Kashmir cauldron: A legacy of Nehru’s grand failure

Kashmir, Land of Rishi Kashyap, was one of the most important centres of Hinduism since the early centuries of Christian Era. It gave way to Buddhism during the rule of Kushanas but later became known for Kashmir Shaivism after AdiShankara defeated a galaxy of scholars in a series of debates at Sarvjanapith or Sharada Peeth on Mimansa, Vedanta and other Hindu Philosophical subjects, he then opened the Fourth Door of the revered Peeth.

The venerable Sharada Peeth now lies in ruins in Pakistan occupied Kashmir just across the KishanGanga river in Neelam Valley. The corresponding region on our side of the river is known as Keren, Kupwara district. And, it doesn’t stand alone in its ruins, it’s given company by thousands of ancient temples and Mathas destroyed by the Islamic invaders ever since 13 CE when Kashmir finally fell to the iconoclast hordes of the North.

The torment continued till 1846, when Dogra Rajputs under Raja Gulab Singh signed a treaty with the English for ₹75,00,000, after Sikhs lost the First Anglo-Sikh War, to become the Sovereign ruler of erstwhile northern territories of the Sikh Empire Of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. The territory of Jammu and Kashmir was given to Raja Gulab Singh when Sikhs were unable to pay ₹ 15 million to the East India Company as war reparations for an amount of ₹ 7.5 million. The sale was under the Treaty of Amritsar signed by Raja Gulab Singh, Sir Henry Hardinge, Major Henry Lawrence and Currie on 16 March 1846.
(Ref:Kashmir Legal Documents, Treaty Of Amritsar, archived 5 January, 2002)

Kashmir regained a sense of its culture, its religion and its rich heritage as the seat of Sharada in the years under a Hindu rule after 500 years of tyranny and brutal persecution. The gain was short lived as India gained independence in 1947, but British as a parting gift left it to the Princely States to decide their future and fortune based on their inclination.

Maharaja of Kashmir was under severe pressure by elements inimical to Indian interests who wanted to be part of Pakistan, the new Dominion found on basis of religion. As the Kashmir Valley and the Northern Areas were almost 100% Muslim, the clamour for Pakistan rose as the majority Muslims wanted to join the Theological State of Pakistan. Muslim Conference under Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas, Agha Shaukat Ali were inciting communal violence.(Ref: Korbel, 1966,p.23)
(Ref:Jha, Rival Versions of History,1966)

Meanwhile, predominantly Hindu Jammu wanted to be an inalienable part of the Independent India. Maharaja treading softly chose to linger with his decision or indecision to thwart off attempts by Pakistan and his majority subjects. His misery was compounded by Sheikh Abdullah, whose erstwhile Muslim Conference rechristened National Conference on behalf of Jawahar Lal Nehru was leading protests for Maharaja to step down and pave way for democratic options in the the State Of J&K.

The insidious design of Sheikh was the complete takeover of the State by these protests which were nothing but a conspiracy by Islamists to deny the Hindus of J&K a place of dignity and respect. Nehru, had a soft corner for Sheikh Abdullah and his brand of politics while never tried hide his dislike for the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh.

This mutual dislike and distrust led to irreconcilable differences between the two points of views. Sardar Patel tried to intervene and cool things down which could pave way for an early Accession of Kashmir into the Union of India.
Maharaja removed his unpopular Prime Minister, Ram Chandra Kak to pacify Sheikh and Nehru. (Ref:Mahatma Gandhi, Collected Works, vol 89)

However, things were moving at a snail’s pace. Pakistan all the while was instigating the Northern Afghan tribes to invade Kashmir in garb of Razakars while supporting their efforts by infiltration of regular soldiers of Pakistan army.

In the bloodbath of the Partition, Kashmir had more than its share. On 18 August, in one of the worst massacres of the Partition, the train Wazirabad-Jammu filled with Hindus and Sikhs was completely butchered by the Lohars and Kashmiris of Nizamabad. (Ref:Chattha,Partition & Its Aftermath, 2009)

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army was finalising Operation Gulmarg to organise a tribal invasion of Kashmir. All through these developments, the mutual distrust and fears of Maharaja Hari Singh Of ill-treatment by Congress in general and Nehru in particular did not allow any meaningful negotiations to take place. Even the efforts of Sardar Patel failed in this atmosphere of mistrust.(Ref:Jasbir Singh, Roar of the Tiger,2003)

On 30 September 1947, Nehru went ahead and proposed using Plebiscite as a means to settle disputes regarding Princely States. It was uncalled for as there were no issues of other than that of Junagadh and Nizam.(Ref:Dasgupta,War & Diplomacy in Kashmir, 2014)

By October, a full scale rebellion had started in Muzaffarabad, and provisional government of Azad Kashmir was proclaimed. The role of British Officers was dubious during the entire run up to the October invasion by Pakistan. They had actively colluded with Pakistan to weaken the position of J&K State Forces.

Kashmir invasion by regular troops began on 21 October which precipitated the the First Indo-Pak War. Thousands of Pashtuns accompanied the regular army at the prospect of loot and plunder. The invasion forced the Maharaja to accept accession at any terms. VP Menon was the conduit in the negotiations and the Accession was accepted on condition of future ratification by people and Sheikh Abdullah. The condition was not laid by Maharaja but it was a condition programmed to subvert the Unconditional Accession to a conditional one which depended on the whims and fancies of the Muslims of Kashmir rather than the whole population of the State Of J&K.

