Kashmir is the main excuse that India and Pakistan use to justify the high cost of their militarisation. It is not merely the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir who suffer from this rivalry—peace in the Subcontinent is held hostage by this dispute. Peace in Kashmir is not an option. It is imperative for South Asia’s survival.
The 1950s witnessed the revival of nationalism in India. Like most Indians of that decade, I grew up believing in the great destiny of India. We looked to the future and saw India as a prosperous, peace-loving and powerful country, a leader among the community of nations. We were proud that despite the partition of the Subcontinent on religious grounds, India remained committed to secularism.
Our teachers never tired of pointing to Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state’s voluntary accession to India. It was the badge of India’s secularism. The majority of our teachers and our parents were nationalists. Most of them believed that Hinduism was compatible with secularism, as it was a tolerant and open system. They believed Islam was rigid and intolerant. They blamed the Muslims primarily for the Partition riots and killings. Not a single Muslim family lived on our Calcutta street. There were no Muslim students in our school.
The continued persecution of Bengali Hindus in East Pakistan roused passions and there were occasional outbursts of anger on the streets when innocent Muslims of Calcutta became targets of violence. Yet it did not seem to sully our secularist image or shake our belief that Hinduism was more tolerant than Islam. These incidents were explained away as mere aberrations. It escaped everybody’s notice that perhaps we were tolerant of the Muslims because they did not live among us. The fact that the Muslims were the butt of jokes also did not seem to bother most of our elders who professed to be secularists.
It was in my first geography lesson that I learnt that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India. At home, we were told that Kashmir was linked to India from the days of the Mahabharata. Many holy shrines of the Hindus including the sacred cave of Amarnath were located in the Valley. The Hindu history of Kashmir was the main focus of our lessons in school. The 8th-century Hindu king of Kashmir, Lalitaditya of the Karkota dynasty, was the hero of our history teacher. We learnt that Lalitaditya’s kingdom had extended from beyond Amu Darya (Oxus) in central Asia in the northwest to Bengal and Assam in the east. We were also told that though the Karkota dynasty was able to repulse the attacks of the Arab invaders from Sind in the 8th and the 9th centuries, the Valley finally passed into the hands of Muslim rulers in the 14th century.
The map of India that we learnt by heart and reproduced from memory at every examination included the entire territory of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir as a part of India. According to this map (which is still being drawn by the schoolchildren of today), India’s borders extended upto Afghanistan in the west. In our geography books, Kashmir was described as a virtual paradise on earth—the jewel of India. We learnt about the exceptional beauty of the place, its people and their wonderful crafts. We also learnt that Pakistan had tried to snatch this jewel from us immediately after Partition despite the fact that the Maharaja of Kashmir had acceded to India. We were told that the Indian soldiers had fought valiantly against Pakistani intruders and secured it for us. However about two-fifths of the territory of Kashmir was still under the control of Pakistan and the task was to liberate the Pakistan-occupied parts of Kashmir.
We were also told that Pakistan even after its defeat had not given up its designs on Kashmir. It kept on pressurising India at international fora with the support of Britain and America to give up Kashmir. It was hinted that some disgruntled Muslim elements were trying to foment trouble in the Valley, as they wanted Kashmir to merge with Pakistan on the ground that it was a Muslim-majority area. However, our teachers told us that the majority of the Muslims of Kashmir were secular and had resisted the Pakistani attackers and that they did not want to join Pakistan.
We were not told anything about the commitments made by India to the people of Kashmir at the time of accession. We were not told anything about the terms of the instrument of accession and the 1952 New Delhi Agreement, under which Kashmir was to remain virtually independent in all respects except in matters relating to defence, foreign affairs and currency. We were not aware that Nehru had committed that the people of Kashmir would get a chance to decide about their final political status. Nor did we learn anything about India’s acceptance of the UN Resolution on plebiscite.
