Published : Feb 12, 2010 00:00 IST

A SILENT PROTEST against "human rights violations", in Srinagar on January 18.-NISSAR AHMAD

A SILENT PROTEST against "human rights violations", in Srinagar on January 18.-NISSAR AHMAD

MYTHS are fostered with a purpose. Even when Sheikh Abdullah was Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir (1947-1953), the myth was sedulously spread that he wanted a Sheikdom when all he sought was respect for the States autonomy. He had cast in his lot with the Congress in 1939. Criticising the Muslim League, on April 14, 1939, he asked, How can we tie ourselves to you?... While we were in greater stress the Congress came to our rescue will anybody tell me how I am wrong, representing a majority community as I do, in trying to win the confidence of the minority community which happens to be the Hindus, the Sikhs and others in Kashmir? (Freedom Movement in Kashmir by Ghulam Hassan Khan; Light & Life Publishers; page 371.)

But M.A. Jinnahs eyes were set on Hyderabad. On April 1, 1939, he said at Aligarh, while praising the Sheikhs sacrifices, I can say with certainty that he is in the wrong got himself ensnared by the Congress (ibid.; page 372).

Chitralekha Zutshi records that in 1946, when the British Cabinet Mission arrived in India, Sheikh Saheb said, The right of self-determination to all the Nationalities inhabiting India will eliminate the possibility of a constitutional solution on communal lines (Languages of Belonging; Permanent Black; page 301). This was the Adhikari Thesis of the Communist Party of India (CPI), to which many of his colleagues were close.

On May 5, 1946, he said that it was entirely for the people to decide on accession. They may either choose to remain absolutely independent or join Pakistan or ask for a corridor in order to join the Government of Hindustan (ibid.; page 302). The partiality for India was not concealed. The Radcliffe Award gave India the corridor through Gurdaspur.

Divisions were not sharp. There were some in the Muslim Conference, like Chaudhuri Hamidullah, who urged Maharaja Hari Singh to declare Kashmir an independent State, not join Pakistan. Only last month, the memoirs of Moti Lal Sagi, Shehej Wath (in Kashmiri), were published, nine years after his death: I personally favour an independent Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits were the first proponents of this idea. The Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Chandra Kak, certainly was.

Sheikh Abdullah knew that he ran against the tide of opinion in Kashmir. But he was repelled by the two-nation theory. He demanded first freedom before accession. Significantly, on October 22, 1947, he proposed that India and Pakistan try to evolve a common centre with defence, communication and foreign affairs a vain hope.

His dilemma was resolved by Pakistans tribal raid. Chitralekha Zutshi, herself an ardent Kashmiri, prizes the integrity of a scholar above the spurious claims of patriotism. Abdullah was made Head of the Emergency Administration on October 30 and Prime Minister on March 5, 1948. Chitralekha Zutshi writes that the National Conference regime was, without doubt, an installation of the Indian government, a fact made apparent by the presence of a vast number of Indian troops in the State. Not only had the National Conference lost its popular mandate with the Kashmiris both Muslims and Hindus but, as significantly, it had never commanded the support of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of the Jammu region, a region that now effectively came under its control. The regime was caught between preserving its own power in the face of multifarious challenges to its authority, pressure from the Indian government to maintain the security of the newly-founded Indian State by suppressing dissident elements within the territory, and its own ideological platform that had promised far-reaching reforms in the political and economic structures of the State.

Ironically, and perhaps predictably, the organisation that had first demanded political and social rights on behalf of Kashmiris became their greatest repressor. The National Conference regime systematically suppressed papers and periodicals that did not agree with Sheikh Abdullah, particularly in the matter of Kashmirs accession to India (page 313). He used the Enemy Agents Ordinance to throw dissidents across the ceasefire line.

