Ten Studies in Kashmir History and Politics, Kashinath Pandit, New Delhi

Book Reviewby Dr Tej N Dhar, former professor of English and Dean, College of Arts Asmara University, Eritrea

Ten Studies in Kashmir History and Politics by Kashinath Pandit;

New Delhi: Indian Council for Social Science Research in association with Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2019; pp. 337; price: Rs 850 less discount 20 per cent; HB, Order your copy with knp627@gmail.com

UPGRADED TEXT – Dec 20, 2020:

Ten Studies… is a collection of essays dealing with the history and politics of Kashmir. The essays have been written at different times and for different occasions. However, instead of looking at them individually, these should be looked together as an attempt at presenting an account of the political history of Kashmir from the earliest times, but mostly from 1930s onwards to the present.

The motive for putting the essays together has been clarified by the author in his Introduction saying that “Unscrupulous stakeholders have used unfair means to influence the views and perceptions of historians. The idea of influencing the historians may not find many takers, though it is true that historians have often served power structures or their pet constituencies through their written accounts.

Despite author’s scepticism, one cannot deny the credibility of the Kashmir narrative built in them, for it rests on strong foundations. He is a witness to most of the recorded events and has also an acute analytical mind to assess their significance. He complements his experience with details culled from archives in India and Europe and written sources from virtually all parts of the world, including Pakistan. Rich in detail the essays reveal many new and interesting aspects of happenings and events that have been in the public domain for long and also about the main actors involved.

In his synoptic account of the history of Kashmir from the earliest times, the author contradicts two significant points: the widely accepted conversion of Rinchan to the Muslim faith because of Bulbul Shah and the details about Shah Mir’s royal ancestry and the dream that led him to Kashmir. They were made current by the Farsi historians.

Because of his access to the manuscripts of Baharistan-i-Shahi and Tohfat’ul Ahbab, which he has translated into English, K.N. Pandit disputes the thesis put forth by many historians that conversions of the Hindus to the Muslim faith were spontaneous. He also tells us that most of the manuscript copies of the Tohfatul Ahbab in the Valley were intentionally mutilated or made defective as these carried the story of atrocities against the Hindu community. Pandit also states that the work of Alistair Lamb and Victoria Schofield is heavily tilted in favour of Pakistani viewpoint.

The announcement of the partition of the country by Mountbatten in 1947 set into motion a flurry of activity, in which local leaders and international powers became very active. Pandit explains how Hari Singh’s delay in deciding about the accession of the state frustrated Pakistani leaders. They engineered a rebellion against the Maharaja in Poonch, with the help of Muslim Conference leaders and disbanded Muslim soldiers of the British Indian army, set up the Azad Kashmir Government in Muzaffarabad, and planned annexation of Kashmir through force of arms.

The author provides a detailed account of how Operation Gulmarg was organized by the Pakistani military and operated by the lashkars, and how they succeeded in their plans because of the complicity of the local Muslims. The raiders captured the bridge linking Muzaffarabad with Abbottabad in quick time because the Muslim Guard Platoon of Jammu and Kashmir Infantry deserted and joined the tribesman, endangering the lives of thousands of non-Muslims there. They were killed, their homes looted and their women raped and kidnapped.

When the raiders entered Baramulla on October 27, the DC Chowdhury Faizullah welcomed them and the local Muslims helped them locate Hindu and Sikh houses for loot and plunder, and also gave them a list of prominent Pandits who were shot dead by them. He also provides vital information about their three-day halt in Baramulla, the complex military manoeuvre of the Indian army which pushed back the enemy, and the circumstances in which the ceasefire was announced on December 31, 1948.

The announcement changed a part of Kashmir into POK. In spite of its democratic exterior, the region, in effect, is under the control of the Pakistani Army and the secret agency ISI, and used mainly for running terror camps that are meant for disrupting peace in Kashmir.

The author dwells on how Nehru made the accession of the state to India conditional to the release of Abdullah from jail. Another revealing detail is that the British army generals expressed their inability to send troops at a short notice and Mountbatten remained visibly indifferent to Maharaja’s pleadings. Patel’s timely intervention saved Kashmir, because he ordered Gen Carriapa to send troops to Srinagar.

