Nahi kuch subha-o-zunnar ke phande mein girai/wafadari mein sheikh-o-brahaman ki aazmaish hai (The loop of the rosary and the sacred thread cannot hold any one/ The real test of the Sheikh and the Brahmin is in their faithfulness).
Mirza Ghalib’s couplet accurately sums up the roots of the Kashmir dispute. It also provides a clue to the ever deteriorating situation in the State. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s Kashmiri nationalism clashed with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Indian nationalism. The clash was inherent in their relationship even at the best of times. Nehru arrogantly spurned conciliation and resorted to brute force, with the aid of the army, by ousting Abdullah from the office of Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir on August 9, 1953, and imprisoning him for 11 years. What is little known is that he subjected his prisoner and erstwhile friend to hardships; denying visitors access to him and foisting a conspiracy case which he knew to be false—plotting for accession to Pakistan and waging war against India.
To all outward appearances, India riveted its control over the State after the Sheikh’s ouster. But today, more than ever before, grim realities have surfaced, to the shock of many, to demonstrate that Kashmiri nationalism is very much alive and kicking despite New Delhi’s repressive policies and the army’s sustained record of outrages. India’s government, much of its media, especially television, and academia, and its stooges in Kashmir who have feasted on the crumbs New Delhi throws at them from the high table prefer to envelop themselves cosily in a state of denial. The reality is unbearable to witness—India governs Kashmir against the wishes of its people. They reject the very legitimacy of its rule. As Mir Qasim, installed as Chief Minister by elections which he admitted were rigged and who had supported Abdullah’s ouster in 1953, wrote: “They clearly say that they would not like to remain in India. They would like to go out of 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” (Mir Qasim, My Life and Times , page 298).
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 that India’s policies have wreaked. “Behind the façade 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 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).
Mehbooba Mufti, head of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition in the State, loftily declared, on April 19, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that “there is a pain in the heart of Kashmiris and we all have to heal it together”. What she added indicates all too well that the causes of the pain elude her. She cited “several tragic incidents in the past … and more recently in Handwara where innocent people were fatally caught in the vortex of violence ” (Yusuf Jameel, Asian Age , April 20; emphasis added, throughout). “Caught”, not “shot at”. Earlier, on March 26, she spoke of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s “mission of development and peace” (Peerzada Ashiq, The Hindu , March 27). She refuses to know why her people are in pain.
Contrast this with Nirupama Subramanian and Bhashaarat Masood’s four reports in TheIndian Express (between April 20 and April 23, 2016), among the most honest reports we have had in recent years. “When the Army does an encounter they come in hundreds for one militant hiding in a house. Then they destroy the house . They use heavy shells and mortars,” a girl student in Anantnag told them. The destruction of a whole house to catch a solitary militant is an established practice in Kashmir alone; it was never attempted in Punjab.
A teacher in Tral warned: “Don’t blur the lines between our grievances and our aspirations . Aspiration is azadi. Grievances are like, Centre does not hand over power projects in Kashmir to the State government. Our development needs and separatism are two different things. We vote for development, but azadi will not come without talking with Pakistan.”
A 29-year-old teacher said that the bridges between India and Kashmir “have been burnt forever”. For, the bottom line is, “India does not trust Kashmiris and Kashmiris don’t trust India.” The situation deteriorated steeply since the outbreak of militancy in 1989. But its roots lay in the clash of Kashmir and Indian nationalism in 1947. In a real sense, there is no alienation of people from the Union; alienation implies previous affection, which the people of Kashmir never had for India, not even at the time of the accession, as both Abdullah and Nehru knew very well. Reflecting popular opinion, the Sheikh was against Kashmir’s accession to India, though he preferred its ideology of secularism to Pakistan’s two-nation theory. Reflecting Indian opinion and his own strong preferences, Nehru would have nothing but its accession to India. Both knew what the Kashmiris thought and felt, hence India’s initial hesitation in forging the accession. The record on the views of all three—Abdullah, Kashmiris and Nehru—speaks for itself.
Sheikh Abdullah’s aims
1. On April 19, 1946, the Sheikh demanded in a telegram to the British Cabinet Mission “a right to independence” because “the Kashmiri nation” resided in “a unique region in India”. This was asserted when the talk was of a federal union, not partition.
2. After Partition, he was released from prison on September 29, 1947. On October 3, he said: “We will choose the path which will lead to the independence of … the Kashmiris” (Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, The Blazing Chinar , Gulshan Books, Srinagar; pages 256 and 275).
