Jammu and Kashmir: a historical perspective

30th Aug 2019
Jammu and Kashmir: a historical perspective

­­­­­­­Kashmiri woman at a checkpoint requests passage during a clamp down in Srinagar, Jammu Kashmir, India, on August 6
(Photo: Faisal Khan/Anadolu Agency)

Ghulam Nabi Falahi

The history of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) reveals, without any ambiguity, that its people have never relinquished their claim to the right to self-determination. The entire state is a mandated, disputed territory pending a final settlement on the UN Agenda.

For the last 71 years, despite the promises and commitments of the international community, India and Pakistan, the dream of the Kashmiris for a settled political future has not been realised. This uncertainty has resulted in the cycles of oppression, domination, resistance and repression.

The measures unleashed by the current BJP Government headed by Narendra Modi on August 5 are designed to go beyond the wreck of Kashmiri autonomy. They are aimed at destroying the territory itself. The legal mechanics, crippling as they are, were imposed after the Valley was ‘sanitised’ by the army and paramilitary. Kashmir’s police were disarmed. Its civil service was abolished, and all forms of communications cut. This itself is a tribute to the rebellious spirit of the people of Kashmir. Undoubtedly, it is a longstanding conflict which was left by the British Empire after World War II.

When Britain quit India, the British Parliament enacted the Indian Independence Act of 1947, whereby the two new dominions of India and Pakistan were carved out… The result of this was that on the lapse of paramount suzerainty reverted to the princely states, for the British Parliament declined to transfer them to either of the two successor governments. Thus, the princely states became completely independent.

However, they were advised by Britain, to affiliate with either of the two dominions, keeping in view geographical and other relevant considerations, for the very limited purpose of securing their defence, foreign relations and a few other specified matters by an appointed date of all the Indian states. The chief exceptions being the State of Jammu and Kashmir and the State of Hyderabad fell in line with this policy.

The Kashmir had its peculiar problems. Its ruler was a Hindu but its population was preponderantly Muslim.

Its other problems have been set by N C Chatterjee, who was Member of the Indian Parliament (1965) and a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. He wrote: ‘The geographical situation of the State was such that it would be bounded on all sides by the new Dominion of Pakistan. Its only access to the outside world by road lay through the Jhelum Valley road which ran through Pakistan, via Rawalpindi. The only rail line connecting the State with the outside world lay through Sialkot in Pakistan. Its postal and telegraphic services operated through areas that were certain to belong to the Dominion of Pakistan.

The State was dependent for all its imported supplies like salt, sugar, petrol and other necessities, on their safe and continued transit through areas that would form part of Pakistan.

The tourist transit traffic, which was a major source of income and revenue, could only come via Rawalpindi. The only route available for the export of its valuable fruit was the Jhelum Valley route. Its timber could mainly be drifted down in the Jhelum River which ran into Pakistan.

The same authority credits the Maharaja, given the difficulties, with a desire to have an independent status for Kashmir, its independence being guaranteed by the two new Dominions. Pending the determination of this question by the Maharaja, he offered to make standstill agreements with both the Dominions providing for the maintenance of the status quo in respect of many essential services necessary to the life of the people of the State; and one such agreement was in fact concluded with Pakistan, as a result of which that country continued to operate its postal and telegraphic services in Kashmir. India, however, did not conclude any such standstill agreement.

In the meantime, the tribesmen of Poonch, which was a part of the State, pressed their demand for its accession to Pakistan, and the Maharaja adopted various stringent measures to quell the resulting disturbance. When there followed soon after an armed incursion of the tribesmen, the Maharaja’s resistance collapsed. He could no longer defend Kashmir with his resources, he asked India for armed assistance to deal with this situation, though without offering to accede to India. India, however, took the view that it would be the height of folly to send troops into a neutral state and that the accession of Kashmir to India was a prerequisite; but this accession would be conditional on the will of the people, as ascertained through a referendum as soon as law and order were restored.

The Maharaja fled the capital of Srinagar and at Jammu renewed his request to India for armed assistance in the following words:

“. . . Geographically my State is contiguous to both the Dominions. It has vital economic and cultural links with both. Besides, my State has a common boundary with the Soviet Republic and China. In their external relations, the Dominions of India and Pakistan cannot ignore this fact. I wanted to take time to decide to which Dominion I should accede, or whether it is not in the best interests of both the Dominions and my State to stand independent, of course with friendly and cordial relations with both…With the conditions obtaining at present in my State and the great emergency of the situation as it exists, I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally, they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so, and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government.”

On behalf of the Government of India, Lord Mountbatten, then Governor-General, accepted this accession in the following terms:

“…My Government have decided to accept the accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. In consistence with their policy that in the case of any State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute the question 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 law and order have been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader, the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people. Meanwhile in response to your Highness’ appeal for military aid, action has been taken today to send troops of the Indian Army to Kashmir to help your forces to defend your territory and to protect the lives, property and honour of your people.”

The resulting accession was to be purely provisional and temporary until the will of the people could be ascertained through a referendum. India consistently upheld the temporary nature of this accession and its commitment to refer the issue to the people of Kashmir.

In White Paper of 1948, the Government of India stated that “we regard this content accession temporary and provisional till such time as the will of the people can be ascertained.”

That White Paper also contains a report of a broadcast by Prime Minister Nehru in which he said:

“ … We decided to accept this accession and to send troops by air, but we made a condition that the accession would have to be considered by the people of Kashmir later when peace and order were established . . .

“And here let me make clear that it has been our policy all along that where there is a dispute about the accession of a State to either Dominion, the decision must be made by the people of that State. It was in accordance with this policy that we added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir… We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is to be ultimately decided by the people. That pledge we have given and the Maharaja has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot, back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations. We want it to be a fair and just reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict. I can imagine no fairer and just offer…”

In their reference to the UN made December 31, 1947, the Government of India stated:

“In order to avoid any possible suggestion that India had taken advantage of the State’s immediate peril for her own political advantage, the Dominion Government made it clear that once the soil of the State had been cleared of the invader and normal conditions were restored, the people would be free to decide their future by the recognised democratic method of plebiscite or referendum, which, in order to ensure complete impartiality, may be held under international auspices. This was also the view of Mahatma Gandhi’s since he had stated that “the Indian Government sent troops by air to Kashmir telling the Maharaja that the accession was provisional upon an impartial plebiscite being taken of Kashmiris irrespective of religion.”

Sir Gopalaswami Ayyangar, as leader of the Indian Delegation to the Security Council, stated on behalf of India on January 15, 1948:

“In accepting the accession, they refused to take advantage of the immediate peril in which the State found itself and informed the Ruler that the accession should be finally settled by plebiscite as soon as peace has been restored…The question of the future status of Kashmir vis-a-vis her neighbours and the world at large, and a further question, namely, whether she should withdraw from her accession to India and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent, with a right to claim admission as a member of the United Nations, all this we have recognised to be a matter for unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir after normal life is restored to them.”

This same commitment made by India was embodied in the two resolutions adopted by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan, dated August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949. Having arranged a cease-fire between India and Pakistan, the UN Commission addressed itself to the task of securing a truce agreement; but differences over it developed between the two countries.

When the four members from J & K were admitted to the Constituent Assembly of India, Pakistan protested to the Security Council. India replied that:

“Such participation was not intended to, and does not alter the Government of India’s determination to abide, in the matter of accession, by the freely declared will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Should that will be against the State continuing to be part of India, if and when it comes to be expressed in a constitutional way under conditions of peace and impartiality, the representation of the State in the Indian Parliament would automatically cease and the provisions of the Constitution of India that govern the relations of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India will also cease to operate.”

When Article 370, dealing with Kashmir’s relationship with the Union of India, came up for enactment in the Indian Constitution, it was again made clear in the Indian Constituent Assembly by Sir Gopalaswami Ayyangar that:

“ … the Government of India have committed themselves to the people of Kashmir in certain respects. They have committed themselves to the position that an opportunity would be given to the people of the State to decide for themselves whether they will remain with the Republic or wish to go out of it. We are also committed to ascertaining the will of the people by means of a plebiscite provided that peaceful and normal conditions are restored, and the impartiality of the plebiscite could be guaranteed.”

Therefore, they were only establishing an “interim system.” The matter thereafter came up again before the UN, which made efforts through its emissaries to secure an agreement between the parties, but no progress could be made regarding the demilitarisation of Kashmir. In the meanwhile, a Constituent Assembly was convened in Kashmir, but the Security Council, in a resolution passed March 30, 1961, affirmed that the convening of this Assembly and any action that the Assembly might take to determine the future shape and affiliation of the entire State or any part thereof, would not be in accordance with principles already agreed upon. Namely, that the will of the people was to be expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the UN.

Sir B N Rau, as leader of the Indian delegation to the Security Council, stated in this connection:

“Provision was made in the Indian Constitution for a Constituent Assembly for settling the details of Kashmir’s Constitution. Will that Assembly decide the question of accession? My Government’s view is that, while the Constituent Assembly may, if it so desires, express an opinion on this question, it can take no decision on it…. But this opinion will not bind my Government or prejudice the position of this Council.”

On May 29, 1951, Rajeshwar Dayal gave an assurance to the Security Council on behalf of India in these terms:

“I reaffirm that so far as the Government of India is concerned the Constituent Assembly for Kashmir is not intended to prejudice the issue before the Security Council or come in its way.”

All the mediatory efforts of the Security Council through its representative Dr Frank Graham (who is still in that capacity) also proved abortive. In August 1953, a joint communiqué was issued by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan stating inter alia:

“It was their firm opinion that this [question of Kashmir] should be settled in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State with a view to promoting their well-being and causing the least disturbance to the life of the people of the State. The most feasible method of ascertaining the wishes of the people was by fair and impartial plebiscite.”

It was further decided that a Plebiscite Administrator should be appointed by the end of April 1954.

In November 1953 came news about Pakistan’s negotiations for a military pact with the US. In his letter of March 5, 1954, Nehru wrote:

“The decision to give this aid has changed the whole context of the Kashmir issue, and the long talks we have had about this matter have little relation to the new facts which flow from this aid.”