Wiser after his dismissal from office and imprisonment for 11 years, the Sheikhs reply to a question put to him on January 6 and 14, 1968, reveals a lot. To the question Would you like to become Chief Minister of Kashmir again? he replied: No, because only that person who enjoys the confidence of the Government of India can be the Chief Minister of Kashmir. I am not in favour of complete independence for Kashmir either, because Kashmir cannot defend itself. In February 1975, however, he became Chief Minister under a deal with Indira Gandhi, whose party, the Congress, commanded a majority in the Assembly. This grim reality of dependence on the Centre has been noted by Kashmiris across the divide. (The conversation was part of an interview to Shabistan Urdu Digest, translated and published as The Testament of Sheikh Abdullah with a monograph by Y.D. Gundevia, former Foreign Secretary; Palit & Palit, New Delhi; page 88).

Evidently, soon after Kashmirs accession to India, Sheikh Abdullah found that in the India of Gandhi and Nehru, to which he had enthusiastically pledged his loyalty, there resided also at the very apex of power men who did not share their ideology of secularism and disliked him and supported the Maharaja. The Sheikhs close friends came from the Left. The CPI backed him. He could not, would not, join Pakistan. Popular feelings, as Indira Gandhi discovered in May 1948, ran in Pakistans favour. He struggled to ease Indias tight embrace, please popular opinion and acquire considerable freedom by an accord with both the states.

Despite its accession to India, the idea of independence for Kashmir was freely aired by Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, and others, as noted earlier (Frontline, January 29, 2010). The Sheikh could not have been unaware of this and made his own moves as a member of the Indian delegation to the Security Council, whose leader, Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, had publicly recognised the possibility of independence.

On January 28, 1948, in New York, Abdullah met the United States representative to the United Nations, Warren Austin. His whole attitude and approach being obviously to seek U.S. support for Indian viewpoint, Austin reported, adding: It is possible that principal purpose of Abdullahs visit was to make clear to U.S. that there is a third alternative, namely, independence. He seemed overly anxious to get this point across, and made quite a long and impassioned statement on subject. He said in effect that whether Kashmir went to Pakistan or India the other Dominion would always be against solution. Kashmir would thus be a bone of contention. It is a rich country. He did not want his people torn by dissension between Pakistan and India. It would be much better if Kashmir were independent and could seek American and British aid for development of country. I, of course, gave Abdullah no encouragement on this line and I am confident when he left he understood very well where we stand on this whole matter. However, the leader of the so-called Azad Kashmir government, Sardar Ibrahim, emphatically said Kashmir could not remain independent (Foreign Relations of the United States: South Asia, 1948, Volume 5; pages 292-293).

In New Delhi on February 21, 1948, the United Kingdoms Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, Patrick Gordon-Walker, had extensive talks with Nehru as well as the Sheikh. The record bears quotation in extenso: 7. At this point Nehru fetched in Sheikh Abdullah and said he would leave us to this together. Just before Nehru left Sheikh Abdullah said he thought the solution was that Kashmir should accede to both Dominions. I had not time to get him to develop this idea before Nehru left the room, but questioned him afterwards. He said Kashmirs trade was with India, that India was progressive and that Nehru was an Indian. On the other hand Kashmirs trade passed through Pakistan and a hostile Pakistan would be a constant danger. The solution therefore was that Kashmir should have its autonomy jointly guaranteed by India and Pakistan and it would delegate its foreign policy and defence in them both jointly but would look after its own internal affairs. The two Dominions share a common interest in Kashmir and it would agree to unite and link them.

I asked whether Nehru would agree to this solution and he said he thought so. He did discuss it with him. I will ask Nehru about this, this morning, when I see him and shall hope to add a paragraph to the end of this telegram. Sheikh Abdullah had no idea whether Pakistan would agree to this solution, but he said it would avoid a plebiscite which he did not really want. He thought India would win but the vote would be close, perhaps 60 to 40, and either way the minority would be so large that it would never really accept the verdict. If Pakistan lost, there would be constant trouble and no peace for Kashmir. The Muslim Conference would accept a joint accession and he could carry his own party.

8. He also said that the problem of the insurgents would solve itself when the raiders withdrew and that his own policy was to create four or five regions with full local autonomy. 9. I then worked back to the idea of a joint guarantee and asked why this was not publicly put forward. He said it must be put forward by the U.K. backed by the U.S. This was an essential and we must tell Pakistan we thought it the only proper solution.

10. Since drafting the above I have seen Nehru again with reference to paragraph 7 above. He says that he would be prepared to accept a solution broadly on the lines of that proposed by Sheikh Abdullah (emphasis added throughout). Nehru himself had aired the idea only a day earlier in a letter to Krishna Menon on the proceedings in the Security Council. Two other points might subsequently arise. One is the possibility of Kashmir being considered more or less independent and guaranteed as such by India, Pakistan and possibly the U.K. The other is the possibility of some kind of partition either by previous agreement or as a result of the vote. I do not fancy either of these; but I do not wish to rule them out altogether. We are not going to put either of these forward unless circumstances more or less compel us.

The British attitude, to begin with, that is six months ago, was definitely in favour of Kashmir going to Pakistan. Subsequently they have talked of partition, meaning thereby that Jammu should come to India and Kashmir Valley and the rest should go to Pakistan. This is totally unacceptable to us. The real bone of contention is the Kashmir Valley. Even Mountbatten has at various times hinted at partition. Recent suggestions referred to the Poonch-Mirpur area being added on to Pakistan while Kashmir Valley, Jammu etc., might remain with India (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Volume 5; page 222).

At a meeting with Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Gopalaswamy Ayyangar and Gordon-Walker on February 26, 1948, Mountbatten suggested that a vote for independence should be included in the plebiscite. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar elaborated on the idea (ibid.; page 232).

Independence was not taboo. V.P. Menon told officials of the British High Commission in New Delhi on February 16, 1948, when one of them suggested to Menon that India might now propose an independent Kashmir jointly guaranteed by the two Dominions as an alternative to their former attitude, that he felt that tactically this could be a good move on Indias part as it would be taken as a gesture of compromise and would shift the onus on to Pakistan. Menon felt that India might well have suggested such a solution earlier in the case debated but he was very doubtful of Pakistan accepting it now.

John D. Kearney, Canadas High Commissioner in India, proposed an independent Kashmir in talks with Girja Shankar Bajpai, Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs, and Nehru. The U.S. Ambassador to India, Henry F. Grady, reported on March 1: Kearney asked Bajpai if GOI would consider an alternative which would be agreement two dominions for plebiscite solely on question of Kashmir independence, and second plebiscite on preference accession, if vote was against independence. Bajpai expressed interest and said he would discuss matter with Nehru. Kearney saw Nehru last night and has just talked with me. Nehru said he favoured plebiscite for independence based on joint guarantee both dominions maintenance independence of Kashmir. Nehru stated he preferred what we may call plan two (plebiscite on independence) as against plan one (my telegram 148 February 21) because it would take the heat out of the situation and form a basis cooperation two dominions (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, Volume 5; page 310. Plan One was for elections to an Assembly followed by plebiscite; page 302).

The U.K.s High Commissioner to India reported to his counterpart in Pakistan: Kearney had then put forward his plan for a plebiscite to be confined to the question of independence for Kashmir or not with a joint guarantee by both Dominions of an independent Kashmir. Nehru had said that the idea was a possible solution and although it would not be liked in India he thought he could put it across. He had agreed that such a plebiscite would remove a great deal of the controversial matters arising from a plebiscite on accessions and he also hoped that a police guarantee would bring India and Pakistan into close harmony in other fields (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Volume 5; page 254).

It is a remarkably consistent record of independence being accepted at the highest level in New Delhi from the time of Kashmirs accession to India in October 1947 until February 1948. All hell broke loose, however, at the report of Sheikh Abdullahs interview to Michael Davidson of The Statesman published on April 14, 1949: Accession to either side cannot bring peace, he declared. We want to live in friendship with both Dominions. Perhaps a middle path between them, with economic co-operation with each, will be the only way of doing it. But an independent Kashmir must be guaranteed not only by India and Pakistan but also by Britain, the United States and other members of the United Nations. Yes, independence guaranteed by the United Nations may be the only solution. But why do you talk of partition?....

