This is a rejoinder to Dr Ram Puniyani’s article “Kashmir: Blatant Distortions of History, an obstacle to Peace”
Please allow me to state right at the outset that I have the highest regard for Prof. Puniyani, not only as a scholar of history but as a person devoted to peace and amity. And deeply I share his abhorrence of the politics of hate.
But facts as they are, mostly in the words of Prof. Puniyani himself, must be put forward in the interest of lasting peace. Prof. Puniyani has rightly recounted the facts up to 8th August of 1953, when Sheikh Abdullah was removed from the Prime Ministership of J&K and thrown into jail for an indefinite period. But Prof. Puniyani skips the details of what happens after jailing of Sheikh Abdullah. I guess, the supposed “nationalism” of Prof. Puniyani takes over his pen and he delves into proving the factual statements of the hate peddlers to be wrong. But Prof. Puniyani does not venture to say what the right course of the Indian Government and Pandit Nehru should have been.
Prof. Puniyani clearly states: “Maharaja Harising, ruler of Kashmir, chose to remain independent.” I might as well add that Sheikh Abdullah (darling of the people of J&K, at least that of the Muslim component of J&K) too wanted to remain independent. Who would not? Everybody wants to be a head of an independent country, rather than an appendage to a bigger country.
Prof. Puniyani goes on to quote from a letter of Sardar Patel to Nehru: “Having invoked a forum of settlement of disputes open to both India and Pakistan as members of the United Nations Organization nothing further needs to be done in the way of settlement of disputes than to leave matters to be adjudicated through that forum.”
Prof. Puniyani then goes on to mention: “Actually, the problem lay somewhere else and that was the insistence of communal forces to forcibly merge the state with India. Here Nehru was for winning the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir rather than forcibly merging J&K.”
Prof. Puniyani then quotes from a letter written by the Sardar: “The moment we realize that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be there, we shall not be there even for a minute… We shall not let the Kashmir down”.
Prof. Puniyani then opines (I guess correctly): “What happened was something different. As the matters stand there was gradual erosion of autonomy of Kashmir leading to alienation of Kashmiri people and rise of dissidence. This alienation led to initial protests which intensified with time. There was no communal element in this to begin with.”
After the above statements with regard to J&K, Prof. Puniyani conveniently skips the details of jailing Sheikh Abdullah (in August of 1953) and the lame excuses regarding not holding a plebiscite within the part of J&K held by India. The excuse offered by India was (and even today is) that Pakistan has not vacated its aggression in the part of J&K held by Pakistan. Truth is that neither of the two countries wants a plebiscite to be held in J&K, as they know that an overwhelming number of Kashmiris would vote for independence.
In view of the fact that Pakistan too does not really want plebiscite (though I am not very sure about Pakistan not wanting a plebiscite in the whole J&K), at least India should allow a plebiscite to be held in the part of J&K held by Indian troops. GOI knew in 1953, when they jailed Sheikh Abdullah, as well as to this day, J&K, whether held by India or Pakistan, would vote for becoming independent. Though in the communalized situation created by the peddlers of hate, the Hindu majority of Jammu would probably want to remain a part of India; and the Buddhist majority of Ladakh too would want to remain a part of India. The Muslim majority of the Kargil area of Ladakh and some of the Muslim districts of Jammu too may want to be a part of an independent country called the Republic of Kashmir (RoK).
With the above in mind, the residents of India-occupied J&K may be given the following three options to choose from:
- I would like to remain a citizen of India.
- I would like to become a citizen of Pakistan.
- I would like to join the independent Republic of Kashmir (ROK), if Kashmir is given independence on the basis of its mandate.
This kind of RoK would be no different from Nepal, between India and Pakistan, just as Nepal is situated between India and China.
Once India gives independence to Kashmir, the day would not be far away when POK too will merge with them.
Thereafter the bone of contention between India and Pakistan would be removed and the day may not be far away when a Federation of India, Pakistan and Kashmir may emerge, eventually including Bangladesh (much touted Federation of Akhand-Bharat, but of very different kind than what the merchants death, destruction, corruption, loot and injustices profess to envision)
Allow me to put forward here my two paise worth of opinion. Unless we resolve the mess of J&K, largely created by the refusal of Nehru jee to allow a plebiscite in at least the India-occupied part of J&K, it will continue to fuel the fire being spread by the aforementioned merchants of death, etc. Not that finding an amicable solution for J&K will usher in a new age of peace, brotherhood, and justice all over India. But that will be a step in the right direction. At the very least, it will stop the bleeding of Indian resources in maintaining lakhs of troops in Kashmir and the rest of the border with Pakistan; resources that could be used to improve education, health, and general well-being of the people of India. Most importantly, the people of Kashmir would not be oppressed by the presence of Indian troops on their land and would have a government, they can claim to be of their own making.
Dr. Satinath Choudhary, Retired college Prof. of Computer Science, taught in several universities in the USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org