The revocation of restrictive clauses of Article 370 by the Narendra Modi government gave new hope to the people of India, tired and sick of continued proxy war waged by Pakistan in Kashmir. For the world to see, it was a call for Azaad Kashmir, but in reality, it was nothing but a clever manifestation of Pakistan’s desire to annex Kashmir. Eloquent Op-Eds by the intellectuals who act like front face for the fanatics spoke about the right to determination in soft and sophisticated voices, while the terrorists carrying Pakistani weapons, causing mayhem across the valley and across India shouted in shrill voices- “Kashmir Banega Pakistan” (Kashmir will become Pakistan).
Kashmir is under strict security vigil. This vigil is because of the history of Kashmir. Unlike Hong Kong, which is another troubled zone in Asia which is currently under crisis, under Chinese clampdown, Kashmir was always a troubled zone since the independence of India in 1947, or maybe a little bit earlier. Unlike Hong Kong which struggles under an oppressive Communist state to create a sanctuary of secular thought and democracy, Kashmir Struggle since the formation of Moslem Conference of Jammu and Kashmir in 1932 has been for Islamist cause. Although after the split in June 1936, Sheikh Abdullah faction became notionally secular, the attempts with support of Jinnah to realign with Moslem Conference continued. While Sheikh Abdullah launched ‘Quit Kashmir’ directed at the overthrowing Hindu Dogra Kingdom, it was quickly followed by Moslem Conference calling for ‘Direct Action Day’. When the Islamists of Poonch joined Pakistani invaders in 1947 and closer to our times, in 1990’s the mass genocide of Kashmiri Hindus, causing mass exodus of Hindus from the valley happened under the slogan of “Struggle for establishing Nizam-e-Mustafa” or the rule of Islam; all the pretence and sham that the fight in Kashmir was for a just, fair, secular and democratic rule vanished like dew in the first bright light of a sunny day. Those who continue to pretend otherwise are either ill-informed, do not have a perspective of the History or are simply the kind about whom noted American writer Upton Sinclair wrote that
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Kashmir has always been connected intricately to the Indian mainland and to create a fictional history of Kashmir as an independent island is not only dishonest, it is also dangerous. Such fake imagery feeds on impossible and impractical dreams of those in impressionable age, creating brainwashed youth to further Pakistani cause. Such men and women are not limited to Kashmir, but are unsuspecting victims of leftist intellectuals and ideologues who have been dreaming of Balkanization of India since independence even in the mainland. They do not particularly love Kashmir, but they hate India immensely.
Srinagar, the most important city in Kashmir, the capital and centre of all the turmoil was established by Emperor Ashok and was a part of Magadh Kingdom. Under Kanishka, it gained prominence by AD40. It slipped into a quiet insignificance but again blossomed under the rule of Lalitaditya in 6th Century. In the 14th century, Rinchan Shah, also known as Sadruddin Shah, became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Rinchan was a Biddhist prince from Ladakh, who had become a minister under Kashmir ruler Raja Suhadeva. When Mongols attacked Kashmir, Suhadeva fled to Tibet, and minister Ramachandra took the throne. But he was overthrown by Rinchan, who also married Ramachandra’s daughter Kota Rani. When he became the king in 1320, he was Buddhist, but later converted to Islam.
Rinchan died in 1923 after he was attacked by rebels, and Udyanadeva, brother of former king Suhadev, became the king. Rinchan’s wife Kota Rani had married Udyanadeva, and she effectively ruled the state. Mongols had attacked Kashmir again, and Udayanadeva too fled to Tibet, but Kota Devi bravely fought and defeated the Mongols. But in the chaos minister Shah Mir revolted and defeated the queen in 1339. Kota Rani killed herself after Mir wanted to marry him, clearing the path for Shah Mir to become the ruler of Kashmir. In 1532, it was conquered by Mir Hyder and later in 1587 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who ruled over it from Delhi.
While much has been made out about Kashmir being sold out as a lease to the Dogra dynasty for the price of INR 75 Lakhs by the British, the fact remains that Dogra King, Gulab Singh earned the governorship of Kashmir under the Sikh rule, in 1820. Baltistan was won by his commander Zorawar Singh in 1834 and under Dewan Hari Chand, Ladakh was brought into the fold in 1842 after the battle of Drangtse. The King of Kashmir still was a vessel of the Sikhs and the treaty with the Buddhist under the approval of Sikh King Sher Singh and the Emperor of China. The land-locked province was loved and supported by the mainland and to create a separate nation, unconnected and isolated is a foolish notion. Those who watch Pakistani programs too would agree that every lecture for Azaad Kashmir ends with a dream of Pakistani flag over Srinagar.