The love affair between the Bengalis of Calcutta and Kashmir is an old one. My family was no exception. The Kashmiri shawl had a pride of place in every upper class Bengali wedding. Every year Kashmiri shawl traders visited the homes of the Bengali Babus with fresh supplies of exquisitely embroidered shawls for men and women. In fact, most of these traders had regular patrons and the relationship was built over generations. Very few Muslims were allowed free access to upper-class Hindu localities of Calcutta in the 50s and 60s, and the Kashmiri shawl traders and the Afghans who brought dry fruits and spices were the few exceptions. Afghans were not really seen as Muslims by most Bengalis. They were the Kabuliwallas made famous by Rabindranath Tagore. However, Kashmiris were real Muslims and at school we had learnt that some of them were Pakistani agents.
I knew that my mother’s family had lost all their property to Muslim peasants in East Bengal after the partition. I knew that the Kashmiri leader Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah had jailed the Bengali nationalist leader, Shyama Prashad Mukherji, and he had died in prison of some mysterious disease. Most Bengalis were happy that Sheikh Abdullah was jailed for his pro-Pakistani policies. I had heard that under the influence of the deposed Sheikh Abdullah many Kashmiri Muslims had become supporters of Pakistan. I was worried that some of the Kashmiri shawl traders might be agents of Sheikh Abdullah. I wanted to question them. Fortunately, I never got a chance to interrogate the Kashmiri shawl traders in my early youth. I had to wait nearly 20 years before I was able to put the same question to a Kashmiri.
Educating an Indian
My first visit to Kashmir was in 1984 as a documentary filmmaker. I wanted to make a film on the handloom and the shawl industry of Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah, the Lion of Kashmir was dead. His son, Farooq Abdullah, was the chief minister. “Operation Blue Star”, “Bhopal gas tragedy”, “Assassination of Mrs Gandhi” and the “Mass killing of the Sikhs” were yet to happen. However, my faith in the moral authority of the Indian state had already been shaken by the state-sponsored killings of Naxalites and the blinding of under-trial prisoners in Bhagalpur district of Bihar. Through my Naga friends at Delhi University I was already familiar with the atrocities perpetrated by the Indian army in the Northeast. I had already made my first ‘protest’ film, An Indian Story, on the Bhagalpur blindings. I was by then no longer a proud Indian nationalist.
I had been exposed to the horrible deeds of the Pakistani army in Bangladesh during the 1971 war, which I had covered for a Delhi magazine, and this had hardened my attitude towards Pakistan. I could not believe that anyone in their right mind would want to be a part of that state. And as I believed that a section of the Kashmiri Muslims, particularly members of the defunct Plebiscite Front and Al-Fatha were pro-Pakistan, I met some of them and engaged them in discussions on the relative merits of India and Pakistan.
I argued that India despite its shortcomings was a better place and that it has been rather generous to Kashmiris compared to how West Pakistan had dealt with Bangladeshis. With statistics available from Government of India sources, I pointed out that India had invested enormous amounts of funds in the state for its development. I also pointed out that India supplied food rations to the Kashmiris at a very cheap rate at the cost of the poor in the rest of the country. I also used the clinching argument that Kashmir was a symbol of India’s secularism and if it ever went to Pakistan, it would have severe repercussions on Indian Muslims in the rest of the country.
The Kashmiris were not convinced. They said that if the claim of the Bangladeshis to independence was justified on the grounds that their civil rights were trampled upon and that the party elected by them was not allowed to form a government, the same principle should be applied to Kashmir. In theory, India had given maximum autonomy to Kashmir and had made a commitment that Kashmiris would be allowed to determine their political future, yet till the late 1960s, Kashmiris did not enjoy any civil and political rights. The ‘fundamental rights’, which we in India took for granted were not available to the citizens of Kashmir.
I was told that it was only in 1977 that Kashmir had had its first fair and free election. Until then, all opposition party candidates who enjoyed any support of the people were disqualified by the returning officers under orders of the government. Kashmir was virtually ruled by the Indian intelligence agencies and the governments in Srinagar were puppets in the hands of Delhi. It was pointed out that in none of the elections had accession to India been an issue. Even the Constituent Assembly of the state, elected in 1951, was not empowered to decide on the issue of accession.
