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Kashmir: Indian Democracy in Paralysis

Photo: qz.com

By Faizaan Bhat

In 1953, an important case, Magher Singh v/s State of Jammu and Kashmir (AIR 1953, J and K 25 vol, 40, C.N .17), was heard by a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Janki Nath Wazir and Justice Shahmiri that gave a landmark judgment. The Bench laid down that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was an independent state from August 14 to October 26, 1947. If J&K was independent, there are certain questions that come to one’s mind. Why did J&K accede to India? Did Kashmir really accede to India? Was accession conditional or provisional? If the state of J&K acceded to India, why is there a prominent secessionist movement? The answer to these questions lies in the wrong policies pursued by India in Kashmir.

In 1947, the Qaballis came to liberate Kashmir. According to Lord Birdwood in his book, Two Nations and Kashmir, “[i]t was Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim who visited Pakistan and sought their help as Muslims were massacred in Jammu by RSS and Jan Sangh activists.” The Qaballis visited the Valley and indulged in theft, violence, and rape. This state of violence has been documented by Joseph Korbel, Member of the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan and father of former United States (US) Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, who writes in detail about the killing and plunder in his book, Danger in Kashmir. The book details this period when the Qaballis raped women, damaged power grids in Baramulla, looted and killed people. He explains the tumultuous journey through his interviews with many locals and with Father Shanks, a missionary who was working in Saint Joseph’s missionary school in Baramulla that was burned by the Qaballis. The Nuns working in the school were also raped.

In the aftermath of this violence, Maharaja Hari Singh sought help from India and signed an instrument of Accession. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre have written about atrocities of the Qabbali raiders in their book, Freedom at Midnight. However, renowned author and South Asian Expert, Alastair Lamb, in his book, Incomplete Partition, has given an alternative argument. He writes that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Governor General Lord Mountbatten had developed good friendship. Nehru had deep love for Kashmir, from where he could trace his roots. Later, his family had migrated to Delhi. Lord Mountbatten, through the Radcliffe Commission (Commission which drew boundary lines between India and Pakistan, consisting of two Indian and two Pakistanis), annexed Gurdaspur District of Punjab, which had Muslim majority, to India so that they easily reach Kashmir and invade it. Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan, who was an Indian member of the Radcliffe Commission, was made the Prime Minister of Kashmir to incorporate Kashmir into India and he replaced Pandit Ram Chandra Kak, who wanted Kashmir to be an independent state.

In his recent book, Understanding Kashmir And Kashmiris, Christopher Snedden has written on the historical and political events that transformed Jammu And Kashmir from a Princely State to a Disputed State. He writes, “Maharaja Hari Singh’s dilemma was further complicated between joining India or Pakistan, as the desire of the majority of his subjects was unclear.” In 1944, Sheikh Abdullah launched the Quit Kashmir Movement against the Dogra regime, who was later tried and was imprisoned for nine years. However, he was released in 1947 to form the interim government. Sheikh Abdullah made the Constituent Assembly but didn’t permit and rejected papers of Pandit Raghunath Vaishnav, who was pro-Pakistan, to be member of the Constituent Assembly. He even banished two political rivals, including Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, with whom he had deep friendship in the past and started the paper, Hamdard, in 1935. It was on Pandit Bazaz’s behest that Abdullah changed Muslim Conference into National Conference. Sheikh Abdullah was sent to the United Nations (UN) when Delhi took Kashmir case to the UN as an Indian delegate, where he pleaded for Indian accession. The UN asked for ceasefire between India and Pakistan about which India was not happy. Former Governor of J&K, SK Sinha, in his book, Military Operations (1947-48), writes, “India wanted to get Muzzaffarabad back under their control which due to ceasefire couldn’t get back.” The UN passed many resolutions on Kashmir and asked India and Pakistan to have a plebiscite in Kashmir, which unfortunately, never took place. After this many more resolutions were passed on Kashmir, following the visits of many diplomats like Owen Dixon and F. Graham in 1957. Even Australian P.M Robert Menzes had said, “Let India and Pakistan have Plebiscite under commonwealth countries after demilitarization in their parts of Kashmir” which, again, India didn’t accept.

