Jammu & Kashmir: The Hindu Claim
by Mohan Krishen Teng on 17 Dec 2010 16 Comments

The so-called composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, aimed at finding a settlement of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, has so far revolved round two main presumptions: first, that the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim problem confined to the valley of Kashmir, and secondly, a settlement on Jammu and Kashmir must be acceptable to the Muslims of Pakistan and Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir.


A feeling has been allowed to grow in this country and abroad that the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir was never so intractable that an agreement could not have been reached between India and Pakistan, and the sufferings to which Muslims in Kashmir are subjected to mitigated. The presumption that the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir is in its essence a Muslim problem has its basis in the ideological commitments of the Muslim struggle for Pakistan, spearheaded by the All India Muslim League.


The Muslim League claimed Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslim majority composition of its population. In Pakistan, at various levels of public debate on Jammu and Kashmir, the issue is not where Jammu and Kashmir belongs. The issue is how to bring the unification of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. The people of Pakistan do not entertain any doubt about the legitimacy of their territorial claim on Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslim majority composition of its population. They insist upon a settlement on Jammu and Kashmir which is acceptable to them as well as to Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir.


The claim that Pakistan has made, that the unification of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan was an essential condition for completion of the Partition of India is a primary misnomer. That it was never contested by the Indian political class led in the long run to its growing into a gospel of faith amongst Muslims in Pakistan and everywhere else, Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India being no exception.


Partition was confined to British India and the Princely States including Jammu and Kashmir were excluded from the purview of Partition. More importantly, the composition of the population of the States, Jammu and Kashmir being no exception, was never recognized as a concomitant condition for the founding of the Muslim homeland of Pakistan. In fact, the severest opposition to the recognition of the composition of population as a factor in the determination of their future affiliations came from Muslim League leaders – the founding fathers of Pakistan, and the British who supported the Muslim League in its struggle to divide India.


The Indian political class has allowed another misnomer to become part of the Kashmir dispute, and that is: the Valley of Kashmir is synonymous with the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir Valley is only a small part of Jammu and Kashmir State. The State, as it emerged from the British Indian empire after the British quit in 1947, constituted of (a) the province of Kashmir (b) the province of Jammu (c) the frontier division of Gilgit, Baltistan and Ladakh along with the Dardic Dependencies of Hunza, Nagar, Yasin, Punial, Ishkoman, Darel and Koh Gizir. The province of Jammu was larger than the province of Kashmir in area and population. The frontier division of Gilgit, Baltistan and Ladakh was larger than the two provinces of Kashmir and Jammu put together, though it was sparsely populated.


After the Truce Agreement and the Cease-Fire which ended the fighting in Jammu and Kashmir in 1949, more than 40 percent of the territories of the State remained under Pakistani occupation. The fighting in Jammu and Kashmir began with the invasion of the State by Pakistan in October 1947. The occupied territories included the district of Muzaffarabad and a part of the district of Baramulla in Kashmir province, the district of Mirpur, and a part of the district of Poonch in Jammu province, and the frontier region of Gilgit, along with the Gilgit Agency and the region of Baltistan and the Dardic dependencies.


The rest of Jammu and Kashmir State, which lies on the Indian side of the cease-fire line, now called the Line of Control, constitutes of the province of Kashmir, the province of Jammu and the frontier division of Ladakh. It is not fairly well known that the province of Jammu is larger than the province of Kashmir in area and population.


In Pakistan there is no confusion about the territorial content of the dispute. The Government and people of Pakistan have never accepted reduction of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir to the dispute over the Valley of Kashmir. It will be of interest to note that in 1947, when Pakistan invaded the State, the invading army swept into Jammu province and Kashmir province simultaneously, breaking through the borders of the state with Pakistan. On 1 November, five days after the airborne troops of the Indian army landed in Srinagar, airborne troops of the Pakistani side landed on the airstrip in Gilgit opened for them by the Gilgit Scouts, the force raised by the British from among the local Muslim population to garrison Gilgit Agency. The Gilgit Scouts joined the invading army of Pakistan and lost no time to press eastwards into Baltistan. The Muslim troops of the State army and their Muslim officers posted at Bunji in Baltistan mutinied and joined the invading hoards. Remnants of the State army, joined by the Buddhist population of Ladakh, held the invading forces at bay till Indian troops marched up the Zojila pass to relieve them.


