Beyond ‘accession-merger’ speech

I harbor no grouse against the statement made by scion of Abdullah family in the State Assembly. In his statement he raised two points. One, that the ‘accession of Jammu and Kashmir has taken place but the State has not merged with India. Second point raised was the accession of the state to India has been under an agreement.- the instrument of accession He added: ‘We (National Conference) had not broken the agreement, nor have taken it back, but you (India) have gradually demolished it and people are aggrieved and angry over this act of yours.’ The statement ruffled some feathers in New Delhi and provoked statements from top brass of BJP and its cohorts.  It also inspired some harsh columns not only from journalists avowedly wedded to the philosophy of Vinavak Damodar Savarkar but surprisingly from some prominent votary of Abdullah family. MJ Akbar was more caustic than many others. In his column in Arab News past week, doubting Omar’s ‘loyalty’ he called him an ‘accessory to India rather a citizen. ‘An accessory’s loyalty cannot be taken for granted’, and so if there is a bit of adultery in an open marriage, why kick up a fuss? The Abdullahs like keeping a door open to Delhi and an ear open to Islamabad. They have to survive, you see, just in case you asked.’

I am not surprised at UPA leadership including India’s External Affairs Minister, Krishnan smelling no secession in the statement and finding nothing wrong in it. It amazed me to see Syed Ali Geelani finding an echo of his political beliefs and stand on accession in the “accession-not-merger” speech of the Chief Minister in the Assembly. Geelani may know better how it reflected his ideology  but to me as student on contemporary history the speech in no way challenges the accession of the state with India nor doubts the authenticity of the ‘instrument of accession’. It in fact was in tune with the National Conference post 1975 political stand; based on the doctrine, ‘there is no dispute over quality of accession but on its quantum’. New Delhi could have a reason to raise its eyebrows had the speech been in line with one made Afzal Beg on the floor of the State Assembly in 1954. Beg in his speech had criticized Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru for reneging on his promises of holding a plebiscite in the state under the aegis of the United Nations.  The speech was not also in sync with the one made by Sheikh Abdullah five years later on 17 February 1958. The statement said: ‘One of the most important objects underlying the entire political movement in the State has remained to secure the right to self-determination to the people of the State…The people of the State consider the formula of plebiscite as clear interpretation of their long cherished aspirations and as lasting solution of the complicated problem which is facing them.’

I am not here to discuss, where this debate over “accession-merger” speech lands the Abdullah scion. It will be too early to say if the Congress leadership in New Delhi surrenders to the pressure of Sangh Parivar as Nehru did to the Jan Sangh and R.S.S  agitation over Sheikh Abdullah’s speech in R.S. Pora,  in which he had reminded Nehru of full filling his pledge to people of state and comity of nations of holding a plebiscite in the state.  Nehru arrested  shaikh to satisfy RSS and Sangh leaders to take wind out of their proposed All India agitation. Omar may not be arrested soon but may suffer

  The most important fallout of this much talked about speech has been that that it once again sparked a serious debate over the existence of an ‘instrument of accession’ that provided an edifice to the landing of Indian troops at Srinagar airport on 27 October 1947. The statement refreshed the whole debate over ‘conditional accession of the state with Indian’ – the circumstances under which ‘accession’ took place; if the fugitive feudal ruler had a right to sign such an arrangement when people had started ‘quit Kashmir’ movement against him and challenged the “Amritsar Sale Deed” that provided sanction to Maharaja Hari Singh and his ancestry to rule the State. The people in Jammu province more particularly in Mirpur and Poonch were up in arms against the rule and had given a crushing defeat to the army of feudal rulers.
There is more literature on Kashmir dispute than on any other major international dispute including Palestine problem. Many Indian historians have written about this problem but overwhelming majority of them has toed official line on the subject. So have Pakistani authors written about it. Thousands of papers that provide deeper insight into Kashmir problem and accession debate have been written by eminent scholars like Eqbal Ahmed, Khalid Hassan and Muhammad Yusuf Buch in important international journals. Some works by American and European authors that are counted as  magnum opus on Kashmir include Danger in Kashmir by Josef Korbel,  Two Nation and Kashmir by Lord Birdwood, Horned Moon by Ian Stephen, Birth of Tragedy, Incomplete Partition, Kashmir – A Disputed Legacy 1846-1990, by Alastair Lamb, India Pakistan- Kashmir  and Shameful Flight by Stanley Wolpert. The latest and updated addition to literature on Kashmir dispute is ‘Kashmir in conflict: India, Pakistan and Unending War’ by eminent British historian Victoria Schofield. The book Published by I.B. Tarus from London and New York in 2010 not only deals with birth of the Kashmir dispute but is an in-depth study of various developments with regard to its perpetuation for past sixty three years. Of all the books published in the recent past on Kashmir it can be described as a complete study in many respects.

The book reveals many important facets of the ‘accession story’ that had not been hitherto told. She seems in agreement with Stanley Wolpert that India wanted to “grab” Kashmir for weakening Pakistan. The book in more than many way contradicts the much popular theory that Indian military intervention was prompted by “tribal raiders supported by Pakistan regulars” descending in “hordes” on the State. Questioning why both Gandhi and Nehru insisted visiting Kashmir immediately after August 15 and the presence of prince of Patiala, Kapurthala and Faridkot, Indian Congress leader J.B. Kripalani- when no Muslim leader visited Hyderabad and Junagarh nor did they visit Kashmir, Victoria writes, ‘Why so many visitors, all of whom might have a vested interest in the advice they gave to Maharaja.’ Prem Nath Bazaz almost corroborating the contentions of Victoria writes in ‘Truth About Kashmir’ published in 1950, “ political parties including Kashmir Socialist Party, the Kissan Mazdoor Conference, the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference warned Maharaja against joining India and advised him if he could not remain independent and had to join one or other dominion best course for him was to accede to Pakistan and if he had any doubts about the will of Kashmir he should hold a plebiscite on the basis of adult franchise before making the pronouncement.’  

It was not only Maharaja’s dithering but Tom Foolery policies bordering on share communalism of Maharaja Hari Singh that provoked revolt in Poonch revolt- complicated the issue and provided an opportunity to New Delhi to intervene. “Of the 71,667 citizens of Jammu and Kashmir who served in the British Indian Force during the Second World War, 60,402 were Muslims from traditional recruiting grounds of Mirpur and Poonch”. These Muslim soldiers were asked to deposit their arms with the government and it were these weapons that were distributed amongst Hindus and Sikh- this coupled with anger on heavy taxes on Muslims sparked revolt in Poonch. This was followed by massacre of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Jammu in eleven weeks as reported by Ian Stephens. Besides, these horrifying developments the presence of Congress leaders in the state during September spoke louder about its intentions. ‘There was a deep resentment among all sections of Muslims. The inflammable material only need ignited.’ Writes Bazaz, “That was done by the tribesmen. They did not enter the state territories unknown and without information. Their leaders had made their intentions public weeks in advance. Had not the Maharaja given ample evidence to accede to India against the desire of his Muslim subjects there is reason to believe that the tribesmen would not have entered the state.” Bazaz is in sync with many other writers in castigating them for their brutalities and does not approve of their “raiding’ Kashmir but at the same time he is critical about Indian army calling tribes men as “aggressors”, and comments, “It is kettle calling pot black”.

Both Victoria and Bazaz seem in unison in doubting theory that is seen as cause behind ‘signing’ of the ‘instrument of accession’- conditional or otherwise. There are many authors including Victoria who are suspicious about Maharaja’s right to sign the instrument of accession. And many others have been challenging the very existence of this document.  She writes: The official version of events leading to signing of instrument of accession does not however always correspond with individual accounts’.
Looking at “accession-merger” speech in this perspective the basic premise is debatable.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 17 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Mecca time