Kashmir and Prem Nath Bazaz

Based on his essay on Kashmir in 1970
The people of the state of J&K seem destined to suffer endlessly by being denied many human and political rights, as they have been since 1947, some of which they enjoyed even under the harsh rule of the autocratic Maharaja.

It is sincerely believed that a free discussion with an open mind and a strong desire to end the demoralizing suspense born of prevailing uncertainly can be helpful in a search for a solution. The development during the past two decades in both the countries as well as in the two parts of J&K State divided by the cease-fire line have so complicated the issue that we are faced with a baffling situation which depresses the stoutest of hearts.

Accession to India
In his letter of acceptance of instrument of accession dated 28th October 1947 addressed ‘to the Maharaja, Lord Mountbatten, Governor General, clearly laid down that “in the case of any state where the issue of accession has been subject of dispute the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of state”. This assurance has not been fulfilled and- therefore the issue remains open till today. No individual, however eminent, and no political party, could be permitted to usurp the sovereign right of self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

With the deposition, arrest and incarceration in August 1953 of the topmost leader of National Conference Party along with his intimate colleagues, the Constituent Assembly lost whatever representative character it might have possessed. It may also be noted that the opinion of the Constituent Assembly could not be a substitute for a verdict by the State people in a free referendum.
After the conclusion of the peace treaties at the end of the Second World War in 1945, India understandably became the staunchest champion of the principle of self determination. It is therefore disheartening to observe today that Independent India should oppose this right in case of the Kashmiris.

Article 370 of Indian Constitution
The article 370 virtually recognizes the independence of J&K State within the Indian Union. It entitles the people of the State to shape their future relationship with India in the light of the experience gained by them after adoption of the Constitution. The Article 370 further limited the powers of Indian Parliament in regard to the State to make laws about matters detailed in the Union List and Concurrent List. President may by public notification declare that this Article shall cease to be operative or will be operative with such exception as specified but the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the Kashmir State to this effect shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification.

Farcical Elections
Not even once the people voted freely or fearlessly. The undesirable consequences expected to follow by holding a plebiscite can occur at the completion of the free ‘elections as well. If the current barren policy is not revised, relations between the Indians and the Kashmiris will increasingly deteriorate causing intense bitterness and asperity between the two. By returning pro-secessionist candidates to the State legislature and the Parliament the people will have given the verdict against India.

Muslims and India
The Muslims are often made to feel that they do not belong to India as do the Hindus; the contrast in the treatment of displaced Hindus and Sikhs in Chhamb and the Muslims in Rajouri – Poonch after termination of the Indo-Pak hostilities in 1965 is a recent instance to illustrate the invidious policy.

Past Heritage & Lessons
Kashmiris have witnessed two great cultural and political revolutions in bygone ages. First, in the third century BC, when Buddhism ousted Vedic Brahmanism and established a casteless society. The second revolution occurred in fourteenth century A.D. when Hindu polity lost progressive potentialities and was fatally struck down by Islam. Our forefathers chose the path of eclecticism and evolved philosophies – Trika Shastra on the former occasion and Reshi Cult on the latter – to preserve and enrich their own culture.

The lesson of history, therefore, is that a Kashmiri is tolerant, willing to imbibe fresh ideas and truths, ready for compromise but never prepared to abandon cherished principle, lose identity or yield before physical force or injustice.
Religious Humanism propounded by Lal Ded and Nund Reshi and practiced by their followers known as Reshis or Babas, has been the precious heritage of all classes and communities in the Valley.

The Pakistanis and the Kashmiris are closely knit together by ties of Islam and Muslim traditions of social life. United with India by bonds of similar political and cultural ideas.

We value composite culture which has been reared through the past ages in our ancient land and therefore we are secular in outlook believing that every citizen of J&K has equal rights irrespective of the religion he or she follows.

