The gory struggle for land is one of the most recurring as well as regrettable chapter in the history of mankind, and the 20th Century is no exception. Whether it is Greece vs Turkey over Cyprus, Armenia vs Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, or Israel vs the Arab states over Palestine, this kind of struggle leads to nothing but bloodshed, social disharmony and consistent tragedy.
Closer home we have the India vs Pakistan clash with regards to Kashmir. This Paksitan-instigated clash has been the source of many misfortunes for the people of Kashmir as well as their co-patriots in India. While the Indian Government for the last six decades has taken steps to ensure that hostilities with Pakistan come to an end and peace prevails in Kashmir same cannot be said about our neighbor.
In reality the misfortunes of Kashmir are manufactured by the ill-will of Pakistan through its military intelligence, the ISI and their proxies in India that is the separatist Hurriyat council. These harmful organs have sprouted enormous calamities for the valley state.
But one must go back to the past to see where the root cause lies. Following centuries of Hindu and Buddhist rule, the Moghul emperors took control of Kashmir in the 15th century, converted most of the population to Islam and incorporated it into the Moghul Empire.
Afghan invaders led by Ahmad Shah Durrani took over Kashmir from the Moghuls in the mid 18th century, but were themselves driven out by the brave Sikhs under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. But many historians believe the wheel of tragedy that was going to run over Kashmir started turning after the creation of the Jammu and Kashmir Princely State.
Creation of Jammu and Kashmir Princely State
From 1846 up to 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state under the supervision of the British Raj. The creation of the state followed the victory of the East India Company in the First Anglo-Sikh War. After the completion of the war, the East India Company annexed the Kashmir valley but the well-known English official Henry Lawrence advised the then Governor General of India Lord Hardinge that in order to recover the financial loss suffered during the war, the Muslim Majority Kashmir should be sold to the Dogra ruler of Jammu under the Treaty of Amritsar.
According to the treaty, the state was “situated to the westward of the river Indus and eastward of the river Ravi”, and covered an area of 80,900 square miles (210,000 km2). Later, the regions of Hunza, Nagar, and Gilgit were added to the state.
Demographics in the Early 20th Century
The Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir consisted primarily of the three chief provinces: Jammu, the Valley of Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Poonch, located to the west of Kashmir, was initially administered as a separate state until its incorporation in 1936. According to the 1901 census, the total population of the Kashmir province was approximately 2.9 million people, with 2.15 million Muslims, 689,073 Hindus, 25,828 Sikhs, and 35,047 Buddhists. However, eighty-nine per cent of the population spoke what is called the Kashmiri language.
The Kashmir Valley had about ninety-three per cent Muslim population but there was an influential Hindu community known as the Pandits. The majority of the Muslims were Sunni but there was a small Sufi population that had created a number of popular shrines which were visited by both Muslims and Hindus.
Jammu, the southern province, was the center of power of the Dogra dynasty.
While the Hindu population consisted of fifty per cent of the province’s population, they were concentrated near the center. In contrast, Muslims held a 61.3 per cent majority in the periphery. The main languages spoken were Dogri and Punjabi.
Conversely Ladakh was thinly populated, and most of the residents had ties with Tibet. Ladakhi and Kashur were the most common languages. Buddhism was (and still is) the dominant religion in Ladakh.
The creation and popularity of National Conference
Most historians cite that the Dogra dynasty was not very popular with the masses, specifically with the Muslim masses, which led to the formation of a nascent Muslim political movement known as the Mirwaiz-i-Kashmir in 1905.The leader of the movement, Rasul Shah traveled to mosques around the Kashmir valley, preaching against the deification of Sufi saints and emphasizing a more conformist interpretation of Islam.
The movement gained a lot of momentum and the Muslim population of Kashmir valley came together for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Even though, Mirwaiz initially started as a religious movement, it did involve itself in ensuring greater political representation of Muslims in state affairs.
