The cost of disunity We must not miss the opportunity history offers us



History is not usually palatable to political taste buds of leaders. Nevertheless, not chewing it, is not the answer. Its bitterness works like a magical potion and provides strength to ‘true leaders’ to steer safe the nations through furious currents and high waves   to the right harbour. Out of their egocentricity or arrogance of the “noble lineage”, leaders needs not to be indifferent to the lessons of history. As Antione Gramsci has very rightly pointed out, “It twists programs and ruins the best-conceived plans. It is the raw material that ruins intelligence.”    

In 2013, another important book, Kashmir: ‘The Unwritten History’ by Christopher Snedden was added to the bibliography of Kashmir. I see the book as iconoclastic in as much as it has smashed many myths about 1947 happenings that had been so intransigently woven into our discourse that people believed them as a gospel truth. The very first chapter of this book has been titled as ‘J&K: Disunited People-Undeliverable State’. 

Incisively, analysing how disunity amongst leadership divided the people and strengthened forces inimical to Kashmir and immensely contributed to birth of Kashmir tragedy perpetuating uncertainty in South Asia, he writes, “Indeed, Muslim unity is one of the most significant explanation of why the “so-called” Kashmir dispute began- and continues. The political division among Muslims particularly their leaders, made it possible for the Maharaja to avoid acceding to Pakistan. According to The Times Maharaja had originally been resigned to Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan because of geographical contiguity, economic dependence and ties of religion.” ‘Had not some of the Muslim leaders, that constituted seventy two percent population been a divided lot Hari Singh’s resigned attitude would not have changed and the story of the sub-continent would have been different.’ 

It may not be possible in this column to dwell in detail on the work of Snedden and to analyse in greater detail how the division in the Muslim leadership of Kashmir contributed to the birth of the Kashmir dispute, divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir, triggered three wars between India and Pakistan and has brought South-Asia on the brink of nuclear holocaust.  

Nonetheless, on many an occasions in this newspaper, I have analysed in historical perspective that for schisms in political understanding and approach of leaders   have defeated well intended peoples movements. Looking back at eighty three years history of people’s political struggle in our state. I see only the spontaneous movement after 13 July 193 as a success. It caused birth of the All India Kashmir Committee that launched campaign in support of Muslims of Kashmir. This made the Maharajah to appoint a commission under Mr. Glancy and the recommendation made by the commission and their implementation largely met the immediate demands of the Muslims. 

Notwithstanding, Muslims having reservation about some important demands not being met by the Commission saw it as first step towards achieving the ultimate goal. And it encouraged them to launch the first political organization of Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir Muslims. Historically, this organization has been only one that had representatives from every part of the undivided state. And tragically it divided one year after its birth.  This division not only impacted our political struggle but disastrously caused vertical divide in Kashmir society that not only disturbed our social fabric but also derailed our political movement.

This division amongst leadership has become a jigsaw puzzle for me. The best minds from Iqbal and Jinnah failed to bring together Kashmir leaders. In 1932, Iqbal endeavoured hard to unite the Muslim Conference leadership, in 1944, M. A. Jinnah stayed for two months in Srinagar but could not bring the Muslim of Kashmir one platform. In 1964,  Ayub Khan had to send his envoy to bring a rapprochement between warring parties. He succeeded in making them to stop street fights but failed to bring them on a common platform.

This makes, a commoner like me to think, if this ‘divisive-syndrome’ in our leadership that has been afflicting people’s movement, is a subject for political commentators or for psycho-analysts. It is a hard reality more than anyone else it is the have-nots who have been investing heavily in political movement of the state. But, that is not to say that political leadership has not contributed to them. Some of the political leaders have suffered long imprisonments and offered lots of sacrifices. It is equally true. That, but for the lack of foresight, myopic interests and fatigue in leadership some of the best and well organized political movement much before reaching to a logical conclusion died with a whimper. The Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front could be the best   example.

This well-knit and structured organization with a proper organizational setup, from village committee to the central working committee with a very elaborate constitution died without a tombstone on its grave, not for its supporters and workers betraying it but for leadership succumbing to fatigue and greed of power. And with burial of this two decade old only mass based organization the peoples movement also went into total hibernation.  

It was because of for some dare-devil youth that the political movement was resurrected in 1989-90. And with common people making unprecedented investments in it, in terms of blood and other sacrifices this movement far excelled the movement led by the Plebiscite Front. It shook the citadels of power. It also threw up opportunities, more particularly during three summers of dissents.  Those if grabbed could have brought the peoples political movement to a take-off point for resolving  of the problem on the basis of fair play and justice by bringing in all stake holders to negotiating table. These summer dissents attracted over two thousand columns in international media. And send intelligentsia and opinion makers world over thinking. But, fact of matter   is after adding more carmine pages to scarlet history of Kashmir these public protests bursted  like  soap bubbles. And ostensible reason for fizzling out of these movement without gains has been the ‘divisive-syndrome’ that protagonists of contemporary leadership has been suffering from.

It seems history is throwing more opportunities – question is if these are also fritted away