In response to my arguments about development projects, they pointed at the pathetic condition of the roads, virtual absence of industries, the lack of jobs for educated youth. The fact that very few Kashmiri Muslims held senior-level jobs in the state government was a cause of resentment, particularly as Kashmiri Muslims were never employed outside the Valley. I also learnt that Kashmir was to gain little from the massive investment in the hydel projects in the state.
Contemporaries of Sheikh Abdullah who were his comrades in Kashmir’s freedom struggle in the 30s complained that New Delhi was undermining Kashmir’s social values by promoting a class of greedy self-serving corrupt politicians to power. They warned that if New Delhi did not mend its ways, one day Kashmir would go up in flames. One of the older Kashmiri leaders pointed out to me that in the 1950s and 60s, when the Plebiscite Front was supposed to be very active, there were fewer pro-Pakistan Kashmiris than there were in the 80s.
I was face to face with Kashmiri nationalism, or Kashmiriyat, and was struck by the Kashmiris’ devotion to their culture and identity. I also got a glimpse of the depth of Kashmiri resentment and the historic wrong that had been perpetrated by New Delhi. A Kashmiri academic asked me to read Kashmir’s history. He introduced me to the books written by Vigne, Wakefield, Lawrence, Sufi, Bazaz, Bamzai, Lamb and Saraf. Some of these were banned in India, as they were supposedly pro-Pakistani books. My education had just begun.
Though Muslim military incursions to Kashmir began as early as the 8th century, it was not until the beginning of 14th century that Islam had any impact on the people of the Valley. Islam did not come as the faith of the conquerors. Itinerant Sufi mystics took it to the Valley as the message of love. The masses accepted Islam, as the appeal of the Sufi mystics was similar to that of the contemporary Hindu Shaivite rishis of Kashmir. In fact, the two developed a symbiotic relationship. The Pirs came to be known as Rishis and were revered by Muslims and Hindus alike.
The first note of discord was struck in the beginning of 15th century, when Sultan Shikander ascended the throne of Kashmir. He tried to forcibly convert all Hindus of the Valley to Islam. As a result, most non-Muslims, particularly the Brahmin Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley. Shikander’s successor Zain-ul-Abidin, who ruled Kashmir from 1420 to 1470, was a remarkably benevolent king. During his rule Kashmir witnessed a cultural renaissance and economic prosperity. He invited the Pandits back to Kashmir. He also brought master craftsmen from Iran to the Valley and laid the foundation for the Kashmiri shawl (jamawari) and carpet industries.
The Chak dynasty that succeeded Zain-ul-Abidin misruled the kingdom for nearly a century. In 1585, during the reign of Akbar, the Mughals annexed Kashmir and deposed its last local ruler, Sultan Yusuf Shah Chak. His queen, Haba Khatoon, is remembered till today by Kashmiris for the soul-stirring songs she composed after being separated from her husband.
Kashmiris enjoyed unique prosperity under the Mughal emperors, who visited the Valley often. They built palaces, forts and gardens. It was under the liberal and indulgent rule of the Mughals that Kashmiri art, architecture, crafts, and industry reached its zenith.
With the waning of Mughal power, the region passed into the hands of the Afghans, when Ahmad Shah Abdali conquered the Valley in 1752. The Afghan governors ruled the Valley with an iron hand, and heavy taxation ruined the people. Between 1804 and 1806, Kashmir was devastated by floods, a severe earthquake and exceptionally freezing winters. Thousands of Kashmiris lost their lives in the natural disasters. Property, crops and businesses were lost. Rather than help the suffering population, the Afghan rulers imposed additional taxes to finance its military expeditions.
Suffering from hunger, disease and malnutrition, the Kashmiris, both Muslim and Hindu, approached Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler of Punjab. He conquered the Valley in 1819 after three military excursions, and appointed raja Gulab Singh as the governor of Jammu. Gulab Singh was an ambitious man. With the help of his brother Dhian Singh, who was the gate-keeper of Ranjit Singh’s harem in Lahore, he was able to convince the Sikh ruler to endorse his military expansion programme.