Since ceasefire left a part of the state with Pakistan, Nehru took the matter to the Security Council, which in its Resolution of 1948, recommended that Pakistan withdraw its troops and then hold a plebiscite. Mountbatten personally went to meet Jinnah and requested him to withdraw troops, but he refused.

K.N. Pandit documents the Kashmir case in the Council, showing how the Anglo-American block leaned heavily in favour of Pakistan so much so that the issue of aggression in Kashmir changed into one of India-Pakistan Question. This was despite one of the fact finding missions confirming Pakistan’s naked aggression.

Though Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession without any preconditions, Nehru’s faith in Abdullah made it problematic. The problems multiplied after Pakistan’s raid and India’s complaint against Pakistan in the United Nations. Abdullah went to the UN as part of the Indian delegation, and was emboldened to think differently about his position after he saw that the Anglo-American block was visibly anti-India.

A stunning revelation made by the author is that after his release and visit to Pakistan, Abdullah told the intelligence chief of Pakistan in Mecca in 1965 that he would not like to go back to India but stay in Sinkiang wherefrom he would urge the Kashmiris to rise in revolt to support “Operation Gibraltar,” but Ayub Khan did not accept his help. The Operation met with failure in the Valley. After Pakistan lost its eastern wing in operation Topac of 1971, Abdullah and Indira Gandhi signed an accord in 1975, a move that Mir Qasim did not like. In the election of 1977, NC opened itself up to the secessionists and Jamaatees.

The Jamaat infiltrated the government cadres, including the police. Jhelum Valley Medical College, set up with Saudi help, was turned into a den for money laundering. Many of its staff members had criminal record. The Sheikh’s speeches in 1979 and 1982 acquired a palpable communal tinge. He changed the Hindu names of 2500 villages into new Muslim ones. In his autobiography, he called the Hindus mukhbir, which was used later as an excuse by the terrorists for their selective killings.

The work of Abdullah was carried forward by later incumbents. Guns and anti-national literature flooded the underworld. Abdu’r Rahim Rather, the NC MLA, produced a pamphlet in which he alleged a conspiracy to change the Muslims into a minority. Ladakh was divided into two districts on communal basis. A ring of Muslim colonies was thrown around Jammu. In Shah’s time two battalions of police were recruited from among the Jamaatees. NC contributed liberally to the process of alienation of Kashmiris from the “Indian national mainstream and Kashmirian majority acquired a sectarian Muslim identity.

Hundreds of madrasahs became centres of indoctrination. Allahwale gave a new twist to Islam in Kashmir, by purging it of its indigenous links. They organized conferences and had a clout even in the central government. Jamiat-e Tulaba organized Conferences asking for the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions and voicing slogans like Islam, Quran, Jihad, and victory. Everything collapsed in 1990. Since then there has been a steady erosion of the secular base in the Valley.

Dr. Pandit sees these developments in the larger perspective of the changing contours of the Muslim polity in Kashmir, to which he devotes an exclusive essay. He argues how the upper and affluent classes in Kashmir contributed money and effort to align themselves with the masses, who had been subjected to the growing influence of indoctrination in mosques and madarasah.

It led to the eviction of the Pandits from the Valley in 1990. Tracing its roots, the author tells us about the genocide of the community taking place in the virtual absence of governance in the Valley. Threats were issued to them from mosques, printed in vernacular newspapers of the Valley, and sent through notices pasted on the doors of their houses. Their exodus was ascribed to the then Governor of the state only to exonerate the terrorist of the crime.

The author has provided evidence to show how the exiled Pandits eminently qualified for the status of the IDPs but the callous governments in the state and at the centre just did not let that happen. So they were made to suffer in refugee camps, in the sweltering heat of the plains, and back home their properties were vandalized. Their pain and suffering were used as a slogan by political parties, at the time of elections.

Ten Studies is a must read for all so that they can understand how the so-called mainstream political parties and the forces of disruption in the valley worked in tandem to create a totally non-secular polity in Kashmir and worked havoc with human lives for their petty gains. Order your copy with knp627@gmail.com.

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