“Most people have concluded long
ago that Pakistan’s Kashmir policy has been hurting Pakistan and Kashmir more
than India” - US political commentator Michael Krepon
April 9, 2017 symbolised in no uncertain terms the worsening situation
in the Valley with nearly 200 acts of violence and eight deaths on that fateful
day. That this violence and vandalism by local Kashmiris occurred during the
conduct of the important by-poll to the Srinagar parliamentary constituency is
indeed a stark pointer to the grave state of affairs which now encompass most
of the Kashmir Valley, particularly since the last 18 months. Though re-polling
has been ordered, with enhanced security measures for Budgam district on 13
April, the ire of the youth, the burning of governmental vehicles, arson in
polling booths and smashing of EVMs, are indicators which Delhi can only ignore
at the peril of the nation’s integrity.
The violent Partition of India, in August 1947, brought forth countless
contentious problems for India and Pakistan. Among the myriad conflicts
afflicting the two neighbours, since then and till date, the most significant
and serious dispute pertains to Jammu & Kashmir. The trajectory of
India-Pak relations is inexorably intertwined with the widely differing
aspirations of these two nations for J&K which had legally acceded to the
Union of India on 27 October 1947.
The enchanting, picturesque and enormously strategic state of J&K
since its amalgamation with India has more often than not displayed an uneasy
co-existence with the liberal, secular and unquestionably generous environs of its
parent nation. That countless innocent citizens, soldiers, policemen and even
some local political leaders have sacrificed their lives to give the restive
state a semblance of peace, progress and, importantly, democracy, will be
stating the obvious. That the chief perpetrator of all violence, terrorism and
public unrest in J&K is neighbouring Pakistan is a universally accepted
fact. Ravaged by Pakistan-inflicted conflict and a few internecine
contradictions within, J&K continues as an illogical and perhaps fatal
obsession for Pakistan. The complicity of the Pakistani state and its non-state
actors in fomenting terrorism all across J&K remains the major factor
afflicting relations between India and Pakistan.
Notwithstanding Pakistan’s proxy war and myriad machinations, the
Indian state has also to ponder seriously that even after nearly 70 years of
accession to the Indian Union, why has Kashmir not emotionally integrated
itself fully into the Indian mainstream? Is the Indian state in some form of
denial as regards the political aspirations and angst of the people of the
Valley - within the framework of Indian integrity - needs serious introspection?
The Kashmiri ethos of Sufism and Kashmiryat is essentially closer to the
multi-plural, inclusive and secular moorings of the Indian state than the
divisive, extremist forms of the Islamic faith, on the ascendant in violence-stricken
and sectarian Pakistan. Mistakenly, Pakistan considers Kashmir as India’s Achilles
Heel but that J&K remains a flashpoint for conflict between the two nuclear
neighbours is also a stark reality.
At the start, let me state unequivocally that as we need to think
“out-of-the-box” for getting the people of Kashmir fully into the national
mainstream notwithstanding Pakistan’s unending mischief, J&K is undeniably not
only the symbol of India’s secularism but its very guarantee. Thus all
governments at the Centre or State, of whatever political hue, need to be single-minded
to work towards Kashmir becoming the bulwark against Pakistan-inspired insurgency
and not make J&K a political slanging match between themselves.
Like most intractable problems, the J&K conundrum also has both an
external and internal dimension to its resolution. Thus, there is a conflict of
Kashmir (external dimension foisted by Pakistan which seeks to win Kashmir by
any means for itself) and the conflict in Kashmir (internal dimension characterized
by Kashmiris not fully and emotionally integrated with the national mainstream).
If the Indian state could rise to the challenges of the latter, the former
dimension will gradually lose relevance!
Post India’s independence, and after the tempestuous accession of
J&K to the Union of India, the state now comprises an area of 1,01,664 sq.
kms (46% of the original kingdom) with Pakistan having occupied 78,114 sq. kms of
Gilgit-Baltistan plus what is called Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) – nearly 39%
of the state, after its invasion of J&K in 1947 till the ceasefire was
declared. Pakistan also illegally ceded in 1963, 5,180 sq. kms to China in the
Shaksgam Valley thus, deviously, making China a party in the J&K dispute.
J&K state within the Indian Union comprises three distinct regions,
namely, Ladakh, the Kashmir Valley and Jammu. For centuries, a multi-religious,
multi-ethnic and multi-lingual civil society has co-existed amicably with the
noble spirit of Sufism, Kashmiriyat (syncretism) enshrining the hallowed
teachings of all faiths - Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism - pervading the
entire state. The ancient Shankaracharya temple, holy Amarnath cave, Mata
Vaishno Devi temple, Hazratbal, Charar-e-Sharif whose Sufi saint Sheikh
Nooruddin was lovingly called Nand Baba or Nand Rishi, the mystic ballads of
the saint Lal Ded (Lalleshwari), historic Buddhist gompas (monasteries) - are
all testimony to the secular and inclusive Kashmiriyat spirit of this region down
Statistically, the Ladakh Division constitutes nearly 58% of the area
of J&K but has only 2.3% of its population with Buddhists and Muslims in
near equal strength. The Srinagar Division comprises only 16% of the area of
J&K but with 54% of the state’s population with the Valley having 97%
Muslims, with a mere 3% being Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. The Jammu Division
spreads over 26% of the state, has 44% of the state’s population and in its
region has over 65% Hindus, 31% Muslims and the remainder being Sikhs and
Buddhists. Overall, in J&K, Muslims constitute the majority with a total
population aggregate of 67%. In addition, the state also has non-Kashmiri Muslim ethnic groups like the Paharis, Sheena,
Gujjars and Bakarwals who inhabit areas around the Line of Control(LC) and have
remained, largely, indifferent to the separatist movement, which has roots
primarily in the Kashmir Valley.
