Nehru’s promise

Kashmir issue is the only one that has attracted the attention. After the war of 1947 between newly independent states of Pakistan and India the matter reached to UN. UN arranged a ceasefire hence Line of Control (LoC) came into being. After 63 years nothing has changed. UN did made half-hearted attempts but failed. History of Indo-Pak dialogue for the resolution of Kashmir dispute is long.

A lot has been written and said about Kashmir problem yet it defies resolution. The story of Kashmir dispute started on October 27, 1947, when Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar. The landing of troops in Srinagar was justified by Government of India by stating that troops were sent as was requested by the ruler of the state; and only after he had decided to accede to the Indian Union. M J Akbar, the author of Nehru’s biography, has expressed doubts about Hari Singh formally requested assistance. He writes, “Nehru and Patel were both determined to send the army into Kashmir whether Hari Singh asked for them or not”.

History of the dispute says that India took the Kashmir problem to the United Nations Security Council on January 01, 1947 and offers to hold a Plebiscite under UN supervision. India’s representative at U.N P P Pillai logged a complaint under Article 35 of United Nations Charter. The UN, to the disappointment of Indian delegations adopted resolutions guaranteeing the right of self-determination for the people of the state. Pakistan also accepts the UN resolution later on.

On November 2, 1947 speaking on All Indian Radio Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Fate of the State of Jammu & Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given not only to people of Kashmir but also to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it”. On November 25, 1947 Nehru informed the Indian parliament “We have suggested that when people of Kashmir are given a chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as United Nations Organization”. The United Nations resolutions of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949, proposed the plebiscite option for resolving the Kashmir dispute. These resolutions laid down the principles and procedures for a free and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices. Both India and Pakistan accepted the United Nations Resolutions. However, later, differences arose over the interpretation of various clauses of the resolutions, especially on the issues of demilitarization and disbandment/ disarming of the “Azad Kashmir” forces. India gave its own interpretation to the agreement and suggested that the Azad Kashmir forces be disbanded and the defence and administrative responsibility of the region be given to India and Indian Kashmiri authorities. Pakistan, on the other hand, was in favour of a complete and simultaneous withdrawal of forces by both countries. By early 1948 Nehru had developed second thoughts about the plebiscite. The Indian leadership from the very beginning was aware that the majority of Kashmir was against accession with India and after dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah in August 1953 the alienation among Kashmiri people became increased.

Kashmiris had begun a liberation movement in 1931 under the leadership of the charismatic leader Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah that marked the beginning of a strong Kashmiri Nationalism. The vacillating Hari Singh was compelled to accede to India under threat of invasion from Pathan tribesmen backed by Pakistan. In theory, the Rulers of the Princely States were allowed to accede their States to either India or Pakistan, irrespective of the wishes of their people; but as a practical matter, they were encouraged to accede to the geographically contiguous Dominion, taking into account the wishes of their people and in cases where a dispute arose, it was decided to settle the question of accession by a plebiscite, a scheme proposed and accepted by India. Being a Muslim majority State and contiguous to Pakistan, Kashmir was expected to accede to Pakistan; since the Hindu Ruler acceded instead to India, a dispute arose in the case of Kashmir.

Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947. Following the accession of Kashmir to India, Nehru promised the Kashmiri people in a famous speech at Lal Chowk in Srinagar that their wishes would be consulted in a plebiscite or referendum regarding the future of J&K. He would repeat this promise time and again in various speeches from 1947-1951 and the 1948 Indian White Paper clearly records that the accession of Kashmir to India is provisional until such time as the will of the people (self-determination) of the State could be ascertained by a plebiscite.

The strongly nationalistic Kashmiris were fearful of joining India given the communal holocaust raging elsewhere in India during the Partition. This is clearly articulated in a famous speech by Sheikh Abdullah on October 22, 1947 where he explains the apprehension of the Kashmiri Muslims in joining India, given the massacre of Muslims in Kapurthala and elsewhere in India. However, Abdullah would consent to provisional accession to India on October 27 clearly stating that it was an adhoc accession ultimately to be decided by a plebiscite. "From 1953 to 1975, Chief Ministers of that State had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimised by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress party led by Delhi’s nominee was elected by huge majorities."

Indian Constituent Assembly in 1949 adopted Article 370 of the Constitution, ensuring a special status and internal autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir with Indian jurisdiction in Kashmir limited to the three areas: defence, foreign affairs and communications. This was confirmed by Abdullah in 1952 Delhi Agreement and the State was allowed to have its own flag. In reality, Article 370 which was envisioned as a temporary measure till self determination has been seriously eroded over years with the collusion of local ministers installed in rigged elections, by extending various articles like 356 and 357 to the State, by virtue of which the Centre can assume the government of the State and exercise its legislative powers. Today, Kashmiris are worse off than people in other States in many respects: having been denied rights, Article 370 eroded and repressive acts such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act which lead to arbitrary arrests, torture and killing of thousands of innocent civilians.

The role played by Kashmiris is often portrayed as a communal, but this is far from true. There is a rich tradition of Kashmiriyat – a composite cultural identity with the glorious traditions of communal amity, tolerance and compassion – in the Valley dating back several centuries. In fact, when communal holocaust had been raging in Jammu, Kapurthala and elsewhere in India in 1947, Kashmir Valley was quiet. What is clear is that Kashmiri civilians are not communal by and large and Kashmiriyat continues to flourish.
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