But a series of communal incidents on 13 July, 1931, led the Muslim religious leaders in Jammu and Kashmirto declare that their religion was under attack. The Dogra administration had to jail the leaders to maintain calm but it backfired. More than six thousand Muslim agitators stormed the jail demanding the release of the prisoners. In the ensuing clashes, about a hundred and fifty people were either killed or injured, most of the victims being Hindu Dogras.
The events of 13 July prompted the formation of the All-India Jammu and KashmirMuslim Conference. Like the Mirwaiz, the Conference’s primary intent was to encourage the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir to organize themselves politically. Sheikh Abdullah, the organization’s first president, drew support from a diverse Muslim body of leaders united by the belief “that the Muslims were being exploited by the Hindu community.”
Even though the Mirwaiz leaders claimed that their angst was aimed at the state rather than the Hindu population as a whole, the July event took place exactly a decade after unbearable atrocities that were committed by the Moplah Muslims in Malabar, Kerala, against the Hindus. That event coupled with Mirwaiz leaders’ conformist interpretation of Islam did little to convince the Hindus otherwise.
This subtle Islamism of the All-India Jammu and KashmirMuslim Conference prompted the Sikhs and the Kashmiri Pandits, (who had previously supported the Kashmiri Muslim struggle against the Dogra regime) to unite with the Dogra Rajputs .This disunity of the Kashmir struggle led the young leader of AIJKMC Sheikh Abdullah to alter the goals of the Muslim National Conference and on 26 March, 1938, he opened up membership to all people, “irrespective of caste, creed, or religion” declaring:
Like us the majority of Hindus and Sikhs have immensely suffered at the hands of the irresponsible government. They are also steeped in deep ignorance, have to pay large taxes and are in debt and are starving…We must open our doors to all such Hindus and Sikhs who like ourselves believe in the freedom of their country from the shackles of a irresponsible rule.
The National Conference defined it as party for all Kashmiris, irrespective of caste, creed, or religion. However, their concentration was largely limited to Kashmiris living in the Valley. The National Conference articulated its commitment to advancing Kashmiri interests with the Naya Kashmir document in 1944 which called for the abolition of the jagir system, the creation of a constitutional monarchy, the protection of basic civil liberties such as the freedom of religion, and greater opportunities for non-Dogras in the civil and military service.
These aims were popular with both the Muslims and Hindus of the Valley. Riding on that popularity, in 1946, the National Conference launched an intensive agitation against the Maharaja. The slogan of the agitation was “Quit Kashmir”.But this movement was overshadowed by the events happening on the national stage with the Muslim League’s demand for a separate Muslim nation, Pakistan, as against the Indian nationalists’ vision of a ‘United India.’
Partition, Invasion and Accession
When the British Raj ended in 1947, ‘United India’ was partitioned into India and Pakistan along religious lines. About eleven million Hindus and Muslims fled from one area to another, most of them losing their lives in the ensuing communal riots, one of the worst in world history. Under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the supervision of the British over about six hundred princely states faltered and these states were allowed to remain independent or to join India or Pakistan. The political actors at the time–the Muslim League, the INC and the exiting British officials decided that the fatal two-nation theory be applied to these princely states as well.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League party, however, said that the princely states can stay sovereign and in order to adjust Jinnah’s point of view, the British enacted article 7(b) of the Indian Independence Act. Jinnah thought that after the lapse of paramountcy, many princely states would stay out of India. He tried his best to persuade Bhopal, Hyderabad, Jaisalmer, and Travancore to become sovereign. He even accepted the accession of Junagarh, which had a Hindu majority, to Pakistan in utter violation of the two-nation theory. This was because Jinnah was not satisfied with the geography of his new nation, which Mountbatten termed as ‘moth-eaten.’
In case the of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the then Indian home minister, integrated about five hundred sixty one princely states, covering 800,000 km2 and containing a population over eighty million, into the nascent nation of India without shedding any blood. The complication however came in the case of Hyderabad, Junagarh and Jammu & Kashmir.
The ruler of Jammu and Kashmirwas not able to decide which country he wanted to join. The confusion stemmed from the fact that while he was Hindu, his population was predominantly Muslim. Also the king was unwilling to give up his monarchical power, which was going to be the case if he joined democratic India.
