THE INDO-KASHMIR POLITICAL DISPUTE: A REALISTIC WAY FORWARD

The genesis of Indo-Kashmir political dispute is rooted in the conflictual ideological foundations of India and Pakistan and the response of Kashmiri nationalists to Nehruvian secularism and Jinnah’s Muslim nationalism. Secularism did emerge as a powerful political ideology in the Indian subcontinent during the freedom struggle launched by Indian National Congress from late nineteenth century onwards. The Indian National Congress was founded on 28th December 1885 and was led by its most secular leaders like Pandit Motilal Nehru, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr B.R. Ambedkar etc. The Muslim nationalism emerged as a parallel political ideology in areas having Muslim plurality. The Muslim nationalism as a political ideology was advanced by Muslim nationalists in the Indian subcontinent under the banner of Indian Muslim League established on 30th December1906 by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Hakim Ajmal Khan and several other prominent Muslim leaders of British India. After the success of Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, the communist ideology was propagated in India by Communist Party of India, established on 26th December 1925. Syed Abu Aala Maududi, the Islamic scholar from Hyderabad established Jamat-e-Islami in 1941. The Jamat-e-Islami was the first religious party of undivided India that had some following among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. The rise of secular nationalism, Muslim nationalism, communism and political Islam in the Indian subcontinent as a consequence of the emergence of various political parties with different political philosophies in the Indian subcontinent had their direct influence on the twentieth century political thought in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir as well. The influence of various political ideologies not in vogue only the Indian subcontinent but also elsewhere in the world was found in Kashmir at various points of time during the past one century.

Rise of Muslim Nationalism in Kashmir:-

The political awakening and Muslim national conscious in Kashmir was initially started by the Lahore press that was highlighting the issues of Kashmiri Muslims from time to time. The sentiment of Kashmiri Muslim nationalism reached its climax in early 1930s after the Dogra forces martyred through indiscriminate firing 22 Kashmiri Muslims and injured many dozen people, when they were demanding outside Central Jail Srinagar, on 13th July 1931, the release of Abdul Qadeer, a Muslim orator from Northwestern Frontier Province, who was arrested and put behind the bars for speaking about the discrimination against the Muslims by the Dogra Government of Maharaja Hari Singh. The first Muslim nationalist party established in Kashmir was Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference which was founded on16th October 1932. The Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference was led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah but after the conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference on 11th June 1939 by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the party changed its ideology from Muslim nationalism to secular nationalism. To fill the vacuum Choudhry Ghulam Abbass and Mirwaiz Mohammad Yusuf Shah revived the Muslim Conference on 13th June 1941. The Jamat-e-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir founded in 1945 by Sa aduddin, Qari Saifuddin and Mohammad Husin Chisti was the first Muslim religious party of Kashmir.Thus by 1945 the secular National National Conference, the Muslim nationalist Muslim Conference and the Islamic theocratic Jamat-e-Islami under the ideological influence of Indian National Congress, Indian Muslim League and Jamat-e-Islami of Syed Maududi had been formed in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. The partition of British India on the basis of religion and the formal creation of Pakistan on14th August 1947 in the immediate neighborhood of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir State heightened the ideological differences between the pro-India National Conference and the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference. Soon after the approval to the Indian Independence Act by the British Crown on 18th July 1947 the Muslim Conference passed the resolution at Srinagar on 19th July 1947 supporting the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Pakistan with respect to defence, foreign affairs and communication.

Rise of Secular Nationalism in Kashmir:-

The Kashmiri secular nationalism was promoted in Kashmir by the nationalist and Marxist members of National Conference which among others included Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, Maulana Mohammad Syed Masoodi, Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, Prem Nath Bazaz and Sardar Budh Singh etc. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in late 1930s had got a chance to travel to Northwestern Frontier Province with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan. It was under the influence of these secular leaders of Indian National Congress that Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah decided to embrace the secular ideology. So on 11th June 1939 the Muslim Conference led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was renamed as National Conference to propagate Kashmiri nationalism and secularism. The Kashmiri leftists like Ghulam Mohamad Sadiq and Prem Nath Bazaz etc. did not form their separate political but preferred to work under the banner of National Conference to influence its vision and mission. The release of “Naya Kashmir” Manifesto of National Conference in 1944, compiled by B.P.L Bedi a staunch leftis and the  launching of “Quit Kashmir” Movement against Dogra autocratic ruler Maharaja Hari Singh in May 1946 aroused the strong nationalist feelings in Kashmir during the initial phase of secular politics in Kashmir. After the release of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah from jail by Maharaja Hari Singh on 29th September 1947 the Working Body of National Conference met under the Chairmanship of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah at Srinagar on 3rd October 1947 and passed the resolution to support accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union.

