Home > 2016 > Which Kashmir is Integral Part of India: The People or the Land?

Mainstream, VOL LIV No 34 August 13, 2016 [Independence Day Special 2016]

Which Kashmir is Integral Part of India: The People or the Land?

Monday 15 August 2016, by Barun Das Gupta

The Kashmir situation is getting from bad to worse. The State has been on the boil since July 8, the day the Indian security forces took credit for exterminating a dreaded terrorist—the 22-year-old Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a commander of the separatist Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The ‘encounter death’ (a phrase which has become all too familiar over the years and decades with all its sinister implications—from the North-East to Maoist-dominated areas to Jammu and Kashmir) of Wani, son of a headmaster and a school dropout, was described by the Director-General of J & K Police, K. Rajendra, as a “major success for the security forces because he was instrumental in brainwashing many local boys to take up the gun”.

What baffled understanding and explanation was the fact that thousands of people, mostly young men, attended his burial at the Idgah in Tral town. Were all these people ‘separatists’ or ‘secessionists’ or ‘Pakistani agents’ or ‘anti-India elements’? If so, then there must be something intrinsically wrong with our Kashmir policy that needs to be corrected before it is too late.

What exactly is the ‘Kashmir problem’? It is the problem of relationship between the Indian state and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the problem of the psychological and emotional integration of the people of Kashmir with the people of India, their spontaneous feeling of a sense of identity, a sense of oneness, with India. It is basically a battle for the Kashmiri mind—a battle, not to mince one’s words, India has been steadily losing.

When we say that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ what plays in our sub-conscious mind is the land of Jammu and Kashmir, not the people of Kashmir. Barring a part of that land which is under the occupation of Pakistan, the rest of the land is ours and we will not allow Pakistan to take a square centimetre of that land. This is our resolve. Kashmiris will have to be with us, in whichever way we treat them and whether they like it or not.

To understand the nature of the problem and the reason of the Kashmiris’ growing sense of alienation from India, we have to delve into past history, we have to go back to the fateful days just after the independence of India and the creation of two states—India and Pakistan. The first India-Pakistan war took place in October, 1947, and Kashmir was the issue.

Brigadier (later Lieutenant-General) L.P. Sen was dispatched to Kashmir as the commander of the 161 Infantry Brigade to save the then princely State from the armed Pakistani tribal raiders who had crossed the border, poured into the Valley and were indulging in widespread loot, arson and rape. (It is only much later that the truth could not be suppressed that in the guise of tribal raiders, Pakistan had sent their Army regulars, too.) Brigadier Sen’s book, Slender Was the Thread, is the most authoritative military account of that war. We will quote profusely from his book to understand the genesis of the war and how India became involved in it.

Sen writes: “In order to enable Supreme Headquarters to function effectively, the Indian Army Headquarters Signal Regiment provided it with all its communications, including those to Pakistan Army Headquarters. The links provided for Supreme Headquarters were for its exclusive use. With the breakdown of law and order in the Punjab, Supreme Headquarters found its traffic increased considerably, and began utilising the already overstretched channels of communications of Army Head-quarters, India. This resulted in unacceptable delays in the submission of the various summaries and reports by Military Intelligence to the Government and to the Directorates of Headquarters. Some other channels of communi-cation were desperately needed, and fortunately the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force found themselves in a position to assist. Their wireless sets while not linked to any specific stations were utilised as Intercept sets and any messages that they picked up were passed to Military Intelligence....

“It was from some of these intercepts received via the Naval and Air Force channels that the first indication was received of something amiss in the Jammu Province of Jammu and Kashmir State.

“Among the intercepts received early in October 1947 was the one that read: ‘Gorkhas are still holding out at Sensa.’ As Gorkha units were part of the Indian Army, and no message had been received that any unit was in trouble, a study was made of the Order of Battle of the Indian Army to ascertain the Gorkha Battalion located in Sensa. There was no such place.....

“The following day a further intercept was received: ‘Commander to Commander. Owen captured. Wait until I join you then coordinated attack on Sensa.’ At about mid-day came another: ‘Commander to Commander. Have received one hundred Poonchies. Arrange rations.’

“The word ‘Poonchies’ at last gave a clue. It indicated that the area of operations was not the North-West Frontier Province or Balu-chistan, but Jammu and Kashmir State. As no maps of Jammu and Kashmir were available with the Military Intelligence, a Staff Officer was sent to the Map Depot which handed him the necessary map sheets, but with a note to the effect that stocks of these maps were very limited, the main stock having been collected and taken to Pakistan. The Jammu-Pakistan border was scanned, and first Owen and then Sensa were located. They were both in the Poonch District of Jammu Province. From the locations it was obvious that they were both Jammu and Kashmir State Force border outposts. Only then was it realised that the J&K State Forces enlisted Gorkhas.”

