The BJP’s slogan of “development” is coupled with silence on Kashmir’s aspirations
Sure enough the Congress was planted in Kashmir. Sheikh Sahab retaliated with Tark-e-Mawalaat (ostracisation) of Congressmen. Sadiq tried to tighten Central control over Kashmir by amending the State’s Constitution and through Orders under Art. 370.
On 10 April 1965 the Sadar-i-Riyasat was replaced by the Governor. On 17 May 1965 a President’s Order extended Art. 356, on direct Central rule, to J&K. More such orders followed till his death on 11 December 1971. Mir Qasim followed in his footsteps.
Mufti joined Mir Qasim and Sadiq’s DNC and fought the rigged Assembly polls in 1967 on Congress ticket like “Khalid-made MLAs”. He supported Mir Qasim in his opposition to Sadiq’s liberal policy towards the Sheikh. In 1972 Mir Qasim took Mufti in his Cabinet. He was opposed to the Sheikh-India Accord of 1975 and was made State Congress Chief. When, in 1977, Indira Gandhi decided to withdraw Congress support to Sheikh’s ministry, Mufti hoped to become CM since the Congress had a majority in the Assembly thanks to the rigged polls of 1972. But the upright Governor L.K. Jha imposed Governor’s rule and ordered fresh elections. Sheikh Abdullah stormed back to power. His rule was marred by corruption intolerance and nepotism.
Governor B. K. Nehru’s memoir’s Nice Guys Finish Second provide a fair glimpse of the politics then. The Sheikh had a poor opinion of Farooq and still poorer of G.M. Shah. Mufti was one of Indira Gandhi’s “principal advisers”. Nehru records: “The Mufti did not, however, seem to me to have the breadth or depth of vision necessary to determine the policies of the Government of India towards Kashmir. This required, among other things, the placing of the national interest way above that of the party interest. This, in common with other politicians, Mufti Sayeed was not capable of doing. In his thinking, and he was certainly not exceptional in this, what was good for the party was ipso facto good for the country. It was good for the Congress Party to wield political power in Jammu and Kashmir; ergo it was in the national interest that it should so wield it. To this was, of course, added the consideration that if the Congress Party did somehow manage to occupy the seats of power, the premier occupant of those seats would be Mufti Mohammed Sayeed himself. …
“The fact that the National Conference had won thirty-eight seats in the Valley and the Congress had won only two did not deter Mufti Sayeed from dreaming dreams of becoming Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. From 1953 to 1975 Chief Ministers of that state had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimised by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress Party led by Delhi’s nominee was elected by huge majorities. What Mufti Sayeed, M.L. Fotedar and their followers really wanted was that Kashmir should revert to the status quo ante, the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord of 1975, and that Farooq should be dismissed and should be replaced by a Congress nominee. Then these gentlemen could once again enjoy the prestige and the power and the pelf of office which in a regime of impartial democratic elections they could not possibly hope ever to do.”
Mufti’s plans to become CM were dashed in 1977, by L. K. Jha, and in 1984 by G.M. Shah. Mufti carried tales to the PM against the Governor B.K. Nehru who was removed so that his successor Jagmohan could dismiss Farooq, a plan of which Mufti was a main architect.
In 1996, New Delhi decided to install Farooq as CM in conformity with past practice and played its old games as Governor K. V. Krishna Rao recorded. “It came to notice that the Home ministry was continuing its efforts to develop alternative leadership, and this had greatly upset the National Conference. It will be recalled that Abdul Ghani Lone, Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat and Moulvi Abbasi Ansari were released in April 1992, while Syed Ali Shah Geelani was released in September 1992, on the expectation that they would give up their secessionist stand and gravitate towards dialogue for resolution of the militancy problem. Instead, they had formed the Hurriyat….
“Another militant leader, Shabir Siddiqui, was also being used by the Home Ministry. Failing to achieve much progress in the talks with all the above leaders, the Home Ministry got on to some second and third rung leaders such as Babar Badar and eight others. These people demanded some so-called confidence building measures to be taken, namely, offensive operations to be stopped by the security forces, ‘renegades’ to be disarmed, and ‘innocent’ personnel to be released.
“Farooq met me a number of times and reiterated his concern that the Home Ministry, by propping up certain militant leaders, was trying to develop an alternative leadership. I told him not to bother about it, but to continue with his political activities in preparation for the elections.”
(In the Service of the Nation; pp. 5126 and 531).
Farooq proved an embarrassment. The PDP was set up in 1999 as another “alternative leadership”. Many hold it was the Centre’s plant at Vajpayee’s instance.
Remember, no sooner Sheikh Sahib became CM, than he wrote to both Mirza Afzal Beg, President of the Plebiscite Front and Mir Qasim, leader of the Congress Party in the Assembly, on 23 May 1975 inviting them to join a revival National Conference. In 1977 he rebuffed Asoka Mehta’s proposal on 17 April for its merger with the Janata Party. This NC, a body that would espouse Kashmir’s cause was taken over by his son Farooq on his death. After initial defiance he joined hands with Rajiv Gandhi in 1996 in a prelude to rigged polls in 1997.
People welcomed Mufti’s Government as a relief in 2002 and relief he did provide. His past was forgotten and forgiven. It would be unfair and dishonest to deny Mufti full credit for the changed atmosphere, “the healing touch”. Alas, it did not last. Ghulam Nabi Azad took over in 2005. Mufti impetuously withdrew support. In 2008 the unforgiving Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul opted for the NC. Mufti decided that his fortunes now lay with Delhi’s new rulers. The Old Adam was revived. His statements on Omar’s outrages in 2010 and later, were tepid. He was resolved to be “in the mainstream”. As Meredith wrote “We are betrayed by what is false within.”