It was also during this time that Jan Sangh leader Dr. Shayama Prasad Mukherejee entered the Valley without Permit to agitate against accession and full merger of Kashmir to India. He was later arrested and died in prison after 23 days due to heart attack. In the year 1953, Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed on Kashmir conspiracy and arrested in Gulmarg. He had met Adlai Srevenson, the US Statesman, and believed that the US supported Kashmir’s independence for their own interests. Ajit Battacharjea, in his book, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah:Tragic hero of Kashmir, writes in detail about the dismissal of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah: “Sheikh Abdullah always used to think about third option – independence – besides accession to India or Pakistan.” Even when Sheikh Abdullah was at the UN as an Indian Delegate, Warren Austin, the US Representative in the UN, had sent a telegraph to George Marshal, the US State Secretary, about Sheikh Abdullah’s thought on independence and helping him for its own interests. In an interview in Delhi, the Australian High Commissioner, Walter Crocker, had recalled Sheikh Abdullah favouring independence in one of his press conferences. In his book Untold Stories, General B.K Kaul writes, “Sheikh Abdullah was pleading Kashmir to accede with Pakistan and in Gulmarg was going to meet Pakistan delegates,” following which he was dismissed and arrested at midnight. Ajit Battacharjea further writes in his book, “Sheikh Abdullah was not in favor of having Supreme Court jurisdiction in the Valley,” which, according to him, was one of the reasons for his dismissal.

After his dismissal, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, his deputy Prime Minister, was made the Prime Minister unconstitutionally. Bakshi belonged to a very poor family. He had even converted to Christianity for getting a job in Ladakh after finishing his eighth standard, though he later reconverted to Islam. During his tenure, corruption, nepotism, and favoritism were at its peak. In his book, Kashmir and Present: Unraveling the Mystique, Mohan Lal Koul writes, “During Bakshi’s time, corruption was at its peak; even his own brother, Hamid Bakshi, spoke and stood against him in 1958, though he later changed his statement.” Bakshi had even given free hands to his police officers like Sheikh Ghulam Qadir, popularly known as Qadir Gandarbali (constable made SP), to beat, torture, and kill Kashmiris. It was only in 1954, during his time, that the Instrument of Accession was passed unconstitutionally in the Assembly. It was even during this unconstitutional Government that Kashmir was declared an integral part of India by the Assembly. More than 50 Indian bills were also passed in the Assembly to weaken state autonomy during his tenure. As Gwasha Lal Koul writes in his book, Historical Survey of Kashmir, “Financial autonomy was eroded during Bakshi’s regime.” It was only during his regime, the Permit system (a Visa like thing to enter Kashmir for non-Kashmiris) was abolished. Now no Non-Kashmiri needed permit to enter the Valley. During Bakshi’s regime, no political party was allowed to function, and public meetings were banned. In his book, Kashmir Insurgency and After: Understanding Kashmir And Kashmiris, columnist Balraj Puri writes, “Since 1949, our Party, Praja Socialist Party, wasn’t allowed to contest elections. It was only in 1962 our candidate O.P Saraf was allowed to contest elections from Amira Kadal.” After Delhi got fed-up with Bakshi, he was asked to resign under Kamraj Plan. Bakshi was also arrested later when he tried to move legislators in his favor in lieu of money and power. He was released after four months on health issues.

After his resignation, his close aide, Shamsuddin, was made Prime Minister. He was toppled in just a year and G.M. Sadiq, who was a strong communist and had the backing of India and Russia, was made the Prime Minister. However, in 1954, the chairman of the Communist Party of Soviet Union, Khrushchev, visited India and Kashmir. Following his visit, he made a statement, “Kashmir is an integral Part of India.” Initially, Sadiq was in Sheikh Abdullah’s and Bakshi’s Cabinet but later resigned and formed his own party, Democratic National Conference (DNC), with Syed Mir Qasim, D.P. Dhar, and others. When he was made the PM, he merged DNC with NC. According to the lawyer, who pleaded the case of Afzal Guru, and writer, Nandita Haksar, in her book, Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism, “When DNC was merged by Sadiq into NC, very few leaders like Ram Piara Saraf, K.D. Sethi and few others didn’t join NC and remained in the DNC. Ram Piara Saraf later joined the Communist Party of Indian-Marxist and became the first MLA of CPI-M in the Valley.” G.M. Sadiq fully eroded the autonomy and even changed Sadri Riyasat into Governor and Prime Minister into Chief Minister. Now, with the help of Bakshi and Sadiq, more than 65 bills were passed, autonomy was fully eroded, except Article 370, President’s rule was made applicable to Kashmir, election and many other laws were passed in the Valley. Later, Sadiq died in office.

In 1967, Sadri Riyasat, Karan Singh, gave an interview in which he said, “Jammu should be merged with Himachal, and Ladakh should be made Union Territory and Kashmir be made state.” Following his statement, a lot of controversy emerged. He was accused of indirectly supporting Kashmir’s independence or accession to Pakistan. This led to his resignation and was made India’s first Civil Aviation Minister under the Ministry of Transportation.

