“Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit but not by the force of soldiers.” — Kalhana Pandit
So total has been the loss of hegemony of Kashmir’s elected representatives, in government and in the legislature, over the last two months, and so desperately brutal the recourse to coercive subjugation of fearless young anger on the streets of the valley, that if ever there was a time to say resistance to authority (sic) deserves to be rewarded with what it seeks, it has been now. If the prospect, that is, of the secession of the valley–since other parts of the state of Jammu & Kashmir desire, contrarily, not secession but more complete integration with the Union of India–were not fraught with incalculable negative consequences not just for India and Pakistan, but for the inhabitants of the valley itself.
To that I shall return.
Just the other day, the Home Minister of India made two significant averments in parliament. One that the Union recognizes that the Accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir was a “unique one”; and, two, that, apart of all other things, the Republic and its successive governments had failed to keep promises made to the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
Since the time for pussy footing about Kashmir is conclusively at an end, it would help to flesh out those two averments beyond the Minister’s sketchily en passant mention.
Uniqueness of the Accession:
It is to be recalled that the two conditions agreed upon as the signposts for India’s pre-Independence Princely States as determinants of whether they would accede to India or to Pakistan were the religion of the majority within the states, and the congruity of the states to either Dominion.
In that context, the three states of Hyderabad, Junagarh, and Jammu & Kashmir offered interesting paradigms.
Where the first two had Muslim rulers but majority Hindu populations, J & K had a Dogra-Hindu ruler but a majority Muslim population. Of the three, clearly, J & K, being also contiguous with Pakistan, had the clearest case for accession to Pakistan.
Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, however, desired accession to neither of the two new countries, but wished to remain Independent.
Having succeeded in signing what was called a “Standstill” agreement with Pakistan, it was his hope to do the same with India. Except that the fates intervened in the shape of a precipitate invasion of the State he ruled by tribal warriors from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan with that States’ active support and involvement in late October of 1947.
With next to no means of his own to meet, let alone defeat the invasion, he found himself constrained to appeal to India for military help vide his request for Accession to India, dated October, 26, 1947. He wrote to the then Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma:
The mass infiltration of tribesmen drawn from the distant areas of the North-West Frontier … cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provincial Government of the North West Frontier Province and the Government of Pakistan. In spite of repeated requests made by my Government no attempt has been made to check these raiders or stop them from coming to my State. . . .I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government.
That much for a Hindu ruler who had been reluctant to join even a Hindu-majority India but for the fact that circumstances forced such a decision upon him. Another matter that even on acceding, the Instrument of Accession he signed stated that the a\Accession in no way bound him to “acceptance of any future constitution of India” (Clause 7), and that “Nothing in this instrument affects the continuance of my sovereignty in and over this State” (Clause 8). Stipulations that to this day continue to color the fraught history of tensions between the Union and the State.
As a result, Article 306 A was adopted in the Draft Constitution, and in course became the much-talked-about Article 370 in the final Constitution of India. Most significantly, the “special status” thus accorded to the State of J & K, backed by the then Home Minister of India, Patel, (who said to the Constituent Assembly “in view of the special problems with which the government of Jammu & Kashmir is faced, we have made a special provision for the constitutional relationship of the State with the Union”) was accepted without demur also by Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, a member of Nehru’s cabinet, later to become the most vociferous and disruptive voice of the Hindu right-wing. More of that below.
But the best part of the “uniqueness” lay elsewhere, namely in the heroically principled declaration of allegiance to a prospectively secular and democratic Hindu-majority India by a Muslim Kashmiri leader of a Muslim-majority State, Sheikh Abdullah.
Internally, within the Princely State of J & K, a popular movement for the overthrow of the Maharaja’s rule had been underway for two decades before 1947, precipitating in the events of July, 1931, when some 21 popular resistors were gunned down by the Maharaja’s police force in front of a court house–a watershed event that led to the formation of the “Muslim Conference” which came to be led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, a post-graduate from the Aligarh Muslim University who was denied a teaching post in the State by the Maharaja’s regime at a time when educated Kashmiri Muslims could be counted on finger-tips.
Within mainland India, although the Muslim League came a cropper in the elections to the Provincial Assemblies of 1936, following upon the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935, between that loss and 1946, the Muslim League under Jinnah made huge strides among Muslims in the states of Punjab and Bengal.
It was during this time that Jinnah was to make fervent arguments to Abdullah as to the obvious decision that the Kashmir Muslim Conference must make for joining forces with Jinnah’s League, and for the Pakistan resolution which the League had passed in 1940.
Remarkably, however, despite the Kashmir Maharaja regimes’ concerted anti-Muslim rule, and despite having forged the “Muslim Conference,” Abdullah, by then the undisputedly tallest leader of the valley, and indeed the State, and despite the State having been a Muslim majority one, came to reject the two-nation communal thesis of the Muslim League, and declare his preference for the secular-democratic struggle that the Indian National Congress under Gandhi and Nehru had been waging against colonial rule, as he converted the “Muslim Conference” into the “National Conference” in 1938. Clearly, some nine years before the partition of India and of the tribal invasion of Kashmir.
Abdullah in these years spoke repeatedly to his convictions.