3. On his release from prison, Abdullah said: “If the 40 lakhs of people living in Jammu & Kashmir are by-passed and the State declares accession to India or Pakistan, I shall raise the banner of revolt and we face a struggle.” Since Maharaja Hari Singh was not going to accede to Pakistan, this was clearly a warning against accession to India. As late as on October 22, 1947, Abdullah’s line was: “Freedom before Accession”. It was reflected in Khidmat, the organ of his party, the National Conference, which said on the same day: “What the present moment demands and demands urgently is not accession to Pakistan or India but power to the people. Are we going to sell ourselves to the Indian capitalists or the Pakistan Nawabs?” (Quoted in Chitralekha Zutshi, Languages of Belonging , Permanent Black, page 307; a most insightful work.)
4. Abdullah confided to Phillips Talbot, later United States Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who was in India from 1939 to 1948. “He told me that Kashmir would be ‘finished’ if it had to join one Dominion and thereby incur the enmity of the other. What he sought, he said, was an arrangement by which Kashmir could have normal relations with both countries” ( An American Witness to India’s Partition , Sage, page 378). As we shall see, this was the line he pursued right until 1964.
5. Prior to the accession, Abdullah sent one emissary to Pakistan after another, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed and G.M. Sadiq. Neither was allowed to meet Mohammed Ali Jinnah or Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Only the Chief Minister of West Punjab, the Nawab of Mamdot, met them. Strangely, neither the admirers nor the detractors of Abdullah care to probe into their brief. What was it? It was obviously to fulfil his plans for independence. He had accepted an invitation by emissaries from Pakistan to meet Jinnah after his visit to New Delhi. The tribal raid from Pakistan was launched while Sadiq was in Lahore.
6. Even after the accession, Abdullah pursued his plans, to the knowledge of Nehru , in a talk with Patrick Gordon Walker, Britain’s Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Commonwealth Affairs, in Nehru’s home on February 21, 1948—four months after the accession. Walker reported to London: “7. At this point Nehru fetched in Sheikh Abdullah and said he would leave us to talk 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 Kashmir’s trade was with India, that India was progressive and that Nehru was an Indian. On the other, Kashmir’s 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 to them both jointly but would look after its own affairs. The two Dominions share a common interest in Kashmir and it would serve to unite and link them. I asked whether Nehru would agree to this solution and he said he thought so. He had discussed it with him. … 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.”
7. In New York as a member of the Indian delegation to the Security Council, Abdullah approached the U.S.’ Permanent Reprepresentative to the United Nations, Warren Austin, on January 28, 1948. Austin recorded: “It is possible that [the] principal purpose of Abdullah’s 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 the 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.” ( Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948 South Asia, page 292).
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8. Abdullah even sought out Pakistan’s delegates. He complained to President Ayub Khan when they met in Rawalpindi on May 26, 1964, that they “would not even talk to him. … When he went to the Security Council the second time, he did meet Choudhry Muhammad Ali and told him that the only way to get the Indians out of Kashmir was to agree to independence of the State” (Altaf Gauhar, Ayub Khan , page 264).
9. The Sheikh spoke to the U.S. Ambassador to India, Loy Henderson, in Srinagar. He reported to the State Department on September 29, 1950: “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 cooperate with leaders National Confederation 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 her own. Their Hindus by custom and tradition widely differed from Hindus [of] India, and outlook and background their Moslems also quite different from Moslems Pakistan. Fact was that population Kashmir homogeneous despite of presence of Hindu minority.
“When I asked Abdullah if he thought Kashmir could remain stable independent country without friendly support India and Pakistan, he replied 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 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” ( Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, Volume 5, page 1,434).
10. Abdullah was quite open about his aims, as Nehru well knew. He went public in an interview to Michael Davidson of The Scotsman published on April 14, 1949. “He said: ‘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. Would an independent Kashmir, I asked him, a kind of Himalayan Switzerland, be feasible and constructive? Those areas of the present State which bordered India and Pakistan and which had no affinities with the people of the Vale could fall naturally to the Dominion with which they were related by race or religion—the Poonchis, who are Moslem Punjabis, belong obviously to Pakistan, and the Hindus of Jammu, Rajput-Dogras are surely Indians.
“Abdullah replied: ‘Yes, independence—guaranteed by the United Nations—may be the only solution. But why do you talk of partition? Now you are introducing communalism and applying the two-nation theory to Kashmir—that communalism which we are fighting here. I believe the Poonchis would welcome inclusion in an independent Kashmir; if, however, after its establishment, they chose to secede and join Pakistan, I would raise no objection.