Just as Jammu and Kashmir State cannot be identified with the Valley of Kashmir, the people of the State cannot be identified with the people of the Kashmir Valley, who are predominantly Muslim. The dispute over Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim problem. But it is more a problem of the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists living in the State and who form more than 40 percent of the population of the State on the Indian side of the Line of Control. The reduction of the dispute to a dispute over the Valley which is predominantly Muslim is deceptively simple and viciously aimed to project the Muslim content of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. The dispute over the state has a Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist content as well, which is more significant than its Muslim content. The Hindus and the Sikhs constitute a dominant majority of the population of Jammu province, while Buddhists form a majority of the population of Ladakh. The Muslims form a majority of the population of only Kashmir province.


No settlement on the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir can be reached so long as it is treated as a Muslim problem confined to the Valley. The right to life and freedom of the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists and their aspirations are as factoral to a peace-settlement on Jammu and Kashmir as the right to life and freedom of the Muslims and their aspirations are.


Hindus and Sikhs played a decisive role in shaping the peoples’ struggle in the State for India’s freedom. Ideologically committed to the unity of India, the Hindus and the Sikhs in the State fought shoulder to shoulder with the Indian people for the liberation of India from British rule. Hindus and Sikhs in the State joined the non-cooperation movement in the Punjab in the aftermath of the Rowlatt agitation. A year later, they joined Muslims in the Khilafat Movement which took Jammu and Kashmir by storm. Hindus and Sikhs joined the civil-disobedience movement which followed the Salt Satyagraha in 1930.


Hindus and the Sikhs put themselves in the forefront of the States Peoples Movement. It may not be out of place to mention that the first plenary session of the All India States Peoples Conference held in Kathiawad in 1926 was presided over by Shankar Lal Koul, a Hindu of Kashmir. Shankar Lal Koul, along with Lala Muluk Raj Saraf of Jammu, represented Jammu and Kashmir State in the plenary session of the All India States Peoples Conference. In his presidential address Shankar Lal Koul called for liberation of the peoples of the States from princely rule as well as British Paramountcy.


Inside the state, Hindus and the Sikhs initiated the effort to forge a secular peoples’ movement for constitutional reform. Of the twelve signatories to the National Demand, which provided the basis of a movement for constitutional reform in the State, five were Kashmiri Hindus, one represented Sikhs and six were Muslims. The National Demand formed the basic structure of the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference which led the national movement in the State till 1947.


The National Conference committed itself to Indian unity and Indian freedom from British colonial rule and joined the All India States Peoples’ Conference due to the indefatigable efforts of its Hindu and Sikh leaders. During the crucial years after the Second World War, when the British prepared to quit India, the Secretary General of the All India States Peoples’ Conference, Dwarka Nath Kachru, a Kashmiri Hindu, initiated a vigorous movement to integrate the States Peoples Movement with the National Movement led by the Indian National Congress and forge a common front of the peoples of British India and the Princely States against the British and the Muslim League. Kachru spared no efforts for the inclusion of the Princely States in the future constitutional reforms in India, which proved decisive in the integration of the States with India, when the British quit India and left the Princely States in a state of disarray.


When Pakistan invaded the State in 1947, the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists along with Kashmiri-speaking Muslims who formed the main support base of the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, formed the core of the resistance the invading army met with. However the Muslim officers and ranks in the State army, about 45 percent of its strength, mutinied, massacred their Hindu officers and comrades-in-arms in cold blood, and joined the invading columns as they poured into the State across its borders with Pakistan. The Hindu and Sikh officers and other ranks of the State army, joined by Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, fought to the last man, to keep the invading army at bay, till the airborne Indian troops reached Srinagar.


In Gilgit, the Gilgit Scouts mutinied on 1 November 1947, imprisoned the Governor of Gilgit, Ghansara Singh, killed the Hindu and Sikh military and police officials and opened up the air-strip which was built by the British for the airborne troops of Pakistan to land in Gilgit. The fall of Gilgit was followed by the mutiny of Muslim officers and men of the State army regiment posted at Bunji in Baltistan, who joined the invading armies in their advance into Baltistan and Ladakh.


