A. G. Noorani

From Frontline: “Kak and Sheikh

“A lot about the period between the independence of India on August 15, 1947, and Kashmir’s accession to it on October 26, 1947, is shrouded in mystery. Did Governor-General Mountbatten desire the accession? Was the Sheikh as ardent in the accession as is believed? On two points the three Kashmiris agreed. None wanted its accession to Pakistan. All had a preference for its independence, but for different and complex considerations.”

“Mountbatten’s interview to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre was published in 1984. He said he had reminded the ruler that “the majority of your population are Muslim”, but Hari Singh had replied: “I don’t want to accede to Pakistan on any account…. I don’t want to join India either, because, if so [ sic], I would feel that perhaps that’s not what the people wanted. I want to be independent” (Mountbatten and Independent India, Vikas; page 37). Mountbatten told the authors, “I must tell you honestly, I wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan…. [Sir Cyril] Radcliffe [Chairman of the India-Pakistan Boundary Commission] let us in for an awful lot of trouble by making it possible for them to accede to India”, by awarding to India a part of Gurdaspur, which facilitated the land link to Jammu and Kashmir.”

“In New Delhi in July 1947, Kak met Gandhi, Jinnah and V.P. Menon, whom he found very reasonable. “Mr. Jinnah advised him to accede to Pakistan and stated that Kashmir, by immediate accession, would get far better terms from Pakistan than she was likely to get later. On being told that the State’s decision was definite Mr. Jinnah said that so far as he was concerned, he was prepared to concede that this was an option which could be exercised by the State and so long as the State did not accede to India, he would not mind if it did not accede to Pakistan.”

“On this, too, the record supports him. The brilliant civil servant Hasan Zaheer delved into the archives and found that Jinnah had directed the Muslim Conference leader Chaudhary Hameedullah to support the ruler’s bid for independence, not accession to Pakistan.”

“It is disingenuous to say, as was said subsequently, that Kashmir had the option to accede to either Dominion. It had that option legally and eventually it exercised that option – but where are the captains and kings that exercised the option? The fact is and has to be recognised that India was divided on communal grounds and the only rational course – as the Nawab of Junagarh found to his cost – was for a State if it decided to accede, to assure itself first whether its population would support the accession. This was the principle underlying Lord Mountbatten’s advice, ‘Consider your geographical position, political situation and composition of your population, and then decide.'”

“Shaikh Abdullah said that the present troubles in Poonch, a feudatory of Kashmir, were because of the unwise policy adopted by the State. The people of Poonch who suffered under their local ruler and again under the Kashmir durbar, who was the overlord of the Poonch ruler, had started a people’s movement for the redress of their grievances. It was not communal.”

“The object of Sadiq’s mission was to persuade Pakistan to wait until Sheikh Saheb came over and to negotiate. Sheikh Abdullah sought responsible government and an army so that he could get both countries to accept a semi-independent Kashmir. Jinnah forced Sheikh Saheb to accede to India. On November 1, 1947, in Lahore he rejected Mountbatten’s offer of a plebiscite in all three States, Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad. Jinnah sought to exclude Hyderabad.”

“Even in 1956 Kak firmly held that his concept of Jammu and Kashmir as a State “not politically integrated with either India or Pakistan” was the right solution in 1947.”

“Sheikh Abdullah also never wavered in his beliefs. He told the J&K State People’s Convention on June 8, 1970, “If the overwhelming majority of the Muslims in the State wish to join Pakistan or non-Muslim minorities to link with India it is because both feel apprehensive about their future.” On August 4, 1947, Gandhi said in Srinagar that the issue of accession “should be decided by the will of the Kashmiris.”

“If Jayaprakash Narayan is hailed as India’s conscience-keeper it is because he never hesitated to speak the unpopular truth. He wrote to Nehru (“Dear Bhai”) on May 1, 1956: “May I also take this opportunity of saying a word about Kashmir – merely to put my views before you, without in the least wanting to criticise or influence. From all the information that I have, 95 per cent of Kashmir Muslims do not wish to be or remain Indian citizens. I doubt therefore the wisdom of trying to ‘keep’ people by force where they do not wish to stay.”

“This is the “unique problem” to which Home Minister P. Chidambaram referred on August 6, 2010. It is, however, doubtful if he understands the dimensions of the uniqueness. Kashmir acceded to India only under force majeure.”

“They are not “alienated”; that implies a prior love. They are still unreconciled to the accession in 1947. That is the grim reality of the “uniqueness” of Kashmir. The bunkers and armed presence are offensive, but they are not the cause of the unrest. It is rejection of the Union itself. That is why Kashmiris explode every now and then.”

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One comment

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