By Ashq hussain
While speaking in the Upper House of Indian Parliament on 10 August 2016, Senior Congress leader Karan Singh insisted upon the Government of India to resolve Kashmir issue but in the same breath he called Kashmir an integral part of India. The question is: Since when has Kashmir become an internal affair of India? Before proceeding further let us see what role did he play during those momentous years when Kashmir Dispute took birth and how come has Kashmir become internal affair of India.
Born on 9 March 1931 in France, Karan Singh was the only son that the Maharaja of Kashmir State had. It was a time when Dogra Darbar’s arrogance had touched skies. Even the holy Quran was descrated in Jammu. Next month, April 1931, when an empty headed police officer interferred with the Eid Sermon in the winter capital, the Youngmen’s Muslim Association of Jammu, under the leadership of Chaudry Ghulam Abbas Khan, launched a freedom struggle against Dogra Darbar which is still on. So Karan Singh is exactly as old as Kashmir’s freedom struggle.
In 1947 when Maharaja Hari Singh on 25/26 October gathered his bag and baggage in the summer capital Srinagar and fled to Jammu, Karan Singh, 16, was seriously ill. In fact both his legs were plaster cast. On the morning of 27 October the Indian Army conveyed Indian States’ Secretary V. P. Menon, Prime Minister M. C. Mahajan, National Conference fugitive leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, etc. from Delhi to Jammu. This was the earliest that the Maharaja could have executed the Instrument of Accession.
Maharaja Hari Singh had neither any moral nor any legal right to decide the future of the people of Kashmir State especially its Muslim majority because on 15 August that year his title on Kashmir had lapsed with the lapse of British supremacy over India and with the termination of the 1846 Treaty of Amritsar whereby the British had foisted Dogra Dynasty upon Kashmiris. Moreover, his army had lost control of most of the State by October 27. Cutting the story short the matter of Accession became a dispute and a cause of war between India and Pakistan; and ended up in United Nations.
Courtesy of United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan(UNCIP), a Ceasefire came into place on the last day of 1948. This Ceasefire resulted in the partition of the State with India occupying about 60% and Pakistan about 40% of Kashmir State territory. Now so far as occupation of Kashmir territory by China be concerned it is a myth. Aksia Chin and Shaksgam were never part of Kashmir State, nor will ever be.
Karan Singh, in his autobiography titled “Heir Apparant” calls this partition of Kashmir State as irrational and states that “In retrospect the only rational solution would appear to have been to take the initiative in promotiong and presiding over a peaceful partition of his [Maharaja Hari Singh’s] State between the two nations[Pakistan and India]. But that would have needed clear political vision and careful planning over many years. As it turned out, the State was, in fact, partitioned, but in a manner that caused untold suffering and bloodshed, poisoning relations between India and Pakistan right down to this day.”
At the time of Ceasefire, however, Karan Singh was still an unwell minor with no role in politics of the State. Then five days after the Ceasefire came into effect, the United Nations Commission passed a resolution(5 January 1949) recommending plebiscite to decide the future disposition of Kashmir State. According to the Plebiscite Resolution, Maharaja Hari Singh was required to appoint UN-nominated Plebiscite Administrator with full powers which meant that he was required to dismiss his appointee Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullha; formally appoint the PA; and himself step aside. Subsequent to the appoint of PA, Pakistan was required to withdraw all its forces and India bulk of its forces from the State.
Instead of dismissing Sheikh Abdullah and appointing PA, Maharaja Hari Singh on 20 June 1949 issued a Proclamation appointing his son and heir apparant, Karan Singh, 18, as Regent (Deputy Maharaja) and himself left for Bombay never to return. Karan Singh was now effectively Maharaja of the State. It was now his job, as Head of the Government of Kashmir State, to dismiss Sheikh Abdullah from Prime Ministership, and appoint, according of the Commission’s Resolution, UN-nomiated Chester Nimitz, as PA with full powers. He did no such thing. He played a pawn in the hands of Pandit Nehru. Of course, he was then a teenager and could not do anything against New Delhi’s wishes, but he didn’t work in the interests of Kashmir State even when he grew up.
Since the father and the son did not appoint a PA; since Nehru was not prepared to part with Kashmir, Pakistan also did not withdraw forces from what came to be called “Azad Kashmir” and “Northern Areas”. If Pakistan had withdrawn forces in the absence of PA, India would have captured NA and AK also.
If a PA had been appointed and Plebiscite allowed to happen, the Muslim majority would have voted for Pakistan. No doubt about that. They had expressed their sentiments on 14/15 August 1947 by celebrating Paksitan Day and displaying Pakistan flags in major cities like Srinagar, Poonch, Mirpur, etc.(p.216 History of J&K Rifles Major Brahma K. Singh; p.123 Kashmir A Disputed Legacy A. Lamb).
Ending 1949, India sought to bypass UN, Pakistan, and Plebiscite by arbitrarily changing the relationship of Kashmir with India from Accession-subject-to-Plebiscite to Article 370 of Indian Constitution that envisaged convening of a Constituent Assembly for the State. This they did with active assitance from Regent Karan Singh (and unelected Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah). Karan Singh helped New Delhi because he knew full well that Plebiscite would mean that the State would become part of Pakistan. And he has accepted this fact in his autobiography in these words: “The concept of the Constituent to frame a constitution for the State was part of a broader political strategy to make the question of plebisicte redundant. Although on several occasions Jawaharlal Nehru reassured the U.N. and Pakistan that India stood by her earlier committment, it was clear that if a Constituent Assembly did meet and reaffirm the State’s accession to India it would have an impact on public opinion abroad(“Heir Apparent”).”
Ending 1951 Karan Singh, Regent, presided over a fradulent Constituent Assembly election in which no one was allowed, not even the Praja Parishad Hindus of Jammu, to contest against National Conference. No voting actually took place. It was a ploy to convert General Council of NC into Constituent Assembly.
On 12 November 1952 the unelected Constituent Assembly selected Karan Singh, 21, as Sadri-Riyasat, President of the State. On 9 August 1953 Karan Singh, at Nehru’s behest, dismissed Sheikh Abdullah summarily and ordered his incarceration. On 15 February 1954 the unelected Constituent Assembly, now led by G.M. Bakshi, passed a resolution endorsing Accession of Kashmir to India. 62 years later Karan Singh, on 10 August 2016 in the Indian Rajya Sabha, calls Kashmir an internal affair of India!
On 4 December 1964 the G. M. Sadiq-led Government of Kashmir gave their concurrence to the extention of Articles 356 and 357 of Indian Constitution to Kashmir. Also they gave concurrence to the election in Kashmir of Members for Indian Parliament. These measures made the positions of Sadri-Riyasat and Prime Minister untenable as the President of India could now dismiss State Government without prior approval of State Legislative Assembly. On 30 May 1965 Sadiq came to be designated as Chief Minister and Karan Singh as Governor.
By now Karan had experienced two demotions. Once from Deputy Maharaja(Regent) to Sadri-Riyasat and second time from President of the State to its Governor. He left the State in 1967 to join Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. During his tenure in Kashmir he had presided over 4 fradulent elections – 1951, 1957, 1962, and 1967.
So, Karan Singh happens to be one of those great personages who were personally responsible for complicating Kashmir issue. His speech in the Indian Parliament on August 10 reveals his failure to call a spade a spade.
God save Kashmir!