5th DEC 1905 – 8th SEPT 1982 ( SHOT ) SHEIKH ABDULLAH-PRIME MINISTER OF J & K INDIA

  1. Sheikh Abdullah
    Indian statesman
  2. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was an Indian statesman who played a central role in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost Indian state. Wikipedia
  3. Born: December 5, 1905, Srinagar district
  4. Died: September 8, 1982, Srinagar

KAK AND SHEIKH

A.G. NOORANI

A lot about the period between August 15 and October 26, 1947, when Kashmir’s accession to India happened, is shrouded in mystery.

THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Ramchandra Kak, PrimeMinister of Kashmir from June 30, 1945, to August 11, 1947. (Right) Maharaja Hari Singh. For Kak, the “decisive factor” was “the attitude” of the Congress “in regard to the affairs of the State”.“History is about the most cruel of all goddesses, and she leads her triumphal car over heaps of corpses, not only in war, but also in ‘peaceful’ economic development. And we men and women are unfortunately so stupid that we never pluck up courage for real progress unless urged to it by sufferings that seem almost out of proportion.”

– From the letter of February 24, 1893, to Nikolai Danielson in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Correspondence 1846-1895 (1934); page 510.

ALI YAVAR JUNG, the Nizam’s constitutional adviser, wrote in 1949: “If the Ruler of Kashmir had played his cards well and played the game fairly by his people, he might have won for his State a semi-independence recognised by both Dominions and a guarantee by both which might in fact have brought them together in the courtesy of a common system of defence.”

This required three persons to shed their animosities – Maharaja Hari Singh and his Prime Minister Pandit Ramchandra Kak towards Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, and the latter towards the other two. Nehru also disliked the ruler and his Prime Minister.

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. (Nehru really belonged to the United Provinces. His ancestors had left Kashmir a century ago.)

THE HINDU ARCHIVES

JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN NEVER hesitated to speak the unpopular truth. (Below) The portion of his note to Nehru on May 1, 1956, about Kashmir.Among the three, Kak is the least known. He was Prime Minister from June 30, 1945, to August 11, 1947, when he was sacked, arrested and tried on false charges. His pension was withheld by the Sheikh, whose charge that he was pro-Pakistan was false. A humble librarian who rose to become Prime Minister, Kak was a scholar in archaeology and spoke elegant Kashmiri. His talented English wife, Margaret, drew him close to the Europeans in Srinagar. With a colossal ego, he was quick-tempered and had “a very poor opinion of the Kashmiri masses”, Prem Nath Bazaz wrote ( Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir; page 244). In this he was not alone. Kak and his wife bore adversity with great dignity.

In 1956, he wrote a long Note, referring to himself in the third person, entitled “Jammu and Kashmir State in 1946-47: Dilemma of Accession – The Missing Link in the Story”. It lies among the papers of the State’s Police Chief, Richard Powell, in the British Library in London. It sheds much light on that period (R. Powell Papers, Mss. Eur D 862, OIOC).

COURTESY: NEHRU MEMORIAL MUSEUM AND LIBRARY
The issue of accession was raised twice; in 1946 when the British Cabinet Mission came to India and on Independence in 1947. The State’s reply was the same on both occasions. The views of the ruler and his Prime Minister “coincided though not for identical reasons”, adding “particularly insofar as accession after the partition of India was concerned” (emphasis added, throughout). The Note spells out the reason. For Kak, the “decisive factor” was “the attitude” of the Congress “in regard to the affairs of the State”; that is, Nehru’s attitude. Kak had good relations with Vallabhbhai Patel, whom he met three times in Bombay (Mumbai) at his son Dahyabhai’s residence on Marine Drive. Both Patel and Gandhi, who was present once, urged him to release Abdullah from prison. Kak had a tin ear on the subject.

