Dr. Muzammil Ahad Dar 5 July 2019
Could Kashmir Catch-up for Its Independence: Passing Decades and Evolving Dimensions
Revisiting formation of Greater Kashmir
Mountainous regions are politically the most volatile areas of the contemporary world, be it the Alps, Balkans, Caucasus, Hindu Kush, Himalayas or other malicious regions of the world, the establishment of powerful and large empires has always faced the challenge of resistance by the diverse mountain settlers having a typical hill psychology. The erstwhile Dogra princely state of Jammu and Kashmir located in the Western Himalayas was militarily carved out from 1820 to 1890 by bringing out diverse ethno-lingual and religio-cultural regions under the control of Dogra Kingdom. Due to its inter-regional heterogeneity the partition of British India in mid-1947 had its negative consequences for the unity and territorial integrity of Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Kashmir- mostly Kashmiri speaking-under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah had started “Quit Kashmir” Movement against Maharaja Hari Singh in May1946 whereas the Pahari/Gujjari speaking Muslims of Poonch-Mirpur mostly the ex-servicemen of World War IInd had started the “No-Tax” Campaign against the autocratic Dogra ruler in Spring 1947 which assumed the character of an armed revolt by the late Summer and finally declared the formation of Azad Government of Jammu and Kashmir on 24th October1947. The Gilgit Scouts of Gilgit Agency were entertaining the idea of establishing Gilgit-Astore Republic so after hearing the news of Indian troops landing in Kashmir, the former revolted against the Dogra Governor Major General Gansara Singh on 31st October 1947 and took him hostage to end the Dogra rule. The Dogri speaking Hindus of Jammu region led by Maharaja Hari Singh initially supported the continuation of Jammu and Kashmir State as an independent kingdom free from both India and Pakistan but following the Pakistani tribal raid in Kashmir and the armed revolt in Poonch-Mirpur, were obliged to have accession of Jammu and Kashmir with Indian Union. The Buddhists of Ladakh region lead by the Kushak Bakula, Head Lama of Spituk Monastery were favouring having political allegiance to Lhasa but following the takeover of Tibet by the Red Army of China in 1949, they expressed their solidarity with India. Thus the Muslims of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan regions of the former princely state Jammu and Kashmir favouring the establishment of a sovereign country came under the control of Pakistan whereas the non-Muslims of Jammu and Ladakh regions favouring the continuation of Jammu and Kashmir as an independent Dogra autocracy came under the control of India. The Muslim dominated Kashmir favouring the establishment of a sovereign, secular, democratic and socialist republic was denied the right to exist as an independent country initially by Maharaja Hari Singh, immediately after that by Pakistan sending tribal invaders in Kashmir on 22nd October 1947 and ultimately by India to avoid the promised reference to the people on the question of state’s accession with India. The net result of different regions of Jammu and Kashmir State eschewing different political paths has been that the former princely state got partitioned through the Line of Control on the basis religion. The Kashmiri nationalists who opposed joining Pakistan in 1947 could not remain loyal to India for long because of dishonesty on part of both Kashmiri leadership as well as New Delhi. So in order to bring political stability in the disturbed areas of Jammu and Kashmir State the people’s referendum is only democratic means to resolve the Kashmir predicament. The Kashmiri nation settled in Kashmir Valley and its adjoining sub-regions would form the core area of Greater Kashmir.
Is retreat possible?
The Kashmiri nation was struggling against the autocratic rule of Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh in 1947 when Pakistani tribal raiders invaded Kashmir on 22nd October 1947.The tribals would have been perceived as the liberators of Kashmir had the intention of tribesmen from Northwestern Frontier Province been to establish an independent country, but the objective of tribal raiders was to liberate Kashmir from Dogra control and make it a province of Pakistan. The Kashmiri nationalists were not interested in joining either Pakistan or India but were aspiring to establish an independent country. The Pakistani tribal warriors dashed to ground the nationalist dream of Kashmiri nationalists, so Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the most popular leader of Kashmiri nationalists took advantage of the opportunity thrown by tribal raid in Kashmir to support Maharaja Hari Singh’s Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union on 26th October 1947 to assume political power in Jammu and Kashmir State. Since the Pakistani tribal raid in Kashmir exhausted the option of an Independent Jammu and Kashmir, so the limited accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union or accession with Pakistan remained the only available options for people of the state. National Conference led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad opted for having internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State within lndian Union. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah agreed in 1949 to incorporate Article 370 in Constitution of India, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir State within Indian Union and also signed Delhi Agreement with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 24th July 1952 to define the contours of Indo-Kashmir constitutional relationship. Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad managed the ratification of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union through Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly on 6th February 1954 and also got the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir State adopted on 17th November 1956 which after the concurrence of President of India was implemented by him on 26th January 1957.The ongoing armed struggle sponsored by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir State from mid-1988 onwards is the violent assertion of pro-Pakistan militant leadership in the state. The politically diversified Kashmiri masses demand aazadi which means freedom from both India and Pakistan The people of Jammu and Kashmir State must therefore familiarize themselves with the political history of the state to know the exact truth about the history of Kashmir conflict. The dominant majority of people in Jammu and Kashmir State want the restoration of the internal sovereignty of their motherland. The Government of India and Pakistan must therefore address the genuine political demand of the Kashmiri nation to end the political uncertainty and instability in Jammu and Kashmir State.