“I want a solution that is fair to all three parties—Pakistan, India, and the people of Kashmir. But we won’t submit to a communal solution. There has never been a religious problem in the Vale of Kashmir. Hindus and Moslems, we are of the same racial origin, we have the same customs, wear the same clothes, speak the same language. In the street, you cannot distinguish between Moslems and Brahman Pandits. Why, we even have a mosque in the wall of which a Hindu temple has been built. In Kashmir we have Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Punjab and Moslem refugees from East Punjab. …
“When the Kashmir Moslem Conference also turned communally-minded, most of us Kashmiris left to form a National Conference, a non-sectarian movement conforming with the secular principles of the Indian Congress. Naturally we sympathise rather with India than with Pakistan.’ …
“Religions have never been a cementing force, the Sheikh declared. Christians fight Christians in Europe; Japanese fight Chinese; Turkey wants to be Europeanised; Moslems have warred against Moslems. Socially and nationally there are more compelling interests, economic and ideological. The first task for the Kashmiris, Hindus and Moslems, is to win internal liberation from exploitation.” (The writer is indebted to Andrew Whitehead for the text of the interview.) The interview had Vallabhbhai Patel foaming at the mouth (Durga Das, Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Navjivan Publishing House, Volume 1, pages 266-271).
It is important to note that Nehru tried to secure Kashmir’s accession to India while Sheikh Abdullah was still in prison, regardless of his wishes or those of the people of the State . His stand was revealingly summed up in the blunt pithy assertion to Liaquat Ali Khan, “I want Kashmir” (Lionel Carter (Ed.), Weakened States Seeking Renewal: British Official Reports from South Asia, 1 January – 30 April 1948, Manohar, Part I, pages 176 and 416; an invaluable collection of two volumes). Even before the Partition Plan was announced on June 3, 1947, he began his campaign with a mention of Kashmir as “a difficult problem” at a formal meeting with Mountbatten and advisers on April 22, 1947. He followed it by a long note to Mountbatten on Kashmir dated June 17, 1947, in which he concluded: “If any attempt is made to push Kashmir into the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, there is likely to be much trouble because the National Conference is not in favour of it and the Maharaja’s position would also become very difficult. The normal and obvious course appears to be for Kashmir to join the Constituent Assembly of India. This will satisfy both the popular demand and the Maharaja’s wishes. It is absurd to think that Pakistan would create trouble if this happens.” ( Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru ; Volume 3, page 229). Pakistan did not count. He lavishly praised the Sheikh. On July 4, he wrote to the Maharaja, whom he detested, requesting a meeting and suggesting accession: “I appreciate your difficulties” (ibid., page 253). No talk here of releasing Abdullah.
The sinister aspect of the plan became apparent when the Maharaja asked for a standstill agreement on August 12, 1947. Pakistan agreed. India declined and asked for negotiations. Nehru had himself revised the draft standstill agreement with all the States to include “foreign affairs” (item 7); a virtual Instrument of Accession. Had the Maharaja agreed, Abdullah would have been confronted, on his release from prison, the very next month, with Kashmir’s accession to India—carried out behind his back. So much for respect for the popular will.
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Nor were Nehru’s later references to the Sheikh justified. His following was confined to the Valley. In Jammu and the present Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas’ Muslim Conference held sway. Even in the Valley Abdullah’s voice was not decisive on the crucial issue of accession (see Ian Copland’s essay “The Abdullah Factor: Kashmir Muslims and the Crisis of 1947”). The people followed him up to Kohala (that is, locally) and Jinnah beyond it.
What led to the ‘accession’
Chitralekha Zutshi holds that the Muslim Conference “reigned supreme in Poonch and Jammu in 1946” while the Valley was split. Shops displayed photographs of Jinnah, Iqbal and Abdullah side by side (pages 298 and 303). What is clear is that on the issue of accession the overwhelming view was for Pakistan. India’s leaders knew that very well. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet, Nehru in particular, knew that. Hence his advice to Kashmir’s Prime Minister, Meher Chand Mahajan, even as late as on October 21, 1947, just a day before Pakistan’s tribal raids into Kashmir: “I feel it will probably be undesirable to make any declaration of adhesion [to India] at this stage” ( SWJN, Volume 4, page 274). Kashmir’s Prime Minister Janak Singh opined on August 13, 1947, that “the bulk of Muslims will not accept (a) decision to accede to India”. Nehru told the Committee on October 25, 1947: “The question was whether temporary accession would help the people in general to side with India or whether it would only act as an irritant. There was bound to be propaganda to the effect that the accession was not temporary and tempers might be inflamed ”—that is, the people would resent Kashmir’s accession to India. The next day, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar said that “immediate accession might create further opposition”. Nehru opined that he would “not mind Kashmir remaining an independent country [ sic ] under India’s sphere of influence”. It was then decided to accept the accession “subject to the proviso that a plebiscite would be held in Kashmir”. The Ministry of States was directed to prepare a letter to the Maharaja on “the temporary acceptance of the Instrument of Accession” (Prem Shankar Jha, Kashmir 1947, Oxford University Press, appendices IV and V).