Later it transpired that Pakistan had made full preparations for the attack beforehand by suborning the loyalty of the Muslim troops of the 4 J&K Infantry, which had been moved up the road towards the Kashmir Valley which was in imminent danger. Half the troops of the 4 J&K Infantry was Muslim. The other half (the Dogras) was Hindu. To quote Brig. Sen again:

“In the early hours of the morning of 22 October, while their Dogra comrades lay sleeping, the Poonchie Muslim troops rose. They drew their weapons from the Company Armouries and trained light automatics and medium machine guns on the barracks occupied by the Dogras, and on their Armouries so that they would be incapable of reaching their weapons. They then moved in and killed their comrades, including Lt. Col. Niranjan Singh who had placed implicit trust in them. This accomplished, they made contact with the tribal convoy which had arrived and lay halted on the Pakistan side of the border. With the town of Muzaffarabad open to them, the tribals swarmed in. Rape, loot and arson engulfed the town. The tribesmen were only brought under control with the promise of even better booty ahead in the Valley. The tribal convoy, now led by the Poonchie Muslims of 4 J & K Infantry, moved up the road towards the Valley.”

Brig. Sen then makes an important comment: “One might form the impression from these incidents in Jammu and in Muzaffarabad-Domel area that the Muslims of the State had risen against the Government and wished to join Pakistan. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thousands upon thousands of Muslims in the Government, the State Forces and in the National Conference, the political party led by Sheikh Abdullah, braved death in stemming the invasion. Many Muslim officers and men of the J & K State Forces were later absorbed into the Indian Army. Their loyalty is beyond question. It was only a certain number that defected.” (Italics mine.—B.D.G.)

The besieged Maharajah, Hari Singh, facing imminent defeat and disaster, approached India to send its Army. India, with Jawaharlal Nehru as the Prime Minister, said Indian troops could be sent into Kashmir only if the Maharajah acceded to India. The situation was desperate for Hari Singh, denying him time for taking a decision. He signed the instrument of accession to the Indian Dominion on October 26, 1947. Next day, October 27, Governor-General Lord Mountbatten sent a communication to the Maharajah accepting the accession but with the remark that: “It is my Government’s wish that as soon as law and order have been restored in Jammu and Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.”

But the ‘invaders’—that is, Pakistan—have never vacated the land they had occupied, despite a UN resolution specifically calling upon Pakistan to do so. The plebiscite question thus became infructuous. Meanwhile, much water has flown down the Jhelum. The Kashmiris have taken part in the elections in huge numbers every time. Strictly speaking, Pakistan has no locus standi in Jammu and Kashmir. The problem is between India and Kashmir or, to be more precise, between the Indian state and the people of Kashmir. It is India’s failure to sort out this problem that has brought Pakistan into the picture and what was essentially an India-Kashmir issue has now become an India-Pakistan issue.

We will now come to the most important document—the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir to India which the Maharajah signed.

Instrument of Accession executed by Maharajah Hari Singh on October 26, 1947

Whereas the Indian Independence Act, 1947, provides that as from the fifteenth day of August, 1947, there shall be set up an independent Dominion known as INDIA, and that the Government of India Act 1935, shall with such omissions, additions, adaptations and modifications as the Governor General may by order specify, be applicable to the Dominion of India.

And whereas the Government of India Act, 1935, as so adapted by the Governor General, provides that an Indian State may accede to the Dominion of India by an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof.

Now, therefore, I Shriman Inder Mahinder Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu & Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbet adi Deshadhipati, Ruler of Jammu & Kashmir State, in the exercise of my Sovereignty in and over my said State do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession and

1. I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India with the intent that the Governor General of India, the Dominion Legislature, the Federal Court and any other Dominion authority established for the purposes of the Dominion shall by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession but subject always to the terms thereof, and for the purposes only of the Dominion, exercise in relation to the State of Jammu & Kashmir (hereinafter referred to as “this State”) such functions as may be vested in them by or under the Government of India Act, 1935, as in force in the Dominion of India, on the 15th day of August 1947, (which Act as so in force is hereafter referred to as “the Act’).

2. I hereby assume the obligation of ensuring that due effect is given to provisions of the Act within this State so far as they are applicable therein by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession.

3. I accept the matters specified in the schedule hereto as the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may make law for this State.