There is no denying the fact that there was a misrule and tyranny in the state which is typical of monarchies where monarchs are too sure of their powers. After the initial skirmishes in the period of Gulab Singh, Kashmir was left alone, largely on accounts of major upheavals in the mainland as British tried to firm up their position. Even when the principality changed from the Sikhs to the British, the rule of Dogra king Gulab Singh continued uninterrupted. His rule was further firmed up by the Treaty of Amritsar on 16th of March, 1846, when perpetual lease was given to the Dogra Dynasty for a consideration of INR 75 Lakhs, and annual tribute to the British which included One Horse, Twelve Goats and Six Kashmiri Shawls for the Queen of England. Maharaja Hari Singh, whose rule was most infamous for injustice for instance, ruled for 23 years. Key produce of the state like silk, saffron, paper and tobacco were state monopoly, land tax was thrice that in Punjab.
In 1947, Kashmir had a population with around 75% Muslims and 26% Hindus. With the lapse of paramountcy, the Maharaja of Kashmir had the option of joining India, Pakistan or remaining independent, much like other princely states of India. While most of most of focus was on Junagarh and Hyderabad, Pakistan signed a Stand-still with Kashmir, but India did not sign Stand-still. Pakistan signed it, but imposed embargo on Kashmir immediately after that. While skirmishes around the border with Pakistan began on 3rd of September, 1947, a full-scale invasion by the tribal and Pakistani Army regulars began on October, 20th, 1947. On Oct, the 25th, SOS message was sent to the Government of India. Things unfolded quickly, on the 26th of October, 1947, unconditional Article of Accession was signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir and the same was accepted by the Governor General, Lord Mountbatten on behalf of India. Important to note, Mountbatten was supposed to be a Joint Governor General for both Pakistan and India, during the period of power transfer, but Pakistan declined his services and appointed Jinnah as Governor- General of Pakistan. Unfortunately, Mountbatten not only accepted the unconditional offer of accession; he also proposed Plebiscite once the things were back to normal. The first troops of Indian Army landed in Srinagar under the command of Lt. Col. D R Rai of 1 Sikh at 10:30 AM. This was the beginning of the end of the first Pakistani adventure on Kashmir.
Kashmir became a part of India on 26th of October, 1947. The Article of Accession was unconditional. It was Lord Mountbatten whose reply on 27th of October, 1947 a cause of concern, as it unilaterally spoke of Plebiscite, once the situation is conducive. It was picked by Nehru out of his exceptional parochial feelings towards Kashmir. Nehru presented a whitepaper in the Parliament on Kashmir and instead of clarifying the matter, it further complicated it. He said that “We are convinced that the Sheikh Abdullah government is based on the will of the people and is impartial”; but then he continued to say that “the people of Kashmir should decide the question of accession by plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as the United Nations.” The question which arises here is that if Nehru is convinced that Sheikh Abdullah Government represented the will of the people, then why talked about plebiscite or referendum.
While Nehru did support plebiscite, his intention of approaching UN does not seem to be that. Rather it seems he sought severe reprimand for Pakistan where India wrote, seeking intervention stating that “Such assistance (to tribesmen) constitutes an act of aggression.. and Government of India may be compelled in self-defence, to enter Pakistan territory, in order to take military action against the invaders.”
On 15th January, 1948, Sir Gopalaswamy Ayangar presented Indian case, again reiterating commitment to Plebiscite after the retreat of Pakistani forces. Sir Zafarullah Khan made case on behalf of Pakistan, and Sheikh Abdullah attacking Pakistan severely, calling it a nation of Hitler and Goebbels. The resolution was more or less in line, but was filed under Chapter 6 of the charter (and not Chapter 7) and thus was recommendatory, non-binding and advisory in nature. Whatever sympathies the Commission had for Pakistan initially, soon evaporated once they landed in Karachi on 5th of July, 1948 as Zafarullah Khan told them about the involvement of Pakistan Army in the attack on Kashmir, at least since May, 1948. Indian position by that time came out of the conundrum of confusion which was created by the conflict between Nehru, the Prime Minister of India and Nehru, the global statesman that he aspired to be.
When the Secretary General of Indian Ministry of External Affair, Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai met with the UN team, he was upfront with his complain when he said that ‘If the future of Jammu and Kashmir was to be determined by the arbitrament of sword, then, without in any way wishing to utter a threat, or in the language of menace, I should like the commission, as realists, to recognize that the offer of plebiscite could not remain open….if the problem is not resolved by reason, the sword will find the solution.’ In the interview with Joseph Korbel, Nehru too was equally furious at the avoidance of the commission to straightforward condemnation of Pakistani aggression and what he perceived an attempt by commission to obtain some concessions for Pakistan. He retorted, “You seem not to understand our position and our rights. We are a secular state which is not based on religion…Pakistan is a medieval state with an impossible theocratic concept.” I so wish, if not others, current Congress leadership at least must read Nehru before towing Pakistani line on Kashmir. India maintained that for Plebiscite to happen at all, the so-called Azad Kashmir needs to be vacated and joined with the Indian part of Kashmir. The same was the position of sheikh Abdulla.
