Kashmir: Blatant Distortions of History, An Obstacle to Peace

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The attempt of BJP leaders is to polarize the society by holding Nehru or Article 370 responsible to the whole situation. They also undermine or deliberately ignore the international situation.

PROF RAM PUNIYANI 

THE abrogation of Article 370 was done with the claims that this step will restore peace and give security for the hapless Kashmiri Pundit community. Three years down the line after the killings of over eight Kashmiri Pundits it is clear that the move was wrong to the core. Even earlier while imposing demonetisation on the nation, one of the claims was that this will curb the terrorist violence in Kashmir. As that also turned to be an ill thought move, the problems persist.

With such a situation now the favorite whipping boy of BJP, Nehru is being blamed for the situation in Kashmir. Kiran Rijiju the Union minster states that Nehru’s follies have created the Kashmir problem. Not to be left behind UP chief minster Yogi Adityanath claims that implementation of article 370 is at the root of terrorist violence. Nothing can be farther from truth. Countering Rijiju’s baseless presentation of the events of history, Congress General Secretary Jayram Ramesh calls Rijiju as a ‘distorian’ and he is not off the mark.

Rijiju says it is wrong to say the Maharaja of Kashmir was dilly dallying merging to India. He asserts that problem was created by Nehru! The truth is that as India became Independent the Princely states were given the choice of either merging with India or Pakistan or remaining independent. Maharaja Harising, ruler of Kashmir, chose to remain independent. In his stance of refusing to merge with India, he was duly supported Praja Parishd, the elements who later became part of Bharatiya Jansangh, previous avatar of BJP. Maharaja did not want to give up his privileges and offered ‘standstill’ agreement (status quo) to both Pakistan and India. Pakistan accepted his offer, due to which Pakistan flags flew over the Post Offices of J&K. India refused this offer.

Later, Tribal and Pathan groups, supported by Pakistan army, launched an attack on Kashmir. They gave the reasons that since Muslims were being subjected to violence in Jammu, they need to counter it. Incidentally the Jammu anti Muslim violence was planned by Maharaja himself as he wanted at least one part of J&K to be Hindu majority. This Pakistan backed invasion forced Harising to seek India’s help to send its army. The pre condition of this was the treaty of accession which gave all the powers to state Assembly except defense, communication, currency and external affairs.

As far as Article 370 was concerned, it was on the insistence of Harisingh, who wanted special status for J&K.  “…Both the Kashmir Govt. and the National Conference pressed us to accept this accession and to send troops by air, but made a condition that the accession would have to be considered by the people of Kashmir later when the peace and order were established…” (Jawaharlal Nehru, Collected Works, XVIII, p. 421) The matter was taken up by Constituent Assembly and Article 370 was brought in. Similarly the decision of cease fire and taking the matter to United Nations were reflecting the mood of GOI as a whole and not merely of Jawaharlal Nehru. Sardar Patel in his letter to Nehru says (23rd February Feb 1950). “As regards specific issues raised by Pakistan, as you have pointed out, the question of Kashmir is before the Security Council. Having invoked a forum of settlement of disputes open to both India and Pakistan as members of the United Nations Organization nothing further needs to be done in the way of settlement of disputes than to leave matters to be adjudicated through that forum.”

Actually the problem lay somewhere else and that was the insistence of communal forces to forcibly merge the state with India. Here Nehru was for winning the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir rather than forcibly merging J&K. This was in total synchrony with what Sardar Patel thought. This is revealed by his letter to Nehru (23rd February 1950). He had even gone to the extent of saying “Some people consider that a Muslim majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realize that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be there, we shall not be there even for a minute… We shall not let the Kashmir down”. (Hindustan Times, October 31, 1948)

What happened was something different. As the matters stand there was gradual erosion of autonomy of Kashmir leading to alienation of Kashmiri people and rise of dissidence. This alienation led to initial protests which intensified with time. There was no communal element in this to begin with. After intervention of Pakistan and its training of dissidents the violence started. This took communal color with the Al Qaeda type elements entering Kashmir and started targeting the Kashmiri Pundits in the decade of 1980s. The roots of terrorist violence do not lie in the implementation of Article 370; it lies in the gradual suppression of autonomy of Kashmir. The terrorist violence was planted by outside elements and the US supported radical Islamist groups, trained with US designed syllabus in few Pakistan Madarssas did lead the situation in adverse direction.

Mr. Adityanath has to realize that if article 370 was the cause of the unfortunate terrorist violence in Kashmir, it should have subsided with it abrogation three years ago! If removal of this article was panacea for the disturbances in J&K, Kashmiri pundits would have felt safe and secure after abrogation of this article. The Kashmiri pundits are living in fear even today as the root cause of the problem is alienation of Kashmiris and suppression of the democratic rights in the state.

Rijiju is totally off the mark when he blames Nehru for the Kashmir imbroglio. Maharaja Harisingh never wanted to accede to India. He was supported by some elements and pro-India elements were looked down as outlined by many writers, including the prominent journalist Balraj Puri in his book Kashmir: Insurgency and after.

The attempt of BJP leaders is to polarize the society by holding Nehru or Article 370 responsible to the whole situation. They also undermine or deliberately ignore the international situation. The terrorism in the area, the promotion of extremist Islamist groups by America has contributed to worsening of situation in J&K. What we need today is to understand the issue with unprejudiced mind rather than blaming Nehru or Article 370 for the difficult situation there.

___________________

Ram Puniyani is an eminent author, activist and former professor of IIT Mumbai. The views are personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.

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