Mountbatten’s advice

He writes: “Lord Mountbatten visited Kashmir in June 1947 with the specific object of getting a decision from the Maharaja to accede. He had a talk with Pandit Kak on that occasion and subsequently in New Delhi in the following month. On both these occasions, he laid emphasis on the admissibility and the advantages accruing from accession. He repeatedly stressed that the States would in no way be adversely affected, that the Rulers would, in the new set-up, have to function as constitutional monarchs.… Pandit Kak asked him point-blank to state as to which Dominion he advised Kashmir to accede. Lord Mountbatten, avoiding the direct reply, said, ‘That is entirely for you to decide. You must consider your geographical position, your political situation and composition of your population and then decide.’”

Kak rejoined: “That means that you advise us to accede to Pakistan. It is not possible for us to do that; and since that is so, we cannot accede to India.” In other words, since Kashmir would not accede to Pakistan, it could not accede to India either.

THE HINDU ARCHIVES

SHEIKH ABDULLAH. KAK’S Note of 1956 reveals the Sheikh’s “overtures” to Jinnah and his real aim – keep out of India as well as Pakistan but be friendly with both.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. (The Times and Trial of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy 1951; Oxford University Press, Karachi; page 70).

In 1946 Kak objected to accession because of Nehru’s attitude “and not to accession pure and simple”. It “ would have been acceptable in other circumstances”. Kak adds: “But when the decision to partition India was taken, his objection to accession, taking no account of Lord Mountbatten’s advice in which accession to Pakistan was implicit, was of a fundamental character.

“Whatever may be said to the contrary, the decision to partition India owed its inception to the state of discord prevailing between the two major communities, Hindus and Muslims. Accordingly, India was divided in such a manner that not merely did the country fall into two parts, but provinces and even districts were divided, the Muslim majority areas going to one side and similar non-Muslim areas to the other…. 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.’

“In the case of Kashmir, with an extensive border running with Pakistan and a population of 76 per cent Muslims, the only safe and possible course, short of acceding to Pakistan, was, in the circumstances then prevailing, to remain outside the arena, or in current phraseology, outside the orbit of power blocs.” But this depended on an India-Pakistan accord on that status.

PTI

OMAR ABDULLAH, JAMMU and Kashmir Chief Minister, and his father,Farooq Abdullah, at a working committee meeting of the NationalConference in Srinagar on July 22.Sheikh Saheb’s perspective

In the section on “Personalities”, Kak gives “full credit” to the Sheikh for keeping Kashmir free from the communal virus. But he makes an assertion that deserves noting. He asserts that “ the overtures which Sheikh Abdullah made in September 1947, to come to an understanding with him, had been turned down by Mr. Jinnah” (paragraph 11, page 11). This indeed was the true object of, first, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and, next, G.M. Sadiq’s mission to Lahore.

The Sheikh never revealed the true objective he had set before his two emissaries. Sadiq’s claim on December 10, 1947, that it was to secure Pakistan’s acceptance of the “democratic rights” of Kashmiris is as absurd as his claim to have met its Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, is false (White Paper on Jammu & Kashmir, Government of India, 1948; page 14).

Sheikh Abdullah was released from prison on September 20. In his memoirs Aatish-e-Chinar (Ali Mohammad & Sons, Srinagar), Sheikh Saheb truthfully mentioned that Sadiq could only meet “second rank leaders” like the Nawab of Mamdot, not the Prime Minister. He sent a message that after his trip to Delhi he would visit Pakistan to present his point of view. But Sadiq had to beat a hasty retreat because the raiders entered Jammu and Kashmir on October 22. Earlier, Bakshi also could only meet the Nawab and Mumtaz Daultana ( Aatish-e-Chinar, page 403).

Surely, Abdullah did not intend to visit Lahore only to preach democracy. It was to offer some assurance to Pakistan. What that could be has never been explored. These envoys were sent after Abdullah’s friends in Lahore came to Srinagar to press him to accede to Pakistan; which, of course, he would not. They were Mian Iftikharuddin, Mohammad Deen Taseer and Sheikh Sadiq Hasan (Mohammad Yusuf Saraf; Kashmiris’ Fight for Freedom; Feroz Sons, Lahore; Volume 2; pages 800-802). He agreed to their suggestion to meet Jinnah in Lahore ( Aatish-e-Chinar; page 395 vide page 405).

