Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kashmir: The valley of saints and sinners

The valley is under fire once again. It is a sad story and worse still we have very coloured and limited information about the whole issue. Recently I read "Kashmir - the storm centre of the world" written by Shri Balraj Madhok. I have yet to find any other book that is so authentic n so honest on the whole issue. Of course Mr Madhok's political leanings come at places more than one yet no one, in my view, has dealt this subject so originally &  with such geo political details. Another book I remember is  "India after Gandhi" - by Shri Ramchandra Guha which also gave some interesting details. However, Mr. Guha's  communist mind set  and love for Nehru (which I think is a natural corollary for every communist) probably stopped him from calling a spade a spade. Since Mr. Madhok was originally from Kashmir and had been an active player in all the events his analysis is extremely sharp. He also enjoys the gift of pithy, crisp n clear expression. For anyone who is interested to know about the whole issue these two books are invaluable.

In my view every Indian should be concerned about the affairs in Kashmir as they can drag us in a world war like situation any time. Since we have been cut-off all along, we are not able to see the danger that is brewing there.

The problem of Kashmir is our diplomatic failure instead of anything else. We won all the three wars yet could not settle anything with Pakistan for only one reason: Diplomatically we were confused 😖!

In my view , there are 3 vital aspects of this issue :

a) what is the genesis of the problem?
b) who wants to solve it and who wants to keep it alive forever?
c) what should be our line of action?

We want to be in denial on all of the three points above that is why I say ours is a diplomatic failure. For example we think the issue had its origin in the dilly dallying attitude of Maharaja Hari Singh and his not acceding to either India or Pakistan by Aug 15, 1947. But we are blissfully unaware why it happened in the first place? What were the reasons behind Maharaja's indecision. Dogras (the clan to which Maharaja belonged) were patriotic Rajputs and it was too natural for the Maharaja to prefer India over Pakistan. Still he could not decide. Why?

We have see the situation in its entirety and scratch a little deeper.

Long before Aug 1947 and sometime around 1925, the English had begun supporting a Muslim guy in Kashmir who was raising the cause of Muslims dissatisfaction in the valley. Though Dogra rule was there for more than 100 years and the whole state (including Jammu n Ladakh region) was more than happy, this guy raised the issue that higher administrative positions were dominated by Hindus. The guy was highly ambitious to become champion of Kashmiri Muslims and destabilize Maharaja's government. He was well versed in Koran, a gifted orator, a tall n handsome personality n master of histrionics. Kashmiri Muslims immediately fell for this guy, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and a party by name Muslims Conference came up under his leadership. Sheikh had full support of the English. It's at this point that the first seeds of communalism were sown in Kashmir valley otherwise it was the single state in the country where no rioting took place in Aug 47 and  Buddhist, Sikhs, Dogras, Pandits n  Muslims all lived peacefully totally unconscious of their religious identity. They were all Kashmiris. That Mr. Abdullah was a first choice for the British is not as unfortunate  as the fact that it hit it off instantly when he met our dear would be Prime Minister Mr. J.L .Nehru. The two kinda fell in love with each other at first sight (no pun intended please). This was as early as 1925.

Year 1927 saw Sheikh leading various representations to Maharaja about the cause of Kashmiri Muslims and their rights etc.

In 1931, Sheikh Abdullah led a protest march and some arsoning and disturbances took place and curfew had to be imposed in Shrinagar. Sheikh was jailed by the state. Mr. Nehru tried to visit the valley to help his "Friend" but he was detained at the border by the prime minister of Maharaja. Sheikh was released later.

Things came to a head when Abdulla called for quit Kashmir movement in 1946 and called upon Maharaja to relinquish his rule and let the state be ruled by "awam's representative".  So much so that The Maharaja had to charge Sheikh with sedition and put him behind the bar.

Such was the turmoil and turbulence in the valley in the years 1946-47 when the question of accession came up before the Maharaja.

As is well known Mr. Nehru was a great friend of friends (and greater enemy of enemies). He had not forgotten his humiliation of 1931 when he was detained at the border by Maharaja. Hence, when the issue of accession came up, Nehru decided to settle the score. A precondition was indicated to the Maharaja that Sheikh Abdullah be released and given a high position in the administration of Jammu n Kashmir. Only then the accession will be acceptable to the government of India. It's this reason that put Maharaja in a fix. He didn't want to accede to Pakistan. He also didn't want to release Mr.Abdullah at any cost. So what to do ? This is what actually delayed the accession of J&K.

Someone, at this point,  gave him the idea of making Kashmir the "Switzerland of east" and Maharaja immediately took to it as he had himself spent sometime in Switzerland. Maharaja indicated to Mountbatten and others of his wish to remain independent and in fact proposed a stand still agreement to both India and Pakistan. Jinnah immediately signed but India vacillated to sign this agreement.

