Kashmir Turmoil- Through The Ages


It is not anger or frustration but simple horror and doom that one is immersed in. A non partisan observer is bound to baulk at the ‘colossal waste’ on which every new crop of humanity has been grown on Kashmir’s century after century- only to feed the cannon. So many years of ‘ accumulated’ deaths have left trauma in every Kashmiri home from which no resilience, no escape is possible. To bear a coffin every day, every hour is ‘ dreadful’ enough- to live with the thought of a land as an ‘ extended’ coffin borne through an ever – extending cemetery is ‘ deadlier’ . It is pathetic to watch humanity dividing itself alarmingly into a number of security agencies against a number of tanzeems.

A social scientist might say it’s a ‘cultivated’ instinct, a sickness allowed to aggravate and which no polemics, no peace initiatives, no confidence- building measures can address. Nobody can deny that justification of death leads subtly to ‘ glorification ‘ whether in the name of Jihad or democracy. This dangerous trend gradually gets people ‘ used’ to belittled, to life’s meaninglessness. When one becomes used to the hollowness, one’s heart dries up.

Dogras- On 19th March 1846 the British signed the Treaty of Amritsar with Gulab Singh, a feudatory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in recognition of the treacherous help they received from him to weaken the Sikh state which ‘ had proved itself too strong’. The fate of the Kashmiris was sealed for generations to come. Gulab Sing had to pay exactly the same amount in lieu of which the British had taken possession of Kashmir. Article X of the Treaty demanded that Gulab Singh ‘ acknowledge the supremacy of the British government and to present annually one horse, 12 perfect shawl goats and three pairs of Kashmiri Shawls ‘ as a token of his loyalty to the British. ” In a note gushing thanks, which ( as MJ Akbar points out his book, Kashmir Behind vale) had unfortunate overtones, Gulab Singh described himself as Zar Kharid ( a slave bought by gold). The phrase would haunt Kashmir sentiment for many generations after Gulab Singh was dead and gone”

Sad, shameful, ” scarcely worthy of British name and greatness”, the treaty evoked frustration, protest, anger and helplessness from all corners. ” Towerds the people of Cashmeer, we have committed a wanton outrage, a gross justice and an act of tyrannical oppression,” wrote a British commentator, Lieutenant Robert Thorp. He boldly called it a ” dark stain upon the history of British rule in India” and added ” for purposes entirely selfish, we deliberately sold millions of human beings into the absolute power of the meanest, most atrocious, cruel and unprincipled of men that ever sat upon a throne”

Another commentator, Herbert Edwards, wrote in September 1846, on the Dogra rule of Gulab Sing ” And now he is a king, and has a wide field wherein to reap. Every living man is to him a blade of golden corn, which he will never leave till he has gathered, and threshed and winnowed and garnered.”

The celebrated Urdu poet, Muhammad Iqbal wailed
Their fields, their crops, their streams.
Even the peasants in the vale
They sold, they sold all, alas!
How cheap was the sale!

The historian Premnath Bazaz wrote scornfully. ” It was altogether a sordid, shameful affair, devoid of all sense of fairness, justice and equity..the treaty consisting of ten articles makes no mention whatsoever of the rights, interests and future of the people.”

A dispassionate observer would say it’s a conflict of ‘ identity’. The root of the. Indian-Pakistan conflict lies in two different convictions. ” The cardinal feature of India’s position is her contention that she is in Kashmir by right and Pakistan can not aspire to equal footing with India in the contest ” ( Victoria Scofield, Kashmir In The crossfire. ) Thus the Indian stand is based on a right which it claims as legal as per Kashmir’s Accession to India and the legality made doubly ‘ sanctified’ by the holding of elections.

Analysis have found that the Pakistan-sponsored ‘ proxy-war ‘ went through two stages. In the first stage ( 1989-92) the ISI played a direct role in providing finance, training and arms assistance to indigenous militant groups. Of the two major groups, the Hizb- ul-Mujahideen of the Jamaat-e-Islami ( supported by 10-15 percent of the people) advocates the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front calls for ‘ liberation ‘ from the yoke of both India and Pakistan. The later rose above the Hizb and almost instantly became ‘ revered ‘ freedom fighters for the USA and other Western countries. The feasibility of an independent Kashmir became the subject of international discussion. ” Concerned over these developments, the ISI introduced two changes in 1993. First it started using intermediaries for keeping the militancy alive instead of directly doing so. Secondly, it cut off assistance to all pro- independent groups and made future assistance dependent on the recipient group supporting Pakistan ” ( A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally) Against this background of Pakistan – sponsored Jihadis infiltrating the valley, of nearly 90,000 people killed over decades of mindless mayhem…

Democracy- After Nehru’s death, arrangements to integrate Kashmir at gun point gained momentum …” The origins of the Indian anti- democratic and ultimately futile and destruction Kashmir policy are to be found squarely in the Nehru period. The official ideology of monolithic nationalism and a unitary, zero-sum ‘ national interest,’ as inevitably reflected in the institutional sphere in an impetus to centralize the state structure, was implanted by the Nehru regime and nurtured to full maturity by Indira and Rajiv Gandhi ” ( The challenge in Kashmir.)

