Sitting in the backroom of a shop on the fashionable Residency Road, a “friend” of A.G. Noorani, complained that I and few other columnists were not ‘just and fair’ to author of book, ‘The Kashmir Dispute-1947-2012’. Taking an exception to my column in response to the speech of the octogenarian lawyer and writer at the inaugural function of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Greater Kashmir he was of the view that instead of ‘reacting to his speech’, I should have written about his book.
I saw a point in his grievance- the book for being a treasure of documents on the dispute undoubtedly deserves to be talked about in detail. The documents contained in the book are valuable and when these read in the context of changed geo-strategic scenario not only deconstruct the official versions of the story but also strengthens the larger ‘Kashmir narrative. Nevertheless, it needs to be understood that flawed and distorted version of history articulated from important platforms go in the public memory as gospel truths unless rebutted with facts. Often, such speeches are meant to strengthen the “dominant discourse” and confound ‘the people’s narrative’. It will be hard to say with absolute authority, if the well-known writer had some hideous intentions of strengthening “narrative” of a particular party in the state. In his speech oscillating between presenting tinted versions of history of the Kashmir Dispute , subtly asking people of the state to reconcile with status quo and talking selectively about rigging in Srinagar city and suggesting that elections in other parts the state were fair one could not but believe that he was pursuing a particular agenda.
In my past Monday column, out of three major points that he had raised in his speech, I had only written about his being historically on a wrong foot in squarely blaming Jinnah for non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute in 1947. Two other important points raised by him i.e. how far Sheikh Abdullah contributed to ‘Kashmir Tragedy’ and his (Noorani) asking people to forget the demand for right to self-determination and UN resolution as Pakistan had also forgotten them due to limitations of space could not be put to the litmus test of history. Munshi Ghulam Hassan- witness to an era and having access to lot of archival material about the period in an article published in this newspaper on 19 May, nailed the lies of the author about Pakistan leaders denying meeting Abdullah’s envoy Sadiq in Lahore.
I am amazed, what made the author to directly blame Jinnah when he himself writes in his book that Nehru’s talking about plebiscite in Kashmir was just ‘tactical’ and Sheikh Abdullah was in know of this and rather he was a collaborator on this count. On 21 November 1947, he had written to Sheikh Abdullah, “There is no difference between you and us on this issue. It is all question of the best tactical approach. I would personally suggest to you not to say anything rejecting the idea of referendum but to lay stress on the fact the people of Kashmir, by their heroic resistance, are deciding the issue themselves; also it is little absurd for people to carry on a Kashmir and, when defeated to want a freedom.” “We known enough from published record to discern that moves were afoot to stage Kashmir accession to India in the guise of Stand Still Agreement”, writes none but Noorani, “Even if the raiders had not come Nehru would have pressed for accession.” (p17 vol 1)
As Noorani puts it, “Nehru had other plans. In private, he had adamantly set his face against a plebiscite in 1947. In public, till 1954, he continued to make the most explicit- almost extravagant- and solemn pledge to hold plebiscite.” (p 39 Vol 1). For Nehru ‘people’ of Kashmir did not matter this he wrote to Sheikh Abdullah in 1952, ‘accession is accomplished and nothing is going to unsettle it.’
Sheikh Abdullah until his death despite knowing how Nehru and his daughter looked at Kashmiris hoodwinked his own people by presenting the two as ‘messiah’ of Kashmiris and portrayed Jinnah as ‘villainy’. Nehru had given his mind through letters also. Mrs. Gandhi and her socialist father shared an understanding about people of Kashmir, “they had no feelings, no opinion, no soul- a view no different from collector in colonial times”. ‘They need salt and cheap food’. They saw most important remedy for Kashmir problem in ‘an influx of visitors in summer preferably from Bombay and Ahmadabad.” ( p30 vol 1 ).
Sheikh looked up at Nehru as his guide and philosopher but Nehru counted him as a cog that could be dispensed with at any time. The 1953, happenings as recapitulated by Noorani with more authentic information from untapped resources fully support this argument. None but Nehru dismissed sheikh. Notwithstanding sympathies of author with Sheikh, he at times emerges in his book as an accomplice of Cornwall and at times as political novice who abjectly surrendered in 1975 without achieving anything.
In advocating, the four-point formula of former Pakistan President, General Musharraf, as the only solution for the Kashmir dispute and
suggesting to people that they should forget UN resolutions- as Pakistan had dropped the demand of plebiscite for Kashmir was not only on wrong foot but also was demanding from them betray their own cause. A cause for which they have made huge sacrifices during past sixty-five years. A lot has been written in this newspaper in the past as to how the formula which General Musharraf himself called “purely personal that needs refinement” was only strengthening status quo. Like many other formulas like Dixon plan and Chenab formula this formula is also now of academic value. This is not true about the UN resolution on Kashmir – that promises plebiscite. “Yes, this promise is now sixty-three years old. But does its age diminish its relevance or reduce is applicability? as says Amb. Yusuf Buch, “To assert so is to concede primacy to the law of the jungle. Promises may be forgotten, dishonorably or otherwise, by those who make them but they are never forgotten or lost sight of by those to whom or for whose benefit they are made. This is true as much of international relations as it is in daily life.”
In his speech Abdul Gafoor Noorani sounded more of lobbying for some political party in the state than an independent political analyst when in a didactic tone he told a selected gathering in the salubrious environs of Nageen Club that Pakistan was not interested now in plebiscite in Kashmir. While “acknowledging that it is the advocacy by Pakistan that has established this cause on the international agenda,” as Yusuf Buch rightly puts it “ the cause itself does not depend on that advocacy. “