Kashmir… the mere mention of the word is enough to draw strong emotions in almost all Indians. Kashmir… the mere mention of the word evokes, unfortunately, the sounds of gunfire, the ugly reality of terrorism, the incalculable loss of life and the heart-rending scenes of families crying over their dead. Kashmir… the mere mention of the word reminds one of Pakistan, and the attendant enmity that 2 nations have been condemned to. Kashmir… the mere mention of the word reminds us of 1948, 1965, 1971 and the most recent Kargil conflict in 1999. Kashmir… the great tragedy of Kashmir, which reminds the Indian of all these sad scenes – in place of the scenic location and lovely state it is supposed to be. Kashmir… the most enduring tragedy and result of Partition!
It has become fashionable – especially among the internet generation – to question India’s stance on Kashmir. The penchant of the younger lot to question this entire dispute is disturbing. Happily, there are few such instances – but reading of them on Quora has brought home the reality of how little we know about the dispute. I am not an expert on Kashmir – but I have read on Indian Independence quite extensively, and have learnt not to question India’s stance. This post is an effort to try to put across the genesis of the problem – how it all started way back in 1947.
This problem is further exacerbated by the total lack of material on this crisis. All material and books I have read – save one – have glossed over the details, and shortening it to Pakistan invades; Hari Singh accedes to India, First Indo Pak War, India goes to UN… and that is it. From this data, young Indians tend to make several inferences; that first of all, why should Kashmir go to India if it was a Muslim State? That India had no right etc etc.
Let us examine this in some detail. First – Muslim State. In 1947, being a Muslim State itself was no guarantee of accession to Pakistan. Till the very end, NWFP was pro-India; Baluchistan was against Pakistan. In the Kashmir Valley, The Sheikh Abdullah led National Conference had to upper hand over the Muslim League led Muslim Conference. According to the British Resident of the time, WP Webb, Agha Shaukat Ali of the Muslim Conference had threatened Direct Action – but had failed. All attempts to stoke communal tensions failed in the state. Kashmir remained free form communal tensions all through – this is confirmed from reports of the British officers. Thus, there is every chance that a referendum would have worked to advantage!
Next, why should Kashmir go to India? For this, let me start with 2 passages which are self-explanatory:
1. In India, in the absence of any homogeneity, a penetration in any direction can result in … separation of different units geographically as well as morally because there is no basic unity among the Shudras, Brahmins, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims who will follow their own different interests. At present, and for a long time to come, India is in the same position as she was centuries ago, exposed to disintegration in emergencies – Major General Akbar Khan, Pakistan Army, 14 November 1947
2. Personally , when I recommended to the Government of India the acceptance of accession of the Maharaja of Kashmir, I had in mind one consideration and one consideration alone, viz., that the invasion of Kashmir by the raiders was a great threat to the integrity of India. Ever since the time of Mahmud Ghazni, that is to say, for nearly 8 centuries… India had been subjected to periodical invasions from the North-West… and within less than 10 weeks of the establishment of the new state of Pakistan, its very first act was to let loose a tribal invasion through the North-West. Srinagar today, Delhi tomorrow – VP Menon
Whenever one is trying to understand history, one should first attempt to understand the backdrop as it existed in those days. Unless you understand what atmosphere was prevalent in 1947, any conclusions you draw from the current scenario are bound to be erroneous. It is not my objective to teach the reader exactly what happened; this I cannot do in a blog post. This is the subject of an entire book! I just want to instill some basic questions in the readers’ mind, as well as explain the ground scenario as it existed in those days.
Every hand was drawn against India. The British and the Americans were concerned with a possible invasion by Russia, and wanted a sphere of influence in West India – including military bases. Independent India was crystal clear: we will not be a part of any such shenanigans. This was clear to the westerner right from the start, as the views of the leading freedom fighters were well known. They were also deeply skeptical of the chances of the continued existence of India itself as a united entity for very long. The Pakistani attitude becomes clear from the statement above. It is also a fact that Jinnah had approached many, many other princes for accession. It is no secret that the Muslim League wanted a much larger Pakistan. It is on record – “you have given us a moth-eaten Pakistan”.
India was a new nation; to people outside India – it was an experiment. The money was on the survival of Pakistan – not India. No one understood the cultural unity of India outside India in those days. These are not peripheral matters; these are central to our quest to understand the entire Kashmir imbroglio. As can be seen by VP Menon’s statement – this was seen as an existential threat by Indians. This visceral and primeval fear cannot be ignored; this was central to the problem. What we need to question is, was this fear real? Or was it imagined? Keep in mind that there were abundant statements by enemies that India will break up, that we can absorb break-away parts, that Junagarh, Bhopal etc were approached by Jinnah and Pakistan. Also remember this was just 2 years after a massive war. Most critically, while we may think the fear was imagined – these fears were real to the Government of India in those days. This is brought out very clearly in VP Menon’s words from those days.
Next, independent states was not an option; allowing one state to go independent would open a Pandora’s box – as unleash a string of other such demands. That is why there were only 2 options in front of the princely states – India and Pakistan. Also, Attlee’s demand that India send troops to defend Kashmir without accepting accession does not hold water; it in fact strengthens the fears outlined above. Also, with Kashmir still independent, the danger given above remained. Not only that, it would have left Pakistan with a free hand to have another go. Hence, there was no option but to have Kashmir accede to India in order that troops could be sent in.
And thus it is that we come to the matter of the referendum… but that is another story. The referendum was first offered by Mountbatten in Lahore – not Nehru. Jinnah was reluctant to hold a referendum – and kept referring to the accession as a fraud. That it was not a fraud had been accepted by every nation in those days. Pakistan knew very well indeed that a referendum would likely go India’s way; at the very least, they were not certain of winning. The terms were specific- Pakistan had to withdraw its troops and irregulars. This they have not done till date; hence the question of UN intervention does not arise. As a mater of fact, as shown in the below paragraph from the book, the entire war was almost stage-managed; the Pakistanis and the British together had reached a state when they had no intention of withdrawing.
“Bucher admitted to Gracey, the Pakistan C-in-C, that he had no control over Cariappa but hit upon an intriguing scheme to now stop the advance of his own army. Graffety Smith, British high commissioner in Karachi, reported to London the arrangements reached privately between the commander-in-chiefs of the 2 dominions. General Bucher indicated to General Gracey that he had no wish to pursue an offensive into what is effectively Azad-Kashmir controlled territory i.e. to Mirpur and Poonch sector… the object of these arrangements is to reach a situation in which each side will remain in undisputed military occupation of what are roughly their present positions… An essential part of the process… is that 3 battalions of the Pakistan Army should be deployed opposite the Indian forces at Jhangar, in or around Poonch and at Uri…” India and Pakistan are fighting a war… and the head of the Indian army is actually advising the head of the Pakistan army on what to do….
The problem of Kashmir is not a new one; it is 66 years old. It has to be understood in the context in which it arose. Rather than blame India, Young Indians should rather try and understand the reality as it happened. This is a complex and involved scenario; you have to look at it in the backdrop of the freedom struggle, the matter of the princely states, partition as well as the atmosphere that was prevalent in those days. There are many layers to this matter; the role of the British, for one. I have just peeled off one or two layers… In conclusion, have some pride in our handling of this matter – which, considering the overall constraints we operated under, is truly commendable! Jai Hind!
Reference: The Shadow Of The Great Game- Narendra Singh Sarila