Some time back, I read an article by Randeep Singh Nandal of TNN, titled ‘Fault line in Kashmir makes people root for Afridi and vote in polls’. It is a sharp and incisive article on the psyche of the people of Kashmir valley. Here are brief excerpts:
“Like rest of the subcontinent, Srinagar shut down for the semi-final clash between India and Pakistan. But, the team they cheered for wasn’t the men in blue. In hotels and homes, at roadside stalls and in Srinagar’s downtown sprawl, in villages and small mohallas, Kashmir was rooting for Shahid Afridi and his team. This support for Pakistan appeared to cut across caste and class, united mainstream politicians and separatists, and brought together prosperous businessmen who live half the year in Delhi and the shikarawalas who ceaselessly circle the Dal Lake. Most people who cheered for Afridi’s team have no love lost for Pakistan with its failing economy and daily violence. The reality of Pakistan has done what the Indian state could not for years: made “Kashmir banega Pakistan” vanish from all protests”.
“All that the Kashmiris have done is separate the reality of Pakistan from the idea of Pakistan “There is a connectedness, in the emotional sense, in the hearts of Kashmiris. We don’t bleed blue, we bleed green,” said Abid Hussein, a young professional. The Kashmiri politicians and businessmen are firm in their knowledge that India is the way forward for Kashmir. They shake their heads at every blast in Pakistan. But once it comes to anything that represents the idea of Pakistan, like the Pakistani cricket team, they remember their love for it.
It makes them admire India, its plurality, its progress and its strength; and resent it for these very reasons”
Why do the Kashmiris have such an ‘emotional feeling’ for Pakistan as brought out in the article above? Christopher Thomas, a renowned analyst of the events of the sub continent said way back in 1950s that the “Kashmiri Muslim mind had been indifferent to non-Kashmiri forms of Islam practised beyond the mountains of their natural fortress. The philosophy of Kashmir is the synthesis of Shaivism and Sufism.” He further said that “[T]he Muslims of the valley were long considered to be Hindus at heart. Shaivism is one of the most highly developed school of Indian philosophy and had profoundly impacted the Islamic thought in the valley” 1
What has changed since the 1950s then to bring about this transformation, especially considering tribal invasion in 1947, an invasion that brutally plundered, murdered and raped in the Kashmir valley? There was so much revulsion against the Pakistanis at that time that Jinnah just did not want to talk of plebiscite, as the memories of the horror trail left behind by the tribes were fresh in the minds of Kashmiris; they would have never opted for Pakistan. However, such feelings had also crept into their psyche even about India, because of the continuous and systematic failure of the Indian leadership in integrating the valley in the Indian national main stream. The political class then seemed to be too beholden to Sheikh Abdullah and did everything at his bidding, keeping the valley aloof from the ‘idea of India.’
Let us discuss how. The first deliberate omission was that of keeping the national identity of the Kashmiris (as Indians or not) in suspense. What was the mind set of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1950? This can be gauged from what he said in an interview to a reputed journalist Michael Davidson.
“Accession to either side cannot bring peace, he [Sheikh Abdullah] declared “we want to live in friendship with both the Dominions. Perhaps a middle path between them, with economic cooperation 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 2
Owen Bennet Jones who was a BBC correspondent in Pakistan between 1998 and 2001 has said, “In September 1950, for example he [Sheikh Abdullah] told the US ambassador to India, Loy Henderson that he favoured Kashmiri independence.” 3 If Sheikh Abdullah was clear about this, then why was the Indian leadership still batting for him?
When the state of Jammu & Kashmir was attacked by the Pakistani regular forces and the tribes on 26 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh sought the help of India and signed an instrument of accession to India. This was similar to the one signed by the rulers of the other states. However the Government of India adopted a different stance in this case. Christopher Thomas wrote,
“Mountbatten wrote to Maharaja after receiving the signed instrument of accession: ‘In the special circumstances mentioned by your Highness, my Government has decided to accept the accession of the Kashmir state to the dominion of India. Consistently with their policy that in the case of any state where the issue of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state, it is my Government’s wish that as soon as the law and order has been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invaders, the question of the state’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.” 4
There was no need for all this when under the Indian Independence Act of 1935 there was no provision of referendum in the Princely States.
