Snedden Looks To Set The Record ‘correct’ On Kashmir

Snedden Looks To Set The Record ‘correct’ On Kashmir

3 March 2013
Rising Kashmir
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: Australia’s leading politico-strategic analyst, Christopher Snedden believes that Kashmir’s tallest leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah strongly supported Maharaja Hari Singh’s decision to accede to India, but ethnic Kashmiris were eventually severely disenchanted with New Delhi which led to armed revolt in 1989. He asserts that the 1987 assembly elections proved to the last straw in the entire process of mistrust. Snedden, who specializes in South Asia affairs, recently kicked up a new controversy by saying that the Tribal raid of 1947 was not alone responsible for New Delhi’s military intervention in Jammu and Kashmir. He cites the revolt by state subjects, especially in Poonch, against Maharaja’s rule as a critical factor. Snedden unraveled these ‘facts’ in his recently launched book ‘Kashmir: The Unwritten History’, which deals with the political history of ‘Azad Kashmir’, the area controlled by Pakistan. The book has received some good reviews and is being discussed widely in the academic circles. His consultancy, Asia Calling, works with governments, businesses and universities. Shortly before returning to Australia, Snedden spoke to Rising Kashmir and explained how and why he wrote the book, which in a way exonerates Pakistan. “I cannot help if it does so. But facts are facts,” he said when asked about the revelations bailing out Pakistan on the issue. India has all along held the Tribal raid of 1947 responsible for its military intervention. Citing the newspapers especially Civil and Military Gazette as his main source, Snedden says the uprising in Poonch and the religious violence in Jammu played an important role in dividing the state. “Poonch uprising started on 18 August 1947 against the Maharaja’s rule. It has been mentioned before, but my book offers a lot of detail. Second, there was a lot of inter-religious violence in the Jammu region, and there seemed to be endorsement of Maharaja and his forces to it. The third story is the actual creation of the provisional government of ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ on 24 October 1947,” says Snedden. “The Pukhtoon invasion was ultimately responsible for New Delhi's military intervention in J&K. But the Pukhtoon invasion was NOT the start of all of the violence in J&K as India indicates, and in which claim Pakistan has acquiesced.” The author blames Jawahar Lal Nehru for keeping Poonch uprising under wraps saying “it strengthened India's case vis-a-vis Pakistan and it enabled them to say that the Pukhtoons instigated the Kashmir dispute, not the state subjects”. When asked why a book on the other part of Kashmir, he says, “There has really been no book dedicated to telling the story of ‘Azad Kashmir’ since 1947. This is to correct the record about events in J&K before the Pukhtoon invasion and to provide information about a region about which we know very little.” Maintaining that large number of Muslims (in lakhs) were either killed or hounded out of Jammu during November massacres, the author says that before that also there was serious inter-religious violence in Jammu Province and this before the Maharaja acceded to India as well as after. Snedden acknowledges that the Tribal invasion was significant, “but the violence committed in Kashmir Province was far less than in Jammu Province”. He also confirms that there was a massacre in Muzaffarabad in which Sikhs and Hindus were killed. “I do not know the exact number,” he says when asked about the death count. On the killings in Baramulla, in the event of Tribal raid, Snedden says, “Yes, but again, the violence there was less than in Jammu Province. The only difference was that the violence was poorly reported, unlike the events in Baramulla. Kashmir had a better network of communication so the news could go out, unlike Muzaffarabad and Jammu.” When asked whether the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah was aware about the Tribal raid, he says, “I am not sure. Ian Talbot says no but Andrew Whitehead says yes.” SHEIKH ABDULLAH’S ROLE: On the role of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Snedden says, “I think he knew as some of his writings suggest and he must have shared it with Nehru as well as they were great friends.” Nehru, he said, also wrote to Patel about this. Snedden says that on the question of accession to India, Sheikh fully supported Maharaja Hari Singh. “Once Hari Singh chose India, Abdullah supported the accession to India. He did it because he was a friend and confidant of Nehru; an opponent of J&K joining Pakistan.” Snedden, however, is not sure whether Abdullah facilitated it or not. “He may have,” he shots back. But he also blames Muslim disunity for the division and accession. “That was a major factor. In 1947, there were about 77 percent Muslims. Had they been united, it would have been difficult for the Maharaja to accede the entire state to India.” About Jammu and Kashmir, Snedden says it was an artificially created state with no coherence. “It does not naturally cohere; its people were-are diverse, disparate and disunited; Maharaja's regime held it together with British support in times of trouble.” On the armed revolt in 1989, which has so far consumed thousands of lives, the author says that ethnic Kashmiris were severely disenchanted with India. “The rigged 1987 elections was the last straw.” Snedden also confirmed the support Pakistan gave to militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. “Pakistan has armed, trained and supported the militants.” On a possible solution to Kashmir problem, he says, 'Let the people decide what international status, or statuses, they want via an ongoing people's dialogue that includes representatives from all of the five regions from J&K.” But he says former president of Pakistan, Parvez Musharraf’s four-point formula is vague especially regarding what comprised Kashmir. “The CBMs are a welcome development.” Snedden said he did not directly oppose the idea of ‘independence’. “But it is up to people of J&K to decide whether they want this or not. However, they need to understand the major and serious ramifications of being independent. They also need to understand that the only thing that India and Pakistan agree on in the entire Kashmir dispute is that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can become independent.” The author believes that in case of a Plebiscite, people in Pakistan- administered Kashmir would vote for Pakistan. He is also of the view that “AJK” was free in political sense. “For Azad Kashmiris, Azadi initially meant being free from the Maharaja's control. Since Hari Singh's accession to India, it meant being free from Indian control. Given that India has never ever controlled AJK, in that sense it remains free.” Giving a new twist to the notion of third-party intervention in resolving the issue, Snedden says, “I argue that the third party could be the people of J&K, to which, under the Shimla Agreement, India and Pakistan could devolve the matter for them to try to resolve. This third party, the people of J&K (or J&K-ites, as I call them), are actually the first party to the dispute because they instigated the dispute over J&K's international status before the Maharaja acceded to India”. Snedden’s scholastic urge about Kashmir is yet to end as he has started working on another book. “The new book is currently called ‘Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris,” he said, adding, “It looks at the prestigious region of Kashmir and puts J&K and its diverse people into a broad geo-strategic and historical context to help understanding of the Kashmir dispute.” “I am hoping to provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the Kashmir dispute, why it continues, and what it means politically and administratively for the divided people of J&K and their undecided futures.”