The past is more than a memory but the past is neither supportive nor cooperative if there are demons hidden in its fog. And when powerful stories are made and a portent propaganda invented to shield the demons, success is only temporary. There comes a moment of truth when false narratives crumble like a pack of cards and demons reveal their real faces.
The accounts of the tribesmen’s entry in Kashmir has, from the first moment, been colored by the causes and interests of those reciting them. India has consistently maintained that its Military help to Maharaja of Kashmir was granted only after the Pashtun tribesmen invaded Kashmir in the last days of October 1947. It also used the tales of Sacrilege, atrocities and rapacious looting to damn the invaders from Pakistan and buttress its own claim to Kashmir. It has found and developed martyrs to add luster to its argument. Pakistan has attempted to minimize and extenuate, alleging that over the years Indian misdemeanors have vastly outweighed any lapses by members of the lashkar, entering Kashmir without their knowledge & permission. Between these two competing narratives, People of Kashmir have been crushed to pulp and virtually reduced to living dead.
And comes that moment of truth in the form of Christopher Snedden’s Book- Kashmir-The unwritten history. Snedden, a Politico-Strategic analyst of Australia contends that in October 1947, it were the Muslims of Poonch region who instigated the Kashmir dispute& not Pashtun tribesmen invading from Pakistan, as India has consistently claimed. It has a damming effect because India’s case on Kashmir is built around a version of events that insists that India’s Military intervention was in response to tribal invasion, overtly & covertly supported by Pakistan. If that is not true ,then India’s case is diminished-because the crucial point in Indian diplomatic armory – that its military intervention in Kashmir was in response to tribal incursion, becomes greatly clouded.
Why did Muslims of Poonch raise a banner of revolt and instigate Kashmir dispute? In the spring of 1947, the Poonchis had mounted a vigorous campaign against the oppressive tax regime imposed by Dogra ruler on every hearth & every window. Even buffalo and sheep was taxed besides every wife. An additional tax was imposed to finance for the salaries of taxmen, rent of tax offices etc.( Mr. Chidambaram may take a note of this as additional resources mobilization technique). Dogra troops were tasked to collect these taxes to belittle poonchis, most of whom comprised of brave ex-soldiers of British Army. In July 1947, Muslims of Poonch were directed to surrender their arms only to be handed over to Hindus & Sikhs of the area. Fearing that these will be used to carry out a massacre of Muslims, which fears later turned out to be true, Poonchis, among whom many had matrimonial relations with various pashtun tribes ,sought fresh weapons from them as they were well known for manufacture of arms. This laid the basis for direct contact between the members of Poonch resistance and the pashtun tribesmen. And when the stories of Muslim massacre in Jammu started reaching them, they offered their assistance for liberation of their co-religionists in Kashmir. And that is how an incursion started to take a definite shape.
Once in Baramulla, the tribesmen attacked the Christian missionary church which was widely condemned. Ian Stephen describes the murders at st.Joseph’s convent as a bad but secondary episode, inflated out of all proportion by Indian propaganda aimed at countries of Christian west ( stephans-Pakistan, p. 202). Prem Nath Bazaz, a Kashmiri pandith and a great votary of Independence states that the motives of tribesmen were honest & sincere to liberate Kashmir and one should not forget that members of Indian armed forces did no less of looting & molesting( Bazaz-Azad Kashmir p.33).A note of commonwealth office concluded that whatever errors have been committed by both sides, the basic cause of action was of the Hindu ruler in suppressing popular agitation in favor of Pakistan (Note dated 1st December 1947-No.L/P & s/13,BL). That other reports of loot, arson & killing by tribesmen were highly exaggerated was later confirmed by Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah himself in his public address on 13th July 1953 at Martyr’s Graveyard.
The great historian E.H. Carr aptly said once that “the function of the historian is neither to love the past nor to emancipate himself from the past, but to master and understand it as the key to the understanding of the present”. Snedden has faithfully followed that advice. Responding to a question about the possible solutions of J&K, put to him on the occasion of launch of his book, Snedden says that the best way to deal with that is to ask the people of Jammu and Kashmir—Whether they like to be jointly administered by India & Pakistan or in live in some other status. But that will require great movement from the Indian side because the problem area is the Kashmir valley.
(The author is a practicing Chartered Accountant:E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org)