The Roots Of Kashmir Dispute: Putting The Record Straight - Analysis

29 July 2014
Eurasia Review
Dr. Kashinath Pandit

New Delhi: The State of Jammu and Kashmir in the sub-continent is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since 1947. The parties have produced copious documentation in support of their respective claim to the territory. Naturally, conflicting evidence has led to confusion more confounded. In the process, the truth has become a casualty. I was born and brought up in Kashmir. At the time of our ethnic cleansing from Kashmir in 1990, I was 63 years old and I had spent all those years in Kashmir. As such I have been a living witness to so many historical events that shaped in Kashmir during last eight decades beginning with the rising crescendo of anti-Dogra rule movement led by late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the famous stalwart of National Conference. Apart from this supportive qualification, I have been a keen researcher of history and professor in Kashmir University. This always prompted me to put the record straight whenever I felt that history was distorted. Enormous material has been published on Kashmir dispute. I wouldn't want to add more to that corpus. But after reading a piece in one of the recent issues of Eurasia Review on Kashmir, I am instinctively prompted to put down a few words in black and white for those who like to wriggle out of Kashmir juggernaut and understand the roots of the issue in simplest possible words. In the first place unresolved confusion continues on what were the precise rights and powers of the ruling princes of 560 odd princely states of India of the days of British Raj when it was being wound up? The question was who would decide the status of these princely states after the British paramountcy ended? What was the criterion or rationale for the states to join one or the other dominion, who had laid it down, and who observed it either in full or in part? There are claims and counter claims about a certain cognizable set of principles that were supposed to have a bearing on the decision of the rulers. While Governor General Lord Mountbatten stuck to finality of the will of the people, Jinnah said that only the will of the rulers enjoyed finality. In the case of Kashmir, both views were upheld as well as denounced. The source of Kashmir problem lies in Pakistan's unredeemed avarice for Kashmir territory. This is proved by two emphatically unwise acts of Pakistan, which ultimately boomeranged on her. Soon after the transfer of power was brought into effect on August 15, 1947, and princely states were asked to decide their future, the ruler of J&K State offered standstill agreement to both India and Pakistan. While New Delhi wanted clarification of some points, Pakistan accepted the agreement and signed it. But the ink had hardly dried on the agreement document, when Pakistan unilaterally broke it and imposed a blockade of Kashmir. Vitally essential commodities like sugar, salt, tea, atta, rice and medicines ran into acute scarcity putting entire Kashmir valley into the throes of famine. Maharaja Hari Singh can be criticized as well as defended for his protracted indecision on the question of the future of his kingdom. On the negative side, it was more than a year that all heads of the princely states knew that India was on the threshold of independence and they would have to decide their future. Why did not Maharaja Hari Singh take time by forelock but kept on deferring a final decision of the difficult issue? Secondly, was there any time limit to the standstill agreement? Perhaps none, except the generalization in the caveat of 'at the earliest.' He gave time to WW II disbanded soldiers in Sudan, Bagh, Palandhari etc. (now under Pakistan's control) to assemble for fomenting insurgency. On the defensive side, indeed the ruler was literally on the horns of dilemma. Three regions of his state were totally divergent entities in all respects, especially in terms of religion, culture and language. It made a quick decision of the vexed problem very difficult and complicated. Sub-regions and sub-cultures made matters more complicated for the ruler. Kashmir valley population was active in anti-autocracy movement and antagonized against the ruler. Jammu region towed pro-Hindu line, and Ladakh, the predominantly Buddhist region would not want to go to Pakistan. And then there was the widespread agitation launched in the state by stalwarts like Abdullah. His party National Conference was pitted against the Muslim League which projected itself under the mask of Muslim Conference. Sheikh Abdullah was fiercely opposed to the idea of Kashmir leadership going into the hands of non-Kashmiri Muslims of Mirpur or Jammu. This subject has been adequately dealt with by Maharaja Hari Singh in an historical letter he wrote to Sardar V.B Patel in the context of State government ordering detention of Nehru at the border town of Kohala in June 1947 when he was heading towards Srinagar to plead for his friend, the Sheikh's release from jail. The second act that unquestionably proves Pakistan's territorial aggrandizement in Kashmir was the incursion of Kashmir by the tribesmen from its NWFP- present day North Waziristan and Swat-, planned, sponsored, abetted and supported by Pakistan Army in collusion with the leaders of armed tribal bands and the Government of the NWFP and with tacit approval of Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan. In fact when the invading tribesmen were inflicted a crushing defeat in the outskirts of Srinagar airport area around 7 or 8 November 1947, Jinnah wanted the then British Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, General Gracy to make an open attack on Kashmir. The General refused to oblige saying that would mean war with India. One is reminded of Jinnah's cryptic remark that 'Kashmir is in my pocket'. This incursion was meticulously planned. The commander of the invading vanguard Sairab Hayat Khan was mad with rage against the tribesmen under his command because after the fall of Muzaffarabad-the gateway to Kashmir-, the greedy tribesmen indulged in large scale loot, murder and arson of Hindus and Sikhs of the tiny town, which delayed their easy walk over to the capital city of Srinagar just two and half an hour drive after Sairab had liquidated the Dogra platoon at Domel, the confluence of Jhelum and Kishnaganga. These two ill conceived and foolhardy acts of Pakistan are at the root of Kashmir dispute. I am not going into the long and tortuous history that was to follow and continues to bedevil the two countries for many years to come. Pakistan has been reinforcing or rejuvenating its foolhardiness by sparking intermittent wars with India, and currently the proxy war begun in late 1980s. The first fallout of these foolhardy adventures against India is the emergence of Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan, which is out to demolish the country and its entire military establishment and replace it by sharia caliphate. The writer, former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir, India, is a journalist with specialization on Central Asian region. Dr. Kashinath Pandit specialization is in Iranian and Central Asian Studies, which encompasses history, society, culture and languages of Farsi-Dari-Tajik speaking peoples in the region of Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and Northern and North Western Pakistan. From 1970 onwards, Dr. Pandit has collaborated with the Tajik Academy of Science entailing frequent visits to Tajikistan and Central Asian regions in the quest of updated knowledge on current history, politics, regional strategies, society and culture of the people in the entire region. During past fifteen years, Dr. Pandit has participated and presented papers in scores of national and international seminars on a variety of themes, dealing with regional strategies, security issues, terrorism, drug trafficking, cross-border terrorism and human rights issues. Dr. Pandit is a Human Rights Activist at the UN and currently serving as Secretary General of a Delhi-based NGO, Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum with branches in Geneva and Colorado, presently awaiting ECOSOC status.