J&K: Significant Benchmarks
Covering the historical facets and various nuances of the Kashmir
conundrum would be rather voluminous, but it is essential that certain
benchmarks since 1947 are recapitulated as relevant for an overall analysis.
Some are briefly enunciated below:-
Prior to the Partition, the British Parliament promulgated the Indian
Independence Act which asked all 562 princely states to choose between either
of the two dominions, India or Pakistan. No other choice, like independence of
any state was to be allowed.
Overall 5000 Pathan tribesmen/Pak army personnel masquerading as
‘Razakars’ invaded J&K in September-October 1947 as Pakistan wanted to
annex J&K by force.
Maharaja Hari Singh, ruler of J&K, signed the Instrument of
Accession on 26 October 1947; accepted by Governor General of India, Lord
Mountbatten on 27 October 1947. Indian troops were immediately flown to
Srinagar airport to save the Valley and drive out the Pakistani
Indian troops stabilised the situation, saving the capital Srinagar and
to some extent pushed back the Pakistani invaders. Reportedly, Sheikh Abdullah
prevailed upon Pt Nehru not to commit the Indian Army in the Gilgit Baltistan
region as its population was not true Kashmiris. Meanwhile, Pt Nehru, on
Mountbatten’s advice, chose to go to the UN on 1 January 1948 on Pakistani
aggression in J&K.
UN adopted two Resolutions on 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949
respectively, providing for a plebiscite to be held by India under UN supervision
but after Pakistan withdraws its troops from J&K and also disbands its Azad
Kashmir forces in the state. The latter conditions have always been glossed
over conveniently by Pakistan in international fora.
The Regent of J&K, Yuvraj Karan Singh, issued a proclamation on 25 November
1949 that legally declared the state’s assimilation to the Constitution of
Article 370, which confers some special rights on the state of J&K,
was incorporated in the Indian Constitution in 1950.
Sheikh Abdullah became the PM of J&K in 1951 after elections to
J&K’s Constituent Assembly were held. However, on grounds of treason, the
Sheikh was arrested in 1953.
On 15 Feb 1954, J&K Constituent Assembly with Bakshi Ghulam
Mohammed as Chief Minister ratified the state’s Accession to India.
After many years in political wilderness, Sheikh Abdullah became the CM
J&K in 1975, signed the landmark Kashmir Accord with then PM Indira Gandhi and
stayed on as CM of the state till his death in 1982. In his last years and
especially after Pakistan’s decisive defeat in the 1971 war with Bangladesh’s
emergence, Kashmir’s tallest leader, Sheikh Abdullah, had come to the
conclusion that J&K’s future was best served with it being a part of India.
The Indira-Sheikh Accord reiterated the accession of the erstwhile princely
state to India as final and the Sheikh dropped the demand for any plebiscite to
determine the final status of J&K. The Accord, however, allowed the
Government of India to impose President’s Rule in the state, if required. As a
sop to the Kashmiris, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was retained but
the Residuary Powers were to remain with the J&K Assembly.
Pakistan gave a fillip to its export of terrorists from its territory
to J&K in a deliberate manner and on a large scale, since the late 1980s, giving
rise to large scale militancy in the state, especially in the Valley.
Pakistan’s failed misadventures in commencing the 1965 war and then
later intrusions in the Kargil region in 1999 were launched to wrest the state
from India. The Kargil intrusions were predominantly aimed to revive the dying
insurgency in J&K and once again bring Kashmir to the international stage.
However, it misfired and Pakistan suffered a great loss in its image internationally
owing to its military defeat in Kargil and having been universally branded as a
Pakistan sponsored insurgency and terrorism in J&K has been akin to
a roller coaster ride, waxing and waning. Currently, there has been a rise in
incidents of the waving of Pakistani flags in the Valley and a new phenomenon -
emergence of the Middle East-based terror outfit Islamic State (IS), whose banners
too have been sporadically seen in Srinagar.
The 2015 elections to the state assembly witnessed a record turnout of
over 65% and after protracted negotiations, for the first time in its history,
a coalition of two ideologically diametrically opposite parties, the People’s
Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) joined hands to
form a coalition government in J&K. The state government uneasily plods on
and has yet to achieve any credible success in governance or in establishing law
and order effectively in the state. The PDP is considered by many in India as
being ‘soft’ on separatists. Meanwhile, the right-wing BJP, which
self-proclaims to be ultra-nationalist, appears to be caving in frequently to
the PDP on state issues, including pertaining to security.
There has been a slight upsurge in the number of terrorist incidents
and fatalities in such incidents this year, especially after July 2016, with
the elimination of Burhan Wani.
(To be concluded…)
Lt Gen Kamal Davar is a military
veteran. The views expressed are personal
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