Between 1827 and 1840, the Sikhs carried out several military campaigns in the northwest and east of the Valley. The independent kingdoms and tribal chieftains of Rajouri, Poonch, Kishtwar, Gilgit, Skardu and Ladakh were conquered and the expeditions ended only with the defeat of the Dogra-Sikh army in the battle of Tuklakote and Toyo in western Tibet against the Chinese.
The Kashmiris who had hoped that the Sikh rule would be benevolent were in for rude shock. As records show, the Sikh governors of the Valley were as ruthless as the Afghan rulers. The military expeditions were excessively punitive and brutal. Opponents of the regime were beheaded and their women and children either killed or sold to slavery. Often, the severed heads of the victims were hung from poles in market places or on the wayside as a warning to the people.
Sikh rule came to an end as a consequence of Anglo-Sikh war in 1845-46. In 1846, Lord Hardinge, the Governor General of India sold the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir, including the northern territories of Gilgit, Hunza, Yasin and Baltistan to Raja Gulab Singh for seven and half million Nanaksahi Rupees (at that time 10 Nanaksahi Rupees equivalent to £ 1). This was Gulab Singh’s reward for betraying the Sikh rulers of Punjab. Nearly two million people were sold to slavery.
Though all the people of the state are today known as Kashmiris and they seem to embrace Kashmiriyat as their identity, Kashmir proper, or the Valley, accounted for only a 20th of the 85,000 square miles of the territory over which Raja Gulab Singh established his rule in 1846.
The region comprises of numerous remarkably different linguistic and cultural zones. The language spoken in the Valley and its surrounding areas is Kashmiri, classified by linguists as the most advanced of language of Dardic group of languages. The tribal people of Gilgit, Yasin and Skardu speak other forms of Dardic languages with varying degrees of affinity to Kashmiri
Although these languages have a common origin, Kashmiris and non-Kashmiri speakers of Dardic tongues seem to have drifted far apart. Even in the Valley a small minority of the nomadic Gujjars speak Gojri, which is a dialect of Rajasthani. To the west of the Valley, in Jammu (India) and Muzaffarabad (Pakistan) the languages spoken are Dogri, Chhibali and other dialects of Punjabi—taxonomically further removed from Kashmiri. In Rawlakot and other hilly parts of Azad Kashmir (Pakistan) the local inhabitants speak Pahari which is closer to Gojri spoken by the Gujjars of the Valley. Over most of the Indian-controlled Ladakh and Pakistani-controlled Baltistan, various Tibetan languages are spoken. Finally, the tribes inhabiting Hunza, and highland tracts of the northernmost parts of Gilgit are known to speak Burushaski, or Buruishki—a language which, the linguists are yet to assign to a known language family.
During my first visit to Kashmir, I moved around the countryside, filming people at home and at work, documenting their crafts, lifestyle, and their culture. I ate their food, listened to their stories, poetry and songs. I attended the gatherings of the sufis at Hazratbal and listened to their songs. I visited the shrines of Nund Rishi and Baba Rishi, the two guardian saints of the Valley. I heard the village women and men sing the songs of Haba Khatoon and Lal Ded while spinning the pashmina or working on the loom.
I did not see the face of extreme poverty in Kashmir, which one found elsewhere in India. Almost all Kashmiris had a home and a small piece of land. I found the rural Kashmir peasants adept at many skills, and the farmers were skilled weavers. It was the women of Srinagar who spun the superfine pashmina yarn that was used in the making of the fabled jamawari shawl.
What also struck me was the Kashmiris’ political consciousness. They considered the Mughals, the Afghans, the Sikhs and the Dogras all alien rulers. The central government in New Delhi was similarly regarded as alien and the local government its stooge.
Sheikh Adbullah was allowed to return to the Valley after the 1975 Beg-Parthasarathy Accord, which made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir was “a constituent of India” and the Indian Parliament retained the power to “legislate on any matter concerning the territorial integrity of India”.
The Sheikh formed a government with the support of the Congress party. In 1977, after the Congress party withdrew its support, he recommended dissolution of the Legislative Assembly and holding of fresh elections.
