What ails Kashmir?

Print edition :

Smoke rising from a mortar shell fired by the Pakistan Army near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district in November 2017. Photo: PTI

Sheikh Abdullah and V.K. Krishna Menon in a Subjects Committee meeting. N.V. Gadgil and S.K. Patil are also in the picture. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New Delhi in April 2005. The Four-Point Formula that they came close to agreeing upon in 2006 was discarded in 2007. Photo: V. Sudershan

Kashmir’s leaders must abandon their all-or-nothing approach and launch a “peace offensive” to resurrect the Four-Point Formula of 2006 that would make for a de facto union of the two halves of Kashmir by ensuring free movement across the LoC and seek guarantees from both India and Pakistan to make it workable.

“First, Sir, permit to observe, that the use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.

“My next objection is its uncertainty. Terror is not always the effect of force; and an armament is not a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without resource; for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left. Power and authority are sometimes bought by kindness; but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished and defeated violence.

“A further objection to force is that you impair the object by your very endeavours to preserve it. The thing you fought for is not the thing which you recover; but depreciated, sunk, wasted, and consumed in the contest.” — From Edmund Burke’s speech in the House of Commons on March 22, 1775.

Every word of Burke’s plea for conciliation with the rebellious American Colonies is applicable to the Union government’s relations with Kashmir. The talk of atoot ang (integral part) is utterly false. Kashmir acceded to India on October 26, 1947, two months after it became free, and the Indian Union was established on August 15, 1947. The accession was conditional on the will of the people being ascertained. India reneged on its pledges.

The accession was under duress, force majeure—Pakistan’s aggression through the tribesman on October 21, 1947. Reports by the British Resident in Kashmir show that the people’s love of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah did not cover his decision, under duress, to accede to India. Mohammed Ali Jinnah was as popular in Kashmir, if not more. He harmed the entire subcontinent by rejecting India’s Governor General Louis Mountbatten’s fair offer of a plebiscite in Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh. The offer was made on November 1, 1947, at Government House, Lahore. Around that time, V.P. Menon, Secretary, Ministry of State, also took the same view: Kashmir to Pakistan; Hyderabad to India.

Reports by the British Resident in Kashmir, admirably compiled by Lionel Carter, record the people’s strong preference for Pakistan (Partition Observed, British Official Reports from South Asia, Manohar, Volume 2).

Minutes of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet deliberation at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 26, 1947, before Kashmir’s accession reveal the stark reality—they were fully aware that despite Pakistan’s aggression, the people were not for accession to India; hence, the hesitations, even fear. Read this: “Gopalaswami Ayyangar gave his view that immediate accession might create further opposition.” Why? Because the people were opposed to it. He knew that, of course. He was once the Diwan of the State.

“It was agreed that when the accession was accepted this should be subject to the proviso that a plebiscite would be held in Kashmir when the law and order situation allowed this. The Governor General suggested that this plebiscite should be on three questions—to join India—to join Pakistan—or to remain independent. He also suggested that before a plebiscite was held, the future defence of Kashmir might be discussed in the Joint Defence Council. The Prime Minister said that the Government of India would not mind Kashmir remaining an independent country under India’s sphere of influence....

“The Committee directed the Ministry of States to prepare: (a) an Instrument of Accession to India by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir; (b) a letter from the Government of India to the Maharaja, stating the temporary acceptance of this Instrument (with a view to assistance being rendered towards the restoration of law and order) but with the proviso that the will of the people of Kashmir on the question of final accession would be ascertained when conditions allowed this.”

Authentic documents

To all this add these authentic documents, and you get the whole truth. 1. Indira Gandhi’s letter of May 14, 1948, from Srinagar to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, even while the war was still on, reported: “They say that only Sheikh Saheb is confident of winning the plebiscite” (Sonia Gandhi ed., Two Together, Two Alone, Penguin, 2005, page 517).

2. Before long the Sheikh also lost hope. President Rajendra Prasad repeated to Nehru, in a letter on July 14, 1953, that Vice President “Radhakrishnan, on his return from a visit to Kashmir, came and told me that even Sheikh Saheb thought that we would lose in a plebiscite” (Valmiki Choudhary, ed., Rajendra Prasad’s Correspondence, 1984, Volume 16:91).

3. Mir Qasim, who had opposed Abdullah in 1953, put it bluntly when he asked: “What do the people of Kashmir demand?” He replied: “They clearly say that they would not like to remain in India. They ask for a plebiscite so that they will be allowed to answer whether they want to remain in India or go out of India” (Sayyid Mir Qasim, My Life and Times, Allied, 1992, page 298).

4. It was these realities which led Premnath Bazaz, a Kashmiri Pandit, a scholar and follower of M.N. Roy, once a supporter of Sheikh Abdullah, to write 60 years ago: “If Kashmir remains with India against the will of the State’s people it will always find itself in political turmoil. One puppet will succeed another but no government will be stable. It is tragic that, of all people in India, the Congress leaders should be instrumental in subjugating Kashmiris by might of armed military. For more than thirty years the Congress waged a titanic war against British Imperialism under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi” (The History of the Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir, Pamposh Publications, New Delhi).