So lack of clarity in vision regarding the issue of Kashmir was nowhere else but in our own house. This we must not forget!

It's here the genesis of Kashmir problem lies.

We were in fact presented with an opportunity  when Pakistan attacked us through tribals in 1947. For, the decision that was not being taken by Maharaja became indispensable now. He had to decide in favour of India if he wanted to save his state and people from aggressors. Maharaja ate the humble pie and agreed for accession and any precondition whatever. Therefore, an "Instrument of accession" (IA), was signed in black n white like it was done with all the other princely states acceding to either of the nations after partition and government of India extended military help to protect the state as it was its own territory now.

IA is the first and foremost legal document that supports our claim on the state of Jammu & Kashmir. We Indians simply don't know why this document has been underplayed all these years? Why our diplomats n powers that be, did not put it emphatically in UN and all such international forums that we have a legal document of accession? Nothing else matters really. After aggression in fact Pakistan had lost its case totally. We had our Army already doing a commendable job and living up to the occasion. It was simply a matter of remaining assertive, driving back the aggressors and claiming our legal right. That's all! If we did it sincerely and firmly there wouldn't be any Kashmir problem today.

But we made an unforgivable blunder. We stopped our forces from moving any further and took the matter to the UN. Supposedly, it was  Mountbatten who had advised Nehru to do that. It could be so because in those times USSR n US were two super powers and there was cold war between the two. J & K had a strategic location which was not far from Russia. As such, it's possible that US n UK didn't want the whole of J&K to go to India as Nehru and his India were known to be having leftist leanings. Whatsoever be the reason Mr. Nehru got into the trap and referred the matter to UN. It's at this point that Pakistan got some footing and became a contender otherwise Pakistan had no case whatever. At UN, power politics came into play and we were defeated diplomatically when UK , US etc showed their true colours and Russia stood aloof(?). Nehru regretted his decision badly afterwards.

The UN ordered ceasefire and passed a resolution for a plebiscite with a precondition that both the nations withdraw their forces n restore normalcy. Pakistan was ordained to withdraw its forces first because it was the aggressor. Pakistan did not care for this mandate and kept fighting. Here again we lacked political will. If we really insisted upon UN to make Pakistan withdraw and somehow managed the plebiscite to take place we would have surely won. In 1947-48 nobody  wanted to go with Pakistan. But we didn't do anything and the plebiscite never happened as the precondition was never met. In my  view going to UN was not all that bad but following up the resolutions half -heartedly was.

Anyway, since  Oct 1947 Abdullah was the de-facto Prime Minister of J&K and he continued till 1953 with full and almost blind support from New Delhi where the supreme authority was his friend J.L.Nehru.

We still had one more diplomatic blunder in our fate. Now that the matter was in UN, Abdullah suggested to Nehru that there should be a constitutional link that will define the relation of India with J&K. I do not know who were the actual perpetrators of Article 370 but as per books the article was drawn by Sheikh and supported by Nehru. The constituent assembly of India did not approve it and B R Ambedker had refused its draft out rightly. Still the assembly was given an assurance that it's only a provisional arrangement and it will die its own death in the course of time. How shrewdly Sheikh secured himself a very very special status as compared to any of the other states of independent India! Right in the making of constitution he maneuvered the insertion of Article 370. It was a suicidal step for India as it nullified and in fact superseded the legality of instrument of accession which was the original legal document.

Our naivety was beyond comprehension.

The contents of article 370 were in every manner suicidal and put India forever at the expense of head of state of J&K. He could always blackmail and change posts on the strength of provisions of Article 370 (Sheikh did exactly that and in fact had to be jailed in 1953 for Anti India activities). Article 370 tied India's hands forever to make any attempt of integration of J&K into India.
I take a quote verbatim from Ramchandra Guha's book : " It was curious to see whether Sheikh was a man of Nehru in J&K or Nehru was a man of Sheikh in India." 

There was a perennial flaw in the policy of supporting Sheikh blindly. It had a reversing effect on the regions other than valley. After coming to power,  Sheikh immediately took to agrarian reforms. A ceiling was put on land and big landlords in the valley (who were mostly Hindu Dogras) had to surrender excess land to be   redistributed among Muslim peasantry. As a natural consequence  Jammu and Ladakh regions grew sceptical about anything Sheikh did and they had reasons for it. As a result parties like Praja Parishad (Peoples Party) came up to support their cause & large scale protests and marches were conducted. Mr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee supported the cause of Hindus of Jammu vehemently and ultimately paid for it with his life. In a nutshell, an environment of rift, resentment and total distrust resulted in the valley. How could Pakistan watch all this silently whose sole agenda was to snatch Kashmir from India? It did everything possible to add fuel to fire.

