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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Kashmir: India’s last card? – Dr Farid A Malik

Dr Farid A Malik |

The Prime Minister (PM) is right in saying that by invoking Article 370 of which 35A is a part of the constitution, India has played the last card on Kashmir. Unlike the Nehru family-led Indian National Congress (INC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to settle Kashmir as they desire to build a Hindu State. Belonging to the Pundit’s community of Kashmir, the Nehru’s have been emotionally attached to their land of birth. They wanted to hold on to it at all costs by popping pacifiers and lollipops to the Kashmiri leadership on a needed basis.

Currently, the UN Security Council is debating the issue after a lapse of 50 years. In 1947 Sheikh Abdullah the most popular leader of times also called Sher-e-Kashmir held parleys with the Quaid to ascertain the status of his state in Pakistan. Being ruled by a Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh the Kashmiri freedom struggle was much older than the Movement for Pakistan. Due to the atrocities of the Hindu Raj there was regular migration of Muslim population to the bordering Punjab Province.

The PM is right in saying that by invoking Article 370 of which 35A is a part of the constitution, India has played the last card on Kashmir.

In the later part of the nineteenth century, my mother’s family moved to Lahore from outside Srinagar while my father’s side moved from Baramulla to Ludhiana, East Punjab. Kashmir is a land of peace having fertile minds who continue to dominate both India and Pakistan. The poet of the East Dr. Muhammad Iqbal Lahore also hailed from the valley and so did Saadat Hasan Manto, Dr Khalifa Abdul Hakim to name a few. Even the currently disgraced Sharif family claims to have Kashmiri roots to attract the huge Kashmir vote in the city.

There were conflicting interests, while Jinnah wanted the Muslims of India united under one flag, Abdullah wanted an agreement on autonomy for his state. Nehru took advantage of the situation and agreed on complete autonomy with separate flag and constitution for the state under which Abdullah was sworn in as Prime Minister not Chief minister as in other provinces of the Union.

Read more: India won’t get an inch of Kashmir; Indian forces fail at Kashmir’s Gaza

The article of accession was signed on October 14, 1947 by the Maharaja which was conditional under Article 370 except for foreign affairs, defence and commerce the state was totally autonomous. The pundits went a step further, they forced a law under which non-Kashmiris could not own property in the state. As PM when Abdullah tried to roar like a Sher (Lion) he was dismissed and caged.

Kashmiri leaders who opposed accession left the state. Sardar Ibrahim Khan as head of the Muslim Conference became President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) who was then followed by K. H. Khurshid who formed his Liberation League. Ghulam Abbas settled in Abbottabad. The Kashmiri political heavyweights wanted to lead the crusade for Kashmir but were denied their due status. Suharwardy as PM of Pakistan came close to freedom for the valley in return for a US base but his efforts were thwarted.

Kashmir is a land of peace having fertile minds who continue to dominate both India and Pakistan.

The first dictator provided the base but compromised on Kashmir. Gilgit Baltistan revolted at the time of partition and gained freedom. Today the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) comprises of the valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Out of the total 45 tehsils/communities in Kashmir, 35 have Muslim majority, 9 Hindu and 1 Buddhist. Hindus are in majority in Samba, Udhampur, Bhaderwah, Akhnoor, Jammu, Ramnagar, Basoli, Jaesergarh and Kathua, Ladakh is 88% Buddhist and 12 percent Muslims, it has now been separated from Kashmir and made a part of the Indian Union.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two directly (1948, 1965) for the liberation of Kashmir while one was indirect (1971) after which East Pakistan became Bangladesh. In order to hold on to the land of his forefathers, it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who went to the United Nation to plead for peace. In return, he promised to hold a plebiscite to determine the future of the state.

Read more: US Lawmakers demand India to ensure transparency in Kashmir

Pakistan had several opportunities to take over Kashmir. In 1948 the ceasefire for the plebiscite was not honoured. The 1965 effort was ill-planned and ill-conceived resulting in unnecessary delays due to change of command. During 1962 Indo-China war it was a walkover but Ayub Khan shied away on the promise of a peaceful settlement by USA. After the Indian mauling by China, Abdullah was released from prison.

He travelled to Pakistan to meet the leadership, also came to Lahore where he had a bunglow off Lawrence Road towards Mason Road. Accompanying my father, I had the chance to meet him. In private he admitted the blunder he had committed but insisted that it was not a betrayal of his people. Both countries were moving towards a dialogue when Nehru suddenly passed away and Lal Bahadur Shastri became the PM. Shastri lacked the political standing to settle the long-standing dispute.

The Kashmiri political heavyweights wanted to lead the crusade for Kashmir but were denied their due status.

The 1965 war was out of frustration for which wrong assumptions were made. On the verge of losing Kashmir, India opened international borders which were totally unprotected. Lahore, Sialkot was saved by the bravery of Junior officers while the high command was clueless. In the seventies, Bhutto proposed the idea of porous borders and joint supervision mechanism while the Kashmiris were allowed to govern themselves for a period of ten years.

Read more: Genocide Watch issues Genocide alert for Indian Occupied Kashmir

The great statesmen Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted to settle the dispute through dialogue. He travelled to Lahore as a part of Bus Diplomacy. His famous words were, “we will avoid war at all costs” Then Musharraf proposed the four confidence-building measures that included: Demilitarization, No change of borders, Self-governance, Joint Supervision Mechanism. He then travelled to Agra to negotiate peace with Vajpayee. Successful parleys were held but the peace agreement could not be signed.

It is time to settle Kashmir this was the title of my article published in the Nation of July 13, 2001, on the eve of Musharraf’s visit to Agra. In 1965 the war was started in frustration. Now that Modi has played his last card, a resolution may be attainable. I remain optimistic that finally we the Kashmiris may win freedom in our lifetime. We should give peace a chance before Jihad-e-Azadi for Kashmir becomes inevitable resulting in loss of human life and material.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.