After Sadiq’s death, Syed Mir Qasim was made the Prime Minister. Qasim also continued the mission of India in the Valley, which Bakshi and Sadiq had started in the past. It was during Syed Qasim’s tenure, talks between Sheikh Abullah and Indira Gandhi (Mirza Afzal Beigh and JNU Vice Chancellor, G. Parthasarthy, were mediators on behalf of Indira Gandhi) began. It was in 1969 during people’s convention, inaugurated by the Indian socialist leader, Jayprakash Narayan, in Mujahid Manzil, the Plebiscite Front resistance organization, fighting for plebiscite in the Valley, formed by Mirza Afzal Beigh, a close aide of Sheikh Abdullah in1955, decided to contest elections officially. Due to a ban on it, they couldn’t contest elections. The ban was lifted in 1974 after the Beigh Parthasar (Indira-Abdullah accord). According to the political analyst, Prof. G.R. Najar in his book, Kashmir Accord 1975: A Political Analysis, “Sheikh Abdullah became disillusioned by the 1971 Indo-Pak war, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, followed by his son Farooq Abdullah’s meeting with Pakistan.” Many political analysts have written that this was a blunder done by Sheikh and he did it for power as he was tired fighting against India. Later, he collaborated with the state he fought against.

Protests erupted throughout the Valley after the accord. Many people died and were injured. In his book, Flashback, the human rights activist, columnist, and author, Zahir Din, writes, “in Sopore one activist, Ghulam Mohammad Bulla, was arrested who was later beaten, interrogated in prison, due to which he died in Police custody, his family was threatened not to open mouth against the killing.” Sheikh was asked to merge the NC with the Congress, which he didn’t agree to, as Indira wanted no regional party in the Valley. After the Indira-Abdullah accord, Syed Mir Qasim was asked to resign. Sheikh Abdullah was made the Chief Minister. After two years, new elections were held. Sheikh again won the elections in 1977.

During Sheikh Abdullah’s government, the Public Safety Bill 1978 was passed, under which a person could be put behind bars from six months to two years. He even arrested people who campaigned against him in the elections like the trade unionist, Ghulam Nabi, President, Motor Garage Union, for campaigning for his rival, Janata Party. The Jamaati schools and libraries were also banned. According to Mohammad Farooq Rehmani in his book, Azaadi Ki Talaash (In Search for Freedom), hundreds of people were arrested during Sheikh sahib’s government in 1977. It is important to remember that it was the first free and fair election held in Kashmir.

Sheikh Abdullah died in 1982. After his death, his son, Farooq Abdullah, was made the Chief Minister. Farooq ran a incompetent goverment. He was busy with his luxurious lifestyle, which also included parties with Bollywood actors. Farooq Abdullah was toppled in 1984 by his brother-in-law, Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, who defected with 12 legislators with the help of the Congress and Mufti Syed. In The Kashmir of Sheikh Abdullah, Bilquiees C. Taseer writes, “When Sheikh Abdullah died, Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s house was attacked by people blaming him for Sheikh Abdullah’s death, after which he flew to Pune for 3.5 months after which he tried to make connections in Delhi and met Indira Gandhi seeking help to topple the government.” Later, G.M Shah’s government was toppled by power hungry State Congress leader, Mufti Syed, who had helped him in toppling Farooq Abdullah’s government. In one of the elections, Farooq Abdullah got help from Mirwaiz Farooq and temporarily ended the family rivalry between two prominent political families since 1934, popularly known as Double Farooq.

Noted journalist Tavleen Singh in her book, Kashmir: A Tragedy Of Errors, writes “After the Double Farooq Accord, Mirwaiz Farooq was asked a question in a press conference by many people, ‘You are supporting Farooq Abdullah in elections. Does that mean you are accepting the Indian Constitution?’ To which he didn’t reply. Later he invited me for dinner where he told me, ‘Tavleen, didn’t they get what I mean and get I believe in the Indian Constitution’.” Mirwaiz Farooq’s and Farooq Abdullah’s family had political rivalry since 1934, when Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah, uncle of Mirwaiz Farooq, resigned from the Muslim Conference and formed his own party, Azad Muslim Conference.

In 1986, Farooq Abdullah met Rajiv Gandhi resulting in the Rajiv-Farooq Accord, which according to many of his own people was a betrayal to his own father and people. In 1987, Muslim United Front, an amalgam of many secessionist parties, was formed and contested elections in which they won just four seats. It is believed that rigging took place and the NC was made to win. Even it was reported that People’s Conference chairman, Abdul Gani Lone, who in 1977 had said, “If I come to power, I will erode Article 370.” Polling agents were beaten and thrown out of booth in the Kupwara constituency. Following which, the armed struggle started and people lost hope on political and diplomatic dialogue. There were blasts, killings, and encounters throughout valley.

