Today, there is a lot of literature available on Kashmir issue. Also, the numerous studies focus on Sardar Patel or Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on the subject. However, there has been lack of study which focused on the kind of view that Gandhi held towards the Kashmir issue and the role which he played with regard to Kashmir issue. However, Gandhi’s role cannot be forgotten with regard to Kashmir issue and the solution he has given to the said issue. Therefore, this article tries to examine: What Kashmir issue is all about? What is happening on the ground in Kashmir nowadays? What is M.K. Gandhi’s view on Kashmir issue?
What Kashmir Issue is all about?
Kashmir is not only the name of an international problem where egotist nation-states or religious communities clash. It is a sight of entangled myths and memories, a contested space of resistance and oppression, and most importantly, a place where millions of people live and breathe and die (Kaul, 2010: 42). Basically, Kashmir issue is one of the most intractable and longstanding between India and Pakistan (conflict over Kashmir) and between India and the Kashmiri people (conflict in Kashmir). The dynamic nature of conflict affects the lives of millions of people. Be it social, economic, political and cultural aspects (Bhat, 2019: 1).
Fundamentally, Kashmir conflict is about the denial of choice, denial of freedom, denial of freedoms and denial of identity to Kashmiris. It is Kashmiris who have been saying for a long time that we want a chance to decide our political future, a chance which guaranteed by the United Nations for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian state’s response to the Kashmir self-determination movement has been characterized by brutality and fierceness (Geelani, 2014: 31). In pursuance of right to self-determination, the Kashmiri people are facing the grave human rights violation (Zulfqar 2016: 51).
According to well-researched reports compiled by human rights bodies, more than 10,0000 people have been killed, between 8,000-10,000 youth disappeared in custody since 1989, which potentially leaves an equivalent number of half-widows – women who cannot remarry, because they don’t know whether their custodial disappeared husbands are dead or alive and as well as mothers who are bereaved. There is an estimated 7,000 unmarked and mass graves in different parts of Kashmir. Moreover, there are thousands of orphans in Kashmir. Thousands have been tortured, violence against women, women raped. The psychological impact of the trauma which people have faced has barely been measured, let alone treated (Schofield 2015: 24). The Kashmir Media Service (2019) clearly shows the figures of the violation of human rights in Kashmir (see table 1).
Table 1 – Human Rights Violations in Kashmir from January 1989 till 30 September 2019.
Sources: Kashmir Media Service, (2019).
Since 5 August 2019 and after the unilateral revocation of Articles 370 and 35A – which guaranteed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Union of India, mobile phone and internet connectively has been suspended and children have not been to schools in Kashmir, they grow up traumatized. Shops are not functioning. People can’t get to the hospital. Further, Kashmiri women have to manage without sanitary pads because all the shops are closed since. Regional political leaders were placed under house arrest and some leaders are in Jail, not for any crime but to prevent protests. So, everyday life in Kashmir has been paralyzed.
Additionally, the blackout has led to the cancellation of most of the weddings because, of curfew and total ban on public movement and gathering. People cannot call home to know about their family members, they cannot wish their girlfriend even a goodnight. There is shortage of medicines in various hospitals, due to which patients are suffering. No access to the hospitals and ambulance. If someone is lucky to get an ambulance, it is not sure that the patient in the ambulance will reach the hospital on time or not, because Security Forces stop ambulance at each check point and even sometimes refuse to let it go. This is the situation in which an ordinary Kashmiri is living.
What is M.K. Gandhi’s view on Kashmir issue?
Historian Ramchander Guha states in his article titled as Gandhi in Kashmir, Gandhians on Kashmir that, M.K. Gandhi visited Kashmir Valley once, in the first week of August 1947. His trip had two aims; to get the Maharaja Hari Singh to release Sheikh Abdullah from the prison and the second aim was to get sense of what the Kashmiri people were thinking. When Gandhi reached the Kashmir Valley he received a terrific welcome. On his entry into Srinagar city he was welcomed by thousands of Kashmiri people on either side of the road, they were shouting slogans like “Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai.” Since the bridge across the river Jhelum had been taken over by the crowd, M.K Gandhi took a boat to the other side, where he addressed a public meeting of some 25,000 people, convened by Begum Akbar Jehan Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah’s wife (Guha, 2019).
