Kashmir issue: the grassroots
by K N Pandit on 09 Sep 2008 0 Comment

Accession of Jammu & Kashmir State to the Indian Union on 27 October 1947 came about in abnormal conditions. Tribesmen of the North West Frontier Province swept into the valley on Pakistan’s behest, the British and NWFP Governor having drawn a discreet roadmap for the incursion in the early summer of 1947.


Any far-looking historian could predict the unease dogging the accession process, notwithstanding the false aura created by the Nehru-Sheikh camaraderie. Sheikh Abdullah never made a direct request for accession, nor confirmed it anywhere in writing.  Nehru never demanded anything of the sort. There were only verbal commitments, words that could be distorted or misrepresented.


Ever since the accession, three Accords have been signed between the Kashmir leadership and the New Delhi regimes. The Nehru-Sheikh Accord of 1952 happened when Prime Minister Nehru sensed the Sheikh’s ambivalence. He hoped an accord would change the Sheikh’s subtle overtures to the Americans and reassure him of Kashmir’s identity and integrity.  But harsh realities belied the Nehruvian Utopia.


The Indira-Sheikh Accord came about in 1974 when the Sheikh realized that Pakistan’s defeat in the Indo-Pak war of 1971 had blasted his dream of a Kashmir Sultanate.


The Rajiv-Farooq Accord of 1986 came about when Dr. Farooq Abdullah realized that he could not afford to be cold shouldered by New Delhi if he wanted to perpetuate the family rule over Kashmir.


What has been achieved by these Accords?  Have they helped in the integration of J&K State into the Indian Union?


Everybody speaks of the alienation of Kashmiris. When were Kashmiris integrated? Never.  Article 370, special status, three Accords, two constitutions, two flags, special and hefty grants to raise income per capita in the Valley to over  Rs. 9000/- against the national figure of Rs. 860/-, absence of the Indian national flag in the whole Valley except on the civil Secretariat side by side with the State flag, roughing up and manhandling of Central enforcement officials raiding Valley tax evaders, people baring bodies in a public rally in Hazuri Bagh, Srinagar  where Indira Gandhi was to address, raising Pakistani flags when Test cricket was played in Srinagar, and finally ethnic cleansing of the Valley of its 400,000 Hindu religious minority - are these signs of integration?


Nehru had been orchestrating to the world that Kashmir was the symbol of India’s secularism. He never realized the dangers and disaster inherent in this slogan. He had written the death warrant of innocent Kashmiri Pandits. Nationalists contend that accession was on the basis of commonality of political philosophy between the Indian National Congress and the National Conference. If that is true, why the twelve-year long detention and incarceration of Sheikh Abdullah on 9 August 1953? Why the Plebiscite Front and National Conferences’ overt and covert support to secession?


Does a single political leader of substance in the Valley explain the ‘why’ of Accession while addressing election or other rallies? What are their oft-repeated slogans and catchwords - man ki izzat 370, bahan ki izzt 370, hamari izzat 370. People were shown green handkerchiefs and rock salt blocks and told to vote for them – these are symbols for Pakistan.


Why the Resettlement Bill which envisages the return of nearly 300,000 legal or illegal Kashmiris (and others) alleged to have got stranded in Pakistan or PoK after the incursion by the tribesmen in 1947? Most of them were pushed back by the regime of Sheikh Abdullah when it assumed power in October 1947. The Resettlement Bill makes no mention of 700,000 Hindus and Sikhs pushed out from the present PoK.


In the final analysis, the Kashmir leadership must leave aside all other issues and focus on the reasons for the Accession to India and its justification. They must not pander to superfluous issues, economic grievances, or petty political controversies. The People’s Democratic Party leader throughout his three year long tenure spoke of only the “victims of state terrorism and the healing touch.” He never said a word asking terrorists to bid farewell to the gun.


Unless the Kashmir leadership, known for its duplicity,  plays a fair game, comes out in the open to reach the grassroots and tell the people the benefits and rationale behind Accession to India, the alienation in Kashmir will not be reversed.


The writer is former Director, Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University

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