This explains why Mountbatten told the visiting U.K. Minister Arthur Henderson, on January 9, 1948, that Kashmir’s accession was “on a temporary basis and subject to a plebiscite” (Carter, Part I, page 154).
The Maharaja’s panic can be gauged from a quaint, forgotten episode which his Prime Minister, Meher Chand Mahajan, mentioned in 1963: “On 24 October the Deputy Prime Minister left Srinagar for Delhi carrying a letter of accession to India from the Maharaja” ( Looking Back , page 150). In 1997, Alastair Lamb remarked that India has “generally been careful to avoid specific reference to this document” ( Incomplete Partition , page 143). It was published for the first time by the relentless researcher Andrew Whitehead in his book A Mission in Kashmir (Viking, page 1,022). I am grateful to him for providing me with a copy of the letter dated October 23. It reads: “I hereby authorise my Deputy Prime Minister, R.B. Ram Lal Batra, to sign the document of accession of the State with the Indian Union on my behalf, subject to the condition that the terms of accession will be the same as would be settled with H.E.H. The Nizam of Hyderabad.”
Patel added his bit to get the ruler to accede to India; significantly even before the Radcliffe Report, which awarded to India the connecting link through Pathankot, was out. “You are aware that on 15 August, India, though divided, will be completely free, and you also know that by this time a vast majority of the States have joined the Constituent Assembly of India. I realise the peculiar difficulties of Kashmir, but looking to its history and its tradition, it has, in my opinion, no other choice ” ( SPC , page 32).
He played the communal card on June 18. “The Kashmiri Pandits and the Hindus form a very small proportion of the population, and they are comparatively better off. The poorer majority which is getting conscious, is trying to assert itself and the conflict of interest is creating a situation in which the minority finds itself in an unenviable position and lives in a state of perpetual insecurity and fear, resulting in demoralisation. The State being a Hindu State, situated in Muslim surroundings, finds itself in a very delicate and difficult position …” In a letter of June 16, he wrote of Nehru: “After all, he is also a Hindu and that a Kashmiri Hindu” (ibid, page 3). One wonders whether he would have called Hyderabad a Muslim State. Nehru would have been offended by Patel’s remark.
One man, the brilliant Secretary in Patel’s Ministry of States, V.P. Menon, kept his head. At a meeting on May 11, 1947, Mountbatten noted that there were some States “which were geographically and ethnically almost bound to throw in their lot with Pakistan”. Nehru said that “the people of almost every State had openly declared in favour of joining the Union of India”. He asked “what would happen if Hyderabad wanted to join Pakistan”. That is when V.P. Menon fired this deadly salvo. “It would produce a very similar situation to Kashmir joining the present Constituent Assembly of India” ( Transfer of Power , HMSO, Vol. X, page 764).
During talks with the Secretary-General of Pakistan’s Cabinet, Mohammad Ali, in November 1947, the latter asked whether a plebiscite was really called for as Kashmir had a Muslim majority. V.P. Menon replied that “he entirely agreed that Kashmir would go to Pakistan” but emphasised in view of what had passed, a “formal” [ sic ] plebiscite was essential. On November 3, 1947, V.P. Menon met a delegation from Hyderabad. The minutes read: “MR. MENON opened the discussions by making reference to the Kashmir problem … the States falling within the Dominion of India should join the Indian Union and those adjoining Pakistan should go with that dominion … he believed that Kashmir should have joined the Pakistan Union and the Government of India never desired the accession of Kashmir to the Union of India. But it was impossible for the Government of India to sit silently when Kashmir and Jammu were being raided and ruined by marauders and freebooters” ( Constitutional Discussions, Government of Hyderabad, Volume 2, page 193).
In a taped interview to his predecessor as Reforms Commissioner, H.V. Hodson, in September 1964, V.P. Menon said: “As for plebiscite, we were absolutely, absolutely dishonest.” Nehru had other ideas. Less than a month after Kashmir’s accession and its accompanying pledge to its people of reference to them and of plebiscite, he had decided to back out.
He wrote to Abdullah on November 21, 1947: “You will appreciate that it is not easy for us to back out of the stand we have taken before the world. That would create a very bad impression abroad and more specially in U.N. circles. … If we said to the U.N.O. that we no longer stand by a referendum in Kashmir, Pakistan would score a strong point and that would be harmful to our cause. On the other hand, if circumstances continue as they are and the referendum is out of the question during these next few months, then why worry about it now. … There is no difference between you and us on this issue. It is all a question of the best tactical approach. I would personally suggest to you not to say anything rejecting the idea of a referendum….” ( SWJN , Volume 4, pages 336-337). This makes one doubt whether he ever intended to hold plebiscite.
