By Ashq Hussain
The “mainstream” politicians in Kashmir appear to be India’s friends when they describe Kashmir as an “atoot ang”; and take on “separatists” who challenge the theory of “integral part”. They describe themselves as Indian nationalists and followers of its subaltern nationalism called Kashmiriyat.
But then a question crops up: Are they really Indian nationalists? For an answer we need to check historical records. Even after the successful accomplishment of Gurdaspur conspiracy and anti-Prime Minister Kak conspiracy India would not have ventured to enter Kashmir if Sheikh Abdullah, father of the “mainstream”, had not sent them, in September 1947, assurances from Bhaderwah Jail through Pandit and Dogra emissaries, that he would support India rather than Pakistan. He knew that he would not have dreamed of becoming a ruler of Kashmirhad Kashmir been part of Jinnah’s Pakistan. On the contrary he would have to present himself before Quadi-Azam wearing a sack cloth.
Resting sure on account of Sheikh Abdullah, New Delhi made the tribal incursion an excuse to enter Kashmir.
When in 1949 India needed to bypass plebiscite, he gave them full support to change Kashmir’s relationship with India from disputed Accession to Article 370 of Indian Constitution whereby India sought to merge Kashmir with the help of Kashmir Constituent Assembly. But when it came to use Article 370 to extend powers of Indian Parliament to Kashmir, he bolted, and refused to fall in line and started a course of confrontation with New Delhi in April 1952. By this time he had begun to perceive that plebiscite had been averted.
Sheikh’s confrontationist attitude encouraged “mainstreamer” Mohiud-Din Qarra to raise in March 1953 the slogan of “Pakistan Zindabad” from the platform of Political Conference. Till then no Kashmiri had dared to talk of Pakistan – talking Pakistan having been banned by Sheikh Abdullah in November 1947.
Since Sheikh had fallen foul of Article 370, New Delhi got him dismissed and jailed in August 1953.
Eventually Sheikh’s credentials as an Indian nationalist got exposed. He now called Indian Army as occupational army; described Kashmir’s accession to India as temporary; said provincial Constituent Assembly was not entitled to decide the future of Kashmir; demanded Kashmiris should be granted right to self-determination and the future of Kashmir decided through UN-sponsored plebiscite. 1955 onwards, from the platform of Plebiscite Front, he talked Pakistan and infused the minds of Kashmiris with anti-India venom so much so that in January 1965 he instigated Kashmiris to observe social boycott against Sadiq Government supporters who were pro-India. When a Sadiq supporter went to a barber’s shop for a haircut, Sheikh’s followers denied him entry into the shop. When relatives of Sadiq supporters died, Sheikh’s followers denied them burial in Muslim graveyards. Sheikh called pro-India Congressite Kashmiris as “worms of the gutter”.
When Pakistan lost its eastern part in 1971, Sheikh staged a U-turn, now that funding from Pakistan had stopped and it seemed unlikely that Pakistan would ever be in a position to militarily snatch Kashmir from India. So he declared, in 1972, that he never differed from India on the question of “fact of accession”, he differed only on the question of “quantity of accession”.
The last paragraph of 1972 Simla Agreement made it incumbent on the heads of government of India and Pakistan “to meet again at mutually convenient time in the future for a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”. PM Indira Gandhi wanted to avoid meeting President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as the Simla Agreement obligated. Her eyes lighted upon the Sheikh. Sheikh, in his turn, wanted to catch hold of, what in Urdu is called, “bagte chor ki langooti”. Together the two entered into a quid pro quo agreement. Sheikh declared that Pakistan had no locus standi on Kashmir. In return for this service Indira Gandhi appointed him in 1975 Chief Minister of Kashmir. Yet the anti-India sentiment that he had sown in the minds of Kashmiris erupted in the form of “separatist” organizations, Peoples League and Mahazi-Azadi. Plebiscite had become part of Kashmiri imagination because of Sheikh.
Despite the 1975 Agreement, Sheikh and Indira remained at loggerheads with each other. Indira Gandhi was averse to re-establishment of National Conference and Sheikh wanted Kashmir Congress to merge with NC. Moreover, Sheikh, in order to irritate New Delhi, brought in the controversial Resettlement Bill.
When Sheikh died in September 1982, his successor son, Farooq Abdullah, also treaded the path of confrontation with New Delhi. His very first act was “anti-India” when he passed in October Sheikh’s Bill into Resettlement Act that sought to resettle permanently all the Muslim State Subjects who had been forced in 1947 and thereafter to emigrate to “Azad Kashmir” and Pakistan. In 1983 Farooq Abdullah entered into alliance with Mirwaiz Moulana Farooq. The latter described Kashmir’s Accession to India as temporary.
In the past, Farooq Abdullah had been in league with Plebiscite Front and Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front. In 1974 he visited “Azad Kashmir” from England and met JKNLF leaders Maqbool Butt and Amanuallah Khan. In his speeches at Mirpur, he pledged his commitment to struggle for Kashmiris’right to self-determination. However, when post 1975 Indira-Sheikh agreement, he returned to India, New Delhi desisted from questioning him on his visit to “Azad Kashmir”.
New Delhi considered Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah as a “security risk”. Indira Gandhi cut him to size 1984 by dethroning him. Like his father he stoked anti-India sentiment now that he was out of power. For two years he spat fire against New Delhi. Although Rajiv Gandhi brought him back to power in November 1986, his anti-India tirades had produced their effect. Kashmiris had already organized in September into Muslim United Front to give battle to New Delhi and its local agents at election time.
In 1996, Farooq Abdullah was back in power. He talked about Autonomy of Kashmir. In 2002, Mufti Saeed, another “mainstreamer”, became Chief Minister of PDP-Congress coalition. By the time this coalition neared the end of its term in 2008, PDP led by Mehbooba Mufit provoked people against the allotment of forest land in Kashmir to Amarnath Shrine Board although PDP had been partners with Congress in the land transfer. Farooq Abdullah’s successor son Omar Abdullah also talked against the land transfer. He also paid service to Autonomy and Mehbooba and Mufti talked Self-Rule. Concurrently they talked of preservation of State Subject Law in Kashmir; and strengthening of Article 370 although these laws are hurdles in the full and final merger of Kashmir with India. Had they been really pro-India they would support abrogation of Article 370 and cancellation of State Subjectship Law. Rather they preferred political uncertainty to the Kashmir conflict so as to hold the Indian State for ransom.
So it is the “mainstream” that is primarily responsible for infusing anti-India sentiment among Kashmiris. Pakistan alone could not have managed to turn Kashmiri minds against India.