The governor of the state, B.K. Nehru, despite pressure from the local Congress leaders and the central government that the local Congress party should be allowed to form a minority government, dissolved the assembly. New Delhi was furious with him.
Meanwhile, a major political change had taken place in the rest of India. In the 1977 mid-term election, Indian voters defeated Indira Gandhi and her Congress party. A coalition government led by the Janata Party came to power in New Delhi with Morarji Desai as prime minister. Apparently, Desai rejected the practice of disqualifying Kashmiri electoral candidates on the basis of secret intelligence reports. He ordered that the central government’s intelligence agencies not interfere in the state assembly elections.
The Kashmiris voted overwhelmingly for Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference party. The Janata Party government did not last long in New Delhi. By 1980, Indira Gandhi was back in power, and she reverted to the old policy of squeezing the Kashmir government. B.K. Nehru was removed from the post of the governor, and Jagmohan Malhotra, Mrs Gandhi’s trusted bureaucrat-turned-politician, was sent to replace him. The local Congress party started a campaign for the removal of the government of Farooq Abdullah, who had become chief minister after the death of his father, Sheikh Abdullah, in 1982, on the ground that Farooq and others of the National Conference party were engaged in anti-national activities such as providing shelter to the Sikh extremists of Punjab. The chief minister started parleying with other opposition parties to seek support for his government.
In mid-1984, Mrs Gandhi took two actions that were to have far-reaching implications for India’s politics. One was the infamous “Operation Blue Star” on the Sikh holy shrine, the Golden Temple, on 5 June. The other was the removal of Farooq Abdullah from power on 2 July.
Several National Conference members of the state legislature were enticed into defecting from the Abdullah government. Based on a so-called head count of supporters held at the Governor House, Jagmohan sacked the Abdullah ministry and installed one led by Abdullah’s brother-in-law, G.M. Shah, with the support of the local Congress party.
What happened during Operation Blue Star and its subsequent impact on Indian politics is well known. However, little was reported in the Indian media about the mass popular upsurge that took place in Kashmir after the forcible removal of Farooq Abdullah. I was present in Srinagar on the fateful day—two days after the Muslim festival of Eid. People were still in a celebratory mood when New Delhi decided to strike. Throughout the night and in the early hours of the morning, plane-loads of Indian security personnel landed in Srinagar. A similar operation had been undertaken on 27 October 1947, when Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar to fight the Pakistani intruders who were closing in on the Valley. At that time, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir had invited the Indian troops; this time the legally installed government of the Valley was not even informed.
By about 8 am in the morning, the newly arrived central forces were deployed at all strategic places of the city. The state police was not allowed to intervene. Movement of all public and private vehicles was halted. Pedestrians were asked to go back to their home. Shops were closed down. An undeclared emergency was imposed. In 1975, Mrs Gandhi had done the same thing in New Delhi and other state capitals of India before she declared a state of emergency. In Kashmir, an official proclamation was not even considered necessary.
An officer of the Border Security Force stopped me on the road near Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. He advised me to return to my hotel. It was only when I produced my press card and insisted that I had an appointment with a senior government official that I was allowed to continue on my way. I moved about the city a little and witnessed the utter confusion and bafflement in the eyes of the people as they were being stopped and asked to go back to their homes.
Farooq Abdullah was still the chief minister when I met him at his official residence at about 11 am. He had no control over the central forces, which had taken over Kashmir. The orders apparently had come from the governor. By mid-day his government was sacked. The entire valley burst into protest. There were protest rallies, meetings and demonstrations in every street corner and village. The Valley remained under prohibitory orders and curfew for nearly three weeks.
The rest is recent history. In 1986, communal riots broke out in the Valley. The G.M. Shah Ministry was removed and Jagmohan imposed governor’s rule over Jammu and Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah was reinstalled after he agreed to join hands with Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress party. The people rejected Farooq for his compromise. The National Conference split, and by 1987 a new political party, the Muslim United Front (MUF), had emerged, challenging the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India. The MUF decided to participate in the 1987 elections and several of its young activists were illegally arrested and tortured. The polls were rigged and the MUF candidates were defeated.