Another visitor to Srinagar was A.S.B. Shah, Pakistan’s States Minister, who warned the Frontier’s Chief Minister, Abdul Qayum, on October 18 “that aggression on Kashmir would provoke Hari Singh’s accession to India”, which it did (R.J. Noore; Making the New Commonwealth; Oxford University Press; page 50). Jinnah was fully aware of it. He had heard of it 15 days earlier but preferred not to be told much. “Don’t tell me anything about it” ( ibid. page 51). Tacit consent was not concealed. The word “deniability” was coined later in the Reagan era.

It wrecked Sheikh Abdullah’s plan. To understand its objective one must consult the record. On October 4, 1947, Dwarkanath Kachru wrote to Nehru from Srinagar, “Sheikh Saheb and his close associates have decided for the Indian Union. But this decision has not been announced yet and the impression is being given that so far the National Conference have taken no decision” (Durga Das (ed.); Sardar Patel’s Correspondence 1945-50; Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad; page 54). Clearly, Kachru was aware that (a) it would be an unpopular decision and (b) the people had to be prepared for it. Since Sadiq was sent after this “decision”, was Abdullah practising deceit on Pakistan? Or, was it on India? One suspects neither. Kachru was perhaps too zealous by half. For, in New Delhi on October 21, Sheikh Saheb publicly ventilated his reservations on accession to either in an interview to the Associated Press of India, the Press Trust of India’s ancestor:

“Shaikh Abdullah, leader of the National Conference of Kashmir, speaking at an ‘At Home’ given in his honour today touched upon the question of Kashmir’s accession and said that so far as Pakistan was concerned they were very keen on her accession. For, due to the strategic position that the State held, if the State joined the Indian Dominion, he thought Pakistan would be completely encircled.” This was not the language of one who plotted to accede to India. He showed understanding for Pakistan.

He added: “Explaining the difficulties with which the people were beset in making up their minds without responsible government, Shaikh Abdullah said that the happenings in certain States such as Patiala, Bharatpur, Kapurthala and elsewhere had naturally caused apprehensions in the minds of the Muslims in Kashmir, who formed the majority of the population. They were afraid that the State’s accession to India portended danger to them. Similarly, the Sikhs and Hindus of the State were apprehensive of Kashmir joining Pakistan.

“The Kashmir leader said that the problem could only be solved by the grant of complete responsible government, including the nationalisation of the State Army, which was now closed to the people of the Kashmir Valley.

“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.

Swami’s influence

Initially, Hari Singh was liberal and free from religious prejudices, but he came under the sway of Swami Sant Dev. When Nehru came to Kashmir for the second time in 1946, he visited him, “an old friend” ( Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, First Series, Volume 15; page 418).

Kak writes: “The Maharaja believed that after the departure of the British from India, he would through the potency of the Swami’s supernatural powers, be able to extend his territory and rule over a much larger dominion than that already comprised in the Jammu and Kashmir State. A good deal of propaganda was being carried on in the State and in the Punjab, about the formation of what some people then called Dogristan, in which it was hoped to include, besides the Jammu and Kashmir State, the districts of Kangra and the States and areas now mostly included in Himachal Pradesh.” Kak was not forgiven for administering a “cold douche” to the idea. The Swami was pro-Congress and launched a parallel diplomatic channel. Kak recorded these developments in detail in a note he submitted to Hari Singh on July 30, 1947, which he has reproduced in full in his Note of 1956. The Swami parted company with Hari Singh when they left Srinagar for Jammu.

Kak’s version on this episode also is corroborated, this time, by Karan Singh in his autobiography, Heir Apparent (Oxford University Press; page 37):

“A strange development took place in our household. A certain Swami Sant Dev, who had lived in the State decades earlier in the time of the late ruler, Maharaja Pratap Singh, and was reported to have been banished by my father when he ascended the throne, staged a mysterious comeback.… My father was far from being a religious man, but to everyone’s amazement he suddenly became a devout disciple of Swamiji, sitting for long periods on the ground before him and never smoking in his presence.

