Adding to the murky state of affairs of 1947 when the subcontinent was divided and Kashmir found itself in an era of uncertain future, Saifudin Soz's book 'Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle' has brought to fore new insights how Pakistani leaders faltered, Kashmiris failed and India ended up winning.
The book details from various sources how Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was not informed about the tribal raid that was initiated by Liyaqat Ali Khan and his close group. Prior to the raid "standstill agreement offered by the maharaja was accepted by Pakistan, but not India. Under the agreement, Pakistan unfurled its flag at the post of office of Srinagar. Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Janak Singh got the flag down. The Pakistani authorities reacted bus topping supplies of salt and other necessities."
"Liyaqat Ali Khan was a fool and it was his folly that we have landed in the current mess," says Soz. According to the book, at the onset of the raid, Pakistan got the offer to pull out in lieu of vacating its claim on Hyderabad. To this Liyaqat told the emissary, "Have I gone mad to give up Hyderabad, which is much larger than the Punjab for the sake of rocks of Kashmir."
The book says that Pakistan would have got Kashmir automatically had it waited, because India could not have conquered it, nor could have maharaja ignored composition of population to accede to India.
The book reveals how neither Pakistan nor India was interested in Kashmir in 1947. Nehru wanted Kashmir should be part of India, but Patel told him that "we should not get mixed up with Kashmir, we already have too much on our plate."
Patel remained consistent on his perception that Pakistan shouldn't talk of Hyderabad, Kashmir should go to Pakistan.
The book however misses out on spelling out the role of Jinnah during these crucial months. More detail about Jinnah would have been welcome. How was it that less informed Liayaqat was calling shots instead of highly intelligent and popular Jinnah.
Liyaqat Khan's rude attitude towards Kashmiri delegation as against Indian Congress's warm welcome, Kashmiri delegation may have also forced Sheikh Abdullah to rethink on Pakistan accession, according to the book.
"I wanted to throw light on the genesis of the problem. What events and people created a problem which has cost so many lives and still is unrelenting in death and destruction," said Soz.
The book has a scathing attack on communal forces who sabotaged every peace move. The book says how communal forces prevailed on Nehru and he intern got Sheikh arrested in 1953 which created a rebellion in Kashmir. The revolt was crushed "and hundreds were killed mercilessly by forces."
"Kashmir had many traitors but if you ask me, I will quote Mir Qasim. Our biggest traitor has been Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed. He destroyed everything and brought in corruption, nepotism and every ill," said Soz.
The book says that had Bakshi was hand in glove with Praja Parishad which started agitation in Jammu that inturn forced Nehru to sack Sheikh Abdullah. Had Bakshi rejected to fall in trap of Delhi and not accepted government after Sheikh Abdullah, maybe our history would have been different.
The book also mentions massacre of muslims at Jammu after 1947 and what role maharaja and his communal wife played in it.
The book also deals with another sensitive subject of Pandit exodus from Kashmir. With the help of reference, personal interviews and insight knowledge, Soz says that exodus was undoubtedly handiwork of Jagmohan. The book details how nervous Jagmohan failed to instill confidence among Pandit delegation and he thought that it is better to make them leave Kashmir instead of providing them security here.
Thereafter policemen mysteriously went to Pandit neighbourhood informing that Passenger buses will be waiting to take them to Jammu.
Soz quotes a police officer saying that he was summoned by Jagmohan and told, "loading shoding me madam karna aur koi attack shattack nahi hona chahiye," (help the people move their belongings and see that they are not attacked).
"He (Jagmohan) had thought that his strong methods would work and he would be able to restore peace within a short time," reads the book. But the peace never happened, his curfews forced people to assemble in mosques, Gawkadal massacre happened, AFSPA had to be promulgated and so on.
It is not only contemporary history that Soz has touched upon in the book, but he has included earliest neolithic history too. From the rich archeological site of Burzahom the books travels to various foreigners who have described Kashmir. It is fascinating to see so much has been written by people who have travelled to Kashmir, who wished to travel to Kashmir and who never visited Kashmir from all around the world.
From Claudius Ptolemy of Greek describing Kashmir to magnum opus of Kalhana, Soz has summarised almost every important writer. With 146 references including books, documents, articles , the book is packed with valuable information and it makes reader to go to the original fascinating sources too.
Marco Polo has mentioned Kashmiris as magicians and rain makers.
Major part of the book is devoted to the oppression and suffering of Kashmiris. A single defeat in 1586 at the hands of Mughals pushed Kashmir into ever changing hands of ruthless rulers. The chapters of book are akin to a roller coaster ride through horrors.
However foreign traveller have also been critical of Kashmiris. The book quotes George Forster as saying that once a Kashmiri gets some authority he teases his fellow Kashmiris and indulges in pocketing as much money as possible. He goes on to say that a Kashmiri can be both a good friend and the worst enemy.
Other accounts by M A Stein, Fa Hian, Hiuen Tsiang, Al-Beruni, Kalhana, Francois Bernier, Robert Thorpe, Arthur Neve, Walter Lawrence and others are worth reading. Most of them despise the character of Kashmiris but on the same hand blame continuous oppression for the same.
"Most of the traveller had only been confined to Srinagar and they would met boatmen and few handicraft traders. They never went to rural areas barring people like Lawrence. I wanted to negate their opinion about Kashmiris because they had limited knowledge," said Soz.
Regarding 1846 sale of Kashmir to Dogra ruler Gulab Singh the book quotes Captain Knight, "For seventy five lac of rupees, the unfortunate Kashmiris were handed over to the tender mercies of the most thorough ruffian that ever was created- a villain from a kingdom down to half penny."
The book also describes what led to the start of armed insurgency and blames former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah for the same. According to Soz MUF would have won 10-12 seats had the 1987 elections be allowed to be conducted in a fair manner. Instead they were rigged and culmination of events led to armed uprising.
Soz mention in the book that he had himself led a delegation to dissuade Mufti Mohammed Sayeed from appointing Jagmohan as Governor, but he didn't listen.
The book goes through spread of militancy, kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayed, Nahid Soz and others. Regarding the post Burhan era, the book says "Now, Kashmir is in a mode of revolt," and urges for dialogue as it is the only way to avert further bloodshed and find the solution. He bats for dialogue with Hurriyat leaders as a start towards the final solution.
The book advocates solution on the lines of former Pakistan president General Parvez Musharraf's four point formula. Soz says that more was in cards but rise of extremist forces and political situation in Pakistan gave it a setback one after another. Soz quotes Musharraf as saying that Kashmiris will "prefer to be independent" if they are given a chance to "exercise their free will" seems to be "correct even today", but adds that the option is off the table.
Soz terms eroding of autonomy as an open and dangerous assault and hints that Delhi Agreement of 1952 between (Jawaharlal) Nehru and the Sheikh could be basis of the future solution.