To keep things safe, the Maharaja signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan in order that services such as trade travel and communication would be uninterrupted. However with regards to India, he did not sign a similar agreement. But on 22 October, 1947, about five thousand tribesmen with overt assistance from the Pakistani Army attacked the region, quickly capturing large parts of it.
During the course of this invasion, tribesmen burned houses and looted property of the valley residents. Large scale rapes accompanied this and several women were abducted and taken forcibly back to Pakistan.
On 26 October, the intruders massacred about eleven thousand residents of Baramullah and destroyed the Mohra power station that supplied electricity to Srinagar.
In panic, Maharaja Hari Singh made a frantic appeal to India to come to his rescue, but the Government of India took the stand that it was not in a position to send troops to rescue him. In the morning of 26 October, seeing the amount of pillage and bloodshed coupled with the threat to his own life, the Maharaja fled from Srinagar, arriving in Jammu where he was met by V P Menon, representative of the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and signed the Instrument of Accession, whereby Jammu and Kashmir became part of India.
Following the signing of Instrument of Accession, India conducted a massive airlift of army personnel to Srinagar capturing Baramulla and major parts of Jammu and Kashmirwithin two weeks. The army thought of completely expelling the intruders but the then Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten advised the Government of India to have the UN resolve the issue. As a result, Prime Minister Nehru took matters to the U.N. Security Council on 1 January, 1948, where India accused Pakistan of sending its own troops into Jammu and Kashmirbesides arming the Afridi tribesmen.
This led to the establishment of the U.N. Commission in India and Pakistan (UNCIP) by the Security Council to assess the claims and counterclaims of the two countries. Although Pakistan initially denied any involvement, it later did admit that its army had been involved in the aggression.
On 13 August, 1948, the UNCIP passed a resolution claiming:
Once Pakistan withdraws them, the administration by the local authorities needs to be restored, India will reduce its troops to the barest minimum and then a plebiscite will be held to ascertain the wishes of the people of the state.
The stated ceasefire went into effect on 1 January 1949, and the ceasefire line became the Line of Control (LOC). Even to this day experts believe that had Nehru taken Patel’s advice and given a few more days to the army, all of Jammu and Kashmir would have been part of India. Instead by taking the matter to the U.N, he made Pakistan a party in the issue.
On the other hand, by signing the Instrument of Accession, Maharaja Hari Singh had made Jammu and Kashmir part of India. This was absolutely legal under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, which was signed by both India and Pakistan, which gave sovereignty of the state to Maharaja Hari Singh after the lapse of British paramountcy. The Act contained no provision for ascertaining the wishes of the people of the princely states through plebiscite. This understanding was confirmed on 4 February, 1948, by the U.S. representative, Warren Austin, who said in the Security Council:
With the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India, this foreign sovereignty (of JAMMU AND KASHMIR) went over to India.
Adding to that, Justice Owen Dixon of Australia stated in his report to the Security Council on 15 September 1950 that Pakistan had violated international law by crossing into Jammu and Kashmir territory. Thus Nehru blundered by agreeing for a plebiscite in a territory that was a legal part of India. All the same, the plebiscite was conditional upon Pakistan withdrawing its troops from the state and restoration of the administration to the local authorities, both of which they have not complied with.
In his resignation statement on 27 September, 1951, Dr.Ambedkar condemned the promise of the plebiscite Nehru had made:
There are two grounds which have disturbed our relations with Pakistan – one is Kashmir and the other is the condition of our people in East Bengal….. Notwithstanding this we have been staking our all on the Kashmir issue. … What I am afraid of is that in the proposed plebiscite, which is to be an overall plebiscite, the Hindus and Buddhists of Kashmir are likely to be dragged into Pakistan against their wishes and we may have to face same problems as we are facing today in East Bengal.
Nevertheless, the accession of Kashmir to India was a historical event, but such is the sad situation in this nation that whereas the case of the separatists is portrayed sympathetically on the silver screen, this foundational background to the whole issue has been given a quiet, intentional burial, and most of the eminences in the public space have openly sided with the separatists than with our national interest.