Bitter realities of political history of J&K
by Bhim Singh on 06 Feb 2010 5 Comments

The political history of Jammu & Kashmir since 1947 has been a time of tempests and tides affecting the political climate and economic growth of the entire country. The bitter memories of the situation in J&K have disturbed peace on the international borders with Pakistan and China, and, of course, along the so-called ceasefire line which divides the geographical boundaries of J&K.

 

The 84,000 sq. miles territory of J&K comprises the regions of Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan-Kashmir Valley and Jammu, each region having a distinct and distinguished linguistic, cultural and geographical identity. The kingdom of J&K came into existence following a unique Treaty of Amritsar in 1846 between the Maharaja of Jammu, Shri Gulab Singh Dogra, and the East India Company. Kashmir Valley was a province of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s kingdom of Punjab.

 

The Sikhs led by Maharaja Dalip Singh lost battle with the East India Company, which imposed a compensation of Rs one crore on the Punjab kingdom, which it could not pay. Maharaja Gulab Singh agreed to pay these so-called damages to the East India Company, as a result of which Kashmir province was transferred to the newly founded state of Jammu-Ladakh. The Dogra General Zorawar Singh (I am proud to say he was my ancestor) annexed Baltistan (Askardu and Siachin), present Ladakh region including Kargil, to the Dogra State of Jammu by 1841. He died in the battle on the outskirts of Lhasa with 2000 Dogra soldiers.

 

The Dogras ruled Jammu & Kashmir for nearly 100 years (1846 to 1947). During their rule, 20 civilians were killed by police; Maharaja Hari Singh appointed an Enquiry Commission and punished the guilty policemen.

 

The concept of State Subject was introduced by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927, which is still the law in Jammu and Kashmir. It was because of this law that the identity and property of State Subjects of J&K has remained intact. The Dogra rulers introduced the Ranbir Penal Code and other legal reforms. Maharaja Hari Singh declared his religion as justice and opened all public places, including temples, for the depressed classes in 1931. He established a High Court with writ jurisdictions in 1928 and introduced a parliamentary system in 1934. As a representative of Indian Princely States, he declared in the Roundtable Conference in London in 1931, “I am an Indian first and then a Maharaja.” The British didn’t like that.

 

The National Conference backed by the Indian National Congress started a ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign demanding Dogras vacate Kashmir. The bitterness started when the administration of Maharaja Hari Singh stopped the entry of Prime Minister-in-waiting Jawaharlal Nehru into Jammu & Kashmir at Kohala Bridge (between Rawalpindi and Muzaffarabad). Mr. Nehru was detained by the police and freed at the intervention of Lord Mountbatten and flown to Delhi. Nehru could not forget this ‘insult’ and Maharaja Hari Singh didn’t yield an inch.

 

Maharaja Hari Singh didn’t sign the Instrument of Accession by 14 August 1947, the cut-off date for the princes to decide the status of their respective states. Instead, Maharaja signed a postal agreement with the Government of Pakistan on 16 August 1947. India didn’t react.

 

Raiders from Pakistan invaded Jammu & Kashmir from Poonch and Muzaffarabad sector on 21/22 October 1947. Nearly 12000 soldiers, mostly Dogras, lost their lives defending the state. India refused to provide military help to the Maharaja’s government unless he signed the Instrument of Accession. Maharaja Hari Singh was persuaded by Mr. V.P. Menon, then Union Home Secretary, to drive down to Jammu from Srinagar to sign the Instrument of Accession. Maharaja Hari Singh drove to Jammu on 25/26, accompanied by a couple of ADCs, the Maharani, and Yuvraj Karan Singh.

 

He signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947, which could only be signed by the then Governor-General of India on 27 October 1947. The bitter memories of three lines inserted on a blank sheet along the Instrument of Accession by Lord Mountbatten continue to haunt us to this day - that the Accession shall be referred to the people after normalcy was restored in J&K. The authority of the Maharaja was questioned in these lines. Of course, it was Nehru’s anger against Maharaja Hari Singh that gifted us this poison legacy.

 

The Indian army reached before noon on 27 October 1947. The great Dogra soldier, Brig. Rajinder Singh with a few dozen Dogra soldiers stopped the invaders near Uri in Baramulla District on the night between 26/27 October. He was perhaps the only Chief of Army Staff who died in action in defence of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

 

General Cariappa, Indian Army chief, was all set to liberate the entire POK from Baramulla to Muzaffarabad when India filed an application before the United Nations in spite of bitter opposition from Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel. The UN declared ceasefire and nearly 32,500 sq. miles of Indian territory continues under illegal occupation of Pakistan to this day.

 

Why did India go to the United Nations? Why didn’t India liberate the Muzaffarabad sector, I asked Lord Mountbatten when I met him in Surrey, England, in 1970. These questions keep haunting me and all patriots who stand by the resolution of the Parliament of India, 1994, seeking liberation of all occupied territories from Pakistan.