Later, in reply to a Pakistani charge of bad faith, Nehru declared in a public meeting on January 31, 1957, that if he was convinced that he had not honoured any international commitment about Kashmir, “I shall honour it or resign from office. I do not want any final decision which is against the interest of the Kashmir people. I do not want to ask for a decision on the legal issue.”

Again, the matter went to the UN, which in a resolution of January 24, 1957, reiterated “that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.”

Addressing a meeting at Allahabad in February 1957, Nehru denied that India had attempted to back out of any commitments. He said: “Kashmir is not ours, but it is of the Kashmiris. We cannot stay in Kashmir for a moment without the consent of the Kashmiris. It is not our property.”

In a report submitted to the Security Council on April 29, 1957, Jarring recalled that both India and Pakistan had accepted the UN Commission’s resolutions of August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949, “to which they admitted themselves bound very recently in the Security Council debate.” He suggested arbitration on the question whether Part I of the resolution of August 13, 1948, dealing with the cease-fire, had been implemented or not, a resolution which was accepted in principle by Pakistan but rejected by India. That year, the Security Council passed the last of its resolutions dealing with Kashmir (December 2, 1957).

The matter has since then remained deadlocked and no real progress towards its solution has been made, though the leaders of the two countries have met several times to consider the matter. Although Nehru had previously accepted mediation under the UN auspices as the only way out, he later abandoned this stand and expressed the opinion that Kashmir was a domestic matter in which mediation was not acceptable. Pandit Nehru and President Ayyub had talks on the Kashmir question during Nehru’s tour of Pakistan in 1960, but no real progress was made. After this many Indian and Pakistani leaders hug each other and try to resolve Kashmir issue by talks, nearly 155 five rounds of takes have been held, but no progress was made as it was never touched in discussions. 

Present scenario across the Valley after curtail of Article 370 and Article 35A, there is an extreme anger everywhere in Kashmir, particularly among the youth, which is manifested in thousands attending funeral prayers of Kashmiris killed by Indian security forces or Kashmiri police, raising such slogans before and after funeral prayers and enforcing strikes in protest.

This uncertainty has resulted in the cycles of oppression, domination, resistance and repression. It is the policy of India that the longer the insurgency is put on hold, the more difficult it would be to restart it. India, in other words, has a clear interest in playing for time. India knows it very well that the issue of Kashmir is by no definition a terrorist or separatist movement. It is a movement for self-determination inspired by a spirit for freedom and it has its legitimacy in the UN Security Council resolutions.

However, 70 years have passed since the Kashmir dispute arose in 1947 and it is no closer to a solution today than in 1947. It has poisoned relations between India and Pakistan, leading even to open war. It has led a devastating effect in and outside, on centuries’ old heritage and culture ethos of Kashmir. 

After 1989 insurgency, Indian Army has also developed a deep-rooted interest to keep the Kashmir question alive, being deployed in civilian areas in the state, with absolute powers under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and they have tested civil power, which they have enjoyed for over last three decades.

How Indian security forces are killing and slaughtering Kashmiris for the last 30 years, I will confine to just one example. In January 1990 when I was in Kashmir, as an eyewitness, there were protests everywhere in Kashmir. In Srinagar unarmed demonstrators were shot by Indian security forces on 21-23 January.

 

A resident of Srinagar, Farooq Ahmed Wani, an engineer, narrated his story:

“I fell down on the road after being hit by an Army man. I saw small boys being shot. I remained lying. Then I saw a paramilitary man coming. I saw pumping bullets into the bodies of injured people lying on the road. A young boy trying to hide under the bridge was killed… As I lifted my head, a CRPF man shouted: “He’s still alive” I pleaded: “I am a government employee, please don’t shoot.” The officer shouted abuses at me and said Islam mangta hai? (Do you want Islam), and fired at me. My back and hands were hit. Another paramilitary moved up to me and shouted- tum sala zinda hai, mara nahin ha? (You b*****d, you have not died yet?) He left after kicking my back. Then a truck was brought, and all of us, dead and injured, were piled into it – they loaded about 30-33 dead bodies. As there was no space for more, the officer ordered the driver. Baaki ko nalie mein phenk do (throw the rest into the river) A tarpaulin was thrown over us. After driving for some time, we stopped, and I heard voices speaking Kashmiri. One of the injured among us cried out. The tarpaulin was lifted, and we saw a local policeman, who said, “My God, there are living bodies here. Three other people were still alive.”

This is the everyday situation of Kashmir. At present, Kashmir is cut off from the rest of the world, and there will possibly another war between the two countries if this issue is not resolved in time. I will conclude that enough is enough. The international community should play their role to end the miseries of the people and should help both countries to resolve this issue peacefully according to the wishes and aspiration of Kashmiris.

Books consulted:, “Kashmir a disputed legacy”, Alastair Lamb; “Atish chinar”, Late Shiak Muhammd Abdullah; “Kashmir Dispute 1947-2012”, A G Noorni.

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