NATIONALIST STRUGGLE FOR KASHMIRISTAN: NEED FOR A PEACEFUL, SECULAR AND NON-ALLIGNED STRATEGY

After the conversion of ethnic Kashmiries to Islam from early 14th century onwards, Kashmir has not been in position to produce a single indigenous sovereign ruler over the past seven centuries. However, if the Shahmirs and Chaks are considered as the indigenous people of Kashmir, then, Sultan Yusuf Shah Chak was the last sovereign ruler of Kashmir whose Sultanate was invaded by the Mughal army in 1586 A.D. Yusuf Shah Chak was the first Kashmiri ruler who was by deceit taken hostage and put behind the bars in Bihar by the Mughal army .His wife Habba Khatoon was the first Muslim lady to suffer the pain of separation from her husband because of the external aggression in Kashmir. The Kashmiries had became insensitive to the external aggressions because for complete four centuries they had became habitual of accepting the slavery of Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, and Britishers all invited by their collaborators within Jammu and Kashmir. After the four centuries of external subjugation during the colonial period the post-World War IInd decolonization of the British Empire had offered the opportunity for the Kashmiri nation to regain its lost sovereignty following the lapse of British paramountcy over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir on 15th August 1947.

Political History of Jammu and Kashmir:-

The Kashmiri nation was not politically mature enough to oppose the leadership of Maharaja Hari Singh, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and Mirwaiz Mohmad Yusuf Shah who were all the collaborators of the British Crown, India and Pakistan respectively. The competition for enjoying political power in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir among Maharaja Hari Singh, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and Mirwaz Mohammad Yusuf Shah converted the triangular power struggle in the Dogra kingdom into a political, diplomatic and military mess following termination of British rule in the Indian subcontinent on 15th August 1947. In order to secure their political future all the three claimants to political power had made proper arrangements for sustaining/assuming the political power with the help of their respective overlords prior to the Pakistan sponsored tribal raid in Kashmir on 22nd October 1947. Soon after the approval of Indian Independence Act by the British Crown on 18th July 1947, Mirwaiz Mohamad ShahYusuf Shah somehow managed the passing of the Pakistan Resolution by Muslim Conference after inviting his non-member followers at prayer also to vote and support him. The resolution passed by the Muslim Conference at Srinagar on 19th July 1947 supported the accession of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan, with respect to defence, foreign affairs and communication. In order to secure his autocratic rule over Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh sent the Standstill Agreement to India and Pakistan through an identical telegram on 12th August 1947. The Government of Pakistan accepted the Agreement in principle, pending details on 16th August 1947. The Government of India suggested Maharaja Hari Singh to depute some of his cabinet minister to New Delhi to discuss the details of the Agreement. The Maharaja however was buying time to bargain a better deal with India and Pakistan. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah after writing the letter of apology to Maharaja Hari on 27th September1947 was released prematurely from jail by Maharaja Hari Singh on 29th September 1947. On 3rd October 1947 the Working Body of National Conference met under the Chairmanship of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in which the resolution was passed to support the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union. The resolution was however kept as confidential fearing public resentment. The above facts make it abundantly clear that the undemocratic means we’re employed by all the three leaders to secure their political future.

When the diplomatic means to secure the accession of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan failed because of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and Maharaja Hari Singh joining their hands, viewed by Pakistan the success of Indian diplomacy, the Pakistani agencies launched the “Operation Gulmarg” sending tribal warriors from Northwestern Frontier Province of Pakistan to raid Kashmir on 22nd October 1947. The local warriors in Poonch-Mirpur region who had mounted the ‘No Tax’ campaign in spring season of 1947 did transform their  movement in to an armed revolt in summer, declared the establishment of the Azad Government of Jammu and Kashmir under the leadership of Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan on 24th October1947. Maharaja Hari Singh with the personal support of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah acceded to Indian Union with respect to defence, foreign affairs and communication on 26th October 1947. The next morning Indian troops landed at the Srinagar Airport to drag out the Pakistani invaders. The Gilgit Agency was under the control of British military officer Major William Brown and his subordinates were the Gilgit Scouts who wanted to establish a sovereign Gilgit-Astore Republic. When the news of Indian troops landing in Kashmir reached the Gilgit Scouts, they took Dogra Governor, Major General Gansara Singh as hostage to declare their territory as an independent country. It was only after the consultation and persuasion by Major William Brown that the Gilgit Scouts, local Mirs, Rajas and Mehtars agreed to join Pakistan that the Pakistani flag was hoisted on the Governor House. On 18th November 1947 the Pakistani army took control of the Gilgit-Baltistan area.

The change of guard in India and Pakistan started paying its dividends to their collaborators in Jammu and Kashmir. Mirwaiz Mohd Yusuf Shah was made the Education Minister of Azad Kashmir, whereas Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was appointed as the Emergency Administrator on the insistence of New Delhi by Maharaja Hari Singh on 29th October 1947 and was subsequently made the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir State on 5th March 1948.The United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan mediated the cessation of hostility between the Indian and Pakistani troops and implemented the Cease Fire Line between the two countries thus partitioned the state on 1st January 1949. The Cease Fire Line was bilaterally recognized as the Line of Control under the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan in 1972. In the era of democracy India could not retain the autocratic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh, so he was replaced by his son Karan Singh as the head of the state, first as a Yuraj and then as the  Sadr-e-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir. The nomenclatures of Sadr-e-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam were finally replaced by Governor and Chief Minister on 30th March 1965 to make these at par with other states of the Indian Union.

