‘Political fatigue and surrendering the cherished political causes for which leaders have whipped up public sentiments, mobilized millions to come on the streets and made people to suffer immensely is neither pragmatism nor realpolitik’ . This was central theme of my column, ‘the story of climb-downs’, published two weeks back in this newspaper. To illustrate, how the ‘climbing-down syndrome’ afflicting our leadership had defeated the resolution of the Kashmir Dispute and worked as dampener for bringing in lasting peace in South-Asia, I had quoted examples of the 1964 Holy Relic Movement and Sheikh-Nehru Dialogue, the 1965, students agitation and civil disobedience movement, the 1968 State Peoples Convention and the 1975 Indira-Sheikh Agreement. Nevertheless, for limitations of space, I had not been able to dwell in detail, how our leadership had failed to use the ripe political situations advantageously for ending the political uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir, instead their moves had not only proved disadvantageous but also worked as catalysts for eroding the political status of the state.
This column had evoked a good number of phone calls and emails. Some of the readers, in their own right had posed some important questions. How leaders credited with leading the 1964 Holy Relic Movement had failed the people of the state, how these had defeated the 1965 students movement and how 1968, State Peoples Convention that was seen first major initiative for evolving a “creative solution” could be seen as precursor to the burial of the Plebiscite movement.
In this column, again it is not possible to write in detail about each of these important milestones in the contemporary history of Kashmir. True, each of these milestones is important but in the post 1953 scenario, the disappearance of the holy relic was one the most important events that had brought Kashmir dispute once again in focus and caused rethinking about Kashmir in New Delhi.
In the history of Kashmir, the disappearance of the Moe-e-Muqaddas from the Hazratbal Mosque on December 27, 1963, and six after it being kept at the place is one of the most mysterious incidents. The then cabinet and the National Conference were as clueless about the mystery as the people of the State. Syed Mir Qasim writes in his autobiography that he and Chief Minister, G. M. Sadiq had asked the intelligence chief B.N. Mullick about the mystery surrounding restoration of the Holy Relic, he had replied, “This secret will remain in my dark chambers till my death.” Mir Qasim writes only Mullick and his confidants know about the operation. Even Mullick in his autobiography, “My Years with Nehru” writes, “I cannot describe the process which led to replacement… This was an intelligence operation, never to be disclosed.”
However, one thing is obvious; the Holy Relic Movement had convinced New Delhi that it would be now difficult for her to retain Kashmir as part of India. That is why Nehru on the recovery of the relic had told Mullick, “God Bless you, and you have saved Kashmir for us.”
In this column, I am not going to recap history of the holy relic movement but what has intrigued me is the role played by the then leadership spearheading the movement for restoration of the relic. The Action Committee under the leadership of Molvi Masoodi instead of sending a candid message to New Delhi for living by international commitments in the words of Mullick it was “aiming at Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, “bargaining” for releasing of Sheikh Abdullah and subtly batting for G.M. Sadiq’s chief ministership.
In batting for Sadiq, some of the leaders consciously were executing the agenda of Jawaharlal Nehru, who immediately after Kamaraj Plan wanted to see Sadiq in saddle for fully integrating the state with India. Masoodi might have had personal grouse against Bakshi but he was not unawares about the plans of New Delhi and Sadiq’s aversion to special status for the state. Sadiq’s appointment as Chief Minister to quote Sumantra Bose “Was effectively the end of the road for article 370 and IJK’s autonomous regime. Indeed, the Hindu nationalist agenda for IJK, articulated by the Praja Parshid in Jammu and Hindu nationalist parties in India since 1940 had emerged victorious – ironically foundation for this had been laid by the government of Jawaharlal…apparent personification of liberal secularism” (Kashmir Roots of Conflict page 82). To ‘alter the basic structure of the state constitution’, Sadiq applied one by one all central laws to the state that only left behind only Skelton of the article 370. (See book Article 370 by A.G. Noorani).
The ‘Article 356 and 357, were applied to Jammu and Kashmir through a constitutional order.’ The titles of Sadre-e-Riyast and Prime Ministers were changed to further strengthening intervention and control of the central government over the state. “This slew of imposed integrative measures” writes Bose, “operationalized through the cooperation of a clique of client Ijk politicians was preceded by most breathtaking development of all… That is dissolving NC and merging it into Indian National Congress. In other words, the name and identity of Kashmir’s political movement would cease to exist altogether.”
Seen in the right perspective the Action Committee leadership in batting for Sadiq in 1964 showed its lack of understanding. The Kashmir leadership did not only fail in giving right direction to the movement and preventing Sadiq from eroding status of the state but it also dissipated the opportunities it had opened for the resolution of the Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah was released in first week of April 1964. Some of his speeches before his leaving for New Delhi sounded as good as speeches he had made after his release in 1947 before visiting Nehru in New Delhi. In one of his speeches, he said that a solution to Kashmir dispute must ‘take into account its likely consequences for 50 million Muslims in India.’ He stayed with Nehru in Teen Murti House as he had stayed in 1947. In the meantime, President Ayub Khan invited him to Pakistan. Sheikh in his meetings with Indian leaders avoided talking about UN resolutions and Plebiscite the demands his party stood for. Instead, he looked for an agenda from New Delhi for taking to Pakistan. Nehru referred him to an informal high-powered committee comprising, Y.D. Gundevia, G. Parthasarthi and B. Tyabji. The committee mooted all options including plebiscite but ironically, Sheikh told them in working out specifics it must ensure that the solution does not weaken secular idea of India and weaken position of minorities in the country… so a nonstarter idea was born. There lies a lesson for jumpy leaders.