Between 1987 and 1990, the Farooq Abdullah government faced public discontent for the failure of his government to meet the basic needs of the people. All his development plans, based on the promises by Rajiv Gandhi, had failed to take off. Prices of basic commodities shot up. The Valley was virtually without electricity.
Farooq responded to the public dissidence that followed with brute force, branding all critics Muslim fundamentalists. He claimed that Pakistan-trained militants were behind the agitation. He raided Srinagar’s Jama Masjid on 25 August 1989 and arrested about 250 persons. On 8 December 1989, members of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front kidnapped Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of the then Indian home minister in the newly formed National Front government. They asked for the release of five of their comrades being held by the state government, a demand that was conceded to by the central government five days later, despite opposition from Farooq. Militancy had arrived in the Valley.
On 19 January 1990, Jagmohan, who had left Kashmir after completing his term in July 1989, was re-appointed governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest.
India and Pakistan have gone to war twice over Kashmir: in 1947 and 1965. Even the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, which began on the soil of former East Pakistan, spilt over onto Kashmir. Three wars and a 10-year-long military engagement in the Valley, which India calls “Pakistan’s proxy war” and Pakistan “Kashmir’s freedom movement”, do not seem to have reduced the passion for violence and hatred. The rise of religious fundamentalist politics on both sides of the border, despite the resumption of ‘official talks’ seems to have hardened the official positions on Kashmir. Last year, after conducting a series of nuclear tests and declaring India had become nuclear weapon state, India’s home minister warned Pakistan of horrible consequences if Pakistan did not desist from interfering in Kashmir. Within a fortnight of India’s nuclear explosions Pakistan followed suit.
One would have hoped that by now the hollowness of the argument that “nuclear weapons and missiles are a deterrence to war” would have become apparent to civil societies in India and Pakistan. Only a small coterie benefits from war, but for the majority of the people of the two countries war can never be a good business. And there is no doubt that there is a war going on in Kashmir.
The city of Srinagar, the state capital, looks like occupied territory with army bunkers in every street corner and armoured vehicles patrolling the streets. In the years since the 1989 intifada (uprising), government sources estimate that 60,000 people have been killed. More than 5500 people are “missing” and nearly 30,000 Kashmiris languish in custody without trial. The total strength of all varieties of armed forces deployed by India in the strife-torn valley is about 400,000.
The Indian armed forces have been given “special powers” which allow them to conduct cordon-and-search operations, set up road blocks, arrest, interrogate and forcibly relocate civilian populations as well as shoot to kill. Indian soldiers in the Valley enjoy de facto legal protection against prosecution by civilian courts. Not a day goes by without exacting its toll of victims and suffering. Yet, with the exception of a handful of persons, vast majorities of India’s peoples believe that Indian soldiers are defending Kashmir against Pakistan, which is conducting a ‘proxy war’ in the Valley through mercenaries.
On the other hand, most Pakistanis believe that in the Valley of Kashmir, Indian soldiers are engaged in the mass killing of Muslim men and gang rape of Muslim women fighting for freedom. Very few Pakistanis are ready to face the fact that the so-called Kashmiri freedom fighters, trained and armed by the Pakistan army and other agencies, are equally guilty of killing of innocent people, rape and abductions.
What is most unfortunate is that the common peoples of India and Pakistan who should have no illusions about their respective government’s ability to abuse human rights, apparently endorse the militarist approach to the Kashmir issue. This willing suspension of reason regarding Kashmir is common amongst all sections of Indians and Pakistanis.
Peace for progress
International pressure on India and Pakistan after their nuclear misadventure forced the two governments to restart the official talks that were stalled four years ago. But the lack of progress in the two recent rounds, the first in Islamabad and then in New Delhi, shows that both sides remain virtually incapable of resolving their so-called outstanding disputes, particularly the one on Kashmir, through negotiations.
In the last 50 years, India and Pakistan have held about 80 rounds of “official dialogues” to resolve various bilateral disputes, without much success. The main reason behind the failure of the talks is the inflexible positions of the two governments on Kashmir (see sidebar).
