- Time now for a workable peaceful solution
The Prime Minister (PM) is right in saying that by invoking Article 370 of which 35A is a part of the constitution India has played the last card on Kashmir. Unlike the Nehru family led Indian National Congress (INC) the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to settle Kashmir as they desire to build a Hindu State. Belonging to the Pundit’s community of Kashmir, the Nehru’s have been emotionally attached to their land of birth. They wanted to hold on to it at all costs by popping pacifiers and lollipops to the Kashmiri leadership on as needed basis. Currently the UN Security Council is debating the issue after a lapse of 50 years.
In 1947 Sheikh Abdullah the most popular leader of times also called Sher-e-Kashmir held parleys with the Quaid to ascertain the status of his state in Pakistan. Being ruled by a Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh the Kashmiri freedom struggle was much older than the Movement for Pakistan. Due to the atrocities of the Hindu Raj there was regular migration of Muslim population to the bordering Punjab Province. In the later part of the nineteenth century my mother’s family moved to Lahore from outside Srinagar while my father’s side moved from Baramulla to Ludhiana, East Punjab. Kashmir is a land of peace having fertile minds who continue to dominate both India and Pakistan. The poet of the East Dr Muhammad Iqbal Lahore also hailed from the valley and so did Saadat Hasan Manto, Dr Khalifa Abdul Hakim to name a few. Even the currently disgraced Sharif family claims to have Kashmiri roots to attract the huge Kashmir vote in the city.
There were conflicting interests, while Jinnah wanted the Muslims of India united under one flag, Abdullah wanted agreement on autonomy for his state. Nehru took advantage of the situation and agreed on complete autonomy with separate flag and constitution for the state under which Abdullah was sworn in as Prime Minister not Chief Minister as in other provinces of the Union. The article of accession was signed on October 14, 1947 by the Maharaja which was conditional under Article 370 except for foreign affairs, defence and commerce the state was totally autonomous. The pundits went a step further; they forced a law under which non-Kashmiris could not own property in the state. As PM when Abdullah tried to roar like a Sher (Lion) he was dismissed and caged.
Unlike the Nehru family led Indian National Congress (INC) the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to settle Kashmir as they desire to build a Hindu State
Kashmiri leaders who opposed accession left the state. Sardar Ibrahim Khan as head of the Muslim Conference became President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) who was then followed by K H Khurshid who formed his Liberation League. Ghulam Abbas settled in Abbottabad. The Kashmiri political heavy weights wanted to lead the crusade for Kashmir but were denied their due status. Suhrawardy as PM of Pakistan came close to freedom for the valley in return for a US base but his efforts were thwarted. The first dictator provided the base but compromised on Kashmir. Gilgit-Baltistan revolted at the time of partition and gained freedom. Today the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) comprises of the valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Out of the total 45 tehsils/communities in Kashmir, 35 have Muslim majority, 9 Hindu and 1 Buddhist. Hindus are in majority in Samba, Udhampur, Bhaderwah, Akhnoor, Jammu, Ramnagar, Basohli, Jaesergarh and Kathua, Ladakh is 88% Buddhist and 12 per cent Muslims, and it has now been separated from Kashmir and made a part of the Indian Union.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two directly (1948, 1965) for liberation of Kashmir while one was indirect (1971) after which East Pakistan became Bangladesh. In order to hold on to the land of his forefathers it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who went to the United Nation to plead for peace. In return he promised to hold a plebiscite to determine the future of the state.
Pakistan had several opportunities to take over Kashmir. In 1948 the ceasefire for plebiscite was not honoured. The 1965 effort was ill-planned and ill-conceived resulting in unnecessary delays due to change of command. During 1962 Indo-China war it was a walk over but Ayub Khan shied away on the promise of a peaceful settlement by USA. After the Indian mauling by China, Abdullah was released from prison. He travelled to Pakistan to meet the leadership, also came to Lahore where he had a bungalow off Lawrence Road towards Mason Road. Accompanying my father, I had the chance to meet him. In private he admitted the blunder he had committed but insisted that it was not a betrayal of his people. Both countries were moving towards a dialogue when Nehru suddenly passed away and Lal Bahadur Shastri became the PM. Shastri lacked the political standing to settle the long-standing dispute.
The 1965 war was out of frustration for which wrong assumptions were made. On the verge of losing Kashmir, India opened international borders which were totally un-protected. Lahore, Sialkot was saved by the bravery of Junior officers while the high command was clueless. In the seventies Bhutto proposed the idea of porous borders and joint supervision mechanism while the Kashmiris were allowed to govern themselves for a period of ten years. The great statesmen Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted to settle the dispute through dialogue. He travelled to Lahore as a part of Bus Diplomacy. His famous words were: ہم جنگ نہ ہونے دیں گے (we will avoid war at all costs).
Then Musharraf proposed the four confidence building measures that included: Demilitarisation; No change of borders; Self-governance; Joint Supervision Mechanism. He then travelled to Agra to negotiate peace with Vajpayee. Successful parleys were held but the peace agreement could not be signed.
By invoking article 370 the accession has been converted into annexation. Several options still exist. While Vajpayee was a statesman Modi is a bully and their approaches differ. There may yet be a solution to a 70-year-old conflict. Both war and peace can be tried as under:-
- Kashmiri leadership declares independence and forms a Government in exile and declares war with the help of the Jihadists. Pakistan Army is deployed on fortified borders to avoid surprise attacks as were experienced in 1965. This is the route taken by the East Pakistan separatists Mukti Bahini in 1971. The occupying Indian Forces in the valley can be made to surrender in a similar manner as did Tiger Niazi.
- The Agra Agreement could be revisited and peace restored after demilitarisation.
- The Bhutto approach of porous borders with autonomy can also be tried.
- The Chenab Formula calls for division of the state. Jammu and Ladakh stay with India, Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan and rest of the valley becomes autonomous with porous borders.
- Division of the state on the basis of religion: The new line can be drawn connecting Akhnoor, Ramnagar and Bhaderwah, while Ladakh can be given a choice to go either way. Muslim or Hindu.
‘It is time to settle Kashmir’, this was the title of my article published in The Nation on July 13, 2001 on the eve of Musharraf’s visit to Agra. In 1965 the war was started in frustration. Now that Modi has played his last card, a resolution might be attainable. I remain optimistic that finally we the Kashmiris may win freedom in our lifetime. We should give peace a chance, before Jihad-e-Azadi for Kashmir becomes inevitable resulting in loss of human life and material.