"The high idealism of the Indian government in international matters breaks down completely when confronted with the question of Kashmir."
–Bertrand Russell, 1964.
As we prepare to celebrate our Independence Day on August 14, 2020, we become acutely more conscious of the misfortunes of our Kashmiri brethren. It has been a saga of cruelty and disappointment of over 70 years. Their fundamental human rights continue to be denied as Kashmir remains an unfinished agenda of the partition of India. Almost all leading Kashmiri leaders including the former Chief Minister, Dr. Mehbooba Mufti, continue to be incarcerated in Indian jails or remain under house arrest. Some of them, though aged and seriously ill, are denied medical attention.
The BJP has recently unleashed a reign of terror in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) under the pretext of enforcing lockdown in the wake of COVID-19. In Srinagar valley, in particular, it has let loose RSS gangs to massacre Muslims under one pretext or another. Earlier, in August 2019, with the ulterior motive of altering the demographic status of the Valley, not only Article 370 was repealed but Article 35A was also revoked unconstitutionally and undemocratically thereby removing previous restrictions for Indians to buy and own property in IIOJ&K. Restrictions on employment of Indians in IIOJ&K were also removed. Indeed, to induct more of half literate RSS goons into IIOJ&K, age and educational qualifications have been further relaxed recently. None of these measures were even referred to the puppet assembly or government of IIOJ&K. Even the UN Observer Group has been illegally stopped from operating inside Kashmir by the Modi government.
The above measures are not only in violation of the resolutions of the UN and other international organisations but negate the commitments of Indian leaders like Pandit Nehru to the people of IIOJ&K and the world at large.
It would be instructive to see how the early leaders of India viewed the dispute of J&K.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
Telegram to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan of Pakistan dated October 27, 1947; copy addressed to Prime Minister of UK.
“I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the state to accede to India. Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with the wishes of people and we adhere to this view.”
Telegram to Prime Minister of Pakistan dated October 31, 1947.
“Kashmir's accession to India was accepted by us at the request of the Maharaja's government and the most numerously representative popular organization in the state which is predominantly Muslim. Even then it was accepted on condition that as soon as law and order had been restored, the people of Kashmir would decide the question of accession. It is open to them to accede to either Dominion then.”
Letter to Prime Minister of Pakistan dated November 21, 1947.
Pandit Nehru said, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of the United Nations.”
Press conference in London on January 16, 1951, as reported by the daily Statesman on January 18, 1951. Pandit Nehru stated, “India has repeatedly offered to work with the United Nations reasonable safeguards to enable the people of Kashmir to express their will and is always ready to do so. We have always right from the beginning accepted the idea of the Kashmiri people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite. In fact, this was our proposal long before the United Nations came into the picture. Ultimately the final decision of the settlement, which must come, has first of all to be made basically by the people of Kashmir and secondly, between Pakistan and India directly. Of course, it must be remembered that we (India and Pakistan) have reached a great deal of agreement already. What I mean is that many basic features have been thrashed out. We all agreed that it is the people of Kashmir who must decide for themselves about their future externally or internally. It is an obvious fact that even without our agreement no country is going to hold on to Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiris.”
In the UN Security Council, 765th meeting of the Security Council on Kashmir on January 24, 1957, the Indian representative Mr. Krishna Menon said, “So far as we are concerned, there is not one word in the statements that I have made in this council which can be interpreted to mean that we will not honour international obligations. I want to say for the purpose of the record that there is nothing that has been said on behalf of the Government of India which in the slightest degree indicates that the Government of India or the Union of India will dishonour any international obligations it has undertaken.”
Statements in India
Accession Issue. In his broadcast to the nation over All India Radio on November 2, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We are anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide. And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state. It is in accordance with this policy that we have added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir.”
In another broadcast to the nation on November 3, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”
UN Supervision. In his famous speech “A Tryst with Destiny” in the Indian Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “In order to establish our bona fide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations Organisation. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people.”
In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on March 5, 1948, Pandit Nehru said, “Even at the moment of accession, we went out of our way to make a unilateral declaration that we would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum. We insisted further that the Government of Kashmir must immediately become a popular government. We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a plebiscite with every protection of fair voting and to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir.”
In his report to All Indian Congress Committee on July 6, 1951 published in the Statesman, New Delhi dated July 9, 1951, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is bearing fruit, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men.”
Letter dated September 11, 1951, to the U.N. representative. Pandit Nehru wrote, “The Government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible.”
Word of Honour. Report by Amrita Bazar Patrika, Calcutta, January 2, 1952. While replying to Dr. Mookerji's question in the Indian Legislature as to what the Congress Government was going to do about one-third of territory still held by Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “It is not the property of either India or Pakistan. It belongs to the Kashmiri people. When Kashmir acceded to India, we made it clear to the leaders of the Kashmiri people that we would ultimately abide by the verdict of their Plebiscite. If they tell us to walk out, I would have no hesitation in quitting. We have taken the issue to the United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision.”
Statement in the Indian Parliament on August 7, 1952. Pandit Nehru declared, “Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.”
Kashmir’s Soul. Statement in the Lok Sabha on March 31, 1955. As published in Hindustan Times New Delhi on April 1, 1955, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir is perhaps the most difficult of all these problems between India and Pakistan. We should also remember that Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied about between India and Pakistan, but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir. With Pakistan we wish to have friendly relations”. This remark prompted a rejoinder from Mirza Mehmood Sarhadi, a humorous poet from Peshawar;
Bhala ab kaun Dilli (Delhi) jaaey Pandit Ji se yeh kehnay
Huway tum dost jis kay dushman us ka aasmaan kiyun ho.
Instrument of Accession
Pandit Nehru’s special relations with the Mountbattens are well known. Several writers have commented on the subject extensively. (See picture below). Nonetheless, Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession conditionally linking the final decision to a reference to the people of Kashmir. Although India claimed to send it forces to Kashmir on October 27, 1947 after duly getting accession request from Maharaja Hari Singh on October 26, 1947. However, this has been contested by many historians and in fact Indian forces had illegally landed in Kashmir without any formal and legal accession requests by Maharaja Hari Singh. According to noted historians, Andrew Roberts and Stanley Wolpert, the Maharaja had already been moved to the relative safety of Jammu from Srinagar. Even Maharaja Hari Singh himself had reservations about his signatures on the instrument. His son, Karan Singh, called his father’s signatures to be fake. Perry Anderson calls it a forged document which disappeared for over half a century. The fact remains that it has never been produced in any international forum to date. Interestingly, the document remains a subject of debate among the Indian commentators too. Arundhati Roy, a noted Indian journalist and a staunch supporter for Kashmir’s right of self-determination was charged for waging war against the state by a New Delhi court. Several legislators demanded that her passport be cancelled, and citizenship withdrawn. In her rejoinder, Ms. Roy famously remarked, “Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru too!”
It is about time for India to realise the need to recognise the inalienable right of self-determination of the people of IIOJ&K and grant it to them as promised by her founding fathers, especially Pandit Nehru. India’s efforts to alter the demographics in the Kashmir Valley and create a Hindu majority are in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. The Modi government's oppression has already put the Kashmir Valley in flames. Modi’s recent jingoism in Galwan Valley cost India heavy losses in Ladakh including a chunk of territory she had forcibly occupied across the LAC. It gave an opportunity to even Nepal and Bhutan to recover their territorial losses from India. The UN and its agencies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch need to take urgent notice of India’s atrocities in IIOJ&K. The OIC needs to play an active role in support of the Kashmiris. More importantly, the world powers must restrain India against further adventurism and reversal of history in South Asia. India’s increased ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in IIOJ&K and her threats of launching false flag operations merit urgent world attention lest the region is put afire. Resumption of a regional dialogue on Kashmir under the UN auspices is the need of the hour.
The writer is a former CI, NDC, DG ISPR and former ambassador to the UAE for over three years. He was honoured with High Order of Independence by His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
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