By BASHARAT SHAMEEM
The story of Kashmir continues to remain a story of betrayals. This history of betrayals dates back to the year 1586 when Akbar enticed Yousuf Shah Chak to Delhi for negotiations and then imprisoned him there, thus paving the way for independent Kashmir’s annexation in 1589. This was the point when Kashmir first lost its independent identity and nationhood as afterwards one occupier after another came to occupy the land. From the colossal betrayal of 1947, basically, it has been a series of monumental betrayals which traverse our political history. This assortment of betrayals, sell-outs, duplicity, and treachery seems unmatched in any living history of a nation.
Anyways, the semblance between the two presumably plural and secular orders was projected as the raison d’etre of Kashmir’s union with India which itself took place through a spurious Instrument of Accession. In the immediate aftermath of this “integration”, the Indian government through Jawaharlal Nehru’s repeated proclamations said that Kashmiris will decide their own future, but till date this promise has never been fulfilled. However, the relative autonomy that Kashmir enjoyed became a serious problem for the Indian establishment. In 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru, betraying his own affirmations and trashing Kashmiri aspirations, removed Sheikh Abdullah, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Kashmir. In an instance of blatant political backstabbing, a new political faction, borne out of defections from National Conference and comprising of Sheikh’s former companions, was installed as the new government.
In a way Nehru’s doublespeak typified India’s attitude towards Kashmir; on the one hand, he was publicly referring to conducting a plebiscite in Kashmir, on the other hand, he enacted all the machinations which swallowed whatever little autonomy and identity was retained by Jammu and Kashmir in the union of India. The Article 370, itself a constitutional item, was also drastically whittled. For instance, in 1965, Article 356 (which allows the central government to impose President’s rule), and Article 357 (which empowers Indian parliament to grant upon the President the power of the state legislature), were applied to Jammu and Kashmir. Likewise, the Article 248 of the Indian Constitution was also extended to the state; it gives unbridled power to the central government to interfere in state matters under the pretext of defending India’s sovereignty. Many years later, this was going to provide the legal basis for the draconian and harsh laws which would be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with the armed uprising. The validity of the state’s constitution also vastly diluted despite the people’s resentment. In his book Kashmir: Towards Insurgency Balraj Puri quotes Nehru as saying in 1964 that Kashmir’s politics “revolved around personalities [around whom India’s case too revolved]” and hence “there was no material for democracy there.”
True, beyond the horizons of an academic debate, the political history of Kashmir has always been of severe calamities. After 1953, this crisis has got particularly exacerbated in the form of widespread corruption, misrule, maladministration, patronage politics, opportunistic moves, swatting of allegiances, backstabbing of allies, muzzling of legitimate democratic voices, sell-outs, and above all, the engineered chicaneries of New Delhi from time to time. In March 1965, New Delhi changed the designations of head of state and head of the government respectively, from “Sadar-i-Riyasat” to “Governor” and from “Prime Minister” to “Chief Minister.” Then in 1974, Sheikh Abdullah, with all his pedigree of a tall leader and stiff opposition to the central government’s authoritarianism, took a critical volte-face by capitulating to New Delhi through the infamous “Indira-Sheikh Accord”. Against the people’s wishes, the agreement firmly endorsed the terms of Jammu and Kashmir’s full “integration” into India. In Kashmir, the accord, at that time and even now, is perceived as a mass betrayal of the people’s cause.
In June 1984, Farooq Abdullah’s government, having won a decisive mandate in the 1983 elections, was brought down by a plot of defections, dictated by Indira Gandhi led Congress government in New Delhi. A new government of the defectors was installed which was led by Sheikh Abdullah’s brother-in-law and one-time general secretary of the Plebiscite Front, G.M. Shah. However, in line with the usual quibbling that characterizes New Delhi’s approach vis-à-vis Kashmir, the G.M. Shah government was itself dismissed in 1986 on the basis of Article 356. But again, in a startling about-turn and defying the popular belief, Farooq Abdullah ended up signing a deal with Rajiv Gandhi led Congress, the same party which had toppled his legitimate government just 2 years ago. Under the terms of the deal, Farooq Abdullah was installed as chief minister until the fresh assembly elections. Then another betrayal was the barefaced theft of people’s mandate through the mass rigging of 1987 elections and the subsequent imprisonment of MUF candidates. The Indian establishment kept on enacting chicaneries and crafty political salesmanship to continuously erode Kashmiris’ aspirations and trust. 1987 was the climax of betrayals, which ultimately spurred the armed struggle.
Even now, when the armed struggle seems to have waned considerably, these things keep occurring with the same pattern and regularity. One such act which happened in recent times was witnessed in 2008. As Congress had been responsible for the political backstabbing of its bête noir-cum-brother-in-arms, National Conference, many a time, until, in an almost ironic reversal, it got a taste of its own medicine in 2008 from its political progeny, the new native opposition, PDP. This particular instance is just a symbolic illustration of the actual intrigues of Indian politics in our state. Again in 2014, the PDP sought votes in the Valley to keep a check on the intrusion of rightwing BJP in the state and as the typical betrayal plot proceeds, the rest is before us. After the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and the subsequent delay in government formation, the alleged emergence of a coup within the PDP to form a government with BJP is another vindication of the vaudevillianism of ‘mainstream’ politics.
In all this trickery, the mainstream political troupes have always been at the vanguard. They have essentially never cared about Kashmiri identity which has become a victim of India’s awful nationalist oppression materialised through betrayal and deception. The ensuing results are there for everyone to observe. The saga, one is afraid, will continue to unfold in the same old ways.
—The writer is a lecturer in English with the Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir