Indian Intelligentsia Has A Role
After all we are losing lives in Kashmir
Bloodbaths: Sixty four school going children and youth killed- killed gruesomely, hundreds with bullet wounds in their necks, chests, abdomens, legs and arms convulsing in hospitals, many of them disabled for the rest of their lives, hundreds others injured with newly acquired “non-lethal” weapons screaming in agony and pain, twenty six shot in eyes never to see again, four million people caged for 80 days, hundreds of thousands of students denied education for seventy days and trade worth billions of dollars lost.
I am witness to an era – a close witness to the political developments in the state for past more than five decades.I have seen crests and troughs of various political and resistance movements in the State but I find no parallel to the situation as obtaining in the state during past three months. In seventy nine years political and resistance movement, I see no parallel to the callosity and apathy of the men in authority towards the suffering of the people.
In the post 1948 scenario that is after the problem of Jammu and Kashmir assumed international dimensions and the United Nations responding to India’s complaint against Pakistan passed resolutions guaranteeing right to self-determination to the people of the state and calling for holding a plebiscite under its aegis for determining the future of the state the major political movement in the state was led by the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front. Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg was its founding president and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah its sole leader. The twenty two years movement had its ups and downs but broadly it was not different than the ongoing political movement in the State. This organization demanded a complete right to self-determination for the people of the state. The methods adopted by the Front for articulating its political point of view or pressing for its demand were not different, it boycotted the elections, observed many important days as black days, called for hartals and shutdown, organized protest rallies, hoisted green flags on lamp posts and houses, asked people for socially boycotting people ‘collaborating’ with the government in power, it pasted posters and wrote graffitis demanding plebiscite and asking India to leave Kashmir, it held demonstrations and encouraged ding dong battles with men in Khaki on the roads of Srinagar and in other towns.
The Plebiscite Front spared no opportunity to push the governments in power that it denounced as ‘puppet’ in a tight corner. But, I do not find a comparison or a near comparison to the present situation anywhere in those twenty two years. There is no instance of Kashmir valley having been placed at stretch under curfew for eighty days. There are no instances of more than sixty children and youth having been killed in less than three months in a year in the state. I am not talking about the post 1990 scenario, when state had witnessed massive gun battle between youth in arms and troops but of the periods when the movements for plebiscite or right to self-determination were peaceful and non-violent. Today a whole generation unmindful of the state force has been converging on the roads, defying curfew restrictions and demanding right to self-determination. There have been youth and student movements in the state but during past fifty years I have not seen such determined youth.
I am not here to debate and discuss if the situation in the state has been brought to this impasse by inapt or immature handling but the point that I want to drive at is that the situation in the state is graver than it ever has been. In the post 1953 scenario, the 1964, Holy Relic Movement is seen a turning point. This movement was not that intense as the ongoing one. The 1964, movement had made, none else than the first Prime Minister of India, who in the words of Alastair Lamb, felt that his Indian roots, so vital for his current political position required for their credibility an access to the soil of the vale of Kashmir, to change his mind set. It was power of the people’s movement in the state that had made a defiant Nehru, who on more than one occasion had asked the US leaders to keep its hand off Kashmir to bow. He held one to one meetings with his estranged friend Sheikh Abdullah and sent him to Pakistan with a message that New Delhi wanted to have a result oriented dialogue for amicable settlement of the Kashmir problem. Many hold the view that had not Nehru died while Sheikh was still in Pakistan Kashmir issue would have been resolved.
Today, the situation in Kashmir is more alarming than it was in 1964. It is fraught with more dangers than it was in 1964. The geo-strategic situation at that point of time was not as disquieting as it is today. India was much more comfortable on Kashmir in the bipolar than in today all drifting situation, with dangerous situation in Afghanistan, United States’ renewed interest in the region and Beijing’s heightened hype on Kashmir. But it seems that New Delhi is unmindful of the intensity of Kashmir situation. True, leaders in New Delhi have been describing the situation as ‘worrisome’ and ‘serious’, they have been talking of holding a dialogue with all shades of opinions in the state but as an editorial in this paper read that the offers for talks by Prime Minister are not one step forward but one said backward. New Delhi out of its belief that all will be hunky dory after some time in Kashmir is yet to give a serious thought to the problem. It has even been ‘talking half-heartedly’ of some solution that could not be a solution but a step towards the solution.
There can be no denying that alarming bells over Kashmir situation rang up in the Indian Parliament. Some member despite their tinted views about Kashmir situation did speak truth about the ongoing movement in Kashmir. Hardcore B.J.P leader, M.M. Joshi said it was not true that people of Kashmir had "economic problems" as he had only heard demands for “independence”. There was none to tell the parliamentarians that the slogans raised by the fourth generation Kashmiris were not flukes but had a history that was written in the same House.
Explaining the reason for sending Indian troops to Kashmir on 27 October 1947 in his statement in the Constituent Assembly Jawaharlal Nehru on November 25, 1947 at more than one place made reference to India not accepting the Instrument of Accession unless ratified by reference to people.
In his words:
“In order to establish our bona fides, we have suggested that when people are given to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United organizations.” This statement was made much before the adoption of the resolutions by the United Nations. Nehru did reiterate this commitment on March 5, 1948, in the constituent assembly, “We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a plebiscite with every protection for fair voting to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir’ (quoted from India’s Foreign Policy By Jawaharlal Nehru). Even when Nehru tried to renege from his commitments in the parliament and the UN Security Council many a genuine Indian leaders’ did not agree with him. Jayaprakash Narayan in a letter wrote to Nehru on May 1, 1956: Dear Bhai, “May I also take this opportunity of saying a word about Kashmir – merely to put my views before you, without in the least wanting to criticize or influence. From all the information that I have, 95 per cent of Kashmir Muslims do not wish to be or remain Indian citizens. I doubt therefore the wisdom of trying to ‘keep’ people by force where they do not wish to stay. This cannot but have serious long-term political consequences, though immediately it may suit policy and please public opinion. From the point of view of the desirability of establishing a peaceful social order, it cannot but prove disastrous. I do earnestly wish that this question be considered more from a human, rather than a nationalist, point of view” (Bimal Prasad; Selected Works of Jayaprakash Narayan, 1954-60; Vol. 7; page 115). (quoted from the Frontline). What J.P. said fifty years back holds true even today as indicated by the studies carried out recently by the Outlook or Chatham House.
In this bizarre scenario when political leadership lacks statesmanship and courage to take unpopular decisions in the greater interest of the nation and parliamentarians are not conversant with history of the dispute it becomes imperative for Indian academicians and intellectuals to play a role as was played by the American intellectuals at the time of Vietnam War or by French intellectuals in convincing their leadership in ending war in Algeria.