The tribal raid from Northwestern Frontier Province of Pakistan on 22nd October 1947, the declaration by armed warriors in Poonch-Mirpur area having formed the Azad Government of Jammu and Kashmir under the leadership of Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan as well as the massacre of people especially of non-Muslims by the tribal raiders in Muzzaffarabad and Kashmir forced Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to Indian Union on 26th October 1946 with respect to defence, foreign affairs and communication. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah supported the Maharaja Hari Singh’s decision to invite Indian troops in Kashmir. Before the arrival of Indian troops in Kashmir on 27th October 1947 about 10,000 male and female volunteers of National Conference guarded the Srinagar City against the tribal raiders. They were shouting at night hamla awar khabardar, hum Kashmiri hein tiyar. When the Indian soldiers reached Srinager, the people standing in large numbers at Amira Kadal bridge were clapping to welcome the friendly forces. The limited accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union created favourable circumstances for National Conference to come to power in Jammu and Kashmir State and develop constitutional relationship of the state with the country. However, after signing of Nehru-Abdullah Accord on 24th July 1952 the Hindu nationalists of India led by Dr Shama Prasad Mukherjee opposed the provisions of the Accord within the framework of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The opposition to Delhi Agreement of 1952 as the Nehru-Abdullah Accord is popularity called reduced the popularity of both Sheikh Abdullah and Pandit Nehru in their respective constituencies. To have damage control Sheikh Abdullah began publicly threatening New Delhi to go for secession from India. On 13th July 1953 while paying tributes to the martyrs at Shaheed Ganj Srinagar he declared, “I had opposed the accession with Pakistan because I feared they will not treat me well but the India rulers have back stabbed me, so from now onwards I part my ways with them” He further said “A day would come, when the Kashmiri youth would took to arms like Algerian youth to fight for their freedom”. Pandit Nehru on his part paid in the same coin and sought the dismissal and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah through Karan Singh, Sadar-e-Riyast of Jammu and Kashmir State on 9th August 1953.

Rise of Anti-India Muslim Sentiments in Kashmir:-

The dismissal from Prime Ministership and the immediate arrest of Sheikh Abdullah on 9th August 1953, was strongly opposed by the Sheikh Abdullah loyalists in Kashmir. The situation of law and order was deteriorated in the Muslim majority areas of the state in general and Kashmir in particular. The support base of New Delhi in Kashmir shrunk very drastically. The popularity of secular forces who were still ruling the state reduced very drastically. The Muslim nationalists, Kashmiri nationalists and Islamists came together to fight back New Delhi’s anti-Kashmir policies under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front established on 9th August 1955. The Plebiscite Front was led by Mirza Mohammad Àfzal Beigh and its main objective was to challenge the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union. The demand for peoples right of self-determination was the main slogan of the Plebiscite Front. Since National Conference came under the control of Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad so Sheikh Abdullah after his release from the jail used the platform of Plebiscite Front for carrying out anti-Bakhshi and anti-India propaganda. Sheikh Abdullah was neither a member nor an office bearer in the Plebiscite Front. So in other words he was a one man show but of course with mass following. The secular forces within Jammu and Kashmir State Constituent Assembly led by Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad having already ratified the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union on 6th February 1954 tried to suppress the anti-India movement launched by Sheikh Abdullah and his associates and loyalists in Kashmir. Bakhshi Ghulam ruled for more than a decade as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The last Prime Minister of the state was Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq who after abolishing the nomenclatures of Sadar-e-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam, the symbols of the internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State, took his oath as the first Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on 30th March 1965. The Plebiscite Front was getting political, diplomatic and financial support from Pakistan. However, Pakistan’s defeat in 1971 War in East Pakistan by India, demoralized the Plebiscite leadership so the organization was dissolved without achieving anything to name, following the Beigh-Parthasarthy Accord in 1974. The Abdullah loyalists welcomed the move but staunch Muslim nationalists like Sofi Akbar and Islamists criticized Sheikh Abdullah for what they called sell-out.

The Reassertion of Secular Nationalism in Kashmir. After the re-entry of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Mirza Mohammad Àfzal Beigh and other secular leaders of Kashmir in to the Indian national mainstream following the signing of Beigh-Parthasarthy Accord, the pro-India secular forces under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir State Congress Committee and Jammu and Kashmir National Conference ruled the state from January1975 to March 1987 with firm determination. However, after the death of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah on 8th September 1982 the Islamists and Muslim nationalists of Kashmir critical about Beigh-Parthasarthy Accord of 1974 started reasserting their anti-India ideology in Kashmir. The National Conference won the 1983 elections under the leadership of Dr Farooq Abdullah but within a year New Delhi played a constitutional fraud through Jagmohan, the Governor of the state, by dismissing Farooq Abdullah Government and electing Ghulam Mohammad Shah as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir State. After the National Conference-Congress alliance under Rajive-Farooq Accord took place to jointly contest the Legislative Assembly elections in March 1987, the Muslim political opposition comprising of Islamic and Muslim nationalist forces in Kashmir formed an umbrella organization called Muslim United Front to contest the elections with a common agenda. The MUF leadership raised the issue of erosion of internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State, criticized National Conference being a regional party for having alliance with Congress a national party having advanced in the past an anti Kashmir agenda and called for resolution of Indo-Pak dispute under the framework of Shimla Agreement. The National Conference-Congress got unnecessarily nervous with the result the elections were rigged against MUF in 15 constituencies leading to the defeat of a few otherwise winning candidates. The electoral defeat and police repression of the MUF candidates and their political workers during the elections on 23rd March 1987 was over-reacted by a few persons like Mohammad Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin and the youth later known as the HAJY Group of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front who crossed the Line of Control to seek arms training from across the border. The National Conference Government remained in office till ending 1989 but following the reappointment of Jagmohan as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Stand Dr Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest to throw the state in constitutional crisis for a period of seven years.