Prospectus of National Self-Determination
The application of principle of people’s right of self-determination has its origin in the process of nation-state formation in Europe. The need for determining popular wishes was felt where two or more than two powers staked their claim over a territory inhabited by the people having a distinct identity, than that of the claimant national identities. As long as the nations controlling the disputed territory have not fully imbibed the values of democracy and human rights, the demand for people’s right of self-determination carries no meaning. The Muslim Uigurs of Sinkiang province and Tibetan Buddhists of Tibet province in China, Tatars and Chechens in Russia, Kurds in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, Tamils in Sri Lanka, Bloch’s in Pakistan and Kashmiries and Punjabi Sikhs in India to name a few have been struggling for their right of self-determination to establish their own sovereign nation-states but they have been crushed with military might by the concerned powers every-where. So as long as the liberal democratic values and the respect for the human rights is not internalised by the state structures in the authoritarian and procedural democratic countries, the people’s right of self-determination of disputed territories is a myth rather than a realistic expectation. Keeping in view this hard reality about the jingoistic behavior of the powerful undemocratic states, it is more advisable for the state-less nations to not press for the territorial solution of disputed areas but work for the political solution.
Revisiting Indo-Kashmir Relationship: Had the Pakistan sponsored tribal raid in Kashmir on 22nd October1947 been successful it could have made Kashmir a province of Pakistan. Since both Maharaja Hari Singh as head of the state as well as Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the most popular political leader of Kashmiri nation supported the idea of accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with lndian Union, so the lndian army was invited on 26th October 1947 to drag out the raiders from Kashmir. From 27th October1947 to 8th August 1953 National Conference led by Sheikh Abdullah supported the presence of lndian army in Kashmir and from 9th August1953 the National Conference led by Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad not only supported the presence of lndian army in Kashmir but he with the support of 62 MLAs also ratified the accession of J&K with Indian Union on 6th February 1954.Ten years later Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq abolished the nomenclatures of Sadre Riyasat and Wazire Azam, the symbols of internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State. The people of Kashmir participated in elections regularly from 1951 to 1987 which indicates that for about four decades the majority of Kashmiris supported accession of J&K with India. Even Jamat lslami led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani contested several elections under the Constitution of lndia to assume political power in the state. The defeat of Muslim United Front candidates like Mohammad Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin the present chairman of UJC, on 23rd March 1987 because of rigging of elections by NC-Congress alliance and misuse of power by NC candidates against MUF political workers like Abdul Hamid Sheikh and Mohammad Yasin Malik etc. ultimately compelled these victims of state oppression to resort to militancy in1988.The militancy in Kashmir has completed its three decades now but the liberation of Kashmir from lndian control is yet to be realized and there are no signs of its realization even in the coming decades as well. The Kashmiri nation is a divided lot. The pro-liberaton groups are boycotting the elections but lndian mainstream politicians participate in these elections. Some Kashmiri youth resort to militancy and stone pelting against the lndian forces in Kashmir whereas others work as party members of NC,PDP, CPIM, BJP & Congress. The Kashmiri youth are enrolled in lndian colleges and universities in large numbers and hundreds of youth appear in competitive exams to qualify KAS, IAS, IFS, IPS etc. There are thousands if not lakhs of Kashmiris who are beneficiaries of Operation Sadhbawna run by lndian defence personnel in Kashmir. Thousands of Kashmiris work in lndian government departments & private organizations to earn their livelihood and then there are strong business ties between Kashmir and India. The freedom struggle enjoying mass support requires snapping all political, economic, social and cultural ties between Kashmir and lndia. The dependence of Kashmiris on India has reached a degree of no retreat. In-fact caught up in dependency syndrome. The trail of dependencies creates cycle of dependencies. Political dependency creates economic dependency and vice versa. In such circumstances of total dependence of Kashmiri nation on Indian state and the full political, administrative, economic, social and cultural integration of Kashmir with India, the question arises, is it untenable to think of Kashmir’s liberation from India. The landlocked nature of Kashmir and its total isolation from neighbouring countries makes it completely dependent on India. The revolt against Indian state and peoples revolution in Kashmir is therefore seems not only unsustainable, if not impossible. There is no realistic international support for Kashmiri liberation struggle against lndian control of J&K. The Kashmiri nation is both small and weak as compared to India to force the later to leave the territory. Keeping all the above mentioned facts into consideration, it is better to find the political solution of Kashmir problem under the democratic framework with liberalised state approach rather than realistic state approach.