5. D.P. Mishra told T.C.A. Srinivasavaradan, later Union Home Secretary, in 1964: “Hindustan was still to Kashmir an alien territory” (Chandra Chari ed., The Federal Concept, Allied, 1992, pages 14-15).

The situation has not changed. Militancy first reared its head in 1975 when Sheikh Abdullah made a pact with Indira Gandhi on which she reneged in 1977. The rigged elections of 1987 after the Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah pact lit the fuse. India produced the alienation; Pakistan provided the gun. But even if armed militancy, now mostly local, is crushed, the alienation will remain as will the memories of the pledges India made, the rigged elections it held, the puppets it installed in power—in private they express all the hate a slave has for the master—and the gross, persistent and systematic violations of human rights perpetrated by the Indian Army and security forces.

It was left to one of India’s foremost public intellectuals, Ashok Mitra, former Finance Minister of West Bengal, to rip apart the veil of falsehood and expose the havoc India’s policies have wreaked. “Behind the facade of the constitutional apparatus rests the nitty-gritty of rude fact: the Valley is an occupied territory; remove for a day India’s Army and security forces and it is impossible to gauge what might transpire at the next instant. Some of the stone-pelters may nurse illusions about Pakistan, some may think in terms of a sovereign, self-governing Kashmir, but they certainly do not want to be any part of India... the great Indian nation, with its load of civilisation stretching 5,000 years, is extraordinarily mum.

“The media can afford to be full of narrative of sickeningly shady deals linked to the preparatory arrangements for the impending Commonwealth Games. But the debauching of civilisation in Kashmir, no matter what its underlying reason, creates no ripples. One is suddenly hit by a fearsome realisation: Indians by and large do not perhaps feel at all, this way or that, about the Valley’s people. In other words, the Indian nation is alienated from Kashmir” (The Telegraph, August 27, 2010).

Praja Parishad’s role

Nehru knew who had worsened the situation. After the agitation by the Jana Sangh’s ally, the Praja Parishad, in Jammu, Nehru bared his thoughts to his close friend B.C. Roy, Chief Minister of West Bengal, on June 29, 1953: “They [the people in the Valley] have become frightened of the communal elements in Jammu and in India and their previous wish to be attached to India has weakened. Indeed, at the moment, all the hostile forces against us are dominant in Kashmir.... The position now is that if there was a plebiscite, a great majority of Muslims in Kashmir would go against us. In fact there has been some petty violence also. So, this movement of the Praja Parishad, which aims at a closer integration of Kashmir State with India, has had the opposite effect. It is true that so far as Jammu Province is concerned, it has demonstrated that a majority of Hindus there want closer integration. Nobody ever doubted that and, whatever happens, Jammu cannot leave India. There need be no apprehension about that. The whole difficulty has been about the Valley of Kashmir and we are on the point of losing it because of the Praja Parishad movement. Psychologically we have lost it and it will be difficult to get back to the older position.

“In the ultimate analysis, we gain Kashmir if we gain the goodwill of the people there. We cannot keep it at the point of the bayonet if it is clear that the people do not want us. For the first time public cries are raised in Kashmir that Indian Army should get out....” The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu today is the direct descendant of that Praja Parishad.

6. A devoted and transparently sincere friend’s warning was brushed aside. Jayaprakash Narayan’s letter to Nehru on May 1, 1956, warned: “From all the information I have, 95 per cent of Kashmir Muslims do not wish to be or remain Indian citizen. I doubt therefore the wisdom of trying to ‘keep’ people by force where they do not wish to stay. This cannot but have serious long-term political consequences, though immediately it may suit policy and please public opinion. From the point of view of the desirability of establishing a peaceful social order, it cannot but prove disastrous. I do earnestly wish that this question be considered more from a human, rather than a nationalist, point of view” (Bimal Prasad ed., Jayaprakash Narayan: Selected Works, 1964, Volume 7, page 115).

Indira Gandhi’s recipe

But on Kashmir, Nehru’s democratic credentials yielded to the claims of a short-sighted nationalism. In this he was not alone. Indira Gandhi’s recipe for removing the Kashmiris’ alienation won ready acceptance, and that continues to this day in various forms of escapism. “Personally,” she assured her father, “I feel that all the political talk will count for nothing if the economic situation can be dealt with. Because after all the people are concerned with only [one] thing—they want to sell their goods and to have food and salt.” For her, they had no feelings, no opinions and no soul—a view no different from that of the Collector in colonial times. She had a sure and simple remedy, the like of which we hear still: “But most important of all—and I feel the only thing that can save Kashmir for India and the Kashmiris—will be an influx of visitors this summer, preferably from Bombay and Ahmedabad, since those are ones [who] buy most” (Gandhi ed., 2005: 517-18). This approach continues in 2018. “Development” is the answer to militancy. Nehru expressed the same view in a letter to Sheikh Abdullah on August 25, 1952.