Alan Campbell-Johnson, the Viceroy’s press secretary noted that Jinnah had insisted that it was up to every Indian Prince, including Hari Singh to make his own decision on which nation to join. 5 “It is open”, Jinnah said in a policy statement on his Muslim League’s position towards the Indian Princely States “to [the Princes to] join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly or the Pakistan Constituent Assembly or decide to remain independent” 6
Alastair Lamb, a diplomatic Historian and author of several works on international relations said, “Jinnah did not like the plebiscite idea at all, largely because he was convinced that its result would be determined by Sheikh Abdullah. Thus Jinnah was not prepared to run the risk of confirming Sheikh Abdullah in power” 7
Justice Mehar Chand Mahajan, the then Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, and later the Chief Justice of India observed, “Plebiscite in my view had no meaning after the Maharaja had acceded to India in terms of the Indian Independence Act. This act of accession was complete and conclusive…The Indian Independence Act did not envisage conditional accession. It wanted to keep no Indian state in a state of suspense. It conferred on the rulers of Indian states absolute power to accede to either of the two dominions. The dominion’s Governor General had the power to accept the accession or reject the offer but he had no power to keep the question open or attach conditions to it. I fail to understand from what Constitutional provision the Indian Government derives this power to say to the Pakistan that it will re-decide the question of accession of Kashmir by holding a plebiscite in the state of Kashmir after Pakistan’s aggression has been withdrawn. The document of accession does not give it this power. Maharaja never accepted this position” 8
Another factor that is responsible for this alienation was the reference to the United Nations Security council. Mountbatten pressurized Nehru. H. V. Hodson, the Constitutional adviser to the Viceroy of India in 1941-42, had observed,
Lord Mountbatten now bent his efforts to getting the idea of reference to the United Nations accepted. Pandit Nehru was first adamantly opposed. Under what article of the charter he asked, could any reference to the United Nations be made? How did Pakistan come in to picture at all? He insisted that the first step was to drive out the raiders. However he gradually came round and on 20th December Indian cabinet finally decided that India should appeal to the United Nations, accusing Pakistan of helping raiders.” 9
India’s application to the Security Council was sent on 1st January 1948. “Mountbatten’s haste avoided prior consultation with Patel, who happened to be on a short tour of Assam and returned to Delhi two days after the reference had been made. Had Mountbatten and Nehru waited, Patel they feared would have come in the Mountbatten’s way as he had earlier been in the case of Junagadh when Patel did not allow a reference to be made to UNO.” 10
Patel’s unofficial comment on India going to UN was, “Even a District Court pleader will not go as a complainant” 11 The Times, London quoted Patel’s long held contemptuous view of the Security Council as ‘Insecurity Council and a disturber of peace’ 12
Pandit Nehru had accepted in the first week of January 1948, that the “Kashmir issue has been raised to an international level by our reference to the Security Council of UN and most of the great powers are intensely interested in what happens in Kashmir” 13 A month later he said that the Kashmir issue ‘has given us a great trouble…the attitude of [the] great powers has been astonishing. Some of them have shown active partnership with Pakistan.” 14 In May he again said, “We feel that we have not been given a fair deal” 15
What kept the Kashmir valley terribly aloof from the Indian mainstream was the incorporation of Article 370 in the Constitution of India. Nehru had agreed to Sheikh Abdullah’s having a separate constitution for Jammu & Kashmir. Here the sensitivity of Pandit Nehru to the international opinion took precedence over the practicality of the situation. “Even President Rajendra Prasad was ‘taken a back’ when Abdullah conveyed to him Nehru’s acceptance of such a proposal”. 16 It was said to be a temporary provision inserted till the accession was ratified by the constituent Assembly of J&K. It was transitional in nature. Mr G. Ayyangar the then minister of Kashmir Affairs expressed hope that “In due course Jammu and Kashmir will become ripe for the same sort of integration as has taken place in case of other states.” Prior to its legislation, the article had to have the approval of the Congress Parliamentary Board. At the party meeting, the issue raised a storm of angry protests from all sides and Ayyangar found himself a lone defender. 17
The other compulsion was probably that of the holding of a plebiscite. Security Council passed a resolution on April 21, 1948 recommending to the Government of Pakistan to withdraw tribes and Pakistani nationals from Kashmir. Subsequently, the Government of India was to carry out a progressive withdrawal of the Indian forces to limit it to the minimum strength required for the maintenance of law and order. The resolution also envisaged the appointment of a plebiscite administrator with adequate powers to prepare and conduct the plebiscite. Dr. Karan Singh has rightly pointed out that “Maharaja deeply resented the manner in which Jawaharlal had made his handing over the power to Sheikh, a virtual condition for extending military aid to save the state from Pakistani occupation….Plebiscite being the watch word at that time, this became the trump card in the hands of Sheikh Abdullah. As the man who was supposed to win the plebiscite for India, he could demand his pound of flesh….The offer became a main source of trouble and difficulty later” 18
Sheikh Abdullah’s views had to be accepted and Article 370 was inserted in the constitution as he wanted it to be. It stipulated that no law enacted by the Government of India would be applicable to the State of Jammu & Kashmir until it was so approved by the State Legislature. There is dual citizenship; Indians do not become automatically the citizens of Jammy & Kashmir. The state has separate Constitution and a separate flag. Constituent Assembly approved the accession in February 1956 but this specific provision was not deleted. Article 370 has been misused by the political elite of the valley for building their empires. It is a vicious strategy to keep the state aloof from the national mainstream. ‘It militates against the concept of one India’ and encourages the Two Nation Theory. It has continued to fan the fissiparous tendencies in the valley and has been source of anguish and unending pain for the people of Jammu and Ladakh who for long had been wishing for the final and total assimilation of the state in the national mainstream.
