Feature

Circa 1947: Accession debate and the unending conflict

Kashmir experts argue that the manipulation of the instrument of accession has not changed the stance of the local Kashmiris even after 74 years.

A day before October 27, New Delhi celebrates the accession of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir to India in 1947.

The same day, however, is remembered as “Black Day” by the people of Jammu and Kashmir on the call of now beleaguered Hurriyat camp.

The agreement of accession that Hari Singh, the Maharaja of former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, is believed to have signed with India in October 1947 often belies when demystified with the help of facts.

It’s in this backdrop that Free Press Kashmir interviewed Zahir-u-Din, a senior journalist and author of well-acclaimed books Flashback: Kashmir Story Since 1846; Bouquet, A Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of Kashmir, and Dr. Sheikh Showket Hussain, a Kashmiri scholar and author of books, Kashmir Saga and Kashmir Profiles.

Zahir-ud-Din

“If we look back at history, then this whole process of accession is a farce and has been forced upon the people here by the Indian State. Facts clearly show that neither was Hari Singh in Jammu on October 26, 1947 to sign the accession deed nor did Vail Panguuni Menon and Mehr Chand Mahajan go there on that very day.

Menon’s claim that on October 26, he went to Jammu along with Mahajan and got the documents signed and returned to Delhi where he submitted these documents to the Defense Committee meeting has been falsified by Mahajan himself in his autobiography Looking Back in which he writes that he went to Jammu on October 27, 1947, after he was informed about the deployment of army at Srinagar airport,” Zahir-u-Din told me at his residence in Batamallo.

Zahir-ud-Din.

Zahir-u-Din believes that the manipulation of the instrument of accession has not changed the stance of the local Kashmiris even after 74 years. “People cried for Azadi in 1947 and they cry for Azadi in 2020. The freedom sentiment is still alive,” he said.

While talking about the autonomy that gave Kashmir much power in 1947 as India controlled only Defense, Communications and Foreign Affairs, he said, “when I travelled to Nagaland in 2008, I had to seek a proper permit to travel from Reserve Commissioner of Nagaland. They still have the autonomy but the ‘political pimps’ in Kashmir like Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, Syed Mir Qasim and others helped India dilute the autonomy of Kashmir over the years on New Delhi’s command. They became more Indian than Indians but India still didn’t accept them as one of them,” he said.

Zahir believes that until the constitutional laws like Article 370 and Article 35A were in their original form, they prohibited Indian or any foreigner from entering Kashmir without a permit and when Syama Prasad Mookerhee, the founding father of Bhartiya Jana Sangh and a predecessor to the ruling BJP, entered the state in 1953 without a permit, he was arrested and later died in prison.

Mookerjee’s death offered an impetus for the BJP to work on the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A which they successfully revoked on August 5, 2019.

“I am surprised why they revoked it. Article 35A was important for them to revoke but Article 370 was serving Indian interests. There was nothing left in Article 370. Until the time 370 was in proper position here, Supreme Court of India and Election Commission of India had no jurisdiction in Kashmir; President’s rule could not be implemented here, but all these things were practiced here even before the abrogation because of the political pimps who helped India pass amendments and slowly erased Article 370 over the years. They gave the Indian Parliament power to make laws for Kashmir. What was left in Article 370?”

“They presented an ordinance in 1990, and Governor became our legislature. In August, 2019, Article 370 was scrapped at the request of Governor Satya Pal Malik. Before that, we had an elected state assembly which alone could request the centre to scrap the Articles but as our legislature became the Governor, he could make laws for us and in the capacity of President, could pass it. That is what happened in August last year. At 11:30 pm, Governor Satya Pal Malik requested the centre to revoke the articles which they did. This ordinance in 1990 was itself a violation of Article 370. They implemented all Central laws in Kashmir even before the insurgency in 1990. All these mainstream leaders were fooling people by raising the slogans of Article 370 and Article 35A.”

Talking about Kashmir’s future with India, Zahir says, “at one time, some people even started accepting India, but on its part, the same country and its people started beating our children in their cities, mocking or arresting them under false terrorism charges. Not just us, they have time and again showed that there is no place for even minorities in India.”

Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain

“Kashmir is stuck. India manipulated accession of Kashmir in 1947, but has been unable to digest it. More than 60% of it is out of its control, with Pakistan and China. Whatever remains, they have been unable to assimilate it or merge it and that’s why they have to take ‘off and on’ steps to suppress the voices over here,” Dr. Sheikh Showkat said.

Hussain believes that India has been unable to merge it even after 74 years, “once you are in process of coercive assimilation of a region, governance becomes the first causality because people perceive the system to be forced upon them and not their ‘own’ and defiance eats up every aspect of governance. Suppose they come and ask you to pay the electricity fees. Now people feel that it is an alien administration and the money will go to it; therefore they feel that it is legitimate for them to defy and not to pay. Same remains with other aspects. So automatically, management of an alienated and hostile population remains impossible, and because of inherent deficit of trust, system vacillates between extremes; at times it is unable to enforce its writs and other times it tends to over-enforce, and this vicious cycle continues,” he said, adding, “Kashmir has been a territory which was infested with wars. Three wars which India fought with Pakistan or China, all were fought within the territory of J&K. Naturally, there is uncertainty, sense of insecurity, undue restriction which dominates everything over here.”

Sheikh Showkat Hussain.

Dr. Sheikh Showkat thinks that Kashmiris in 1947 were overtaken by a situation which they had not anticipated, “they were pitted against a local despot; Kashmiris never thought what was going on in the subcontinent will come and dominate everything over here. There were no Hindu-Muslim problems here. There was a local ruler and people had problems with him and their discourse entirely remained focused against him. Now what happened in 1947 is that the subcontinent got divided and issues which plagued the subcontinent also got imported to this place, people were taken off-guard, and the leadership also could not take proper decisions at that juncture, and the result was a mess within which everyone finds themselves in, be it in India, be it in Pakistan or be it the people of Kashmir,” he added.

Immediately after partition, Dr. Hussain says, some hope was there but since the relations were created through manipulation, therefore there was a trust deficit between those who ruled India and those who led Kashmir. So it was out of this trust deficit that within a few years they had to sack the architect of accession, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. And once they sacked him, what happened is that the people felt that India doesnt represent thier voice, and alienation crept into the relations between India and Kashmir. They could not ultimately satisfy the political aspirations of the people and that is why Kashmir erupted for a decade from 1953 to 1963. Kashmir remained under an authoritarian rule even though a lot of material benefits were showered upon some Kashmiris, but in December, 1963 the theft of the Holy relic was planned and Kashmir was again on the streets.

“Nehru even felt at that juncture that the relation between India and Kashmir is hung by an unspun thread. That was the situation. There has never been a complacency, relaxation, or physiological trust between the two parties.”

For Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A in August last year was a reaction by the India State.

“They failed to curb the mass movement here, they manipulated elections in the late 80s which led to the insurgency, and when they failed to contain this insurgency, they thought they should smash the state and that is what they did in 2019. Now it had international ramifications from Pakistani and Chinese sides and again the things remain as they were. The militancy continues, people continue to come out to protest the killing of militant commanders continues,” he said.

The problem is, he says, that the people are governed by those who they don’t know, “who are part of Indian civil service or military establishment”.

“This is similar to what it was in the Dogra period. Locals are not represented in the administration which has created more hostility and alienation. There is no representation of Kashmiris within the administration; administration comprises exclusively of imported IAS officers, so there is no communication between the population and those who govern the state. At present, whosoever rules, does not have any understanding of the population and is not concerned about them.”

Dr. Sheikh Showkat is hopeless about situation getting better for Kashmir and says, “I don’t think this era will end, it will get more and more complicated. Misadventures of New Delhi will continue. I don’t have any immediate hopes. And globally, the situation is that it is ‘free for all’; UN is defunct. Even the global hegemony of US is crumbling and it seems that there is a situation of ‘might is right’ and we remain sandwiched between India, Pakistan and China.

He concluded that the promises like self determination were not fulfilled and people had to come out and fight, and it still continues.

“May be Chinese intervention might force them to rethink on Kashmir.”

 

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