This painful narrative is recited, on the basis of authoritative material, because let alone New Delhi, most in the media and even the academia refuse to accept the truth. An official of the Ministry of External Affairs told this writer brazenly, when confronted with these truths: “We shall deal with them [the people] the way the Kurds have been.” Events since he said this two decades ago show that force will not help. Kashmiris resorted to the same weapon which they first deployed when Akbar occupied their land by force and deceit—stone-pelting. After the Mughals came the Afghans, the Sikhs and Dogras.

It is not so much in the writings of Kashmiris as in the photograph, especially the ones by the Associated Press, that you get the full measure of the alienation—wailing women crowding the windows as funeral processions pass by; mammoth gatherings at funerals; stone-pelting by schoolchildren; and women teasing and abusing security services; and graffiti (See Mudasir Amin and Iymon Majid, “Graffiti in Kashmir”, Economic & Political Weekly, April 7, 2018.) The entire populace—teachers, students, shopkeepers, the Chamber of Commerce and the media—is united.

This, however, is one side of the coin. The other is that Kashmir’s secession from India is impossible. Independence is no option, nor is accession to Pakistan. It cannot gain by a plebiscite or accord what it lost thrice at its own chosen forum—the battlefield. The raids of 1947-48, the war of 1965 and the covert operation launched by Zia-ul-Haq in 1988.

India’s chauvinists do not accept the first side because they fear it leads to secession. Our few liberals reject the second for fear it congeals the status quo. Equally, no government of Pakistan can possibly accept the Line of Control as the boundary. Why should it accept under an accord what it already has?

Kashmiris, the real party

Both ignore the third dimension, the real party—the people of Kashmir. They would not submit to repression, either. They demand azadi, which the three bogus Interlocutors pretended not to understand in their bogus “Report”. Besides, the people will not submit to a division of their land and their peoples. They are not voicing “grievances”. They demand a new order.

The circle can be, and indeed was, squared. Small minds in all the places—India, Pakistan and Kashmir—torpedoed it. The Manmohan Singh-Musharraf formula envisaged an ad hoc understanding for, say, 15 years: agreed quantum of self-rule for all the parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir including the former Northern Areas, now Gilgit-Baltistan; demilitarisation of the State, the troops returning to the frontiers; the LoC converted to “a line on the map” with free movement of people, goods and literature; and an intra-Kashmir mechanism for consultation comprising the Chief Ministers of both sides. All this was settled by the end of 2006 only to be thrown away by domestic politics in 2007.

These gains are not to be sniffed at. But venom overcame reason. There was no Kashmiri input also. This writer suggested an All Jammu & Kashmir Consultative Assembly elected by the legislatures of both halves of Jammu and Kashmir, as a purely consultative body, as the Council of Europe was at the initial stages with defence and foreign affairs excluded from its purview.

Now, no one looks at the formula. In Pakistan, hatred for Musharraf has been extended to the formula. In India chauvinism holds sway. Kashmiris, driven by extremists, ignored the formula.

Narendra Modi & Co. reject the entire approach. Kashmiris can rebel but they do not possess the might to expel India’s Army. Nor can Pakistan grab Kashmir by war. India cannot crush Kashmiris but has no incentive to concede. The big powers are opportunist. India is “a rising power”, statesmanship is alien to the psyche of India’s leaders, diplomats and “intellectuals”.

To quote Burke again, reason is fatigued; invention is exhausted, experience has given judgment, but obstinacy is not conquered. Kashmir cannot be suppressed. Nor can Pakistan be “isolated”. There can be no real peace in South Asia without a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

In May 2017, the Indian Army launched “Operation All-Out”. The Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition broke up in June 2018 and Governor’s Rule was established. Writers in this issue of Frontline have traced the process in detail.

The one thing that renders the status quo untenable, apart from the people’s alienation, is the shedding of all fear by the youth and the steep rise in recruitment of local youths in the ranks of militants. This will increase as the security forces step up their operations to fulfil the Centre’s demand—“settle” Kashmir by force by 2019. On May 14, 2017, the BJP’s “Strategic Adviser” in Kashmir said that the government would “eliminate all militants”. This is the “muscular” policy. It is doomed to failure.

However, Kashmir leaders, justifiably embittered, do not reflect realistically on the options available to them. India cannot simply be evicted from Kashmir by force. Kashmiris can, however, launch a “peace offensive” in pursuit of their goal. The all-or-nothing policy of 30 years has totally failed, entailing a lot of suffering. Kashmiris should themselves own up the Four-Point Formula and seek guarantees from India and Pakistan to make it workable. Aricles 370 and 35 A must be protected. There must be concrete guarantees on free movement across the LoC. De facto, if not de jure, Kashmir will be reunited after 70 years.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor