Kashmir Conflict: Revisiting Nehru’s Legacy

Kashmir Conflict: Revisiting Nehru’s Legacy
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By Rameez Bhat


With the end of British rule on the 15th August, 1947, India’s towering leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, famously declared India’s ‘tryst with destiny’. What followed this rather aspirational beginning of a new India was light years away from Nehru’s democratic socialism or even secularism. Hundreds and thousands of Muslim refugees were killed, if not with the consent of Nehru, but at least under his watch. The prelude to this carnage was the Radcliffe Award which was manipulated by arbitrarily awarding Gurdaspore and Ferozpur areas of undivided Punjab to India with active connivance of Nehru and Mountbatten. One cannot overlook the impact of Edwina Mountbatten’s ‘not-so-holy’ relationships with Nehru in shaping the aftermath of partition in India’s favour.
It was precisely because Nehru had second thoughts about Kashmir he never wanted to close the Indian routes to Kashmir. His possessive love for Kashmiri shikararas and its lush green mountains was enough for him to conspire with all forces to have it- no matter how it would affect millions of its people. Moreover, ‘possessing’ Kashmir also meant giving Jinnah a ‘moth eaten and truncated’ Pakistan. It is pertinent to mention here that during the freedom struggle it was Nehru’s intransigence on the majoritarian nature of polity and his inability to allay Muslim League’s fears of reducing Muslims vulnerable that made partition not only inevitable but bloody and vitriolic as well. The Cabinet Mission Plan , for example, failed largely because of Nehru.
After partition, the Princely states were given options to join either the dominions of India and Pakistan or to remain independent. The majority of the princely states joined India but three states -Kashmir, Junagarh and Hyderabad- emerged problematic. The Nizam of Hyderabad wished to carve out an independent kingdom surrounded on all sides by India. The idea was not well taken by India and Hyderabad was integrated with the Indian union after a military intervention.
The princely states of Kashmir and Junagarh had a contrasting similarity. While Junagarh was a Hindu majority state ruled by a Muslim despot, Kashmir was a Muslim dominated state run by an autocratic Hindu ruler- Maharaja Hari Singh. Disregarding the wishes of his people, the Muslim ruler of Junagarh wanted to merge his Hindu majority state with Pakistan. Nehru and his ‘democratic’ acolytes protested and after a plebiscite Junagarh fell into the Indian kitty. Now, when it came to Kashmir, the unambiguous, black and white rules of the Mountbatten Plan, which posited that ‘Muslim majority areas on the North West would be part of Pakistan’, were thrown to winds. After dillydallying for almost two months during which , Hari Singh had signed a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan, he acceded to the Indian Union in foggy circumstances, brazenly disregarding the popular sentiments of its people. Dissident voices were crushed and the ‘accession’ which was signed was pushed down the public psyche as ‘internal autonomy’. Semantical obfuscation was indulged in and it was asserted that accession was different from merger and accession which, in turn, was subject to ratification by the majority’s consent ( Sheikh Abdullah’s demagogic rhetoric of mustard oil in a drop of water comparison springs to mind here).
Jawahalal Nehru and his point man in Kashmir, Shiekh Abdullah , pledged more than once at public forums, that Indian control over the state of Jammu and Kashmir would be limited to subjects mentioned in the Instrument of Accession and the sentiments of the people. And that the fate of the state would be duly considered. Ironically, the accession was confined to three subjects -Defense, External Affairs and Communications.
In 1948, Nehru himself took Kashmir issue in the United Nations Security Council after aggression from Pakistan, therefore, internationalizing the issue. Nehru , through his public utterances, is on regarding his promises on Kashmir. Consider the following:
On 2 November 1947, it was Nehru who promised the oppressed people of Kashmir that, ‘ the people of Kashmir will decide their own destiny’.
On 25 November 1947, Nehru expressed, ‘ in the Constituent Assembly that whenever Kashmiri people would want their rights, it would be under the watch of United Nations through a referendum’.
In 1948, the government of India published a white paper in which it was mentioned that, ‘ the matter of plebiscite should be resolved peacefully’.
On 16 January 1951, the then the prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the press conference at London in which he proclaimed that, ‘the people of Kashmir should be given their rights’.
On 5 June 1951 Pt. Nehru addressed a rally at Lal Chowk and said that, ‘the Government of India stands by its commitments made with regard to Kashmir’.
What can be culled from these ‘promises’ and the contextual history of Jammu and Kashmir and what preceded it in historical India’s struggle for freedom from the British is that Nehru’s record over Kashmir has not been a sanguine one . It is a saga of broken promises and betrayals , on account of which , Kashmiris have and continue to pay a price.
Tailpiece: Narendra Modi, while paying homage to Nehru on his birthday (14th November 2016) , sounded prescient when he said that he would be taking Nehru’s legacy forward (it is besides the point that on other days he claims that his mission is to undo the Nehruvian idea of India). What , the question is, constitutes Nehru’s legacy in terms of Kashmir? Nehru’s legacy with regard to Kashmir is vividly written on face of every traumatized Kashmiri. It is etched in the memory of dead and living alike. It is housed in the collective consciousness of every oppressed Kashmiri. It is starkly present in Shia-Sunni, Dogri-Kashmiri, Salafi-Barelvi, Maulvi-shopkeeper, and God knows how many other arbitrarily imposed divisions by the colonial state. The legacy is echoed in haunted Jamia Masjid (closed for prayers, sine die); it is reflected in the graffiti on walls and closed shutters of shops. The legacy is even internalized by a native class of Kashmiris who are relentlessly struggling for last four months, day in and day out, to keep the legacy flourishing. Bad guys call them collaborators. Historians call this legacy a brutal account of deceit , manipulation and oppression.


