LARGEST CIRCULATED ENGLISH FORTNIGHLY OF J&K
ISSUE FOR THE FORTNIGHT APRIL 15-30, 1999
The Kashmir problem has been looming large since 1947. But most Indian
politicians have failed to grasp the basic facts. The Nehruvian line has been exposed by
the developing situation. It is absurd to equate the Jammu and Kashmir State with the
Kashmir valley. The valley is just a small speck on the vast kingdom Gulab Singh built in
the 19th century. It has an area of about 3,000 square miles against the 84,471 square
miles the State had in 1947. Kashmir was Gulab Singh's last acquisition. He got dejure
control over it under the treaty of Amritsar in 1846. But Gulab Singh had to wage a bloody
war against the last Governor of Kashmir appointed by the Lahore Durbar, in which
thousands of Dogra jawans lost their lives. He then made Srinagar the summer capital of
The Sheikh was then in jail for sedition. Under the influence of his Prime Minister, Ram Chander Kak, Hari Singh toyed with the idea of keeping his State independent for some time. But he soon realised that Pakistan would not permit him to remain so for long. Hari Singh dismissed Kak and began to prepare for accession to India. But his dilemma persisted because of Nehru's interest in the Sheikh. Released from jail in September 1947, the Sheikh was in two minds. Knowing his Kashmiri Muslim followers, he favoured Pakistan. But the Sheikh first wanted to be assured that he would be given charge of Kashmir, and not treated like the Khan brothers, in the event of accession to Pakistan. He sent his trusted colleague, Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, to Lahore on October 5, 1946, to meet Jinnah, who bluntly told the emissary that Kashmir was going to fall into his lap like a ripe apple in any case.
This put the Sheikh in a quandary. He decided to sit on the fence. When Pakistan launched its armed attack on the night of October 21, 1947, to clinch the issue by force, the Sheikh, who had left Kashmir for safety, did not utter a single word in condemnation. By then Hari Singh had realised that his small army could not stem the tide of Pakistani invaders. He decided to accede to and sought armed help from, India. But Nehru dragged his feet for fear of a war. Then Justice Mehar Chand Mahajan, Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, threatened to fly to Karachi and accede to Pakistan. To save more than 100,000 beleaguered Hindus in Srinagar, Nehru had to fall in line with Patel who was keen on accepting the accession. This was done on October 26 and airborne Indian troops, after receiving Gandhiji's blessings, reached Srinagar in the early morning on October 27.
A vivid description of those hectic days has been given by the Sheikh in his autobiography, Atisha-i-Chinar. It would upset even his worst apologists. The Sheikh privately corroborated to Nehru Justice Meher Chand Mahajan's assessment of the situation at that crucial meeting of the Indian Cabinet. The Instrument of Accession signed by Hari Singh was the same as those signed by rulers of other princely States. It is a legal document which does not permit any 'ifs' and 'buts'. According to it, once accepted, accession was full, final, unconditional and irrevocable. This should have solved the problem of Jammu and Kashmir for all practical purposes. But Muslims of Kashmir, like those who stayed back in truncated India after the partition, had their sympathies for Pakistan. That is still true. It was a blunder to force Hari Singh to handover the administration of Jammu and Kashmir to the Sheikh. In his very first speech in Srinagar on the evening of October 27, 1947, which I heard with my own ears, the Sheikh declared: 'We have picked up the crown of Kashmir from dust. The question whether we join India or Pakistan can wait. We have to complete our independence (Azadi) first'. In his hour-long oration he did not refer even once to the accession of the State to India and the heroic sacrifices of the Indian armed forces which had made his return to Srinagar possible. The militants and Pakistani agents in the Valley are speaking the same language today.
The seeds of separatism in Kashmir, after the accession, were sown by the Sheikh. A self-seeker who was primarily interested in making Kashmir an independent sheikhdom under his thumb, he was no friend of India. Had the Sheikh been honest, he could have changed the mind of Kashmiri Muslims who had acquired a bitter taste of Pakistani Mujahideen. Had Kashmir gone to Pakistan, it would have bee colonized by Punjabis and Pathans. Kashmiri Muslims would then have been groaning in agony like Sindhi Muslims. Had the Sheikh genuinely loved Kashmir, he could have taken the initiative to reorganise the State and made Kashmiri the language of instruction and administration in the Valley. That would have safeguarded the Kashmiri identity, bringing the people closer to the rest of India. But the Sheikh was more keen on developing ties with Pakistan. But for the supreme sacrifice of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, he might have slipped into Pakistan after declaring the Valley independent.PLEBISCITE Nehru's offer of a plebiscite and reference of the issue of Pakistan aggression to the UN turned Sheikh Abdullah into an arbiter from a supplicant. He worked up communal passions of Kashmiri Muslims and, at the same time, put pressure on Nehru to give him virtual independence as a price or securing the votes of Kashmiri Muslims in favour of India. The result was the inclusion of Article 370 in the Constitution. Nehru sent the Sheikh to BR Ambedkar, then Law Minister and Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. Ambedkar himself told me that, after listening to the Sheikh's plea for a special status, his reaction was: 'You want India to defend Kashmir, feed its people, give Kashmiris equal rights all over India. But you want to deny India and Indians all rights in Kashmir. I am Law Minister of India. I cannot be a party to such a betrayal of national interests'.