We must examine the word ‘ nation’ with which India wanted the Kashmiris to integrate. How can a nation or national sentiment be built without winning over the people and paying due respect to their democratic aspirations? How can one profess democracy and play autocrat? Much is made of elections, but voters are bayoneted, polling officers beaten up, booths captured, people driven out of their homes like cattle and forced to vote for India. Elections are rigged, results altered overnight. How does all this amount to being democracy ?

The biggest tragedy was the Indira-Abdullah accord of 1975. With this, the Indianisation of the Kashmiris became complete. As soon as the accord was signed, the last vestiges of a struggle for self-determination were buried. Ironically, this ‘ sher’ became a hated animal when he nominated his son Farooq Abdullah to the takht of Kashmir just before his death in 1982. Farooq Abdullah’s first term as chief minister was that of a ‘ little boy with a toy’ his second a ‘ virtual abdication of governance ‘ – thus paving the way for an eventful 1989. Insurgency began in the valley .

Accession- Volumes have appeared on the so called accession and require no repetition. But people deserve to know the difference between history and casuistry . Long before the external threat of aggression, the Maharaja had been subtly threatened by Sardar Ballavbhai Patel and sweetly coerced by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to join India. The ground was prepared, with the inclusion of Punjab’s Gurudaspur district on the map of India- allegedly in contravention of the laws of the Boundary commission and the Indian Independence Act which envisaged that contiguous majority people belonging to the Same majority religion should side with the union. But threats did not work. The Maharaja remained miraculously silent after entering into a standstill agreement with Pakistan in 1947- with India remaining indifferent. Nehru’s patience broke. What he urgently needed was a Shekh Abdullah and majority of his mass following. Nehru sent Sardar Patel on 27 September 1947 ” The Muslim League in the Punjab and NWFT are making preparations to enter Kashmir in considerable numbers..it becomes important, therefore, that the Maharaja should make friends with the National Conference so that there might be this popular support against Pakistan. Indeed, it seems to me that there is no other course open to the Maharaja but this: the release of Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference leaders, to make a friendly approach to them, seek their cooperation and make them feel that this is really meant and then to declare adhesion to the Indian Union. It seems to me urgently necessary therefore, that the accession to the Indian Union should take place early. It is equally clear to me that this can only take place in some measure of success after there is peace between the Maharaja and National Conference and they cooperate together to meet the situation. This is not an easy task; but it can be done chiefly because Abdullah is very anxious to keep out Pakistan and relies upon us a great deal for advice. At the same time he can not carry his people with him unless he has something definite to place before them…” ( Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, page 45-47). It is historically true that the Accession Document signed by the Maharaja categorically defined and limited the areas in which New Delhi would extend its legal jurisdiction to Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequent to the event, Lord Mountbatten, as Governor General, introduce a proviso in his Letter of Acceptance , dated 27 October 1947; ” Consistently ( sic) with their policy that when the issue of Accession has been the subject of dispute the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state, it is my government’s wise that as soon as Law and order have been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the raider; the question of the state’s Accession should be settled by reference to the people” ( Documents on Kashmir Problem, volumeXIV, pp 75-76)

On 2nd November, Nehru candidly made a radio broadcast from New Delhi in which he declared that his government had made ” a condition that the accession would have to be considered by the people of Kashmir later when peace and order were established.. We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people..We will not, and cannot back out of( that pledge)….We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nation.” ( Government of India, white paper on Jammu and Kashmir, pp75-79.)

In the same white paper published in 1948, while describing the objective of India’s military intervention in Kashmir, Nehru said: ” In Kashmir, as in other similar cases, the view of the Government of India has been that in the matter of disputed accession the will of the people must prevail. It was for this reason that they accepted only on provisional basis the offer of the ruler to accede to India, backed though it was by the most important political organization in the state ( Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference. ) The question of accession is to be decided finally in a free plebiscite, on this point there is no dispute…”

And ” by referring to the United Nations ” observers MJ Akbar in his biography of Nehru, ” Nehru allowed what was legally a domestic Indian problem to become an International issue” Akbar concludes by saying that he made a colossal blunder, but to our analysis Nehru was bound, by some moral compunctions, to do this. Actually, he and Sarder Patel had been planning to find out at least one way via which they could have Kashmir in their pocket. The Tribal invasion became an impromptu blessing, sheer luck. And Sheikh Abdullah was but an albatross that showed the way they needed.

On 5th November 1951, Sheikh explained why he sided with India: ” After centuries, we have reached the harbor of our freedom …The Indian Constitution has set before the country the goal of secular democracy based upon justice, freedom and modern democracy ..Pakistan is a feudal state in which a clique is trying to maintain itself in power…From August 15 to October 22, 1947 our state was independent and the result was that our weakness was exploited by the neighbor with invasion. ”

Four centuries of subjugation tell the tale of long nights. The first “foreign” domination began from 1586 after Akbar extended his domain over the Kashmir valley. This was followed by the Afghans, the Sikhs, the Dogras, and now by the Indians. Kashmir’s 5,000 years of history have the answer.
How touching was Jehangir’s poetic utterance,…

“Gar fidaus bar rue zamin ast
Hamin ast, Hamin ast, Hamin ast”

(If there is a paradise on earth
This is it, this is it, this is it).

“Farishte agar ayen to izzat se ayen
Yeh mera watan hai, koi jannat nahin”

(Even if Angels come, they should come with my permission. This is my land, not paradise).

Mousumi Roy is an Author, writer- and is a visiting professor of International Relations.


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