Religious affinity and interwoven Identities
There has been a heated debate for very long time among the secular and religious minded persons over the role of religion in politics. Religion is in fact part of material and non-.material culture of religious societies. The religious beliefs are abstract aspect of human non-material culture, whereas religious practices, rituals, symbols, architecture and art are concrete aspects of material culture. Since the life cycle rituals, customs and traditions are different among various religious communities, so they are associated with different religions. The religious material and non-material culture gives a distinct identity to the well defined religious community and the members of the religious community develop fellow feeling among themselves. lf the believers of a particular religion share common ethnicity, language, script and geography the social bond and emotional ties are further strengthened. lt is immaterial then whether the Constitution of the country is secular or theocratic, the vote and support for political parties and party candidates having a definite religious identity will be automatically forthcoming by the religious community. However when different political parties and candidates belong to the same religious community the ideology of political parties and other factors specific to a particular political party or a candidate influences the decision making of a voter during the elections. Therefore when religious communities are deliberately polarized the religious factor becomes very important in decision making during an election or referendum. The role of religion in public life can’t be therefore underestimated in both theocratic and secular political systems anywhere in the world. Since the religious minorities are suffering from minority complex, their vote and support for minority candidates and parties more sympathetic to them becomes quite natural for the minorities.
The right of self-determination is intrinsically a civilized non-violent principle of liberal Western political thought. During the age of ancient, medieval and even modern empires the emperors used to resort to military means to conquer the territories to expand their empires. The emergence of the nation-states was an end to the empire building process because the nation is having a definite territory and unlike the state’s and empires cannot be created or expanded without the natural process of the gradual spread of population with the passage of time. The Kashmiri nation like all other nations is geographically spread over a definite territory with its distinct culture and long history as a sovereign country till Mughal invasion in 1586. The 432 years of external rule over Kashmir has proved it beyond any doubt that a nation cannot be subdued through occupation alone. The Central Asian and Persian Syeds, on the other hand, did not politically and militarily control Kashmir but through persuasion converted Kashmiries en mass to the lslamic way of life and integrated them with the Muslim World. The path of violence adopted by Kashmiri political opposition following the rigging of assembly elections in March 1987 was a strategic mistake of these short-sighted leaders. A powerful country like Hindustan cannot be defeated by Kashmiri militants with the help of Pakistan but the prolonged armed conflict in Kashmir has the potential to gradually make Kashmiri an endangered if not an extinct species. A peaceful struggle for the right of self-determination is no doubt a time-consuming exercise but it guarantees the sustainability of Kashmiri nation and has the potential of garnering the support of the democratic nations of the world in general and the West in particular. It is therefore in the interest of the Kashmiri nation to abandon the path of violence and desist from invoking religion in politics to get the international support for the just cause of the absolute right of self-determination for the Kashmiri nation controlled by Hindustan and eyed by Pakistan. The world community is silent over Kashmir because over the past seven decades the Kashmir problem has been projected as an Indo-Pak territorial conflict rather than a question of national self-determination of the people of Kashmir. The collaboration of Kashmiri political leadership with India and Pakistan as well as the participation of Kashmiri masses both in protests against the Hindustani control and in the elections held under the Hindustani constitution has confused the world community about the real political aspirations of the Kashmiri nation as a whole. Unless the Kashmiri nation would remove its internal contradictions, project Kashmir Movement as an indigenous national political struggle and maintain distance from violence, Islamic injections and Pakistan the National ship of Kashmiries cannot touch the harbor of freedom but will be tossed away by the ebb and flow of geopolitical tides of international power politics.