During the communal riots in the Punjab after Partition, we tried in our humble way to stem the wave of fanaticism. That is why I urged we should wait before deciding our affiliation. I pleaded with both Dominions to help us first to win internal emancipation before asking us to choose. India replied by refusing to make a standstill agreement with the Maharaja; Pakistan did so. When during the crisis India accepted the Maharajas accession Pandit Nehru insisted that it was only provisional and that the people must decide later.

Two questions arise. Why did Sheikh Abdullah speak thus publicly in 1949 and not in 1947-48 when such a public stand would have altered the course of history? And, what provoked him to speak thus? The answer to both is the same. By 1949 he had been shown repeatedly an aspect of Indias national life which he had dismissed earlier as being of little account. He had seen rank communalism in the highest circles; particularly in the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel and the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, B.N. Mullik. The consequences of Mulliks baleful contribution to our China policy are still with us. As early as on June 19, 1946, Patel wrote of Kashmir: The State being a Hindu State, situated in Muslim surroundings, India itself is in a very delicate and difficult position to take strong action against revolt or lawlessness, as such action at once disturbs the communal atmosphere outside, apart from its repercussions inside the State. The extreme poverty and illiteracy of the masses present an unpleasant picture to a foreign visitor and the State is generally represented outside as extremely irresponsible and unprogressive.

Sheikh Abdullah is supposed to be very popular and his association with Pandit Nehru has been regarded as sufficient guarantee of his being against any separate movement. Evidently, his present stand appears to be capable of double interpretation and perhaps inconsistent with the policy of the States Peoples Conference and therefore contrary to Pandit Nehrus views on this matter (Sardar Patels Correspondence edited by Durga Das; Volume 1, page 4).

On June 16, 1946, he wrote to Pandit Jiyalal Kaul Jalali about Nehru. After all, he is also a Hindu and that a Kashmiri Hindu, and he is one of our foremost patriots and one of the greatest leaders of modern India (ibid.; page 3).

There lies the difference. Nehru would have found the compliment unacceptable, which explains why the Sangh Parivar denigrates him and lauds Patel, who always thought in communal terms.

Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz notes that Abdullah was summoned to New Delhi, where he withdrew his remarks at a press conference on May 18, 1949. Independence may be and is a charming idea, but is it practical too? (Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir; page 424).

The Intelligence Bureaus Director, B.N. Mullik, played his sordid role. The Sheikh had demanded withdrawal from Kashmir of two officials of the I.B. Nehru agreed with Mullik about their innocence. But, his point was that we were in Kashmir because of the Sheikh, and if the latter resiled, Indias position would be different (My years with Nehru: Kashmir; Allied Publishers; page 26). How very true, indeed. Without his support, the Maharajas accession to India would have triggered a revolt led by the Sheikh. He wanted a place in India. From 1939 until he died in 1982, he was against joining Pakistan.

The Jana Sangh leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjis support to the Praja Parishads agitation in Jammu made matters worse. Mullik writes, The Prime Minister was greatly distressed by these harmful developments. He talked to me on the disastrous effects which the Jana Sangh-Praja Parishad agitation was likely to produce on the Muslim mind in Kashmir. He said that the Government of India agreed with the Jana Sanghs views that Jammu and Kashmir should be fully integrated with India and was taking steps in that direction. But, there were other forces like Pakistan and the Security Council which could not be ignored and it was not in Indias power to do whatever she liked in respect of this State. Referring to the Jana Sanghs demand that at least Jammu should be integrated, the Prime Minister said that this would amount to subscribing to the two-nation theory and would destroy the raison detre of Indias existence in the valley. He said that the Jana Sangh agitation had given him a shock and for the first time in five years he had started feeling doubtful about the future of Kashmir (ibid.; page 30). There were powerful figures in the Congress who supported the Jana Sangh line. Nehru acted under their pressure.

