Balagopal saw the ‘Jammu and Kashmir question’ as embodying a fundamental challenge to politics in India. Thus, he wrote ‘Kashmir has in many ways been the litmus test of Indian democracy, not only for the political establishment, but for the democratic public opinion too. To think and speak democratically about Kashmir is, for an Indian, to question all the ingredients of established Indian nationalism, not merely of the saffron variety but the progressive/secular variety, too.’ (Will the Pain never End?, 2007). There is an anecdote told about Balagopal that reveals much about his feelings about Jammu and Kashmir. When asked in conversations if he had ever travelled abroad, he would say, “Oh yes, of course”.
If the curious questioner then further asked to which foreign countries he had been, he would reply with a hint of a smile, “Why, I have been to Jammu and Kashmir so many times!” Indeed, Balagopal visited Jammu and Kashmir almost every year between 1995 and 2007, as a member of human rights fact finding or election monitoring teams and was central to the production of several ground breaking human rights reports in the period. He addressed press conferences, and public meetings in Jammu and Kashmir and India, and wrote about these experiences with his usual fearlessness in newspaper columns and journal articles, always placing the right to self determination and the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir at the heart of the issue
. In doing this he squarely confronted the discomfort of the Indian left and liberal-secular movements on the question of politics and religious identity.
He wrote ‘If irreligious or non-religious identities alone deserve support, then no national self-determination movement can ever be supported, because there is no national identity – at least in the Third World – that is totally devoid of a religious dimension.’(Kashmir: Self-determination, Communalism and Democratic Rights, 1996).Though Balagopal’s individual contributions to the fact finding reports produced by teams of which he was a part are subsumed under the ethic of collective authorship that democratic rights groups follow, the imprint of his characteristic writing style is unmistakable in these reports.
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society [JKCCS]