Resolving the Kashmir Issue

Jammu and Kashmir State, in particular Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on earth with equally beautiful people. It’s a centre of Sufism - a culture created by liberal Islamic and Hindu traditions.
Resolving the Kashmir Issue
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Jammu and Kashmir State, in particular Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on earth with equally beautiful people. It's a centre of Sufism – a culture created by liberal Islamic and Hindu traditions. Even though this region has a Muslim majority, it is painful that the unrest in valley has dragged a flashpoint among unresolved disputes. Kashmir conflict, which has remained unresolved for the last 60 years or more, has been generally clouded by ignoring either of the two basic approaches to the problem. 

The Kashmir Conflict arose from the Partition of British India in 1947 into modern India and Pakistan. Both countries subsequently made claims to Kashmir, based on the history and religious affiliations of the Kashmiri people. The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which lies strategically in the north-west of the subcontinent bordering Afghanistan and China, was formerly ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh under the paramountcy of British India. In geographical and legal terms, the Maharaja could have joined either of the two new countries. Although urged by the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, to determine the future of his state before the transfer of power took place, Singh demurred. In October 1947, incursions by Pakistan took place leading to a war, as a result of which the state of Jammu and Kashmir remains divided between India and Pakistan.

It was in the late forties that most historical events took place. The tribal invasion of Kashmir, the Maharaja's consent to accession to India; the establishment of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah as the Prime Minister of the state; toppling down of his government in 1953; Coming of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed with a more stronger forting, " Kamrajing" Bakshi after his 11 year stay as Prime Minister of state; constitution of the tradition of governance by Shams-ud-din, Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq and Mir Qasim; reincarnation of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in 1975 and further continuation of the problem by his family members like Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Mohammed Shah.

In 1947, the Jammu & Kashmir state was one of 562 princely states and these were divided in three categories. There were 140 major states out of which Jammu & Kashmir was one. The rulers of Indian states were part of the British Indian Empire, which consisted of eleven provinces and the Indian princely states.   

The state was created under the Treaty of Amritsar between the East India Company and Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu who bought the Valley from the former for Rs 75, 00,000 (in 1846) and added it to Jammu and Ladakh already under his rule. The Valley is a Muslim majority region with a composite cultural identity called 'Kashmiriyat' transcending religious barriers. Moreover, the people are hospitable. The unrest began in 1931, with the movement against the repressive Maharaja Hari Singh. Singh, a part of the Hindu Dogra dynasty was ruling over a majority Muslim state, while there was no representation of the latter. In 1932, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah started the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference to fight for Kashmiri freedom from the Maharaja's rule, which eventually became the National Conference in 1939.

The Glancy Commission appointed by the Maharaja in its report in April 1932, confirmed that the subjects had grievances and suggested recommendations. These were accepted but not implemented, leading to another agitation in 1934. These culminated in a Quit Kashmir movement in 1946, led by the National Conference, to restore the autonomy of the people. In August 1947, the Indian subcontinent became independent and like other princely states, Kashmir also had the choice to accede to its preferred dominion – India or Pakistan, taking into account factors such as geographical contiguity and the wishes of their people. The Maharaja delayed his decision, attempting to remain independent. However, the people expected to accede to Pakistan.

In a controversial move, the Maharaja handed over control of the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir to India, despite Pakistani protests and calls for a referendum that would allow the Kashmiri people to decide. Barring National Conference, other parties like the Muslim Conference and the Chiefs of Gilgit region, advised against this move. While in prison, Sheikh Abdullah wrote a letter to a friend in Jammu (which was published in the Congress press) in favour of accession of Kashmir to India. Abdullah was released from prison on September 29, 1947, after which he alternated his demand between an Azad Kashmir and one belonging to either nation.

