By Prof. G.M. Athar
The Partition Plan of British India announced on 3rd June 1947 and the approval of Indian Independence Act by the British Parliament on 18th July paved the way for creation of India and Pakistan as two sovereign countries on 14th and 15th August 1947 in the immediate neighborhood of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the Indian Independence Act the rulers of the princely states were given the options for accession with India or Pakistan on the basis of principles of geographical contiguity with India or Pakistan and the religious composition of the population in their respective states.Since the rulers of the princely states were allies of the British Crown as per a treaty between the British Crown and the princes in 1858, so the rulers of the princely states were also given an option to stay independent of the two dominions of India and Pakistan and making their proper arrangements for defence and communication.
SELF-RULE BY HARI SINGH:-
Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to continue as the autocratic ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. Since Jammu and Kashmir State was having its common borders with both India and Pakistan so the principle of geographical contiguity was overlapping in case of the former Dogra kingdom. Secondly, although the 77% population of Jammu and Kashmir was Muslim yet in Ladakh region almost half of the population was Buddhist and in Jammu region the non-Muslims constituted the majority and more importantly the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir was himself a Hindu but ruling a Muslim majority state, so he was reluctant to join either India or Pakistan. On 12th August 1947 Maharaja Hari Singh offered Standstill Agreement to both India and Pakistan through an identical telegram which Government of Pakistan accepted in principle on 16th August 1947,pending details, whereas the Government of India advised Maharaja the deputation of some cabinet minister to New Delhi to discuss the details of the Standstill Agreement. Meanwhile, Pakistan sponsored tribal raid in Kashmir on 22nd October 1947 and two days later the local warriors from Poonch-Mirpur declared the formation of Azad Government of Jammu and Kashmir on 24th October, which compelled Maharaja Hari Singh to secure Indian millitary assistance on 27th October following the signing of Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union with respect to defence, foreign affairs and communication on 26th October 1947. Maharaja Hari Singh in his covering letter to the Instrument of Accession had made it clear to the Government of India that the provisions of future Constitution of India would not be a binding on his government except for the subjects mentioned in the Instrument of Accession.Thus it can be said that after the option of an independent country was exhausted, Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to have Self-Rule in Jammu and Kashmir without any interference from New Delhi.
DEMOCRATISATION OF POLITICS BY SHEIKH MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH:-
Following the killing of 22 civilians outside Central Jail Srinagar protesting against the imprisonment of Abdul Qadir on 13th July 1931 the political awareness and assertion for democratic rights had a formal beginning in Kashmir. In 1932 All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was established in October 1932 to struggle for socio-economic development and political empowerment of the people in Jammu and Kashmir State. In order to enhance the support base of his political organization Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah converted All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference into All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on 11th June 1939. The National Conference released its “Naya Kashhmir” Manifesto in 1944 which among other things talked about the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Jammu and Kashmir.The autocratic ruler of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh was reluctant to implement the constitutional reforms suggested by the National Conference which compelled Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to finally launch his “Quit Kashhmir” campaign against the autocratic ruler in May 1946. Maharaja Hari Singh responded by arresting Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah on 20th May 1946. Even when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to defend Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah during his trial in the court Pandit Ramchandra Kak Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir got him arrested at Domel near Uri in Kashmir while entering into the territory of Jammu and Kashmir without permission. After the release of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah for a brief period Pandit Ramchandra Kak got him arrested again prior to the independence of Indian subcontinent in mid-August 1947 primarily because of his clash of interests with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah but on the pretext of maintaining law and order situation in the Dogra kingdom.. However, senior Congress leadership at New Delhi managed to get Pandit Ramchandra Kak replaced on 11th August 1947 as a result of which and also the letter of apology written by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to Maharaja Hari Singh on 27th September 1947 the National Conference leader was released on 29th September 1947.The Pakistan sponsored tribal raid in Kashmir on 22nd October 1947 unfolded a golden opportunity for Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to bargain through Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel his induction into the Jammu and Kashmir Government. On the insistence of the Prime Minister and Home Minister of India, Maharaja Hari Singh appointed Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as the Emergency Administrator of Jammu and Kashmir State on 29th October 1947 and was subsequently upgraded as the Prime Minister of the state on 5th March 1948. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in league with New Delhi managed the exile of Maharaja Hari Singh to Mumbai on 20th June 1949. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was interested in abolition of autocracy, landlordism and the money laundering system in Jammu and Kashmir whereas New Delhi wanted his support against the Pakistani claim on the Muslim majority state and the integration of the Muslim majority state with Indian Union. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah succeeded in transfer of political power from Jammu based Dogra autocracy to Kashhmir based popular political leadership. New Delhi started its political project in Jammu and Kashmir State with the signing of Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh on 26th October1947 and through a gradual process of erosion of internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State accomplished its task by abrogation of special status of the only Muslim majority state in the country on 5th October 2019. Thus Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s political goal of democratisation of Jammu and Kashmir State with the help of New Delhi became handy for Indian establishment to integrate Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union and have its ultimate colonisation by Hindu majority India against the wishes of people of the Muslim majority state.
