Tryst with destiny
happens to be India’s 56th year of independence. A landmark,
although fifty-six years is an exceedingly small an epoch in
nation’s history bearing in mind, our civilisation dates back to
over eight thousand years. A multi-religious, multi-ethnic polity
like India, which did not at any point of time have communal power
sharing engagements should have fragmented into pieces long ago. It
is alive, 56 years after her birth, which in itself is no mean an
Barely two months
after India was born, Indian troops were flown to Srinagar on the
morning of 27th October, just in time to prevent the complete siege
of the city, and to thwart the evil and nefarious designs of
Pakistan to proclaim accession, after the city had been captured.
With this started an era of claims and counter claims over Kashmir.
This forlornly happens to 56 years of disputes over Kashmir, which
has resulted in four (if one includes the Kargil) cruel wars in the
Sitting back and
tracking some of the historical events is no doubt a daunting task,
but it also brings along with some astounding facts. Certain facts
are so subtle in nature that one is scrupled to present one’s
personal point of view. The intricacy of the subject matter makes it
highly subtle in nature. The ground reality is that gaffes have been
committed in the past, which has brought about turmoil and mayhem.
In 1931, Sheikh
Abdullah established Muslim Conference to reorganise Muslims of
Kashmir against the Dogra rule. In the subsequent years, he was
impressed by the liberal policies of Pandit Nehru and the
secularistic plank of the Indian national Congress. He left Muslim
Conference and formed National Conference as a secular party of the
people of Kashmir. In response to the Quit India Movement, he
organised the Quit Kashmir Movement against the Dogra ruler,
Maharaja Hari Singh.
It is pertinent to
recall that Hari Singh’s father, Raja Gulab Singh had purchased
Jammu and Kashmir from the British, according to the previously
agreed arrangement for 75 Lakh rupees, just after the first
Anglo-Sikh war in 1846. In November, 1846, Gulab Singh entered
Srinagar and, what followed, is widely believed, a reign of terror
commencing on the Kashmiris (read Muslims). Kashmiri Pandits, on
account of their superior educational background were presented with
high positions in the administration.
In addition, it
would be relatable to mention that during the reign Maharaja Pratap
Singh (1894 - 1925) the state of affairs deteriorated, with British
intensifying communal thoughts amongst the Muslims in Kashmir, and
in 1931 there was the first communal clash. Muslim communalism was
championed by the Muslim Conference, the state-level political
1946, the Maharaja of Kashmir imprisoned Sheikh Abdullah and
sentenced him for 20 years for leading a revolt against his throne.
On 29th September 1947 Sher-e-Kashmir (as he was popularly known)
was released at the instance of Pandit Nehru. After his release,
Abdullah campaigned for democratic rights and did not publicly
concern himself with accession.
On 16th September
1947, in a statement to the press (TOI 17th Sept. 1947) Nehru said,
"I believe that the division of India was a short term
political solution which could not override cultural affinities and
economic compulsions and as such the G.O.I disavowed any intention
of harming Pakistan or creating it as an enemy and expressed their
continuing hope that, when the current turmoil ended, the two states
might unite by the free will of their peoples".
On the night of
24th October, tables were turned upon Nehru´s vision that the
confrontational attitude will end, when news reached Delhi, that
well organised tribesmen had entered into the valley from Pakistan
and were heading towards Srinagar; the next day when the P.M of
Kashmir, Ramchand Kak, called on Nehru and requested that Indian
troops be flown into Kashmir, Nehru expressed his helplessness and
was only persuaded by Abdulla and Sardar Patel to agree.
and the decisions on Kashmir were not, as is a common notion, being
taken by him in isolation, that too when his “romantic
attachment” to the mountains was a well known fact. This fact
rarely influenced his policy on Kashmir.
At meeting of
Defence Committee on 26th October, Mountbatten was successful in
persuading Patel and Nehru to demand immediate accession as a
pre-condition to military assistance and offer of a plebiscite after
the restoration of law and order.
On 27th October,
after the accession of Kashmir was accepted, Indian troops were
flown out just in time to prevent the complete siege of Srinagar and
to thwart what was believed to be the plan of Pakistan to proclaim
accession after the city had been captured so that “Jinnah could
make a triumphal entry.”
On the same day,
Nehru in a letter to S. M Abdulla said, "…… I heard today
that our troops had reached Srinagar ……… We have taken the
plunge and we shall swim across to the other shore……"
Kashmir, tribesmen had created pools of blood everywhere by
slaughtering Sikhs and Hindus. They not only indulged in these
brutal killings but also committed innumerable rapes alongside arson
and looting. The efforts taken by the Muslim majority in general and
the National Conference workers in particular to safeguard the lives
of Hindus and Sikhs at a great risk is praise worthy.
In his secret note
of 1947, Ram Manohar Lohia informed the then G.O.I that between 1887
and 1947 the Pandit population had dwindled from One Lac to 80
thousand where as the Muslim population had augmented from 5 Lacs to
20 Lacs. This demographic transition is worth mentioning here
primarily because it gives a fair amount of indication as to how
minorities were marginalised in the state over a span of time and as
such had no say in the political affair of the region.
Fore sighting no
solution to the problem, Nehru had no thought of compromise. On
December 3, 1947, Nehru wrote to S. M. Abdulla that Kashmir had
become to him a symbol of basic conflict in India and on the
decision there ´one might almost say, depends not only the future
of Kashmir but the future of Pakistan and to a considerable extent
the future of India.´ Such was the gravity of the matter that a
foresighted Statesman like Nehru was in a dilemma.
Finally Nehru was
persuaded by Mountbatten to refer the Kashmir problem to United
Nations but with only limited references (complaint was lodged under
Article 35 of the UN Charter and sought vacation of aggression). The
historical mistake made by India was to refer the case to the U.N to
which Nehru later regretted.
India suffered in a
major way when the case was referred to the security council as
Pakistan not only successfully refuted all charges made against them
but effectively countered by allegations against India, of hostility
to Pakistan. U.N´s decisions were partial and biased, heavily
loaded in favour of Pakistan.
Philip Noel-Baker (guide on the matter to the security council)
intimated India that he was convinced that Pakistan was no way
involved in providing assistance to the raiders. On 16th February
1948, Nehru wrote to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, "I cannot imagine
that the security council could probably behave in the trivial and
partisan manner in which and it is not surprising that the world is
going to pieces ……… and the U.S. and Britain have played a
dirty game, Britain being the chief actor behind the scenes
The British policy
of betrayal and treachery continued to dominate the region even
after independence of the country, with effective support from the
U. S. The stand taken by the British delegate Noel-Baker was
partisan and helped Pakistan to counter India in an effective
When finally the
commission arrived in Pakistan in July, it received specific
information that three brigades of regular Pakistani troops had been
fighting in Kashmir since May. On 15th July 1948, Mountbatten (from
London) wrote to Nehru, " ……… with such evidence before
it, commission would …… reasonably favourable report …… to
resolve the tangle …… acceptable to India."
The commission did
not take into account the admission of Pakistan about the presence
of its troops in Kashmir in its resolution of 13th August, 1948, and
said that there should be a ceasefire and a withdrawal of Pakistani
troops, nationals and tribesmen; India should begin to withdraw the
bulk of her forces after Pakistan had withdrawn her tribesmen and
nationals and her troops were being withdrawn; and the future status
of the state would be determined by a plebiscite.
On May 1949, since
UN commission had been unable to make any headway on the
implementation of Security Council resolution, so it came forward
with some new proposals which were so biased in nature that Nehru
found them unacceptable.
In December 1950,
India rejected U.N.´s offer to mediate on Kashmir. "The only
way to solve it is for India and Pakistan to know that the burden is
upon them and no one else", Nehru wrote to U.N. The negative
attitude of Britain and the U.S. at the Security Council was a cause
of worry for New Delhi. The draft resolution took strong objection
to the convening of the constituent assembly and provided for the
super-session of the Kashmiri Government and the possible entry of
foreign troops to resolve the tangle.
On 2nd June 1950,
Nehru wrote to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, "If Pakistan´s communal
approach and policy prevail in Kashmir, it would not only be a
tragedy for Kashmir, but it would upset the whole scheme of things
in India, ……… I find the British and American people skating
merrily on this very thin ice over the deep ocean, and accusing us
Nehru´s note for
S. M Abdullah, 25th August 1952 read: "The Govt. of Pakistan is
like someone riding a bicycle. They feel that the moment they return
to normalcy, the bicycle stops and they fall down."
Nehru had weaved
his Kashmir policy around one man -- S. M Abdulla. The massive
victory of National Conference in the elections to the constituent
assembly made Nehru more optimistic about the prospects of a
plebiscite and took up the matter with Abdulla.
At the same time,
for the first time at the Security Council, the attitude of America
and Britain was strongly criticized by Soviet Union. The draft
resolution put forward by the British delegate at the Security
Council lacked clarity, ignoring India´s version as well as the
past commitments made by U.N Commission. Despite a strong protest
lodged by India, the resolution went through. At the very outset,
Nehru rejected it in totality.
At the domestic
front, a major cause of concern to the G.O.I was the changing
attitude of S. M. Abdullah over the years. It was his popular
support in Kashmir that Nehru played his cards by prompt military
action at the time of invasion. "The only person who can
deliver the goods in Kashmir is Abdullah …… I have high opinion
……… He may make any no of mistakes in minor matters ……
", Nehru had written to the Maharaja of Kashmir on 13th
By now, the
intentions of Abdulla had created doubts in the minds of Nehru who
was unaware that Abdulla, perhaps from the start had nurtured ideas
of independent Kashmir. Nehru was secretively informed about the
possible nexus between S.M Abdullah and the U.S. for possible
independence of Kashmir.
strongly protested to Nehru when in September 1948, Abdulla made a
statement that certain people in India believed in surrendering
Kashmir to Pakistan. But Abdullah himself was unapologetic over the
matter, and soon the divergence of approach between him and Nehru
became visibly marked.
The Sheikh favoured
“Independent Kashmir" even after the accession. Sheikh
Abdullah´s imprisonment in August 1953 was the commonsensical
corollary of his Anglo-American associations. It was not until the
Indira-Sheikh accord of 1975 that Abdulla ultimately gave up his
plans for an “Independent Kashmir”. Although, by then, intrinsic
damage had taken place in Kashmir, with the pro-Pakistan forces
gaining foot-hold, largely because of the inability of Abdulla to
translate his dreams into reality.