“It was in the political sphere that Swamiji’s influence proved to be disastrous. As with many of the larger Indian States, the prospect of becoming an independent ruler after the British withdrawal was an alluring one for my father…. It was on this feudal ambition that Swamiji astutely played, planting in my father’s mind visions of an extended kingdom sweeping down to Lahore itself, where our ancestor Maharaja Gulab Singh and his brothers Raja Dhian Singh and Raja Suchet Singh had played such a crucial role a century earlier. There is also some reason to believe that Swamiji was in touch with some of the Congress leaders, and that Acharya Kriplani’s visit to the State early in 1947 was a direct result of his intervention.” Among the busybodies was Col. B.M. Kaul, who won fame during the 1962 war. In a letter to Stafford Cripps on October 16, 1948, Margaret Kak confirmed the plans for “a confederation of Himalayan States” with Jammu and Kashmir as its “nucleus” ( Jinnah Papers, Vol. IV, page 516). 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 (Pyarelal; Mahatma Gandhi – The Last Phase; Navajivan Publishing House; page 355).

Unpopular truth

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 cannot but have serious long-term political consequences, though immediately it may suit policy and please public opinion. From the point of view of the desirability of establishing a peaceful social order, it cannot but prove disastrous. I do earnestly wish that this question be considered more from a human, rather than a nationalist, point of view” (Bimal Prasad; Selected Works of Jayaprakash Narayan, 1954-60; Vol. 7; page 115).

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. It negotiated for five months in 1949 the terms of its membership of the Union under the new Constitution only to find the agreed Compact (embodied in Article 370 of the Constitution) wrecked totally in the years that followed. In 1964 Nehru used the word “eroded” as if it was a natural element “eroded” by time. It was wrecked by his arrest of the Sheikh on August 9, 1953, on false grounds.

Chidambaram acknowledges the “unique circumstances” of the accession; a “unique problem” requires a “unique solution”. Inspiring words these, as also the emphasis on “political process”. But what precisely has the government to offer politically and constitutionally? It knows the demands of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (N.C.) as also those of the two Hurriyats. What has India to offer? Will the government have the courage and the clout to carry it out over the Bharatiya Janata Party’s opposition? One may be forgiven for wondering whether the United Progressive Alliance is not a bit too eager to keep the BJP in good humour. In this it will fail.

But his ready acceptance of the BJP’s views on the role of Pakistan in the present crisis, and on the so-called shift of strategy by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and on the Laskhar-e-Taiba’s (LeT’s) hand (June 30) is disquieting. August 6 was not the first time Geelani spoke as he did. He had expressed the same views a fortnight earlier, on July 23, in even stronger language. It was ignored by New Delhi. He even asked the boys not to shout inflammatory slogans. Stones were being hurled “on ambulances, local transport and people”.

On August 4, 2010, the State government conceded the people’s fundamental right to march in procession. On August 11, it put Geelani under house arrest to prevent him from leading a march to Pampore. Even funeral processions and religious processions were broken up. To L.K. Advani, the separatists’ “strategy is to convince the world about the so-called justness of Kashmir’s cause”. This implies that (a) the protests by the youth and the women are organised by separatists, and (b) they have no right “to convince” others about the justness of their cause, a right every protester has in a democracy.

This touches a raw nerve in New Delhi. Use of guns it can deal with; but what is one to say of bespectacled middle-aged women throwing stones? Remember they are the very women who rushed to the windows and sobbed as funeral processions of slain militants passed by. Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai attacked the PDP in the now-famous interview. On August 3, in an off-the-record briefing, he (“a senior official”) suggested that “Delhi needed to send a strong message to the PDP if the situation had to be brought under control” ( The Times of India, August 4).

Impliedly Delhi’s interests and those of the Abdullahs are identical. The N.C.’s president Farooq Abdullah revived the old tune on which he flourished. He asked “all parties to support him [Omar Abdullah] unequivocably. Otherwise, I fear, Kashmir would be a lost cause” ( Indian Express, August 5). The State’s membership of the Union does not depend on this dynasty. As Chief Minister, Omar is an egregious failure. But the two behave as if New Delhi owes them a living for keeping Kashmir in India.