Indian Turn Around & its Pitfalls
In 1960, Indian leaders startled the world by declaring that Pakistan was no parity to the accession dispute. As long as Kashmiris are resentful and unhappy, Pakistan cannot be expected to keep silent. The way to silence her is not to denounce or discredit her or present her in dark colours but by removing the genuine grievances and well-founded apprehensions of the Kashmiris. Pakistan will, we believe, see her way to come to an honourable understanding with India over the dispute. As a result of the bitter experiences made during twenty-one-years long close association with India, Kashmiris are sadly disillusioned.
We are fully justified in criticizing India for many failures, broken promises, anti-democratic acts, religion-ridden administrators, and anti-secular politicians wielding enormous influence at New Delhi.

Its failure is writ large in the increasing number of communal clashes all over India during the past years in which members of the minority communities have suffered.

Pakistani Turn Around and its Pitfalls
Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah in his opening address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 14 August 1947 said that in the new State "Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims as citizens of the nation", the new men who came to power in Pakistan rejected secularism outright and laboured to lay the foundations of a religious state. The right of self-determination so frequently flaunted in the face of India whenever Kashmir issue comes up for discussion, is forbidden to be mentioned in regard to the Pakistanis themselves. In these circumstances it is permissible to guess that if Kashmiris choose to join Pakistan their fate will be no better than that of Pakhtoons, Bengalis & Bulochis. The unceremonious expulsion of K.H. Khurshid from the presidentship of Azad Kashmir in 1964 and his imprisonment for supporting "Independent Kashmir" bears testimony to many a sad happening in Pakistan. The experience of our brethren living in Azad Kashmir is not encouraging, to say the least.

When Minority Prevails
Muslim politicians should not forget that the Indian sub-continent was partitioned because the minority community wanted it so. Had the communal problem been referred to the vote of the majority at the time of Independence there is no doubt that the unity of the sub-continent could have been maintained. As long as the Muslim politicians plan to secede under cover of self-determination slogan non-Muslims will be morally right and politically justified in opposing the demand.

Independent Kashmir
Can a small territory have the cultural and economic resources to steadily develop into a real democratic state? Situated as the State is, can it remain aloof from international conspiracies and the intrigues hatched by outsiders who can find their cat’s paw in plenty within our homeland? If the State becomes a hotbed of conspiracies its rulers, however honest and efficient, will be more engaged in uprooting them than in attending to the welfare of the State and its people.

Statesmanship, The Need
A politician is pre-occupied with enhancing and maintaining his popularity but a statesman’s concern is the good of the nation and humanity. Politicians cater to the emotions and sentiments of the ignorant; statesmen appeal to better sense and offer advice which is not infrequently unpalatable.

The Future
In the contemporary world, affinity of religion alone cannot make two nations one when their approaches to the problems of politics, economics and social life are dissimilar. As can be easily seen national emotions and economic interests override religious sentiments in different Muslim countries of the world. Because our experience with India has been unhappy and bitter, it is no reason to accept an alternative which may prove worse. If as an outcome of a plebiscite held under the present circumstances, the predominantly Muslim areas of the State sever connections with India or accede to Pakistan it is obvious that non-Muslims in the valley will have to say good-bye to their hearth and home and become refugees in India.

The Kashmiris are called upon to make a momentous choice. In deciding about their future affiliations and political stance they shall have to take many things into consideration: Historical traditions, principles which guided their freedom movement, urges and aspirations of the common man, stark realities of the situation and, above all, human and democratic values which should serve as beacon for a modern society determined to be progressive and free.
The character of a people is not built in one day or one decade. We are destined to function largely in accordance with the traits of character we have inherited. The elderly among us shall have bequeathed an evil legacy for which they do not surely deserve any encomiums.

Neither the extremism of pro-India sections nor the extremism of pro-Pakistan classes can bring us nearer to solution. If every participant insists on having his way it is impossible to arrive at an agreement.

We can turn the present situation to great advantage not only for ourselves but also for the people if India and Pakistan. We can help to restore communal harmony in India, hearten secular democratic forces in Pakistan.