Kashmir problem cannot be delinked from its history and recounting its genesis while looking for its solution cannot be denounced as ‘conspiracy theory’. To whatever side of the fence one belongs to, the Kashmir talk willy-nilly relates itself to political developments in the sub-continent after the departure of the British.
To add scholarly flavor to their presentations some academics love to use grand-sounding clichés. ‘Conspiracy theory’ is a popular cliché with a particular brand of academics in our land. Once, they find points based on the historical realities or on the hard facts raised by a speaker or a question posed by a participant in a seminar or a conference against the very grain of the “dominant discourse” or not palatable to their political beliefs or to their “commitments”, they straightway slam the trite phrase against the speaker or the participant who poses a question.
Six years back, at a seminar in the Kashmir University, the trite phrase was also slabbed on me by a senior professor, and she was joined by a comparatively junior faculty member. The subjects chosen for various sessions of the seminar were ‘on the premise that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute lies within the constitution of India.’ Of the six subjects identified for the seminar the three subjects chosen for the discussion and debate were, the autonomy, the self-rule and the achievable nationhood- manifestos of three regional parties subscribing to the ideology that the ‘accession of Jammu and Kashmir to union of India was final.” Nevertheless, the three subjects chosen for discussion could not be talked about in isolation of the “Instrument of Accession”, condition tagged to it and letter of the first Governor General of India attached to it. Looking at the political gospels for governance of the state piloted by the three ‘electoral’ political parties in right historical perspective these draw their strength from some conditions attached to the “Instrument” of accession and not the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The Article 370 of the Constitution, in fact, is recognition of Jammu and Kashmir as an unresolved dispute.
The point could be appreciated only by recounting the genesis of the disputes and quoting the right historical documents. To buttress my point of view in the said seminar I had quoted from Indian Cabinet Minister N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar speech in the Constituent Assembly of 17 October 1949, at the time of introducing Article 370 with sub-heading ‘Temporary Provision with respect of Jammu and Kashmir “implying the Constitutional relationship between Kashmir and India temporary and transactional”. In his speech he had made the intentions of the GOI clear about the introduction of this Article”. He had said, “We are entangled with United Nations in regard to Jammu and Kashmir and it is not possible to say when we shall be free from this entanglement. That can only be possible when Kashmir problem is satisfactorily solved…. And again the Government of India is committed to the people of to give them an opportunity to decide themselves whether they will remain with the Republic or wish to go out of it”.
Instead of seeking guidance from the genesis of the problem for finding a durable solution the “scholars of a particular class” outrageously rejected the history, at the seminar and saw it as “conspiracy theory’. Moreover, they came up with a new theme song, ‘Nothing is going to come out of remaining tethered to the history of the dispute. India of 2012 was not India in 1947. ” (gk Jun 25, 2012)
To tell its side of the story, New Delhi held a month-long exhibition at New Delhi showcasing documents relating to the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India and by showcasing the correspondence between Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Sheikh Abdullah to exhibit to people role played by the founder of the BJP in the fifties. Nonetheless, the correspondence does not tell Sheikh Abdullah did not see much of difference between Nehru and Mukherjee. In an article, ‘Kashmir: Fact and Fiction Ajit Prasad Jain narrating happenings before Abdullah’s deposition on August 1953 wrote on 1 August 1971 in TOI that ‘Sheikh had told him there was no difference between Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s and Jawaharlal Nehru’s communal professions. Both were Jana sanghis with the only difference Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was honest and showed iron fist, while Nehru covered it with a velvet glove.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, while replying to the debate in Parliament on the motion of thanks to the President’s Address set into motion another debate about Kashmir related developments in 1947. By stating, ‘had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel been the first PM of India, a part of Kashmir would not have been under control of Pakistan he not only made the parliamentarians to revisit the genesis of the Kashmir problem but also made journalists, commentators to flip through the pages of biographies of Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, and books on the Kashmir Dispute. Modi’s references prompted writers to quote Sardar Patel ideas on Kashmir from biographies and works which many contemporary writers had missed in the past.
It is known fact that the iron man of India was not looking for Kashmir joining India. Most of the historian from Stanley Wolpert to Alastair Lamb has said Nehru was passionate about seeing Kashmir becoming part of India by hook or crook as against him to quote historian Ramachandra Guha, “Sardar Patel was at one time inclined to allow the State join Pakistan.” In fact when Sardar Patel was negotiating with Mountbatten on the fate of the princely states “like carpet merchants”, “It was not however into Patel’s basket that Mountbatten proposed to drop the Kashmir apple. The logic seemed to dictate that Kashmir wind up in Pakistan.” (Freedom at Midnight p 205). ‘Mountbatten in June 17 visit 1947 had told Maharaja Hari Singh that his choice was between acceding to India or Pakistan and made him clear that he had assurance from India leadership that if he acceded to Pakistan it would not be taken amiss. These assurances had been given by Sardar Patel the Home Minister.’ (The Untold Story of India’s Partition by N.S. Sarila p 344-45). In his autobiography ‘Beyond The Lines’ Kuldip Nayar also write that Patel was against accession of Kashmir to India. (P60). There is a lot more to story, when, how and why Patel and Nehru came on the same page about the Kashmir.
The column, in fact, is not about PMs speech, but to understand as Lamb writes in the last paragraph of his book ‘Birth of A Tragedy’ “that any realistic settlement of the Kashmir Dispute must take into account how the dispute started.”