Kashmir issue: The Grassroots

By K.N. Pandit

Accession of J&K State to the Indian Union on October 27, 1947 came about in abnormal conditions.  Tribesmen of NWFP had swept into the valley on Pakistan’s behest.  In early summer of 1947, the British and NWFP Governor had drawn discreet roadmap for the incursion.

Any far-looking historian could predict the unease dogging the accession process notwithstanding the false aura created by Nehru-Sheikh camaraderie. The Sheikh never made a direct request for accession nor confirmed it anywhere in writing.  Nehru never demanded anything of the sort. There were only verbal commitments, words that could be distorted or misrepresented.

Ever since accession three Accords have been signed between Kashmir leadership and New Delhi regimes. The Nehru-Sheikh Accord of 1952 happened when Nehru sensed the Sheikh’s ambivalence.  He hoped an accord would change the Sheikh’s subtle overtures to the Americans and re-assure him of Kashmir’s identity and integrity.  But harsh realities  belied Nehruvian  Utopia.

The Indira-Sheikh Accord came about in 1974 when the Sheikh realized that Pakistan’s defeat in the Indo-Pak war of 1972 had  blasted his dream of Kashmir Sultanate.

Rajive-Nehru Accord of 1986 came about when Farooq realized that he could not afford New Delhi’s cold shouldering if he wanted to perpetuate the family rule over Kashmir.

What has been achieved from these Accords? Have they helped in the integration of J&K State into Indian Union?

Everybody speaks of alienation of Kashmiris. When were Kashmiris integrated? Never. Article 370, special status, 3 Accords, two constitutions, two flags, special and hefty grants to raise income per capita in the valley to over  Rs. 9000/- against national figure of Rs. 860/-, absence of Indian national flag in the whole valley except on the civil secretariat side by side with State flag, roughing up and manhandling of central enforcement officials raiding valley tax evaders, people baring bodies in a public rally in Hazuri Bagh, Srinagar where Indira Gandhi was to address, raising Pakistani flags when test cricket was played in Srinagar, and finally ethnic cleansing of the valley of its four hundred thousand religious minority of Hindus – are these signs of integration?

Nehru had been orchestrating to the world that Kashmir was the symbol of India’s secularism. He never realized the dangers and disaster inherent in this slogan. He had written the death warrant of innocent Kashmiri Pandits.

Nationalists contend that accession was on the basis of commonality of political philosophy between Indian National Congress and National Conference. Why then the twelve-year long detention and incarceration of Sheikh Abdullah on August 9, 1953? Why the Plebiscite Front and NC’s overt and covert support to secession?

Does a single political leader of substance in the valley say the why of accession while addressing election or other rallies? What are their oft-repeated slogans and catchwords – man ki izzat 370, bahan ki izzt 370, hamari izzat 370.   People were shown green handkerchiefs and rock salt blocks and told to vote it. These were symbols for Pakistan.

Why the Resettlement bill which envisages return of nearly three hundred thousand legal or illegal Kashmiris (and others) alleged to have got stranded in Pakistan or PoK after the incursion by the tribesmen in 1947. Most of them were pushed back by the regime of Sheikh Abdullah when it assumed power in October 1947. The Resettlement Bill makes no mention of seven lakh Hindus and Sikhs pushed out from the present PoK.

In final analysis, Kashmir leadership must leave aside all other issues, and focus on the reasons for accession to India and its justification. They must not pander to superfluous issues, economic or petty political controversies. The PDP leader during its three year long tenure spoke of only the “victims of state terrorism and the healing touch.” He never said a word asking terrorists to bid farewell to the gun.

Unless Kashmir leadership, known for its duplicity, plays a fair game, comes out in open to reach the grassroots and tell the people the benefits and rationale behind accession to India, alienation in Kashmir will not be reversed.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University and now a freelance journalist. You may reach him by e-mail).

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