The Kashmir Imbroglio : An Objective Analysis

Dr G.M. Athar
August 4, 2017 OPINION 248 Views
The Kashmir Imbroglio : An Objective Analysis

The legitimate and illegitimate sense of belongingness to Kashmir among the parties to the territorial dispute on erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir has created a messy situation that needs an objective analysis to suggest a pragmatic way forward. The Dogra kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir was established by the Treaty of Amritsar on 11th March 1846 and on 15th August 1947 it acquired freedom from the British suzerainty. The last Dogra autocratic ruler Maharaja Hari Singh preferred to stay away from the sovereign countries of India and Pakistan so he sent an identical standstill agreement to both of them on 12th August 1947. Pakistan accepted the standstill agreement but India wanted the government of Jammu and Kashmir to spell out the details of the agreement first. Both the countries made serious political and diplomatic efforts to win over the autocratic ruler but Maharaja Hari Singh resisted the temptation of both the neighbours.
The political leadership within Jammu and Kashmir was divided ideologically and their ideological division was further reinforced by the clash of interests among National Conference led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Muslim Conference led by Choudhry Ghulam Abbas and Jammu and Kashmir Government of Maharaja Hari Singh. Sheikh Abdullah was a pro-India secularist whereas the Kashmiri leader of Muslim Conference was a pro-Pakistan Muslim nationalist. National Conference was in favour of maximum possible autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir State within India whereas the Muslim Conference aspired for the same but within Pakistan.
The letter of apology by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to Maharaja Hari Singh on 26th September 1947 and the premature release of the former from jail three days later on 29th September filled Pakistani establishment with suspicion that there was a compromise between Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheik Abdullah on the question of state’s accession with Pakistan. The anti-Pakistan public speech of Sheikh Abdullah on 2nd October 1947 and the pro-India resolution of National Conference Working Body on 3rd October 1947 made Pakistan to believe that both Sheikh Abdullah and the Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir has been won over by New Delhi and the accession of the princely state with Indian Union was very likely to take place any time in immediate future. In order to frustrate the India’s designs in Jammu and Kashmir, the government of Pakistan sponsored tribal raid in Kashmir on 22nd October 1947. The autocratic ruler approached New Delhi on 24th October for military help but the Government of India put the conditions of prior accession of the state with Indian Union and the induction of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah -the popular leader of Kashmir- in the state administration. Maharaja Hari Singh was obliged to submit the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union with respect to defense, foreign affairs and communication on 26th October 1947. He also gave written assurance to the Govt. of India that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah would be inducted in the state administration. The next day early in the morning on 27th October 1947 the Indian troops landed at Srinagar airport to drag out the Pakistani raiders from Kashmir. On 27th October 1947 in his reply to the Maharaja Hari Singh’s Instrument of Accession, Lord Mountbatten the Governor General of India made a remark that once law and order is restored in Jammu and Kashmir the will of the people of the state on the subject of accession will be determined. A week later Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru the Prime Minister of India made a policy address on All India Radio in which he categorically made it clear that the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir State will be determined on the subject of state’s accession with Indian Union.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah took the charge of Emergency Administrator of Jammu and Kashmir on 29th October 1947. Since the military officers in both India and Pakistan were of British origin Lord Mountbatten suggested Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to refer the India-Pakistan military conflict to the United Nations Organization to amicably resolve it through third party mediation. On 31st December 1947, the Kashmir issue was referred to the Secretary General of UN under the chapter VI of the UN Charter. On 5th February 1948 Sheikh Abdullah represented Kashmir at UN and defended accession of his state with Indian Union. On 17th March 1947 Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was sworn as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The UN Security Council resolution of 21 April 1948 on Jammu and Kashmir stated that “both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”. The UN resolution did not politically suit Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah because the Muslim dominated Jammu and Kashmir was likely to support Muslim Pakistan in a two-option plebiscite in the state. In order to secure his own political future Sheikh Abdullah began to talk about the option of an independent Jammu and Kashmir. The West was not in favour of an independent Kashmir because both UK and US feared it to become a Soviet satellite. Sheikh Abdullah had privately talked about this option to the US permanent representative at UN when he visited New York in 1948 but the later gave him no assurance in this regard. As the time passed on the ‘Third Option’ started to emerge as an alternative discourse on Kashmir the US-Soviet Cold War did cast its shadow both on the “Third Option” as well as the political career of Abdullah. Moscow wanted New Delhi to get rid of Sheikh Abdullah at any cost. The convergence of geo-strategic interests of New Delhi and Moscow finally led to the dismissal and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah on 8th August 1953.
The dismissal and arrest of the most popular political leader of Kashmir had its far reaching negative consequences on Indo-Kashmir emotional integration. The formation of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front by Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beigh-the most trusted lieutenant of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah- became a significant factor in launching a powerful anti-India propaganda for nearly two decades to alienate the people of Kashmir from the Indian mainstream. The Beigh-Parthasarthy Accord in 1974 paved the way for Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beigh to assume political power in the state. The people of Kashmir voted back the Abdullah faction of National Conference to power in 1977 state assembly elections but a decade later National Conference and Congress I resorted to rigging of elections on 23rd March 1987 to defeat Muslim United Front candidates for assuming power through unfair means in the state. The defeated candidates of Muslim United Front and their political workers in a state of frustration and sense of deprivation established its candidates with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front of late Amanullah Khan to start armed struggle against Indian military and paramilitary forces in the state. The Kashmiri youth enthusiastically joined the armed struggle to liberate Kashmir from India to establish an independent Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan wanted to have upper hand of pro-Pakistan elements in the armed struggle so it stopped training and arms supply to JKLF and encouraged the indigenous pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen to lead the armed struggle in the state. Subsequently Pakistani and Afghan nationals were also sent in Kashmir to fight Indian forces under the banner of pro-Pakistan Harkat-ul-Ansar, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Lashkar-e-Toiba etc.
The Pakistan supported armed struggle in Kashmir is an indigenous phenomenon in Kashmir that acquires a degree of popular support and legitimacy because of the continual erosion of autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, historical basis of the disputed nature of Kashmir, the geographical proximity of the Muslim dominated state to Pakistan, excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Indian troops in Kashmir, rise of Hindu nationalism in India and the lack of good governance in the state. Over the past three decades more than two lakh of people have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir, many more have been seriously injured, private and public property worth billions of rupees has been destroyed, the people have been subjected to all kinds or torture and above all the Kashmiri nation has a developed a strong sense of individual and collective loss. In the face of this empirical situation in Kashmir it would be unrealistic to think that sustainable peace and normalcy can be restored in the state.
In order to restore peace in Jammu and Kashmir the parties to the political and territorial dispute need to shun away their maximal positions to have a common meeting ground. A sincere effort to work for permanent peace by the concerned governments, civil society organizations, print and electronic media, other opinion makers and the community leadership at the local level can help in creating an environment of trust and tranquility in the state. The vicious circle of unrealistic assertion, radicalization, extremism, jingoism and intolerance has to be broken through multi-level negotiation process with a deep sense of commitment to justice for promote rational argument based on objective facts and figures. Any workable solution of Kashmir problem can’t be cent percent in favour of any particular party nor can it be totally at cross purpose with any party’s interests. The common objective of regional peace and security in the Indian subcontinent can be a guiding principle to make possible compromises to realize the objective of peaceful coexistence.
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