This is what Omar said of Farooq on June 21, 2002, on the eve of the Assembly elections: “Whenever you [ sic.] needed him to go and defend your human rights record, even when human rights were at their worst in early ’90s, he went, to Geneva, Vienna and the U.N. and did the best he could. Even the human rights record was not worth the paper it was written on. To expect that man will accept anything you throw at him like some sort of a grateful dog waiting for some scrap is to add salt to the wounds you [the Centre] inflicted” ( Indian Express, June 22, 2002).

These remarks are damning and also revealing. They tell you as much about Omar as about Farooq. Rather than stand by his people, “that man” went the world over to defend the wrongs inflicted on them. In return, he expected a reward – and Omar approves of this style of politics. What can the people expect of men with such an outlook, “carpetbaggers” in the strict dictionary meaning, who support whoever is in power, the BJP or the Congress; the Bakshi Ghulam Mohammads of the 21st century.

The people resent the installation of an unrepresentative government with Central help. As Churchill said in the House of Commons on June 2, 1931, “No Government which is in a large minority in the country, even though it possesses a working majority in the House of Commons, can have the necessary power to cope with real problems.” On July 10, Omar admitted, “The troubles erupted in areas where we got very low polling percentage in elections, where voting was less than 20 per cent even in the 2008 election that was considered a major success.” This is a reference to the eight constituencies in Srinagar district, all won by his National Conference by “external” aid. On the strength of these eight, he formed a coalition with the Congress. In a House of 85 seats, the N.C. won 28, Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP 21 and the Congress 16. In the Valley itself, if the eight are excluded, the N.C. won 12 and the PDP 19. Omar was nominated by the Centre.

Relevance of Kak’s Note

Therein lies the relevance of Kak’s Note. It reveals Sheikh Abdullah’s “overtures” to Jinnah and his real aim – keep out of India as well as Pakistan but be friendly with both. He knew that, contrary to the confident plans being made by Nehru, Patel and, later, Hari Singh, even before the tribal raid, accession to India would be opposed violently by Kashmiris and would split his own party and even his extended family. That is why Abdullah sent two emissaries to Lahore, desperately, one after another. The tribal raid forced him to accede to India. A little over a mere three months later, on February 21, 1948, he revived his original plan, for accord between India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir’s non-accession, in a talk with the British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations Patrick-Gordon Walker, at Nehru’s house with his full knowledge, and on April 14, 1949, in an interview to Michael Davidson of The Scotsman. “Accession to either side cannot bring peace.” He made no secret of his views.

Kak was not the only one to have a poor opinion of “the Kashmiri masses”. So did Indira Gandhi and Nehru. She wrote to Nehru from Srinagar on May 14, 1948, that “only Sheikh Saheb is confident of winning the polls”. But, they could be won over and “all this political talk will count for nothing… after all the people are concerned with only (one) thing – they want to sell their goods and to have food and salt” (Sonia Gandhi (ed.); Two Alone, Two Together, page 517). The people had no mind and no soul, Nehru repeated this view to Sheikh Abdullah on August 25, 1952: “The common people are primarily interested in a few things – an honest administration and cheap and adequate food” (SWJN, Vol. 19; page 329).

No Kashmiri would say that of his people. It was not love for the people but for the land, in the cold war with Pakistan, which inspired his policy. British Collectors in the districts held similar views during the Raj. TV panellists and anchors and columnists express similar views today.

Before long the Sheikh found himself isolated from the people. He set up a committee to devise a final settlement between India and Pakistan. As late as on June 9, 1953, Bakshi and Sadiq supported plebiscite for the Valley. By then, of course, they were already in touch with Nehru, who panicked and arrested the Sheikh on false charges, on August 9, 1953.

Abdullah disclosed on June 8, 1970, “The final break in our relations came in 1953 when Pt. Jawaharlal suggested that I should get the accession ratified by the Kashmir Constituent Assembly…. This led to my removal from the premiership of the State and long imprisonment without trial. I must admit that I was wrong in placing my trust so completely on the solemn pledges given and agreements arrived at with the leadership of India.”