—The author, a student at the University of Kashmir , can be reached at: ramizspeaks77@gmail.com

2 Responses to "Kashmir Conflict: Revisiting Nehru’s Legacy"

  1. SKChadha   January 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Rameez Bhat has touched many facets of partition in one go and needs to be corrected about them:

    (a) It is incorrect to suggest that either Jinnah or Nehru believe in socialism and secularism. These thoughts are flowing only from debates of Constituent Assembly of India. The words “socialism and secularism” were neither part of Indian or Pakistan’s Constitutions despite both of them were framed even after over two years of partition? The cause of Bantwara in a family is always either clash of personalities (over ambitions), enemy outside or Gurbat?. Unfortunately in History we faced all three of them. A united family can face Gurbat and outsider but it becomes almost difficult to accommodate warring overambitious personalities?

    (b) The partition was based on Jinnah’s (now failed) ‘Two Nation Theory”. He expressed it many a times and unfortunately INC accepted this Bandarbaant between Jinnah and Nehru. There was never a demand for Hindu land as all native people of this continent following any faith, sect or belief were initially known ONLY as Hindu by British and other invaders. In Indian politics of that time, Nehru, Jinnah and Sheikh Abdullah, all played their cards well making fool of us all … 🙂 Even today there is nothing untoward when we as Shareek Brothers continue to grumble for loosing fair share in Zar and Zameen … 🙂 Read partition plan in detail and observe that the part of Gurdaspur was traded by Jinnah/ Nehru over the stretch of Chitagong (now Bangladesh)? Blaming to Mountbatten or Radcliffe is incorrect and inconsequential.

    (c) Forget Kashmir, the entire nation is suffering due to this BandarBaant beween INC and ML leaders 70 years back. The only solace is that most of our Pak brothers started spinning in the name of Islam and Danishmand Muslims and Hindus who stayed back rejected this Tamasha of “Two Nation Theory”. My full respect is for leaders like Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad etc., who despite being staunch follower of their faith gave us a true meaning of peaceful social living, respecting all faiths, keeping own faith to one’s own heart, not allowing it to protrude from own nose and practicing it with harmony in society.