The situation is further complicated by political instability in the two largest countries of the Subcontinent. Both are increasingly coming under the grip of religious fundamentalist politics. The alliance between religious fundamentalists and rightist political groups in Pakistan supported by sections of the Pakistani army is seriously undermining democracy in that country. This alliance had nurtured and promoted the Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamic militancy in the Valley of Kashmir.
Similarly in India, rightist religious forces of ‘Hindutva’ continue their hate campaign against Pakistan. The Indian media tends to project the movement in the Valley as completely Pakistan-sponsored. They turn a blind eye to the abuse of human rights of the ordinary citizens of Kashmir by the Indian security forces in the so-called ‘national interest’. In the Valley, both militant groups and their above-ground political supporters such as the Hurriyat Conference, continue to put forward separatist demands, including full independence which neither India alone, nor Pakistan and India together are at all likely to concede to.
Farooq Abdullah became chief minister once again in 1996, after militancy in the Valley began to wane after the bloody years of the early 1990s. But the installation of his so-called popular government through a military-controlled election has further vitiated the prospects of a political solution to the crisis in Kashmir. Farooq has effectively reduced Kashmir to a territorial dispute by advocating the complete merger of Jammu and Kashmir into India after conversion of the line of control (LoC) into the international boundary between India and Pakistan, a move opposed by most of the separatist groups, both pro-independence and pro-Pakistan.
The high cost of the militarisation of Pakistan and India, justified to a large extent because of the Kashmir dispute, has imposed a heavy economic burden and seriously undermined democratic rights of the peoples in both countries. It is not merely the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir who suffer from this rivalry between India and Pakistan, but also, in varying degrees, all the peoples of India and Pakistan as well as the larger South Asia.
Peace in Kashmir is not an option. It is imperative for South Asia’s progress. India and Pakistan must work towards a solution without either side losing the goodwill of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Indian Position on Kashmir
The State of Jammu and Kashmir is now and has been since its accession to India on 26 October 1947 an integral part of the Indian Union. Nothing agreed to by India in the UN Security Council of 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949, or in any subsequent instrument, alters this status or in any way modifies Indian sovereignty over the state.
The only component of the Kashmir issue legally admissible in the talks between India and Pakistan on the future status of the state pertains to Pakistan vacating the territories illegally occupied by it. The future status of the state is otherwise an exclusively domestic matter to be resolved, within the four corners of the Indian Constitution.
Talks between India and Pakistan in regard to the future status of the state should be held within a strictly bilateral framework and in conformity with the Shimla Agreement of July 1972.
Pakistani Position on Kashmir
THE STATE of Jammu and Kashmir is now and has been since the end of British rule over undivided India, a disputed territory. The state’s accession to India in October 1947 was provisional. This understanding is formally acknowledged in the UN Security Council resolutions of 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949 to which both Pakistan and India agreed and which remains fully in force today, and cannot be unilaterally discarded by either party.
Talks between India and Pakistan over the future status of the state should be focused upon securing the right of self-determination for the Kashmiri people via conduct of a free, fair and4hternationally supervised plebiscite, as agreed in the aforementioned UN Security Council resolutions.
The plebiscite should offer the people of Jammu and Kashmir the choice of permanent accession of the entire state to either Pakistan or India.
Talks between India and Pakistan with regard to the future of the status of the state should be held in conformity both with the Shimla Agreement of July 1972 and the aforementioned UN Security Council resolutions. International mediation in these talks should not be ruled out.
Case study of one princely state at Partition that has relevance to Kashmir.
Most Indian and Pakistani intellectuals, whether they live in the Subcontinent or abroad, seem to subscribe to the official truths on Kashmir. It is easy to walk the high moral ground, particularly when one is innocent of facts. Going back in history to take a look at how the issue of accession of the princely state of Junagadh (now in the state of Gujarat) was settled by India would help us understand the fallacy of some moralistic positions.