The interests of all coincided. Nehru, the Indian nationalist, and Patel, the Hindu nationalist, decided to renege on the nation’s solemn pledges on plebiscite to the people of Kashmir, to Pakistan, and as Nehru himself said, to the world. Sheikh Abdullah, the Kashmiri nationalist, fervently went along because a plebiscite, as all three knew, would have gone in favour of Pakistan. The Sheikh,therefore, sought desperately a settlement with Pakistan other than by a plebiscite and retention of Kashmir’s autonomy, meanwhile . The record shows that he was snubbed in both ventures.
On August 25, 1952, Nehru sent him a note that he had written in Sonamarg—finalise the accession through Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly. Both the U.N. and Pakistan were impotent. Kashmiris would submit. “It must be remembered that the people of the Kashmir Valley and round about, though highly gifted in many ways—in intelligence, in artisanship, etc.—are not what are called a virile people. They are soft and addicted to easy living. … The common people are primarily interested in a few things—an honest administration and cheap and honest food” ( SWJN , Volume 19, pages 328-329). No Kashmiri would utter those words for his own people. Nehru’s outlook was moulded in the political climate of Uttar Pradesh, to which he really belonged. It was exposed also to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Bogra, when they met in New Delhi on August 17, 1953: “Most people, of course, were hardly political and only cared for their economic betterment” ( Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru , Volume 23, page 332).
This is the Development Thesis of today: Kashmiris have no soul. Feed them; they will submit. Abdullah derived his power from the people. If their views on accession to India continued to diverge, without any hope of reconciliation, he refused to act as India’s stooge and lose everything. Nehru, in contrast, was happy with the facade of a popular regime headed by the Sheikh, regardless of the depth or quality of its popular support— a policy being pursued to this day.
Abdullah set up an eight-member committee of his party in May 1953 to evolve a solution that Pakistan could accept. Unbeknown to him, a couple of them had secretly gone over to Nehru. He had the Sheikh arrested on August 9 to replace the Kashmiri nationalist by a succession of stooges, bar an interval (1977-84).
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Nehru’s record is seriously blemished by two facts; he knew that the people rejected India’s rule but, nonetheless, kept on promising to abide by their wishes from 1947 to 1954. Indira Gandhi had informed her father in a letter from Srinagar on May 14, 1948: “They say that only Sheikh Saheb is confident of winning the people…” (Sonia Gandhi (Ed.), Two Alone Two Together, Penguin, 2005; the suspension marks, which suppress the rest, are made by the distinguished editor herself for reasons not hard to guess). A host of impartial observers agreed. Two days before Independence, the British Resident in Kashmir reported to the Viceroy’s Principal Secretary, Sir George Abell: “I saw new Prime minister [General Janak Singh] yesterday, and he is aware of the situation and although inclining towards India as a Hindu, realises bulk of Muslims will not accept decision. He therefore wishes for agreement for both” ( Transfer of Power, Volume XII, page 696).
Major W.P. Cranston of the British High Commission stayed in Srinagar from October 10 to October 14, 1947, and wrote a report on “The political situation in Kashmir” on October 18, giving his assessment. He wrote: “The future, however, is very uncertain and depends entirely on when the Maharaja makes his announcement as to whether Kashmir should remain independent or accede to either of the two Dominions … it was thought probable that he would then declare the accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. This would cause an immediate reaction throughout the State by the Muslim population which numbers about 80 to 90 per cent and which is strongly opposed to any union with the Indian Government (Lionel Carter (Ed), Partition Observed , Volume 2, Manohar, 2011, page 523).
Carter has also edited Completing the First Year of Independence: British Official Reports from South Asia; 1 May–17 September 1948 ( Manohar, 2016). The documents he reproduces tell the same tale.
An official of the U.K. High Commission reported from Srinagar on April 30, 1948: “While everyone considered that a plebiscite would lead to an overwhelming vote in favour of Pakistan, they could not believe that India would voluntarily quit Kashmir . … There was no doubt in the minds of any of the Indians I spoke to that the plebiscite would go in favour of Pakistan. .. I conclude, therefore, that the Indian Army, like most armies of occupation, is strongly resented by the great majority of Kashmiris” (Part 1, page 178).
Sir Terence Shone, the High Commissioner, reported to London on May 24, 1948: “Two members of this High Commission, who recently paid separate visits to Srinagar, came away with the impression that if a fair plebiscite were held in the Vale of Kashmir it would go in favour of Pakistan. Impartial sources also say that the recent Independence Celebrations aroused far less popular enthusiasm than the Indian press suggested.”
John Shattock, ICS, who had served in Kashmir, reported to London on June 4: “British missionaries who live in outlying areas in the Vale of Kashmir all think that a fair plebiscite would go in favour of Pakistan. As these missionaries are very close to the ground and have no axe to grind one way or the other, they must be considered as pretty reliable exponents of public opinion.”
A High Commission official who visited Kashmir (May 14-19, 1948) reported in detail: “It seems that Sheikh Abdullah’s position has been somewhat weakened as a result of: (a) The presence of the army of occupation; the people are said to be terrified of the Sikhs. On the other hand Major General Thimayya said that relations between the troops and the civil population were excellent and that people were coming in from the surrounding districts giving intelligence of the approaching raiders. Their cooperation with the Army was good. (b) The lack of food supplies during the last severe winter owing to the closing of the road to Rawalpindi. (c) Stories of atrocities by the Indian Army brought up by refugees from Jammu. (d) Dislocation of trade by reason of the closing of the road to Rawalpindi. (e) High government officials are going about in cars and generally living at a high standard, whereas the common people are suffering from shortages. The fact that the Indian Army saved Srinagar seemed to be forgotten in view of the winter and present discomforts. …
“Kashmir’s trade outlet is to Pakistan rather than to India and by the road to Rawalpindi. Its export(s) of timber are by river and arts and crafts by road. Imports were also via this road. The road over the Banihal Pass cannot take this traffic and as a result trade is at a standstill.”
Alexander Symon, the Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi, had easy access to all. He reported on September 12, 1948, on what the U.N. Commission had learnt. “Almost all the members of the [Kashmir] government both individually and in groups had told the members of the U.N. party that they were in favour of an independent Kashmir. They were very apprehensive, however, lest their views might become known to the Indian government. On their return from Karachi the main Commission had been considering this possible solution, but almost all of them were very scared about it. The members of the Kashmir government had also told U.N. party that Sheikh Abdullah on behalf of the National Conference would be prepared to meet and talk with Ghulam Abbas on behalf of the Muslim Conference. Sheikh Abdullah himself and Afzal Beg (the Revenue Minister and a comparative moderate) were the prime movers in favour of this.” A report by Symon directly to Prime Minister Clement Attlee mentioned Sardar Ibrahim, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s disclosure that “Abdullah had in fact been making advances to him”.
We have an impeccable source in Jayaprakash Narayan’s letter to Nehru on May 1, 1956. He warned: “From all the information I have, 95 per cent of Kashmir Muslims do not wish to be or remain Indian citizens. 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), Selected Works of Jayaprakash Narayan, 1964, Volume 7, page 115).
We learn every day from reports from Kashmir that its people’s opinions have remained the same even fifty years later in 2016. They have not acquiesced in, still less submitted to, India’s rule. They still fling in its face the pledges made by Jawaharlal Nehru form 1947 to 1954, when he publicly reneged on them. On a rough tabulation there are nearly 30 of them. Here are a few.
Nehru’s unkept promises
To Liaquat Ali Khan, on October 26, 1947: “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our views which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people and we adhere to this view” (White Paper on Jammu and Kashmir 1948, page 46). It was also sent to Attlee.
Further, “our assurance that we will withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order are restored and leave the decision about the future of the State to the people of the State is not merely a pledge to your Government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world ” (ibid, page 51, paragraphs 5 and 7).
Vallabhbhai Patel’s speech at a public meeting in Bombay on October 30, 1948: “Some people consider that Muslim majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realise that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be here, we shall not be there even for a minute” ( The Hindustan Times , October 31, 1948).
Nehru’s speech at Calcutta on January 1, 1952: “If then, the people of Kashmir tell us to get out, we will do so. We will not stay there by force. We did not conquer the territory. There is no doubt about it that he [Sheikh Abdullah] is the leader of the people of Kashmir, a very great leader. If tomorrow Sheikh Abdullah wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan, neither I nor all the forces of India would be able to stop it because if the leader decides, it will happen. … Since the matter has been referred to the U.N., we have given our word of honour that we shall abide by their decision . India’s pledge is no small matter and we shall stick by it in the eyes of the world” ( SWJN, Volume 17, pages 76-78).
In Parliament on June 26, 1952: “And I say with all respect to our Constitution that it just does not matter what your Constitution says, if the people of Kashmir do not want it, it [the Army] will not go there. … It might pain us but we would not send an Army against them, we might accept that, however much hurt we might feel … and we would change our Constitution about it” (ibid., Volume 18, page 418).
In Parliament on August 7, 1952: “So while the accession was complete in law and in fact, the other fact, which has nothing to do with law, also remains, namely our pledge to the people of Kashmir. If you like, to the people of the world , that this matter can be reaffirmed or cancelled or cut out by the people of Kashmir, if they so wish.We do not want to win people against their will and with the help of armed forces, and if the people of Jammu and Kashmir State so wish it, to part company from us, they can go their way and we shall go our way. We want no forced marriages, no forced unions like this. I hope this great Republic of India is a free, voluntary, friendly and affectionate union of the States of India. … ultimately— I say with all deference to this Parliament—the decision will be made in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Kashmir, neither in this Parliament, nor in the United Nations, nor by anybody else ” (ibid., Vol. 18, pages 293-296). This puts paid to the resolutions by Parliament.