Liberation Struggle in Jammu and Kashmir:-Two years following the dismissal and arrest of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah on 9th August 1953 his loyalists established Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front led by Mirza Mohamad Àfzal Beigh with the diplomatic, political and financial support of Pakistan to demand the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir State. The defeat of Pakistan in 1971 War in East Pakistan demoralized its collaborators so they changed their loyalty to Pakistan to sign the Beigh-Parthasarthy Accord in 1974 to join back the Indian mainstream. The rigging of the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly elections by National Conference-Congress alliance against the Muslim United Front in 15 Assembly segments in Kashmir on 23rd March 1988 frustrated the defeated candidates and their political workers who were tortured by the police with the connivance of the divisional civil administration. In a state of anger and frustration some of the defeated candidates and political workers of Muslim United Front crossed the Line of Control to seek arms training, arms and ammunition from Pakistani agencies to liberate Kashmir from India through guerrilla war. The pioneering militant organization that started armed struggle for liberation of Jammu and Kashmir from India was Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front led by late Amanuallah Khan. Subsequently several militant organizations such as Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkat-ul-Ansar and Ghazwat-ul-Hind etc emerged in Kashmir at different points of time since early 1990s. Pakistan recognized United Jihad Council an underground militant agglomeration led by Hizbul Mujahideen Supreme Commander, Mohammad Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin as well as the two overground political factions of All Parties Huriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Molvi Umer Farooq. In nutshell the ongoing liberation struggle in Jammu and Kashmir State is sponsored by Pakistan, with the help of both Pakistani and Kashmiri nationals to make Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir State a part of Pakistan. The National Conference, People’s Democratic Party and J&K State Congress Committee the inheritors of the legacy of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq the three former prime ministers of Jammu and Kashmir State are acting as the collaborators of India in the state.

The nationalist ideology in Jammu and Kashmir was propounded and nurtured by late Amanuallah Khan and late Mohammad Maqbool Bhat. Mr Amanuallah Khan in association with his other friends in Azad Kashmir had established Kashmir Independence Committee in 1963. Later on Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front was established in April 1965. Abdul Khaliq Ansari was its President whereas Amanullah Khan and Mohamad Maqbool Bhat were its General Secretary and Publicity Secretary respectively. Later on Amanullah Khan and Maqbool Bhat started armed militant organization named as Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front on 13th August 1966. In Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir Mohamad Maqbool Bhat had introduced Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front in 1968. His associate Hashim Qureshi hijacked the Indian Airlines Ganga in January 1971 to catch the international attention towards the Kashmir issue. The national goal of an Independent Jammu and Kashmir visualized by Mohammad Maqbool Bhat was liked by the Kashmiri nation but prior to 1988 his violent means to achieve independence from India and Pakistan were not approved by the peace loving people of Kashmir. It was the HAJY Group of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front comprising of Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Ashfaq Majid Lone, Javid Ahmad Mir and Mohamad Yasin Malik who  started armed struggle for liberation of Kashmir on 31st July 1988. After his release from jail in May 1994 Mohamad Yasin Malik, Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in Kashmir announced the unilateral cease fire to start the nonviolent political struggle for freedom of Kashmiri nation. Mr Hashim Qureshi, established Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party to start political struggle for an independent Jammu and Kashmir. The other faction of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front led by Javed Ahmad Mir has also renounced the violence.

Underlining the fact, that the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was militarily carved out from 1820 to 1846 by Maharaja Gulab Singh by putting together diverse ethno-lingual regions speaking Kashmiri, Shina, Burushaski, Balti, Ladakhi, Dogri/Punjabi, Pahari/Gujjari languages in different regions and belonging dominantly to Buddhism in Ladakh, Hinduism in Jammu, Shia sect of Islam in Gilgit and Baltistan and Sunni sect of Islam in Kashmir Valley, Chenab Valley, Pirpanjal region and Azad Kahmir. Because of regional, lingual and religious diversity the Jammu and Kashmir could not forge a unity in 1947 to defeat the external enemies to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Jammu and Kashmir. The regional divide between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has further deepened over the past seven decades because of ideological differences and the clash of interests among the constituent regions of Jammu and Kashmir State. More importantly the territory of Jammu and Kashmir State is presently under the control of three nuclear powers of Asia, namely India, Pakistan and China. It is a herculean task to liberate the territory of the state from these powerful countries.

The Kashmiri speaking Kashmiri nation is on the Indian side of the Line of Control and the defense against Pakistani aggression has become very essential ever since Pakistan sent its warriors to annex Kashmir in 1947. The unification of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan is not possible unless India and Pakistan are not willing to do so. Thus there is an urgent need for all pro-independence political organizations in Jammu and Kashmir State to be pragmatic in their political approach to resolve the Kashmir conflict in a more systematic and phased manner. The Kashmiri youth struggling for their national independence in the Indian part of the state must disassociate themselves from Pakistan because Kashmiri nationalism and Pakistani nationalism are two distinct political philosophies. The Kashmiri youth having a nonviolent and nationalist bent of mind must also avoid the use of violence and religion in the national political struggle for independence. Over the past several decades the Kashmiri politicians have promoted either the Pakistan Cause or the Indian Cause in Kashmir.The Jammu and Kashmir National League has accordingly set  non-alignment (with India and Pakistan), nonviolence, democracy, federalism, secularism, patriotism, nationalism, liberalism and pluralism as its guiding principles to struggle for establishing the  sovereign REPUBLIC OF KASHMIRISTAN.

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