Gundevia, who was personally devoted to Nehru, testified: It was not a volte-face on the part of Sheikh Abdullah. It was an about-face on the part of the Government of India, with the Home Ministry winning all along the line and Jawaharlal Nehru gradually succumbing to right wing pressures. The game began, it would seem, with an unobtrusive junior intelligence officer being posted in Kashmir, nominally to watch out for Pakistani activities in the State, but actually to spy on Sheikh Abdullah.

The Sheikh came to hear of the activities of this I.B. officer and soon had him thrown out, with Nehrus help.

The Intelligence Bureau of the Home Ministry was not going to give up the matter that easily. Their sole aim was to ensure that the various reports from Kashmir discredited Sheikh in the eyes of the ruling Congress and Nehru, and their second line of attack was to bring about dissension among Abdullahs followers. They gradually succeeded. On the second occasion, when the Kashmir Constituent Assembly was very much in session and the Sheikh had shown his hand, various reports on the so-called developments in Kashmir found favour in Delhi (in October 1952) and the Sheikhs demand to remove two subordinate intelligence officers from the scene was turned down by the Home Ministry and this time not seriously resisted by Nehru. (Testament; pages 110-111.)

Sheikh Abdullah continued to pursue his ideas in two talks with the U.S. Ambassador to India, Loy Henderson, in September 1950. His report to Secretary of State Dean Acheson must be read in full to appreciate correctly the reasons underlying the Sheikhs suggestions and, more so, their nuances.

In discussing future Kashmir, Abdullah was vigorous in restating that in his opinion it should be independent; that overwhelming majority population desired this independence; and that he had reason to believe that some Azad Kashmir leaders desired independence and would be willing to cooperate with leaders of National Confederation [Conference] if there was reasonable chance such cooperation would result in independence. Kashmir people could not understand why U.N. consistently ignored independence as one of possible solutions for Kashmir. It had held special assembly to deal with independence for Palestine which was smaller in area and population and less economically viable than Kashmir. Kashmir people had language and cultural background of their own. Their Hindus by custom and tradition widely differed from Hindus of India, and outlook and background; their Muslims also quite different from Muslims of Pakistan. Fact was that population of Kashmir homogeneous in spite of presence of Hindu minority.

When I asked Abdullah if he thought Kashmir could remain stable independent country without friendly support of India and Pakistan he replied in negative. In his opinion independent Kashmir could exist only in case it had friendship both of India and Pakistan; in case both these countries had friendly relations with each other; and in case U.S. through U.N. or direct would enable it, by investments or other economic assistance, to develop its magnificent resources. Adherence of Kashmir to India would not lead in foreseeable future to improving miserable economic lot of population. There were so many areas of India in urgent need of economic development, he was convinced Kashmir would get relatively little attention. Nevertheless, it would be preferable for Kashmir to go to India than to Pakistan. It would be disastrous for Kashmiris to be brought under control of government with medieval Koranic outlook.

Abdullah insisted that partition plus plebiscite formula (of Owen) Dixon would be impractical. No method for partition could be devised which would not sever close blood, cultural and economic ties and which would not result in misery economically and otherwise and lasting bitterness. He promised to supply me with map supporting his statement, but floods prevented his seeing me again.

Military observers and other foreigners in Kashmir with whom I talked seemed almost unanimous in their belief that if Valley should be given opportunity to vote freely it would prefer Pakistan to India. Most of them were also of opinion that population in general would prefer independence to any other solution (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, Volume V; pages 1,434-1,435.)

Nehrus pressures to finalise the accession and integrate Jammu and Kashmir fully with the Union prompted the Sheikh to set up a committee of the National Conference to discuss the options. Little did he realise that when Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed and G.M. Sadiq endorsed plebiscite at the last meeting on June 9, 1953, they were leading him up the garden path.

With D.P. Dhar they had long been in touch with Nehru and Mullik and played for time. They recanted their views in the first week of August 1953, days before his arrest on August 9, 1953.

Nehrus orders to dismiss and imprison the Sheikh, and M.O. Mathais note to Indira Gandhi published recently belie charges made against them (Brought to heel, Frontline, September 12, 2008). A prosecution was launched alleging that he wanted to accede to Pakistan. Its object, as Mullik freely admitted, was to ensure that the Sheikh and his colleagues would be ruined for ever (Mullik, page 104; Gundevia, page 108).