While the UN struggled from one failed negotiation to another, in defiance to the UN, Karan Singh convened Constituent Assembly in Kashmir on 30th of April, 1951. In the assembly of 75 members, 45 seats were reserved for Ladakh and Kashmir valley, and National Conference won 73 out of the 75 seats, unopposed. On 22nd of April, 1951 Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad announced, as an elected representative of the people of Kashmir that the question of plebiscite no longer remains as the Constituent Assembly has finally and irrevocably acceded to India. Having thus confirmed the accession both on the part of the King and the People, Article 370 was proclaimed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Article 370, as we see was neither a pre-condition of the accession of Kashmir in India, not did it come before the Instrument of Accession signed on 27th of October, 1947 by the then ruler of Kashmir. This was precisely the manner in which other princely states acceded to the Indian Union.
When the matter of Article 370 was brought to the national constituent assembly on 17th of October, 1949, on the pretext that the matter being with UN complicates the matter and Kashmir is not ripe for full integration, Maulana Hasrat Mohani was the first voice of dissent, asking pointedly quoting the unfair manner in which the ruler of one of the most progressive state of Baroda was treated in comparison- “Why this discrimination, please? This is one question which was to repeatedly come back and haunt us as citizens of India, over the years, again and again. Article 370 granting Kashmir special status came into being in May, 1949. Many arguments have been given and falsehood has been floating about it. In one of the post I came across, it mentioned that the accession of J&K to India was subject to Article 370. However, the Instrument of Accession of the Maharaja of Kashmir is unambiguous and unconditional. There is no demand for a specific proposal and it came into effect immediately, allowing the Government of India to legally offer Military assistance to the people of Kashmir against Pakistani incursion. Another logic was that Kashmir came in late into India so this clause. However, Kashmir actually became part of India immediately after independence, unlike say, Goa or Hyderabad.
This is the history of accession of Kashmir. There is another history. History of India in which the temporary provisions of Article 370 were a thorn in the side, where Section 35A was sneaked in without debate as a part of Delhi agreement of 1952 between Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru, in 1954, half-a-decade after Kashmir became a part of India. Article 370 came into being to ensure that there is no discontent among the people of Kashmir about the ruler of the state deciding to join India. However, under the Article 370, the sense of entitlement under the parochial protectionism the clause offered, turned into a sense of alienation and eventual hatred toward India, as the state began to explode along religious fault lines. Mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus in the face of a state incapable and ineffective against Islamist terror being exported from Pakistan and beyond, did nothing to improve the things.
The anachronous Article 370 only created Islamic, theocratic ghetto as the Hindu rulers of Kashmir who once held enough power to support the minority in the state in the face of a violent wave of fanatic faith faded into irrelevance (at one time, for instance, under Dogra rule, only Hindus of the state could get license to firearms). Since a secular Indian state could not have Hindu-leaning laws, it was pertinent that the State of Kashmir be merged eventually in the larger mainstream India to protect the minorities in the state. Since the continuance of Article 370 even after Nehru hoped it to melt away as early as 1963, for parochial politics, only converted the beautiful, verdant lands of Kashmir into belligerent violent ghetto; it is high time to see what change scrapping it brings. If you continue doing things the way they were always done; you will keep on getting the results, you always got. Article 370 gave us a Kashmir which was the fountainhead of major terrorism in the country. An isolated, Islamist Kashmir, even as an idea was leg on which the demon of breaking India stood, from Kairana to Kanyakumari, from Coochbehar to Koregaon. It propagated a sense of alienation and otherness among the Muslims of the mainland, aimed at creating monolithic, mass-voting machine, which demanded no progress or growth, but only asked for religious supremacy from the politicians wooing them.
Propaganda machinery is working fulltime as the state struggles to ensure calm in the state. Even minor cases of small protests are amplified and editorials are being written as if until a month back there were tranquillity and calm in the state. In the state where Fridays were earmarked for stone-pelting and violence, minor temporary skirmishes only indicate that the spectre of huge violence that obvious and ambiguous separatists held over the state were only a bluff which had to be called out. Another argument is about constitutionality regarding the reorganization of the state. Let us not forget that Telangana was created in one session and the session was not televised citing ‘technical glitch’. Suspended MPs were kept out of Parliament and every MP was frisked.
Another argument cited is that Kashmir has a distinct culture and therefore needs to be treated differently. Anyone who has travelled across the nation, would know that every state has a distinct history and culture and to use it as a ground for special isolationist laws, would eventually pave the way for the balkanization of the nation. From leaving National Language undefined to Article 370, all came into being on the premise that the nation is not ready enough and required the Union to work exceptionally hard to create a readiness to eventually get rid of these temporary anomalies which stand in the way of a strong, united nation. Unfortunately, Governments uncommitted to the constitutional responsibilities allowed these discrepancies to turn permanent and create fault lines in our society. Thankfully, we are watching it change. There is comfort in convention, but there is progress only in change. I would look at the amendment of Article 370 an Independence Day gift to the people of India. This one decision holds in it the possibility of new, tightly-knit, united and strong India.
A technology worker, writer and poet, and a concerned Indian. Saket writes in Hindi and English. He writes on socio-political matters and routinely writes Hindi satire in print as well in leading newspaper like Jagaran. His recently published Hindi satire collection “Ganjhon Ki Goshthi” is on amazon and getting excellent reception and readership.