Indian Army entered the conflict after the Instrument of Accession was signed on 26 October, shockingly Sheikh Abdullah accepted it but termed it ad hoc. Abdullah at the insistence of Nehru was appointed head of emergency administration. (Ref:Sheikh Abdullah, Flames Of Chinar, 1993)

The fighting razed on with heavy losses on both sides, the British had stood down as it was decided in an event a war took place between two dominions.

Even as no resolution of the conflict of was in sight, Nehru referred the conflict to UN Security Council on 31 December 1947. (Ref: Ankit,Britain and Kashmir,2013)

The effect of referring the conflict led to a permanent UN intervention in what was primarily a question of a Princely State deciding its future.

Sheikh Abdullah, protege of Nehru thought of Independence of Kashmir while he was a member of Indian delegation to the UN. He even raised the possibility with the US delegate Warren Austin.

The British were favourably inclined towards Pakistan as was evident from the machinations of Noel-Baker who convinced UN that raiders will not be withdrawn until there’s a change of government in Kashmir.(Ref:Schaffer, Limits Of Influence,2009)
Meanwhile, Pakistani Forces mounted an attack on Skardu, the garrison held on for 7 months before capitulation. All the while Nehru hesitated to launch Army into the conflict with the aim of evicting the raiders and the Pakistani troops. This delay led to complete secession of Northern Areas of the State Of J&K, forever.(Ref:Bajwa, Jammu & Kashmir War, 2003)

Nehru ignored the sane advice of his colleagues and played into the hands of Sheikh Abdullah who wanted to rule J&K and oust the Maharaja.

The UN Security Council headed by China now called upon to withdraw the raiders from Kashmir while India to hold Plebiscite. The entire drama of going to the UN had turned into a veritable farce, where in the legitimate Accession of J&K became a matter of international politics where World Powers were jostling for a space in the hotly contested piece of real estate called Kashmir. (Ref:Dasgupta, War & Diplomacy in Kashmir,2014)

If the war time failures weren’t enough, Nehru went into an Appeasement Mode in form of Sheikh Abdullah and Kashmiriyat. The failure in War was compounded by Nehru’ inability to influence either the world opinion or his neighbours of the culpability of Pakistan in invasion of Kashmir.

The half hearted response to the invasion by Pakistan and its proxies of the State Of J&K especially after Maharaja Hari Singh unconditional acceptance of Accession is the sole reason for this sore to have developed into a festering wound. The inherent Islamic nature of the Kashmir conflict cannot be wished away by invoking some abstract notion of Kashmiriyat, Muslim Conference and later National Conference are all one and the same, both espouse the cause of Muslims of Kashmir Valley and not the State Of J&K as a whole.

Majority in Jammu and Ladakh wanted a complete integration with the Union of India but Nehru failed the people with his Kashmir centric policies which further alienated the Kashmiri people, mostly Muslims. Nehru even suggested a tentative Partition cum Plebiscite plan to Owen Dixon, the UN mediator. (Ref:AG Noorani, The Dixon Plan,Oct 2002)

The idea that Kashmir is different from India is Constitutionalised by Art 370 and Art 35A which gives J&K a separate Constitution, a separate Flag, a separate Criminal Procedure Code and the right decide who shall be a Permanent Resident Of the State Of J&K. The nature of these Constitutional provisions is secessionist and harbour a feeling of being different from the rest of the country.

Hindus and Buddhists of Jammu and Ladakh who were fighting for a complete integration of J&K with India were left high and dry by the policies of Nehru. It’s only the Kashmir Valley which has been the hotbed of Islamic militancy and secessionist activity, other areas including the areas closer to the LoC haven’t seen the kind of violence which has become a regular feature of Kashmir Valley in general and South Kashmir in particular.

More than 80% of the State Of J&K is peaceful, however, the feeling of alienation has steeped deep into the psyche of a common Kashmiri Muslim more than his Muslim counterpart in Kargil or Jammu. The radicalisation has worked well for the new wave of militancy in Kashmir, the lack of political will to do something out of ordinary is the only reason for this cauldron.

The policies of Nehru have to be rolled back if we want to achieve the aim of Complete Integration of J&K.

Mere exhortations of Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat and Kashmiriyat are nothing but empty slogans which have led to the ethnic Genocide of Kashmiri Pandits who today live in inhuman conditions in refugee camps in Jammu, Delhi and are scattered around the country. They have been waiting for last 30 years to be rehabilitated by our governments, the wait it seems is unending, for our politics do not have a coherent response to this abomination of Islamic Terror in Kashmir.

The daily deaths occurring in Kashmir are merely statistics for our policy makers sitting in the plush environs of Lutyens Delhi. The need is a complete overhaul of the policies of the Union of India with respect to Kashmir. The way forward is the removal of Articles 370 & 35A where in a complete integration of the State takes place with the Union.
The criticism stemming from this move cannot be the reason for a festering wound to become a malignant tumour which has the potential to destroy the the very existence of India as a Nation.

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