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India-Pakistan relations: Kashmir faces great challenges

Kashmir has its share of writers, academicians and intellectuals who, under the prevailing circumstances, compulsorily prefer to maintain a low profile. There is no dearth of talent. But writing or expressing oneself in a free and fair environment makes the job easy. This is especially when one does not have to go through trauma and fear of facing reprisals in the form of arrests under preventive detention and or fear of dreaded disappearances culture as the law enforcement agencies are immune as empowerment through draconian laws means that no one is answerable.

Kashmir, as we know, is going through difficult times, and the going seems tough as again speaking out the truth becomes real hard and at times impossible. In a democracy, freedom of press and right to information professed allows running of normal day to day affairs smoothly to a reasonable extent. On the contrary, the unpleasant issues like human right violations, indiscriminate killings, house searches backed by draconian laws, adds humiliation and resultant psychological problems for the effected populace, which can become an embarrassment, especially under the watchful eyes of the international community.

The general public wholly depends on the information allowed for consumption and policy directions formulated to be followed by the media circles in the broader national interest. People of India, unfortunately, are fed with information that is far from truth and it is expected that an “established vibrant democracy” gives people the right to know everything about anything that happens on local or international level.

The problem of Kashmir as projected and given to understand to people of India can be based mainly on the following arguments which, in fairness to public in general, is understood to be the gospel truth. That Maharaja of Kashmir; Sir Hari Singh signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ with India; and The popular upcoming leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah ratified the Accession document and; the plebiscite or Right of Self- Determination as per the understanding reached with a commitment to Last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten or UN Security Council Resolutions is null and void due to the reason that Kashmir held various local elections to choose their elected government and representatives. So, no need for a plebiscite, and as per the UN Security Council Resolutions, Pakistan must vacate its occupation of the area of Kashmir and also minimal presence of Indian troops for a plebiscite, if at all, to be held, and finally. the present uprising in Kashmir is nothing but ‘Islamic terrorism’ helped, aided and abetted by Pakistan from across the border.

At the outset; the ‘Accession Document’ signed by Maharaja Sir Hari Singh is considered highly controversial as many quarters believe that no such document was ever signed. In this connection Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw (erstwhile Army Chief of India) observed throwing light on the claim saying: “I was in the Palace when V P Menon, Mahajan (Mehr Chand) and the Maharaja were discussing the subject. The Maharaja was running from one room to another…..I did not see Maharaja signing it (accession document), nor did I see Mahajan. All I do know is that V P Menon turned around and said, ‘Sam we’ve got the accession’.” Lord Mountbatten visited Kashmir in June, 1947 and in a conversation Mountbatten suggested to Maharaja that he should join Pakistan.

´I don‘t want to accede to Pakistan on any account,’ Hari Singh answered’. Well,’ Mountbatten said, ‘it is up to you, but I think you should consider it very carefully since after all 90% of your people are Moslem. But, if you don’t, then you must join India. In that case, I will see that an infantry division is sent up here to preserve the integrity of your boundaries.’ ‘No,’ replied the Maharaja, ‘I don’t wish to join India either.

I wish to be independent.´ So history proved Maharaja to be on the right and his tough stance for staying independent would have changed the course of history saving thousands of innocent lives. Unfortunately the die was cast to lay the foundation for more than a billion people to nurse a festering wound for decades. A serious dispassionate and objective effort must be made to probe into reasons that led to removal of Sheikh Abdullah from seat of power as interim Prime Minister, on August 9, 1953.

Initially, the intention of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, it is perceived, cannot be doubted as on several occasions he reiterated his declared position to Sheikh Abdullah’s person, people of Kashmir, the international community and more importantly to the United Nations Security Council to grant the right of self determination to the State of Kashmir. To this effect, one of his (Pandit Nehru) several statements can be quoted to reveal his intention as on July 6, 1951 he said: “People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future”.

The umbilical cord tightly in place of two bosom friends was smashed to smithereens and again it is vitally important to probe into the reasons creating a breach of trust and parting of ways. The history of Kashmir had to be re-written and the caucus of Kashmiri bureaucratic elite surrounded Pandit Nehru to remind him of imaginary threat to 4% Kashmiri Brahmans from Muslim majority Kashmir. The group succeeded to inveigle Pandit Ji in believing a far fetched possibility; though Kashmir, all along, had been peaceful under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah with a popular slogan on every Kashmiri Muslims lips “SHERI KASHMIR KA KYA IRSHAD HINDU MUSLIM SIKH ITIHAD” (Sheikh Abdullah’s avowed slogan, unity of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) compared to whatever on the day was happening beyond Udhampur in Jammu Province.