Another factor that kept the Kashmiris alienated from the Indian nation was the Nehru-Sheikh Accord of 1952. Joseph Corbel, the then Chairman of the U.N. Observers Commission has written that,
“On July 24, 1952 Jawahar Lal announced in the Parliament, the signing of an agreement with Sheikh Abdullah. It gave to Kashmir, special rights which other princely states never had like….’Hereditary ruler to be replaced by a Head of state to be elected by the constituent Assembly/state assembly for a term of 5 years however subject to ratification by the President of India.’”
Secondly fundamental rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution of India will apply to Jammu & Kashmir, subject to the provision that they will not be applicable to the programme of land reforms including the expropriation of land without compensation, nor they should adversely affect the security measures undertaken by the state Government
Thirdly the Kashmir legislature shall have the power to define and regulate the rights and privileges of the permanent residents of the state, more especially in regard to the acquisition of immovable property, appointments to services and like matters.
Fourthly the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India was to be limited as regards Kashmir, to interstate disputes, to the fundamental rights applicable to the state and to matters of defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications. The Government of India wanted the Supreme Court to be the final Court of Appeal in civil and criminal cases. But the Sheikh did not agree, and had left it open.
The national flag of India was accepted to be the supreme but the Kashmir state flag was also to be maintained. In financial matters, the Govt of India wanted integration but the Sheikh got it postponed.
The most important provision of the agreement was the emergency powers of the President of India. According to Article 352 of the Indian Constitution, President has the power to declare emergency in case of invasion, external danger or internal disturbance. But as per agreement in case of internal disturbance, emergency can only be declared at the request or the concurrence of the Government of the state” 19
There was a lot of criticism about this agreement in the country. There were angry demonstrations in Jammu. Kushak Bakola, the then Head Lama of Ladakh said in an interview “It should be clear…that there shall be no place for us in a virtually independent Kashmir.” However there was no change in the stance of Jenab Sheikh Abdullah. “Even when the Delhi Accord had been ratified by the State constituent Assembly, Sheikh Abdullah said immediately thereafter on July 10, 1953 ‘A time will come when I will bid them goodbye.’” 20
Krishna Menon took a correct stand at the United Nations when he said that,
“Kashmir’s accession was valid and final, that the Kashmiri people had expressed their desire in the elections of October 1951, and that these elections ended India’s obligations in the matter of a plebiscite—a plebiscite to which India had never been actually committed by a binding treaty.”
He further said “Once the merger of Kashmir with India was consummated, it could not be revoked because the Indian Constitution did not recognize the right of secession” 21 Then why has the Indian leadership continued to remain befuddled and ambivalent?
In the end I would like to quote V. Shanker, Secretary to Sardar Patel who had his reservations on Sardar Patel agreeing to Pandit Nehru on Article 370. “Sardar Patel had remarked then ‘neither Sheikh Abdullah nor Gopalaswamy is permanent. The future would depend upon the strength and guts of the Indian Government and if we cannot have confidence in our strength, we do not deserve to exist as a nation.’” 23
1) Faultline: Kashmir by Christopher Thomas
2) …published in The Scotsman
3) Pakistan –Eye of the Storm by Owen Bennet Jones
4) Faultline: Kashmir by Christopher Thomas
5) Diary of October 28, 1947 by Alan Campbell Johnson
6) Indian Annual Register, 1947
7) Crisis in Kashmir: 1947-1966 by Alastair Lamb
8) Looking Back by Meher Chand Mahajan
9) The Great Divide—Britain-India-Pakistan by H.V.Hodson
10) Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel by B Krishna
11) Mission with Mountbatten by Campbell-Johnson pp-262-263.
12 The Times, London October 2, 1948
13) Letters to Chief Ministers by Jawahar Lal Nehru Vol. 1, page 43.
14) Ibid, 61
15) Ibid, 119
16) Valmiki, ibid,p 298
17) My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel Vol. II, p-61 by V. Shanker, Secretary to Sardar Patel
18) Heir Apparent: Autobiography by Dr Karan Singh
19) Danger in Kashmir by Joseph Corbel
20) Heir Apparent: Autobiography by Dr Karan Singh
21) Danger in Kashmir by Josef Corbel
22) Danger in Kashmir by Josef Corbel
23) My reminiscences of Sardar Patel by V. Shanker Secretary to Sardar Patel