 

In 1950, when the Constitution was promulgated on 26 January, Article 370 was inserted as a temporary provision at the instance of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Its purpose was only to reduce or dilute the constitutional authority of Maharaja Hari Singh who continued to be monarch, and had acceded the State of Jammu & Kashmir in respect of defence, foreign affairs, communication, currency etc, to the Union of India.

 

Article 370 debarred the Indian Parliament from making any law in respect of these subjects also. Parliament vested temporary power in the President of India to make laws on these subjects in Jammu & Kashmir, after seeking concurrence or consultation with the Council of Ministers in J&K appointed by a person whom President of India recognizes as Maharaja of J&K. thus, for 60 years, the President of India has been acting as Viceroy vis-à-vis Jammu & Kashmir.

 

The monarchy ended in J&K with a resolution of the Constituent Assembly moved by Mr. DP Dhar on 20 August 1952. Article 370 is not only irrelevant but totally violative of the spirit and letter of the Constitution of India. There is no person in Jammu & Kashmir who is recognized as a Maharaja. Does this mean that all Presidential Orders flashed by Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, are void or invalid?

 

The entire State of J&K is victim of the bitter memories of 1953, 1975, 1983, 1987, and so on. An elected Prime Minister of J&K was dismissed in 1953. His successor, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, was unceremoniously removed from office in 1964. In 1975, Sheikh Abdullah accepted the office of Chief Minister following the Indira-Sheikh Accord in 1975. The Sheikh was appointed Chief Minister even though he was not an MLA. In 1984, Dr. Farooq Abdullah was ousted and his brother-in-law GM Shah installed as Chief Minister.

 

The issues projected by the secessionists and agencies working against national interests have not been defined in specific terms. Some political parties are clamouring for talks with Pakistan to settle the Jammu & Kashmir problem. But what is this problem which needs to be settled with Pakistan?

 

I believe, as rightly stated by the Parliament of India in its unanimous resolution of 1994, that the only issue vis-à-vis Jammu & Kashmir with Pakistan is the liberation of POK from Pakistan – that is, nearly 32,000 sq. miles of territory comprising Gilgit, Chitral, Baltistan, Muzaffarabad and adjoining areas which Pakistan has named ‘Azad Kashmir’. This includes nearly 5000 sq. miles along Karakoram Highway which was transferred by Pakistan to China in 1963. This is the only problem which needs to be settled, or peace is not feasible.

 

We have fought three wars with Pakistan. In 1947 we had every opportunity to liberate all the areas seized by Pakistan, but we let Pakistan occupy Mirpur area which was part of Jammu District, on 25 November 1947, that is, 28 days after the arrival of Indian Army in J&K. Why did we allow this?

 

Similarly, Gilgit and Baltistan were within the command of Governor, Brig. Ghansara Singh till 16 November 1947. How and why we failed to protect this region when our armies were already in J&K? On the other hand, Pakistan defied the directives and resolutions of UNCIP, 1947, 1948 by invading Mirpur, Kotli, Poonch and other areas in this region and occupied Gilgit, Chitral and Baltistan also after the ceasefire ordered by the UN.

 

Pakistan defied the UNCIP resolutions of January 1948 and August 13, 1948 directing it to withdraw all civilian settlers and armed forces from all occupied areas in Gilgit-Baltistan and so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’. Why was India silent? Pakistan with the help and blessings of the Anglo-American Bloc in the UN worked out the Dixon Plan with the help of other UN agencies to bail out Pakistan from failing to withdraw its armies from the occupied areas, and further backed Pakistan in seeking to dissect J&K on religious lines as envisaged in the Owen Dixon Plan, 1951.

 

Pakistan again invaded J&K in 1965. The victories of Indian Army in Pir Panjal were diluted under the Tashkent Agreement when we returned our territories which we had liberated! Again in 1972 we lost the battle after winning the war by signing the Shimla Agreement without settling the LoC.

 

Pakistan resorted to a new strategy and waged war in J&K by using infiltrators. India showed its magnanimity by initiating confidence building measures with the arrogant leadership of Islamabad which had lost the last battle also.

 

The ruling leadership in J&K has been playing hide and seek with the Central Government and trying to browbeat the Centre by taking the advantage of the situation for two decades.

 

The time has come for India to tell Pakistan to settle the LoC once and for all. As long as Pakistan is devoid of democracy and rule of law there can be no occasion to talk to army dictators or their stooges. In my view, India should make Pakistan resolve the status of LoC; resolution of all other internal issues like autonomy, self-rule or reorganization or Union Territory can follow in due course.

 

The author is Chairman, J&K National Panthers Party; he was a member of the PM’s Working Group on Centre State Relations, headed by Justice (retd) Saghir Ahmed

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