December 27 is an important date in the history of Kashmir. On this day in 1964 Holy Relic was stolen from Hazratbal shrine by unscrupulous elements. The entire Valley came out on the streets to protest this act of sacrilege. People in Kashmir, by and large, hate history. But, the theft of the Relic and its recovery tells a lot about mishandling of a vital problem by New Delhi.
The theft of the relic sent shockwaves across the sub-continent and New Delhi found itself in a tight corner. True to its traditions, New Delhi launched an intelligence operation to set things right. The relic was restored as mysteriously as it had disappeared.
A committee comprising politicians, religious scholars and prominent citizens identified the Relic and that is it.
The telephonic conversation between Jawaharlal Nehru and the intelligence officer, B N Mullick, who handled the situation diplomatically with utmost precision merits special mention here. In wee hours (on the day the relic was restored) Mullick called the Prime Minister and gave him the `good news’. Nehru did not believe him. Mullick had to repeat the sentence. The Prime Minister heaved a sigh of relief and replied: “Thank God. You have saved Kashmir for us.”
Mullick later wrote a book ‘My days with Nehru’. It is a good read. Mullick discusses everything in the book. What he does not discuss is the outcome of his investigation. “It was an intelligence operation never to be made public”, he makes clear while concluding the book. To this day people of Kashmir do not know who the culprits were. They also do not know how the Relic was stolen and how it was restored.
All historians have written about the incident but nobody has fixed the responsibility for unknown reasons. Some have even doubted the authenticity of the relic. However, Shabnam Qayoom in one of the volumes of his book ‘Kashmir ka Siyasi Inqilaab’ writes as follows. “When Nehru succeeded in obtaining Bakshi’s resignation through Kamraj Plan, he wanted to install his relative, Bakshi Rashid as the Prime Minister of the state. New Delhi did not agree to this. Instead, a less known person, Shams-ud-Din was made the Prime Minister of the State. Bakshi and his brother felt humiliated. Rashid vowed to teach New Delhi a lesson. Suddenly the relic disappeared from the shrine. People registered protest.
A procession marched through Lal Chowk. Bakshi Rashid, who was the general secretary of National Conference availed the opportunity. He appeared on the scene and tried to lead the procession. He chanted anti-India slogans. But the people threw kangris (fire pots used by Kashmiris to warm themselves during winter) on him, manhandled him and torched his vehicle. A few days later, Rashid was arrested from a houseboat in Srinagar. On his information, the relic was also recovered from the houseboat. Notwithstanding this concrete evidence, Rashid was never brought to justice. During interrogation Rashid not only confessed to the heinous crime but stunned every one by stating that he had done it at the behest of Nehru. This, according to Shabnam Qayoom, is one of the reasons for dropping investigations against Bakshi Rashid.
On February 12, the Indian Home Minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda informed the Parliament that investigations into the holy relic case shall take one more week to complete. He assured that a challan shall be filed in a court of law immediately after investigations are completed. On February 17, Nanda informed the house that three persons had been taken into custody in connection with the theft. Nanda subtly made a mention of the links of arrested persons with Pakistan. The people of Kashmir have a right to know the facts. The information must be declassified now. The problem with New Delhi is that it has always ignored Kashmiris. Vital information concerning matters of grave importance has been concealed from them in the garb of upholding `national interest’. New Delhi knows it has only deepened alienation. Will New Delhi do some damage control and tell Kashmiris who stole the relic, who restored it and why the real culprits were not brought to justice?
Nothing seems to have moved during the past six decades as far as Kashmir policy of the New Delhi and Islamabad is concerned. In 50s and 60s intelligence sleuths took vital decisions and framed the Kashmir policy and today retired intelligence chiefs from India and Pakistan sit in an isolated Island to discuss pros and cons of Kashmir problem.
There is no denying the fact that the armed forces and the intelligence agencies have succeeded in holding Jammu Kashmir for past sixty-years but they have lost the battle for India at the psychological front. India has lost Jammu Kashmir if not geographically then certainly where its heart is concerned. But is anybody listening?
New Delhi and Islamabad have to bear in mind that peace cannot be achieved by an intelligence operation. It has to be a political exercise with active participation of the people of the state. The sooner it dawns on them the better.
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