PLEBISCITE BY MUSLIM CONFERENCE:-
The political discourse advanced by All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference led by Choudhnay Ghulam Abbas was initially to establish a constitutional monarchy in Jammu and Kashmir. Choudhnay Hamidullah Khan Vice President of Muslim Conference for Jammu Province during a press conference in May 1947 at a hotel in Jammu articulated the demand of his party to declare Jammu and Kashmir as a sovereign country with Maharaja Hari Singh as constitutional head of the state. Muslim Conference at its meeting at Jammu had resolved to support independent Jammu and Kashmir with Maharaja as a constitutional head of the state. However, at a subsequent meeting at Srinagar on 19th July 1947 under the chairmanship of Mirwaiz Mohammad Yousuf Shah, Vice President for Kashmir Province a parallel resolution was passed supporting the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Pakistan with respect to defence, foreign affairs and communication. Mohammad Yousuf Saraf who had put forth the resolution has later stated in his book that some of the voters were not even the members of Muslim Conference but we’re the followers in prayer by Mirwaiz Mohammad Yousuf Shah.The Muslim Conference narrative of supporting the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Pakistan got a boast by UN Security Council Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir State on 21st April 1948 which called for two option plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir State to determine whether majority of the people in the former Dogra princely state want to stay with India or join Pakistan.The demand for two option plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir State was time and again made by the Government of Pakistan but after the former Soviet Union in 1958 used its veto power to oppose any further resolution on the subject no further resolution was passed by the UN Security Council to hold the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir State. After the signing of Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan in 1972 following the Indo-Pak War in East Pakistan in 1971, the UN Secretary General has always suggested both India and Pakistan to resolve Kashhmir problem bilaterally under the framework of Shimla Agreement.
PEOPLE’S RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMINATION BY JAMMU AND KASHMIR LIBERATION FRONT:-
In fact it was the Government of India which on 5th January 1948, in its application to the United Nations demanded the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir State to determine whether they want to stay with India, join Pakistan or remain independent.The UN Security Council in its resolution on Jammu and Kashmir State on 16th August 1948 recommended the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir State. When Pakistan dough clarification from the UN regarding the people’s right of self-determination, it was made clear by the UN that the right of self-determination included the option of independent Jammu and Kashmir as well. Sir Zafarullah Khan, Foreign Minister of Pakistan moved an application to delete the option of an independent country for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, with the result a fresh resolution was passed by the UN Security Council on 5th January 1949 recommending the two option plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. India maintained silence on the issue because like Pakistan, it was also not in favour of an independent country for Kashmiries. After the Tashkent Agreement between India and Pakistan in 1966, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front established by Mohammad Amanullah Khan and Mohammad Maqbool Bhat at Muzaffarabad started the struggle for people’s right of self-determination in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Over the past half a century in general and since the initiation of guerrilla war against Indian troops in Kashmir by the HAJY Group of JKLF in mid-1988 the demand for people’s right of self-determination has became the most popular political discourse in both Pakistan Administered Azad Kashmir and in the Indian AdministeredJammu and Kashmir. The abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir State by the Government India on 5th August 2019, has further alienated the people of Jammu and Kashmir from India and the sentiment of independent country has further deepened in the people’s psyche in both Kashmir and Azad Kashmir. Sensing the mood of the people in Kashmir and Azad Kashmir Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan was compelled by the political ground reality to publicly declare whily addressing a huge gathering at Kotli in Azad Kashmir that Pakistan will grant the people of Jammu and Kashmir including Azad Kashmir an opportunity to decide whether they want to stay with Pakistan or remain independent.
The Jammu and Kashmir State has been a theatre of political forces from1931 in general and 1947 in particular, who have been dragging the state to different directions to accomplish their political goals in the disputed territory. Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to continue the Dogra autocracy in the state but following the Pakistani tribal raid he wanted to retain at least the internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s clash of interests with Maharaja Hari Singh served the Indian objective of removing the obstacle in the way of integrating Kashmir with India by showcasing through the Kashhmiri leader the Indian secularism, democracy, federalism and socialism. Although Kashmiri nationalist forces have opposed the Muslim nationalist discourse of Pakistan, yet the opposition of Hindu nationalist forces to the Kashhmiri Self-Rule has made Pakistan relevant in Kashmir since 1953 but over the past three decades the sentiment of independent country has gone very deep into the psyche of the people in both Kashmir and Azad Kashmir that all other political discourses have become irrelevant in the contemporary Jammu and Kashmir.
Prof. G.M.Athar can be reached at email@example.com