n to Strasbourg, Kashmir they lend ears to
That the huge and splendid sacrifices of Kashmiri people in the sacred struggle of right to self determination are not ignored and world is taking note of their plight are, indeed, encouraging. The morale-boasting developments reflect that sanctity of the resistance and devotional attachment of the subjugated people for the just cause does strike the conscience of the world. It also reveals that despite state India putting in huge resources in distorting the resistance movement and spreading canards and its attempts in presenting ‘democratic’ exercises as “faith expression” on Indian rule, the world is seasoned enough to sift the husk of deceit from the grain of hard realities on the ground.
Two encouraging developments and from the liberal democratic West. One, Norwegian parliament on May 23, 2013, conducted debate on Kashmir dispute for second time in a year. Earlier the debate was held in 2010 and again in September, 2012 about the existence of unidentified mass graves in Kashmir. Conducting a debate on Kashmir ‘dispute’ on the floor of parliament is recognition of the necessity of resolution of Kashmir problem and, at the same time, nailing at the Indian claim on Kashmir. Nuclearization of the region too is threat to peace in the region and enhances the urge of the parliamentarians to play their part in that direction.
Second, on May 26, 2013, European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the secret execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru by government of India in Tihar Jail New Delhi on February 09, this year. The resolution passed at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg deplored India for not informing Afzal’s family of his imminent hanging and burial at the jail. The parliament called upon the GoI to return Afzal’s body to his family. The resolution expressing its displeasure noted that GoI sent Afzal to gallows despite the fact that Indian and international human rights organizations had raised serious questions about the fairness of the Guru’s trial. To show solidarity with the persecuted people of Kashmir, the parliament regretted the killing of three Kashmiri youth by the armed forces in the wake of Afzal’s execution.
Syed Ali shah Geelani, an iconic leader of massive support, detained in his house (virtually converted into sub jail) for the last two and a half years, was also invited to participate in the Kashmir related international conference. But, as expected, GoI did not allow him to attend the vital conference. The invitation to Geelani is acknowledgement by the European parliament that the towering Kashmiri leader is held in great esteem by parliamentarians, notwithstanding the character assassination campaigns against him by GoI and selective approach of Islamabad in grooming leaders of their choice and agenda. Though Delhi refused issuing travel documents to Geelani, they did not succeed in curbing his sentiments. His paper was read in the parliament. In his statement the octogenarian leader clarified that ‘people of JK were striving for their basic rights for the past six decades and New Delhi with its might and state power had deprived them of their fundamental right…’ Geelani asked the parliament to impress upon GoI and GoP for seeking solution of Kashmiri issue on the basis of UN resolutions.
It is to be noted that in 2004 European Union delegation held UN resolutions very much implementable. The ground situation made the delegation declare Kashmir as ‘the beautiful prison’ in the world where armed forces have unlimited powers.
From Copenhagen to Strasbourg, Kashmir is, thanks to invincible spirit and commitment of people of Kashmir for the sacred cause and the huge investment in life, limb, honor and assets, the world is lending its ears to the just struggle and the plight of Kashmiris. That this is happening despite the stooges like NC and PDP presenting themselves as the ‘representatives’ of people is much heartening. on of plebiscite having been rejected by Jinnah in November 1947 is destroyed by the abundantly recorded fact of the stand Pakistan took in January 1948 at the United Nations. That stand would not have taken shape if it lacked not only Jinnah’s formal approval but also his active support and endorsement. The proposition of a fair and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations was the main thrust of that stand.
A point needs to be stressed here which may superficially appear as a nuance but is actually a matter of fundamental importance. The term “plebiscite” without any defining characteristics can be dangerously deceptive. There is as much opposition between plebiscite held under the coercion or intimidation of a heavily militarized partisan regime and subject to rigging and manipulation, on the one side, and plebiscite administered by an authority like the United Nations, on the other, as there is between plebiscite and its complete negation. If anyone representing Pakistan or Kashmir would accept the proposition of a plebiscite without the safeguard of its impartial auspices, there would be ample ground to impugn his integrity or even doubt his sanity. This remains true as much today as it would have done at any point since the inception of the dispute. Jinnah would always have been the very last person to fall into the kind of trap which would have stultified Pakistan’s stand and doomed Kashmir’s future.
At the United Nations in 1948, India felt it most inexpedient not to make a show of accepting the proposition of an impartial plebiscite under the United Nations auspices. But India’s real intentions were exposed only some months later when she turned down the so-called truce proposals which were made by none other than the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan and were meant to help effectuate the plebiscite. There is nothing on record which would even faintly suggest that, at any point of time, Indian leaders became reconciled to the prospect of India losing Kashmir or, far less, fearful of the possibility of being defeated in Hyderabad and as a result made any constructive offers which would have settled the Kashmir dispute. All contrary readings are moonshine.
As I say this, I do not in the slightest degree imply that the project of Kashmir’s liberation was hopeless at any historical point or has so become now . All I mean to suggest is that we must extricate the narrative from imaginings and shadowy perceptions and not let ill-informed or irresponsible historians—there have been plenty in the case of Kashmir—distort the record or depress our outlook. A prime requirement is to avoid the grave historical fallacy of treating the Kashmir story as a whodunit. Doing so exposes it to the atrocity of concoctions in history’s guise. Judging from your summary of the central point in it, the book under discussion is a telling example. To personalize a phenomenon of multiple causation is to falsify history.
