wishes, not with what is just. However, when such mainstream figures as Mr Bhushan express such disquiet, it shows that Indian thinkers and intellectuals are coming round to a realization that they are taking part in an injustice even by their refusal to condemn it.