According to the census of 1941, 80 percent of the population of Junagadh were Hindus. But the ruler was Muslim. (Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu King and about 80 percent of his subjects were Muslim.) Two days after Independence newspapers reported that the Nawab of Junagadh had acceded to Pakistan. The chronology of events that followed Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan and Pakistan’s acceptance of the accession has been recorded by the eminent Indian jurist A.G. Noorani, in his book The Kashmir Question (1964, Bombay), from which the following relevant passages have been taken. The events concerning Junagadh was recorded by Noorani to show the stand taken by the governments of India and Pakistan with regard to cases of disputed accession. This was as relevant in 1964 as it is today.
On September 12, Nehru sent a telegram to the Prime Minister of Pakistan which said: “The Dominion of India would be prepared to accept any democratic test in respect of the accession of the Junagadh State to either of the two Dominions. They would accordingly be willing to abide by a verdict of these people in this matter, ascertained under the joint supervision of the Dominion of India and Junagadh. If, however, the ruler of Junagadh is not prepared to submit this issue to a referendum and if the Dominion of Pakistan, in utter disregard of the wishes of the people and the principles governing the matter, enter into arrangement by which Junagadh is to be part of the Federation of Pakistan, the Government of India cannot be expected to acquiesce in such an arrangement.”
On September 22, the governor-general of India wired to the governor-general of Pakistan: “Acceptance of accession to Pakistan cannot but be regarded by the Government of India as an encroachment on Indian sovereignty and inconsistent with friendly relations that should exist between the two Dominions. This action of Pakistan is considered by the Government of India to be a clear attempt to cause disruption by extending the influence and boundaries of the Dominion of Pakistan in utter violation of the Principles on which partition was agreed upon and effected.”
In a communiqué issued on September 25, 1947, the Government of India set out their views and said that the “relationship of Junagadh to either of the two Dominions” should be “determined by a free expression of the will of the State”.
On October 4, the Government of India considered the Junagadh situation. “It was decided to inform the Prime Minister of Pakistan that the only basis on which friendly negotiations could start and be fruitful was the reversion of Junagadh to the status quo preceding the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan and that the alternative to negotiations was a plebiscite.”
In a statement on October 5, 1947, the Government of India recalled that the Governments of India and Pakistan had declared their determination in the Joint Statement issued on September 20 to rule out war. The Government set out their views in regard to the accession of Junagadh and said that they would not accept it “in the circumstances in which it was made.” The Statement said: “Any decision involving the fate of large numbers of people must necessarily depend on the wishes of these people. This is the policy which the Government of India accept in its entirety and they are of the opinion that dispute involving the fate of the people of any territory should be decided by a referendum or plebiscite of the people concerned. This is a method at once democratic, peaceful and just. They suggest, therefore, that the issues regarding Junagadh should be decided by a referendum or plebiscite of the people of the State. Such a referendum or plebiscite should be held under impartial auspices to be determined by the parties concerned.”
Two days later, the Government of Pakistan issued a statement setting out their views on the accession of Junagadh. The statement suggested the withdrawal of troops by the Government of India from Sardargarh and Batva and by Junagadh from Babariawad. “The Pakistan Government has also informed the Government of India of their willingness to discuss the conditions and circumstances in which a plebiscite should be taken by any State or States.” In the light of events that happened later, it is a matter of regret that the two Governments did not explore this avenue to which both were then moving.
On November 9, 1947, India Armed Units moved into Junagadh. A telegram sent the same date by the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Prime Minister of Pakistan mentions a request made by Major Harvey Jones, Senior Member of the Junagadh State Council, appealing to the Government of India to take over the Junagadh administration. “This request was made in order to save the State from complete administrative breakdown and pending an honourable settlement of several issues involved in Junagadh’s accession.”
The Government of Pakistan lodged a protest and contended that in view of the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan it continued to remain a part of Pakistan territory. When the Kashmir question came up before the Security Council in 1948, Pakistan raised the question of Junagadh but after a few inconclusive debates in March, April and May 1948 the question was never raised again.
In February 1948 the Government of India held a referendum in Junagadh and by an almost unanimous vote the people showed their preference for India.