Kashmir’s political leaders

Most Kashmir politicians, the mainstream and from separatist camp, are unpredictable. Mutual mistrust, lack of accommodation, tolerance, patience, power rivalry, over confidence and self righteousness, are such issues that have led to agenda crisis regarding leadership’s stand on Kashmir issue. The common programme and action has been lacking since early uprisings against Dogra rule. It is the same even now that has led to the decline of role in resolving Kashmir dispute.

Lack of consensus and consistence among leaders can be traced back to Dogra Rule. It was in 1932 that Sheikh Abdullah founded the Muslim Conference (AJKMC). The party was floated to launch a mass ‘freedom struggle’ in a disciplined and orderly manner against Dogra rule. Due to the then evolutionary process and desire of non-Muslims to join the struggle, the Muslim Conference was changed into All J&K National Conference. On June 10-11, 1939, JKNC became a nationalistic party and its movement was influenced by INC and all Indian State People’s Conference.

People were divided in opinions at the changed status of Muslim Conference. During the course of years a new Kashmir plan was envisaged and finally Quit Kashmir movement was initiated in 1946. Quit Kashmir advocated self rule and independence from the rule of Dogra kings. Marriage of Abdullah as well as the then Abdullah-Nehru ideology took J&K closer to India.

The tribal invasion of 1947 left J&K’s political future undecided as Abdullah disagreed over joining the state to Indian dominion. An instrument of accession was signed between Indian government and Maharaja Hari Singh on 26 October in the midst of tribal invasion. Consequently the forces entered J&K and a part of state (PaK) was formed.

NC and Abdullah who had chosen none of the sides later endorsed the accession, which was criticized some members of the original Muslim Conference, a socialist party of Kashmiri pandits, CPI, etc. After a year, on March 6, 1948, Abdullah said in a press conference in New Delhi, “we have decided to work with and die for India because India is pledged to the principle of secular democracy in her policy and we are also in pursuit of the same objective”.

On many other occasions Abdullah declared that accession of Kashmir to India was irrevocable; he even advised Pakistan to vacate from territory (PaK). In his speech to constituent assembly on 25 March 1953 Abdullah expressed: “No one has been able to question this accession on legal or constitutional grounds. It is only Pakistan who says that this accession does not enjoy the backing of people”.

By 1953, Abdullah and NC developed differences with the Indian government and the instrument of accession became a tool to be rethought over. After The Delhi agreement of 1952, Abdullah broke promises and started to criticize and negate the accession. He started advocating right to self-determination. The same was later advocated by Mirza Afzal Beigh, his plebiscite front and others.

As situation heated in 1953, Abdullah and his colleagues were arrested on 9 August, 1953. Bakshi GM Shah was sworn in as new prime minister. It was the beginning of political uncertainty and misplay. Popular movement against Abdullah’s arrest was suppressed.

The Constitution was made in the absence of Abdullah. On 26 January 1957, Constitution of J&K was enforced and the preamble to the constitution declared J&K as an integral part of India. Though there was a special article in Indian Constitution inserted called Article 370 regarding status of J&K, but many provisions were eroded gradually.

Sadri Riyasat was changed to governor and Prime Minister to Chief Minister in 1965. After 1953, Abdullah was mostly in jails. He was released in 1975, when Kashmir problem further accentuated. Abdullah and his colleagues by then were tired. Abdullah’s come was on the lines of Bakshi and Sadiq.
In February 1975, Abdullah was appointed as the CM of J&K as a result of Kashmir Accord between Abdullah and Indra Gandhi. It was the minority government and without popular support. To give it a constitutional tinge, Congress (I) supported Sheikh’s ministry from within and without. Abdullah dropped down from PM to CM.

After almost two years in March 1977, Congress (I) withdrew support from Sheikh’s ministry. Abdullah government fell and the state was under governor rule. After assuming power in 1975, some insecure and harsh laws were put in place.

After death of Abdullah, Dr. Farooq Abdullah became CM of Kashmir. One significant thing about Farooq is that he is politically consistent with the chosen side and there is no doubt about it. He has never turned his head except when he went on invitation to Pakistan in 1984. After Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah is now at the helm.

If mainstream political leaders have not done enough to come clear on Kashmir issue, the separatist leaders too are not without faults.

They keep on changing their ideas and ideologies about Kashmir. In 90s after patronizing violent means they changed to moderate non-violence factions. Despite that, some of them have been thought of being soft on non-violent means. There is not any consistent and persistent methodology they have followed.

There are almost 39 separatist parties. The parties emerged on their own and have fragmented more than often. All these parties formed All parties Hurriyat conference, but the unity was short-lived. The amalgam collapsed with different leaders taking their own faction apart like Hurriyat Conference (G) and Hurriyat Conference (M). Recently, a third faction HC (JK) was formed. There have been floor-crossings of workers from one party to other. The cause of such changing loyalties from one party to other, when asked, they say it is ideological differences, but it hardly seems so. The separatists lack a common agenda and they taunt each other than help. They criticize each other and every faction uses “martyrs” as their own. An ordinary person is confused whom to believe and what to believe.

Our leaders lack maturity and have become self-styled righteous icons. They have not representational character due to lack of mutual agenda. The resolution of issue seems lost.

Author can be mailed @ ashrafraavi@gmail.com