In late September 1947, the Maharaja Hari Singh released Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah from the prison. Three weeks later, Pakistan invaded Kashmir, seeking to forcibly annex Kashmir. The Sheik Mohammad Abdullah took the lead in mobilizing the people against the Pakistani raiders. In this context, Gandhi stated, on 29 October 1947 at his prayer meeting in Delhi: “Kashmir cannot be saved by the Maharaja. If anyone can save Kashmir, it is only the Muslims, the Kashmiri Pandits, the Rajputs and the Sikhs who can do so” (Gandhi, 1997).
M.K. Gandhi supported India’s approach to the United Nations as a desperate way to avert war between India and Pakistan both of whom he felt emotionally close to. He stated in his famous speech at the Prayer Meeting on 4th January 1948, said “Today there is talk of war everywhere. Everyone fears a war breaking out between the two countries. If that happens, it will be a calamity both for India and for Pakistan. India has written to the UN because whenever there is a fear of conflict anywhere the UN is asked to promote a settlement and to stop fighting from breaking out” (Kogbara, 2010).
In addition, M.K. Gandhi was ambivalent about the Nehru’s decision to take the Kashmir issue to UN. But he firmly believed in bilateral talks between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue. Gandhi saw Sheikh Mohammd Abdulah as a unifier of Kashmiris of different religions, always a sacred mission for him. Talking of raids from Pakistan, M.K. Gandhi said “whatever might have been the attitude of Pakistan, if I had my way I would have invited Pakistan’s representatives to India and we could have met, discussed the matter and worked out some settlement” (Naqvi, 2019).
Further, M.K. Gandhi mentioned in his speech on 4th January 1948, said “They keep saying that they want an amicable settlement but they do nothing to create the conditions for such a settlement. I shall, therefore, humbly say to the responsible leader that though we are now two countries – which is a thing I never wanted – we should at least try to arrive at an agreement so that we could live as peaceful neighbors” (Ibid).
Gandhi is not with us now. But there are people who believe in Gandhian principles and his philosophy. The Gandhian Peace Foundation has issued a statement saying that the India government’s decision to abrogate of Articles 370 and 35A have “pushed the country into a blind alley”, adding Kashmir has “become a mortuary” (Wire, 2019).
Therefore, it can be argued that if Gandhi was alive today, he would never have allowed this to happen to the people of Kashmir. He would have gone for the fast until death to protest against this inhuman treatment to the Kashmiris by the government of India. These Gandhians should now take the responsibility and press the leaders of both countries to come on the table and start a dialogue on the issue and solve it on the basis on humanitarian grounds, which Gandhi wanted. It would be the finest tributes to the Father of Nation, whose followers live in both India as well as in Pakistan.
Bhat, S. A. (2019). The Kashmir conflict and human rights. Race & Class, 0306396819850988.
Gandhi, R. (1997). The good boatman: a portrait of Gandhi. Penguin Books India.
Geelani, G. (2014). Kashmir: the forgotten conflict. Race & Class, 56(2), 29-40.
Guha, (2019). “Gandhi in Kashmir, Gandhians on Kashmir” The Telegraph, https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/gandhi-in-kashmir-gandhians-on-kashmir/cid/1698228
Kashmir Media Service (2019). “HR Violation” Kashmir Media Service https://kmsnews.org/news/
Kaul, N. (2010). On loving and losing Kashmir. India International Centre Quarterly, 37(3/4), 42-53.
Kogbara, M. (2010). Handbook on Leadership and Conflict Resolution in Africa: A Guide to Quality Education for Schools in Africa, Xlibris, Corp.
Naqvi, J. (2019). “A truer tribute to Gandhi”, Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1508325/a-truer-tribute-to-gandhi
Schofield, V. (2015). Why Kashmir is still important. Asian Affairs, 46(1), 18-31.
Wire, T. (2019). Democracy Has Plunged to a New Low’: Gandhi Peace Foundation on Kashmir”, The Wire, https://thewire.in/rights/democracy-has-plunged-to-a-new-low-gandhi-peace-foundation-on-kashmir
Zulfqar, S. (2016). Kashmir: nature and dimensions of the
conflict. Journal of Current Affairs, 1(1-2), 51-65.
Sabzar Ahmad Bhat is a graduate student working on his PhD at Central University of Gujarat, India. His dissertation topic is “Interrogating Human Rights in Kashmir Valley: A Study of State and Non-State Actors.”
Suhail Farooq Lone is a student of Political Science at University of Kashmir and also a Human Rights Activist, working on the situations of Human Rights in Kashmir.