Rise of Muslim Militancy in Kashmir:-

The HAJY Group of JKLF a pro-independence organization led by late Amanullah Khan started its militant activities against the Indian establishment in Kashmir from 31st July 1988 onwards. By ending1990 around 50,000 Kashmiri youth had crossed the Line of Control to seek arms training and arms and ammunition from the other side of border. In the early 1990s Pakistan stopped arms training and supply of arms and ammunition to the secular pro-independence JKLF. To carry forward the guerrilla war as per its desired ends Pakistani ISI floated pro-Pakistan Islamic militant organizations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkare Toiba, Jaishe Muhammad, Harkatul Ansar and Ghazvatul Hind etc. at different points of time to have what they called  jihad (holy war) against the Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir. The Islamic scholars however, do not put the armed struggle for territorial gains under the category of holy war. The armed struggle for separation of Muslim dominated territory from India can be called as the Muslim militant nationalism. Over the past three decades of militancy in Kashmir more than one lakh people have got killed and thousands of people have been seriously injured, maimed and blinded in the violent incidents by non-state actors and the government forces. The education of the children and youth, as well as economy and peace and security of Kashmir has became the big casualty over the past three decades. The Kashmiri people are getting killed daily and the more than one lakh human shelters have been destroyed in the state over the past three decades. The people in the streets of Kashmir are demanding freedom from India by raising the slogans like, “We Want Freedom” and “Go India, Go Back”. The Government of India has constantly maintained its position over the past three decades that Kashmir is an integral part of India and the talks with the separatist forces can be held only with the constitutional framework of India. The separatist leadership demands talks with Pakistan.

Way Forward in Kashmir:-

The future of Kashmir has to be built by adopting a realistic approach by both Government of India as well as the separatist leadership of Kashmir. National Conference led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah enjoyed the support of the majority in Kashmir when following the tribal raid in October 1947 he took the decision to support Maharaja Hari Singh to invite Indian troops in Kashmir. Similarly the abolition of hereditary Dogra rule and the Hindu landlordism in Jammu and Kashmir State by National Conference Government with the support of New Delhi was welcomed by the Muslim majority in Kashmir during the initial phase of Indo-Kashmir political and constitutional relationship. The incorporation of the Article 370 in the Constitution of India in 1949 and the working out the details of centre-state relations under the Delhi Agreement between Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952 offered the basis for internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir protected by the Article 370 of Indian Constitution as well as the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir adopted by Jammu and Kashmir State Constituent Assembly on 17th November 1956 and after the concurrence by the President of India implemented by the Bakhshi Government on 26th January 1957.The Government of India must also not forget the people of Jammu and Kashmir were assured by Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India on 27th October 1947 and by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India on 2nd November 1947 that their wishes on the subject of accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union would be ascertained. The principle of the people’s right of self-determination of the stateless nations has been universally accepted, so the Government of India cannot afford to deny the people of Kashmir their right of self-determination for long. The Kashmiri nation has made disproportionate sacrifices for freedom from India over the past three decades and is suffering from a serious sense of loss.

The Kashmiri nation must acknowledge that seeking military assistance from India on 26th October 1947was in the national interest of Kashmir and the sovereign Republic of Jammu and Kashmir requires the military assistance by India in future as well. It is therefore suggested to have a Comprehensive Defence Agreement between the Government of India and the sovereign Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The Comprehensive Defence Agreement would include the control of New Delhi on Strategic Defense, Hard Foreign Affairs and the Physical Communication of Republic of Jammu and Kashmir with India. The Buddhist majority of Leh District and Zanskar Tehsil have to be offered a separate statehood within the Republic of Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly the Hindu majority Samba, Kathua, Jammu and Udhampur Districts have to be provided with separate statehood. In case the Buddhists of Ladakh and Hindus of Jammu are reluctant to be a part of Kashmir, they need to be separated from the Republic of Jammu and Kashmir to establish the sovereign Republic of Kashmiristan. The Kashmir Valley, Chenab Valley, Kishengang Valley, Pirpanja Region and Suru-Shingo Valley will be the constituent Muslim dominated regions of the proposed Kashmiristan. To avoid the division of Jammu and Ladakh regions on the basis of religion three states of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh will be created with Jammu, Srinagar and Leh as the three state capitals of the Federal Republic of Jammu and Kashmir. The territory of each state can be determined on the basis of the distance from the state capital. The religious minorities of Jammu and Kashmir such as Christians, Sikhs, and Kashmiri Pandits, as well as the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Social Castes have to be provided with reservation in education, employment and elected and nominated bodes within the proposed Federal Republic of Jammu and Kashmir.

Prof. G.M.Athar can be reached at ghathar@yahoo.co.in