In the territories of the State, which were overrun by the invading hordes, more than 38,000 Hindus and Sikhs were massacred. Thousands of women were abducted; hundreds committed suicide to escape capture. All Hindu and Sikh temples and shrines were burned down or destroyed to erase the last vestiges of Hindu and Sikh culture and religion in the occupied territories. The whole Hindu and Sikh population of the territories occupied by the invading army, which escaped the holocaust, took refuge in Jammu. The Buddhists in Baltistan who escaped the onslaught of the invading army took refuge in Ladakh. The assertion that Jammu and Kashmir presented a haven of peace and brotherhood while the rest of India smouldered in communal violence is a myth.


After the Truce Agreement, negotiated by the United Nations and the consequent cease-fire in fighting in the State in January 1949, the Hindus, Sikhs and the Buddhists continued to fight against the war of subversion that Pakistan waged from the occupied territories of so called ‘Azad Kashmir’ to foment Muslim distrust in the State.


In 1953, Kashmiri-speaking Muslims who had supported the accession of the State to India in 1947, repudiated their commitment to the unity of India on the ground that India had denied them the right to reorganize Jammu and Kashmir into another Muslim nation between India and Pakistan. The Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists arraigned themselves with the forces which opposed to the Muslimisation of the State and fell into head-on collision with a new Muslim separatist movement led by the All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front, founded in 1955 to ensure implementation of United Nations resolutions on Kashmir, envisaging a plebiscite to determine the future affiliations of the State. The Hindus, Sikhs and the Buddhists formed the main resistance to the Muslim struggle for self-determination that the Plebiscite Front spearheaded till 1975 when the Indira-Abdullah Accord was concluded and the Plebiscite Front dissolved.


The Jihad which Pakistan launched in Kashmir in 1990, to liberate Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian hold, mounted its first attack on Hindus in Kashmir. The terrorist assault on Hindus in Kashmir commenced in the fall of 1989, and by the summer of 1990, several hundreds of them had been assassinated in cold blood. Most of the victims were innocent people who lived in poverty and persecution in the Muslim-dominated constitutional organization of the State.


Among those killed were people from all sections of Hindu Society; teachers, lawyers, political activists, media men, intellectuals, errand boys and men of small means. The massacre of the Hindus was accompanied by a widespread campaign of intimidation and threat to drive out the Hindus from Kashmir province, burn their temples and religious shrines and homes and loot their property. By the end of the year 1990, the whole community of Hindus in Kashmir province was driven out of their homes and hearths. For the last two decades, during which terrorist violence in the State has continued unabated, Hindus have been living in exile in improvised refugee camps in Jammu and elsewhere in the country.


The interests and aspirations of the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists who constitute nearly half the population of Jammu and Kashmir are central to any settlement reached between India and Pakistan. Muslim separatist forces insist upon negotiations which lead to a settlement acceptable to the Muslims in Pakistan and Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir.


This raises three basic questions:

(a)   Which principles of nation-building and international law, past or present, sanctify the territorial claim made by the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir to the secession of the State from India and its unification with Pakistan?
(b)   Why should India accept a Muslim-centric settlement on Jammu and Kashmir and accept negotiations which also are Muslim-centric?

(c)    Why should India not insist upon a Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist-centric settlement of Jammu and Kashmir on account of its commitment to secularism and the right to equality of all communities irrespective of their religion? If the British foisted the Two-Nation theory on the Indian people in 1947, and divided India on the basis of separating the Muslim-majority provinces of British India to constitute the Muslim homeland of Pakistan, why should the Indian people, six decades after the British quit, accept the Two Nation theory again to concede a second partition of India? And if the Indian political class finds itself helpless in the face of Jihad in Jammu and Kashmir being waged by Pakistan and the Muslim Jihadi forces in Jammu and Kashmir, why should the Indian government not insist upon the breaking up of Kashmir Valley to secure Hindus their territorial claims as well as the breaking of the Occupied Territories of Jammu, the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’, to secure the Hindu and Sikh refugees of these areas, who are more than a million people, their territorial claims?     


Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have as sacrosanct a right to Jammu and Kashmir as their Muslim compatriots. An exception to the right to equality may be acceptable in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan where the rights of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists to their homeland may not be recognized as sacrosanct as the rights the Islamic Republic bestows upon its Muslims subjects. India is a secular state and no government in India can consign the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists to the servitude of a Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir.


Prof MK Teng is Political Adviser, Panun Kashmir, and retired Professor & Head of the Political Science Department, Kashmir University, Srinagar 

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