On his release from prison on April 8, 1964, Sheikh Abdullah was invited by Nehru to stay with him. His ideas were recorded by Gundevia after a talk at the Prime Ministers House on May 8, 1964. A solution must meet three tests promote India-Pakistan friendship; not weaken the secular ideal of the Indian Constitution; nor weaken the position of the minorities in both states. He had no particular solution in mind but sought alternatives from India to offer to Ayub Khan, who had invited him to visit Pakistan, for eventual parleys at a Nehru-Ayub summit. Acharya Vinobha Bhave had suggested a Confederation between India, Pakistan and Kashmir, while Rajaji thought that this idea was too ambitious for present implementation and, therefore, we should think of a Codominion over Kashmir by India and Pakistan, Defence and External Affairs being the joint responsibility of the two governments.

Gundevia and Nehru knew that neither idea was workable. Pakistan would reject confederation. Abdullah also mooted plebiscite, with independence as an option, to be guaranteed by both states and the U.N. Gundevias ideas were close to Musharrafs four points with joint bodies to deal with a host of issues.

His letter to V.K.T. Chari, Advocate General of Madras and brother-in-law of G. Parthasarathi, dated May 13, 1964, suggests that Nehru wanted the legal aspect to be examined. If there is to be a Confederation and there can be a Confederation, we need not do anything which would look like an annulment of the partition of India. Pakistan and India must remain separate Sovereign States and Kashmir must be brought into the Confederation. The question is: Must Kashmir be by itself a separate sovereign entity. The Confederation, ordinarily, would, probably, involve the Sovereign States of India and Pakistan, having uniform laws and policies on certain subjects, e.g. Defence, External Affairs and Communication, at least. The question is: What other subjects can be brought into this? These might be control and movement of population and passport and visas: A customs union with common trade policies: some attempt at financial integration might also be necessary and worthwhile. Protection of minorities would be a very important issue. Nothing came of it, predictably.

Sheikh Abdullah convened a Jammu and Kashmir Peoples convention at Mujahid Manzil on October 12, 1968, and on June 8-13, 1970. Many a paper read in these proceedings advocated independence. Those from Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) who sent papers advocating independence were duly punished with imprisonment by Pakistan. Prof. Manzoor Fazilis compilation of the papers is very useful (Kashmir Predilection; Gulshan Publishers, Srinagar, 1988). In 1989, militancy erupted in the Valley with cries of azadi (independence). Its fury subsided two decades later, but it continues to simmer.

Shujaat Bukhari reported in The Hindu of January 10, 2010, an officials lament that militants receive local support. He cited the spontaneous support two militants holed up in Punjab Hotel got when a group of youth shouted Mujahido aagey bado hum tumharey saath hein [militants go ahead, we are with you]. Similarly, a strike was observed in Sopore on Friday in protest against the killing of one of the militants in the Lal Chowk encounter. The support, one top security official said, was linked to the political problem in Kashmir.

We need not despair provided we tackle this problem earnestly. The lines between separatists and unionists have blurred. Proposals for autonomy and self-rule can be meshed into the agreed India-Pakistan Framework based on Musharrafs four points.

To be real, self rule must (a) confer sufficient autonomy on Jammu and Kashmir so that it steers its own course within the Union; (b) allow Kashmir to elect its own head of State; (c) remove the deformities since 1953; and (d) provide safeguards against a repetition of the abuse of Article 370 of the Constitution. We must, however belatedly, need Pandit Prem Nath Bazazs advice. If Kashmir remains with India against the will of the States people it will always find itself in political turmoil. One puppet will succeed another but no government will be stable. Finally there will be enough reason for the President of India to use emergency powers, suspend the Constitution and install his own rule in the State. Kashmir can never move towards freedom in such circumstances.

Azadi is rooted in the Kashmiri mind. In 2010, azadi, or independence, need not spell secession.

But self-rule within India must be genuine.
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