Union Home Minister queering Indian pitch in Kashmir
by Hari Om on 03 Nov 2010 3 Comments
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram will, it appears, never learn any lesson from his past mistakes. This became clear when on Sunday when he visited Kashmir and assured the people of the Valley (read Muslims) that “the promises made to them by New Delhi would be fulfilled and the dialogue process would be resumed to pave way for (political) resolution of Kashmir issue.”


Earlier, the minister had defended the controversial interlocutors on Jammu & Kashmir, viz., Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari (to be fair to latter, he has so far kept his mouth scrupulously shut). The former two made highly outrageous statements in the Valley in the third week of October, including such startling statements that they would recommend an amendment to the Indian Constitution to accommodate the “azadi” demand, and that Pakistan was an intrinsic party to the so-called Kashmir ‘dispute’ – the very word itself causing hackles to rise in nationalist quarters all over the nation. In effect, the loquacious duo virtually offered a trilateral dialogue between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir (read Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis). 


What promises was Chidambaram talking about? New Delhi did NOT make any promise when the princely state acceded to India, or thereafter. It acceded to India in the manner other princely states of India acceded and accession was unconditional. It was only in 1949 that the powers-that-be in New Delhi, specifically Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah of the National Conference, hatched a conspiracy and conferred a special status on Kashmir on grounds of the religious denomination of its majority population.


It is true that the then nominated Governor-General of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten, talked about ascertaining the wishes of the people of state when he accepted the offer of the state’s accession to India on Oct. 27, 1947, but his suggestion was illegal.


The Indian independence Act of 1947 under which India was partitioned in 1947 nowhere provided for what Mountbatten suggested. He had no power whatsoever to put forth such ridiculous anti-India suggestion. Lord Mountbatten also promised a plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir on Nov. 1, 1947, while talking to Mohammad Ali Jinnah at Lahore, but that was an equally illegal commitment. He had no plenipotentiary powers (power to negotiate settlement with foreign countries). He simply overstepped his authority by offering a plebiscite.


It is true that the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru also talked of plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir. But he, like Lord Mountbatten, committed an act of constitutional impropriety. There was no provision in any of the existing statues that could empower either the Governor-General of India or the Prime Minister of India to make such a commitment.


It may be argued that both Mountbatten and Nehru gave a promise to the people of Kashmir, hence it should be honoured. The United Nations’ resolution on Jammu & Kashmir also talked of ascertaining the will of the people of the state to determine its political future. But the resolution was conditional. The UN Resolution said in unambiguous terms that plebiscite would be organized in the state as it existed on August 15, 1947; that the plebiscite would organized be at State level and not region and district-wise; that Pakistan will have to vacate the aggression, withdraw its troops, regular or otherwise, from the occupied areas; that Indian forces would go to the vacated areas and maintain law and order there; and that when peace was established in the region, plebiscite would be organized.


In other words, the UN Resolution implicitly acknowledged that Pakistan was an aggressor and India aggressed upon. But more than that, the UN Resolution acknowledged that India had the sovereign right to reoccupy the illegally-occupied areas whose political future would be decided after Pakistan fulfilled all the conditions attached.


Did Pakistan fulfill the conditions? It did not. Instead, it ceded nearly 5,000 sq. miles of J&K territories in Gilgit-Baltistan region to China in 1963, and illegally merged the whole of Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan. It is a different matter that New Delhi did not do anything to call the Pakistani bluff and isolate Islamabad at the international level by putting things in overall perspective.


Yet Chidambaram talks of promises made by New Delhi to the people of Kashmir. He should inform us what these promises are, who made them, and what did those promises provide for? He should reveal everything so that confusion is cleared and people know the whole truth.


Certainly Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi entered into an agreement with Sheikh Abdullah in 1974-75, the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord of 1975. But that accord was implemented in letter and spirit in 1975 itself, when Congress handed over power to Sheikh Abdullah of the Plebiscite Front on a platter, much against the wishes of the local Congress and people of Jammu, who had never ever liked the Sheikh for reasons not really difficult to understand. The other clauses of the Accord were subsequently given effect to during the time of Sheikh Abdullah himself. Records are there to this effect.


The Union Home Minister would do well to refrain from airing controversial and unsettling views. Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. The State Constitution and the Indian Constitution are clear on this count. Neither the State Constitution nor the Indian Constitution provides the right to secede. There is no authority in the country which can change the basic structure of the Indian Constitution or alter the boundaries of India.


Will Chidambaram rise to the occasion and muster the courage to say what is right and what is wrong? He should remember that India is not the former Soviet Union. The Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics mindlessly included the right to secede. That was one of the reasons for the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s, a point its leadership woke up to rather late in the day.


India is India. It just cannot afford another communal partition.           


The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research               

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