The result? Two Kashmiri parties (PDP and NC) competing for the Centre’s favours. The one which is not the Centre’s plant behaved no differently from the ones which are (Congress and PDP). The separatists are hopelessly divided and proclaim their irrelevance by spouting irrelevant slogans. Their ego clashes are infantile. Militancy has abated enormously. But alienation has not abated one bit. Witness the total shut down on 8 December against PM Modi’s visit to Srinagar.
Contrast this with the situation in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. A former Judge of the High Court C.V. Wigneswaran is Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council. His Tamil National Alliance truly represents the people and he courageously stands up for their rights against Colombo. This, in a unitary State belying Nayeem Akhtar’s falsehoods.
Kashmir needs a leader like him; a mediator between the people and the Centre. The people yearn for peace with Pakistan and he should fearlessly speak up against confrontationism; indeed, he should publicly support the 4-Points which never received calculating Mufti’s support.
New Delhi does it best to prevent such a leader from emerging. If he does, he is pulled down. As Mir Qasim wrote “Whenever New Delhi feels a leader in Kashmir is getting too big for his shoes, it employs Machiavellian methods to cut him to size”. He described those methods in detail (My Life and Times; p. 119). Only unity can prevent this.
The BJP’s slogan of “development” is coupled with silence on Kashmir’s aspirations. This is an old tradition since the accession. From Srinagar, Indira Gandhi wrote to her father Jawaharlal Nehru, as early as on 14 May, 1948: “They say that only Sheikh Sahib is confident of winning the plebiscite”. He decided to discard plebiscite. Her recipe is being followed even in 2015. It was this: “I feel that all the political talk will count for nothing if the economic situation can be dealt with. Because after all the people are concerned with only (one) thing – they want to sell their goods and to have food and salt.” For her, they had no feelings, no opinions and no soul – a view no different from that of the Collector in colonial times. She had a sure and simple remedy, which we hear still. “But most important of all – and I feel the only thing that can save Kashmir for India and the Kashmiris – will be an influx of visitors this summer, preferably from Bombay and Ahmedabad, since those are ones (who) buy most.”
Her socialist father shared her wise prescription. He wrote to the Sheikh from Sonamarg on 25 August 1952: “It must be remembered that the people of Kashmir Valley and round about, though highly gifted in many ways – in intelligence, in artisanship, etc. – are not what are called a virile people. They are soft and addicted to easy being. … The common people are primarily interested in a few things – an honest administration and cheap and honest food.”
No Kashmiri would utter those words for his own people. Nehru’s outlook shaped in U. was exposed also to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Bogra, when they met in New Delhi on 17 August 1953: “Most people, of course, were hardly political and only cared for their economic betterment.”
The Sonamarg letter of 25 August 1952 shocked Sheikh Saheb. Nehru asked him to get the Assembly to finalise the accession. Hence Shekh Saheb’s quest instead for an Indo-Pak accord to finalise the future status by a proper accord. Nehru stopped the process and put him in prison in complicity with Bakshi, Sadiq, Mir Qasim and Karan Singh. Kashmiris, like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mufti and the Abdullahs, father and son, agree with this thesis because, like Nehru and Indira, their contempt for the people, however concealed, is deep. Soon after he imposed himself as CM, Azad said that the Kashmir question was solved already by the Accord of 1975.
Statesmanship in Kashmir is not so bankrupt as to neglect the task of reconciling Jammu with Srinagar. There are plenty of models to draw upon – a committee of Jammu MLAs to voice objections on Bills which affect the region. The devolution plan approved by the State People’s Convention in May 1970 envisaged devolution down to the village level. There can and must be a frank dialogue. The BJP’s communal agenda is an impediment. The RSS has been for trifurcation of the State as its protégé S.P. Mookerjee was. The RSS is in ascendance. Its Chief, Mohan Bhagwat, demanded on 18 January that India be made a “Hindu Nation”.
The very next day on 19 January, “a senior PDP leader” told Asian Age: “Talks between the two parties are going on and we think it will take final shape after the Delhi Assembly elections. Both the BJP and the PDP are of the view that an elected government with support from the Centre can expedite the development process in the state, particularly after the devastating floods. PDP sources claimed that there were ‘minor issues’ that remain to be sorted out with the BJP following which the government formation process would be expedited.” The differences which Nayeem Akhtar acknowledged, on 28 December, to be “irreconcilable” became “minor issues” once the smell of the loaves and fishes of office became stronger by the day. All doubts were dispelled on 24 January when Mufti himself spoke for the first time. “We may differ in our vision and priorities but an attempt is being made to find common ground……”. A deal has been all but concluded with the BJP.
To this day, Kashmiris have not forgiven Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah for the accord of 1975; nor, by some, for the accession in 1947 though it was forced on him by the tribal raid. After 1953, coup by the three conspirators and the wars of 1965 and 1971 drastically reduced his clout. He lost the fight in him. Had he not settled, the N.C. could not have been revived. But he need not have settled so abjectly on the terms on which he did, nor run the corrupt administration he did. He was avid for power. But this man also loved Kashmir and its people. That cannot be said of Mufti. His betrayal in 2015 is as grave as his mentors’ betrayal in 1953.
Will Kashmiris ever forgive the man who delivered them to the BJP, now in its most rabid form as a tool of RSS, with full knowledge of its anti-Muslim, anti Kashmir agenda? He deserves much more than the censure in Browning’s lines.