Much before Abbottabad, a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden was found, it remained in the lost pages of history as a testimony of a sinister act in Kashmir. On October 22, 1947, under Operation Gulmarg/Armed Revolt in Kashmir, a few thousands tribal militias, including serving Pakistani Army officers, arrived at the gate of Muzaffarabad, now in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The plot was crafted just after August 14, and the craftsman was Major General Akbar Khan, who used pseudonym General Tariq (an eighth century war hero who invaded Spain). After the partition, the province of Jammu and Kashmir had a standstill agreement with both India and Pakistan, but Pakistan broke the agreement. The sight was full of horror, when raiders reached Pulwama. Next was Uri and finally Srinagar; a perfect plan.
Few would remember the valor of Brigadier Rajinder Singh, the Chief of Staff of the state forces, who denied the invaders an easy path by sacrificing his life, along with more than 100 brave souls; truly a forgotten Leonidas. Maharaja Hari Singh, who in the dilemma of how to live up to the hope of his people, as the accession was the only option to save his state from Pakistan, signed an accession agreement with India on October 26.
After a chain of events, meetings and failure to persuade Pakistan, Nehru went to the United Nations. Looking back, it seems a bad option to allow an invader to become a possible party but it was a different time. Lord Mountbatten didn’t want Britain to get involved.
The known history of J&K is filled up with pages of rule by Hindus, Buddhists, Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, and finally the Britishers. J&K, as a political unit, was conceived of only on March 18, 1846. When the Partition happened, the two-nation theory was used as a weapon by Pakistan, because Kashmir was Muslim-majority. But perhaps, one forgets the accession of Junagadh, which went to Pakistan, despite the fact that majority of its citizens were Hindus. There are no truths but narratives; repeated ones have their own temptations and Kashmir is that story: a historic illusion rode over politics.
The partition was a crime done by politicians under the garb of religion. India became a state with a strong army. On the other side, Pakistan Army was given a state. In the words of Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal, “An institution that ruled without accountability.”
Kashmir still cries for normalcy between India, a sovereign state which respects international laws and Pakistan, an ideological, greedy state that demands equal footing from India and uses proxies to survive its unjust claim over Kashmir. The other elephant in the room has been the militants; both home-grown and Pakistan-sponsored.
Looking back, it offers three pertinent questions: the claims over Kashmir, both legal and moral; India’s stake, and lastly, the voice of Kashmiris.
The legal claims: By far, two arguments are most popular on the legal question. First, India doesn’t allow referendum and this is a disputed land between India and Pakistan. The fog has loomed large and needs to be cleared. The United Nations Resolution 48 clearly suggest three basic things. First, Pakistan needs to vacate its army from every inch of the land that it has occupied . Second, India needs to reduce it forces, but can keep them till it finds it is secure and then, the referendum can take place. The first condition was never respected by Pakistan as it still celebrates the day of Invasion, ie October 22.
When Prime Minsiter Nehru went to the UN, his reference point was Article 35 of the UN charter, which states, “To bring to the attention of the Security Council, a situation whose continuance is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace.”
Nehru repeatedly tried to make peace but couldn’t. He has been blamed by many in India for everything that is wrong in Kashmir, but the truth is, he was the only man who had a genuine love for the people.
Many would argue why despite good intentions by India, referendum never happened? Perhaps, it never was looked through the prism of the Cold War phenomenon. The US looked India from the prism of Communism and Pakistan was given a free ride. The year was 1989, when insurgency was at the peak in Kashmir. It was the time when the end of Soviets in Afghanistan was near, and a victory for the US and Pakistan there turned the focus of jihadi militants to Kashmir.
The US turned a blind eye and it remains undisputed that Pakistan was never punished for its actions in Kashmir, until 9/11 happened. Pakistan’s own jihad narrative was coming home to roost. The Frankenstein has since wreaked havoc in Pakistan. Its real trouble has been its over-dependency on the US, and now China, and a deep-seated hatred for India.
After 1972 Shimla agreement, the issue became bilateral. It was around this period when the crisis got more resonance. Since then, the legal claims have been found redundant from every end. The usual episode in the UN has become a horror of nuisance, with Pakistan glorifying its militants brazenly and openly.
Moral claims: From the Indian side, till the Modi government came to power in May 2014, a moral face was shown towards the Kashmir question.
Former NDA PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called it 'Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat'. More than any other Indian Prime Minster, it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who came close to solve the crisis. He sorted for a neo-liberal approach, even appreciated by former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, who offered his four-point agenda: demilitarization, maximum autonomy, opening of border and joint management. But it remained Musharraf’s lost dream, as he was marginalised in the state of affairs in Pakistan. For PM Singh, it was a ‘non-border, non-territorial solution’, but again, Pakistani Army’s hatred for a secular India dashed all hopes.
In the past, many committees have been formed, as interlocutors from KC Pant (1991), Arun Jaitley, Ram Jethmalani ( 2002) NN Vohra (2003), Dileep Padgaonkar, MM Ansari to Radha Kumar (2010) have suggested a range of possibilities in reaching out to Kashmiris as a goodwill gesture.
To make a point with what went wrong is the glaring example of 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, with such terror attacks happening before and after the Mumbai episode.
However, with the churning in geopolitics, India’s growth story and the War on Terror gave India a better position to use their available means to provide a real support to Kashmiris. But, since the arrival of PM Modi, peace has become utopia and no more a possibility. The Modi-era would be known as the worst in India’s position on Kashmir, from Kashmiris’ point of view as well from a global context.
The Modi-Doval doctrine has reduced the Kashmir question to a religious one, repeatedly exploited to appease the hardcore Hindutva base. The flip-flops from PM Modi have made India a look alike of Israel and that’s why the UNHCR’s recent report referred to India’s brutal presence.
The mess created by the Modi government has given Pakistan an advantage. Now, Pakistan’s sinful history has found more appeal to many in Kashmir, because under Modi, Kashmir is an integral part of India without Kashmiris.
The world doesn’t look up to India as Israel. The recent mess, including assaults on Article 370, need a course correction. India is neither Israel, nor it ought to behave in Kashmir from Pakistan’s angle.
In Kashmir, where the solution seems to be between New Delhi and Kashmiri leaders, recent misadventures from New Delhi have led Kashmir into nothing but chaos, with the anguish now turning into despair. VP Menon had once remarked, “India's stand with regard to Kashmir will not be understood by those who are determined not to understand it.”
Bernier, the first European to enter Kashmir, wrote in 1665, "In truth, the kingdom surpasses in beauty all that my warmest imagination had anticipated."
New Delhi has to offer the same to bring about that perception, even if it is unpopular in political terms. It was a commitment that everyone in Delhi must remember.
(The author is a doctoral candidate at the School of International Studies in JNU, New Delhi. The views expressed here are author’s own).