It is Not About Governance

The issue is much bigger, wider

It is a story of questions and no professed answers. That is how one can sum up history of uncertainty in the state. The   big question that   torments these days the man in the street, the average newspaper reader and the political commentator is: In what direction the political winds in the state will be blowing in the coming months. Are these going to gather   strength to winnow the chaff from the grain and throw up a strong leadership that can articulate the urges of the people with courage of conviction and translate people’s political aspirations into reality or like many other such winds in the past dribble away with out any knock-on effect?   Many friends and youngsters have also been posing to me this much sought after question. I have no stock answer for this question.  

The political situations as obtains these days is not something new. It by and large is a continuation of the same phenomenon that the state has been suffering for past sixty decades. In the past the stakeholders to such political phenomenon   were the leaders and organizations that did not subscribe to the ‘instrument of accession’ but believed in the solution of the problem as contained in the UN resolutions 1947 and 1948 and beyond UN  on Jammu and Kashmir. These organizations and leaders believed that these happenings were no solution but in their opinion worked   as catalyst for mobilizing the international opinion in support of the resolution of the problem. I am not here to debate on the strength and weaknesses of their political beliefs but to look the whole gamut of events in a perspective.

This time unlike in the past   the prevailing situation has thrown up yet another group of stakeholders that believes that the current spell of the unrest in the state can work as grist for the mill of the power game in the state.  It was for this belief that   for sometime eyes of some political leaders and commentators   in the state where fixed on the political weather cocks perched on the North and South Blocks.  The weather cock initially did strengthen the belief and wishful thinking of some political leaders both in the opposition and the ruling alliance that the change of the guard in the state was in the offing.  The rank and file in the National Conference that is not happy with some ‘extraneous” elements having bigger say in the affairs of the government and party looked towards older the Abdullah for what they termed saving the ‘ship from sinking’. Equally in the emerging scenario some of the opposition leaders in the troughs of the ruling alliance saw themselves rising on the new crests of popularity. I am not to question the merit of their political speculations- given to the situation as obtained in the state no political observer    would have predicted differently. The big question that stares at face is why all these political speculations about the change of the guard in Jammu and Kashmir failed.

History testifies that the raging and recurrent street battles that have been a perennial feature of the political landscape of the state for past many decades have not been part of the power politics. It is not all about good or bad governance.   The state in the post-feudal rule has had three Prime Minister from (1948- 1964) and eight Chief Ministers (1964-2010). It has been directly ruled by New Delhi through its five governors for about cumulative eight years.  The governors that ruled the state directly included L.K. Jha (1976-1977), Jagmohan, 1986 and 1990, G.C. Saxena and General K.V. Krishnarao (1990-1996), and present governor (2008). The state has had both good and bad governance. Students of contemporary Kashmiri history have been crediting some of the rulers for having taken some people friendly decisions of far reaching consequences that have immensely benefitted hundreds of thousands of people and changing economic landscape of the state. Some rulers despite having provided edifice for the development of the state are blamed for having introduced political corruption in the state.

Notwithstanding playing a dubious role in eroding the autonomy of the state some rulers are credited with institutionalization of the governance in the state.  It is not only that some rulers are credited with comparatively good governance but there have been people in the seat of power that had sway over a good chunk of population. Looking in this backdrop at the recurrence of street fights, protests and agitations in the state it would be naïve to attribute these to bad governance that entails unemployment and corruption. These could be only contributory factors and not the primary cause.

The primary cause lies in the politics that the state inherited at the time of partition of the British India. In the words of British historian Alistair Lamb, had not been ‘India partitioned the Kashmir problem would not have been there.’

The genesis of the problem in fact is a primer that even man in the street can parrot at a mere mention. I need not to repeat for the sake of repetition the events that catapulted Kashmir to the centre stage of the international politics. Seen in right historical perspective Kashmir problem is making of India and Pakistan but its non-resolution by and large can be attributed to the interests of the international players in the region. And it would be naïve to think of the resolution without these powers developing interest in the resolution of the problem.

Since the birth of the problem and it assuming an international dimension after the United Nations passing resolution for deciding future of the State through an impartial plebiscite under its aegis  India and Pakistan   leaders have been meeting at all levels. The two countries have had marathon meetings and protracted dialogues for the resolution of this problem but all meetings and summits after covering substantial distance have met their waterloo. Most of us attribute the failure of the dialogues on Kashmir  between the two countries to one or the other country but seen in the  right perspective the Kashmir policy in both the countries from the birth of the problem has been subservient to the interests of the United State, Britain and the former Soviet Russia in the region. It may not be possible to recount how Kashmir got enmeshed in the cold war and how after the end of the cold war it was used as card by the United States and other powers   for furthering its interests in the region.

If one looks at   the developments that took place in the state before 27 October 1947, in right perspective the state was heading towards   an Independent status.  The idea of independent Kashmir seen in right perspective had the support of Maharaja Hari Singh, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference and even the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference- that in a way there was a larger consensus amongst all the contending parties on the future status of the state.

  It is known fact that Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to remain independent. The facts that have been revealed bt Howard Schaffer and even by historians like Alistair Lamb suggest that Sheikh Abdullah despite being a member of Indian delegation worked for securing of an Independent Kashmir. Lamb in his book quoting British diplomat Graffery Smith  has dwelt in detail as how Sardar Abrham Khan who was already President of Azad Kashmir very subtly supported the idea of independent Kashmir. (Incomplete Partition by Alistair Lamb pages 257- 259)

The idea of independent Kashmir did not get defeated because of India and Pakistan. It was defeated    the West fearing the state becoming a bastion for the communist block more particularly Soviet Russia.  In the words of K. K. Misra   Lord Mountbatten   during his visit to Kashmir in third week of June 1947 Maharaja that the British government would not recognize independent Kashmir because it was not a practical proposition”. ( Kashmir India’s Foreign Policy). Sheikh Abdullah reported to have told Gordon Walker that Nehru also supported his idea of Independent Kashmir. However the United States at the advice of Britain had opposed the Independent Kashmir for four reasons. And of all the four reasons the important was fear of Kashmir working as corridor for the Communist.  

The reasons that had made the Britain and United States to perpetuate the problem have lost their relevance long before. But it would be wrong to believe that the interests of the United States and other Western countries in the region have diminished instead their interest have increased.  India and Pakistan in the renewed interest of United States will have to rise to the occasion and to safeguard their interests will have to do away with past hostilities and resolve all their disputes amicably….

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)