The Indian army entered the state on October 27, to fend off invading forces, and Abdullah endorsed the accession as unplanned which would otherwise be ultimately decided by a plebiscite. He was appointed as head of the emergency administration. Pakistan reiterated that the accession is illegal and the Maharaja acted under compulsion. In November 1947, India proposed to Pakistan to withdraw all its troops first, as a precondition for plebiscite, which Pakistan rejected stating that the Kashmiris may not vote freely given the presence of Indian army and Abdullah's friendship with the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Thus Pakistan too proposed simultaneous withdrawal of all troops. On January 1, 1948, India took the Kashmir problem to the United Nations (UN) Security Council. A year later, a ceasefire between the two was forced, which left India in control of most of the Valley, as well as Jammu and Ladakh, while Pakistan gained control of part of Kashmir including what Pakistan calls "Azad" Kashmir and Northern territories. Pakistan claimed it is merely supporting a native rebellion in "Azad" Kashmir and Northern Territories against repression, while India terms that territory as POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir).

Four days later, UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) resolution stated that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through a free and impartial plebiscite. As per the 1948 and 1949, UNCIP resolutions, both countries accepted the principle that Pakistan secures the withdrawal of Pakistani intruders followed by withdrawal of Pakistani and Indian forces, as a basis for the formulation of a Truce agreement whose details were to be arrived in future. However, both countries failed to arrive at a Truce agreement due to differences in interpretation of the procedure. On October 17, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 of the Constitution ensuring a special status and internal autonomy for the state with central jurisdiction limited to the three areas – defence, foreign affairs and communications.

Later on in 1951, the first post-independence elections were observed here but the UN passed a resolution stating that these were not substitutes for a plebiscite because a plebiscite offered the option of choosing between India and Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah won, mostly unopposed. There were widespread charges of election rigging. In 1952, he drifted from a position of endorsing accession to India to insisting on self-determination of Kashmiris. In July, he signed the Delhi Agreement with the Central government on Centre-State relationships, providing for autonomy of the state within India and of regions within the state; Kashmir was even allowed to have its own flag. On 14th of July 1953, President Rajendra Prasad wrote to Nehru that "On his (Vice President Radhakrishnan) return from a visit to Kashmir he came and told me that even Sheikh Abdullah thought we would lose a plebiscite". Nehru as a mass leader always had his finger on the pulse of the people, and knew perfectly well which way the magnetic needles in Kashmiri hearts were pointing. So he secretly admitted to the Sheikh, that public declarations not withstanding he had rejected plebiscite as far back as 1948, he wanted the Sheikh to declare that Jammu & Kashmir State's accession to India was final and irrevocable.  

Since then and over half a century later, there is no sign of an end to this complicated dispute. A series of wars and ongoing guerilla operations have ensured that the state has remained one of the most volatile and bloody regions of the world. India and Pakistan have fought at least three wars over Kashmir, including the Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1947, 1965 and 1999. There must be a serious, result-oriented and time-bound process of dialogue between the leadership of India and Pakistan, and of Jammu and Kashmir. Further demands and new conflicts have added new complications to this unresolved issue. Many in Kashmir have concluded that the Government of India is not sincere and has no desire to resolve the Kashmir issue. Today, many people are questioning whether the political path of dialogue and negotiation is the best way to seek their rights and ensure justice. All of us must convince our elected leaders that the time has come to develop a peace process on Kashmir that is immune to domestic politics and power tussles. The entire world is waiting for India to come forward for peace. There is already a broad political consensus in Jammu and Kashmir and in Pakistan that the Kashmir issue must be amicably resolved. Similarly, we must ask our leaders to develop a political consensus to resolve the issue. Finding a solution to the Kashmir issue should become the aim of all parties. 

The Kashmir issue is where it has always been – unresolved and causing great harm and suffering to people. Lastly, a road map needs to take into account the dignity and legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people who are not pawns to be enthused around on a chessboard by Indians, Pakistanis, American or British diplomats. Kashmiris are worthy of the world's concern and involvement in resolving the dispute as per their aspirations.

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