4. I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India on the assurance that if an agreement is made between the Governor General and the Ruler of this State whereby any functions in relation to the administration in this State of any law of the Dominion Legislature shall be exercised by the Ruler of the State, then any such agreement shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

5. The terms of this my Instrument of Accession shall not be varied by any amendment of the Act or the Indian Independence Act, 1947, unless such amendment is accepted by me by Instrument supplementary to this Instrument.

6. Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this State authorizing the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose, but I hereby undertake that should the Dominion for the purpose of a Dominion law which applies in this State deem it necessary to acquire any land, I will at their request acquire the land at their expense, or, if the land belongs to me transfer it to them on such terms as may be agreed or, in default of agreement, determined by an arbitrator to be appointed by the Chief Justice of India.

7. Nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit in any way to acceptance of any future Constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into agreement with the Government of India under any such future constitution.

8. Nothing in this Instrument affects the continuance of my Sovereignty in and over this State, or, save as provided by or under this Instrument, the exercise of any powers, authority and rights now enjoyed by me as Ruler of this State or the validity of any law at present in force in this State.

9. I hereby declare that I execute this Instrument on behalf of this State and that any reference in this Instrument to me or to the Ruler of the State is to be construed as including a reference to my heirs and successors.

Given under my hand this 26th day of October, nineteen hundred and forty seven.

Hari Singh, Maharajadhiraj of Jammu and Kashmir State

Schedule I of the Instrument of Accession listed the matters “with respect to which the Dominion Lelgislature may make laws for this State.” The power of the Indian legislature to make laws was restricted to three subjects: Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications. Kashmir was to have its separate constitution, flag and Head of State (Sadar-i-Riyasat) and Prime Minister. So, when Kashmir acceded to the Indian Dominion, it was on the condition that it was not to be just like any other Province but would retain its special characteristics.

Unfortunately, all Central Governments in New Delhi, whether run by the Congress or the BJP or hotchpotch coalitions, were bent on obliterating these special characteristics and reducing Jammu and Kashmir to the status of any other State of the Indian Union. This was done ostensibly to ‘integrate’ Kashmir with the rest of India. The more the so-called ‘integration process’ continued, the more the gulf widened between the people of Kashmir and India. The persistent demand for the abolition of Article 370 of the Constittuion is only accentuating the process of alienation. Earlier, the flag of Kashmir used to be hoisted along with the national flag of India in all official functions in Kashmir. Last year, the BJP Government stopped the hoisting of the Kashmiri flag, further injuring the amour propre of the Kashmiris.

Have we ever asked ourselves why the Indian Army, which was hailed by the Kashmiris in 1947 as their saviour from the Pakistani marauders, is now regarded as a force of occupation? Why has the Kashmiri mind undergone such a sea-change in 69 years?

The answer is obvious. We have refused to recognise the Kashmir problem as a political problem and treated it all along as a law-and-order problem. Every unrest has to be put down with the force of the state. For this purpose, the security forces have been given a blanket cover by the AFSPA. This law empowers the members of the security forces to kill anyone who is merely suspected to be a terrorist or an insurgent and gives them immunity against prosecution in a court of law. So the tendency is to use force—more and more force. And the use of force is proving more and more counter-productive. The death of every ‘secessionist’ gives birth to a dozen more. The people of Kashmir are turning against India.

Following Burhan’s death, Kashmir went through a spell of an undeclared emergency. Local newspaper offices were raided in the dead of the night and their publication stopped. The police swooped on and seized several thousand copies of a newspaper that had reached the hawkers. Internet and mobile phone services were stopped. Local TV channels were shut down. There was a complete news blackout. The ‘Indian’ media, print and electronic, took care not to report what was actually happening in Kashmir. They only toed the official line that terrorists and secessionists were creating trouble in Kashmir and the Indian state was determined to foil the conspiracy of the Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.

Suppressing anger is not the way to win over a people who have been alienated and are still being alienated. We are losing the battle for the Kashmiri mind. If we cannot reverse the process and set in motion a process of reconciliation, of healing, of winning the confidence of the Kashmiris, it is doubtful how long we shall be able to keep them with us against their wish. There is time yet. Let us recognise that the Kashmir problem is a political problem. Let us set in motion the process of reconciliation and removing the hurt and wounded feelings of the Kashmiris. It is no use blaming Pakistan. Pakistan is no friend of India and has never made secret of its inimical intentions against India. They will take advantage of every situation that can be used to whip up anti-India feelings. It is for us not to create situations Pakistan can exploit. Kashmir for India is not a tract of land but the people who inhabit that land.

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.