But Nehru stood committed to the Sheikh who had come to have an
inexplicable hold on him. He got the thing done through Gopala Swamy Iyenger, the latter
having sought Patel's cooperation to save Nehru's honour. Thus was this Article of
disintegration added to the Constitution in September 1949. But, in view of the determined
opposition in the Constituent Assembly, a specific assurance was given that it was a
purely temporary measure to tide over a difficult situation and would soon be abrogated.
That is why it was put in the chapter of the Constitution entitled 'Temporary and
Transitional Provisions' II
The Simla agreement recognized Pakistan as a party to the dispute. Till then India's stand had been that Pakistan had no locus standi in Kashmir, which was described as a purely internal problem of India. Operation Topac, launched by President Zia in 1988, has now entered its third phase. Pakistan has gone too far. It has logistic and demographic advantages in this proxy war. There is no reason to believe that it will pull back unless things become too hot for it. The demise of the Soviet Union has upset Pakistan's plans. But its internal compulsions continue. To seek a peaceful settlement with Pakistan in Kashmir is to run after a mirage. Some Pakistani leaders have been trying to divert the attention of the gullible in India by Talking of an 'independent Kashmir' as a solution to the problem. But this has few takers. Pakistan wants Kashmir for itself.
Even if the Valley is granted independence, it will not last. Pakistan
will grab it in no time. Kashmiris know this better than anyone else. Mr Amanullah Khan of
the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, advocate of this idea, is not a Kashmiri. He comes
from occupied Kashmir and has little following in the Valley. At the same time the
international situation may not permit a war to liberate the occupied territory. The
people there are now well-integrated with Pakistani nationals. It will not be worth
India's while to wage a war on their behalf. Moreover, these areas no longer have any
strategic importance for India. Statesmanship and realism demand that India must
concentrate on what is possible: acceptance of the Line of Actual Control as the
international boundary. If Pakistan agrees, this line can be rationalized to meet defence
needs on both sides. That may give Pakistan a couple of thousand square miles in the
Krishan Ganga and Poonch sectors, and a few hundred square miles to India in the Jammu and
Chhamb sectors. India should take steps to integrate the three regions on its side of
Those waging a war for secession are little concerned with Article 370. It has, as Mr Jagmohan has established with facts and figures in his book on Kashmir, only widened the gulf between Kashmir and the rest of India. Continuation of the Kashmir valley in India does not depend on the will of Kashmiri Muslims. A majority of them have never been for India. Born and brought up in Kashmir, I know their mind, having taught history in the DAV College of Srinagar for many years before 1947.
Mr Philip Talbot, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, asked me in Washington in 1964 whether it was not a fact that a large majority of Kashmiris were for Pakistan, and not for India. I replied, 'Yes'. He then asked why India was not permitting Kashmir to secede and join Pakistan. Thereupon I asked him whether it was not a fact that a majority of the people of Mississippi and Alabama wanted their States to get out of the USA. He said, 'Yes'. I then asked him why the USA was not permitting these States to secede. His reply was refreshingly candid and clear: 'The USA was a sovereign State and its Constitution did not permit secession. It fought a civil war to prevent southern States from seceding. It cannot permit any State to secede regardless of the wishes of its people'. I then told him that the same was true of India and also referred to considerations of national security. Mr Talbot agreed with me.
There is a case for decentralisation and devolution of powers to States, districts and villages all over India. That applies to Kashmir as well. But any suggestion to single out Kashmir for special treatment, because it happens to be a Muslim majority region, would be counter-productive. This has been proved by the experience of the last 45 years. Kashmiri Hindus, who have left the Valley for various reasons since 1944, number about 700,000. Their representatives met in a conclave at Jammu on December 26-27, 1991, and passed a unanimous resolution demanding a homeland in the Valley. They have specified the area to the north and the east of the Jhelum in the southern part of the Valley, which they would like to be declared a Union Territory within India. They have pleaded for being made a party to any negotiations about Kashmir at the national and the international levels.CLAIM This claim is unassailable. If Kashmiri Muslims and their Pakistan patrons persist in their present tactics, partition of the Valley cannot be averted. Nor is this a new suggestion. Anglo-Americans put forth such a plan during the Chinese invasion of 1962. They had proposed transfer of the northern part of the Valley, including Baramula, Sopore, Bandipur, Kupwara and Gulmarg, to Pakistan, leaving the southern, including the city of Srinagar with India. That proposal fell through after China's unilateral cease-fire. There is now no question of any part of the Valley being given to Pakistan. The demand for a homeland of Kashmiri Hindus, about 500 square miles in the southern part of the Valley, cannot be brushed aside. The rest of the Valley can be made a separate State, with greater devolution of powers within the framework of the Constitution. All this will, of course, have to follow restoration of peace and complete rout of Pakistani stormtroopers. War and peace cannot got together.