J&K: Quest for normalcy amidst external machinations - I
by Kamal Davar on 14 Apr 2017 21 Comments

“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 the ages.

 

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:-   

 

a)     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.

b)    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.

c)     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 Razakars/troops.

d)    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.  

e)     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.  

f)      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 India.

g)     Article 370, which confers some special rights on the state of J&K, was incorporated in the Indian Constitution in 1950.

h)    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.

i)       On 15 Feb 1954, J&K Constituent Assembly with Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed as Chief Minister ratified the state’s Accession to India.

j)       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.

k)     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.

l)       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 terror-sponsoring state.

m)  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.

n)    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.  

o)     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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