During this time, Jagmohan was made the Governor. This led to massacres against Muslims. Farooq Abdullah and his cabinet resigned. There was Governor’s Rule for six and a half years. The elections in 1996 were fought and the NC formed the government. In 2000, the NC passed Autonomy Resolution. In his autobiography, the BJP Leader and the then Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, writes, “The nation got shocked when NC passed the autonomy resolution which was not debated in any house.”

In 1999, another regional party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was formed by Mufti Mohammad Syed with a self-rule manifesto, which they never discussed or passed. The PDP, according to many people, was created by Delhi to divide people into NC and PDP, rural and urban. In the last election, the PDP won by claiming to keep the BJP (the party which wants to erode Article 370) away from the Valley, which they later collaborated with for power, despite getting unconditional support from the NC and independent candidates. This coalition in Kashmir is today killing innocent Kashmiris for power. Both the regional parties in their election campaign talked about revocation of AFSPA and other draconian laws, resolution of the Kashmir issue. But that is all talk and no action has been taken. It is through these parties that India occupies Kashmir.

Prominent Indian politicians like Jayaprakash Narayan and George Fernandes have spoken against Indian policies and brutalities in the Valley. J.P. Narayan wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi regarding Kashmir in which he mentioned about the state atrocities. He wrote, “It will be losing soul if we continue to suppress Kashmiris and it has only distorted India’s image. We talk of democracy to the world, but we ourselves don’t give democracy to Kashmir and rule undemocratically in Kashmir and suppress Kashmiris.” In his talk, delivered at Harvard University, on 22 October, 1990, George Fernendes had attributed Kashmir problem to India’s wrong policy in the Valley.

In 1929, Sir Albion Banerji, who served as the Prime Minister from 1927-29, had resigned from his office protesting against the conditions of Muslims. He compared the conditions of Muslims with cattle. Till date no Kashmiri pro-Indian politician has shown guts like him by resigning because of atrocities and human rights violations. Bureaucrats who tried to do their job honestly and reported truth were transferred or eliminated. When Kunan Poshpora mass rape happened, the then D.C. of Kupwara, Mohammad Yasin, was transferred. In an interview with the authors of the book, Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora, he said, “I was asked we will promote if you report false, and when I didn’t agree I was threatened.” Even the Indian delegation, which visited Valley to report about mass rape, wrote, “These so-called rape victims are trying to defame India.” Justice Bahauddin Farooqui, the retired Chief Justice of J&K High Court, was transferred to Sikkim when he worked against the Indian authorities, following which he resigned and later did documentation against human rights abuses. In an interview, he said, “India has always betrayed Kashmiris and Kashmir is a colony of India.”

In his memoir, My Kashmir: The Dying of Light, Wajahat Habibullah writes how an attempt was made on his life by the Indian army when he tried to surrender militants during the Hazratbal Siege and how the state killed the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) ideologue, Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, by using the HM leader, Zulkarnain. In her new book, Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan, and the Unending War, Victoria Schofield writes, “the JKLF chairman, Muhammad Yaseen Malik, decided to contest the elections under the United Nations supervision but was arrested before elections on Foreign Currency Regulation Act and was in jail during elections. Even Hurriyat had to change the chairman.” This was just to prevent him from contesting elections under the UN supervision because the pro-Freedom leaders were very popular. In 2008, WikiLeaks revealed an important conversation between Bilal Lone, Executive Member, Hurriyat-M and Chairman, People’s Conference, “Our Hurriyat will contest elections if everything will be normal in the Valley.” However, Bilal didn’t contest the election but his party member and younger brother, Sajad Lone, who had given a roadmap for solving the Kashmir issue in “Achievable Nationhood”, contested the elections and built his own party, People’s Conference. He later won the elections and was made a Cabinet Minister in the PDP-BJP government.

Most of the youth in Kashmir have lost faith in dialogue and Indian diplomacy. They now see the armed struggle as the only solution. A free and fair election is the basic principle of a democracy. India claims to be the world’s largest democracy, but all democratic processes have derailed in the Valley. Why are Pro-freedom student activism and unions banned in the Valley, while Pro-India unions like the Congress student unit, National Students Union if Indian (NSUI), National Conference Students Union are allowed to function? Why does India refrain from conducting the promised plebiscite in the Valley? Why has India implemented draconian laws like AFSPA and DAA? Why is Kashmir the highest militarized land in India? Why doesn’t India allow Kashmiris to live with dignity and respect?

India has made Kashmir, what John Walls Cushnahan, the European Union’s Head of Ad-hoc Delegation on Kashmir, said when he visited the Valley in 2002, “A Beautiful Prison”.

Bio:
Faizaan Bhat
 is B. Tech. from NIT Srinagar. He writes on Popular Science, Science, History, Politics, and Philosophy. He can be reached at bhatfaizan10@gmail.com.

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