    (d) The Kashmir problem is sole creation of Nehru. The history of events leading 1931 to partition clearly suggests that it is affinity of Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, their criticism of Hari Singh’s princely lifestyle and also the politics of duo which made the ruler suspicious about fate of Dogra Empire after independence? Hari Singh was also not in good terms with Muslim League and Jinnah. You may Brand it of his being HINDU? This is the precise reason which delayed his signing of accession? To my understanding, it was Nehru/ Sheikh Abdullah’s on one side for weak position and exploitation of Hari Singh by British before independence and Jinnah’s tacit support to Pak Army and Kabayali just after independence.
    Today nobody can deny that it is only Pakistan Army/ Kabayali attack which forced Hari Singh to sign the Document of Accession with India? Sir, admit that it was Pakistan’s shortsightedness and Vallabh Bhai Patels persuasion and assurance which put J&K in India’s lap. There is no end to territorial disputes in any land if we start going back in history. J&K is not exception to it …?? Sir, the major trouble began in J&K when The National Conference led by Sheikh Abdullah used the leeway granted to it by India to grab all the seats of the Constituent Assembly, squeezing out representatives of Jammu and Ladakh, and those of Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs. The Praja Parishad candidates in Jammu found their election papers rejected because of which misgivings of Non-Muslim and residents of Jammu and Ladakh were ignored. This was also one of the causes of his removal. This is history of Kashmir which neither you nor I can deny?

    (e) The history also suggests that, ML/ Jinnah before Partition (or GoP after partition) were never in favour of deciding territorial distribution based on Plebiscite. This is also evident from their not conducting any referendum about NWFP (now KP) as envisioned under section 2(2)(c) of the Indian Independence Act, 1947? It is also evident by their refusal to settle the issue of Junagarh and Hyderabad through such plebiscite on demand of INC before partition? On the other hand, it was INC before partition and GoI after partition which desire to settle them through plebiscite? The India was also agreeable to hold such plebiscite immediately after partition. Again it is Pakistan which failed to vacate PHK & GB and after watching Sheikh Abdullah’s ambitions in 1952-53, IT ALSO SUITED INDIA TO AVOID TAKING ANY RISK ON THIS COUNT. Read Noorani Sahib’s recent Article (three parts) in Greater Kashmir, to understand as to how the idea of plebiscite was buried long back in 1948?

    Those who cry today for deceit, manipulation and oppression are none other than those who themselves are deceitful, manipulator and oppressors of the Kashmiri Awam and its Kashmiriyat for last 70 years. These are limited 60-70 families of valley politicians, preachers and businessmen also controlling the valley media.

  2. SkB_Australia   January 19, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Dear Ramiz
    Its very easy to call ‘legacy of deceit,manipulation & oppression ‘ when you read history selectively & not holistically.
    Before looking at our legacy first you need to glance @ your history i mean history of ISLAM & MUSLIMS- it’s nothing but brutal, barbaric & bloody. People who killed family of their prophet for power, who can expect justice from them
    Now coming to LAND OF KASHMIR. does it belong to MUSLIMS ? It belonged to Hindus for over 5000 years. When these Radical Arab invaders had power they occupied it. Now we have POWER,we keep it. If you feel too much oppressed why don’t you go to Pakistan, best country suited for you guys like MOHAJIRS did & enjoy hospitality of RANGERS like they do
    I know Pakistan is giving an impression to you foolish people that they will liberate you with help of Chinese & Russians etc. they couldn’t do it when india was starving now even your Allah if it exists cannot help you. You bloody idiots don’t have a basic understanding what Chinese & russians doing with theit muslims in Chechniya & Xinxiang… is their any common point in your ideology & theirs?
    Worst thing for you guys is YOU HAVE LOST SYMPATHY OF INDIAN PEOPLE.
    now endless sufferings is your DESTINY