I was attending my regular evening chore- buying vegetables at the most crowded market in the city. Someone amidst earsplitting honks of buses, cars and auto rickshaws and frustrating noise of chirping of hundreds of birds perched on electric wires whispered into my ear- ‘Dear, I read you regularly- but you need to be blunter in your writings. You must now write truthful history and unfold the whole drama of 1947.’ It was a college time friend who later taught geography and retired as principal of a college’. It was not something stunning and new that he was whispering into my ear- I am in habit of receiving roadside advices: “In your articles you just expose the issues and do not come with any solutions”; “You identify the potholes but don’t suggest how to avoid stumbling into them”, “you talk of leaders failures but you do not prescribe any do’s and don’ts for them”; “you talk of unity but don’t suggest how to forge it”; “you are too much entrenched in history” and many others.
I wrote it earlier also that I am not a historian but I do agree there is lot more that needs to be talked about the post- 1947 developments in the state, between India and Pakistan and at the international level. A lot of information about the 1947 and beyond continues to be buried in the “classified records” gathering dust inside the closets at New Delhi and Islamabad. True, scores of books have been written about the post-1947 developments in Kashmir some like the Great Divide by H.V. Hodson, Danger in Kashmir, by Josef Korbel, Two Nation and Kashmir, by Lord Birdwood, Kashmir-Disputed Legacy, Birth of A Tragedy and Incomplete Partition by Alastair Lamb, Kashmir in Conflict by Victoria Schofield and Shameful Flight by Stanley Wolpert can be as classical. Many books on birth of India and Pakistan including biographies and books on the private lives of leaders like the Indian Summers by Alex Von Tunzelman provide insight into the 1947 and post 1947 developments about Kashmir. But, there is hardly any book of reckoning by Kashmir “historiographers” on Kashmir problem. Honestly I don’t see any historians in contemporary Kashmir. There are lots of history teachers and compilers- who believe that they are historians but are yet to live to the definition of the word.
The 1947 and the post 1947 developments continue to be subjects of scholars in many international universities more particularly in the United States and Britain. Two new titles that provide a far deeper insight into the post 1947 developments with regard to Kashmir were added to my library this week one, the Limits of Influence by Howard H Schaffer published by Penguin New York and New Delhi and marketed in Srinagar by Password and another Kashmir Case Law – Ascription of International Laws For Common Good by Dr. Abdul Majid Siraj published by Scottaspress Publisher Limited, United Kingdom. I see both the books important as they unfold many important behind the scene developments on Kashmir in the United Nations, United States and United Kingdom. In this column I don’t intend to review the two books but I would be only picking up certain points for talking about the 1947 and beyond developments on Kashmir.
Howard B Schaffer, a career diplomat who has served in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh for thirty seven years working presently as Director Institute for Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University is known as a good hand on India and Pakistan in Washington. Despite being counted as anathema for some Kashmir Diaspora for his ideas about solution of Kashmir problem in his book has brought out many developments that have hitherto been part of the ‘classified’ information.
He talks about the accession story, debates in the United Nation what caught my immediate attention was the much talked about Sheikh Abdullah’s being not in favor of joining either Indi or Pakistan and toying with the idea of Independent State of Jammu and Kashmir. There have been lots of debates and discussion amongst the historians if Sheikh Abdullah really had conspired with Adlai Stevenson in fifties for an Independent Kashmir. Schaffer has renewed the debate and in fact added authenticity to it by stating that the idea of third option- Independence was brought to “Austin’s attention only a couple of weeks after the debate began. (UN Debate on Kashmir). Its unlikely source was Sheikh Abdullah, the Indians had made him a member of the UN delegation, no doubt in expectation that he would be an effective spokesman for India’s cause. They could not have calculated that he would undercut their position by calling for Kashmir’s independence in private conversation with Austin. Apparently caught by surprise, the ambassador gave no encouragement.’ While stating that US was not interested in any further division in South Asia he writes “but opposition to independence was not categorical, however. The State Department declared two months later in a message designed to guide embassies in Karachi and New Delhi that if Independence appeared to be basis for India-Pakistan settlement on Kashmir, the United States would probably not oppose the idea, although it would not take the initiative in promoting it.” It seems that the United State’s favored an Independent Kashmir but it was Sheikh Abdullah who had developed cold feet Shaffer writes, “ The first direct experience with Abdullah’s inconsistent and often ambiguous approach soon came after his session with Austin. Meeting in New Delhi with Ambassador Grady, the Sheikh retreated from the line he had taken in New York, telling Grady he wanted Kashmir to be independent as far as internal affairs are concerned.” Sheikh Abdullah had also talked to him about “aggression from North”.. I have had the opportunity of broaching this vital subject in early eighties with many important political leaders like Morarji Desai and estranged Miriza Afzal Beg. The debate is full of ifs and butt’s but in view of the enlarged constituency of third option the debate continues to hold importance.
The book is a very good addition to Kashmir literature that breaks new ground on the dispute in the US policy and in the international relations. Schaffer holds the view, “ -– A Kashmir settlement has become even more important to American interests in South Asia and beyond. Since India and Pakistan have acquired the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in 1990s, Washington has feared that conflict between the two over Kashmir could escalate into a nuclear war.” He sees ‘India’s ambition to play major role on the international stage tagged to the resolution of this issue, “ the unresolved Kashmir issue detracted from India’s image and lessened its prospects from India’s image and lessened its prospects for major power status and the permanent seat on an expanded UN Security Council that India believes should go with it.”
The second book by Dr. Siraj was released at small get together of few opinion makers at a Srinagar hotel past week. The book has a prologue by Pervez Imroz, lawyer and known human right activist and an introduction by Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a teacher in the Department of Law in Kashmir University. The book dwells upon in detail on self-determination but I see the fort of the book in taking the debate on ‘the instrument of accession’ generated by Alastair Lamb in his book Kashmir Dispute Legacy further. The debate in Lambs book spreads over twenty five pages. It is true that the Plebiscite Front at no point of time talked about the ‘nullity of the instrument’ but instead provided grist to the movement that it led from the United National Resolutions that guaranteed right to self-determination for the people of the state. The White Paper issued by the Front on the constitutional relationship of India from Srinagar on 23rd June 1964 becomes relevant. The book however renewed the debate over “genuineness” of the accession document. One of the participants added a new dimension to the debate by stating that the signatures of Maharaja on the accession document and various command documents in the state archives department were different.
Dr. Showkat has very right said about the book, “when a serious discourse on Kashmir has started, the book is of immense importance and benefits everyone involved in the process.”
True, two books a month at an average are added to the literature on Kashmir and after terrorism and Palestine Kashmir is the third important subject for research at international level but it is ironical that no Kashmir ‘historiographer’ sees any merit in the subject.
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