If I were to counsel historians or commentators emerging from our younger generation, my emphasis would rest on a dual point: first, the importance of not encouraging sensation-mongering or the desire to show off or sheer irresponsibility to falsely oversimplify a problem or episode or theme or experience as shrouded in complexity as Kashmir; second: equally vital, the imperative of not making the account unrecognisably dry and washing away all human elements in it that evoke well-merited castigation or praise.
As far as complexity is concerned, I would cite as an example one simple event: the tribal incursion into Kashmir in October 1947. From the viewpoint of Kashmir’s freedom, was it good or bad? Three of its conseqences were unquestionably harmful: (a) it emboldened the Maharaja to do overtly what he had been plotting for months i.e.formally offering accession to India; (b) unwittingly it lent some credibility in the eyes of the Kashmiri masses to Abdullah’s nationalistic posture; it thus had the effect of encouraging the personal ambitions which swayed him and blinded him to Kashmir’s fundamental and enduring interests; (c) it presented a false and unattractive picture of Pakistan–at that time a new-born state– to all who were not well-informed— which means all and sundry except a few. However, looked at from an opposite perspective, the event had an immediate result which justifies eternal thanksgiving; it averted the genocide of the Muslims of Muzafferabad and environs which was an important item in the Maharaja’s military strategy and would have definitely occurred had the invasion not taken place. So, what verdict can one invite, if one is seeking truth and justice? Alas, except in rare historical contingencies, neither of these desired objects presents itself in simple dress. The best one can reach is a qualified judgment.
As one separates the different factors, both indigenous and external, whose interplay shaped Kashmir’s
fate at perhaps its most critical point, one can identify the following:
a) The unshakable determination of the Congress leadership, particularly the Gandhi-Nehru-Patel triumvirate, to demonstrate their rejection of the concept of Pakistan( the so-called two-nation theory) as distinguished from their pragmatic acceptance of the two-state solution which brought about the emergence of Pakistan. To their minds, the latter seemed unavoidable for the purpose of compelling the exit of the British but it could be reversed at an opportune time in future while the incorporation of Kashmir into India would be a permanent gain. Kashmir as part of India would remain a standing refutation of the raison d’etre of Pakistan.
b) The role of Hari Singh, the Maharaja. The fact that he did not offer accession to India immediately or reasonably soon after its establishment has been taken by some British and other historians as a sign of indecision on his part. The supposition is baseless. He would have preferred death over acceptance of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Though firmly determined to accede to India, he wished to do so when, with an opportune shifting of weight in the Indian cabinet between Nehru and Patel in the administrative context of Kashmir, he would secure satisfactory terms, perhaps some kind of quasi-independence for himself and his successors. Whatever fears and doubts he and his Dogra counsellors initially harboured were decisively removed by two events: one, on just the eve of the partition of British India, he had to respond to Gandhi’s unmistakable warning to dismiss his Kashmiri Pandit Chief Minister who seemed to be capable of steering the ship in a direction not exactly to India’s liking; two, in late August 1947 he ordered Shaikh Abdullah’ release from imprisonment and at a meeting with him in the palace arranged for the purpose, he felt amply reassured about the navigability of the policy of not acceding to Pakistan.
c) The wholly disingenuous role of Shaikh Abdullah and all those colleagues of his whom he coaxed or bullied into submission. This requires detailed analysis and it takes the narrative back to 1946 when Abdullah rejected Jinnah’s most generous proposals for the formation of a united organization of Kashmiri Muslims. His effort to recapture his erstwhile popularity with the Kashmiri masses, unmatched in Kashmir’s annals, by launching the “Quit Kashmir” movement under the guidance of a few Hindu intellectuals from Punjab had not taken long to peter out. It was because of his own perversity that he could find no shelter except under India’s umbrella. This should not bring into question the fact that turnabouts constituted his favourite modus operandi; later on, he spent time under Pakistan’s patronage with no clear aim except his personal welfare.
d) The parlous nature of Kashmiri leadership, especially the lamentable disunity between the Muslim Conference and the National Conference. If this had not existed, Kashmir’s history would have been different altogether.
e) The disparity between the two states of India and Pakistan in all respects except formal and legal sovereignty: one was a fully-fledged state while the other was not yet in full control of the apparatus of governance—in other words, India was a cohesive organization while Pakistan was only “a work in progress” That the Pakistan Army was not yet even a compact entity explains why Jinnah’s characteristically straightforward directive to counteract India’s move of marching into Kashmir had to be withdrawn at the request of Pakistan’s own cabinet. This had far-reaching consequences, none to Kashmir’s or even Pakistan’s benefit.
f) The typical bickerings among Muslim notables who, if free from dissensions,could have played a consequential role. In the case of Kashmir, the tribal raid took place in a welter of jealousies which made its aftermath so unimpressive as to raise the question whether, for the cause of Kashmir’s liberation, it signified an advance or a retreat.
(Author is former Advisor to Secretary General of United Nations. This piece is exclusively written for GK)