In 1949 an agreed Article 370 was unilaterally changed; in 1953, Sheikh Abdullah was ousted from power; and in 1965 the Delhi Agreement of 1952 was broken by substituting a Governor for the Sadar-e-Riyasat. Article 370 was systematically reduced to a husk thereafter. The force majeure of Pakistani aggression in 1947 prompted accession to India; force majeure of fraud and might prompted the accord with Indira Gandhi in 1975.

The reality

The past lingers to this day in the people’s minds. Their historical narrative differs from India’s.

But unlike the Nagas, Kashmiris lack the clout. They can be taken for granted. Trust M.S. Prabhakara to speak the unpleasant truth. “The impression is inescapable that more than any objective assessment of the genuineness of grievance, it is the strength and weaknesses of a rebel outfit that influences the government’s response to its offers of talks” ( The Hindu, July 16, 2010).

The guns of 1990 could be met, but the massive spontaneous street protests of 2010 are hard to combat – except by killings. Even the State police protests at the CRPF’s shootings ( Indian Express; August 14, 2010). Rhetoric abounds, cloaked in language of denial. It has sustained Indian delusions and discourse on Kashmir. Kak’s Note shows the unique circumstances of Kashmir’s accession. They did not desire accession to India in 1947. 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.

There is another truth, however. History did not stop in 1947. Pakistan’s aggression in 1965 silenced liberals like JP who, however, continued to plead for conciliation while ruling out a plebiscite. We have to reconcile the people’s sentiment with this reality. Ghulam Rasool Kar has spent a lifetime in the service of the Congress. He proudly proclaimed, “Every Kashmiri is emotionally attached to Pakistan whether they are in Congress or National Conference” ( Kashmir Life, May 22, 2010).

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s TV address on August 10 was marked by sincerity. But he needs to pursue his dialogue with Kashmiris and with Pakistan with greater vigour and sense of purpose, take concrete steps immediately to alleviate a grim situation, heal the wounds of a hapless people, and make sad memories recede from their minds; they can, alas, never be erased.

The BJP and some in the Congress are certain to obstruct the Prime Minister. As Abdullah repeatedly reminded Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, he was a member of the Cabinet which sponsored Article 370. Having founded the Jana Sangh in October 1951, he began looking for issues and hit upon Kashmir.

Nehru retorted at a rally in Kolkata on New Year’s Day 1952: “If tomorrow Sheikh Abdullah wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan, neither I nor all the forces of India would be able to stop it because if the leader decides, it will happen. So what the Jan Sangh and the Swayamsewak Sangh are doing is to play into the hands of Pakistan…. Just imagine what would have happened in Kashmir if the Jan Sangh or any other communal party had been at the helm of affairs. The people of Kashmir say that they are fed up with this communalism. Why should they live in a country where the Jan Sangh and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are constantly beleaguering them? They will go elsewhere and they will not stay with us” (SWJN, Vol. 17; pages 77-78).

The BJP cannot be conciliated. It must be fought. Year 1965 is a good argument vis-a-vis Pakistan. But Kashmiris are entitled to remind us of Nehru’s assurance on October 25, 1947: “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India…. The question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people” (White Paper, page 45).

It is a painful dilemma. Kashmiri aspirations for azadi can neither be suppressed nor conceded – in its extreme form; like the Kurds and others. The only practical solution is maximum self-rule within India and Pakistan for both parts of Jammu and Kashmir with the consent of the people and an accord with Pakistan which provides for demilitarisation, irrelevance of the Line of Control and a joint mechanism. The real test before the Prime Minister is to give concrete and acceptable shape to such a proposal.

The state of denial and distrust of Kashmiris must be shed. The depth of Kashmir’s “uniqueness” must be fathomed if we are to arrive at a settlement. Home Minister Chidambaram brings to his job a fresh outlook and has the intellectual capacity and courage to grapple with the complexities of the Kashmir problem. He does not have much time to lose.

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      1. Sheikh Abdullah
        Indian statesman
      2. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was an Indian statesman who played a central role in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost Indian state. Wikipedia
      3. Born: December 5, 1905, Srinagar district
      4. Died: September 8, 1982, Srinagar
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