Pakistan has wedged three wars on us on this issue. We have won all of them yet on the table of negotiations we have failed miserably. For one reason or the other we always lost diplomatically. Reportedly, Pakistan always had a mole or two in our foreign ministry and our preparations were always leaked to it. Whatever be the cause, we haven't settled a single thing in 1947, 1965 and 1972 , though ours was a commanding position in all of them. In Tashkent in 1965, we were ditched by our friendly country USSR. Shastri was so much pressurized by USSR to return the already 'won territories ' to Pakistan that he could not bear the brunt of signing a losing accord and did not see the light the next day. A possibility of foul play cannot be denied as no post-mortem was carried.

In 1972, Mrs Gandhi showed a tough front initially. She was a goddess anyway because we had a clear victory with 90000 prisoners of war and 5000 sq miles of won territory in our hand. Bhutto withstood a lot of pressure and when talks were almost about to fail, requested one to one talks with Mrs Gandhi as a last resort. Whatever transpired in those 1-2 hours, after that Mrs Gandhi agreed to everything she shouldn't have. We returned the won territory as well as prisoners of war and couldn't even convert LOC as international border. It's said Bhutto assured her something verbally and Mrs.Gandhi believed. However,  after Bhutto returned to Pakistan all assurances went to thin air and we were back to square one as far as Kashmir was concerned i.e. the position of 1949.

The Simla accord of 1972 was such a fiasco that there were news of a military coup in India too as our Army had felt badly humiliated. After all they had put up such a gallant show and we couldn't settle even a single thing with Pakistan. Not only that, in our magnanimity, we returned everything Army had won through its blood and toil.

So, summarily it can be concluded that diplomatic failures one after the other is the underlying reason to what we are witnessing in the valley today.

Now so much of water has flown through the Jhelum that the overall situation is really precarious today. There are so many stake holders that any one amicable solution is really difficult if not impossible. But before talking of any solution we must think as to who really wants to have one? Pakistan surely doesn't want one that much I can say. Because if the issue of Kashmir is settled Pakistani ISI and polity will be jobless. We must understand this. Pakistan's interest is not in solving the issue but in keeping it burning and live. That is the sole reason not an inch of progress has been made in all these 69 years on the table of talks. As such we should keep on talking for international show and sake but should expect nothing out of it.

Kashmiri leaders have nothing to gain if the issue of Kashmir is settled because it will reduce their importance (and packages) too. If they were really interested in being peacefully integrated to India there wouldn't be any article 370 today. Just talk of review or removal of article 370 and see the reaction! Leaders of all hue and cry in Kashmir, however bitter enemies they may be internally, are all at consensus that Article 370 must remain and must not be meddled with. In reality it means that you treat us as your state as far as funds and development packages are concerned but leave us aloof as far  as demography and usage is concerned. the safety and security of the people of Kashmir is in any case your responsibility because its a state of India. Do you see the double game of Kashmiri leaders?

If there is peace and settlement in the valley what will they negotiate with the Indian government?

Then there are separatists whose agenda is to get Azadi. In a way theirs is a valid mission because common Kashmiri is fed up of this ping- pong being played by India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders on the table of Kashmir. But India can never afford to have an independent Kashmir that's friendly with Pakistan in its neighborhood. It will be a great threat to our security. And surely enough Pakistan will look up to creating some new trouble.

So the only real beneficiaries of a peaceful Kashmir are:

The people of India: Because there tax money is being utilized to safeguard and maintain whatever law n order requirements are there in the valley.

The people of J&K: Because they are the true sufferers of any disturbances and not able to live a normal life.

The Government of India : Because a lot of energy, resources and attention is invested in Kashmir politics and a disturbed valley is a thorn in our neck.

We must see that our stake is higher than anybody else. Therefore, we must put in more efforts than anybody else.
I have to suggest following line of action:

1.The solution is possible only through diplomatic and political prowess and of course through political will.

2. First n foremost we have to find a leader in the valley who can counter Pakistani propaganda effectively and who, in the long run, can help us do away with the Article 370. 

3. Outwardly, We have to involve all stakeholders (Kashmiri leaders, Separatists,  Pakistan etc) in peace talks, pretty well knowing that nothing is going to come out of it. These people neither have any solution nor they want it. They only seek importance which should be given to them for the time being.

4. We have to see whether we can separate Jammu n Ladakh from the valley. It is the valley that is adjacent to Pakistan and most disturbed. Jammu n Ladakh region should be separated and be made into a separate state if possible.

5. We have to bring Pakistan on the defensive which we have not done all these years. The steps like Baluchistan are a good initiative. We should also stake our claim on POK on whichever international forums possible as actually it is ours legally.

6. As an eventuality, we should keep preparing for another war with Pakistan.

The whole saga reminds me of one she'r:

तारीख की आँखों ने वो दौर भी देखा है।
लमहों ने ख़ता की  थी, सदियों ने सजा पाई।।

Here is the link for the book:

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