How is this consistent with his private resolve in 1948, as he admitted to Abdullah on August 25, 1952, not to hold a plebiscite? As India’s forces launched an offensive, Mountbatten, architect of the accession, got alarmed and wrote a stiff letter of seven pages on December 28, 1947 “as your Governor-General” warning him that “it would be morally unjustifiable to try by force of arms to inflict our (sic) will on a predominantly Muslim population”. Did not this apply also to the entire State? Nehru riveted Central control over the State once he put the Sheikh behind the bars. Jinnah was as culpable in this tragedy. He it was who fired the first shot, immediately after the Partition, to launch a Cold War with India by accepting Junagadh’s accession. He went on to continuously egg on Hyderabad not to accede to India and eventually sent the raiders into Kashmir on October 22. They came with his full knowledge. On November 1, 1947, at Government House in Lahore, Mountbatten presented him with a written proposal for plebiscite in States where the rulers did not belong to the same religion as the people. Jinnah rejected it demanding exclusion of Hyderabad. The proposal envisaged “that a joint India-Pakistan force should hold the ring while the plebiscite is being held”. Pakistan’s troops would have entered Srinagar. In 1965, Pakistan launched a war. Had it won, would it have held a plebiscite? How can it demand a plebiscite after it lost at its own chosen forum, the battlefield? The 1971 war led to the Shimla Pact of July 3, 1972.
Impact of India-Pakistan wars
The impact of the wars on the Sheikh’s leverage is little understood. The 1947 war extinguished the option of independence; the 1965 war extinguished plebiscite; the Shimla Pact buttressed the status quo. He signed a pact with Indira Gandhi in 1975 in an abject surrender and went on as before to preside over a corrupt and authoritarian regime. In 1947, he had thrown people across to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, invoking the dreaded Enemy Agents Ordinance. Eminent Kashmiris suffered this fate. The Centre gained. In 1975 he accepted its terms. In 1982, his son Farooq Abdullah emulated the example of his predecessors in the years from 1954 to 1975.
The outbreak of militancy in 1989 found an inept separatist leadership surcharged with ego and bereft of sense and statesmanship. We owe it to the brave lawyer Parvez Imroz and his team who have fought for redress against the Army and the paramilitary’s outrages since 1990. He set up the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons. Those who persist in denial should read the 804-page volume, Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu & Kashmir (Khurram Parvez, The Bund, Amira Kadal, Srinagar, Rs.400). The J&K Coalition of Civil Society pursues cases in court. The report documents in detail extra-judicial killings of 1,080 persons and enforced “disappearances” of 170 people, besides cases of torture and sexual violence. There are detailed case studies of extra-judicial killings and disappearances. A particularly useful part of the report is its description of the army’s set-up in J&K. It is a massive document based on irrefutable evidence.
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Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? by Essan Batool, Ifrah Butt, Samreena Mushtaq, Munaza Rashid and Natasha Rather was published in the Zubaan Series on Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia (Zubaan, page 228, Rs.395). Zubaan, which means the tongue, is an independent feminist publishing house. This book, published with the support of the International Development Research Centre, is a thorough exposure of rape as a weapon to silence people. The book concerns “the mass rape, in the two villages (Kunan & Poshpora) of 31 women by the 4th Regimental Rifles regiment of the Indian Army on February 23, 1991” and is based on documents and interviews. The late B.G. Verghese and his Press Council’s report is not the only one to be discredited in this episode. (See also Seema Kazi’s expose, “Sexual Crimes by State Personnel and Kashmir’s Case for Self Determination”, in Narrator , April 2016). She cites a report by Medicins Sans Frontieres entitled “Kashmir: Violence and Health”.
Such misdeeds fuel popular wrath. The Army responds by refusing real accountability. Its demand for the retention of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) reflects its distrust of civilian authority. For,even without AFSPA, no proceedings can be launched without thegovernment’s sanction . What AFSPA guarantees is total immunity from accountability.
Two more factors have come to the fore, the Modi government and the Pandits. On New Year’s Day, 1952, Nehru said: “Just imagine what would have happened in Kashmir if the Jan Sangh or any other communal party had been at the helm of affairs? The people of Kashmir say that they are fed up with this communalism. Why should they live in a country where the Jan Sangh and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh] are constantly beleaguering them? They will go elsewhere and they will not stay with us” ( SWJN , Volume 17, pages 77-78).