In the spring of 1953, Pandit Nehru was made to believe that Sheikh Abdullah was playing with the idea of creating an independent sovereign nation of Kashmir as he met visiting US Democrat leader Adlai Stevenson and if that happened 4% fellow Kashmiris either would have the option to migrate to India or get annihilated. And charging him (Nehru) up emotionally was reminded of his ancestral heritage and culture of his forefathers that eventually would become a history.

Pandit Ji fell into a trap and took a somersault to hatch a conspiracy of sedition and treason against Sheikh Abdullah which became a turning point forcing Indian establishment to resort to schemes or intrigues deciding future of Kashmir relations as per the whims, wishes and directions of this elite group. Sheikh Abdullah, a towering personality, a crowed puller, a political messiah of Kashmiri masses was sidelined and replaced by poodles and puppets kept in power through rigged elections and each time deployment of army to conduct such elections meant more deaths.

To describe August 9, 1953 action taken by Pandit Nehru at the behest of elite privileged Kashmiri group, Dr. Karan Singh, the Yuvraj (Crown Prince) of Maharaja Hari Singh says: “The history of the Indian sub- continent would have been "different" if the then Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah had come to an agreement on the State soon after accession”. “Hari Singh had maintained a "dignified silence" over the events that took place in late 1940s and his "one statement could have deeply embarrassed the Indian government”. “

Hari Singh had agreed to go to exile after signing the Instrument of Accession agreement with India and Sheikh Abdullah wrote a letter to him saying that despite all happenings "he would be a loyal subject" to him. "Had Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah been able to come to an agreement, the whole history of the sub-continent would have been different. Unfortunately, that did not happen”. “My father was exiled and Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed (as Prime Minister). I dismissed him.

I have to admit," The two arguments that Maharaja signed the Accession and Sheikh Abdullah ratifying it fall like a pack of cards as it did not take, the people at helm, long to exile Maharaja and imprison Sheikh Abdullah. On the day when Sheikh Abdullah was removed, then popular leader of Kashmir, an estimated fifteen hundred people died in indiscriminate firing, crushing uprising with an iron hand put last nail in the coffin of total alienation from India.

The sham elections held for the last sixty five years have always been used to mislead the international community and Kashmiris felt cheated on all occasions and the degree of anger took a leap. Kashmiris believe that these ‘elections’ were rather a need of the successive governments in New Delhi to maintain credibility of India’s democratic values that she has been struggling to uphold.

‘Elections’, even if fair, cannot be an alternative for a plebiscite, a referendum or a right of self determination promised and conducted under the supervision of some UN body. Kashmiris believe that wars cannot be a solution as India cannot win the part held by Pakistan nor can Pakistan win the area held by India and Kashmir cannot be held as hostage to the argument that Pakistan should vacate the area occupied or vice-versa as that leads us back to square one.

India and Pakistan have to sit across the table and decide on a modus operandi for such a plebiscite or referendum. Kashmiris plea that everything right or wrong has been tried to put across their point seeking their legitimate rights but nothing seems to work. A lot of blood has already been spilled and a sparsely populated Kashmir cannot afford anymore killings.

Kashmir’s large majority believes that relation with India would not be at a point of no return if Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had allowed politically firm Sheikh Abdullah to continue with developed understanding and refused to succumb to the pressure of the notorious bureaucratic elite group. 1989 saw a violent uprising against India, people of Kashmir taking up arms and the resultant loss of two generations numbering more than one hundred thousand people dead (Indian official figure as sixty thousand dead), hundreds of rapes, thousands disappeared consumed in torture chambers and millions worth of a huge number of properties turned into a mound of rubble.

An even in 2010 changed strategy of people to use stones and bricks that left more than one hundred fifty dead. V M Tarkunde, acclaimed Indian lawyer, civil rights activist, and humanist leader on February 19, 1990 had this to say: “A grant of plebiscite to the people of Kashmir Valley is the obvious solution. If, as a third alternative Kashmir becomes an Independent Democratic and Secular State, its territorial integrity should be guaranteed by India, Pakistan and the UN. That would end the hostility between India and Pakistan and Kashmir will acquire the Status of the Switzerland of Asia.

A Humanist cannot wish for anything better”. Two million people on the roads of Kashmir were asking a question: BAAN KI MOON, WHERE ARE YOU?