Yet, when, on April 10, 1952, Abdullah gave his famous speech at Ranbir Singh Pora in Jammu, Nehru resented it. “Kashmir’s accession to India will have to be [of] a restricted nature so long as communalism has a foothold on the soil of India.” The Sheikh was alluding to the rise of the Jan Sangh established a few months earlier. The Modi government is pledged to Hindutva. It has nothing to offer to Kashmir except promises of development, or to Pakistan except conditional promises of a dialogue—no substantial concessions to either.
It is a dismal situation. After 1965, secession is ruled out. Is continued oppression the only alternative to it? The Modi government’s stand on the Pandits is in glaring contrast to its indifference to the plight of Kashmiris within Kashmir and outside within India; especially of Kashmiri students.
Mridu Rai, who teaches history at Yale University, has described their behaviour in her acclaimed book, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects (Permanent Black, page 297). She writes: “It was the tendency of the Kashmiri Pandits to turn to India, with its comfortable Hindu majority, when in trouble in Kashmir that earned for them the honour of being secular nationalists. … In contrast, the Kashmiri Muslims’ demands for a similar protection of rights, denied to them as a religious community by both a Hindu Dogra and a ‘secular’ Indian state, has been all too easily misread as engaging in an illegitimate politics of religious fundamentalism. This duality in nationalist treatment is born, in the ultimate analysis, of the fact that Kashmiri Muslims have, by and large, chosen to tread a path all their own and certainly one that leads them neither to Delhi nor to Islamabad. Above all, the clamour by Kashmir’s Muslims is for a legitimate government. It is the helplessness in which they were placed first by their Dogra rulers and then by Indian politicians, each neglecting to negotiate their legitimacy with the popular constituency of Kashmir, that has provoked a militant response.”
Omar Abdullah said twice, on October 28, 2009, and July 2, 2010, that “the youth of Kashmir did not pick up the gun for money”, or jobs, but for “political reasons”. It is perfectly possible to conciliate Kashmiris as well as Pakistan. Maximum autonomy, or azadi , for both East and West Kashmir, in agreement with the people and with Pakistan is a possible solution.
A former Research and Analysis Wing chief told this writer what he found in track-two diplomacy: Pakistan is a country with a grievance. Pakistan feels wronged by a more powerful neighbour’s breach of commitment to hold a plebiscite which it was powerless to prevent. That explains why it makes Kashmir a “core” issue. This grievance will not vanish. It must be addressed. There will be no peace in South Asia without a settlement of the Kashmir dispute acceptable to all the three parties. Neither the people of Kashmir nor Pakistan will acquiesce in a status quo established by armed force as envisaged in Nehru’s Note of August 25, 1952. The people will not accept an accord with India unless Pakistan is also a party to it; for Pakistan is not only a party to the dispute, it is also a party present in Kashmir itself. On April 21, even Farooq Abdullah testified: “Here in Kashmir people love Pakistan. Even if you [New Delhi] throw all your treasures upon them, you can’t take away the sentiment from their hearts” (Greater Kashmir, April 22).
The alternatives that have been tried are ineffective and sordid. A.S. Dulat, former RAW chief, tells us that the Intelligence Bureau “was most active, most feared and most denounced in Kashmir. The ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence]… knew exactly how key the I.B . was to the Central government’s hold on Kashmir ” ( Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, page 61). Is this how a Union should hold a State? The I.B. does not collect intelligence in Kashmir. It bribes politicians and others, besides playing other sordid games. (See the writer’s article, “Bribes and spies”, Frontline ; October 30, 2013).
Operators like Dulat have a tunnel vision. He boasted to Tehelka , on August 26, 2006, how he had wooed Shabir Shah and “set up a meeting … in Kathmandu” but the Prime Minister’s Office backed out. For all his years in Kashmir, he does not realise that if the PMO had not resiled, Shabir Shah would have been stripped of all worth as a defector (Shah contests Dulat’s version). This is the nub of the matter—New Delhi simply refuses to reckon with the people’s views. The harsh reality is that both Jinnah and Nehru coveted the land of Kashmir; neither cared for its people.
Jinnah wanted Kashmir, without Abdullah; Nehru wanted Abdullah without his people. The Sheikh wanted a third way but failed and accepted defeat. The people bitterly recall the Sheikh’s abject surrender but also remember his sacrifices and his treatment by Nehru. It was he who held a vision before them for forty years, from 1935 to 1975. That vision moves the people despite memories of his wrongs.
In 1989, the latent wrath of the Kashmiri flared up. Pakistan supplied the gun; India built up the wrath, and that wrath will not subside now. It cannot be crushed by bribery or force. Indian nationalism must come to terms with Kashmiri nationalism.